When we were in the homework phase of deciding what rig to buy, we got a lot of advice, sometimes conflicting, about whether to buy a new or used RV. We’ll look at both sides of the issue. A new rig of any type will have warranties on the chassis, drive train for motorized units, and appliances such as refrigerators, air conditioners, stove and hot water heater and furnace(s). This is great peace of mind for many folks. Another issue is that you will be the first to use the unit so everything will be pristine. There won’t be bedbugs in the mattress or stains on the carpet. Obviously, this is appealing to many people. The big ugly cloud over any RV purchase is depreciation. No RV will increase in value. Drive off depreciation on any new rig will be at least twenty percent. On the more expensive units, it will be more. As each year passes, the depreciation continues in smaller increments. To quote from Bob Randall; Mark Polk (2011-09-29). RV Buyers Survival Guide (Kindle Locations 684-685). RV Education 101. Kindle Edition. “Depreciation is only a major problem if you pay full MSRP (Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail). Depreciation is figured based on what the unit should have sold for, not what you paid for it.” We bought this book prior to our RV purchase; it should be an essential part of every future RV purchase you make.
A maddening problem common to all types of RVs is that almost all new rigs have “issues”. These can be drawers that don’t fit properly, appliances that don’t work as they should, small leaks around windows and roof mounted items, and other such annoying things that fall under the warranty. Axel misalignment is a common issue with towable RVs that manifests itself with premature tire wear and even blow-outs. Even though covered, the RV must be returned to the dealer for service and repairs, thus robbing you of the use of your rig. In extreme cases, this can go on and on for months. Even the most thorough pre-delivery inspection can miss some things.
A two to three year old RV will have had most if not all of those “new rig bugs” fixed and/or resolved. The first two or three years are the largest chunk of depreciation as well. A two to three year old motorhome will probably have some warranty left on the drive train. We spent a lot of time doing the math and we calculated cost of a new motorhome to still be more expensive versus a two year old unit with better specifications. At the end of the day, we decided on a one year old rig with much more equipment than what we were originally considering. This fell right in line with another bit of advice we had heard which was no matter what types of RVs you consider, “Buy your third rig first”. An entry level unit will have a more acceptable price, but you will probably be looking for a better one in a year or two. Now you will have two sets of depreciation to deal with as well as sales commissions. We have heard of folks buying three or four RVs within five years. What an expensive hassle! On the other hand, unless you are an experienced handymen, buying a fifteen year old rig might end up being more expensive than a five year old one.