How to Keep From Making the Worst RV Buying Mistake Ever

Updated on January 24, 2019
TIMETRAVELER2 profile image

I have bought and sold many RVs over my 50 years of RV ownership and want to help people to avoid RV buying and selling problems.

It is common for RVers to make mistakes, but some are worse than others. Some are so bad that they actually can result in financial ruin in certain situations.

Owner mistakes are very easy to make and are the result of people who

  • buy RVs that are all wrong for them,
  • don’t take the time to learn what they need to know before making purchases,
  • abuse their coaches in myriads of ways
  • don’t keep up with maintenance and repairs and
  • generally make a big, hot mess out of something that is supposed to be enjoyable and fun.

Most are able to overcome the problems they create, but there is a common one that is the worst of all.

How to avoid making the worst possible RV buying mistake.
How to avoid making the worst possible RV buying mistake. | Source

Many Mistakes Are Due to a Lack of Foresight

The problem with some mistakes is that they sneak up on you. You think, based on your current situation, that you are doing something wonderful, but you neglect to consider what might happen if things change in your life.

In some cases, people can weather this type of storm, but when it comes to buying campers, travel trailers and motor homes, when things take a turn for the worse, the consequences of not forecasting potential problems can be disastrous.

The financial losses people can take simply because they

  1. did not understand how the buying and selling of RVs works or
  2. refused to consider potential life changing problems that might affect their financial situations

can cause permanent and major financial losses.

How Does This Happen?

There can be many issues that create negative circumstances, but the basic story is always the same.

A couple decides to buy a recreational vehicle for living or travel that they can enjoy during their early retirement years. They may or may not sell their home in order to pay for their new toy, but in most cases they will pay a significant amount of money because they’ll have it in their heads that new is always better, will need less upkeep and will last for a long time if they are willing to maintain it properly.

This couple is excited about their new adventure and is only thinking of the “now”. Often they don’t understand the true costs that will be involved in their plan, but as time goes on, they realize that they have taken on a bigger financial burden than they may have realized. However, they are able to manage and are happy to be able to see the country and enjoy life.

Then tragedy strikes.

  • It can come in the form of an accident, illness or death.
  • It may also show up as a major financial loss.
  • Sometimes it may simply be the result of old age setting in.

Whatever the case, the tragedy that has taken place makes the couple (or the remaining spouse) realize that it’s time to sell the travel unit. What they don’t realize is they most likely will not be able to do so.

That luxury coach will be fun to own, but may turn into a financial nightmare when it's time to sell it.
That luxury coach will be fun to own, but may turn into a financial nightmare when it's time to sell it. | Source

Why Can’t They Sell?

There are a number of reasons why people like this will not be able to sell their coaches.

  1. They owe more for it than it is worth because they paid too much for it to begin with.
  2. It is too old to be financeable.
  3. There is too much competition from others who also need to sell.
  4. It is outdated.
  5. It has unpopular features that are known to cause expensive problems.

A Real Life Example

  1. Twelve years ago a couple I knew purchased a motor home that was three years old.
  2. They sold their home, moved into it and began traveling and work camping.
  3. At the time, she was 57 and he was 59.
  4. Three months ago they decided to buy a home and sell the RV.
  5. Shortly after moving into their home, he had a heart attack and died.

As a result, she lost a good deal of her income due to his death, and now has found herself burdened with having to pay several thousand dollars a year just to own and store a coach which she will never use again.

She currently owes $66,000 on the coach. Its NADA value is around $40,000.

  • It has a rubber roof, needs tires, has had animals in it, has a low quality generator, and is now 15 years old.
  • Banks generally will not finance recreational vehicles that are older than 10 years.
  • Before her husband died, she spent $30,000 redoing the bathrooms in her home, so she is now “house poor”.

In short, even if she could find a bank that would finance the sale of her unit and someone who would buy it for $40,000 (which is unlikely), she can’t do so because she still would need to come up with $26,000 to pay it off.

She has no home equity and has already gone into debt to pay for upgrades.

Thus, because they paid too much 12 years ago for their unit, they set a series of issues into motion that have culminated in an insurmountable situation.

The Bigger Problem

This is a major financial mistake from which the widow will not be able to recover unless she

  1. is able to obtain outside help from someone who is willing to provide enough money to get rid of her coach or
  2. willing to sell her house and move back into her motor home..

She would still have most of the expenses, but she would no longer have the costs involved in living in her home and thus could salvage her situation over time.

While this sounds like a terrible idea, she is lucky she’s in this situation.

Many people get stuck with RVs and for various reasons are unable to protect their finances with her type of resolution.

How to Keep This From Happening to You

Having read all that has been written here, the lesson should be clear, but here it is in black and white.

The worst thing people can do is to purchase a travel unit that costs more than they will be able to afford to pay if problems occur in the future. The story I just shared with you is a common one.

The details may vary from one person to the next, but the bottom line is that to protect yourself, you need to be extremely careful about how much you pay to buy any coach. Not only does their value drop quickly, but they are all expensive to maintain, store, travel and live in.

You should research the costs involved in these issues long before you make the mistake of purchasing an RV you may not be able to afford down the road. To do otherwise is to make the worst RV buying mistake ever.

Has this information encouraged you to be more careful about what you spend to purchase an RV?

See results

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

Questions & Answers

  • Are private party to private party vehicle sales are not taxed in AZ?

    If that is the state law in AZ, then you would be correct. Call your county's tax collector and ask them to make sure. Some states don't charge sales tax.

© 2017 Sondra Rochelle


Submit a Comment
  • TIMETRAVELER2 profile imageAUTHOR

    Sondra Rochelle 

    22 months ago from USA

    saflower: I do agree. The point here is to be very careful when buying so that you don't overspend and therefor do have enough to pay for any repairs, etc.

  • profile image


    22 months ago

    Very informative put a little damper on my plan to retire and live in one but doing homework before buying regarding all the risks costs and the whole package is great advice and really good to know and yes there is wear and tear on a house too so no matter what route one takes there is cost and risk involved...would you agree


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