When Is a Used RV at Its Peak Value?

Used RV sales are up significantly as more and more people take to the open road. Many buyers have caught on that a used model is a better investment than a new model. Because of rapid depreciation, timing the purchase of a recreational vehicle is critical to getting a great deal.

What to know before shopping

A white RV traveling through the Australian countryside
An RV on the open road | Tim Graham via Getty Images

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Everyone should know a few basics of RV buying before they shop for their rig. Knowing the best time to buy from a dealer or a private seller could save shoppers thousands of dollars. Typically pre-owned RV sales begin to drop in the fall. As the year closes, prices continue to fall off.

Shopping in the off-season isn’t a foolproof strategy. Shoppers still need to consider an RV’s class and quality when calculating its value. A quality RV will naturally depreciate less. Choosing a popular model also retains value longer.

Just how fast does an RV lose value?

It’s no secret that RVs rapidly depreciate the moment they’re purchased. As noted by NADAguides, 20% of an RV’s overall value evaporates the second it leaves the sales lot. Buyers can quickly end up owing more than their RV is worth without careful financing.

Most RV buyers who choose a new model are not doing so for financial reasons. The purchase of a new RV is not an investment. Some consider the pain of an RV investment a rite of passage into the lifestyle.

RVs can depreciate up to 40% in the first two years of ownership. During years three and four, an RV’s value will drop from between 10%-15% per year. This trend starts to level out around the five-year mark.

When does an RV reach price equilibrium?

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An RV should be purchased when depreciation is at its lowest rate. At roughly five years after purchase, an RV has lost 30%-50% of its original value. Depreciation slows down significantly at this point.

The next large drop comes five years later, meaning savvy buyers could score a half-decade of steady value retention. At the ten-year mark, an RV is typically worth less than half of its original purchase price.

Choose a rig that’s seen the open road

When an RV hits five years old, it doesn’t automatically become a smart buy. There are several factors shoppers should consider when choosing a second-hand rig. Choosing a pre-owned camper that’s worth the investment is a multi-faceted issue.

Shoppers should look for an RV that has seen more use, not less. It’s tempting to buy a camper that was kept pristine in a garage. An RV that’s never left the yard will feel brand new. Buyers should aim for a unit that’s seen medium road-wear.

Choosing an RV that hasn’t been driven means choosing an RV that hasn’t had any of its kinks worked out. Buyers should choose a rig that has had all of its quirks discovered. Buyers want to find an RV with the awkward early miles behind it and plenty of adventures yet to come.