There are basically three age categories of RVs: new, used and vintage. This is also true of vehicles, of course.
Watching a Herron
Peggy watching a herron from the solitude of our RV while dry camping at Doran State Beach.
Like vehicles, new ones offer the advantage of having a warranty and not having miles or abuse from a previous owner. However since RVs are basically assembled from parts sourced from a very few manufacturers, quality isn’t anywhere close to what the auto industry has been able to accomplish. While a new car is almost appliance-like in its reliability you had better learn about the systems of an RV if you’re going to own one.
Furthermore, since a good RV repair technician is someone who is talented in many, many areas of repair, they are few and far between. And they’re busy as heck. So when you buy a new RV you can expect it to have some quality issues and you can expect that those repairs will take a while to address. This is a sad truth about the RV industry.
If you’re looking at a used RV you’ll find that lots of things that were originally installed in the RV have likely been replaced with better things over time. You’ll also want to be very, very, very careful of water damage. All the various holes in an RV roof for air conditioners and vent pipes and all of that are sealed with some material that eventually gives up.
If the previous owner wasn’t meticulous about maintaining these seals, there will be a leak. And that leak could lead to the RV’s being compromised at best and full of mold at worst. So if a used RV is in your future, you’re really best to get a certified RV technician and pay them to thoroughly inspect the RV. Definitely include an inspection of the roof of a used RV.
A vintage RV is invariably going to have water damage - I have yet to see one that doesn’t. The great thing about vintage RVs is that they’re cheap - in fact there are sometimes people willing to just give them away. Of course there are also those that have been meticulously restored as well and those are definitely not cheap.
Another cool thing about vintage RVs is that they’re almost a blank canvas. You can restore them back to new, or create your own vision. There are also vintage RV clubs and organizations and the community is growing. If you get a towable vintage RV nobody frowns on your towing that with a modern vehicle, so you get vintage style and modern reliability.
I have no ability and zero patience for “projects” so we decided to go with new. This lack of screwdriver skills also meant that converting a cargo trailer into an RV was another idea not well suited to us.
Written by Anthony B. Barthel