RV Depreciation: Everything you could possibly want to know


rv-depreciation

After spending countless hours studying RV depreciation on all different types of RVs at different price points and different locations around the world, I’m ready to geek out with you on some numbers.  To write this article, I analyzed over 200 different RV purchases and their depreciation over time, comparing data with RVTrader and Nada to confirm my results.

I don’t claim that what I’ve put together here is perfect, but if you’re a nerd and want to know for certain whether or not you’re making a good financial decision, I hope this helps.

First, a quick note.  I’m using percentages a lot in this article and I want to make sure I explain what that means.  Suppose there is 20% depreciation on an RV that cost $100,000.  That means the RV is worth $80,000 now.

Let’s Start With the Conclusions

Conclusion #1: Buying a new RV never makes FINANCIAL sense.  Ever.  You can expect to lose approximately 21% of the total purchase price of the RV the instant you drive it off the lot.  There are loads of exceptions to that which we’ll discuss later, but that’s the average.

To be clear, I don’t necessarily think it’s foolish to buy a new RV.  It’s just that you have to make the decision for reasons other than the financial reasons.  Many RV buyers want to customize the RV to their tastes or want it to feel clean and fresh and new–and are willing to sacrifice depreciation for that.  For some RV buyers, you’ve saved your whole life to do this and so it’s more about the experience than the money.  Nothing wrong with that if you have the money to blow.  Not everything has to be a financial decision.

Conclusion #2: The best bang for your buck in terms of depreciation is to buy an RV that is 5 years old which has seen medium use–but do not get one that has seen very little use.  5 years is the plateau point at which the steep depreciation of the first few years levels off significantly.

I don’t recommend an RV that has seen little use because they are very likely to have problems.  Suppose an older gentleman buys a motorhome and then his health declines and he keeps it in storage for two years.  What about that little bit of water left in the hot water heater that spent 8 months corroding before he got it winterized?  What about the slides which haven’t been greased in two years and have been left to bake in the sun in a storage unit?  What about that tiny little crack in the ceiling that he didn’t notice until there was some internal water damage?  You get the point.

Conclusion #3: Depreciation on motorhomes is much more closely tied to the year of the motorhome and NOT the mileage.  Mileage plays only a tiny roll in the depreciation schedule for an RV because most RVs die of failures other than the driving portion of the vehicle.  Gas RVs can easily run 200,000 miles, but rarely last that long before getting significant water damage, etc.

Conclusion #4: About 85% of all new RV buyers pay SIGNIFICANTLY more for their RV than they should.  Most RV manufacturers set the MSRP 30% higher than what they could realistically be purchased for.  I’m not immune to this.  I paid too much for my first travel trailer.  The MSRP was $28,000 and I talked them down to $25,000 and thought I was really hot stuff.

I checked RVTrader.com after I purchased and found that some other dealerships around the country were selling the same travel trailer new for $5,000 less.  If I’d known this, I could have driven to another state to buy, or I could have used that as ammunition to know what the dealership could sell it for.  Lesson learned.  Next time I’ll keep my $5,000.

Conclusion #5: There is no significant difference in the depreciation schedules of a Class A compared to a Class C.  They both depreciate at almost identical percentage rates.  However, several RV salesmen reported to me that used Class C motorhomes tend to sell much faster than used Class As.  This is likely because they come at a lower price point that entices potential travel trailer buyers.

Conclusion #6: There is no significant difference between depreciation of a fifth wheel and a travel trailer for most fifth wheels.  The very high end fifth wheels depreciate a little quicker.

Depreciation on a Class A Motorhome

The following is the average depreciation schedule I determined for Class A motorhomes.  I determined these numbers after reviewing purchases made by 51 Class A motorhome buyers to determine how the RV depreciated over time.

  • One year old – This number is extremely tough to determine.  The trouble is that many buyers traded in their RVs to a dealership at the end of one year to get something different, and some dealerships tell you they are paying you a high amount for your trade and then crank up the price on the new motorhome you’re buying from them.  So honestly, this number is nearly impossible to accurately calculate, but I’d guess it’s around 21%.
  • Two years old – 22%.  There isn’t much of a difference between a one year old RV and a two year old RV.  I found the depreciation to barely budge.  They still smell new at this point!  Also, manufacturers typically call an RV a 2019 model when it’s sold in 2018, for example, so it’s tough to know how much use an RV actually had when it’s listed as being two years old.  The gross numbers don’t tell us the complete picture here.
  • Three years old – 26.7% depreciation  (meaning 26.7% of the price you paid new is now gone)
  • Four years old – 30.27% depreciation
  • Five years old – 35.98% depreciation
  • Six years old – 39.54% depreciation
  • Seven years old – 41.15% depreciation
  • Eight years old – 43.16% depreciation
  • Ten years old – 60% depreciation (I noticed a big drop on this one–I guess 10 years old sounds a lot older than 9 years old to potential buyers)
  • Thirteen years old – 69% depreciation
  • Fifteen years old – 76% depreciation
  • Twenty years old – 86% depreciation
  • Twenty-Nine years old – 96% depreciation
  • Thirty years and older – Basically hovers at about $2,000 because the RV still has some value as long as it drives

class-c-depreciation

Depreciation on a Class C Motorhome

The depreciation curve on a Class C motorhome is not nearly as severe as that of a class A.  Why?  Because Class C motorhomes cost significantly less new.

  • One year old – Like with a Class A, this number is extremely tough to determine.  The trouble is that many buyers traded in their RVs to a dealership at the end of one year to get something different, and some dealerships tell you they are paying you a high amount for your trade and then crank up the price on the new motorhome you’re buying from them.  So honestly, this number is nearly impossible to accurately calculate, but I’d guess it’s around 21%–the same as on a Class A.
  • Two years old – 22%.  There isn’t much of a difference between a one year old RV and a two year old RV.  I found the depreciation to barely budge.  They still smell new at this point!  Also, manufacturers typically call an RV a 2019 model when it’s sold in 2018, for example, so it’s tough to know how much use an RV actually had when it’s listed as being two years old.  The gross numbers don’t tell us the complete picture here.
  • Three years old – 26.6% depreciation  (meaning 26.7% of the price you paid new is now gone)
  • Four years old – 28.4% depreciation  (better than a Class A at this point by two percentage points)
  • Five years old – 37.6% depreciation (slightly worse than a Class A by two points)
  • Six years old – 39.54% depreciation
  • Seven years old – 40% depreciation
  • Eight years old – 44% depreciation
  • Ten years old – 51.69% depreciation
  • Thirteen years old – 64% depreciation
  • Fifteen years old – 69% depreciation
  • Twenty years old – 83% depreciation
  • Thirty years and older – Basically hovers at about $3,000 because the RV still has some value as long as it drives

travel-trailer-depreciation

Travel Trailer And Fifth Wheel Depreciation

First of all, I know you’re wondering if a travel trailer and a fifth wheel depreciate the same.  I analyzed them separately looking at dozens and dozens of purchases to find averages.  The answer is that the depreciation schedule is so close that it is within the margin of error.  Therefore, the depreciation schedule is identical for all intents and purposes.

Really, the only difference between depreciation on a travel trailer/fifth wheel and the depreciation on a motorhome is that a travel trailer/fifth wheel holds its value more steadily from 5 years old to 15 years old than a motorhome does.  A motorhome’s depreciation starts to level off at 5 years, but not as much as a trailer.

  • One year old – I couldn’t get proper data to analyze this number, but my best estimate is that 21% of the value is gone as soon as it’s driven off the lot.
  • Two years old – No significant difference from year one since model years are announced a year in advance–helping resale of a two year old trailer which seems to be only one year old to a potential buyer.
  • Three years old – 25% depreciation  (meaning 26.7% of the price you paid new is now gone)
  • Four years old – 29% depreciation  (better than a Class A at this point by two percentage points)
  • Five years old – 37% depreciation (slightly worse than a Class A by two points)
  • Six years old – 38% depreciation
  • Seven years old – 38% depreciation
  • Eight years old – 40% depreciation
  • Ten years old – 45% depreciation
  • Fifteen years old – 72% depreciation
  • Twenty years and older – The price tends to hover between $3,000 and $5,000 depending on how it has been kept up.  A travel trailer generally does not last as long as a motorhome because they are less expensive and so less care goes into maintaining them when old.

 Do NOT Get Ripped OFF!

After looking at these numbers for days, I am AMAZED at how many RV buyers get ripped off.  In my analysis, I saw 85% of RV buyers paying SIGNIFICANTLY MORE for the exact same RV as another buyer got for more than $5,000 less.  If you’re buying an RV from a dealership (new or used), be certain to read my guide for getting a good deal on your RV.

74 thoughts on “RV Depreciation: Everything you could possibly want to know

  1. Just started reading your blog. Good information but would have been an easier read in a simple table or pie chart with your comments after.
    You are the first commenter I have read that stated that a RV that has seen very little use over a number of years are probably not a good choice. I am a mechanic and a 3/4 time RVer and agree. Idle time can be the death of machinery and buildings.
    Keep up the good work.

    1. I am trying to sell my fifth wheel that is four years old and according to you the depreciation should be 28%. The locals in northern Colorado are offering me anywhere from $10,000 to $12,000 max. By your facts they are wanting to pay me a depreciation rate of between 67% to 40% instead of the 29% you suggest. I know this is not the best time of the year, but what a rip-off!

      1. Good article but I’m a bit confused. Not sure if your numbers are based on MSRP or actual purchase price.
        If I buy a new 2019 5th wheel with an MSRP of $100,000 for $70,000, then how do your percentages work out? Given that that model is nowoffered in a 2020.

    2. RVs are not like automobiles, where a dealer network has to do warranty work, for any brand he sells. Your local RV dealer will not make repairing your RV , that you bought at a cut rate price, from a dealer a thousand miles away, a priority. And he shouldn’t. TANSTAAFL. You can’t expect a full service dealer to stay in business, without sales, because he’s competing with a flipper, mega dealer that just sells, and doesn’t service.

  2. interesting info! for anyone considering a vintage trailer that’s been sat around, the “barn find” , you might think it’s a bargain at a few thousand dollars , just beware, you can treble or quadruple that purchase price to make whole again …bedding, rolling stock, electrical, appliances … it’s a long expensive list even if you do yourself.

    1. hi great info, we are just starting out on trailers, up from a tent, no fith wheel, no holes in truck, and no hybrids, and not too long. so I found a 26 foot Salem travel trailer , asking 7k CAN, I offered 5K Canadian, and they accepted. They say everything works, it has a bunk house in the back, not enough pics on line, but I am gonna see it before we buy it…that said, how do you find out the red book, or blue book value for taxes?
      And what do you know about water tanks, one ad said it had a brand new water tank (1K value)?
      thanking you in advance

  3. Thanks for this!

    My question about your depreciation numbers is this…

    Are you working from “Sales Price” or are you working from MSRP? You note that RV’s tend to sell well below their list price. I was at an RV show over the weekend where 25-30%% discounts seemed to be the norm for the “Sale / Show Price”. If your depreciation numbers above are based on list price for a given model, this would suggest that a new RV at a well negotiated “Show Price” will cost the same or even less than a 3-5 year old similar model… which isn’t too far off from what I’m finding in my search.

    1. Excellent question. I found the best price I could on a specific model that ranged from $59,000 to 98,500 for exactly the same vehicle and then I searched for the same model and length and found that five years out the price ranged from $45,000 to $54,000.

  4. I am looking for a wheelchair accessible motor home that has been designed for wheelchair use from the ground up. This is quite different from a motor home which has had a lift installed but otherwise is a standard production unit. Newmar 3911 is one such unit I would love to own. There are very few units of this type new or used in the US and there seems to be very little price difference between new and used so I have to think that they hold their value very well. I don’t think your deprecation schedule is applicable to specialty units of this type.

  5. I have the same question as Steve B above? A good purchase price is usually 30-35% off a MSRP. Do you then mean that 21% first year depreciation should be off this price. In your article you said you paid $5000 too much for your first vehicle. 21% off of a poor purchase doesn’t suggest a realistic depreciation.

    I’m assuming you mean 21% off a good purchase price which is usually 30-35% below MSRP. Thus a 100,000 vehicle should be bought at $65-70,000 and then one years depreciation a year later would mean another $13-14,000 off. Or about $52-56,000 the second year.

    Can you respond… do you agree?

    1. The RV is worth what it’s worth. It doesn’t matter what you actually paid for it — if we have identical 4 year old RVs, yours isn’t suddenly worth less than mine simply because you got a better sale price when we both purchased. So, the percentages are directional and need a proper anchor point. If you think about actual sales price of a given model of RV, the amount people paid will effectively be a normal curve. Thus, the starting point for % depreciation calculations ought to start at the average point. Not the MSRP. Not the amazing deal that 25 people got.

      Let’s take the author’s model: Rockwood 2504S. The MSRP is somewhere in the $28K range. The author paid around $24K. A quick search on rvt or rvtrader shows that, while prices are all over the map, there are bunch in the $20-22K range (list). I have read some people getting this model for as low as $18. There are very few used models of this RV, as it’s only been on the market for a few years, but I’ve seen 2 year old models listed for between $17-19K.

      That’s as good as the data are going to be for this example. Now we need to interpret them. Let’s assume that the mean sales price (OTD, excluding tax, title, registration) is $21K. Let’s also assume that the 2-year old trailers sell for $16.5K. Let’s also assume a linear depreciation over those first 2 years. The trailer loses $4.5K of value in 2 years. That’s 21% in 2 years or closer to ~10% per year.

      What’s key is that a 2-year old trailer has a fixed value of $16.5K. Now, if you overpaid, then your depreciation rate is higher; if you got a smoking hot deal, then you may see almost no depreciation. The used market will drive to a market value faster than the new market, for a number of factors that the author already described (economics, supply/demand, emotions, geography, etc.).

      Like most other things in life, the resale value also depends on the model, scarcity, demand. If you just want a 30′ trailer with a slide-out dinette and a queen bed, there are about 5,000 versions of that floorplan. It’s a buyers’ market. Models will depreciate faster. Supply/demand tips in favor of the buyer. Simple economics.

      The author’s trailer is unique. It’s a 4,700 lb trailer with a slide-out dinette, bunk beds, queen bed, and is only 25-26′ long. I can count the number of manufacturers offering this configuration on one hand … and still have fingers left over. Is it unique because it’s innovative and the rest of the manufacturers haven’t caught up yet? There are more competing models in 2017 than there were in 2015, so that would indicate a soft “yes.” Or maybe, it’s a unique floorplan because nobody wants it. You have to make that call in your case. The former means that it’s likely to hold its value and be easier to sell. The latter means that it won’t hold its value and may be difficult to find a buyer.

    2. I also felt the depreciation percentage was hard to understand as the percentages would greatly vary depending on what you paid. A way to determine a consistent depreciation factor for the unit would be to determine the actual fair market price of the used unit as compared to the original MSRP. You would then be able to factor out the good or bad buying decision made by the original purchaser. Simply stated compare the used value to MSRP in each year to determine the depreciated value from the original MSRP.

  6. I bought my class A DP new in 2014, with the plan of selling and upgrading in 2019, I look at the difference in purchase price and resale price plus maintenance costs the same way I would consider these costs if I were leasing. If I were leasing this beast and the lease terminated, I would turn it in and get nothing monetarily, but I would have the memories. At least I get a return on my investment, and if I lose a small sum due to depreciation, I’m still getting something back and will be able to upgrade to a better model. All this haranging about depreciation can be minimized by choosing a model with a better build and maintaining it (keeping good maintenance records too), after all, this is an investment in life experiences, not just math 101. You guys write these articles and waste all that time sitting at a PC doing research, when you could be out here enjoying life. I have no regrets. No I’m not trying to paint the FT lifestyle as all peaches and cream after all it is real life. It is the penny pinching bean counters and lawyers that suck all the enjoyment out of life…….

      1. I’m with Rory. It ain’t worth a hill of beans if you can’t enjoy life in your RV.

        Experience the world and buy what you can afford.

        There is no race and no disgrace, because sooner or later you will perish. Enjoy the memories whilst you can.

        That means now !!

  7. SteveB and DanS – I have the same question as you do, but I think the answer must be 21% off a good purchase price because otherwise he’s saying you could re-sell it for 21%-22% off MSRP after 1 or 2 years, and I don’t think there’s any chance that will happen. If MSRP is $100K for an RV you should pay about $70K to $75K new and if you sell it after 2 years you’d be lucky to get $60K. The author posted answers to the first 2 questions and then he stopped replying so I’m answering his question.

  8. What are your thoughts about buying from a (well known) RV rental company whose RVs (are said to have been properly maintained) may have high mileage and usage but fairly short on years? That’s the direction I’m leaning. Thank you.

    1. If you own your RV rather than rent, you will drive it at no more than 65 mph max. You will keep it clean and really well maintained. The Rental RV you may buy has been most likely driven by a european here in the U.S. to see the sights. It will have been driven hard and fast and with complex systems that the average european seldom sees in his or her own country. Even as a pretty good mechanic and with lots and lots of RV experience, my RV experience has been that these things are generally in poor condition when they come off the factory floor. Turn that over to an inexperienced european renter and things only get worse. The rental companies try hard, but they know how to make things pretty that are ugly underneath after one or two seasons of renting. I wouldn’t touch a rental no matter what the deal.

  9. Looking at a Coachhouse Platinum II 2018 no satellite dish 2 TV’s twin beds 1 slide out diesel Mercedes chassis. Direct from the factory $165,000 basic package I need to find out if it has screens. Concerned over all fiberglass any thoughts. I can’t find any reviews that are negative.

  10. Sadhana-amrit – A class b is a van conversation for lack of a better description.

    I enjoyed this article on depreciation and the figures are close to what I’ve read in other places, especially with 5 years being a plateau. On a side point, having just finished up researching one ton dually trucks, I found you can save on average 22% purchasing a one year old used truck with under 20,000 mile on them. Many have less than 10,000 miles. And that was comparing the MSRP when new against what the same build of truck was selling for a year later on a dealer’s lot.

    There are other reasons one might consider purchasing a new RV. We are planning to fulltime in our RV so our needs might be different than someone else. Every now and then there are valuable changes between RV model years that might make one more interested in the newer trailer. For example, the Heartland Bighorn fifth wheel went to a whisper quiet air conditioning system in 2017 and then worked during the year to improve the system. If one bought a two year old Bighorn (2015) they would not see much of a difference between it and the 2016. For trucks, there was no changes between the 2016 and 2017 Ram but huge changes in the Ford.

    I’ve talked to a couple people who have three and four year old units they travel in during vacations. One has a 2015 Bighorn that he wants to sell in two years. He thinks it’s worth more than what it actually is. Especially as in the past three years more and more of them are being built and eventually they all will enter the used market.

    Here is another example I would think might influence the selling price of a used unit that has to do with supply and demand. If one was to buy a used unit when the market is saturated with used units then the “depreciation” schedule could actually look worse than now.

    In my own state of Missouri the number of persons turning 60 years of age as a percentage of the population will level off in 2020. Beginning in 2010, according to census data, the percentage of the population turning 60 each year doubled because of the baby boomers. Lets assume it is from that age segment, 60 and above, who are many of the persons buying luxury fifth wheels like a Heartland Bighorn for retirement travel. It makes since there will be a peak in sales by 2020 and then a flood of used units coming to the market. This is just an example and might or might not work out to be true. However, I believe it to be a safe assumption given RV sales are soaring and those thousands of units will be on the used market. Hence, the “depreciation” schedule may look worse because at some point there will be more used units on the market than those wanting to buy one.

  11. Thanks for this. I think however you may not have indexed the numbers for inflation. Over the longer run this jacks up the $ amount of depreciation significantly as the value of money falls, adding a “real” dimension to cost of ownership.

    If you Google “value of $x 2007 dollars expressed in $ 2017” you will gain an idea of the double whammy.

  12. Do the class B RV’ S depreciate at the same percentage as the class A and C? My mom is looking to sell hers and I want her to get a fair price and yet not be asking to much for it either.
    Thanks

  13. You may have answered this in your article Im not the sharpest knife in the drawer, OK, are your numbers are off MSRP or what they payed? We all know that you can expect to get 25 to 30% off MSRP with out even asking for it then you deal. So are your numbers off MSRP or purchase price?

    1. You can read my response a little higher with more detail. But a % depreciation figure should be based on an average street price.

      The value of an RV (or anything else) doesn’t depend on what you paid, how much you have left on your loan, etc. If you got a screaming deal, you may not see much depreciation for a while. If you massively overpaid, you’ll have more depreciation. If you bought in Colorado and then move to Indiana, you’ll see a big bump in depreciation just based on geography and market prices. And, so on.

      Percent depreciation is just a guideline and not a hard rule. Lots of other considerations, too.

  14. Thanks for this article. It is useful and to the point. I found your discovery of a significant additional loss of value from 9 (or 8) years to 10 years mightily interesting because I suspected it from the asked prices I observed. I plan to buy a class A of 10-15 years as soon as I sell my condo and off we go :-).

    1. Mike, do you have pets? i have five cats. My husband wants to have a two year vacation touring the united states and haul cats behind in a trailer. i am new to this and am not sure if it is a good idea for cats. also, the money will be coming from the sale of a house. if you have any ideas, please reply back. thx.

  15. my husband wants to buy a fairly new RV and then buy a trailer to haul five cats. he wants to use the money from a house of ours that he wants to sell. i think that going from buying a house to buying an RV would be a very wrong move. can you comment on this please. and also i do not think that throwing five cats in a trailer and hauling them around without supervision is healthy.

    please advise.

    1. he wants a two year tour of the United States. he does not want to work a full-time job during this time.

      1. I think hauling 5 cats in a trailer would be stressful and very upsetting to cats who have never been hauled in a trailer. I have 3 cats and wouldn?t even think of doing this! My advice… Find someone you trust to take care of your cats while you?re gone. Have someone house sit. Also taking cats on the road can be tricky. You face the possibility of loosing them, if they are scared and somehow run away. Predators are also a problem. Coyotes, mountain lions, birds of prey… If you have to take your cats, put them in the RV, and throw your husband in the trailer! You sure you want to hit the road for 2 years with that ?genius ? ???

  16. Is 5500 too much to pay for a 1975 Dodge Holiday Rambler that is in very good condition everything works propane recently certified no leaks and road ready? Any thoughts?

  17. This is my dilemma trying to sell a like-new 2016 Leisure Travel Van (full options), 15,000 miles in September 2017. MSRP 134,000, I paid $121,000 new. Dealer paid factory $71,000. 2018 units are back ordered 10 to 16 months, very few used units on dealer lots. Using your depreciation, bank loan. and insurance total loss data my unit is worth about $94,000. RV dealers and brokers offer me only $60,000 to $75,00 cash or $85,000 to $88,000 trade-in. LTV dealers are buying 2018 units from factory for $82,000 and booking orders at $121,000 and higher. That’s a real world 18 month cash depreciation of 35 to 50 percent for me and other LTV owners. Buyers beware.

  18. To RV Watchdog:

    I?m a private buyer considering buying an LTV. I?ve even contacted a dealer over 1,000 miles from me and was willing to go check it out, but he won?t budge off his $109,000 for his 2013 model!!! I did my research. I?m not an idiot! (I will, however, feel sorry for the buyer who pays anywhere near that!) Do you still have yours? If so, please contact me!!! I?d like to know more details about yours! Contact me directly mmbcl5678@gmail.com.

  19. Thanks so much for this info. Never thought about #2, but it makes perfect sense. Wish you had class Bs in this article, but it still was helpful. Being a woman buying a camper is also a consideration. I know the car dealers are often surprised that I know most of their tricks.

  20. Very helpful info on valuations and depreciation. I’m also looking for feedback on experiences with using RV Consignment vs trade-in to get more money and reduce negative equity position. I hope others will post here too.

  21. Very informative article. Just once clarification please. When you are calculating the depreciation, are you starting from the MSRP? If so, the first year would be 21% of MSRP, but then you mentioned it’s possible to get a larger discount than 21% when buying new, so that’s a bit confusing.

    Dan

  22. I have a 40ft 1982 holiday rambler fifth wheel and I’m interested to know if we are painting the inside….if it’s going to depreciate the value of her?
    Please did someone can answer my question. thanks for the answer.

  23. I have a theory as to why the Motorhome prices drop real fast around the 8-10 year mark and C’s and Travel trailers do not. I would be interested in your thinking.

    Motorhomes are a life style and used a lot. Travel trailers are not. so my guess is that people want to see a new 4 walls after 7-8 years, especially if they are living in it 24-7.

    This might explain why prices on used RV’s are high: during the downturn of 2008-10, there were very few new buyers.

    What do you think?

  24. Sometimes options can add a lot to the cost of any unit. Besure to compare apples to apples when comparing prices. Also check with other people who have bought rv’s from a dealer. Not all dealers are up to snuff on fifixing problems after the sale!

  25. Jim-

    When you calculate depreciation, do you use manufacturer MSRP or do you use the selling price of your 200-unit sample? I have heard that a reasonable deal is 30-35% off MSRP for a current model year, and maybe 40% off for a previous model year new unit (and maybe even more than that for a 2 year old new unit). Unfortunately for some owners, I have seen them try to sell their one-year old used units for the same price that dealers are selling their leftover new units of the same model year.

    My layman’s conclusion is that if a buyer can work a great deal on a leftover unit, then perhaps they can cut their first-year depreciation substantially, maybe from 21% to something more like 10% or less. That would certainly be a more tolerable number and would change the equation in my mind for the purchase of new/used.

    Like you said, there are too many buyers that don’t know the market when they try to buy a new RV, and they end up paying way too much. As an anecdote, I spoke to a seller of a 2017 Grand Design that bought their RV new for $89,000, and now the 2018’s are selling for $68k. Needless to say, he is severely upside down on his bank loan.

    I would be interested in your thoughts on buying new with aggressive negotiation on the pricing and how it would affect your depreciation calculations.

    Thanks,
    Rich

    1. Good point. This is based on MSRP, or close to it. If you can aggressively negotiate the sales price of a new RV or camper, especially a previous year’s model, you can cut out the first year’s depreciation altogether.

  26. Thanks for the article! I am now shopping for my first travel-trailer and I am amazed, puzzled and skeptical of the “MSRP” at say, $35,000 and the “SALE PRICE” of say $23,500 “saving” the buyer $11,500 just because they’re good looking or nice people, I guess. . .how does one know what a decent price is??? As to the depreciation charts you researched, are the percentages based on the fictional MSRP or the sale price a buyer paid? And as to brands have you found any that depreciate less…say Airstream or Oliver?

  27. Thanks for your Article , I saved a bunch of money when I searched on Craigslist and RV Trader to find my dream RV Class A in Florida the Country Coach sold new in 2010 with 35K miles and being from the NW the coach was manufactured in Eugene Oregon I drove to the manufacture to get the Low Down on the Coach since they keep a very good list of every coach made. The Coach had a MSRP of 280k when new and sold for 210K hey whats the deal there 70k less because it sold in 2011? so the deprecation starts in 2010 or 2011? Okay I started in 2010 because it sat empty for almost a year. The folks that bought it used it very little since they put 18k on it and sold it to the 2nd owner in 2015 for 115k owner 3 which I bought it from put the most miles on it which they drove it and lived in it for almost 3 years had added 34k miles so now it has a total of 52k and they listed the coach for 65k I offered 45k which the response was “you wish” I get a phone call from the owfoner a week later and said to fly down and get it for 45K. So by your math calculations the 3rd owner got it in the AZZ because he lost almost 70 percent depreciation value of 270k or 45 percent of 210K I got a deal even tho I had to put another 15k in it to upgrade and maintenance the 3rd owner didn’t do. So bottom line I got a top of the line motorhome for 60k and I enjoy the heck out of it plus I think I got a deal to boot.

  28. My husband and I want to get an RV for our family to go on vacations in together with our dog (so we don’t have to deal with “no dogs allowed” motels) and we’ve decided that getting a used RV makes the most sense financially for us. I appreciate your tip of aiming for a 5-year old RV that has medium, but not little, use. Keeping up an RV with regular use is definitely important, and knowing that mileage has little to no effect on the depreciation of an RV is definitely something we’ll remember while looking at what’s on sale, as well.

  29. Thank you for the informative article. As an RV owner I would comment that in the segment I was purchasing in, Airstreams, defies the data. The NADA information is totally useless with those. The pricing is similar to what you describe over time but at a much slower depreciation rate, especially if you factor in a 20% or so cost cut when new. I know that when I purchased my 2006 in Feb 2012, it was a good buy at $25,900. Why? because the same trailer is fetching around $30-35 on the used market in 2018! I have added $16K in upgrades niceties and it is nothing like it was new. The previous owner’s log indicated four trips along with a sales paper that indicated it was two years old when sold to him. I believe that motorized RVs lose value much faster, at least in comparison to an Airstream.

  30. Jim,
    Thank you for your thorough analysis of depreciation of RV’s. I have a unusual, or maybe not, situation concerning the purchase of a used DP and would welcome some outside input. I have been an active RV owner for 40 years, have had almost every type of coach, my current coach is a 1990 American Eagle. I bought the coach from its original owner whom had let it fall into disrepair, I completely restored it over a 4 year period and have sold it. I am a very hands on person and have owned heavy equipment through my business.
    Which brings me to my current situation, I have found a very nice 2001 HR Navigator that is in amazing condition, the owner has had the coach for 6 years and put 20,000 miles on it. It sits at 75K miles now and is truly like new, it is stored in a heated garage and covered when parked inside. The exterior is buffed and polished yearly, the solid aluminum wheels are as new, all 8 tires are new. The 500 hp Cummins is pristine and runs flawlessly, it can flat out run up a 6% grade at any speed.
    So here’s the issue, it has a branded title, the current owners bought it knowing this, they had the coach thoroughly vetted and inspected before purchasing it. The coach was involved in a insurance fraud deal where the first owner claimed water damage and attempted to collude with a repair shop to get out from under a sizable debt that they couldn’t handle.
    After the smoke cleared the unit was declared a salvage/repaired unit and resold by the insurance company with 30K on it. It was purchased by a couple whom put 25K on the coach and maintained it properly. They sold it to the current owners whom then put 25K on it for a total of 75K miles. The history and maintenance is well documented and the current owners are probably the most diligent RV owners I have ever known, the unit has every high end option, and some custom upgrades such as a new 10KW Power-tech generator and great electronics.
    So here I am, this is a $400K coach in 2001, it’s in truly great condition and has logged 50,000 trouble free miles since the insurance settlement.
    The owners are motivated and ready to sell, we have talked of a sale price that is about 30-35% under nada average for that model. The unit is everything my wife and I are looking for as a full time coach for the next 3-4 years. What is your assessment of this pending deal?

    Thank you for your help

  31. I bought a travel trailer because I heard they hold their value a little better. Granted, I bought new and I am well aware my trailer will not be worth anywhere near what I paid but that was the only way I could get my wife on board lol. She thinks used RV’s are nasty. But, I didnt buy as an investment… i bought because I love the lifestyle.

  32. I have a wife that drives a 2017 Travato class B as her car. She has ulcerative Interstitial cystitis (chronic inflammation of the bladder) and the onboard bathroom is indispensable to her well being. That said we’re looking at traveling across country (3-4 months) this or next summer. I’m thinking rather than get a 2nd used larger motorhome it makes a lot more financial sense to continue with the Travato and purchase a towable smaller trailer like a 2000 lb little guy teardrop (preferably used). For medical reasons we both need to sleep in separate rooms. I’m thinking a used little guy teardrop would be easy to tow and park wherever we plan on staying and then use the Travato just as we do now for exploring and a vehicle. I see so many thousands of larger motorhomes on the market that appear to be difficult to sell and once we’re done I’m thinking it would be a lot easier to sell a used teardrop than a bigger 35 foot motorhome or even if it was difficult to sell the depreciation would be a more affordable. Your thoughts?

  33. The #2 five year old medium use rule is a very good point and parameter. Anyone that buys new RV, new car ect.. also loses as soon as you drive off the lot

  34. We just bought a 2007 Gulf Stream Tourmaster diesel pusher (purchased new in early ’08) with 103Kmi on the odometer, in spectacular condition since it has always been garaged by one owner. We paid 62-70% of their rough buy price, it was $10000 below the NADA low retail price and feel that we paid exactly what we should have based on this blog. If we keep this for 2yrs, keep it in good condition, the price we pay in depreciation will be worth it in spades. Thanks for this super useful writeup!!

  35. Thank you for you article. I purchased a 2018 class B motor coach. When transferring the title from the delearship to myself i discovered the motor is a 2017 and the Thor body or coach is a 2018. Dealership claims this is standard practice,I feel it should have been disclosed
    When the vin # is run it appears as a 2017 and not a 2018.
    How does this affect value?

  36. Hi, I am considering used c or a class to live in full time.years ago I really liked airstreams land yacht 1998 to1999. How well did this model hold up. I would like the same information on a used c class that has a good history as far as holding up. Thank you

  37. I’m looking at a 1996 Class B Bighorn (Ford Clubwagon conversion) that was totaled (Restored Salvage Title) due to an accident with the front half of the roof which was replaced. No leaks, 77K, drives great and everything works. How does that affect the resale value?

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  39. Jim – I’ve been an Auto/Marine/RV/Aircraft Dealer for 20+ years. Your article is a great tool for potential buyers to use. Personally I detest the “typical” dealers in each category that make up about 80% of each respectively because they are greedy and don’t mind ripping people off. I’ve always offered a fair price and treat every buyer equally. If you’re a buyer and reading the author’s article then you are doing research and that is the best way to make a purchase. To make it easy I’ve developed a method to determine the purchase price of most any vehicle that has always worked for me, take the LOW NADA value (this is the value banks use) and multiply by 80% (.80), this will give you a purchase price where you should be safe. Do not add for options. When a dealer adds options to a used value it’s to inflate the price to negotiate down. You can use Average NADA value x .80 if the unit or vehicle is in high demand. The NADA values are more accurate after 3 years old as they are determined by wholesale (recorded sale) figures. Of course there will be exceptions to this method but it works 90% of the time. If you use this method and perform due diligence on inspection/title check/mechanical, you can purchase virtually any motorcoach brand and use it for a few years and sell it for close to what you’ve paid. I always say the money is in the buying, not the selling. And 5 years is a great age to buy most any vehicle. The depreciation versus age with available life left is at it’s sweetspot there.
    And to the comment’s about not counting beans or getting out and living life, YES moderation is key and keeping track of beans in a general sense while living life is good advice. Don’t dwell on your beans. Spend them or eat them because you earned em!

  40. Thank you so much for this information. We had damage to our travel trailer due to Hurricane Michael that came through Florida this past year. Dealing with insurance has been a major hassle. I am so grateful to come across your information! It has been a haggle with them to decide the actual cash value and it’s relevance to the estimated repairs. We are hoping the insurance company will finally decide to claim it a total loss so we can move on. Again, thank you!

  41. Jim,
    My question is on depreciation. When you show depreciation is it from MSRP.
    I’ve been looking for someone like you to talk with/consult with in consideration of is it worth it to build a rental pool? What is the biggest bang for my buck? What class or price point do you see as able to survive any economic correction. My feeling is rich is rich, they may want to negotiate price but the demand will remain. The key is to buy right.
    Do You agree?
    Thank you for your time !

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