How Much Do RVs Depreciate? (What You Should Know)

As with most modern mechanical and technological products, recreational vehicles (RVs) depreciate with use and time.

It is important to analyze RV depreciation rates to gauge when to sell your RV or whether to buy a used or new RV. 

We will provide you with depreciation rates for various types of RVs along with an analysis of the numbers and some helpful tips on getting the most value for your money by utilizing RV depreciation rate information.

What is depreciation?

Before giving you the hard numbers on RV depreciation, it is first important to understand what depreciation is.

In the simplest terms, depreciation is the decrease in the monetary value of a product over its period of use as it acquires wear and tear.

Therefore, the depreciation rate of an RV is the rate, in percentage, at which an RV decreases in value over its productive lifespan.

As long as the RV still functions, it is productive.

There are multiple ways to calculate depreciation rates because they aren’t necessarily linear; however, most depreciations fall under either government-mandated or market value categories.

With RVs, we are calculating depreciation rates based on market value depreciation wherein the economic market dictates the value and depreciation of an RV. 

The market for RVs changes from year to year, and supply and demand are also subject to many factors that we will expand upon in later sections.

Additionally, the passing of time doesn’t always mean depreciation.

For example, certain brands or products make a come-back in popularity as vintage items, thus increasing in value—that is, exhibiting appreciation. 

rv parked at sunset

RV Depreciation Rates

Here, we provide a table of the calculated yearly depreciation rates over 20+ years for four categories of RVs: 

  • Class A RVs 
  • Class C
  • Travel Trailer
  • Fifth Wheel

The depreciation rates we calculated came from using data provided by NADA for RVs in 2021.

Class A RV

Class A RVs are the ultimate homes on wheels.

These are the biggest, heaviest, and most gas-guzzling RVs on the market, with all the household amenities you’d find in stationary homes.

Depending on the brand, Class A RVs cost between $50,000 and $500,000. 

Number of Years Used Depreciation
1 21%
2 23%
3 25.8%
4 30.23%
5 35.78%
6 38.76%
7 41.27%
8 44.17%
9 50.45%
10 60%
15 75%
20 85%
25 95%
30+ Flat price $3000

Class C RV

Class C RVs are motorhomes that are considerably smaller and more fuel-efficient than class A.

They also come equipped with plenty of household amenities, and they range in price from $45,000 to $200,000 depending on the brand.  

Number of Years Used Depreciation
1 17%
2 22%
3 26%
4 28%
5 36%
6 39%
7 41%
8 44%
9 47.5%
10 52%
15 70%
20 83%
30 Flat price

Travel Trailer

A travel trailer is an independent trailer that hitches to the back bumper (traditional hitch) of any vehicle.

They are generally smaller in size and weight than a fifth wheel trailer and have the least amount of household amenities of the four types listed in this article.

They range in price from $11,000 to $35,000.

Number of Years Used Depreciation
1 21%
2 23.9%
3 27%
4 31.3%
5 35.6%
6 39.9%
7 43.1%
8 45.7%
9 47.6%
10 50.5%
15 72.3%
20 84.5%

Fifth Wheels

Fifth Wheels are independent trailers that need a truck for towing as they require a special hitch that attaches to the truck bed.

These are larger, more spacious, and heavier than travel trailers.

They range in price from $25,000 to $100,000.

Number of Years Used Depreciation
1 19.3%
2 23.5%
3 26.8%
4 30.1%
5 35.8%
6 38.3%
7 40.6%
8 42.8%
9 44.7%
10 48.2%
15 65%
20 76.3%

Analysis of Depreciation Rates: Noteworthy Data

After looking over depreciation rates for the four different RVs over 20 or more years, various noteworthy data points can help you decide on when to buy or sell an RV depending on what type it is.

You could also make speculations as to why the rate of depreciation increases or decreases at certain times.

We have made the following observations, comparisons, and analyses on the depreciation rates for Class A, Class C, Travel Trailers, and Fifth Wheels:

  • Class A and Class C RVs depreciate steadily up to year 10 when they both see large drops in value. That said, Class C’s depreciation rate is slower than Class A’s. We think this is because Class A RVs are significantly cheaper and thus more accessible to a larger pool of buyers, increasing their overall demand.
  • Class A RVs and Travel Trailers depreciate a lot in their first year. 
  • Class C RVs have the smallest first-year depreciation at 17%, followed by Fifth Wheels at 19%.
  • Regardless of which RV you purchase, it will lose an average of 20% right after you buy it. 
  • Travel trailers depreciate faster than fifth wheels. 

Depreciation Rates: Key Take-Aways

Buying a Used RV Is the Best Way to Save Money 

The best strategy to buying an RV is to buy a 5-year-old RV with moderate use.

As you can observe by studying the tables, there is a large depreciation rate within the first three years of an RV’s productive life.

Steep depreciation rates taper off at around the 5-year mark.

You want to buy a used RV that has seen regular use up until the time you buy it because if an RV sits in storage or idle for long periods, there are higher risks of malfunctioning due to neglect.

Problems like water damage from leaks or trapped water in the water heater often happen while an RV is in storage.

If you leave an RV in storage during the summer months, it is prone to dry out crucial engine parts, causing chronic overheating.

Buying a New RV Is Not the Most Cost-Effective Option

All these RVs lose around 20% or more of their value right off the lot, which is a huge depreciation for brand new features and practically no mileage.

If your goal is to save money and get the best value on a tight budget, buying new does not make fiscal sense. 

That said, there are plenty of buyers that prioritize comfort, customization, and the latest features over pinching pennies.

After all, there is a growing trend to work remotely while traveling cross-country, so many buyers will purchase RVs to live in full time.

Therefore, many people are more than willing to spend a lot of money on the best possible amenities and customizations because they see it as a worthy investment for their primary home.

RV Depreciation Depends More on the Year than the Mileage

The apt name of “motorhomes” refers to their dual function as both a vehicle and a living space.

Therefore, they have infinitely more complex equipment on board than your average car.

RVs generally experience mechanical malfunctioning in the housing realm of their functionality before they start experiencing driving issues. 

The most common issues are due to water damage from pipes and water heaters.

RVs are stationary for longer periods than normal commuting cars and thus do not rack up as many miles as cars do in as short a time. 

Things to Consider When Purchasing Your RV or Trailer

Whether you want to purchase a new or a used RV, there are various factors to consider that will ensure that you are buying a high-quality RV and are getting the best value for your money. 

MSRP and Price Off the Lot

MSRP (Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price) refers to the sale price quoted by dealers on the lot or the listed prices on dealership websites.

Perhaps you’ve heard or seen dealership commercials and signs that advertise 35% off MSRP, which looks like a great deal. 

Unfortunately, the MSRP is never the real price of the RV.

In fact, travel trailer buyers on average negotiate a price that is 35% lower than the MSRP, so don’t be fooled by these tricky marketing ploys.

The bottom line is that RVs are marked way up because dealers expect you to negotiate a significantly lower price.

Brand 

The quality and reputation of an RV’s brand have a big impact on their depreciation rates.

The higher the quality, the better the reputation and the highest quality RVs have the slowest depreciation rates.

A popular brand causes demand to rise which drives prices up, which means you can sell a used popular brand for a higher price than lower quality, cheaper brand.

Furthermore, brands that are durable or cheap to fix also depreciate more slowly.

Some of the most popular brands in the states with comparatively low depreciation rates are Winnebago and Airstream.

Where You Buy or Sell an RV

The location of the transaction in relation to where the RV comes from is an important cost to consider when purchasing an RV as shipping costs are quite expensive.

It is best to keep purchasing and selling transactions as local as possible to avoid additional costs.

Luckily, they’re a lot more informational resources and online negotiating platforms to make sure you can find the best deal on an RV in your surrounding area.

Best Buying Seasons

The best time of year to sell an RV is in the spring.

You should always scope out the seasonal market to optimize your chances of selling quickly.

If you are looking to buy an RV, dealerships offer the best deals in the fall as that is when they receive newer models, announcing large sales on the inventory that they have to get rid of to make room for incoming models.

Current State of the Economy

While the current Pandemic has sent the economy into a major decline with record-high unemployment, the demand for RVs has risen by 46% in the United States.

Domestic travel has increased significantly, and owning a recreation vehicle offers a safer alternative to public transportation methods like buses and planes.

Furthermore, living out of an RV has become a popular alternative to paying rent.

Conclusion: Should you Buy New or Used?

Considering the steep depreciation all of these RVs experience right off the lot, buying new is not the most cost-effective option.

We can’t negate that brand new RVs often come custom-made to fit your every desire in a motorhome, so if money is no option or if you value amenities and customization over saving money, then buying a new RV is the right choice. 

Within the first three years of ownership, each of these RV types drops at least 26% in value.

Depreciation rates are steadiest between 4 and 7 years, so if you are looking to save the most money on your purchase, we would recommend buying a 5-year-old RV.

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