Why “Buy Your Second RV First” Makes Me Cringe

Cringe… like a person might cringe with something like this looming over their shoulder

When someone new asks in an RVing community for advice on what RV to buy, it’s become common to see at least one “buy your second RV first” response.

The idea behind this sentiment is to spend more money for a better RV right out the gate, so that you don’t have to deal with depreciation selling the first RV to buy the second, and only need to shop for and organize an RV once.

The reason why this advice falls flat is that many newbies hardly know what they want in an RV right now, let alone two years in the future. Your first RV is always going to be your first RV. Trying to think ahead to what future-you is going to want will bring little more than frustration. You can’t know for sure what you’ll want two years from now, you’re not that person yet.

Better to accept that your needs and wants will change, and focus on meeting the needs of present-you when it comes to your first RV. In Solo Full-time RVing On A Budget I actually recommend taking a completely different route from “second RV first”: choose an older and less expensive ‘trial’ RV knowing that it won’t be your final one. This accomplishes a few things:

  1. RV shopping becomes less panic-inducing when you take the stance that this doesn’t have to be your forever RV.
  2. You won’t feel like a failure for not being able to guess what future-you eventually decides they need, instead testing the waters becomes part of the plan.
  3. If you decide RVing isn’t for you after all, you’re out less money.
  4. RVs depreciate quickest in the first five years, so buying an older one first means you won’t have as big of a loss on your investment when it comes time to trade in.

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At IO I teach people how to ditch the status quo and travel full-time before retirement, and share stories of my adventures (and misadventures) to inspire future nomads and armchair travelers alike. Included at no additional charge: seizing your dreams, living boldly, and making a difference.


  1. Becky on December 15, 2017 at 2:51 pm

    Thanks for the comments everyone!

  2. Terri on December 15, 2017 at 6:41 am

    Oh god, I agree with this post!! My first (and only so far) Rv was a fifth wheel. I bought it because I thought I would be completely stationary for years. Then after six months, I moved, and had to pay someone else to move it for me since i didn’t have a truck. And it was big. Too big.

    I read about so many RVers that change their vheicles/Rvs a lot over the years. It’s rare you find someone like my friend Dan (Wander Dano channel on youtube) that is very happy with the choice he made (Class B) and still is, years later.

    I think if you think of it as the only RV, you will put too much pressure on yourself and can even put yourself into paralysis by analysis, you know? Your advice is sound, as always!
    Terri recently posted..The Power of Two!! (Milestones)My Profile

  3. Roger on December 10, 2017 at 3:54 pm

    We used a slightly different approach. We bought our last RV first – a brand new one with exactly what we wanted (or thought we did as best as we could figure at the time). If we liked it (the RV and RVing), we’d keep it till it, or we, don’t run anymore. Then we move on to a new hobby. If not, we’re done – sell it and find a new hobby. We’re in our 60’s though, so time is relatively short. No point wasting valuable time and resources on something that’s not working for us. So far, almost 2 years in, we still enjoy it.

  4. Norm H. on December 8, 2017 at 7:08 pm

    Good advice and thoughts. We cannot know where life will take us. If we do manage to buy our “second RV first,” we have either learned to be completely content or got very lucky-not bad outcomes but not the usual experience.

  5. Michelle on December 8, 2017 at 6:08 pm

    I agree. Who knows who you will be by the time you get your second rv (if you ever do)?

    Where are you in that picture? I see someone mentioned it in the comments, but for those that don’t read all the comments… 🙂

    • Becky on December 9, 2017 at 3:33 pm

      I’m under the dragon’s head, looking alarmed, haha.

  6. Becky on December 8, 2017 at 9:23 am

    Good comments everyone, thanks for sharing! Next post will be a continuation of my Arizona boondocking travelogue, I left you all hanging because I didn’t quite have enough material for a full-length post before. I do now. 🙂

  7. Ann in Tacoma on December 8, 2017 at 2:52 am

    Absolutely! That advice is as good as someone saying “marry your second wife first”. What? I understand the sentiment, but it’s impossible to do, as you say. Buy a nice clean, used rig of whatever nature you think might be best in your current circumstances and then learn! Learn all about the rig, the tow vehicle (or the toad vehicle), what type of RVing you want to do, and learn whether RVing is for you. And when you’re out there in your RV or camper or tent, talk with every RV owner you can who will talk with you face-to-face about manufacturers and warranties and custom-builders and such. Manufacturers certainly aren’t all equal and certainly aren’t all as responsive or as responsible as they should be. There are owners’ forums online for specific manufacturers and there are generic RV owners’ forums .. check them out and ask questions. But I’ve found I get lots more info and more candid info when I talk with people in person and you just can’t do that online. Great post, Becky. Thank you.
    Ann in Tacoma recently posted..Taking a bite out of lifeMy Profile

  8. Linda Sand on December 7, 2017 at 5:38 pm

    That phrase always makes me cringe, too. I think you can’t know how you will use an RV until you try it. We did tons of research and practiced living in a tiny space at home yet we still bought the wrong one. For instance, there’s no way to know how big your tanks need to be until you experience them.

  9. Celena on December 7, 2017 at 4:50 pm

    This is great advice. We’re happy with what we bought, but we did a ton of research, rented a rig to test drive for a week, and stayed in a couple different RV at RV hotels to get a sense of what kind of space, size and features we wanted. Every once in awhile we wish we had gone slightly larger, but then I remember that we just barely fit into some pretty awesome national forest and National Park campgrounds, and I let that go 🙂

  10. Alan Belisle on December 7, 2017 at 11:13 am

    Maybe the most prudent thing to do for your first RV is to rent one. It might seem like a glorious way to tour America, but just try it for a while before investing. Deal with the logistics, the expenses, the hours on the road either towing a big load or driving a behemoth vehicle, or trying to park it. And even if you do decide you love it, what about your home and your stuff? If you can’t divest yourself of all that baggage, you are just a snowbird, doing a little vacationing.
    Alan Belisle recently posted..Footloose 2-Year Anniversary Recap, Part 1My Profile

  11. Allie on December 7, 2017 at 10:50 am

    I agree with your sentiments in terms of needs changing over time. But, I’ve always had a different interpretation of the “buy your second RV first” concept. I think most people buy without having spent enough time really thinking about how they are going to use it and how it will fit their situation, thus quickly finding themselves wanting a different rig that fits them better – the way a well thought out purchase would have the first time around. Buying an older one makes sense financially, but I also typically advise friends to rent first and really think about how the RV will function for them. Better yet, rent for a rainy long weekend when you’re all trapped inside. 😉 Actually, I think it’s worthwhile renting just to see if they even like RV’ing, as most people have limited experience and are just basing it on daydreams or fun pictures on instagram.

    I rented an RV for a three week trip in my late 20s. It was expensive, but I had no intention at that time of buying an RV (I was a car camper/backpacker). But suddenly I found this awesome new way to roadtrip and was all in. I saved and bought my rig a few years later, but that rental experience was HUGE in giving me the ability to assess what would and wouldn’t work for my situation. While I love going to the RV shows to look at the new models, I’ve never found an RV that compares (for me) to the unicorn I tracked down and bought. And the Coachmen guys that know me there always ask “When are you going to trade up?? Everyone always comes back and buys a bigger one after a couple years!” Nope. I clearly thought about what I wanted and needed and got the right one first.

    Now, back to needs changing over time… I got divorced and that perfect floorplan is bigger than I need for just me and two big dogs. And now my dogs have passed, so it’s much more than I need for just me. Different seasons. If I were buying now, I’d get something smaller, but I’m content with the unicorn I have. 🙂

    • Becky on December 8, 2017 at 9:27 am

      I feel like a broken record sometimes Allie, I preach ‘research, research, research’ all the time on here. 😉

      I’ve mentioned the renting thing before too, and it’s great for those who have the extra money. But not everyone does. I didn’t.

  12. Darren on December 7, 2017 at 9:51 am

    Hey Becky, you are so right. My first rv was a learning experience. I lived in it over a year and it showed me how to transport, store stuff, get rid of stuff and live daily. It also gave me a good idea of what I wanted in my second trailer. Well, we have been in our new trailer for over a month now and it’s better than our last one. But, it still isn’t the perfect rig. It was new but we have had nothing but problems. We have had a huge expense on appliance problems and electric issue. Every time something happens we have been told that warranty does not cover problem. Are we happy with camper? Yes in some aspects and no in others. People need to understand that it always isn’t a perfect life in a camper. There are great reasons for this life style but to say buy your second rig, you are right it makes me cringe also. I would rather us be in our cramped older rv than in the new one with all the problems we are having. Take care Becky and safe roads!

  13. Greg Ponder on December 7, 2017 at 6:31 am

    Love your posts…and the Borrego Springs dragon, too!

  14. squeakytiki on December 7, 2017 at 2:33 am

    I was just thinking about this the other day because up until a few months ago I was that first time RV buyer. And know just how often my mind changed during the choosing process. Now that I’ve found my rv I love it…but I’m already thinking about something different a few years down the line.
    If I had the ability to look into the future like they want people to, I’d buy lottery tickets lol.

  15. Robin on December 6, 2017 at 8:25 pm

    Totally agree…

  16. Pamela Campbell on December 6, 2017 at 8:14 pm

    There are no guarantees. I agree with you, Becky. Choose the best one for you now. None of us knows what we might like in a few years. Happy Travels!

  17. Judy on December 6, 2017 at 7:19 pm

    We have camped for many years with a truck and camper, to pull a boat, all while our children were growing. Then we bought an older TT that was made really well. It had some dents, so hunting was ok. When we started full time my hubby redid a few things, but after seeing wind almost take the siding off, I wanted something a little newer. I honestly didn’t expect a new TT as they are poorly made, but hubby wanted one so we have payments where we didn’t before. It’s nice but liked the way the older was made. Maybe someday I’ll get a toy hauler. That’s what I wanted.

    • Tom niemeier on December 7, 2017 at 6:17 am

      Toy haulers are cool. First a 29′, now 35′ with pop outs. Gate makes great patio. Can carry kayaks and Harley’s together and makes great 2nd br for guests and grandkids. Ours has walk thru benches and a sliding glass door separating. Kayaks fit thru door and between Harley’s on a rack I made. Cyclone by Heartland

  18. Rob on December 6, 2017 at 6:42 pm

    Coludn’t agree more. Having spent 3 years in our current fifth wheel (a 2001 that we paid cash for), we know exactly what we want, and don’t want, in our next one.

  19. Tim waterhouse on December 6, 2017 at 5:47 pm

    I totaly agree that buying a cheaper older Rv is best. My current Rv is a 1995 Bounder class a. I learned a lot about it and still love it but I know now what I want and am in the process of getting another newer but used Rv. I learned about tires, water pumps and my favorite Rv electronics. I also know what mods I want to make to my next Rv. I understand the 12 volt systems and how to better maintain the battires. I understand about the black and gray tanks and how to correctly deal with them. I have lived in this Rv almost 2 years and am glad I purchased a Rv I consider disposable Rv as I have got the value out of it all ready and when I sell it I know that what ever I get is profit.

  20. Rick & Brock the Dog on December 6, 2017 at 4:46 pm

    Good thoughts Becky. When I first started looking at RVing I looked at trailers. Then Class C’s then truck campers. Ended up buying an older Alaskan truck camper and using it for a year to see if I liked the life. Sold it and bought another truck camper popup. Love it and the brand holds it’s value. But realized in using it that while very good for back country if I wanted to go somewhere else I had to close up shop and then set up again. Or unload the camper off the truck. So, bought a fiberglass 17B Escape trailer. Happy to report the Escapes hold their value well also. Now I use the truck camper for short trips with lots of traveling and the trailer for long trips where I sit in one spot and explore. It all depends on the individual. Safe travels!

  21. Dave Rosebaugh on December 6, 2017 at 3:11 pm

    Great advice. We started in 2009 with a used 13′ Scamp, and loved it. Compared to the cost of motels and restaurants, it paid for itself on our first trip. Two years later, to gain a bathroom and A/C, we traded it in on a new one. Five years after that, we sold it for more than we paid for it. Our latest upgrade is a 19′ Escape, which will be perfect for us for many years. Given the fiberglass market, I’m certain it will sell for more than we paid.