An RV is a major investment. Ideally, you'll be spending a lot of time in your new ride and may even come to see it as a second home (or primary home, if van life is your speed). That’s why it’s so important to research and understand the typical RV lifespan before purchasing one of your own.
In this article, we’ll dig into the average lifespan of an RV, factors that impact an RV’s longevity, how different RV classes age, and how to get the most bang for your buck as RV owners.
RV Lifespan Averages
An RV can last anywhere from 10 to 30 years or 100,000 to 300,000 miles. That wide range proves just how much an RV's lifespan can be impacted by the type of RV, the owner, and how well it's maintained. At a minimum, you can expect an RV to last for at least a decade if you perform regular maintenance.
Factors Influencing RV Lifespan
There’s certainly nothing wrong with a shiny new RV, but used RVs can be just as great — and definitely more affordable. Some older RVs even contain higher quality materials than some newer ones, but it all comes down to the individual brand and model.
Here are a few other factors that have a big effect on your RV lifespan, regardless of its generation:
Now, let’s explore exactly how these factors can influence your RV’s lifespan.
Breaking Down RV Lifespan by Model Type
There are three classes of RVs: Class A, Class B, and Class C. They all have their benefits, but your RV’s model type can have an impact on its lifespan. Here’s a breakdown of how long you can expect each RV class to last.
Class A Motorhome
Think bigger is better? The Class A RV may be your perfect match. Measuring between 26 to 35 feet and weighing in at 13,000 to 30,000 pounds, this heavy-hitter is basically a house on wheels. Its frame is strong and its living space is often luxurious, but it also has the worst fuel economy and a lot of RV components.
Desirable features like slide-outs, TVs, and car storage add to maintenance considerations. For example, slide-outs will usually start showing their age in a matter of 10 years and electronics can become outdated even faster. Overall, the Class A requires more attention than smaller RVs.
Average Lifespan: 10 to 20 years / 200,000 miles
Class B Motorhome
If you’re in this for the long(est) haul, a Class B RV may be your best bet. Between 17 and 23 feet long and 4,000 to 9,000 pounds, it's the smallest type of RV and is commonly referred to as a “camper van.” Class B motorhomes have the best fuel economy and tend to last longer than their Class A counterparts. When properly maintained, a Class B can hit 300,000 miles.
Class Bs contain standard features like a bed and indoor storage space, and some include bathrooms and dining areas. With fewer extra features, fewer things can break. And since it's pulling a lighter load, the engine won't be working as hard, therefore, extending the life of your motorhome..
Average Lifespan: 10 to 20 years / 200,000 to 300,000 miles
Class C Motorhome
The Class C RV is a mid-sized option that falls between the Class A and Class B in size — at 20 to 30 feet and 10,000 to 13,000 pounds — and gas mileage. Class Cs are a great compromise if you want something less expensive than a Class A but with more features than a Class B. It also has a good lifespan to boot.
Average Lifespan: 10 to 20 years / 200,000 to 300,000 miles
Model types have distinct differences and will have some impact on the RV lifespan. However, the basics of RV maintenance don’t vary too much from model to model. With proper maintenance, you can make any type of RV last well beyond 200,000 miles — and even three decades.
Maintaining Your RV for Longevity
Treating your RV to regular maintenance and inspections will extend its lifespan and keep issues at bay. Each season, you’ll want to check your tanks, battery, roof, slide-outs, and other important parts. It’s also important to thoroughly clean the vehicle and store it properly when it’s not in use. Beyond routine inspections, checks, and cleaning, there are several other things you can do to ensure a long-lasting RV.
Tips for Protecting Your RV From Wear and Tear
Here are some valuable tips for extending the life of your RV:
Cover your RV. Don’t leave your RV exposed to the elements! Invest in an RV cover to protect it when not in use. If possible, store your RV inside.
Keep your tires up to date. New tires aren’t cheap, but they are cheaper than the aftermath of an accident due to a tire blowout, which can be dangerous and severely damage other parts of your RV.
Check the plumbing. If you live in an area with particularly hard water, buildup may accumulate inside your RV’s plumbing equipment. While plumbing fixtures will deteriorate over time, they can last 10 years or more with proper care.
Protect it with wax. Wax creates a protective coating around your RV, which keeps it looking shiny and new in addition to staving off wear and tear. Depending on how often you use your RV, you may need to wax it more than once per year.
Stick to a maintenance routine. This may go without saying, but we’re going to say it anyway: Schedule oil changes regularly, every 4,000 to 6,000 miles.
Secure exterior compartments. The more parts can shift, the more likely they are to break.
Don’t neglect your roof. Routinely check for any signs of cracking or damage to avoid bigger issues down the road.
Keep it clean. Regularly washing the RV will prevent salt from eroding its surfaces.
Get your brakes checked. Think about it: RV brakes have to work much harder than car brakes because an RV weighs so much more. Replace your brake pads ASAP if you ever hear a grinding sound when braking (although it’s better to avoid that sound altogether!).
Last but definitely not least: winterize! The way you store your RV is as important as the way you use it, and “winterizing” is the process of properly preparing your RV for winter storage. This process includes draining/flushing all tanks, bypassing your water heater, opening all internal and external valves and faucets, and pouring antifreeze down p-traps.
Failing to winterize an RV can cause a lot of unnecessary headaches, including water damage, electrical issues, and plumbing problems. Before letting your RV sit for an extended period of time, take the appropriate steps to ensure it’s good to go come spring.
Why RVs Typically Last Longer Than Traditional Cars or Trucks
An RV will often last longer than standard cars or trucks. This is due to a number of factors including their design, frequency of usage, and owner maintenance.
Differences in Design and Construction
RVs are designed differently than other vehicles. They’re constructed to haul heavy loads and be (quite literally) lived in.
RV engines can be either gas or diesel, but diesel engines tend to last longer than gas engines — at least 100,000 miles longer. Mainly, this is due to two things:
The diesel engine has a durable design including fewer components, which means fewer things are likely to break.
Diesel is an oil that lubricates the engine as it’s running, as opposed to the solvent gasoline which actually dissolves oil.
Diesel RVs are also more powerful and have better torque, meaning they’re better able to tow heavy loads.
Lesser Frequency of Usage Compared to Daily Vehicles
Often, RVs last longer than daily vehicles because they’re not driven every day of the year and are therefore subjected to less wear and tear. If you use your RV constantly it will wear out faster. That’s not to say you should let it sit around collecting dust — which can create its own set of problems — but keep mileage in mind if you’re shopping for a used RV.
Durability of Components and Materials Used
RVs are often built using heavy-duty components like those you’d find in a semi-truck. Such components can make a semi last up to 500,000 miles without major issues. Of course, truck drivers generally hit that number within one year. RV drivers are unlikely to drive that much in twice the time.
Enhanced Maintenance and Care by Owners
RVs often last longer simply because owners drive them with caution and treat them with extra care.
You can save on maintenance costs and tack years onto your RV’s life simply by adjusting your driving style. Brake gently, accelerate modestly, and maintain a slow, steady speed. You’ll still get to your destination, and you’ll enjoy the scenery more in the meantime.
Enjoy RV Life with Cruise America
No RV lasts forever, but the memories you’ll make with one certainly will. With the proper maintenance and care, your RV should be by your side for many years and many, many miles to come.
Now that you know all about the typical RV lifespan, you can find your ideal RV on Cruise America and start planning the fun stuff — like, oh, the places you’ll go!