Are Used RVs and Camper Vans Under $5,000 Worth it?

by Gabrielle DeSantis

The market for a getaway home on wheels is soaring. The pandemic left people looking for ways to travel while remaining socially distanced. Today, some international travel is still uncertain and households are looking for ways to go on big adventures––domestic style. Motorhomes, various RV models, and campers can be crazy expensive, though. Are used RVs and camper vans under $5,000 worth it? 

VW Eurovan | Road Trip Oregon

For the budget shopper, it’s entirely possible to find used RVs and camper vans under $5,000. However, the models most buyers will find in places like RVTrader, Craigslist, and Facebook Marketplace tend to be older or high mileage. Are they worth the spend, or is renting an RV a smart idea? 

Used RVs and camper vans under $5,000

Mitsubishi Delica minivan rear 3/4 view
Mitsubishi Delica minivan | Mitsubishi

If potential buyers find a used RV or camper for under $5,000, it’s generally going to be something like a Ford Econoline conversion, or an older GM van. There are also older used camper vans like the Volkswagen Westfalia or Mitsubishi Delica. Depending on the buyer’s van life fantasies, all of these models tend to be fixer-uppers for this price range. 

There are also minivan conversions. If a trailer is ok, there are actually many travel trailers and popup trailers on the market in this price bracket. In fact, this is likely the more practical way to go for prospective RV buyers that don’t want to dole out loads of cash. 

According to CrowSurvival, travel trailers like the 2011 Forest River Cherokee Wolf Pup or 2011 Jayco Jay Feather Sport are good travel trailers under $5,000. However, there is a lot to consider when buying any kind of RV for sale. 

How much does it cost to insure an RV? 

The interior living area inside of a 2011 Jayco Jay Feather Sport shows an example fo a used RV for under $5,000.
2011 Jayco Jay Feather Sport interior | Jayco

Most of the used RVs or camper vans out there for under $5,000 are either Class B models or trailer RVs. Class B RVs are what we generally think of as campers vans or conversions. Owners usually insure these with standard vehicle insurance.

Due to the varying sizes, types, and conditions of these types of Class B RVs, insurance rates largely vary. However, owners are still looking at paying a yearly premium to keep up with having a camper van in their fleet. 

Trailer RVs are typically the cheapest kind of RV to insure. NADA Guide tells us that it costs anywhere from $200-$1000 per year to insure a travel trailer. These prices also vary depending on a number of variables such as the specific RV state-specific regulations. 

Is it wiser to rent an RV or camper van than to buy one? 

A travel writer enjoying her rented RV at a scenic camp ground
Renting an RV | Julia Rendleman for The Washington Post via Getty Images

To answer this question, buyers will need to take a good look at what they really want out of owning a camper van or RV. While buying a used RV or camper van for under $5,000 might sound appealing, it’s going to come with insurance costs and RV maintenance responsibilities. For anyone that is ready to dive into van life head first and hit the road full-time for a while, investing a little bit more money might pay off in the long run. 

Or, buyers should understand that it’s likely they will spend the initial $5,000 and then at least a few thousand additional dollars to get it ready for reliable full-time van life. Those that think they are more likely to only use their RV, travel trailer, or camper van a few times a year for a quick getaway may find it far more thrifty to rent one from somewhere like Outdoorsy

This is an online platform that connects current RV owners with potential renters. Like a hotel, this type of rental can cost anywhere from under $100 to a few hundred dollars per night. For this price, RV renters can take an RV vacation without the commitment of buying one. 

For some, buying a used RV or camper van for under $5,000 might be the ideal project to take on. However, it’s probably wise to at least consider renting a few for a vacation to get a feel for what you want in an RV. That way they can find out if an RV in that price range will actually offer what they want. If not, renting is a great alternative to buying an RV.

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