One of the biggest questions which keep bugging people when they’re contemplating whether they should be getting an RV or not is how long the vehicle is going to last.
RVs on their own are pretty big purchases, with the price of a standard motor home starting out at $150,000!
Therefore, you’d want your RV to be as long-lasting and reliable as possible, so that you’re able to get your money’s worth.
Are RVs reliable, and how long can you generally expect them to last?
The average lifespan of an RV is 20 years. Most RVs will run smoothly for about 200,000 miles before they eventually become unreliable. Bear in mind that this period includes replacements of parts such as generators, awnings, and weather seals.
However, this number can vary depending on the model of your RV, how well you maintain it, and how much you use it for traveling.
When is an RV too Old to be Reliable?
RVs can start breaking down by year 10, but good maintenance can get it past year 20 without too many issues.
The average length of time for an RV to last you comfortably is 10-15 years with basic maintenance and easy traveling.
Anything more strenuous, or forgetting to maintain your RV, will lower that lifespan.
However, to get it to last that long, you’d have to have a number of its parts repaired and replaced.
What Breaks Down First in an RV?
The parts of the RV that break down first are the appliances such as the fridge, microwave, and dishwasher.
If not well maintained, then the pipes, tubes, engines, and HVAC systems begin malfunctioning too, and when this happens, living in your RV is no longer possible due to the health risks that these faulty equipment bring along.
RV Slideouts need to have their seals maintained from time to time, or they will leak.
Do RVs Break Down Often?
How often your RV breaks down depends on its make and model, and how well or poorly you maintain it.
Motorhomes, for instance, tend to have clogged engines when kept for too long without being driven. That’s why you should drive with them for at least once or twice a month.
And RVs with slideouts tend to get into a lot of problems. Unmaintained seals can ruin the interiors of your RV. They have to be inspected and aligned once a year, too.
Some newer RV models are also made in a way that compromises repairability with lightness. In this case, you might get more problems with broken appliances that tend to be either hard to replace or to fix.
What are the Health and Safety Hazards of living in a Broken RV?
The most obvious health hazard is road safety for motorhomes.
A broken engine, busted headlight, or shorted circuits would be incredibly dangerous.
Your RV might also be hosting a family of mice or other small critters under it if you don’t add proper skirting on it, which is when you add to the sides of your RV to keep is under parts insulated from the coldness of winter.
Models with HVAC systems need to have their filters cleaned every so often.
If they break down because of broken filters in the middle of a scorching summer or freezing winter, then the problems are obvious.
What Type of RV is the Most Reliable?
In terms of fragility, motorhomes have more moving parts and are, of course, more fragile than campers.
That’s because you need to fix their engines and everything else that’s needed to run them. Campers are basically trailer-shaped houses on wheels.
They don’t have engines, so you would need a truck or SUV to pull them. Thus, it might be easy to come to the conclusion that campers are the most reliable type of RVs.
The problem here, though, would lie on the towing vehicle. If you own the vehicle, then you have to maintain both the camper and the vehicle itself.
That will increase the overall amount that you’ll have to spend on the vehicle in the long run.
If that makes you pick motorhomes instead, do keep in mind that for every slideout your RV has, the more stuff that you have to maintain.
There are seals for every slideout that have to be replaced regularly unless you want them to break and allow air to rust the metal parts inside.
Over time, it’ll take you a lot to maintain a motorhome with a lot of slideouts.
What Are the Most Reliable RV Brands?
When it comes to reliability, we’ll suggest these three brands:
Airstream’s RVs are built to last. It’s one of the oldest brands, too.
This brand also focuses more on functionality and durability than design; however, so you can’t expect your RV to look as social media-worthy as models from other brands.
The best thing about Airstream is the hull of their models, which is made as a single unit closed with doors and windows.
They’re really durable on their own.
They also have their signature wide screens to give you a good view of the scenery.
Winnebago RVs are heavy lifters.
This is one of those high-end brands where you get what you pay for.
What’s awesome about Winnebago is that they make custom-built RVs that are based on their clients’ specifications. However, this usually means they custom-build the interior.
Another great factor of Winnebago is their durability test. They have a large number of tests to see if their RV is built to last.
Some of these tests include pelting the sides with pebbles to see if the paint would stick, and a drop test where they drop them from a small height while upside down.
Dutchmen have a wide variety of RVs for different kinds of purposes.
What sets this brand apart from the others is that they make their RVs themselves.
Their stuff is built to focus on what they should do. So, you can expect their most durable model to be very durable.
Are RV Slideouts Reliable?
RV slideouts last for 3-5 years, or even longer if properly maintained.
This includes cleaning and lubricating the seals, gears, and hydraulic pumps, and cleaning the roof too.
You should also get the slideouts adjusted only by a professional.
How to Shop Responsibly for a Long-Lasting RV?
Just as you would buy any other kind of vehicle, you should always check your need for buying one.
For instance, if you plan to stay for months in the same place on a motorhome, you can go with gas engine RVs instead of diesel engine ones which will ultimately make it cheaper.
Although diesel engines last longer than gas engines, the fact that you’re barely going to use them would just mean extra work and more expensive fuel than a gas engine.
However, no matter what your needs might be, you should never skimp on the quality of the exterior.
The exterior is your only protection against the elements outside, and a bad hull could allow leaks that would break electrical components inside the RV.
So ultimately, make sure you know your needs, but plan to spend what it takes to get quality that lasts.
What Should you Do with Your RV After you Can No Longer Use it?
RV’s lose their value very quickly, especially in the first 10 years.
Your best bet would be to sell your RV before it depreciates too low for you to have a decent return on it.
However, if you don’t want to sell your RV, our advice would be to look up the maintenance costs that your RV would require in order to last longer, and use your best judgment to decide if it would be a viable choice to keep it.
How Can you Sell Your Old RV?
There are a lot of buys and sell sites on the internet:
- Social Media
- Trade-in At Dealerships
- Craigslist & Other Sites
- Sell to Family or Friends
- Sell to Strangers if you Park it Outside your Home
These are only to name a few, but most of these methods are effective.
You could find someone who might have a use for an old RV, and even try Craigslist if you’re the adventurous type, or you could try talking about it over social media.
If your RV is absolutely worn down, you can still try getting a small fraction of its price by selling it in a scrapyard.
What Can you Do with an Old, Worn-Down RV?
It might sound surprising, but people actually do buy old and broken RVs.
It’s because they could keep the hull, especially from models with good hulls like Airstream. With these, they could make their own DIY RVs at a lower cost.
Other reasons could be to look for spare parts, especially in older models, in which parts are no longer made for.
There’s no better way to get your money’s worth from the RV than by enjoying the experience of living and traveling in it.
In the long run, the value of that hundred-thousand-dollar RV will depreciate, but the memories will last a lifetime.
In the end, you’ve got yourself a house on wheels where you’ve spent a good portion of your life, either making memories or having a safe place to stay.
Morten is the founder of GoDownsize. He has filmed and interviewed people living in tiny houses and RVs since 2011. He grew up on the coast where his dad took him boating from a young age. He has completely rebuilt two RVs in which he travels with his family for months at the time. Read more about Morten here.