Buying a cheap RV can make sense

By Chuck Woodbury
Not all RVs are created equal. Remember the three little pigs and their houses of straw, wood and brick? It’s kind of like that with RVs – some are built a whole lot better than others. In general terms, you get what you pay for.

A coach’s frame may be wood, steel, aluminum or a combination of these. When looking for your RV, be aware of what’s beneath the surface. While the cheapest construction may be just fine for the weekend camper, sturdier construction would serve the avid or full-time RVer far better and for longer.

That said, here is something you should consider when buying an RV. How much do you plan to use it? A little? A lot? If you plan only occasional use, an inexpensive rig will likely be just fine despite its bare-bones construction. But for heavy use or full-timing, you should buy something better for both comfort and a long lifespan.

Consider the purchase of shoes: If you need a pair of dancing shoes for a once-in-a-lifetime event, you needn’t spend a fortune: buy a cheap pair that will last eight hours. But if you plan to dance every Saturday night for the rest of your life, pay more for a pair that will endure. And so it goes with RVs.

I have rented cheap RVs that were so bad it was laughable. Terrible beds, noisy heaters and water pumps, cabinets with sharp corners, drawers that refused to close, cockeyed cupboard spaces, TVs placed in oddball positions, and walls so thin you could punch a hole in them with a pencil (slight exaggeration). And yet, if I were only using such an RV for a couple of weeks each summer, something like this would be okay, considering its low price tag. But for long-term RVing: No way!

Be cautioned that a brand-new, inexpensive RV will have a much greater likelihood of problems right off the assembly line than one built with more care. So, be sure to examine an RV you might want to buy inside out, up and down, every which way. Check with present owners to learn of their experiences. A long list of owners clubs can be found here. And if you’re on a budget, consider buying an RV that’s two or three years old that has been well cared for. Chances are good that the owner has worked out all the initial bugs.