New or used?
The consensus among RVers is that for a first purchase, shop used. Many RVers have found that their “first” RV wasn’t the one that fit their needs, and they soon wound up buying a second, even a third unit before really finding out what worked for them. Since depreciation on a brand new RV can be significant, it may be best to let somebody else “take the hit” with the high cost of deprecation.
Aside from the cost of depreciation, there’s another good reason to shop for a used rig. It’s called “working the bugs out.” Here’s a sorry industry fact – quality control for most RV manufacturers just isn’t what you’d expect with something that costs as much as it does. There are scads of complaints from new owners about the “problems” they find in their brand new rig. Admittedly, many of these problems are small issues – somebody forgot to tighten a screw, or something was installed crooked. A lot of these issues can be handled by the do-it-yourselfer. But if there’s a problem you can’t fix, you’ll have to fall back on your warranty – and your dealer – to get it right. This takes time, and sometimes, it means repeated returns to the dealer.
If you decide to buy new then, expect you’ll have a few problems to work out. Don’t make the mistake of having your “purchase to first use” schedule so tight that if a problem can’t be resolved quickly you’ll be in a soup. More than one RVer who bought a new rig with the thought of immediately taking possession and heading off on a lengthy RV trip found things didn’t work out well. In fact, one of the most recommended ways of dealing with bugs is to take your rig out for a weekend – somewhere close to home. Use all the rig’s systems, open and close all doors, etc. When the bugs appear, make a “punch list,” and get back to the dealer pronto.
Dealer or private party?
Certainly this applies to used, not new rigs. Buy a used rig from a dealer and you’ll probably pay more than for the same rig in similar condition. Distressed sellers, say someone who recently lost a mate or hit a financial bind, may seriously mark down the price of the rig considerably, making the buy attractive. Still, you’ll have no recourse if you find a problem with the rig. If you buy from a dealer, you may be able to negotiate a warranty of some sort – but GET IT IN WRITING. Buying from a private seller, it’s best to have the rig inspected by an independent third party – a reputable RV service center – keep reading on how to find one. It may cost you a few bucks, but it can save you in the long run.
Decide to go with a dealer? Which one? You may get a better price for a new rig from a dealer somewhere other than in your home town. Beware – if you save a few hundred or even a few thousand on a new rig by going out of the area, don’t bet you’ll get warranty work done quickly by the local dealer. He’ll do it, maybe, but you can be sure your work order will go to the “bottom of the pile,” while he takes care of those he directly sold rigs to.
Experience says that having a trusted dealer is probably of more value than the rig itself. That means, check out the dealer’s reputation on a customer-driven evaluation service like Yelp!. Take a look at the outfit’s ratings through the Better Business Bureau, too.