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5 Reasons To Avoid Used Camping Trailers

Published on April 30th, 2021 by Peggy Dent

truck towing a camper trailer
Used camping trailers aren’t always the best buy. Photo by P. Dent

5 Reasons To Avoid Used Camping Trailers

Used camping trailers can be much more affordable than buying them brand new off the lot. However, there are quite a few reasons why they aren’t such a good idea.

1. They may not be good quality

First, camping trailers are made fast and cheap so even brand new they may not be the best quality choice.  They are built for low budget consumption. That means that the attention to detail and higher quality components just aren’t part of the production process. And having said that, it’s safe to presume that production problems may be the reason some of the used trailers are in the secondary market.

One indication that persistent production problems exist might be the age of the trailer. If the trailer is almost new, it should raise some red flags. Why does the owner say they are selling it?  Are they the only person to have owned the trailer? 

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A trailer that is too old might have one type of problem and a camper that is fairly new might have other types of problems, but if the seller can’t fill in any of the blanks, it’s probably a good idea to keep looking.  Either way, if the trailer has been owned by multiple people, if it’s too old or too new, or the seller can’t answer your questions, that should be a red flag warning.

2. They could have hidden problems

RVs of all types, including travel trailers are made to show well. Buying an RV is often an emotional decision, and the better the rig shows, the more likely someone will make the decision to buy it.  But to avoid buyer’s remorse, you need to step back and look beyond the surface appointments and dig into the operational features of the rig.  

We talked to one full-time RVer who had just spent over $100,000 on a new Mercedes camper van and the plumbing for the toilet was so poorly designed that the toilet, black holding tank, and dumping system simply wouldn’t work correctly, leaving her with virtually no commode in her rig. 

Another couple had the same problem in their full-size motorhome that they purchased new and were forced to sell after only 6 months. They traded it in on a different model and the dealer that eventually sold the motorhome with the defective toilet probably did not disclose those issues to the new buyer.  

Other folks we met on our journey were just moving back into their new camper trailer after having the fire damage repaired.  The hot water heater caught their rig on fire and only the grace of God kept that family from perishing in a horrible trailer fire.  The dealer and manufacturer both refused to accept any responsibility for the fire, or the damage or the peril the fire caused for that full-time RVing family.  It was a hidden problem that could have cost them their lives.

The real problem here are the defects that are unseen and undetectable. The hidden problems could be with appliances, gas lines, water systems, plumbing, electrical wiring, roof seals, flooring, air conditioning units, or something more dangerous like the chassis or braking system.    

camping trailer in campsite
Used camping trailers may be affordable but they’re not always the best option. Photo by P. Dent

3. Unanticipated costs and repairs

Another problem with used camping trailers is that they may be deceptively inexpensive which makes them hard to resist.  They seem like a great value.  New, the rig might be $69,000, but lightly used it might only be $35,000, and if it’s a little older, it might only be $10,000 or $12,000 or even less. But the enticingly low price could lead you into a disastrous purchase.

I have been following a couple on Instagram that bought a used Airstream that was a complete disaster. Of course, they were able to purchase it for nearly nothing, because this camper was very old and in a state of complete disrepair.  

This rig truly was a mess.  It had dead rodents and snake carcasses inside the trailer. None of the appliances worked. There was cat feces and torn curtains and water damage and filth everywhere.  The buyers looked past the filth and were consumed with the idea of “restoring the trailer” and adding their own personal touches to make it truly special.

They began the process of demolition, taking out all the flooring, window treatments, appliances and interior walls.  All those things needed to be taken to the landfill. As they got deeper into the structure of the trailer, it was evident that the plumbing and wiring were also shot.  

Water damage had affected virtually every system and component of the trailer, so they kept demolishing the camper to get past the damaged components.  More material had to be taken to the landfill.  Eventually they had the trailer stripped down to the chassis and the aluminum shell, that signature Airstream aluminum outer body of the trailer.  

They separated the shell from the chassis, only to discover that the trailer’s axle and wheels were completely ruined and needed to be replaced with a new axle. The frame on which the trailer was built was also badly damaged by rust, and sections of the frame had to be replaced to make the trailer safe to tow. The proud new owners of this used camper had a trailer frame in their driveway waiting for a new axle and the aluminum shell for their trailer sitting on a set of sawhorses off to the side of the driveway.  That was all that was left of the used camper trailer they were so excited to make their own. 

I have not seen any recent posts by these people but even if they are going to rebuild the camper, they will need to start with the frame, install completely new water and electrical systems, new insulation, flooring, interior walls, appliances, water heater, furnace, propane system, and cabinetry.  Then they can start to make it pretty with a new wall, window, and floor treatments, and new furnishings, but somewhere along the way they will probably need to have their plumbing and electrical work inspected, much like a renovation on a house needs to be inspected for reasons of safety.

In addition to all the parts that will need to be reinstalled, these Airstreams are a unique shape, so many of the components inside the trailer will need to be replaced with proprietary components to be sure they fit.  Not only did these folks have to pay to dispose of all the filth and decay in their trailer, now they will need to purchase parts and supplies that only fit their Airstream trailer.  

Have you ever compared the exterior awning on an Airstream trailer with the types of awning on most other trailers?  The Airstream awning is built to fold up tightly along the unique exterior contours of that signature shape. I suspect many of the parts in an Airstream are just as unique as the awnings, making this restoration even more costly and difficult.

4. They have a lower resale value

Another reason to avoid used trailers is they lose value quickly and the more people who own a camper trailer, the lower that value will go.  Even if you put a great deal of time and money into restoring a used trailer (like the folks described above), it will be difficult to recoup your investment in the restoration.  The bottom line is the restored features just don’t add additional value to the trailer. 

5. Spend more time camping

Finally, unless you’re a handyman whose hobby is restoration, you probably want to purchase a used camper trailer so you can enjoy camping and traveling with your new RV.  

You want to sit around the campfire roasting wieners, and spend your time exploring the great outdoors, not lying on your back under your trailer troubleshooting the leak in your black water tank or checking all the fuses to see why the hot water heater doesn’t work. Spending every weekend troubleshooting and fixing systems that are broken will strip the fun right out of the RVing experience and if this is your first RV, it could sour you on the whole adventure.

If you decide to shop for used camping trailers, keep these 25 inspection tips in mind:

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108 thoughts on “5 Reasons To Avoid Used Camping Trailers”

  1. Nicely done. I purchased a used Airstream in 2013. It has been a wonderful journey so far. I was paranoid reading about floor rot, etc. So, I ended up taking my pristine floor and cutting it open to peak. It was clean plywood underneath but I ended up having to get new floor covering and I laid it over top of the other. Now, in a few spots it sticks up a bit- could scare a buyer if I was selling. I know it is good but, just sayin.

  2. Camping trailers, shoulda, woulda, could, what is a buyer to do?
    Anything you buy could, would have hidden problems, vehicles, boats,
    Motorhomes, travel trailers,
    And yes houses.
    It is what it is.

  3. This is what my daughter posted today: It’s taken me a few days to wrap my head around what happened on Sunday and what could have happened. We bought a 2013 trailer from Quinte RV on Sept. 24th and were so excited to start camping in the spring. We purchased it as is but thought since it was a trade in, there would have been an inspection when they got it. One would think that the worst case scenario would be finding a leak or maybe an appliance that didn’t work. The trailer burnt to the ground due to faulty electrical wires in the bathroom exhaust on October 31st and could have killed my entire family had we been inside We planned on getting insurance next year, when we started actually using it, crazy to think it would be safe sitting next to our home for the winter. So now we have nothing and will be paying for it for the next 8 years. The reason I am writing this is because the dealership has told us too bad so sad and will not be doing anything to help us. Please be very careful if you choose to do business there, they do not care about their customers and obviously have no issue putting deadly trailers on the road.
    Our old pop up trailer was also destroyed and the flames were so high that our home was at risk. My children sobbed while it burned and my daughter is so traumatized that she hasn’t slept in 3 days because she is scared our home is going to catch fire.

    • Its odd that a 2013 trailer would not have burned up from faulty wiring until 2021. If you really are paying for it for the next 8 years, you should have insured it from day one – I would not have taken it on the road to drive it home without insuring it.

  4. I appreciate the insights of this article but wholeheartedly disagree with the underlining premise that one should avoid buying a used camping trailer. Since the early 1990’s all the TT’s I have bought have been used, which have saved me hundreds if not thousands of dollars compared to a new one. Up to now I have been blessed with very minor repairs that I have been able to do myself. I do spend time and money maintaining my campers, and in most cases have re-sold them at a profit. My strong recommendation, to anyone buying a used camper, is to conduct a thorough inspection. Request for the entire system (water, plumbing, electricity, appliances) to be tested. Additionally, conduct a comparative cost analysis that includes both private and dealer selling prices. In short, when buying a used TT leave no stone unturned. It’s your money, so spend it wisely. There are many good used campers for sale, ready to go on a new camping excursion with their new owner.

    • I wholeheartedly agree, we purchased a 2006 26ft Forest River (Salem Model) from a reputable dealer in 2020. It is a one owner, non-smoker. It is in excellent condition and everything works. the only things we have done is put new wheels and tires, and we updated the suspension to greaseable shackles. In 2021 we went on an 8000 mile month long trip and had know issues. In 2022 we did a couple of short trips and in July we took it to Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons. On this trip the furnace stopped working. I think it needs a new gas valve, haven’t checked it yet. But I’m here to say, if you check the trailer out thoroughly and buy from a reputable dealer you can save a lot of money and have a great time RVing!

  5. Only one correction. You don’t need to heat hot water hence the appliance that heats cold water to make it hot is called a water heater instead of a hot water heater

  6. You don’t explain how these “reasons” are not also issues for the buyer of that same vehicle when it was new.

    For example, item 4 states lower resale value. But using your example in item 3 where you say a new rig might be $69,000, but lightly used it might only be $35,000. So the new buyer selling a lightly used rv loses $34,000 after only enjoying light use and as you say if the original owner held it a little longer he might only recoup $10,000.

    So the 2nd owner will suffer less loss when he sells than the 1st owner suffered. Something like buy at $35k and use a little bit then sell at $10k. Or buy the littler older one at $10k and sell at $0. Still does much better than the new buyer.

    Your other items suffer similar incongruencies vis-a-vis 1st or 2nd owner. Like poor plumbing design – how is this an issue for a 2nd buyer but not for the 1st buyer – poor design isn’t a warranty item covered for the 1st owner.

    I appreciate the effort and time to write your piece.

  7. New ones have just as many problems as used ones. Dealers usually have mechanics that have no idea about working on used or new. I’m in a Thor and it’s nothing but junk. My used Coachmen was far better than the Thor. Had to have roof membrane replaced after 4 years. Most came from QC didn’t catch problem when coming off the assembly line. Pure Junk.

  8. And you could save thousands of dollars.
    In addition to getting a TT that was in really great condition, our 2011 Bullet Premiere came with nice outside tables & chairs, an outdoors rug and light for the awning. It came with a kitchen that had every pot, plate and utensil imaginable and a bathroom stocked with towels, rugs and supplies. We also received an outside stove, a nice BBQ set, a bug zapper, levelling blocks, a jack, all the hoses & electrical connections, and tools, not to mention the $700 Anti-sway WD hitch. We got sheets & blankets and an upgraded TV. Flashlights, bungee cords, tablecloths, tools, step covers and a nice American flag and pole. Probably more.
    I understand your points, but with some time spent looking around, I’ll gladly take my chances on used considering the reduction in price and the goodies received.

  9. I am surprised this site would accept a story such as your’s. RV camping is a wonderful pastime be it in a trailer or a motorhome however, almost all will tell you that these and other problems occur on a regular basis. Considering that 1 in 5 rv’s are travel trailers, you just blew smoke in the face of 20% of the rving public and I know most would take exception to your unrealistic criticism of their rigs.

    There are many reasons why people but a certain kind of rv and financial considerations are usually on the top of the list. Most will move up in cost and operating expense and all need to do their due diligence, but zeroing in on travel trailers is just wrong. Our experience has seen trailer owners, of all levels, have the least issues in part because these RVs have few complicated systems and actually are mush easier to fix than a new motorhome.
    And yes we have had all of them and have taken training on repairing our own rigs.

    99.9 % rv owners will tell you that things breaking or needing repair is part of the life and your talents would be better spent writing an rv article that has real value to these people. One of the most successful CEOs I ever worked for said any idiot can tell me what the problems are, I want the person who can tell me how to fix them.

  10. Hi, I’m not quite sure about your 4th point specifically “Another reason to avoid used trailers is they lose value quickly”. I’m not quite sure you can lose value more quickly than driving that brand new RV off the lot. The number I’ve seen is 40% depreciation immediately on a new 5th wheel.

    IMO, the best insurance in buying any RV, new or used, is to have RIVA tech inspect before taking possession.

  11. I enjoy reading your articles. However, I respectfully disagree with your premise in this one. We are on our second used trailer. We purchased a three year old 25′ Koala, and had to fix some things. After some years of ownership, we upgraded to a slightly used 33′ 5th wheel. In both cases we saved thousands of dollars in depreciation. To be sure, we have had our share of repairs. But we would have had those anyway. As you accurately state, they are cheaply made.

    Repairs and maintenance are part of owning anything. New camper warranties are typically for one year. By the second year, even if I bought a new one, I’ll be paying for repairs. But I would have paid full price! (The person who bought the used Airstream to find it contained dead rodents and snakes, and the appliances didn’t work, did not look closely enough before purchasing.

    Any of the five reasons you list could readily apply to a new camper. But most of the unexpected major repairs will come after the warranty has expired. I choose not to eat the depreciation costs of buying a new one. And I know that I will need to budget a certain amount for repairs every year.

  12. We also bought a used trailer, but from a dealer. We have also been very lucky, we have owned it for 9 years and no major problems to report. However with that being said, the couple that owned the trailer before us pounded nails to decorate in every wall of the trailer, the dealer did great job covering the holes but years later the spots are very noticeable to which I now have have to use sticky velcro to redecorate. Never noticed while buying, we were so impressed how clean it was and was exactly what we wanted. We have gone to camper shows pretty much every year (except this year) to look at new campers and cant find anything even close to what we have. I wouldn’t trade my camper for anything right now. I wouldn’t say we trusted the dealer but we did get a warranty with our trailer.

  13. I have purchased several used trailers, each time upgrading from the last, and here’s my take. There are two kinds of used trailers, those that get used and those that don’t. With their rapid depreciation in value, and some patience, it’s possible to find a great deal in a used trailer in good condition. Find an RV mechanic you like and be prepared to spend some money on repairs. Treat that as part of the purchase price.

    Shoddy workmanship is not an argument to buy new! A used trailer will often have the bugs worked out, over time. If you buy new, make sure you’re close to the dealer so you can bring it back for warranty repairs.

    Lastly, used trailers will hold more of their resale value than new ones. Drive a trailer off the lot and it’s lost a lot of value already. The rate of depreciation will decline year over year. That being said, trailers don’t last forever so you’ve got to figure out the sweet spot for price versus age.

  14. Many experts say you SHOULD buy used RVs rather than new. Quality control in the construction process at many RV manufacturers has been sorely lacking for over ten years. Hopefully the first owner resolved any issues during the warranty period. However, buying used you probably don’t get a warranty so doing your due diligence is more important. I think it may be a toss up on the question of new versus used.

  15. Hi Peggy, I’m from Chile and I read your article about the risks of buying used TT with great interest.
    Here in Chile, every day there are more interested in camping beyond the tents and the arrival of used TT of all brands and sizes has proliferated a lot.
    Due to our location (in the last corner of the world), it is not possible for us to bring new units because the freight and taxes raise the original price to the clouds.
    I think I was lucky because in the last 10 years I have imported 4 different used TTs and I have not had any problems (knock on wood).
    Today I have a 2018 Keystone Springdale 240 BH and I love it.
    Nice to comment on your article and greetings from Chile

  16. Not with your re: used RV and travel trailers….I have sold two that we used and I wish we could have had the opportunity to buy the quality and cared for travel trailers we sold….we up graded to larger sizes and conviences….nothing wrong with the ones we sold , actually they came a lot better equipped and in tip top shape….we are retired, no kids, neat niks. 🙂

  17. “Used camping trailers may come with all kinds of hidden problems that could end up costing you time and money.”

    Peggy… everyone of the points you brought up, all five of them, apply to buying new today. What, you wrote this for the industry?

    I’d much prefer to buy used by several years and look for the problems to have been fixed.

    RV’s made today have got serious QC problems.. profit over quality.

  18. Would have been a more helpful article if it was titled “ What to Consider When Buying a Used RV.. As titled, it sounds like an ad for the Manufacturers. I especially disagree with point 4. A used RV loses value at no greater rate that one purchased new. In fact, if one purchases a used RV and you assume they lose value at the same rate as new, the “loss” one has to absorb is still smaller than a new purchase. Almost every RV owner’s blog’s are filled with horror stories of how poorly the manufacturers handle quality control on their new units. Many used RVs have been through extensive Dealer/ Manufacturer repairs which saves the next owner from the same headaches. As a full timer, you likely have had the experience. I know I have. My Rockwood Roo has had its share of defects, which took over a year to resolve. I’ll put it up against a new one any day.

  19. I think everything described here applies to all RV’s in general. They all have problems, weather its a $30,000+ unit to a $400,000 unit. I’ve RV’ed for 40+ years and the comments of the writer should be a review of the RV industry in general. There are “good” units and there are “polemic” units, in all price ranges. You need to be careful on what you are buying.

  20. While your tales of woe may be true for some they are certainly not true for all. For the money you save you can do a lot of camping and make a lot of customizations. My friends bought a used trailer and love it. Buying a used trailer is that same as buying a used vehicle, do your research and know what you are looking for. We bought new and have had issues and have had to make modifications. That said we love it and are very happy with what we bought.

  21. I have to wonder if you’ve ever purchased a new trailer.

    1) Not good quality – almost a definite, same as for a used one
    2 & 3) Hidden problems and unanticipated repairs – for a typical person, the issues and repairs often needed for a brand new trailer are even less anticipated than repairs of a used one
    4) Low resale value – yes, to a greater extreme than a used one; this is an _advantage_ of buying a used one!
    5) That first year of new trailer warranty work may keep you off the campsite for much of the season

    Sorry but I would wholeheartedly recommend buying a used trailer/RV. My current 2016 is my first and will probably be my last purchased new!

  22. Hi Peggy, you make it sound like a person should not buy a used trailer, but few people who have the leisure to travel can afford the brand new rigs–$60K and more is just out of reach. A friend of mine spent well over $100K on a motorhome bus. I’m curious why you did not suggest buying from a dealer with good references. By law they must make sure of important components, especially having to do with safety. You may pay more for a used RV from them but get a much better one. You might even see a list of what they addressed and changed out. Just wondering. However, your words do make us tend to pause before changing out our well-functioning fifth wheel, which is rather large but workable (37 ft) for open camp sites and the desert which we love. We know its peculiarities.

  23. Quite frankly, everything you said could be applied to any RV platform. And I noticed you used some in your examples. Leaks, past, present and undetected are for me the one thing that might kill even the hope of camping in it, whatever it is. Other problems you can adapt or work around or actually fix or replace – but structural damage – like your Airstream example above – can destroy the dream in a hurry.

    This might have been better titled 5 reasons to avoid buying a used RV. But even new – as your Mercedes Class B customer found out – doesn’t mean much.

    We do as much due diligence as we can – but we can’t know what the previous owner truly knows about what he’s selling.

  24. This article is overly simpliistic. All the negative points made about RV trailers could apply to any RV type, as well as a used boat, or car.

  25. Number 4 literally made me laugh out loud! A brand new camper loses 40-50% of it’s value the very second that the tires are no longer on the sales lot. So the initial owner is the one who deals with most of the depreciation. A used camper with two previous owners isn’t worth that much less than if it had just one. Used is, for the most part, used…
    I’d also question the issue with restoring old campers. Sure, there is going to be some stuff that ends up in a landfill, but what do you think happens to junky old campers that don’t get restored???

  26. Have you ever owned a camper? You honestly have no idea what you are talking about. Give some resources and facts to back your claims. Please.

  27. And how is this really different from brand new trailers, RVs, etc? Leap of faith no matter what you’re undertaking.

  28. Thank you for your review of this section of the RV Market. We purchased a TT new and the price was what was in our budget. It has been a great “ride”, but not without problems. Apparently the goal of the RV dealer, salesman etc and perhaps the industry is that you will upgrade. We did not. We made improvements, made repairs, replaced tires etc. In other words we enjoyed our travel trailer. Yes, the manufacture cuts corners, and out maker is OOB. Furniture failures as to the vinyl is the biggest issue we have faced. It just deteriorates and we went with a boating type covering which solved the problem. One word of advice, if the bed is comfortable and you are happy (specifically if your wife is happy) buy the trailer; we did and we still have it today. That is nine years.

  29. I bought a used but only after following certain guidelines. Only three years old, nobody ever lived full time in it, and it was a divorce sale,both wanted it but court ordered sale….

  30. Thanks for the words of wisdom, Peggy. We are preparing to buy a used 2019 travel trailer. It’s been used twice and looks brand new. The owners bought it new with a five-year, comprehensive service warranty in 2019 that has about three years left on it, that they will transfer to us. They are selling due to health issues: they haven’t been able to use it in the last two years. I ran this decision through the issues you cited above, and am still confident that buying this trailer is a good decision. There is nothing to restore, although we may make a few very minor changes. It has everything we need for rambling. We’re a three-person family, and I write full-time and need a laptop work area for working late at night when the family is sleeping.

  31. So your reason for not buying a used camp basically is it’s used. Any used item will have wear and tear that might need repair, but time is money, so if you are retired or locked down in COVID you could saved hundred, thousands, or tens of thousands on a used camper. And many will be just fine, with a few needing some maintain eye items. I feel this a scare tactic article that doesn’t land because it’s just saying don’t buy used things because used.

  32. i have had more problems (major water leakage inside) with my brand new travel trailer than my preowned 5th wheel,so I guess it’s a hit or miss situation when purchasing a used travel trailer!

  33. My 1986 Allegro motorhome 28′ purchased used ,put in roof inside equipment interior etc because gas line blowout. 3 yrs later klamath falls Ore RV park. Engine dead wiring again plumbing . Donate to Disable charity free pull when I check out.!!!

  34. Wow, are you an advocate for new RV sales companies?? Are you trying to completely kill the used RV market. I personally think you are way off the Mark in your bashing of the used RV market. I have never owned a new RV and never will. I guess you should never buy a used car either. What a silly article!!

  35. I must of been lucky. When my wife and I decided to do the RV thing we went used. I found a dealer around Orlando who sold used RVs and I purchased a 2011 24 foot including the A frame Fun Finder by Cruiser RV dry weight 4,300 lbs. TT for $11,000. It had the standard stuff in it that we all know. Dual 30 lb. propane tanks, 30 amps, 36 gal fresh water and 38 gal grey and black, fiberglass body, TPO roof dual axels, new tires, nice size frig, 4 burner stove, living room slide, etc. We bought in 2019 now 3 years old for us and we haven’t had one major problem with it, (knocking on wood). we drove to Wyo., Upper Michigan and all around Florida numerous times. I guess about 10,000 miles on it. I did paint the ceiling exhaust fans white since the sun turned them yellow and replaced one black tank pull value which had a very small leak in it and had wheel bearing repacked just to be sure. Bought a certified used F-150 tow package truck with a payload of 1900 lbs. for $10,000 less then new.

  36. Sorry to say, if you buy a used camper, you should plan on a complete re-do anyway. I was working on one for a couple of friends but gave it back to them, that is another story. By the way axel is a skating term, axle is what is on a vehicle holding the wheels. As one writer to another, keep that writing going.

  37. Certainly one of the silliest articles written. Essentially, it repeats the same idea, that there could be problems with a used RV, over and over. That with not one bit of effort to study whether used RVs satisfy owners more or less than new ones. Why not include that meteors might be more inclined to hit used RVs?

  38. We have purchased several new and used camping trailers and had as many, if not more, problems with brand new trailers (staple in wiring harness, a/c not bolted down, plumbing not connected, etc.). We would rather take our chances with a good used trailer and spend a lot less.

  39. Article is ridiculous. Many of the reasons listed are reasons to buy used and not new.
    The “best” is a low resale value…because it’s so much better to lose 33% of $45,000 than 20% of $25,000.

  40. With all due respect to the writer, at least in my case I have to disagree with this article. I don’t think I can ever bring myself to ever by a ‘new” camper again. I do buy new two vehicles though. Certainly newbee RV owners may not know what to look for as far as a used camper is concerned, there are good well made RVs out there that were top of the line that are 5, 10 or 20 years old that make fine used units and may only need a little work. I’ve had three new trailer campers and they are money pits as they loose value QUICK. I’ve bought four used units as well. My current camper is 30 years old, I bought it 20 years old. I had to do some remodeling but here are some number for my current unit. It’s a Nuwa hitchhiker 5th wheel that retailed for $61K new in 1991, so it was a pretty high end unit back then. I bought it used for $4K in 2011. It was a little dirty as a couple lived in it for several years, but easily salvageable. I spent $6k having someone replace the roof, new water heater, carpet and awning. Sure I spent time replacing the brakes and tires, cleaning the walls, ceilings, windows and exterior but cabinets, counter tops, sleeper sofa were in fine shape, windows worked, refer was good, the AC works fine as well as the plumbing and heat. Yep ,there is a little wood dry rot (little if any mold) in a few hidden places but that does not effect the structural integrity or safety of the camper, I just sealed up potential leaks, treated the rot and such. It’s still so tight that it sat all winter and there is very little dust on the counter tops. Also the materials it was built with have mostly de-gassed, so it’s healthier than a new unit. I take out in boonies on rough roads. I like my old camper, it’s ready to go ANYWHERE.

  41. This is a pretty stupid report. I’m guessing it was written by someone who knows little to nothing about RVs.

  42. All the above comments can be said about a new RV as well. With most only having a 1 year warranty that covers very little. And any extra after market warranty being very difficult to collect from. In general an RV is a very poor investment, with most people never using in more than a couple weeks a year at most. On top of that the depreciation is crazy because of the points noted above, quality and workmanship. In my opinion the best option is to renting one when you need one and if you really feel the need to purchase (new or a better value) used then do your research and purchase the highest quality you can afford.

  43. Buying a used camper is certainly risky. For example, my wife and I bought a used toy hauler. It has everything we wanted in a camper…we took it camping for the first time..we checked the grey and black water levels…they were 3/4 to full…I figured those things are never reliable but I looked down the toilet…yep it was full of the sellers families sewage…we realized that the sewage valve didn’t work…but after all that it’s actually been a good camper…just make sure your not buying the sellers raw sewage too when buying a used camper 🙂

  44. I disagree with the author who offered mostly negative reasons to avoid a used trailer. The article should be more balanced. We purchased in 2018 a 2013 Montana High Country and gave no regrets. This is our third trailer. The first two had more problems than expected and dealer and factory support was not good. If a buyer for a used trailer looks for well known high quality brands then it is quite likely that the first owner addressed the factory and dealer problems. Insist on full documentation for repair history to confirm. We saved a bundle buying used and in following years we have enjoyed 82, 187, 226 days and so far this year 128 days camping with no regrets.

  45. You are misleading on all acciunts…How much does one lose the first year of owning a new camp trailer…more than would cost to buy a 2nd hand one…in just a few days

  46. So if we are to avoid used trailers, what are you suggesting we do with the millions of units that are on the roads now? Your list of potential problems could easily apply to Motorhomes.

    Not sure how this post belongs on what I would assume is a ‘Pro-RV camping” post

  47. All of the issues you have named can also be found in Class A, B, or C RV’s or even a 5th wheel. I had a Class C that has been a rental and it had more issues than my small travel trailer has had. Poorly made items have been around for years. My nephew used to do repair work on all sizes and saw a lot of Class A’s come through with various issues. Just my opinion.

  48. I think you have to be careful to check over a used travel trailer but there is value to be found. When we bought our brand new travel trailer it had over 30 defects from the factory, by the time we sold it to move up to a fifth wheel we had fixed all the initial defects and made several improvements.

  49. You should also mention the hidden problems in new RVs. In 2016, I bought a 2016 Palomino Columbus made by Forest River and sold to me by Meridian RV. It was THEE biggest pile of garbage ever. Finally sold it back to them.

  50. Unfortunately this article is written and sponsored by the companies who sell new RV’s. I have purchased several used motor homes over 30 years, and if you are not sure of the quality, there are experts who can check it out for you. Don’t listen to this bullshit

  51. Your article makes it evident why a buyer should check all systems themselves or retain an rv inspection service.

    Also certain brands are know to be of high quality. Do your research.

    Finally caveat emptor, buyer beware.
    Sincerely Charlie spindel

  52. Your reasons to avoid used apply almost equally to new as well. Cheaply made is a huge understatement. Manufacturers not taking responsibility goes for new as well. Travel trailers are little more than mac-tac’d cardboard, I know, my crossroads is one of these.

  53. All of he scenarios presented in this article are WORSE CASE!

    We have purchased more than one used camper and been VERY happy with them. Yes, they needed attention but it was nothing that was an immediate issue and we got WAY more camper for 1/2 the cost of a new one.

    IMHO this article is designed to scare people away from the used market and into the arms of the new unit dealer.


  54. The whole RV industry is plagued by poor workmanship and design flaws. Most of the issues you mentioned were apparent when they left the factory. Motorhomes suffer the same concerns. Most knowledgeable owners will see their RV sitting at the dealer waiting for warranty repairs or correction for months the first year of their warranty. The six months they have it doesn’t extend your limited warranty.

  55. Hahaha, every new RV owner can relate to the list of why not to buy used. Infact I’ve asked the question why did I buy new when I’m having all these problems when the factory passes the buck anyway. Every new buyer should read every word of the warranty and know the answer before asking for a warranty repair. It’s easier and much faster to make your own repairs anyway. Don’t be mislead by this article thinking new is a better dollar value and you won’t have as many issues.

  56. I’m sorry but the same can be said for new campers except for number 4. Most new campers come with so many problems they stay in the shop a long time. I would only buy used campers that I check out thoroughly.

  57. OK Debbie Downer
    I happen to know there are some real nice used RV’s out there
    I have never bought one but I’ve sold a few of our own
    For example I’ve always run a space heater inside….. no moisture issues
    I’ve always winterized the RV
    Drained all tanks every time I return from a camping trip, gray, black and fresh water
    We have never cooked inside our RV
    Other than making coffee
    So no odors!
    In short we have pride in ownership
    When I sell my trailer, and I will, I will want it in the condition that I’d like to buy it!

  58. I’m sure your right in many cases. We bought a used rv about 6 years ago. We’ve had no major problems. Enjoy our 2006 and are about to leave on a three state trip.

  59. I have had more experience with faulty new trailers than used ones. Do your research and investigate before you buy and you’ll be fine.

  60. This makes no sense. Buying new you potentially have the same design issues. The also may start as low quality and as soon as you take it off the lot you lost 30%. You’ve been camping too long and have lost common sense perspective. Every issue you state is the same for new or used.

  61. Bull Shi****. Should not buy a used car or a used house. I bought a new camper from Camping world in October. I had problems with the freezer, taken 6mts to get an appointment. Now parts order with expected service time 4-5 mts out.

  62. Boy this is a very unrealistic view of those of who camp with trailers.

    Everything has quirks and problems, and anyone who actually thought their purchase through, hopefully did their homework to avoid many of the issues you speak of. If they didn’t… that’s on them. But your view of all TT camping is a waste… time, money, effort…. could not be further from the truth.

    I’d love to live in the perfect world you must exist in…

  63. Hi Peggy,
    Your article inadvertently makes a much stronger case to buy used than new.
    Your first point is absolutely true, RVs are built as quickly and cheaply as possible, and this has and will always be the case whether new or old. Poor quality is timeless.
    Your second point you cite examples of failures on new RVs, related to design or production flaws which will follow a unit whether new or used.
    The third point isn’t fair; there is no way the couple purchased the Airstream in that condition with the intention to hitch up and go RVing, that was a conscious decision to rebuild/refurbish the rig. No doubt they discovered more problems than they expected or hoped, but you can’t say they ended up there simply because they naively purchased a used RV instead of buying new.
    Your forth point is completely off base, proven in part by your first paragraph of point 3 and further backed up by your own points 1 and 2. The initial depreciation on a new RV in the first year or two will likely be 5 figures! Think about that – the depreciation alone could cover not just a good used RV to camp in, but probably all your camping expenses, maintenance, fuel, and cold beverages for a couple seasons! How much camping could you do for that $34,000? On the other hand once that initial hit knocks the unit to half or less of its purchase value, it depreciates at a much slower rate.
    Your fifth point is the only one that actually supports buying new, and agreed, that is an important consideration especially for campers that are not particularly handy or interested in maintenance. But here you missed perhaps the most compelling reason of all to buy new, and that’s when you have a dealer/manufacturer that offers a great warranty. If you are going to have problems (and you will… it’s an RV!) then make sure when you drop the serious coin on a new RV that you’ve at least got someone who will back up their sale with proper support.

  64. This is the dumbest article I have ever read.
    ‘Used campers are a bad idea. Buy new!’ Peggy says, and then tells us the story of how a brand NEW $100k Mercedes camper AND a brand new motor home were both messed up from the factory and had to be returned. She also tells us about a new camper catching on fire! What quality!

    ‘Used campers lose value,’ Peggy says with a straight face. Lol. Apparently in Peggy world new campers don’t deprecate.

    ‘Used campers have unexpected costs and repairs’ Peggy tells us, and then uses the story of a couple restoring an old airstream she found on Instagram as an example!?!?! INSTAGRAM!!!! Cuz a 50-year-old airstream in need of complete restoration is the equivalent of a 10-year-old camper. Pftt.

    How about this: let’s dump all the old campers and RV’s into a landfill because they are not *new* anymore, and force people who can’t afford the astronomical cost of a new camper to go into debt in order to take their family camping on the weekends. I’m sure their children will be fine breathing in all the glue and formaldehyde fumes emanating from that shiny new plastic, vinyl and laminate.

    BTW, it’s spelled AXLE not AXEL

  65. Peggy
    You hit a lot of nails square on the head. Points you made are applicable to any RV.

    We have big problems here in the SF Bay Area with older class A RVs and trailers. People buy them cheap and then discover the difficulty in moving, parking, and maintaining. Of course I’m referring to Urban semi-permanent lifestyle, rather than on the road lifestyle. Subject for a different discussion.
    Stay productive!!
    Dave B

  66. Seriously??? I bought a brand new trailer off the lot and the transfer relay went out after my first camping trips. On my 3rd trip the brakes went out on my way to the mountains I went back to the dealer and there service manager told me it would 2 months (this was the 1st week of June) before they could work me in…. I said BS, and went to the front desk and had the business manager paged to the front desk. I had an appointment the next week. In August my middle leveling jack went out and they had to order in another one and I never heard from them again. I’ve made lots of improvements to my 5th wheel and the deprecation that you take in the first year would more tan pay for any repair on a used trailer as long as you do a good inspection. I won’t buy another new RV from a dealer again!

  67. Very good article with a lot of advice. Even the brand new models have problems and require an effort to keep the RV in good working shape. I have been told by many that if you own an RV you need technical skills (to repair) or you need a lot of money. I have found over the years that is a true statement. We own a brand new 2020 Montana and I have replaced or repaired the furnace, hyd jacks, faucets, shower faucet, washer, stereo, doors, and the list goes on. I can’t blame all these issues on the manufacture because they try to use the most lightweight items possible. I just wanted to make my point about being handy or having a lot of money for repairs. I once ask a dealer why the issues when my home and RV were close to the same price. He said: You don’t pull your home down a road at 70+ MPH.

  68. “Finally, unless you’re a handyman whose hobby is restoration, you probably want to purchase a used camper trailer so you can enjoy camping and traveling with your new RV. ?”

  69. Hmm. First of, the repeated commentary… “Jane and Bob bought a new camper, but…” probably should, in each instance, be changed to “Jane and Bob bought a used, lightly used, three year-old,” etc. so we know what the ACTUAL anecdote was. The one about the Airstream with the animal carcasses and dilapidated plumbing wasn’t helpful either. If the guy is such a RV restoration genius, how did he get surprised by Frankenstream?

    The point seems to be that a brand new trailer is completely trouble free, which sure isn’t the case.

    I’m guilty. I bought my first trailer, a 6 year-old Viking tent trailer that had been a rental. Five years later, I’ve spent over $2,000 fixing things. Springs, shackles, axle with brake assemblies, battery, upholstery overhaul. I might have at LEAST peered under the trailer and checked the camber on the wheels attached to the axle.

    But, you know what, it’s a better trailer now than ever. 12v wiring enhancements, heavy duty axle and new electric brakes, and the interior cushions all upgraded with high density foam using the existing covers make things better. Upgraded the existing vent fan from 3 to 15 speeds, reverse, and remote control with rain sensor and motorized vent cover lift.

    This trailer has features new ones don’t, and it cost me far less than buying a new one.

  70. This is obviously meant to encourage you to buy new,buying used has benifits also, bugs are worked out ,you dont lose 40℅driving off the lot new,as long as your rv hasnt been lived in youll probably be ok, this article is pro rv dealerships and youll pay for it, buy used just be carful!!!

  71. My 2011 Jayco Eagle had five punishing miles from covered shed to highway. Nine years and 15,000 miles later it was still problem free. That was built when the economy was in the tank, so there’s a good chance they took a little more care in assembling it. I would stack it up against any new one of any brand today. This is a toy, so I disagree that people are looking for cheap when they get these things. Many of them are 80 to a hundred k today. Thor owns a huge percentage of the manufacturers. Nuff said?

  72. Doom and GLOOM. For the uninitiated or first time buyer this has more possibilities. However, used or hardly used can be a great value. Inspection services can make a difference but do not hold all the keys to a sound purchase.Buy smart, due diligence before changing money for any camper.

  73. While I agree in general about the quick build time, low quality, many repairs and low resale of most small towable trailers, there are high quality trailers available, such as Oliver Travel Trailers. While not inexpensive, (maybe $64,000 for a moderately equipped new model, such as the 23’6″ Oliver Elite II, this brand of trailer is built and sold custom only from the factory. Hardware and wiring is of marine quality. The body is fully insulated full fiberglass shell with no wood in the structure, even windows are double paned and all plumbing is fully enclosed, insulated and heated. I have no problem with your general comment, only that you have stereotyped all travel trailers, when there are solid quality trailers with good resale and low maintenance. By the way, it takes 10 weeks to build and Oliver, vs the typical 1-5 days for many travel trailers.

  74. This article could not have been written better by an RV manufacturer with thousands of new campers to sell.😁
    Almost every reason could be applied to new campers today. Buying new or used requires carefulness, asking lots of questions and due diligence on the part of the buyer.

  75. Yikes…talk about a negative write up.
    How about just asking for a good faith promise to buy something that bad, back? Or perhaps negotiate ‘seller’ agrees to fix major (or minor) repairs or take it back. From experience, used trailers and / or most RV’s of any type are taken care of much better than new ones that seem to be, forever in the shop. At least that’s been our experience over many years traveling & camping with our large camping group and other RVing camping friends. Your article reads like a ‘new camping trailer’ sales person. Having said that, just be cautious when buying any used RV, and have fun RVing!

  76. What a bullshit article!
    There are thousands of great used campers on the market. Not everybody can afford new.
    Many people buy a new camper only to find out they hate camping

  77. Meh. Every single negative you wrote about used trailers can also be, and usually is, true about new trailers. You implied that in item #2.

    I once bought a brand new Cyclone toy hauler. It spent more time in the shop for warranty repair than it did being used. I got rid of that coach within a year.

    As for the unanticipated costs and repairs of used RVs, your example of the Airstream restoring couple is more than just a little misplaced, IMO. You stated they knew the trailer was a complete disaster. You stated they got it for next to nothing. Who in their right mind would think they can restore a disaster on the cheap?

    Your point on lower resale value made me chuckle. Using the $69K example in item #3 is a perfect place to start. The next sentence you mention a lightly used rig could cost $35K. That’s right, lightly used is already half off new! And, in fact, used trailer lose resale value SLOWER than new. Why? Because the huge hit on depreciation was already taken by the original owner. And anyone who has restored a classic car, or even a not-so-classic-car, can tell you the chance of making money on a restoration is slim to non, unless the car is a highly desirable collector’s item. Show me a vehicle that APPRECIATES in value and I’ll show you a collector’s item. VERY FEW RVs are highly desirable collector’s items.

    As with a sticks and bricks home, or a used car, find a competent inspector and pay the money to get it checked out before buying. An inspection does NOT mean the home, car or RV will be trouble free. But it should find obvious problems and may deter a person from buying a money pit.

  78. We bought our TT used from the original owners who were going from TT to Class A. All the bugs had been worked out from being new, including a new water pump and water heater right before we bought it. It was a 2014 and we bought it at 3 years of age for the payoff price of their financing, which was half of the purchase price. They had all the upgrades purchased and the warranties still in effect.
    I upgraded the tires (originals) from “D” to “E” rated tires, upgraded the equalizer to an EZ Flex and upgraded the springs from 4400lb to 5klb.
    Never a bit of issues with the trailer and we use it very often and could not complain about our purchase all things considered.

  79. Yes, and this is true of any used mechanical product. The trick is to buy quality brands and look for one that has been maintained. And not sat around for years rotting.

    Do your home work and save lots of money buying used. I rarely buy anything new. Have 2 motorcycles, 2 cars, and a Diesel pusher class A ( that’s 20 yrs old ). Got the cars and motorcycles at nearly half price in excellent condition. Got motorhome in great shape for nearly a dime on the dollar and have put 20K a miles on it with minor maintenance. And rarely a problem. I let someone else pay all that up front depreciation. My hats off to those that do. If you have and want to spend the money on new, why not. Please buy new, so that I can buy used. Again, one of the main points is to buy quality products that are known for longevity. Shop and be willing to possibly travel a distance to find the right buy.

  80. We bought a brand new travel trailer and the first time we hooked it up to water, we flooded the trailer because none of the connections for the kitchen sink were good. Thankfully my husband is handy so we were able to fix it. We didn’t bother taking it back to the dealer because they would have just replaced it with the same cheap stuff that failed the first time, we got shark bites (best stuff ever for that). So buying new doesn’t save you from those hidden problems either.

  81. Absolutely wrong. ALWAYS by used. The new trailers aren’t worth buying, they don’t have front windows, they have flat backs (terrible for aerodynamics), they have been raised up (terrible for aerodynamics) cause the manufacturers aren’t cutting into the trailer body to lower the units and quality control has dropped like crazy. I bought a lot of new ones and always had to fix things. So why not buy used at $5-6000 and fix or replace appliances, etc. Avoid depreciation, avoid trips back the dealer for repairs and save your money to pay for the ridiculous prices at campgrounds. Obviously look for a well maintained used one, they are out there, you just have to look

  82. I almost choked at these reasons. I have had 2 new trailers that had all of these same issues: poor quality, poor warranty responses, low value at trade in. It’s buyer beware even if it’s new!

  83. These points could be used against the purchase of any RV type, even the best on the market. Trailers you loose the least overall dollars. You buy one for $20,000.00, even if it was a total right off, all you lose is $20,000.00. Buy a $100,000.00 Class C and you lose $20,000.00 or more just driving it off the lot, with the same or even more problems. We have owned a trailer, a class B, a B+ diesel, a class C and now a Class A. We know after 5 years or so, we will lose at least $40,000.00 on our purchase. The only one we actually made money on was our Forest River 25.5 foot trailer. We sold it after two years for more than we paid for it new. Just a glitch in the market, which we lucked out on. We trailered it through parts of Canada, the Western US and most of the Baja in Mexico.

  84. New RVs are even worst than used. At least with a used trailer someone has tried to fix some of the problems.
    Send me your email address and I will send you my story.
    Short version: NEW dutchmen voltage: broken frame, pipes froze at 30deg.. AC wiring shorted, Black water piping leaked, 80ft of excess PEX rolled up in frame, Generator shorted out, electric brakes did not work, NO dutchman dealer would work on our trailer (I have letter from dealer refusing to do anything to our trailer). All in the first 2 months.

  85. This is not worthwhile article
    1. The new campers are of bad quality
    2. New ones almost always have hidden problems that are often difficult to get warranty repairs done in a timely manner
    3. Get an inspection done before the purchase. Know what you are getting into and decide if you would enjoy the renovation.
    4. Ridiculous. Nothing depreciates more than a new rv.

  86. This article could apply to any form of RV, not just trailers and…new rigs can be included. I would always buy used, many times the kinks have been ironed out. And no rig regardless of age new or used is free from some sort of maintenance issue.

  87. Do you really know what your talking about or do you just consider yourself good at putting down words. I’ve owned new and used trailers. I enjoyed each one and have fond memories of all of them. I currently have a 95 MH which will be my last due to my age and unwillingness to spent the money for something newer.

  88. Used trailers may lose value quickly, but so do new ones. That $69,000 trailer that, slightly used, can be had for $35,000 is a perfect example. No matter what, unless you almost give it away, you won’t be losing the $34,000 that the first buyer lost!

  89. This article has left me completely confused. Based on the information you provide, there are no reasons to buy any RV new or used due to potential costly issues after purchase. Are you suggesting campers are inherently bad investment new or used? You offer no advice on how to ensure an RV purchase is a good decision. Are you suggesting if people want to camp it is better to stick to a tent?

  90. Or, you could buy a brand new, top of the line motorhome and run into most of the problems you’ve mentioned in this article. I’ve been there. So, what’s point of this article? Buy new or buy used. You’re going to encounter problems.

  91. Uh, so what’s the solution? Used ones are dangerous, new ones are dangerous. So what, build your own.

    Article is utter trash.


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