More than one out of four RV owners owe more on their RV loans than their vehicles are worth, according to a March survey by www. RVtravel.com.

Nearly 28% of the more than 2,100 RV enthusiasts who answered the survey reported they owed more on their RVs than what they could sell them for. “It’s not uncommon for these RVers to be forced to dig deep into their pockets to unload their vehicle,” said Chuck Woodbury, editor of Edmonds, Wash.-based RVtravel.com and host of the Better Business Bureau DVD Buying a Recreational Vehicle.

Woodbury and other RV experts say there are many reasons why RVers get in trouble with their loans.

“They buy an RV with little or no money down and stretch their payments over too many years,” said Charles Davis of RVfinancing.com. Davis said that in 2008, nearly all the RV loans of $100,000 or more his company arranged were for 15 or 20 years.

Davis explained that the minute an RV buyer leaves a dealer’s lot, his or her new RV becomes a used vehicle and generally drops about 20% in value from its selling price.

RVers who finance their vehicles at significantly lower rates than offered by most other lenders are also asking for trouble. “The RV dealer will simply add thousands of dollars to the RV’s selling price to offset the low interest rate, in effect doing what’s known as a buy down or buying down the rate,” explained Davis.

“A few years ago a guy who I had advised the year before not to take advantage of a dealer’s low financing rate came back to me at an RV show. He asked me to tell him how badly he was upside down in his RV loan. I told him about $50,000 on the amount he had borrowed.”

The problem gets worse when such an RVer trades in his RV to buy another one.

Davis said he was not surprised by the results of the RVtravel.com survey. “People should always establish an equity in a new vehicle, whatever they buy,” he said. “That means making at least a 20% down payment.”

Woodbury said it’s easy to avoid getting upside down in an RV loan. “Buy an RV that you can afford, make a significant down payment and pay off the loan in the time you expect to own it. An RV is a depreciating asset. If you don’t get equity in it right up front, you’re asking for trouble.”