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Buy used when you first break into the RV world

There's a saying among people who drive recreational vehicles: The first RV is the wrong one.

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"I don't know anyone who's been in RVing for awhile that's still in their first RV. You just know you're going to trade it in," says Joe Kieva, author and publisher of RV Know How, an RV information site for consumers.

"You learn what you like and don't like by owning one and driving it. The only way to learn is hands-on."

Starting off with a used RV can make that lesson a lot less painful to your pocketbook. Why spend a fortune on what amounts to your learning rig?

Avoid the big hit
By buying a used RV, you let the first owner take the big depreciation hit. The savings can be substantial. An RV loses 40 percent of its value in its first year alone.

Bob Gummersall, chief technical officer at RVers Online, did a study complete with spreadsheets detailing the costs of owning a 3-year-old RV vs. the costs of owning a new RV.

It wasn't even close. Buying a 3-year-old RV cuts ownership costs in half. That's in half.

And get this -- a well-maintained RV that's a couple years old may actually need less repair work than a new RV.

Folks may like to think that they can drive a new RV off the lot and hit the road for a long adventure. But chances are they won't get very far.

"You've got to expect when you drive it off the dealer lot that you're going to have a list of things that need to be fixed before you get it home," Gummersall says.

It's not unusual for a brand-new RV to spend 20 days in the repair shop in its first year.

"By year two, most of these problems are fixed," Gummersall says.

RVs take time to prime
So, strange as it may seem, an RV that's been broken in and well-maintained for a couple of years may be an easier ride than a brand new one.

"The 4-year-old motor home is probably more operable than it was new," Gummersall says.

There's also a good chance that a 4-year-old RV won't be loaded down with a bunch of miles. Most RVers drive just 3,000 to 5,000 miles a year. Lots of people change RVs every three or four years.

"People get into them and they're always looking for a better deal --- something better than what they have," says Paul Snapp, vice president of sales for

So low-mileage, used RVs are definitely out there. Tracking down a good one takes some work.

"You really have to do your homework if you're looking at used RVs," Kieva says. "Everybody is looking, and when they come across a good one, it moves quickly."

First things first -- financing
Be sure to get your financing all squared away before jumping into the big RV search. Banks, credit unions and independent finance companies all offer RV financing. A list of RV financing companies is available on the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association Web site.


Next: "Try it on and see if it fits."
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