Buying an RV can be extremely overwhelming. It’s a big decision, but the stakes are even higher when you know you’ll be living in that RV full time. 

When considering what kind of rig to purchase (“rig” is another term for RV that’s used in the lifestyle), there are dozens of decisions to make, like should it be towable or drivable? Fifth wheel or travel trailer? Van or truck camper? New or used?

After a lot of research and discussions around what type of RV we wanted, we decided we wanted a travel trailer. The next step was whether we wanted to purchase a new travel trailer or a used one.

This definitely was one of our biggest struggles when it came to starting the full-time RV lifestyle. Here were our considerations when trying to decide:

1. We knew if we were going to be living in our “rig” full-time, it had to be durable, but not cost a fortune (after all, we had no idea if we would like this lifestyle because we had never tried it!)

2. We wanted to know that our rig was safe and free from things like mold in the walls. We don’t know how to fix things in a rig like we do in a house, so we wanted peace of mind with our new purchase.

3. We needed it to be easy enough for us to learn to use (whether driving it or towing it), but not so small or simple that once we were used to it, we’d regret getting something so small or simple.

So our priorities were 1) Durable but not too pricey 2) Safe/hidden-problem free and 3) Small and simple, but not TOO small and simple. Below is the pro/con list we made before we made our decision.

Buying a Used RV

Pros:

1. (Usually) much cheaper

It’s no secret that buying a used rig is significantly cheaper than buying new, which is a great option if your looking to get started for cheap!

2. Price negotiation

Someone who is privately selling a rig might be more open to price negotiation. They may be done RV’ing and just looking to get some cash, or they could be looking for some cash to throw at a new camper. Either way, you have a better chance of negotiating with a person than a dealership.

3. More variety

When we started looking at rigs, there was limited variety at the dealerships in our area. For example, one dealership was a Jayco dealership. All the rigs were Jayco, and for the most part, the layouts and features didn’t differ too much. There are more unique and eclectic finds on places like RV Trader or this cool site RenovatedRVsforSale.

4. Great for a renovation project

Sometimes used RV’s can be outdated, which makes them a fun flip project! The money you save on a new camper, you can throw at some updates if you’re up for a project.

Cons:

1. Bugs/rodents/Infestations

A single cockroach infestation can haunt you for longer than you think. A couple months into our journey, we apparently picked up a cockroach in FL, who then created an entire colony by time we got to Georgia, and we’ll never be the same. The last thing you want is to start off your new journey with is some uninvited guests. If you do choose to buy used, one thing you’ll definitely want to understand is how the camper was stored; if it was stored outside, any number of creatures could’ve made a home inside. Ask if there are any known rodent/pest issues.

2. Mold/Mildew

Similar to above, mold and mildew can be sneaky bastards. Sometimes an owner isn’t even aware of the issue because it’s in the walls or under the sinks, etc. If you do buy used, ask if there is any known water damage.

3. Duct tape repairs

Some people are very handy. Some people pretend to be very handy. When you use an RV, things will undoubtedly go wrong, break, fall apart – what you don’t want though is to buy a rig from someone who pretends to be handy and fixed things in a very unorthodox way. You don’t want faucets held together with puddy or stabilizers secured with duct tape. If you buy used, ask about any repairs the owner made themselves.

4. No warranty (typically)

Generally speaking, one huge benefit of purchasing new over used is the initial 1-year bumper-to-bumper warranty. Sometimes you can find a used rig that’s so new, it’s still covered under the initial warranty OR the owners had extended it to be a 3-, 5-, or 7-year warranty. But in our search, that was pretty rare.

buying a NEW RV

Pros:

1. No water damage or janky repairs (usually)

If it’s never been used, there usually isn’t a reason there’d be water damage inside. Although, most trailers are stored outside on lots, so it’s not totally off the table. If it’s being sold through a dealership – it also shouldn’t have shoddy workmanship. Everything SHOULD be on the up and up.

2. Yours and only yours

You know how when you walk into someone else’s house…or get in someone else’s car…you can smell that it’s not new? And you look at different hooks and fixings they’ve put on the walls and wonder, “why would you put that there?” With a new RV, you don’t have to worry about taking down or covering up. You start with a blank palette.

3. Warranty on new rvs

As mentioned above, most rigs come with a 1-year warranty bumper-to-bumper. For newbies, this gives you huge peace-of-mind when things go wrong, especially because you still don’t know what you’re doing yet.

4. Easy financing when buying a new rv

Financing through a dealership is pretty quick and easy. When you choose your rig, you point to it, you sign some papers, they run your credit, and you walk out a proud owner of a new rig…likely with monthly payments.

5. Orientation for a new rv

One huge advantage to buying from a dealership is they give you a 2-hour orientation on the ins and outs of how to use your rig (or at least our dealership did). If you’ve never used a rig before (or even if you have), the orientation is wonderful and can teach you all the great things about your rig and the proper way to use its features.

Buying an RV

Cons:

1. Higher prices on new rvs

Dealerships have higher prices than private sellers with much less wiggle room for negotiating. They make you FEEL like you’re getting a deal by “throwing in”, for instance, a weight distribution package. They “check with their managers” and get approval, but the truth is – it’s all part of the show. You’re buying a $20-, $50-, $100,000 vehicle and they’re throwing in a $400 towing package that’s needed to tow it. It’s truly no skin off their backs.

2. Depreciation when buying an rv

The higher the price, the more it falls the minute you drive off the lot.

3. Hesitant to renovate or customize

When you buy a rig new, you may feel like you can’t make customizations inside because you’re trying to preserve any resale value you do have left. And while ripping out those bunks to put in an office would suit your needs, it may not be what 95% of people on the market are looking for. Plus, if you’re financing, you’re always thinking about being able to get enough money back out of your rig if you decide to sell before it’s paid off.

4. Working out the kinks

While having a warranty is a nice bonus, the not-so-nice side of it is that there are things that will inevitably need to be fixed after your rig comes off the assembly line. That can be annoying if you want to start traveling right away OR if you won’t be back near your dealership within the year. Can you get warranty work done at other dealerships? Yes, but you’ll need to be in one location for quite some time.

In our experience, you have to get an estimate from an RV repair place, submit it to the manufacturer, get approval, then schedule the maintenance. That whole process does NOT happen within a week. So working those kinks out on the road is a huge pain in the ass.

Our first rig

2019 Heartland 22RBK North Trail

We ultimately chose to purchase a new Heartland rig from a dealership, and are grateful for that decision. For us, the pros of buying new outweighed the cons for us!

Update: We still love our Heartland, even after 2.5 years on the road. The quality has really held up! Check out their North Trail floor plans.

 After you decide on buying an RV that’s right for you, check out 10 Mistakes to Avoid in Your First Year as Full-Time RVers.