Updated: Apr 5, 2022
Are you ready to buy a pre-loved RV? Here are some tips to help you choose just the right used RV.
Buying a preowned RV is a great way to get the camper you are after without spending a big sum of money on a brand new vehicle. Just like brand new cars, brand new RVs depreciate in value as soon as you drive them off the lot, this can be a tremendous hit for someone. However, you do want to be very careful buying a preowned RV to avoid being stuck with a lemon and paying more or the same in fixing as you would a new RV.
It is said that fall and wintertime is a great time to look into purchasing a pre-owned RV. This is the time when most snowbirds head south for warmer weather. Others have just finished their summer camping and wish to not hold onto their RV or do not wish to pay the fees to store it. Buying a used RV that's still in good condition can save you real money. An RV even a couple of years old can be significantly cheaper. So how do you find a previously loved RV that's right for you? Here are a few tips.
Do Your Research
It's easy to get caught up in the moment and start fantasizing about the good times, you'll have cruising down a scenic highway in your home-away-from-home. So do the research first.
Knowing exactly what you want going into it will make it easier to narrow down and filter out what you do not want in an RV. Setting your budget is important and do not be afraid to ask questions. This is going to be something permanent and you do not want to "be stuck with" something that does not live up to your expectations.
If you're new to RVing entirely, you might want to rent one for a week or two to make sure the lifestyle is for you. The Airbnb of RV, outdoorsy.com, allows you to search your area for a rental.
Inspection Inspection Inspection
Did I mention inspection? If you have the chance, try to inspect and drive an RV during a downpour to help reveal leaks and give you firsthand experience with how the vehicle handles under harsh conditions. And if you're looking at a used unit that has spent some winters in cold climates and perhaps has not been properly winterized, be sure to check the plumbing for possible burst pipes and other leaks.
Motorhomes that have been parked and unused will almost always require expensive service, Myers writes, including replacing fuel pumps, belts, batteries, tires, and brakes, and rebuilding the carburetor on the generator. Another costly problem: leaks in the roof and other seams.
Check History: For a fee of about $25, you can purchase a vehicle history report on rvchecks.com. You'll need the RV's 17-digit Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) to order the report. Depending on the vehicle's history and the data available, the report may include information on whether the vehicle has ever been damaged, rebuilt, or stolen, as well as the manufacturer's specifications and recall notices.
Check for Mold: Even if there’s no visible water damage in the usual spots like floors and ceilings, mold on the interior of an RV is usually a good indication of leaks or other water problems. Check the corners of the ceilings and floors, look up and down the walls, and especially check the corners and caulk in the bathroom around the fixtures. Also, open up cabinets and closets and shine a flashlight to see if there’s any mold growing. You’ll often smell it, but if the closets or cabinets feel especially warm, there’s a good chance that there’s mold growing in there.
Roof/Ceiling: Check for evidence of water damage, mold, leaks, bowing, or falling down parts on the interior and exterior roof/ceiling.
Interior/Exterior Walls: Everything should look dry, be free of damage that may become a bigger issue in the future, and check for corrosion and rot.
Trim/Windows: Check that window and trimming are free of leaks, holes, and that the trim is properly sealed. If it is not properly sealed this means it has been exposed to the elements and may have caused damage that you may not visibly see.
Floors: Check for bowing or warping, loose floor panels, and do not be afraid to jump around in areas to be sure flooring is sturdy.
In all, treat this as if you are buying a brick-and-mortar home and inspect every last inch. Write down what you need to inspect, and create your own checklist. And most importantly do not settle.
Before you even inspect and test-drive a used RV, you should ask the owner or dealer about the condition of the vehicle, its history, title, warranties, repair and maintenance records, the reason it's being sold, and so on.
Take Advantage of The Internet
Use the internet to your advantage, and read about others' experiences with buying a preowned RV. Search for your future RV on many reputable sites. I do recommend you do not purchase it prior to seeing it in person. Remember inspection inspection inspection!
Popular websites and online forums where RV enthusiasts chat it up and swap advice and offer tips for buying used RVs include:
Before you set off on your first road trip, consider enrolling in a roadside assistance program to cover towing and other services.