Driving Down Value: Weathering the RV Depreciation Storm

It’s no secret that RVs depreciate quickly. Not only that, but these homes-on-wheels actually depreciate even faster than most other types of vehicles. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t buy one, as RVing is a ton of fun and totally worth the cost! But it does mean you should do some research going in and work to slow RV depreciation as much as possible once you do make a purchase. 

Not sure what you can do about RV depreciation? Here are our top tips for those looking to buy an RV, as well as those who already own one and wish to slow the effects of RV depreciation. 

What to Consider when Buying an RV

First, let’s talk about the things you might want to keep in mind as you shop for an RV. By using these tips, you can make sure your RV purchase is a solid one that will depreciate as little as possible while in your hands. 

Choose to Buy Used

Our first tip is a biggie: Always buy a used RV rather than a brand new one. Why? Because you lose about 20% of your RV’s value as soon as you drive off the lot. On top of that, RVs depreciate the most in their first year of being on the road. Once the first year has passed, the depreciation is relatively gradual until the rig hits the 10-year mark.

No, we aren’t suggesting you should buy a falling-apart old unit, but there are many, many gently used RVs out there that are practically as good as new and are just waiting for someone like you to claim them and take them on adventures. Take the time to seek out the perfect used RV and you’ll be rewarded by slower RV depreciation. 

RV next to Ocean

Looking to buy an RV? Buying used is the way to go!

Pick the Right Kind of RV

Another important factor to consider when buying an RV? Different types of RVs have different depreciation rates. For instance, class C RVs hold their value the best out of all RV types. Class A RVs, class B RVs, and travel trailers come in second, with fifth wheels depreciating the fastest, making them the worst RV investment. 

Another thing worth noting is the fact that while travel trailers depreciate about as quickly as most motorhomes in the first ten years, when taken care of, they tend to hold their value longer after hitting that ten-year mark. 

If slow RV depreciation is important to you, go with a class C motorhome or a travel trailer. 

Look at Age instead of Mileage

When it comes to motorhomes, age is generally more important than mileage.

For this reason, we recommend that you look for a newer (but not brand new) RV first, and worry about mileage second. Put another way, if you have a choice between an 8-year-old motorhome with only 10,000 miles and a 3-year-old motorhome with 60,000 miles, and with all other factors being equal, the 3-year-old RV is worth more and should win. 

The exception to this rule comes into play if the RV has seen such heavy use that it is obviously worn or damaged, or not cared for. 

Preventing Excessive Depreciation

Whether you use the tips above or not, there are a few things you can do to make sure RV depreciation on your rig goes as slowly as possible. Following these simple steps will keep your RV in tip-top shape so you can get a good chunk of your investment back when selling. 

Repair Damages Right Away

Things break and accidents happen. This is simply part of owning an RV. Obviously, you want to avoid damaging your home-on-wheels as much as possible, but more importantly, when damages do happen, it is important that you repair them as soon as possible.

Damages on the exterior of your rig and broken parts inside and out take away from the value of your RV. Not only that, but the initial damages can actually lead to bigger problems down the line if not addressed in a timely manner. 

Maintain Your Rig Well (and Keep Records)

In the same vein as repairing damages quickly, it is also important that you meticulously maintain your rig. This means taking your motorhome for annual check-ups at the mechanic and taking care of things like oil changes, filter changes, and other maintenance tasks at the times specified by the vehicle manufacturer. 

It also includes caring for the RV’s roof by cleaning and resealing it at least once a year. Check your owner’s manual for specific instructions on how to do this, and make sure you pay careful attention to places where water might accumulate or wherever leaks are likely to occur. 

While you’re sealing things, it’s also a good idea to take some sealant to the sides of your rig. You can go around the doors, window frames, and other cracks where water might seep in. Remember: water is the RV owner’s worst enemy, and a leak will very quickly cause your RV to lose value. 

Other maintenance tasks to stay on top of include washing and waxing the RV, taking care of wheel bearings, and keeping the interior of the rig clean and free of pests.

American Currency

Get the most of your money and use your RV as often as you can!

Choose Covered Storage

RV roofs are the parts that are most susceptible to damage. This is why it’s so important to maintain them properly. That said, even the best maintenance in the world won’t give your RV roof the same level of protection that covered storage can offer. On top of that, covered RV storage protects the sides of the rig as well, helping prevent peeling stickers and faded paint jobs. 

No, we are not suggesting that you skip roof maintenance (definitely don’t do that), but adding covered storage into the mix if at all possible will certainly help keep the exterior of your RV in tip-top shape, resulting in slower RV depreciation. 

Use Your RV Often

It may seem counterintuitive, but our final tip for slowing RV depreciation is to use your RV often. Motorhomes and trailers are not built to sit around for months or years at a time with no use. They need to be driven and moved in order to exercise their moving parts, the onboard generators need to be run regularly, and the appliances onboard should be used to keep them up and running.

Not only will using your RV prevent stuck parts, propane clogs, and other problems, but it will also help prevent pest infestations and water damage, as you will be around to see and address these things right away. 

Recouping Money Lost through Depreciation 

While you’ll likely never sell your RV for more than you paid for it, you can certainly soften the blow by finding ways to recoup money lost through RV depreciation. This might mean using your rig to make more money, or simply doing what you can to sell it for as much as possible when the time to sell rolls around. 

Put Your Rig to Work for You

If you only use your RV occasionally and you want to make sure you’re getting enough use out of it to make it worth your investment, consider renting it out through a per-to-peer rental company. This will ensure the rig is used regularly, will help you recoup some of the money spent on the RV, and will allow other outdoor enthusiasts to take exciting camping trips. 

It is important to note here that because the RV will likely see more damages and wear and tear when rented out, sharing your RV with others could potentially lead to faster depreciation. However, if it is priced correctly, the money you make from the rentals should more than outweigh the money lost. 

Prepare the RV for Sale

Let’s say the time has come to sell the RV. Obviously, you want to sell it for as much as you can. The first step to doing this is taking a close look at the rig to see what you can do to make it more appealing. Fix broken parts and replace outdated appliances. You might even stage the rig with cute decor. Just make sure that the changes you make don’t cost more than the extra money you’d make from the sale. 

Know When to Sell

Another way you can make sure your RV sells for as much as possible? Know when to sell. While people buy RVs all year round, more people are shopping in the spring. Because demand is higher during this time, RV prices are higher. This means that selling in the spring will almost certainly bring you more money than selling during another part of the year. 

Ready to sell right now? Check out our RV valuation tool to see how much you might get!

As you can see, while RV depreciation is an irritating fact of life, it doesn’t have to be disastrous. Instead, you can take a few simple steps during the buying process, while you own the RV, and before you sell to ensure you lose a relatively small amount of money and still get to have the time of your life exploring our beautiful country.

About Chelsea Gonzales

Chelsea Gonzales has been living in an RV and traveling with her family for 7 years now. She road schools her two children, using various travel experiences as lessons in history, science, geography, and more. During their time on the road, the Gonzales family has had the pleasure of touring the 48 contiguous United States as well as parts of Canada. They have learned a lot along the way and Chelsea is happy to share some of that knowledge through her writing.