With a recreational vehicle (RV) or motorhome, you can cruise around the countryside, or take a vacation whenever the mood takes you. You can stop and park whenever something catches your eye that you want to explore. Motorhomes provide a comfortable home base wherever you decide to stop.
Do you like the idea of many years of fun and adventure enjoying life on the road or a more flexible vacation option? Buying a new or used RV can be a significant investment. But how long can you realistically expect an RV or motorhome to last after you purchase one?
In this post, we provide the answer to the all-important question: How long do motorhomes last? We also discuss how many miles you can expect to cover and some tips to extend the life of your RV or motorhome with proper maintenance.
What is the life expectancy of a motorhome?
How long an RV, motorhome, or travel trailer lasts depends on various factors.
However, generally speaking, two decades is reasonable for a well-maintained vehicle.
The average lifespan of a Class A or a Class B RV or motorhome is between 10 and 20 years.
You can also measure a motorhome’s life expectancy by its mileage. How many miles your RV or motorhome can cover will depend on how you look after it and if you perform regular maintenance.
Class B motorhomes typically last longer than Class A motorhomes or Class C motorhomes. That assumes each has undergone a proper maintenance routine.
Owners who regularly use their RV or motorhome may expect a lifespan of around 200,000 miles.
That being said, you could increase your RV or motorhome’s lifespan up to 300,000 miles, on average, as long as the driving conditions are not unduly arduous and you maintain it in good condition.
What factors impact the longevity of your motorhome?
How many miles you travel in your RV or motorhome is just one of the things that can shorten its lifespan. There are several other things you need to be aware of and consider before purchasing an RV or motorhome.
How much you travel
One of the most important things is how much travel you plan to do. If you occasionally travel in your RV or motorhome, you won’t clock up too many miles. So it will last longer.
If you plan to spend long periods on the road, you can expect your RV or motorhome to last as long.
Amount of people travelling in the motorhome
The number of people you take with you on your travels will affect the type of RV or motorhome you buy. But it will also impact the cost and frequency of maintenance.
A large family or group will need a Class A RV or motorhome. A smaller family should be comfortable in a Class C motorhome. If you plan to travel alone or with one other person, Class B motorhomes are the best option.
More people in the vehicle means increasing the weight the RV or motorhome has to carry. So you spend more money on fuel, and the extra weight will also increase the wear on your motorhome’s suspension and other components.
The terrain where you drive
The type of road or terrain you drive on makes a difference to the lifespan of your RV or motorhome. For example, if you regularly go to the beach, the salt in the air will cause the vehicle to rust quicker. Try parking away from the beach to reduce the risk.
You must check the brakes regularly and change them when necessary. RVs and motorhomes are heavy vehicles. The extra weight means the brake pads work harder, wearing them down quicker than in an average car, especially if you travel long distances downhill.
How do you know your brake pads need replacing? If you hear grinding when you apply the brakes, change the brake pads as soon as possible. Otherwise, the wheel rotors might become damaged beyond repair.
Ideally, you want to change the pads before you start hearing the grinding noise.
Sewage Clogs or Malfunctions
Most motorhomes come with a cassette toilet and possibly even a shower. Such amenities make life on the road comfortable, but they come with the risk of leaks and clogging.
Your motorhome’s sewage system needs the proper care. The toilet, in particular, requires special attention. Avoid using ordinary toilet paper in the motorhome’s toilet. RV-safe paper is essential. Also, ensure you don’t use too much as it can clog the motorhome’s sewage system.
Roof leaks can be a common problem for RV owners because many motorhome owners leave their camping vehicles outside in all weathers.
When the vehicle is sitting outside, unprotected in the rain, snow, and sun, the roof sealants can fail and lead to leaks.
Once water gets inside, mildew and mould start growing, causing damage. It may make the living area unsafe.
The root of many electrical problems is a vehicle such as an RV or motorhome sitting in storage during winter. Little critters will be looking for somewhere warm and dry to stay for the winter, and a parked vehicle is perfect for them. Once they’ve chewed their way in, they’ll turn their attention to the wiring and may cause severe damage.
When you open up your RV or motorhome again in the spring, you might find the lights don’t work, or the refrigerator has no power. Damaged electrical wiring can cause electrical surges and lead to more serious problems.
Plumbing and Water Line Problems
Water damage can be a killer for your RV. Therefore, pay attention to the water lines. They should be regularly checked and replaced immediately if old or damaged.
Don’t take chances. Old or damaged pipes could burst without warning and lead to flooding the living space. Water damage is costly to repair and could impact the lifespan of your vehicle.
Tyre blowouts are a common problem for large vehicles such as motorhomes because of their increased weight. Tyre blowouts happen when the air pressure inside the tyre decreases rapidly.
A tyre blowout can be very challenging to deal with and can be dangerous. The driver must remain calm and understand how to manoeuvre the vehicle safely.
The natural reaction is to brake, but this could cause you to lose control of the vehicle. The best way to deal with a tyre blowout is to accelerate slightly to maintain the direction in which the vehicle is travelling.
What Maintenance do you need to Extend the Life of Your Motorhome?
One of the biggest things that influence your motorhome’s useful life is how well you look after it. Any RV or motorhome requires a certain amount of care and attention to function correctly.
Motorhome or RV components that require regular maintenance include:
- Roof: Clean it regularly and check for water damage, rust, and leaks
- Tyres: Visually check for wear and ensure they are correctly inflated
- Chassis and engine: Change the air and oil filters regularly and the coolant, hydraulic, and fuel filters.
- Brakes: Have them checked regularly by a certified mechanic
- Battery: Remove the battery if parking your RV or motorhome for extended periods. Check it is fully charged before every trip.
- Generator: Service your motorhome’s generator according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Tanks: Freshwater tanks should be flushed twice a year; use the black tank’s flush system regularly, and use an odour blocker to eliminate any nasty smells in your grey water tank.
- Water heater: Occasionally check your heater to ensure there is no debris build-up in the burner tube or chamber.
- Slide-outs: Clean the slide-out seals regularly to prevent sticking and lubricate them.
- Toppers and awnings: Wash the awning and slideout toppers before storing your motorhome for the winter.
- Electrical connections: For safety, ensure all electrical connections are working correctly.
- Appliances: Check that any gas motorhome appliances are in good working order.
- Lighting: Regularly check the interior and exterior lighting to ensure it works. Clean the fittings and replace the bulbs when necessary.
- Windscreen: Keep the windscreen clean, check for chips and cracks, and repair if necessary.
Another important maintenance task is keeping your RV or motorhome clean. Servicing and testing for roadworthiness are also essential. There is also an elaborate system of warning lights that will highlight any issues while on the road, so keep a close eye on them.
Perform regular motorhome maintenance, and your vehicle should last 200,000 – 300,000 miles.
Motorhomes tend to be used most when the weather is warmer. They are often put into storage for the rest of the year.
When thinking about purchasing a motorhome, remember that you need somewhere to store it when not using it. Also, think about whether the storage will be under cover, indoors, or outdoors, and whether it’s heated or not.
Protect your RV or motorhome from harsh winter conditions, and you’ll increase its longevity and how many miles you can travel.
Don’t have access to indoor storage? You can still prepare your motorhome for the cold winter months. Following a motorhome winterisation schedule will prolong its lifespan.
Water System and Pipes Maintenance
The most critical seasonal task is to drain all your tanks and ensure the water lines and pipes are dry. Any water left inside the tanks, heater, or water lines will freeze when the temperature drops below freezing. As we all know, freezing water expands and could burst the pipes.
Once all the tanks and pipes are drained, close the tanks and add antifreeze, including the toilet.
Check for Leaks
Before tackling this step, ensure your motorhome is clean, free from any dirt, grit, or grime, and completely dry.
Carefully inspect it to ensure there are no holes or broken seals. Inspect the bodywork, the roof, and the underside too. Any holes you find should be sealed immediately to prevent rodents or water from entering.
You should also do a thorough inspection of the door and window seals as these get compressed with time and are liable to deteriorate. You can minimise deterioration by smearing silicon grease around each seal.
You can find useful information relating to maintaining your motorhome’s engine in your owner’s manual.
You should regularly change the air and oil filters and maintain the brakes. Changing the engine oil and air filters is critical for good engine maintenance. It is the most effective way to keep the engine running correctly. You also need to change the oil regularly, generally every three to four thousand miles in a diesel engine.
Several other engine-related filters will need replacing from time to time, such as the coolant filter, fuel, and hydraulic filters.
Let’s not forget the brakes, as they are essential for the safety of you and your passengers. Get them checked regularly by a certified mechanic who can lubricate the bearing and check the pads work effectively.
Maintaining the tyres on your motorhome is much the same as for a car. Regularly check them for tread wear and make sure they are inflated correctly. It’s also quite important to ensure any load is distributed evenly. Improper or uneven loading will wear the tyres unevenly and increase the possibility of blowouts.
Remember to check the air pressure when tyres are cold and that the pressure can change with altitude and temperature.
What happens when a motorhome’s tyres are overinflated? The excess pressure increases the risk of a tyre blowout. This could lead to an accident or damage to your motorhome.
One more thing while checking the tyres is to ensure the wheel lug nuts are tightened correctly.
While on the road, the last thing you want to experience is a smelly bathroom. Therefore, maintaining the sewage system is crucial.
Keep your bathroom smelling clean and fresh by using motorhome toilet chemicals. The proper toilet chemicals will help break down any toilet paper and waste and minimise nasty odours. Add these chemicals to the toilet weekly or every couple of weeks if not using your motorhome regularly.
You should also dump the contents of the black water tank regularly. However, be careful not to do it too often as there will be insufficient liquid to remove all the solids. Aim to perform a black tank dump when it’s around three-quarters full.
It’s not just the toilet that requires routine maintenance. The shower in your motorhome is just as important. After using the shower, wipe off excess water and dry the area thoroughly. This quick and simple job will stop any mould or mildew from developing.
Exterior maintenance is far more important than most people realise. Maintaining the exterior will extend the longevity of a motorhome.
First, spend some time cleaning the windows and the seal around each one. Doing so removes any debris, dust, and other items that could damage the window seals. If you spot any cracks, repair them with a sealant to prevent water leaks.
After the windows, clean the rest of your motorhome’s exterior. If you leave your motorhome dirty and dusty, it can also lead to corrosion and rusting.
Get yourself a motorhome cover
Consider investing in an airtight cover for your motorhome if it isn’t stored in a garage or under cover. It will stop any unwanted critters from entering and making a meal of your electrical wiring. A weatherproof cover will prevent wind, rain, lightning/storm, and UV damage. You can also buy a special UV protectant spray.
Proper storage of the motorhome
Avoid making the mistake of just storing your motorhome anywhere there’s space. Spend some time looking for the best location. Although your driveway or backyard might seem the most convenient storage location, it may not be a viable option.
Most RV owners retire their motorhome between November and April, possibly even May. That’s up to five months when it’s not used at all. If you leave your motorhome exposed to the elements all this time, it’s likely to deteriorate.
An ideal solution is to store your motorhome when not in use for long periods at an indoor heated storage facility with climate control. It might be expensive, but your motorhome will be well protected from the elements.
Use your motorhome
As well as maintaining your motorhome, try to make as much use of it as you can. If you don’t drive your motorhome enough, the engine will lose its performance, and the life of your motorhome will be reduced. When driving, avoid high speeds and observe the speed limits for motorhomes to avoid unnecessary wear and tear on components.
How does mileage affect motorhome lifespan?
When people purchase a motorhome, it’s not always intending to regularly travel across the country with the family. Some people just want a motorhome to drive to the beach and park or for trips to a favourite campsite.
Aspects such as low mileage, travelling short distances, or infrequent use don’t affect your motorhome’s lifespan as much as you might think. But they will reduce the cost of maintaining it. Regardless of how long it takes to clock up 200,000 miles, motorhomes tend to last around 20 years and not much longer.
What is good mileage for a used motorhome?
If buying a used RV or motorhome, one with mileage between 30,000 and 50,000 is ideal.
However, ultimately, your decision will depend on several other factors, such as:
- The model and how old it is
- Number of previous owners
- How far the motorhome was driven
- Whether it has been well looked after and has maintenance records to back this up
- How many miles the tyres have covered, and when they were last replaced
You should purchase your used motorhome from a reputable dealer such as OMC Motorhomes. Oaktree Motorhomes has been in business for over 20 years and has sold over 10,000 used campervans and motorhomes. This company has worked tirelessly over the last couple of decades and earned a reputation of trust.
Every used motorhome available has been cleaned, valeted, serviced, checked for safety, and had its cambelt changed. In addition, every vehicle receives a full MOT free of charge.
What is high mileage for a motorhome?
If you’re in the market for a used motorhome, one with mileage between 100,000 and 200,000 is considered high.
What is the average annual mileage for a motorhome?
On average, motorhome owners travel around four to five thousand miles a year.
Motorhome Depreciation Rate
One unavoidable fact of motorhome ownership is depreciation. Regardless of how well you take care of your motorhome, you will face the issue of depreciation. Over time, it will lose value.
Here are some typical motorhome depreciation rates:
Class A motorhome
- After 3 years, 43%
- After 5 years, 66%
- After 10 years, 75%
Class B motorhome
- After 3 years, 33%
- After 5 years, 49%
- After 10 years, 62%
Class C motorhome
- After 3 years, 26%
- After 5 years, 75%
- After 10 years, 88%
On average, you can expect a motorhome to last 20 years, or 200,000 miles, whichever happens first. Regular maintenance and winterising of your motorhome will extend its lifespan.
Also, promptly dealing with any repairs is essential, keeping your motorhome clean, protecting it with a cover when not in use, and storing it correctly.
Is it OK to buy a 20-year-old motorhome?
There are pros and cons to buying a motorhome that is getting on in years. If your budget won’t stretch to a new RV or motorhome, you can choose from plenty of good, used motorhome models available, as long as you know what to look for. There are, of course, some risks. But do your research and know what to look for, and you’ll reduce those risks.