You’ve had your eye on a new motorhome for a while now. You dream of all the fun ways you can use it, cruising through the country, enjoying time out in nature, and making great memories with your family. If you invest the money into a motorhome, are you going to have it for a long time? How long?
Motorhomes last about 200,000 miles, which correlates to roughly 20 years. Factors such as how often you use your motorhome, how well you clean it, and whether you perform routine maintenance all impact the vehicle’s lifespan one way or another.
If you want even more information on the average RV lifespan, then you’ve come to the right place. In this article, we’ll talk about which factors can increase or decrease the life of your vehicle and what you can do to possibly get more years out of your motorhome.
What Is the Average Lifespan of a Motorhome?
Motorhomes or RVs come in three different classes. These are class A, class B, and class C motorhomes.
Class A RVs are the largest and most accommodating with room for luxe features and amenities. These vehicles weigh between 13,000 and 30,000 pounds. Class B motorhomes are the smallest, sort of like camper vans. They’re only 8,000 pounds. Finally, class C motorhomes–the in-between option of class A and class B–weigh 10,000 to 12,000 pounds.
Does switching from one RV class to another influence how long your motorhome will last? Not really. All three motorhome classes are projected to last around 20 years or 200,000 miles.
Let’s break down that number a bit, 200,000 miles. Assuming you do indeed own your motorhome for 20 years, then 200,000 miles means you’d drive your RV an average of 10,000 miles a year.
Does every RVer do that? Probably not. According to 2020 data from Car and Driver, with stats from the Federal Highway Administration through the U.S. Department of Transportation, the average car or truck driver logs 13,500 miles a year. That wouldn’t leave you much time to drive your motorhome!
Guaranty RV Super Centers says instead that the average RV owner maybe clocks 5,000 miles a year in their motorhome. At that mileage, you’d use your motorhome throughout the year, especially in the spring and summer for long road trips and vacations. You may live in the vehicle for part of an average year, but you’re not residing there full-time.
Those motorhome enthusiasts who do clock 10,000 miles or close to it probably are full-timers.
Which Issues Can Shorten Your Motorhome’s Lifespan?
So if you’re only adding about 5,000 miles a year to your RV mileage, shouldn’t your motorhome last you twice as long, such as 40 years instead of 20? That could be the case, but it’s hard to say.
Why? Well, because mileage is far from the only factor that can shorten your RV’s lifespan. Here are some other problems to be aware of.
Broken Water Lines and Leakage
Let’s just start with the big one, shall we? Few things can kill an RV faster than water damage. That’s not exclusive to motorhomes either. From houses to any other structures, when water wrecks the walls, floors, and/or roof and leaves them soft, the building is not safe to be in anymore.
All the pipes and waterlines within your motorhome need your utmost care from year to year or season to season. When these pipes are old or visibly damaged, putting them through operational strain for another year could at any time lead to a pipe bursting. If that happens, water can flood parts of your motorhome or even the whole thing depending on the extent of the leak.
At that point, you couldn’t even turn around and sell your motorhome and expect to make good money from it since it’s damaged goods.
Nearly as bad is electrical damage. Most electrical problems start for an RV owner during the offseason when their vehicle is sitting in some concrete storage facility out in the cold, probably without a cover. Since your motorhome is wide open, critters like mice and rats will invade, chewing electrical wiring to bits.
In the spring, when your interior lights don’t work or your fridge is getting no power, you can be left scratching your head for a while about why. It’s only once you discover the destroyed line that it becomes clear you had (or have!) a critter problem.
Even if you cover your motorhome so it’s tighter than Fort Knox, that doesn’t do anything to protect your RV from electrical surges. Maybe you’re connected to a source of shore power at a campsite when the surge happens or a lightning storm strikes near where you’re camping.
If you’ve ever lost a computer or a TV to an electrical surge at home, then we’re sure we don’t even need to tell you how damaging such an event could be for your motorhome.
Your motorhome comes with a toilet, maybe even a shower. These amenities are great to have when roughing it on the road for long periods, but what’s not nearly as nice is the risk of sewage leaks.
You shouldn’t use just any type of toilet paper when onboard a motorhome, but RV-safe paper. Beyond the type of paper you use, the quantity also matters.
When toilet paper doesn’t break down, it can back up into your motorhome’s sewage system. Your blackwater tank, if it includes sensors, will now become the bane of your existence. The sensors indicate the tank is full because they’re blocked by the toilet paper. You have to go into your stinky blackwater tank far more often than usual only to find the tank isn’t even close to full!
That’s not even the worst part. No, that’s what happens when the sewage backup comes out somewhere in your motorhome. Gross!
What Can You Do to Make Your Motorhome Last Longer?
If you’re going to spend between $20,000 and $40,000 on a new RV, you don’t want issues like sewage clogs and electrical surges to prematurely cut its lifespan. The good news is this doesn’t have to happen. By being a proactive motorhome owner all year long, you can baby your vehicle and possibly squeeze a few more years out of it.
Although it’s not as common, some RV owners have had the same motorhome for 40 years, sometimes 50 years and in some cases, as long as 70 years! Here’s how.
Maintenance, Maintenance, Maintenance
If you take only one of the suggestions from this section and apply it going forward, please let it be motorhome maintenance.
Maintenance is an ongoing process that you should get into the habit of doing as soon as you bring your RV home for the first time. You’ll need to maintain your motorhome almost all year long, some components more than others.
How do you maintain your RV? Here are some pointers to get you started:
- Check your tire pressure and inspect the tires for holes, punctures, or leaks
- Look at your awnings about once or twice a season for loose strings, tears, or holes
- Test your electrical connections before you embark on a trip
- About every month, maybe every two months, go through your motorhome and check every filter, including hydraulic, coolant, fuel, and air filters; replace any and all old filters
- At around the 3,000-mile mark (some motorhome owners go as far as 5,000 miles), replace your vehicle’s oil
- Inspect all the seals around the exterior and interior of your motorhome, caulking them if you can
- Tune up your brake system maybe once a year
- If your motorhome’s tanks have sensors, check that these are in working order
- Do a battery test
- Go through every nut and bolt throughout your vehicle and tighten them
- Get on the roof and look for cracks and other damage
Another component of maintenance is winterization, aka preparing your motorhome for the inactive winter season. We just published an incredibly extensive guide on all things winterization, so make sure you read it! It’s especially helpful for first-time RV owners.
Check Your Motorhome’s Water Pressure
As your motorhome gets up there in years, testing the water pressure becomes a have-to rather than a maybe type of task. Excess pressure on old pipes can cause them to crack or burst, leading to sewage leaks or water leaks that can wreck your RV and make it unsafe to keep using.
If you don’t already own a water pressure gauge like this one from Camco on Amazon, that’s your first order of business. Once you have a gauge, use it often!
Don’t Store Your Motorhome Just Anywhere
Depending on the size of your motorhome, you may be able to park it in your driveway or even in your backyard for the off-season. Although this is convenient, it’s not always the most viable option.
Most RV owners will retire their vehicles around November or December and not use them again until March or April, maybe even May. We’re talking about four or five months of inactivity, if not longer. All that time, your motorhome is sitting exposed to the elements, including sunshine, wind, snow, rain, the whole nine.
It’s always best if you can pay to keep your motorhome at a storage facility. Most storage facilities offer several options, including outdoor storage, indoor unheated storage, and indoor heated storage. Yes, indoor heated storage is the costliest, but you get the benefit of temperature control for your motorhome during the winter months. Your RV is also protected from the elements.
When spring comes, your RV will be in much readier condition than if it was outside all that time. You’re also protecting its interior and exterior components, which may prolong the motorhome’s lifespan.
Buy a Cover for Your Motorhome
If you choose anything except indoor heated storage for your motorhome, then we’d suggest an airtight cover for your vehicle. The cover will prevent the issue we described earlier, where rats can get into your motorhome and chew up the electrical wiring. You can also prevent some elemental damage with a good cover, including UV fading, pelting rain, and wreckage from the wind.
That said, if enough snow sits atop even a covered motorhome, then your cover doesn’t do a whole lot of good. You want to make sure you can check out your motorhome wherever you decide to store it so you can tidy it up every few weeks.
Use a Surge Protector
Don’t be kept awake on your camping trips stressing about whether that storm rolling through will irreparably damage your RV. A surge protector can keep the voltage down so your electronics don’t get fried. You’ll also appreciate the peace of mind a surge protector will offer!
Reduce Accident Risk
Driving a motorhome is a unique experience, especially if yours is a heftier vehicle like a class A or class C RV. Before you take off for real, there’s no shame in practicing basic maneuvers in an empty parking lot until you get the hang of turning, stopping, backing up, and accelerating.
Every time you climb into the driver’s seat of your motorhome, treat it like it’s your first time. Check your mirrors (you may need clip-on mirror attachments depending on the size of your RV so you can see to the sides of and behind you). Make sure you’re alert and in a driving mood. Take breaks often, especially if your road trip is a long one.
Stay at about the speed limit, which can be hard for some lumbering RVs to do. Drive in the right lane on highways and freeways, as this is the slow lane where other cars and trucks won’t make you nervous with their speed.
All these great habits reduce your risk of accidents, which will most definitely prolong your motorhome’s life.
Keep Your Motorhome Clean
Cleaning your motorhome might seem like it only has aesthetic benefits, but that’s not the case. You can prolong the finish on the exterior of your motorhome by tidying it up. Also, sometimes the only way to spot that damaged seal or hole in the awning is to wash the various parts of your RV. Commit to cleaning yours at least once a month. You’ll love its spotless shine when you’re finished!
Don’t Ignore Repairs
Let’s say you do notice a small hole in your awning or a chunk of exterior seal that’s missing. Oh well, these issues are really small potatoes in the overall grand scheme of things with your motorhome, right?
Sure, for now, these are small problems. The longer the issues go unaddressed though, the worse the damage usually gets. The exterior seal continues wearing down more and more until that one small chunk is now half the seal on the sidewall of your motorhome. That tear in your awning grows into a large rip.
It’s never convenient to have to fix an RV issue, but you’re better off doing it early. You’ll spend less time, money, and resources now than if you wait several months and tackle the issue then.
Actually Use Your Motorhome
Your motorhome is not part of a museum exhibit. As beautiful and perfect as it is when it’s in pristine condition, it’s a vehicle that’s meant to be driven. Make sure you do that at least a few times a year.
Getting behind the driver’s seat requires the engine to work, and operating the engine keeps its components clean and healthy. You also prevent the battery from randomly dying on you as well as lubricate the internal hoses.
About once a month if not more, drive for 20 miles in your RV during the active season.
Motorhomes can last for 20 years on average. A regular maintenance routine may extend the lifespan of your RV, as can addressing repairs immediately, cleaning your vehicle, and protecting it with a cover during the offseason. Best of luck!