Are Campers A Good Investment?Anthony Day
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When considering the “camper life,” cost is a huge factor. Knowing the pros and cons of camper investment will help you make the best decision.
Purchasing your first camper is an adult rite of passage for some. You’ve seen them in the movies, in your friend’s driveway, passing by the freeway with families looking blissfully problem free and ready for adventure. The question remains, are you throwing your money away or making the investment of a lifetime?
The pros of purchasing a camper:
- It can save you money in the long run
- You can rent it out for a profit
- If you maintain it properly, you can resell
- They are costly and lose value as soon as you insert the key
- They require ongoing maintenance
In order to make the soundest financial investment, there are several variables you will need to think about. How often will you use it? New or used? Are you willing to offset the cost by renting your camper out? You should know the pros and cons, and we will give you the knowledge to make a good camper investment.
Through research into camper trends and advice from fellow adventurers, we have compiled their input below to help you make the best choice.
Is Buying a Camper a Good Financial Investment
Is buying a camper the ultimate investment or a money pit on wheels? The answer is a yes if you consider the intangible and goodwill aspects of owning your license to freedom. However, there are some practical matters to keep in mind because, at the end of the day, there are also drawbacks to consider if you're a balance sheet type of person.
What Is the Difference Between an RV and a Camper
Let’s just get this out of the way from the start; a camper is an RV, but an RV isn’t always a camper. Simple right?
RV is an acronym for “recreational vehicle,” which makes it an umbrella term for everything from motorhomes to camper vans. This includes models that can be towed by another vehicle, driven by themselves, or even built into the back of a truck. Some new wave RV adventurists might even include the adventure purpose van like the Airstream’s Interstate 19 Touring Coach. At just 19ft this model is a more nimble version of the classic motorhome with all the amenities and better gas mileage.
Potato, pahtahto, let's get on the road.
What Are the Benefits Of Buying a Camper
The benefits of buying a camper are many. Still, the upsides are likely to be relayed by either a salesman or someone who has already purchased a camper and wants also to convince themselves that they made a good investment while staying awake at night fretting over resale value.
It is truly a matter of perspective. The main benefits of owning a camper are adventure, convenience, and possibly financial benefits.
Owning a Camper Provides Freedom and Convenience
From an adventure and convenience perspective, when you have your own camper, you are the captain of your own vacation. You are not reliant on train, plane, or bus schedules—no costly and restrictive baggage fees. You can take your bike, ATV, or extra vehicle with you.
Not to mention, you have your own kitchen, your favorite knife set, and a bathroom with all the conveniences of home and none of the foul smell of a public restroom. Ok, the last one, it depends on the upkeep, but it’s likely going to be more private.
Convenience is at its peak when you are traveling with your own camper.
Can Buying a Camper Save You Money
The RV Industry Association (RIVA) tells us that families can most definitely save money on camper vacation as opposed to other types of vacation travel. Depending on variables like the size and type of RV, a family of four can potentially save 21-64% by opting for a camper vacation, while a party of two can save 8-53% of costs associated with holiday travel.
While fuel prices can make these savings volatile, RIVA estimates that the gas prices would have to increase to $13 per gallon to lose its economic advantage over other types of travel.
You Can Rent Out Your Camper Van
One of the significant factors that should be examined when considering the value of a camper investment is: how often will I use it? How weekends a year do I need to stamp my National Park Pass to get the maximum return on my investment?
To ease the burden of getting a maximum return, you can have someone else cover those monthly payments by renting out your camper. Renting your camper out is a great way to subsidize ownership.
Renting your RV:
- Allows other people to test out the experience of owning a camper.
- It can earn you up to $275 a night for Class A RVs.
- It can enable you to make the purchase of an RV in the first place, with renters subsidizing your payments.
It is a give-and-take that will involve more wear and tear and miles put on your RV, but an option if you are a light camper user.
Should I Buy a New or Used Camper
The clear-cut answer to this one is unless you are committed to owning the brightest, shiniest, newest in all the technology RV, it’s likely a better all-around investment to buy a gently used camper.
The reason for opting for used over sparkly new is depreciation. Depreciation in RVs, like all vehicles, starts the moment they leave the lot, but for campers, this can mean losing tens of thousands of dollars in the first several years. Immediate depreciation can be up to 20%.
Because of this, owners who have buyers regret or realize they wouldn’t use their new camper as much in the first year will generally let an almost new camper go for well under the original sticker price without the new buyer having to sacrifice much in the wear and tear department.
How to Make a Good Investment in a Camper
If you have decided to buy a new or used camper, there are a few things that will help you make the best investment, including price, model, and condition.
Here are a few helpful tips before you plunk down your hard-earned dollars:
- Know what type of camper you are in the market for. Narrow down the class of vehicle you are looking for and research relative pricing.
- Do a close inspection of your potential buy, and go over every inch of the camper with a third-party professional.
- Look for mold, visible and invisible. Mold is a common problem in used campers and can be hidden in vents, cupboards, and floorboards.
- Check exterior panels for signs of rust and corrosion.
- Check the tires; most campers should have tires replaced every 5 years.
- Know the camper's history and run the VIN number for ownership, potential rebuilds, and wrecks.
- Take it or a test drive. This seems like a given, but consider taking a mechanic with you who is knowledgeable about campers.
Finally, be prudent and buy insurance. Depending on the state, it might even be required. Consider liability coverage as well- campers are unwieldy beasts, and the road offers a variety of hazards.
Why You Should Think Twice About Buying a Camper
This wouldn’t be a well-rounded perspective if we didn’t consider some of the downsides to making a camper investment.
Campers Lose Value Quickly
As we noted above, new camper’s begin to lose their value the minute they leave the sales lot. They will continue to depreciate at 10-15% a year thereafter.
Unexpected Upgrades That Come With a Camper Purchase
While your camper might look like perfection when it drives off the lot, it is likely a stock version. You can expect to spend additional cash on comforts like:
- A backup generator
- Kitchen Supplies
- Backup Camera
If you purchase a used camper, set aside money for any remodeling and maintenance needed from previous wear and tear.
Campers Require Ongoing Maintenance
Speaking of maintenance, campers need regular attention whether they are well-traveled or not. The average camper's lifespan is 20 years or 200,000 miles. Standard maintenance regularly required over that timespan can be split into monthly and seasonal checklists.
On a monthly basis, you can expect these maintenance tasks for your camper:
- Cleaning of AC vents
- Pest Control
- Lubrication of slide outs
- Maintenance of seals
On a seasonal basis, maintenance tasks for campers include:
- Generator checks
- Engine maintenance
- Tire replacement
- Safety equipment inspected
- Deep cleaning of interiors
This time-consuming maintenance list might explain why 66% of RV owners are over the age of 55 and likely have more time to spend on support tasks for their camper. However, if you are alright with putting in a little elbow grease to maintain your camper, it can offer infinite adventures (well, at least up to 200,000 miles).