Why your motorhome might be too old for RV parks

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Ageism is never appropriate, even for recreational vehicles! Did you know that some business parks now have a 10 year old rule? If your motorhome is over 10 years old, you may be refused a place in some motorhome parks. I’ve never heard of this in any public park (local, state, national, Corps of Engineers, Forest Service) so these campgrounds are still an option for older RVs. But some “resort” parks, and even moderately priced parks, get pretty picky about who they let in. Let’s explore this topic so that you are ready.

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Why do parks discriminate based on the age of the motorhome?

It is the story of two situations. Some high-end parks want to make sure their guests with expensive rigs have a great experience. Watching an older RV doesn’t match this aesthetic for some people. Many RVers on blogs, chats, and forums bristle that their rig is not “good enough” due to age. Instead, they see it as a proxy restriction because someone thinks their platform isn’t expensive enough to pass the rally.

The other position of RV parks is that they must protect themselves from the “dumps” of elderly campers. We’ve all seen them – the campers who seem to be out of breath. People abandon them in RV parks and the owner ends up with the bill. Or, people become squatters and eviction can be a long and expensive process for park owners who don’t want that headache.

The author's camper van
The author’s camper van (Photo credit: Robyne Stevenson)

Enforcing an age limit is tricky

I own an Airstream and I can easily fake its age. People find this to be the easiest solution as long as your rig isn’t dated on the outside with chipped stickers, a well-worn exterior, or other decorative or coating materials that betray its age. Some parks will ask for a photo before authorizing a reservation or enforcing the age rule. If you look good, the park will probably grant an exception.

Vintage campers like the famous “canned hams” fall into this “apparently” category as do other well-restored rigs. The group, Sisters on the Fly, run regular group camps across the country and host a day tour during their stay. People come from the towns around the campsite to see these amazing and colorful restored campers. There is value in older units.

Campgrounds may require a Recreational Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) sticker on the RV to ensure your motorhome is manufactured by a recognizable source. Of course, the RVIA sticker does not guarantee the current quality of an older RV, but it is a starting point for eliminating homemade campers, refurbished or converted storage trailers, and converted horse trailers.

An American camper van in Sweden
Vitaly Titov / Shutterstock.com

Should the age of the motorhome be limited or not?

The answer to the question is that it’s all in the eye of the beholder. Owners of sophisticated and expensive rigs can say yes, and owners of older campers can say no. Park owners want to make their lives easier by avoiding complaints and avoiding legal tangles. I suspect, however, that anyone looking to get rid of an old rig or be a squatter won’t try to get into a high-priced resort park. And people who want to avoid run down RVs won’t park in super budget parks. It is the vast medium that seems to be in the push and pull of the rules and their enforcement. RV parks don’t want to deal with breakdowns either – RVs leaking oil or other fluids, broken windows, or taped sides that can shatter. I lived near an old RV that had a black tank issue on the inside and then outside of their deck. It didn’t give me a pleasant experience.

Drive and vibrate made a check-in with RV parks and its readers and found that most parks allow exceptions, especially with honest pictures. Most readers don’t like the 10-year rule for obvious reasons – no one wants restrictions that exclude them and most people think their RV is great, if not fabulous.

The interior of a restored classic RV
Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock.com

Is there a workaround for the age rule?

The consensus in the motorhome world is that workarounds seem to actually work for both sides of the debate. People fake the age of their rigs to keep things simple, or RVs can look shiny with a little extra maintenance. Giving an exception to the rule by providing a photo seems like the simplest protection for the campsite and the RV owner. Park owners don’t want to be legally hired without seeing the camper first, and no one wants to fight in the office when RV owners are caught off guard by a rule that excludes them.

Personally my workaround is to not stay in restricted parks due to age. I prefer government campsites anyway. I like to stay in more upscale places with hookups and full amenities for a night or two between long periods of more outdoor camping, and I’m prepared for the age rule because my motorhome is over 10 years old.

You are unlikely to come across a surprise situation if you read the campsite or RV park website and are challenged to submit a photo. In this time of crowded campgrounds, it can become more difficult to get around the age rule. Be aware and prepare with a photo, a story about the age of your RV, or a B camping plan.

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