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A Guide to Buying an RV
Tips on buying a used motor home or travel trailer

A Recreational Vehicle (RV) can bring a lot of fun to families, sportsmen and weekend warriors. Kids are especially blessed because camping trips can form family bonds and you can always expect some kind of challenge to work through and overcome together that will provide stories to tell.

New RVs
If youíve ever gone onto an RV lot you know that these vehicles are not cheap. However, buying new has its advantages because youíve got something that presumably will be trouble-free and a warranty if there should be any problems.

Used RVs

For those of us who can shell out the big bucks and still want to camp comfortably once in awhile, a used RV is a great solution.
However, the vehicle is used and probably doesnít come with any warranty so youíve got to be careful when purchasing.

Here are some tips on buying a used RV

Decide on the type of RV you want - start researching online and read up on features and reviews.

Travel Trailers: Travel trailers can be less expensive because youíre not paying for the engine of a motor-home. This is advantageous in that you wonít have another engine to look after and service. But of course youíll need a vehicle to tow the trailer.

So then weíre talking weight. Look up your car or truck and find out how much your vehicle can tow. Now youíll have an idea of what kind of trailer you can pull. I wouldnít be pushing anywhere near your maximum towing limit because trailers weights are listed as dry and youíll have water, supplies and a whole lot more in there. When driving, you donít want your car or truck to struggle and you want power left over.


NOTE: Your local hitch installer has a wealth of information. I recommend finding the specialty installer in town and making friends. Try to visit when itís not too busy and youíll be able to ask a lot of questions.

Motor Homes: The advantages of a motor home are fantastic. If you plan on long trips, itís certainly a lot easier. You can drive a lot faster on the highway and you donít have to stay in the right lanes. Your bathroom and all your amenities are right inside so you donít have to pull over to use them. You donít have to worry about winds and weather as much.  Steering, backing up, and parking are all a lot easier. The disadvantages are that youíve got another engine to take care of, youíll need insurance and youíll get less space for the money.

The Seller

Create a list of questions that you want to ask the seller. You can go to a dealer for used RV but youíll be paying retail. If they offer a warranty this might be worth it. If youíre going to a private party youíll want to know a few things. 

Here is a sample below:

a. How long have you had the RV? The longer theyíve owned it, the more knowledge they can offer. The best case scenario is that they were the only owner.

b. Why are you selling it? Best case scenario is they hardly ever used it and decided itís time to get it off the driveway.

c. Has it ever been in accident?

d. What kind of trouble have you had? Hopefully very little, but youíll be able to see how honest they are if they let you in on some fixes.

e. Does it have any leaks? Hugely important. Almost all RVís will leak at some point. They all need to be resealed every so often. If they leak, theyíve got mold.

f. Where have you gone with it? This will give you an idea of the wear and tear. Some responses might be, ďOh we used it just locally a few times a year, but not much anymore.Ē Another might be, ďOh weíve loved this RV, we took it all over the country for the last 10 years and itís been very good to us.Ē Thereís probably a little more wear on this one, but they may have also maintained it well.

g. Are you including any extras? This is another great advantage of buying used. Most RV owners have purchases a lot of extraís that they are including in the deal. Spare tires, camping gear, generator, etc.

Motor Home Engine:  How many miles? Do they have a pile of service receipts? Is the title in their name? If not, they may be just buying and selling RVís as a side business and I would not recommend buying from them. They do not really know the vehicle and interested in turning a quick profit. Where has it gone? Who owned it? Get a Carfax report. Read everything you can on this model. This would be good for a mechanic to look at. The mechanic can run compression tests for the cylinders check belts, seals, battery, charging system, computer. Does it leak oil??? Very important! Does it burn oil??? Do you smell any fumes as you drive?

Water Damage: Ask them if the seals have been replaced at all. Check carefully for water damage. Does the ceiling look like itís been replaced or is original? Does the floor look replaced? Do you see any little bumps beneath the wall paper? If so, this is probably mold. Climb up on the roof. Is the roof dry and cracked or supple? Look at the seals around the vents and air conditioner. Are they dry and cracked or supple? Look at the seals around the windows for any signs of water damage. If you feel safe, you can walk on the roof and see if itís solid or squishy.

Check the tires for wear.

Check the appliances and make sure they work. Does the fridge get cold? Do the burners work? Does the heater work? Does the water heater work?

Lights: Are all the headlights, running lights, interior lights working?

Plumbing: Check the toilet and faucets. Check the pump.  Do they work well? Check underneath the RV and look at the pipers and both tanks, grey water and black water.

Animals: Were their cats or dogs on these trips and are you allergic? If you are allergic or environmentally sensitive, youíll want to really spend some time in there to make sure you donít have any reactions.

Emotions: Keep control of them. Stay in control of any sense of urgency. There are many RVís out there for sale especially when the economy is poor or gas costs are high. RVís can be an impulse buy for many. People see themselves going everywhere, but life happens and it can just sit out there for years. If the owner is unwilling to let you check out the vehicle or have a mechanic look it at because ďheís got too many calls on itĒ, well, youíll find another one.

Online Scams: If you see an Ad in CraigsList for an RV that is too good to be true, it probably is. Copy the Ad and paste it into Google. Scammers usually have the same ad in many other cites.  They are looking for email addresses to sell, or a deposit to steal or something else...

Price: It is usually a buyers market for used RVís. Check with NADA about values. Check comparables online. Make an offer. You can always offer more if they refuse. See how committed they are to their asking price.

Enjoy! Once youíve got the RV, get ready to have lots of fun. Get some local guides to parks and have a great time!

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