7 Tips On How to Determine Value of a Used Camper
If you’re planning to buy a travel trailer, chances are you’re torn between a new and an old camper.
I’ve been there.
See, my first travel trailer was a used, old bunkhouse camper. It was the perfect fit for my family. Unfortunately, five months later, it developed a leak in the back wall, which cost thousands of dollars to repair. I had to trade it in a painful loss.
Now not to take away from my experience, but to add an anecdote from the other side: my brother-in-law bought a new 40′ trailer at a high price tag one year ago.
Unfortunately, it came with a roof leak defect from the factory, and fall last year, the toilet fell through the floor.
Now, based on the two scenarios above, I would say that new or used, quality is always a concern. There’re pros and cons of buying a used and new camper.
A new camper may appeal to RVers looking for a rig, entirely on their own and without anyone else’s funk.
If you also want a warranty to cover things and don’t mind being without your camper while they’re covered, go for new, but understand depreciation is high.
Of course, remember, everyone’s situation is different, but for me spending more than $5k for a new rig isn’t worth the price.
And no, I’m not trying to throw shade at new rigs. After all, I’ve also had the experience of a new rig, and for the first year, I only had it in the dealership three times, and half of that was fixing minor issues. Other than that, it remained rock solid.
The big problem with RVers looking to buy used campers is they read a lot and watch lots of YouTube videos about what to look out for. And in most cases, their info-junkie asses get lost in a sea of bad things that could go wrong that lurk in the background of a used camper.
Of course, I understand the need for due diligence because there seem to be so many things that can go wrong with a used camper, and they are mostly hidden.
Find out who owns the camper, how? Ask for the title. Always talk with the owner and not an uncle, aunt or son of the owner. If the person you are talking to can’t answer where the title is then I suggest to walk away.
Sometimes there is a lean on the trailer and the title maybe held by the lean holder, bank or lending company. You need to know this information to make sure if you purchase the camper the lean is paid off. You may be liable for the unpaid loan amount.
For me, a used camper is worth its weight in gold. I would NEVER buy a new RV.
But does that mean used campers are worth it? And are there certain brands to steer off when buying used campers? Plus, what’s the opinion between buying a used camper from a dealership and a private seller?
Well, the answer to all these questions is subjective and may depend on the user experience.
However, here are my two cents on the worth of used travel trailers:
Used Rigs are “Burnt In”
Generally, used campers are “burnt in,” and all the issues for a new rig and poor construction are usually resolved.
With a used trailer, someone else will have already worked out the kinks. Plus, most campers usually don’t have many miles on them.
Of course, it’s usually a gamble that the guy selling it took care of all the unresolved issues, and they may even dress the rig up to look nice.
However, it’s better to gamble with a used trailer than spend $5k or more and still be uncertain whether things are ironed out. After all, new campers usually come with their share of defects.
Personally, provided there’re no signs of extensive water damage, or axle/undercarriage damage, I think everything else should be a minor repair.
Generally, all campers are built with less than preferred quality, and unless you’re paying a premium, you’ll have to deal with lots of cut corners and bad habits of mass-produced trailers.
So, unless you spend on a premium unit, you’ll have little and stupid bugs to work out on your new RV.
Poor quality of RVs is caused by a lack of oversight in the industry and the greed to drive the cost to the bare minimum.
Keystone and Forest River are the only brands that are pretty much even on quality.
Now, fixing the bugs in your new RV means leaving your camper at the dealer for weeks during prime RVing season.
Sure, having someone fix your RV is nice, but what good is it if it sits on the dealer’s lot for weeks or months before it gets fixed?
I also do know that warranties, in general, are pure gravy for dealers and may not be worth it for the consumer.
But if you get a used trailer, someone else will probably have done all the shakedown fixes, and you can always take your camper to an independent mechanic.
Trailers aren’t complex machines, and most of the things you can learn to fix on your own are from YouTube.
Used trailers are generally cheaper than new ones: you don’t have to overthink this. If you’re looking to save a couple of thousands, I’d recommend searching for your preferred camper model from a few years back.
The best part is you don’t have to deal with the rapid depreciation of a camper, which means a better investment.
See, every camper loses value as soon as you drive it off the lot. Many campers don’t understand that new campers continue losing value at a high clip for the first year, sometimes as much as 30%.
On the other hand, a used camper depreciates at a much slower rate after the first-year plateau, so it’s easy to argue that used campers are a better investment.
Learn About Campers
I’m a big fan of testing the waters, and if you’re getting the first trailer, I’d suggest a cheap, used trailer and plan on replacing it after a year or two.
See, when buying a trailer, you’ve no idea what’s important regarding your RV needs.
So, get a cheap and used trailer, put it into use, and dispose of it later. The real value here is education.
There’re so many things that RV ownership entails, and for this reason, I always believe your first camper should be used.
The learning experience from a used camper is crucial, and after a while, it gets easy for you to look t your next purchase with the eye of a grizzled veteran.
Determining the Value of a Used Camper
Determining the value of a used camper is challenging, at least for many RVers. The RV market is relatively small compared to cars, and no clear pricing guide is available.
Plus, the build quality greatly varies compared to that of automobiles.
Even then, you must know the real value of a used RV when searching for one.
The good news is there’re several avenues RVers can use to determine the real value of their RVs.
NADA RV Guide
NADA is an acronym for National Auto Dealers Association. It was established in 1933 and is widely recognized in the RVing industry as the gold standard for accurate and comprehensive used RV valuation information.
NADA has a valuation guide and usually acts as a baseline when determining the exact price of a used RV.
You could also peruse RV dealer websites to know the price of a used RV.
But the big problem with used RV dealerships is they tend to overinflate the RV prices, o you also need to be careful. Gather information from a couple of dealers and see the average price.
The other thing is RVs in dealerships are usually not inspected, so don’t make your purchase blindly.
Online Market Places
Private-party sellers on different social platforms such as FB, Craigslist, or classified ads are also a great way to determine the value of a used trailer.
Of course, the pricing here is all over the board, but it’ll give you a glimpse of what to expect on a particular model.
RV forums, especially on Reddit, Airforums, and IRV2, are also great resources for determining the value of a used RV.
Whatever resource you choose, understand there’s no accurate valuation information, and the research is only meant to guide your purchase.
Q: Are Old RVs worth buying?
A: In my opinion, buying an old RV is worth it. It costs less and saves you from the quick depreciation of a new RV.
However, you must do due diligence before committing to an old and used RV.
Q: What should I look for in a used RV?
A: The greatest risk of a used RV is water damage. Check for leakages, plumbing, and draining systems to ensure proper functioning.
Q: How long do travel trailers last?
A: Generally, most travel trailers have a minimum lifespan of 10 years, but this may extend up to 30 years, depending on the usage and care.
Used trailers are, in my opinion, a smart financial decision, especially if you get a slightly-used and well-kept trailer.
The trick to finding the perfect used trailer is getting one with low mileage and, most importantly, performing an inspection before purchase.
A used trailer saves you on the high initial investment while keeping the depreciation rates low.