So you’re thinking about buying a camper and are wondering if a used camper is worth it. How do you make a wise camper purchasing decision, and what criteria should you use? Price, personal preferences, practicality, perks, and other considerations should come into play when making your decision.
The average used camper costs $9,450 – $23,400 for popular brands up to eight years old, but campers can range in price from $1,500 – $150,000 depending on age, brand, condition and type of seller (individual or dealer). Buying a used camper is worth it once you determine the ideal combination of budget, age and value.
To determine whether buying a used camper is worth it, we created a hypothetical buyer in the market to purchase a camper. We then outline the buyer’s purchasing process to help you consider important variables involved in making the decision.
We recommend four main considerations to keep in mind when shopping for a used camper:
- Space Needed (personal preference and practicality)
- Price and Value
- Pros and Cons of Used Campers
In this example, our buyer decided to finance the camper and felt comfortable with a monthly payment of about $250. The buyer has a truck and feels the current truck that is paid off can pull the camper, so $250 doesn’t hurt too much and is probably less than most car payments. With that monthly payment in mind, our buyer used an RV loan calculator here, and came up with a maximum budget of $20,000 for a camper purchase. This $20,000 figure represents a down payment of $2,000, a loan term of 7 years, and an interest rate of 5%.
*Note: please check the towing capacity of your vehicle prior to purchasing a camper.
Of course, there will be some other costs for supplies and insurance, but the main figure of $250 as a payment works for our buyer.
Now that the buyer has a budget in mind, space is the next crucial consideration in camper selection.
Our buyer is married and has two children, 8 and 10 years old. The only campers being considered should have adequate space for two adults and two children.
Our buyer’s primary purpose for the camper centers around vacations, so as a practical matter, a large camper is not needed. Though a smaller camper will suffice, our buyer needs separate sleeping areas for the adults and children.
Although there are many models on the market that may work for the buyer, our research suggests the buyer’s family may find the bunkhouse option an excellent choice. The bunkhouse is an area or room that houses bunk bed-type sleeping. It’s versatile and can double as a reading space, fort, or just a place to hang out. This model would be a good, practical, space-saving, and fun idea for the buyer considering the age of the children. If the camper was to be a vacation vehicle for two married couples, the bunkhouse model would not be an ideal choice. The buyer would probably prefer a camper model with two bedrooms instead of a bedroom and bunkhouse.
Since a larger space is not necessary and the camper would only be used for short vacation trips, our buyer decided to pursue a camper without slides since there are many documented cases of mechanical and leaking problems associated with camper slides. The buyer’s personal preference was to reduce the number of moving parts since this would be the first camper purchase and ownership experience. The buyer understands and accepts space limitations without slides, but it is a tradeoff willingly made considering the purpose of the purchase.
Below is the floor plan the buyer’s family thinks would work well for them. It’s from a 2021 Jayco Jay Flight SLX 8 264 BHW. You can find more info HERE
Ok, two considerations down, two to go. Our buyer must next consider price and value.
Price and Value
The budget and space parameters help guide the consumer to the brand and camper model to consider. Since it was our buyer’s first camper purchase and there was a desire to avoid a slide, a more safe and sound decision was made to look at one of the longest-running, most successful camper brands. Our buyer’s decision was to select a camper from a popular, stable company and select a camper from a mid-sized model within the previously decided price parameters.
The buyer immediately liked the Jayco Jay Flight SLX Series, Model M-264 BHW as the top choice camper. That particular model changed names in the ninth year. Be mindful when selecting a used camper because older campers can quickly lose their value depending on a variety of factors. Also of note, campers become difficult to finance when they are over 10 years old. For these reasons, our buyer only considered used campers up to 8 years old.
We used NADAguides.com and priced the buyer’s favorite camper with base pricing for a Florida zip code over the eight-year period. Prices can vary depending on the type of options and packages the camper is equipped with and the camper’s zip code and age.
The results were compiled in the table below:
We also found a brand new 2023 Jayco Jay Flight SLX 8 264 BHW with an MSRP of $43,305, but discounted to $31,911. This unit is probably outfitted with a package and options*, but it gives us an idea of the cost for a new camper.
*Options and perks can really add value, BUT if you do not use these perks, why pay for them in the added option price. Example: some campers have outdoor showers or outdoor kitchens. If you do not like to cook outside because of flies, mosquitoes, or the elements, the outdoor kitchen doesn’t add value. If you’re a beach bum and love to camp at the beach, the outdoor shower package can really reduce the amount of sand in your camper and wear on your floor, so that would be a great value-added perk in the package.
Returning to the used campers as delineated by price, our buyer was a little confused initially but realized an analysis was needed to make a fully informed decision. The older the camper, the less the cost, but we reminded the buyer that the older the camper, the greater the likelihood of repair and maintenance expenses. It was then that the buyer understood the importance of considering whether the initial price difference and potential savings upfront was worth the assumption of risk in buying an older used camper.
The buyer had to determine a comfortable “sweet spot” between age, savings, and likelihood of repair.
Let’s look at the price difference over a few years using the average retail price to see if a sweet spot appears.
Newer Year Model – Older Year Model = Difference
$31,911 (New 2023) – $23,400 (2022) = $8,511
$23,400 (2022) – $20,600 (2021) = $2,800
$20,600 (2021) – $18,750 (2020) = $1,850
$18,750 (2020) – $17,050 (2019) = $1,700
$17,050 (2019) – $15,200 (2018) = $1,850
$15,200 (2018) – $13,600(2017) = $1,600
Even though the brand-new 2023 model had a value package, our buyer didn’t feel comfortable spending $8,511 just to buy a brand-new camper.
From the figures above, it seems the difference in yearly price reduction becomes more consistent when the camper is about 2 years old. With the stated budget in mind, the buyer decided to pursue the purchase of a 2020 or 2021 camper at the top of the budget believing a newer camper would experience fewer repair expenses.
Pros and Cons of Used Campers
It looks like the buyer has decided to purchase a 2-3 years old camper, but to assist in the process, we thought it would be helpful to list some pros and cons in black and white so the buyer would be fully aware of the purchasing decision.
- Trouble financing 10 plus years old campers (this is not an issue for our buyer)
- Tire age – manufacturers suggest replacing every 5 years (the buyer should budget for new tires within the next 2 years)
- Unknown repair history (some sellers have this, others may not or may not be truthful)
- No new camper warranty (at 2-3 years, the buyer may be able to acquire the balance of an added on warranty from a private seller)
- Used campers generally have initial bugs fixed
- Sometimes accessories are included (it’s a nice bonus when a seller throws in hoses, leveling blocks & wheel covers, etc.)
- Used costs less at face value – someone else takes the depreciation hit
- Opportunity to purchase the remainder of new camper warranty
The buyer decided the cons were not enough to deter purchasing a used camper because there wouldn’t be financing problems, there would be 2-3 years left on tires, and an inspection on a relatively new camper would provide peace of mind.
After much searching and researching, our buyer was able to locate a 2021 Jayco Jay Flight SLX Series, Model M-264 BHW for $18,900 and paid $900 for the remainder of the extended warranty for a total of $19,800. Some of the initial supplies like hoses and leveling blocks were thrown in. The buyer, spouse, and children were happy with the purchase and space in their new camper.
Buying a used camper can be a great investment, but there are different considerations to keep in mind to ensure it is worth it. The NADA Guide can help you determine a reasonable price for your camper criteria. Evaluating your budget, space needs, purpose, price and value while considering the pros and cons of used campers will lead you to the purchasing decision that’s right for you and your family. If you make a well researched and informed purchase, you will find a used camper purchase is definitely worth it!