Buying a Used RV
With options galore and prices often far less expensive than new, buying used is a good way to find a great deal on a recreational vehicle. But where do you start? If you’re in the market for an RV, here are the five steps you’ll take before getting out on the open road.
Rent an RV to see if you like it
Before you take the plunge and spend at least a few thousand dollars, it might be smart to rent an RV for a long weekend. If you’re not in a hurry, you could rent different types over the course of a year to see what sizes and brands you like best.
As you look at renting or buying, you’ll want to consider:
- Number of passengers: Will it be just two of you most of the time or do you want to be able to bring 10 of your best friends and family members along for the ride?
- Length of trips: A full kitchen and bath might be required if you’ll be spending a week or more in your RV at a time. If you’re planning to travel hundreds of miles during each trip, fuel efficiency and/or weight may be an important consideration.
- Drivable or towable: Drivable RVs are much more expensive since they need a more powerful engine. Towable RVs, however, require that your vehicle has enough horsepower to tow it. If you’re looking at towable RVs, be sure to verify that your car can handle the RV’s gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR). You may need to weigh the pros and cons of getting a drivable RV against buying a more powerful car and a towable RV.
Here’s a full guide on the types of RVs.
Set a budget
Like any vehicle, the total cost of an RV is more than just the price on the sticker. You’ll need to budget for fuel, maintenance, taxes and campground fees, plus potential loan interest. Use an online RV loan calculator to see what your monthly payment might look like.
Your budget may be a determining factor in whether you buy a new or used RV. There’s plenty to like about buying used, but it’s important to weigh the benefits and drawbacks before committing.
Less expensive: You could get a used RV for half the price of what it cost when it was new.
Low depreciation: If you want to sell the RV in a few years, it likely won’t have lost a lot of value.
Less stress: The RV is used, so it’s no biggie if you happen to add a new ding.
More maintenance and repairs: As things get older, they typically need more attention.
Little to no warranties: RV warranties typically expire within three years.
Higher interest rates: Used RV loans tend to have higher APRs.
Find an RV
Search online and then visit a few RVs in person. Give it a thorough inspection, inside and out, to see if everything works and is in shipshape. While you can expect to see some general wear and tear on a used RV, trust your gut if a deal seems too good to be true.
Here are some questions to ask the salesperson or private seller:
- Can you show me the clear title? Just like regular passenger vehicles, RVs of all types will have titles. Look for a clear title with no loan listed and no stamp marking it as salvage or severely damaged.
- What kind of repairs and maintenance have been done? You want there to have been some work done — interior cleaning, roof repair, oil changes (if applicable). You don’t want to hear that the previous owners constantly had to replace the same parts.
- Where has it been stored? Was it parked out in the open, exposed to sun and sleet for months or years at a time? Or was it stored in a building and protected from the elements?
- How frequently has it been used? Was it barely touched and thus maybe not maintained well? Or is it well loved and diligently cared for?
- May I get it inspected? A professional inspection, especially for drivable RVs, can reveal how much life the RV has left in it and what future repairs might cost you.
Get an RV loan
If you need to finance your RV, check with a few lenders to see what kind of rates and terms you may qualify for. Here are current RV loan rates.
It doesn’t hurt your credit score to apply to several lenders any more than it does to apply to one, as long as you submit all your applications within a two-week time frame. Each of the three main credit bureaus allow a 14-day window in which consumers can apply to lenders and rate shop. During that period, multiple hard credit pulls will only count against your credit score once.
Sign and go have an adventure
Once you’ve settled on a lender, follow their specific application process. Once you’ve been approved for a loan, sign the loan agreement and then go have fun! Make your RV a home away from home, whether you’re taking it on a two-day trip to the next county over or seeing the sights on a cross-country road trip.