RV Buying Guide: Buying A Used RV


Kelsey Glennon

Favorite Trip

Florida Freshwater Springs

Home Base

Orlando, FL

Favorite RV

Airstream Overlander

About Contributor

Kelsey’s first career as a performing artist had her traveling the world. Eager to keep traveling, she hit the road to see the USA in a 69’ Airstream Overlander. Today you can find her writing about travel, design, and good food. When she’s not planning her next trip, she’s sipping on local beer and petting other people’s dogs.

Some folks think it’s expensive to get into RVing, but there are many ways to RV within a budget. One of those ways is to try out RV camping with a used RV. Instead of investing in a new unit for your first experience, look at pre-owned RVs that you can purchase at a steep discount. As you use and experience RV life, you’ll know better what kind of RV you’d like to upgrade to.

How Approachable is RV Travel?

The best way to jump into the lifestyle is by renting an RV or purchasing an affordable used RV that is within your budget. Buying a used RV is often a great option for families. Still, there are important questions to ask when considering these rigs, like “How old is too old for a used RV?

Join Ian Baker in the video above as he explains how to examine a used RV for purchase. Purchasing a used RV can save you a lot of money.

Reference our guidelines below as you shop around for a used RV. Be curious, ask questions, and prepare yourself by brushing up on the pillars of basic RV maintenance.

Buying a Used RV: The Pros

Save Money

piggy bank

Perhaps the biggest advantage of buying used is the immediate cost savings. Most used RVs, even if only a few years old, have taken the brunt of depreciation (around 20%) just by driving off the lot. As a general rule, travel trailers tend to hold their value longer than motorhomes and fifth-wheels. Still, it all depends on how well the RV has been taken care of.

Ask the RV owner these questions to get an idea of how well the RV has been maintained.

  • What kind of repairs or maintenance has been done to the RV?
    • Ask for records and paperwork, and probe about things like tires, bearings, roof repair, winterizing, and water damage.
  • Where has the RV been stored? 
    • Has it been in covered storage, or exposed to severe weather like direct sun or heavy snow?
  • How often has the RV been used?
    • A rarely-used RV isn’t always better. Owners that frequently use their RV’s tend to spot problems before they turn into costly repairs.
  • Has the RV had previous owners?
    • Many times an RV has changed hands multiple times, making the full history unknown. Ask the owner how much they know about any previous owners to get an idea of the RV’s life cycle.

Gain RVing experience

RV parked by the ocean
Photo by Stijn te Strake on Unsplash

RVs can be intimidating to first-timers, but we were all newbies at one point! The best way to learn about RVs is to jump in and start using one. For new RVing families, solo travelers, and couples alike, a used RV provides a forgiving learning ground as you navigate its operation and discover what features and amenities are important to you. Accidents and mistakes happen, that’s how we learn. With a used RV bought at a bargain, these mistakes don’t hurt as much as they would on a shiny new rig.

Buying a Used RV: The Cons

An Unknown History

family RVing
Family RVing in woods

No matter how many questions you ask, there’s always the possibility you’re not getting the RV’s full story. This is an inherent risk in buying any used RV.

At Camping World, all used RV’s sold on property undergo a thorough inspection, but it’s impossible to know issues that might be unseen, like hidden leaks or frayed wiring. As the owner of a used RV, it’s important to monitor your rig for signs of disrepair. Looking to trade-in your old RV for an upgrade? Sell your RV to Camping World and get a quick quote.

An Expired Manufacturer’s Warranty

Caravan in a park

Most manufacturer’s warranties expire within 1-3 years after production. Most appliance warranties expire even earlier. Any structural problems with the RV will not be fixed by the manufacturer after these first few years. If you need the peace of mind of a warranty, consider purchasing a third-party plan, so you aren’t stuck funding major repairs.

Unforeseen Fixes

Photo Tripping America - Handle Maintenance - Camping World
Photo Credit: kgbo

Computers, homes, cars, boats: everything needs periodic maintenance, and occasionally a significant repair. RV’s are no exception.

Depending on how well the RV has been cared for, some repairs are more expensive than others. Used RV’s will always pose a risk of needing a fix you didn’t see coming, but keep in mind the upfront savings of buying used in the first place. Always have a little bit of money set aside for unforeseen circumstances, like a tire blowout or a new AC. Your insurance plan can cover certain repairs, but it gets harder to get comprehensive coverage on an older rig.

Why Try RVing?

RVing is not just for retirees anymore. The nomadic lifestyle is attractive to younger generations looking to unplug and detox from the digital world in favor of the natural world. Craig Kirby, President of the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) said in an interview with Forbes, “Americans love the space and freedom of the outdoors and the enrichment that comes with living an active outdoor life.”

There’s no doubt about it–RVing is a direct link to America’s great outdoors. Being immersed in natural landscapes has proven health benefits, and RV camping is a comfortable way to get closer to our natural environment.

The lifestyle also lends itself to remote work. According to a 2020 Gallup poll, 33% of the American workforce now works remotely full time, with more still employed remotely on a hybrid schedule. Making an RV your home and office can offer big savings when compared to stick-and-bricks living, particularly when you consider the tax benefits.

The recent rise in RV travel popularity all goes to say that Americans are testing out this comfortable camping lifestyle and loving it. Whether you buy a new RV or a used RV, Camping World’s Personal Shopper Concierge can help find the perfect rig for you and your lifestyle. Shop used RVs at Camping World and rest easy knowing the rig has been inspected and held to high standards for quality and cleanliness.

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