People that know how to make smart investments will typically ask themselves how long a vehicle, such as an RV, will last. Worried about making a secure investment or just about how long you'll be able to use your RV? We've put some time into researching how long RVs last and have the answers here.
On average, a new RV will last around fifteen years. If you work hard to preserve the value of your RV, then it can last up to twenty-five or even thirty years. The longest-lasting RVs are the Airstream campers which can last for many decades if maintained well.
There are many different types of RVs and factors that go into the longevity of an RV, so calculating the average lifespan of an RV is complicated. With that said, fifteen years is a good estimate assuming you do the average amount of maintenance for your RV.
In this article, we will go over RV depreciation, RV maintenance, and the types of RVs that last the longest. Stay tuned for all the details so you can see where your rig fits into this picture.
How long would your RV last - and how to make it last longer
There are two aspects to the question - how long do RVs last -
- RV depreciation
- How long can you use the RV
These are separate questions. Even if your RV loses value over the years, you may still be able to use it and enjoy living in it.
We'll discuss the loss of financial value in more depth further down this post. Let's begin by talking about how long would your RV actually last.
This part will focus on the living quarters of your RV. In a 5th wheel or travel trailer, that's pretty much all you have. Your tow vehicle - usually a pickup truck - is a separate unit. When it gets too old for your needs, you can replace the truck, while keeping the same travel trailer or 5th wheel. And if you're wondering about how long you should keep the truck, be sure to check out our guide about what kind of mileage is considered too high for a pickup truck.
In a motorhome, you have to worry about both parts: The vehicle component of the RV and the living quarters. You won't be able to sell just one or the other. This is literally a package deal. For the benefit of motorhome owners, we'll start with a few words about maintaining the vehicle side of a motorhome, and then move on to general RV maintenance issues.
How long do motorhomes last?
The living area in a motorhome and the other components associated with the "home" part of the rig can last as long as those in any travel trailer or 5th wheel. Generally speaking, that would be 10-15 years in an average quality motorhome. Higher with higher-end models.
The more challenging part is with the vehicle end of things.
Not only do you have an engine to care for, there is also a multitude of other vehicle systems, including safety systems. The vehicle industry keeps making progress on that end, making cars safer than ever. And a 20-year-old vehicle simply isn't as safe as a new one - no matter how well you maintain its components.
Having said that, if you don't mind driving in an older vehicle, an older motorhome that has been well-maintained and doesn't have too many miles on the odometer could last for 20 years, or even longer. In the same way that you can still see collectible 40-year-old cars on the road.
Making a motorhome's engine last longer
The way to make your motorhome last is similar to caring for any other RV - good maintenance. However, in this case, you have to maintain vehicle parts as well, first and foremost the engine.
Unless you're a gifted mechanic, this is definitely where you need professional help. Find a good trustworthy mechanic and work with him on a meticulous maintenance plan. Get the vehicle serviced on time and address issues as they arise, and your older motorhome can stay on the road for many years. Whether you opt to take your RV to a mechanic or perform maintenance yourself, be sure to check out our 49 RV maintenance tips.
Keep in mind the diesel engines last longer than gas engines (you can read more about that here). Also, engines can be replaced - a new engine can really breathe new life into an older motorhome!
How to make an RV last longer?
Time to talk about RV maintenance and how to make sure yours lasts for years in good condition. Whether you live in your RV full-time or just want to slow down depreciation, here's what you need to know about making the various parts of your rig last.
The following is true for all types of RVs.
Maintenance of the Roof
RV roof repairs are one of the most expensive RV repairs that you could end up paying for (you can read more about that here). That is why RV roof repairs are one of the deciding factors in the longevity of an RV.
RV roofs are prone to leaks that must be fixed as soon as possible, or you could end up with permanent damage.
Attempting to clean a roof must be done in a way that does not include harmful chemicals and excessive scrubbing. Many RV roofs come with a white protective coating that protects roofs from UV rays.
Fortunately, much newer RVs come with roof warranties that are valid for eight to fifteen years. Always consider a roof warranty before buying an RV.
Ideally, you should do roof maintenance on your RV every six to twelve months depending on what type of roof you have. If you are knowledgeable about RV roof materials, then you can more effectively prevent roof damage.
Here is a list of the three, most-common RV roofs:
These roofs are hard, soft, and heavier than most roof materials. They are made up of fiber-reinforced plastic that has a colored gel or clear resin coating. The gel coating slowly diminishes and dulls as heat, sunlight, and moisture come into contact with it. That combination of harmful elements speeds up the oxidation process. Oxidation can be prevented with periodic maintenance. There are granular products that can slow down the oxidation process for fiberglass roofs.
These roofs require slightly more maintenance than fiberglass roofs. They are lighter than fiberglass and metal roofs. They tend to be less expensive and are the most common material that is used for RV roofs. They are either Thermal Poly Olefin or Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer. They experience wear and tear over time and become chalky. Sweeping debris off a rubber roof and using oil soap to clean the roof of the RV are the main ways to prevent damage. Also, citric cleaners, abrasive cleaners, and any product that uses a petroleum distillate can damage a rubber roof. There are sealant products that can be used to repair rubber roofs.
Metal roofs are not a common type of roof for RVs. This is mainly because metal roofs tend to be heavier. They do not require very much maintenance. Keep an eye out for cracks because they can slowly become bigger over time. You can use a sealant to repair cracks.
What is the Best Material for RV Roofs?
Fiberglass is considered the best material for RV roofs. Fiberglass is the most durable and easiest to clean of three, previously stated RV roof materials. Fiberglass RV’s have a low wind resistance compared to the other materials.
General RV Maintenance and Replacement Parts
We're done with the roof! Now let's take a quick look at what other RV parts tend to age - and what you need to do about that.
- Tires – Keeping track of your tire pressure is very important. Make sure you replace tires when necessary. Most tires will last five years.
- Engine – Mileage should determine your engine maintenance schedule, not time. Car engine maintenance is very similar to RV engine maintenance. The main difference is that luxury RVs tend to have diesel engines. Monitoring the coolant of a diesel engine is very important.
- Generator – Make sure your generator does not have too many hours on it. Check your vehicle’s manual for information regarding generator maintenance since there are many different types of generators. Read more about RV generator maintenance here.
- Battery – Lead-acid batteries usually fail because of sulfation. Sulfate crystals are more likely to form if a battery is over or undercharged. Also, they are more likely to form if a battery is stored in a discharged state or if the level of electrolytes drops below the higher part of the lead plate. Also, it is important to know that lower temperatures extend a battery’s lifespan, but reduce its performance. Higher temperatures increase a battery’s storage capacity but reduce lifespan.
Here is a short checklist of some of the less significant RV parts and pieces that you should keep an eye on if you want to preserve the value of your RV.
- Fogged windows
- Timeworn air conditioners
- Stained, damaged upholstery
- Unclean or ragged window treatments
- Scratched, dirty mirrors
What types of RVs last the longest?
When talking motorhomes, diesel engines last longer because they run at lower RPMs than gas-powered engines. This means there is less strain on the engine.
As previously stated, the roof of an RV is crucial to the longevity of an RV. Therefore, diesel-powered RVs with high-quality roofs, such as fiberglass roofs, will last the longest.
Do your research on the various RV brands, and you will realize that some are designed to last longer than others. The RV industry is constantly trying to elongate the lifespan of their products.
Do Airstream Campers Last Longer?
Airstream is a leading RV manufacturer famous for its sleek metallic designs. The iconic bullet-shaped aluminum cans have been around for nearly a century now! They don't only have a retro look - some of the ones you see on the road really are vintage RVs!
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And yes, airstream travel trailers do last longer than your average RV. They still require maintenance of course, but with sufficient maintenance, they trailer can literally last for 30+ years without a problem.
Actually, even longer.
Once they turn 30 years old, they simply become vintage Airstream campers. And there's a huge market for those as well. Just check the Airstream Classifieds! You can easily buy airstreams from the 1970s, 1960s and even - believe it or not - the 1930s!!
Why not go for an everlasting camper then?
The price. Airstreams are considered to be among the most expensive travel trailers. Depending on the size and model, a brand new airstream can cost you anything between $80,000 and $140,00. Generally, they cost about 4-6 times more than the equivalent size average travel trailer.
Some of the 1980s and 1970s airstreams are sold for $30K and more. Yes, you could buy a brand new travel trailer for that amount.
Since RVs are vehicles - not just homes - they do depreciate, by definition. Unlike homes, they never appreciate with the years and their price can only go down as they get older. This is true of all RV types: Motorhomes, travel trailers, 5th wheels or toy haulers.
Firstly, the depreciation of an RV is closely linked to the year of the vehicle. Mileage matters as well. However, the year of the vehicle is more important.
This is because RVs are more likely to "die" of different types of failures than extraordinarily high mileage.
Generally speaking, high-end RVs tend to depreciate faster than cheaper or more average models. In the same way as luxury cars do. You see, all vehicles lose a percentage of their net worth every year - and more so during the first year. With an expensive luxury rig, that percentage simply spells out a higher amount of cash.
There are many different factors that determine how fast an RV will depreciate.
- After five years, you can expect 30% - 40% depreciation for your RV.
- After ten years, you can expect 45% - 60% depreciation for your RV.
- After twenty years, you can expect 85% - 95% depreciation for your RV.
Camperreport.com has an informative article on RV depreciation. My RV depreciation estimates are based on their estimates. Keep in mind that the depreciation estimates are based on averages. There are plenty of things you can do to elongate the life of your RV.
Buying a used RV?
One of the challenges when buying a used RV is figuring out - who many years does that RV still have in it? Some things may need fixing, so the next question is always - how much will it cost me to give this rig a facelift and restore it to at least some of its former glory?
This can be a difficult question to answer. When buying a used motorhome, 5th wheel or travel trailer, you're going to have to put a lot of effort into figuring out the real condition of the RV. Buying from a dealership that offers a warranty maybe your best bet. And even then - it's buyer beware.
If you're new to RVing, try and get an expert along with you. Many experienced RVers will be happy to come along and take a look at the rig. Just Google "RV forums," state your location and see if there's anyone in the area who could offer you some help.
And don't forget to read our post about buying a used RV. It includes a checklist (more than one, actually) of everything you need to check when inspecting a used RV. Only by performing a thorough checkup can you really assess how much life there is left in the rig.
Knowing how long RVs last is important for people who are considering buying an RV for the first time, and it is especially important for people who are saving up for a home.
An RV will last around five to ten years if you do not maintain it properly, and it will last around fifteen years if you do an average amount of maintenance.
However, if take great care of your RV and go the extra mile to preserve its value, then it can last twenty-five to thirty years.
Depreciation estimates are based on averages and are closely linked to the year of an RV instead of mileage. They are just estimates. Remember, there are many factors that go into the longevity of an RV.
The lifespan of your RV is mostly dependent on your willingness to maintain your RV. There are plenty of things you can do to elongate the life of your RV.
An RV’s roof, engine, and battery are the main things that you should focus on maintaining.
If you want an RV that will last a long time, then buy one from a reputable brand. When buying a motorhome, diesel-powered RVs with high-quality roofs tend to last the longest. And if you want one to last you a lifetime, consider an Airstream trailer.
Over to you - leave us a comment to let us know how old your RV is and how long you expect it to last!