Perhaps the most challenging question we regularly get from our followers is how to find a Class B RV on a budget. It's not easy. But we have some tips that will help in the search for your dream campervan.
RV's are in tremendous demand and the prices of new Class B RVs are through the roof, even if you can find one. Build times on new ones can stretch as long as 14 months and many dealers around North America are experiencing low inventories.
Class B RVs – aka campervans – are the most in-demand of all the RVs being sold today. The van life craze shows no signs of dying down.
And that situation is not expected to improve until mid-summer 2021.
Those are the optimistic predictions.
Reality Check: A New Campervan is Expensive!
To get a quality Class B RV in 2021, you will easily have to pay six figures. That's just a fact of this seller's market.
But even if you can afford a new one, finding a new Class B RV is already difficult. And when you throw in a budget limit, the challenge can seem monumental.
But not impossible.
Jennifer and I are always answering questions about this. So let's start out this article with just that – a question that came into our RV Podcast. We'll share a transcript of the answer we provided on the podcast. After that, we'll circle back with some more specifics on finding an RV at a price you can afford.
Here's the transcript:
Hi, Mike, and Jennifer, it's Karen.
I really enjoy your RV lifestyle newsletter and podcasts. I got a question. I'm a retired sixty-two-year-old female and I recently just sold my Class C 24 ft RV.
That was on a Chevy 4500 chassis and I really loved her. She was perfect in so many ways, but I wanted to buy something smaller.
So now I'm kind of confused as to what I should do. I've been searching on RV Trader and different places and I really want a van type RV because I want to go places that will accommodate shorter length and height vehicle.
Her budget for the Class B RV campervan: $55,000
I know I want gas vs. Diesel and I really don't want to spend over $55,000 total.
I can't justify a new one because the prices are way too high.
So I've been looking at Chevy models because I really like how mine drove very strong and reliable and I want to be able to travel during all seasons, winter camping, boondocking, off the grid. Go to the mountains, you know, go wherever I want to go.
Her wish list: 4×4, all wheel drive, 4 season use
So I'd love to have something with an all-wheel or four-wheel drive to get me in two different places, but I don't know if that is really a necessity and it's very difficult to find those.
I'm also considering buying a cargo van and having it built out or partial build-out and doing some of it myself.
I was thinking also maybe an older model Pleasure-Way because I've always gravitated to those.
So I was wondering if you had any advice on what type of vehicle I might want to consider or if my thoughts are in the wrong direction.
She wants to bring a kayak along
I really don't like the fold-down electric beds. I think I prefer twin beds and I want to be able to bring a kayak and a bicycle.
I travel along with my dog and no I'm not afraid to travel alone. I've done it for quite a while now. I also backpack and hike so I'd be bringing that type of equipment along I've been looking at a lot of YouTube videos.. Doing a lot of research, but I'm kind of confused. The more research I do, the more I'm thinking that it will end up costing near a new price when I'm done building or retrofitting an older model vehicle.
So if there's any advice that you could give me or considerations on purchasing an older model vehicle, or maybe why not to purchase one, I'd really appreciate it.
Thank you so much. Mike and Jennifer. I hope you can answer my questions and maybe use it on your podcast. Okay. Have a good day. Thanks. Bye.
Here's a transcript of our answer to buying a Class B RV on a budget:
Jennifer Wendland: What a well thought out question.
Mike Wendland:; Yeah Karen has done her homework hasn't she?
Jennifer Wendland: She certainly has.
Make a list of what you want in an RV
Mike Wendland: Well Karen you don't sound confused. You have a pretty clear list of what you want, and that is good. But let me give you a bit of a reality check. For $55,000 if that's that's your top budget, you're going to have to make some compromises. To buy a new RV, with most of those features that you want, you're going to be talking about double that, $100,000 or more.
Avoid cheap RVs
Now you can find really cheap RVs and I'm just not going to recommend them because the quality is just not there. I mean, all you got to do is look at them and you will see. So to get a new one, that has most of those features you wanted, it's going to cost north of $100,000.
The best bargains are with used RVs
So previously owned is what you need to shop for. But be realistic. You're going to have to buy something six or seven years old. So probably somewhere in tha 2014-2016 model years will get you close enough to your $55,000 budget. So I would start looking at those model years.
Jennifer Wendland: I thought Karen was right in saying that she's looking at used ones that the all-wheel and the four-wheel drives are hard to find.
Mike Wendland: You're going to have to go back six, seven years to get that price. I don't even think they made four-wheel drive RV's back then. Those are fairly new, within the last few years. And to just give you our experience, we now have all-wheel on our current RV.
It did come in handy a couple of times on sand when we were boondocking.
But we also did have a four-wheel drive at one point, and we never really needed it. We just never needed it in the couple of years we had it.
4WD RVs are known for bumpy rides
Jennifer Wendland: If I recall right that was a very bumpy ride, the four-wheel drive.
Mike Wendland: It was. The four-wheel drive is a very stiff, bumpy ride. It wasn't comfortable. So I don't think the all-wheel or four-wheel drive options are anything you have to worry about. You'll still be able to go off the beaten path even with a two-wheel drive RV, Karen.
If that's what you like, the Chevy models from that era, I would suggest you look at used Class B RVs under the Roadtrek brand. The ones that were built in 2013, 2014, they were still building on the Chevy chassis. new those things are bulletproof. The specific models Roadtrek built on the Chevy van chassis are the 190 and 210. They no longer make those models. But if you can find used 190 or 210's, they are bulletproof.
Jennifer Wendland: They're like little tanks, they don't wear out.
Mike Wendland: These 190 or 210 models were built before the company was sold to Hymer and obviously manufactured before the company was acquired in 2019 by the Rapido Group, the current owner. They just go and go. They're like to Duracell Bunny, they just keep going.
And those are built on the Chevy van chassis and everybody who has one of those, they just don't give them up. I think that's why Roadtrek quit building them because people weren't buying them new because the old ones worked so well.
Jennifer Wendland: They couldn't get the Chevy chassis is what they say.
Check it RVs on the Dodge ProMaster chassis
Mike Wendland: And GM has stopped making those van chassis available for RVs. Another chassis to look at though, that has become very popular, is the Dodge ProMaster chassis. That's become the replacement for the Chevy chassis for many.
And those have been around now for about five years, It's used by many RV brands. You might get lucky and find a Roadtrek Zion, one of the early models that they made on that ProMaster chassis. And you might be able to find a later model from another manufacturer. I don't think it will be at your $55,000 price point, but who knows.
The Thor Sequence is a nice Class B RV worth checking out, too. Stripped down new models start around $85.000. The Sequence came out in 2019 so some of those models sold used by be a bit closer to your budget.
Jennifer Wendland: I found it interesting that you say you've always gravitated towards a Pleasure-Way and so you may want to look at getting a Class B from Pleasure-Way or even Leisure Travel Vans. They used to make a B.
Mike Wendland: They used to, and that would put you in that 2013, 2014 model year. But now they build on Class C chassis, though they market them as a Class B Plus.
Jennifer Wendland: They're good products. And if you have always gravitated towards something from a specific manufacturer, then by all means I'd check that out.
Here are some other Class B RV models to look at:
Mike Wendland: Some other models that would fit, I would suggest the Winnebago Travato particularly because it has those twin beds like you like, and it has that center corridor. I think the Travado came on the scene in 2015, maybe 2016. So you might have trouble finding one at that price, maybe one of their bare-bones models, but it's a nice unit. I think America's most popular B van right now is the Travato.
I mentioned Roadtrek earlier for the Chevy vans, but on the Sprinter chassis, they make the SS Agile, which is the Short Sprinter on the 19 foot chassis. I don't know whether you'll find anything near that price, but it's perfect for one person and a dog. It's also great for a couple.
Jennifer Wendland: I was thinking I don't know how large the dog is. But the twin beds you could leave one made up like a bed and use the other one as a sofa to sit on. And the dog could maybe have the other bed. Like I say, I don't know how large this dog is.
TIP: CLICK HERE to read our article on how RV shows are a great place to find bargains on used Class B RV campervans,
Class B RVs have limited room for bikes and kayaks
Mike Wendland: Yep. So that's some of our advice to you. As for carrying a bike and kayak, you've got the back bumper for the bike. To carry a kayak is pretty tough. You're going to have to either store that on the roof or down that center aisle on the inside. And then there are inflatable kayaks, which fold up and you could take one of those. But you can figure all that kind of stuff out.
So you're doing good. You're doing a lot of research on YouTube. Know that if you're going to get something used at that $55,000 rate, it's not going to have all the latest technology. It's not going to have lithium. It's not going to probably have solar. That all came a little bit built.
Consider a cargo van DIY project
Now she did ask about having one built and yes, you could probably do that at $55,000. You could buy the chassis and you could have somebody do all the plumbing for you and the electricity and even rough it in.
And it sounds like you're pretty handy and you could finish it yourself. And I think you could get one that's very usable for the price that you're looking for. You might want to make that an ongoing project but you could start using it. And then as you go, and even as you travel, be finishing it off.
We've got a couple of videos on our YouTube channel. I think last year or the year before at our winter camp out at Tahquamenon Falls when we ran into two couples. They didn't even know each other, but they came to camp out. They parked across from each other and they both had DIY vans. One bought a used Sprinter, and one of them was on the Ford Transit chassis.
So I'll tell you why that makes a lot of sense because it takes 14 months to get a new one built. People are buying them sight unseen. They're just are unavailable. It's really a competition to find one. It is the same with used RVs. They're selling faster than anything, but buying a Sprinter or a Ford Transit chassis. And we really liked that Ford Transit chassis. Having it upfitted the way you would like. That makes a lot of sense.
We're impressed by the Ford Transit chassis for a Class B RV
Jennifer Wendland: I can't say enough good things about the Ford Transit.
Mike Wendland: Yeah it drives so nice.
Jennifer Wendland: It handles beautifully.
Mike Wendland: Yeah. So I don't know if this helps you Karen, but you have thought this through well, and we think that you're on the right track. Let us know what you do decide. We would love to know and best of luck to you. I think Karen's going to make it and she's going to be out there and we're going to run into her on the road next year.
Jennifer Wendland: I hope we do.
Mike Wendland: I do.
Our final thoughts on finding a used Class B RV campervan on a budget:
To sum up, here's a recap and some resources:
- Read this article on Buying an RV from a dealership or RV Show
- Search RV Trader for a comprehensive list of used RVs, many sold by the owner
- Check the RV inventory of dealers that specialize in previously owned motorhomes like sunshinestatervs.com or lamesarv.com
- Army yourself with all the information you need to make an educated decision and get some our secret RV Buying Tips
- Ask RV dealers to alert you when they have taken used campervans in on trade.That's how we bought our first Class B RV, a used 2006 model that we bought in 2012. We were actually on a waiting list from the dealer and had to pay a $200 refundable deposit. When we were called, we were first on a list of five prospective buyers. We literally had to make up our minds on the spot because the others on the list had appointments to see it right after our time.
- Check Facebook Marketplace, eBay, and Craig's List for used RVs that meet your criteria. But.. beware. These are our least favorite places to but RVs because of the amount of fraud that is sometimes involved by unscrupulous sellers.
- When you do find the RV you want, have it inspected by a certified expert from the National RV Inspectors Association. This organization has inspectors all over the U.S. A good inspection can save you many headaches down the road.