Nothing lasts forever and we all know that this is especially true for RVs.
But how long do RVs actually last?
RVs will last between 10-20 years on average. This is according to data from used RVs online which are still functioning. After 10 years, the number of RVs that still function drop significantly.
The answer to this question has a lot of variables and some RVs will certainly last longer than others. In this post, I’ll give you some real-life examples so you can see for yourself how long an RV actually lasts.
I’ll also give you some tips you can use to help ensure that your RV lasts as long as it possibly can. This way you’ll be able to keep it as long as possible and if you ever do decide to sell it, you’ll end up getting more money from the sale.
Average Lifespan of an RV
As you can see, some RVs can last for many decades while others might be dead in less than 20 years.
However, neither of these examples are really average, so how long does an RV usually last?
To find the answer to this, I went onto RVtrader.com to see how many RVs were selling between certain years. Here is what I found.
Nationwide, there were 213,764 RVs for sale.
Of these, 161,759 were new and 52,005 were used. Subtracting the used RVs that were less than a year old, the numbers broke down like this.
|Age of the RV||RVs for sale online|
|1-10 years old||38,187|
|11-20 years old||13,190|
|21-30 years old||1,948|
|31-40 years old||218|
|41-50 years old||67|
|51-60 years old||24|
|61-70 years old||16|
|More than 71 years old||2|
As you can see, within the first 10 years there are many viable RVs that are still around to sell.
Over the next 10 years, this number drops dramatically but there are still many to be found. However, after 20 years have passed, there are hardly any used RVs to be found.
This leads me to believe that most RVs will last somewhere between 10 – 20 years.
Examples Demonstrating the Lifespan of an RV
Some RVs that were built decades ago are still in service. These RVs were either kept in really great condition or they were repaired to look and feel like new.
The lifespan on these RVs is yet to be determined.
6 Really Long-Lasting RVs
Here are 6 examples of RVs that lasted really long.
1) The Airstream Torpedo
In the 1930s, Airstream founder Wally Byam was selling Airstream kits that people could use to build their own Airstreams.
According to a physician named Dr. Holman he bought one of these kits and built an Airstream that is still around over 80 years later.
This RV has an aluminum exterior with an all wood interior. The trailer has been all over the United States as well as Canada and Mexico and it is estimated that it has done over 400,000 miles.
The Torpedo now sits in the Traveland Museum of Amarillo Texas where it is now very well taken care of.
2) 1972 Shasta Compact
Just last year, a 13′ Shasta Little Beauty sold on eBay for about $11,000.00. At the time it was considered road worthy and ready for camping.
The RV was clearly remodeled and updated but it had most of its original parts in place. In 2019, this makes the Shasta 47 years old. How long this RV will end up last is anyone’s guess.
Maybe it will end up in a museum with the Torpedo 30 years from now.
3) 1949 M Systems
A 1949 M Systems RV was sold as a project RV a few months ago by a person that decided not to finish the project on his own. He spent a lot of time and money completely replacing all of the structural components inside.
He then reskinned it with the original exterior aluminum plating and placed the original appliances back into it.
This camper is 22 feet long with a bathroom and a nice sized kitchen and bedroom. It was updated to hold an A/C unit.
Based off of the before and after photos, I’d say that this RV died and came back to life but based off of its production year, it is now 70 years old.
New RVs with Short Life Spans
Not all RVs last a long time. In fact, from what I’ve seen most RVs do not last a long time. However, it is a little hard to document RVs that have completely died too soon so I turned to Craigslist to find RVs that were almost as good as dead.
4) 2007 Jayco Popup
This popup is over 20 feet long and sleeps up to 6 people. It has air conditioning, a kitchenette, and a bathroom and an original price tag of almost $20,000.00. Twelve years after it was built, it was sold for $400.00.
The owner said that it mice had gotten into it and eaten the canvas and chewed on the wires.
He said it smelled bad and basically everything inside would need to be replaced.
5) 1986 Wilderness by Fleetwood
This camper is 24’8″ long but the inside has been completely gutted and it is currently being used as a children’s playhouse.
The owner says that it is not worth rebuilding and that he does not even have the title anymore. It’s 33 years old and is currently selling for about $300.00.
About the price, you would get for it at a scrap yard.
6) 1999 Prowler
The Prowler listed for sale is 32′ long and it even has a slideout. New, this would have sold for over $20,000 dollars. Thirty years later, the owner can’t get rid of it for $500.00.
The camper fell victim to water damage and virtually none of the appliances work anymore.
What Lasts Longer, Motorhomes or Campers?
All-things-equal, it is easier to keep a camper running for a long period of time than it is to keep a motorhome running. This is because motorhomes have an engine as well as all the other mechanical parts that go with having an engine.
A standard gas engine is usually rated to have a lifespan of 200,000 miles while a diesel engine is rated to have a lifespan of 300,000 miles.
Once parts start to break down on an aging motorhome, they can become increasingly more difficult to get.
A camper, on the other hand, doesn’t have many parts and they can all easily be replaced. Also, a camper’s moving parts consist only of the trailer which requires little maintenance.
Replace the tires and brakes and take care of the axel and a trailer can last a lifetime.
How Long do RV Components Last?
Regardless of whether or not you have a motorhome or a camper, there are many internal components that will eventually break or wear down within an RV.
Appliances like refrigerators and ovens can break, electrical components can become faulty, HVAC systems can stop working, and even the plumbing can eventually begin to leak.
When these things are regularly repaired or replaced as they break it is easy to justify keeping an older RV. However, many people fail to repair items as they break and one day they wake up to an RV that has thousands of dollars of repairs that need to be done.
In this case, they might opt to get rid of the RV rather than to fix it.
This being said, most RV components tend to hold up to the riggers of RVing for about ten to fifteen years and often you’ll have more trouble with leaks and engine troubles before you’ll experience any problems with the appliances. This is especially true for people who actively take care of their appliances and take steps to help them last longer.
In fact, whether it’s the components of the RV or the RV itself, there are many steps you can take to make sure it lives on long after its 20th birthday.
In the rest of this post, we’ll go over how to make an RV last longer so that you can get the most out of your RV purchase.
7 Ways to Make an RV Last Longer
Here are some good tips on how to make your rig last as long as possible.
1) Perform Regular Maintenance
The performance of regular maintenance is one of the best steps you can take to ensure that your RV lasts a long time. This is especially true if you have a motorhome that you’re trying to get the most out of.
As we said earlier, with proper care, a gas engine can easily last up to 200,000 miles or more and a diesel engine can last up to 300,000 or more.
In fact, I’ve seen gas engines with over 300,000 miles on them and diesel engines with up to 500,000 miles on them.
The key to making sure the engines last this long is to give them regular tune-ups and to get them inspected regularly. Luckily, you don’t have to be a mechanic to know what type of maintenance needs to be done on them.
This is because the manufacturer will spell out in detail what needs to be done and when.
For example, I know that my car needs to have its distributor cap and ignition wires changed every 100,000 miles. I changed them out myself at 100,000 miles and when it hit 200,000 miles I did it again. I also know that my timing belt needs to be changed at 100,000 miles as well.
I know that this is something I don’t want to do myself so I budgeted for it. The cost of having a mechanic do it for me was only a few hundred dollars and because I knew well in advance that it would need to be done, it was easy to save the money.
This strategy can easily be applied to a motorhome as well.
If you plan on averaging around 10,000 miles a year, (which is a lot of traveling), you know that you’ll have ten years to learn how to do the 100,000-mile maintenance schedule or to budget to pay someone else to do it.
Take advantage of this time and you’ll always be prepared.
2) Check for Leaks
The single-most devastating event for a camper beside a major accident is a leak. A small leak can lead to rotten wood and mold.
Leave the leak unattended for long enough and you may find that your roof, your walls, and your floors have all been ruined by a single leak.
To avoid the damage caused by leaks, regularly inspect for them. Once you find a leak, don’t give it any time to get worse. Even if you can’t afford to fix the leak right away, at least dry the area out and put a tarp over it so that it won’t get any worse.
For more detailed information on how to spot and fix a leaking roof, take a look at our post titled, “How to Fix a Leaking RV Roof“.
3) Proactively Make Repairs and Upgrades
We’ve touched on this a couple of times already, but it is of vital importance that you fix items and make upgrades as soon as you can. This helps keep expenses down and stops the cause of damages before they can become worse.
For example, a clogged HVAC duct is a simple repair to make. However, if you leave the HVAC duct blocked for too long, the obstruction could begin to cause the entire ductwork system to unravel. Instead of having to clean one section of ducting, you may end up having to put the entire duct system back together.
I did this once and trust me when I tell you that it is not very fun.
Upgrades should also be made on a regular basis. This helps keep you up-to-date on technology and makes the RVing experience more enjoyable.
It also helps to keep you from buying a new RV prematurely just to get the new bells and whistles that have come out. For example, why buy an entire RV just to get an automatic leveling system when you can just install one on your old RV?
In this case, you’ll save money, you’ll increase the value of your RV, and you’ll have a more enjoyable set up when at camp.
4) Wash and Clean Your RV
Another way to ensure that your RV lives a long life is to wash the outside and clean the inside on a regular basis. Washing the outside will help the finish last longer and will help you spot external damages before they turn into leaks.
Cleaning the inside will help keep your appliances clean and reduce the chances that they’ll suffer damages due to misuse.
Additionally, cleaning and washing your RV adds to your pride of ownership.
The better your RV looks, the more likely it is that you’ll want to take care of it and the more you take care of your RV, the better it will look.
You’ll end up enjoying your RV more and you’ll keep its value as high as possible just by washing it each time you use it.
5) Use Your RV Regularly
All too often, people buy RVs and they rarely use them. This is bad for campers and it is especially bad for motorhomes. The reason for this is that driving a motorhome actually helps to keep its engine clean.
Be sure to drive your motorhome for at least 20 minutes at highway speeds once or twice a month.
Doing so will remove condensation buildup and will help to lubricate hoses.
It may sound counterintuitive but driving your motorhome will actually make it last longer and will reduce maintenance costs.
Even a camper should be moved regularly. This helps to keep the tires from becoming malformed and ensures that they wear out uniformly.
Towing your camper to a new location from time-to-time will help ensure that it is safe to operate when you do actually need to move it.
In addition to moving the RV, you’ll also want to make sure you use the plumbing. Plumbing needs to be run on a regular basis or pipes and connections can dry out and leaks can occur.
Also, freshwater tanks can become susceptible to mold and mildew which can become a big issue when you’re out boondocking and do not have access to any other water.
6) Drive Safely
Drive the speed limit and be careful of bad weather. I’ve seen too many RVs dies a premature death due to accidents. Remember, towable campers should not be pulled at speeds faster than 55 miles per hour even on roads with speed limits of 70 miles per hour.
Also, remember that the wind can greatly affect the way a camper or motorhome handles. Think about staying home or driving very slowly on days with high winds. It is better to miss one trip than to crash your RV and not be able to go on any trips.
7) Store Your RV Properly
Proper storage of an RV will have a great effect on how long it survives. RVs need to be winterized in cold climates and batteries need to be fully charged whenever they aren’t in use.
Store your RV inside and you’ll get even more life out of it.
Indoor storage will stop your RV from leaking while you aren’t around to notice the leaks form. It will also stop your RV’s finish from being damaged by the sun.
Here are some GREAT tips on how to store your RV.
How Fast Do RVs Depreciate In Value?
Now we have looked at how long your RV may last. But another side of the coin is what you can expect if you are going to sell it one day.
We have written a separate article with a ton of real-life examples of just how much RVs depreciate.
We have gathered data (click the link above) on how much each type of RV have depreciated over a period of 3, 5, and 10 years and it’s really interesting to see how consistent the data is.
It turns out that RVs are not the best investment if you are looking for a high return ;)
RVs generally last 10 to 20 years but it will depend on how well you treat them. Carefully cared for RVs will last much longer than 20 years and ones that aren’t very well cared for may not last more than a few years.
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.