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How to Buy an Awesome RV Without Breaking the Bank

How to Buy an Awesome RV Without Breaking the Bank

If you’ve explored our blog or YouTube channel, you’re well-aware of the many adventures you can have on the move. But if you want to explore the world on wheels, you have to start by buying an RV. That begs the question of how to buy an RV without paying an arm and a leg. Find out how in this article!

How Much Does It Cost to Buy an RV?

Buying an RV is an exciting decision! But where do you start based on your budget? 

A quick Google search will reveal that it costs anywhere from $10,000 to $300,000 for the average RV. Used campers and RVs will be on the lower end, around $10,000 to $150,000, depending on the type of RV, the amenities included, and the age.

New RVs, on the other hand, typically start around $50,000 and could cost $300,000 or more. Again, the price will depend on what features the rig has.

And a few select RVs on the market cost millions! 

Tour a $2 Million Dollar Luxury RV! | 2019 Newell Coach Walkthrough seen at the 2018 Tampa RV Show

RV Types & Cost Differences

Let’s first take a look at your RV options. There are three main motorized RV categories: Class A, Class B, and Class C. Class A RVs are the largest and most extravagant. Class Bs are the smallest version, typically resembling a cargo van. And Class C RVs are the perfect middle ground. 

Then, there are fifth wheels and travel trailers. These RV trailers can be as basic as a pop-up camper or as extravagant as a decked-out, 40-foot fifth wheel. 

Now, the type of RV will determine the approximate cost. In general, pop-up campers are cheaper than traditional travel trailers, and travel trailers are less expensive than fifth wheels or motorhomes. However, this is not an exact science.

airstreams are one of the more expensive travel trailers
Airstreams are classic RVs that are in high demand, which means a higher price tag.

Of course, there are overlaps based on size, trim levels, age, and brands. For instance, Airstreams are more expensive than similar-sized travel trailers, and high-end fifth wheels may cost more than a moderate motorhome. 

The best way to get an idea of price ranges is to get out there and start shopping!  But for now, here are a few different types of RVs and their typical price ranges: 

  • Travel Trailers: New – $11,000 to $35,000; Used – $8,000 to $30,000
  • Fifth Wheels: New – $35,000 to $150,000; Used – $28,000 to $120,000
  • Class A RVs: New – $80,000 to $120,000; Used – $20,000 to $80,000
  • Class B RVs: New – $80,000 to $100,000; Used – $10,000 to $60,000
  • Class C RVs: New – $50,000 to $100,000; Used – $20,000 to $70,000
  • Truck Campers: New – $10,000 to $60,000; Used – $5,000 to $30,000

Should I Buy a Used or New RV?

There are many pros and cons to buying a used RV. One pro is that the depreciation on an RV is pretty significant. As soon as you drive off the lot, an RV is worth significantly less than what you paid. Sometimes immediate depreciation can be 21% or more!

A used RV may be a better deal because the previous owner(s) have already absorbed that immediate depreciation. In addition, they may have upgraded the electronics or tires, or purchased add-ons like awnings, electric jacks, solar panels, on-demand water heaters, and even better mattresses. All of these upgrades are a bonus for you!

Solar panels on rv many affect asking price
RV upgrades like solar panels may affect the asking price – and would be a bonus for you!

Conversely, a new RV may get better financing rates than a used RV, get better warranty plans available, and, of course, no one else has used the bathroom or mattress. But new inventory may not have the floorplan you’re looking for, and the wait for a custom order can be a year or more!

There are pros and cons to either option but consider both used and new RVs when weighing your choices.

Where To Buy an RV

Now that you’re starting to narrow down your search parameters, let’s look at a few places where you can buy an RV.

Online RV Listing Websites

Shopping online is the best way to educate yourself on what’s available for floor plans and current pricing. Of course, if you’re shopping privately, Facebook and Craigslist are top of mind, but other RV-specific sales websites also exist.

RVTrader.com is a major online marketplace with the ability to search by type, specifications, and location to see what’s available. They have both for-sale-by-owner and dealer listings.

ExploreUSA.com, RVT.com, RVs.Autotrader.com are some other conglomerate sales sites. Also, while it’s an unusual option, some RV rental sites such as CruiseAmerica.com even sell their older units! 

man searching online rv listing websites
There are many online RV listing websites

RV Dealerships 

There are hundreds or even thousands of RV dealerships in the country. Don’t be afraid to search out dealers farther away from where you live. 

Some companies and individuals are qualified and insured to deliver your RV to you, and sometimes you can negotiate this into the price. Luckily many dealerships have their inventory online, and with 360 video technology, you can get sometimes even get an insider’s view of the trailer you’re considering.

Private Sellers 

There are so many places to buy RVs from private sellers–Facebook marketplace, Facebook community swap pages, Craigslist, local newspapers, community publications, and for-sale signs in yards! The more you shop online or in person, the more skilled you’ll be in seeking out good deals.

If you aren’t an experienced RVer, you can always hire a professional inspector to look at an RV before buying it. Once you buy a used RV from a private seller, it’s yours, so know what you’re getting into. 

class a motorhome rv
Class A Motorhome

Being prepared and educated is essential before purchasing any RV, but when shopping privately, often deals go quickly. Have your finances, tow vehicle, potential storage location (if needed), and tools ready to make quick offers. This will get you the best deals before someone else swoops in! 

Best Time to Buy an RV

Sometimes, the best time to buy an RV is after the season ends. If you live in the North, purchasing an RV right before winter is a great time, as many people don’t want to winterize and pay for storage for an RV over the off-season when they aren’t using it. 

Conversely, if you live in the South, buying an RV in the summer heat may be the best option, as that’s when people typically avoid camping and might be looking to make a change.

Dealerships likewise want to clear out inventory right before next year’s models hit, so shop end-of-season sales.

Best State to Buy an RV

If you’re serious about saving some money, buying an RV in Montana may be the best bet.

In Montana, you don’t pay any sales taxes, AND you can register your RV in the state, even if you don’t live there. You just have to set up an LLC in Montana. Keep in mind that laws change,  so check ahead before registering your RV in Montana. 

montana scenery
A trip to beautiful Montana to buy an RV wouldn’t be terrible!

If you’re purchasing an expensive fifth wheel, motorhome, or high-end trailer, it may make sense to shop in Montana to save significant money on tax and registration. Understand what those costs will add to your purchase price and include it in your budget with any RV. Some states have very high registration costs on RVs. 

Assuming you find what you’re looking for in Montana, it’s also a gorgeous state to camp in, so a trip to pick up your new trailer might be a nice bonus!

Creating an RV Budget

Before getting your heart set on a specific RV, it’s vital to get an idea of what you can afford. Paying cash is usually the best way to purchase. But if you’re going to borrow for an RV, it’s smart to at least consult with your bank, local credit unions, and online lenders to check rates and set a budget.

woman researching rvs on computer
Do your research and prepare RV financing ahead of time.

After you get a basic idea of what you can afford, you can start casually shopping to see what type of RV can fit that budget or payment. Being smart with your money will save you from an impulsive purchase that will put your family into scary debt.

Negotiation Tips

You can negotiate anything. But how do you get the best deal?

Knowing what you’re buying and understanding the market is critical. Doing your research to know what trailers are selling for in the same size, location, brand, etc., is important to help you understand pricing and room for negotiations. 

If something needs attention on the trailer (such as new tires), you can work that into the offer. It’s easier to negotiate on old listings as well. 

Be careful not to offend the seller with a lowball offer. Be respectful, but know how much repairs, tires, etc., will cost and be realistic in your negotiations to get a win/win. You want to get your new RV for a fair price!

How to Buy an RV
Buying an RV is an exciting process!

Dealers can negotiate, too, but when demand is high, they rarely need to drop prices. You may be able to negotiate add-ons or other things that might be important for you, such as delivery, a warranty, different tires, or electric jacks, for instance. 

Don’t be afraid to negotiate on the financing rate either! Dealerships often profit on the financing side, so don’t be in a hurry to agree to their financing offer. Again, check with local credit unions and even online banks to get the best deal. 

Get the RV of Your Dreams Without Breaking the Bank

By doing your homework ahead of time, you can make a smart buying decision and get the RV of your dreams. When making an informed purchase, you can keep enough money in the bank for all those camping adventures with your new rig!

Need More Help Buying Your RV? Enroll in RV Buyers Bootcamp.

We get it – buying an RV can be overwhelming. That’s why we helped create RV Buyers Bootcamp. In this collection of presentations, we walk RV buyers through the entire buying process.

The RV Buyers Bootcamp will teach you how to pick out the best RV for you, learn tips and tricks for negotiating and financing, perform a hands-on Pre-Delivery Inspection, find friends on the road, and so much more! Review the Course Curriculum here.

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Gerald Buffett

Friday 26th of February 2021

Hi Ton and Cait,

I am curious as to why you did not include a truck camper in your section on RV types to choose from for potential new buyers to consider?

I have enjoyed the truck camper experience for 12 years and your Expedition North certainly highlighted the many advantages of this type of Rving.

Thanks for all the great work you do and information you provide on RVing. Enjoy your weekend!

Mortons on the Move

Saturday 27th of February 2021

Great point, just because they are less common we missed it, but I did add them! We too love truck campers and will be working on our next TC built this year :)

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