New or Used?
One of the decisions you will need to make when buying an RV is whether you should buy new or used. There are advantages and disadvantages to both that you should be aware of.
The first consideration is price. A new RV will cost more. A new RV will depreciate quickly over the first couple of years, much like a new automobile. A two-year-old motorhome could save you 30 to 40 percent over a similar new model. A travel trailer of the same age could help you realize savings of 20 to 25 percent.
Buying a used RV does mean that you will not have a choice of floor plans, accessories, or color schemes. Although, with careful shopping, you may find a used RV that is very close to your ideal.
When buying used, you may be at the mercy of the previous owner's lack of maintenance, so it is in your best interest to look over a used RV very closely. If you are considering a motorized RV, it is not unreasonable to ask to have a mechanic you trust look the vehicle over. While it is illegal, there are still reports of finding used vehicles where the odometer has been tampered with. An experienced mechanic can usually detect this kind of chicanery. If you are friendly with an RV technician, then you will have another advantage. An RV technician will be able to check out the RV systems that are not related to the drivetrain. It is very disheartening to take your first outing in your new (to you, at least) used RV and find that you need to replace the air conditioner or that you have serious plumbing leaks. If you are lucky, you may be able to get some type of warranty on a used RV, but it most likely will not be of the scope of a warranty on a new RV.
A motorized RV will depreciate at a faster pace than a towable RV due to the wear and tear on the engine. A motorized RV with a diesel engine can be expected to get more miles from its engine, so it would most likely hold its value for a longer time than a gasoline-powered RV.
Places to Look for Used RVs
There are many places you can find used RVs, some better than others. Check out several to get a better idea of prices and conditions of the various rigs available.
Most RV dealers take trade-ins on new RV sales. This is good business for the RV dealer who is looking for another stream of revenue. One advantage of buying from an RV dealer is that the rig should have been checked out mechanically and structurally before being put out on the lot for sale. This is one of the few places you may have a possibility of getting even a limited warranty.
When an RV dealership files for bankruptcy, the units left on the lot are often put up for sale at a bankruptcy auction. All RVs in inventory, both new and used, are usually included in the auction. This type of auction can be a hit-or-miss event for the prospective RV buyer. Prices may be very good, but if bidding is active, prices may be higher than the units are actually worth. Don't bid on an RV unless you have done your homework and you know the average selling price of a similar used RV from a dealer. Avoid auctions where you are not allowed to physically inspect the RV prior to the start of bidding. Auctions are best for the more experienced RV buyer and not for the novice.
Estate auctions are very different from bankruptcy auctions. Estate auctions are generally held when a family member dies or when an older adult is downsizing to move to some type of assisted living or retirement home. Very often, these older adults are no longer able to use their RVs and have no family members who care to take them on. You may find a good deal on a barely used RV at one of these sales. Professionals in the field who take a percentage of the overall sale as their commission run most estate sales. They are well versed in how to price items to sell. Check your local newspaper for announcements of any estate sales; often the ads will highlight the availability of items like RVs. As with any used RV, be sure to check it out completely, and if possible, have an RV mechanic or technician look at it before you buy.
You can buy almost anything on eBay, and that includes RVs. Online auctions are very popular, but for a high-priced item such as a motorhome you should be very careful when dealing with this or any online auction site. With an online auction, you will not be able to see, touch, or test-drive the RV until the auction is over. If you have buyer's remorse, you generally have very little recourse. Buying an RV through an online auction is similar to buying from an individual. You may get a great price but no warranties. Do your homework before you bid on any RV from an online auction.
You may find a good deal in an RV that has been repossessed by the bank or finance company. Check out the newspaper for announcements of sales of repossessed goods. You can also contact banks and financing organizations that may specialize in RVs and let them know you are interested in learning about RVs if they become available.
Your local newspaper will often have RVs listed for sale. The RVs for sale by private sellers are often much more of a bargain than those from a dealership. The private seller does not have to pay a commission. If the owner has taken good care of the RV and is good about keeping records, you may get a better record of maintenance through a private sale than with any other type of sale.
Former Rental RVs
Companies that rent RVs replace their fleets on a regular basis and, as a consequence, sell the used RVs. Some rental companies will provide a warranty when they sell these RVs. Purchasing a used RV from a rental company can be risky for the buyer. These units have been driven by many different people and may have been very abused during their time as rentals. Most rental companies will provide routine maintenance while they own the vehicles (you don't make money if it is in the shop), but the rigs are still at the mercy of the customers who drive them.