Tips for Buying a Used RV: What to Look For

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There are thousands of used RVs out there for sale, and many of them are in great condition, being sold because of health problems and a myriad of other reasons. This creates an opportunity for savvy shoppers to save thousands of dollars compared to a new unit. Here are some tips for buying a used RV to keep in mind when preparing to start shopping.

Related article: Tips for Selling an RV – How Much is it Worth, Anyway?

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Determine Your Budget

First, before you start shopping, decide realistically what you can afford. Maintain a reserve in your budget for repairs and other expenses, such as taxes and license fees, and since used rigs don’t usually come with a warranty, they may need some costly repairs.

Decide on RV Type

Next, decide the size and type of RV that you want, such as a pop-up trailer, fifth-wheel or conventional trailer, slide-in camper or motorhome. Of course a camper or fifth-wheel will require a pickup truck. A good way to familiarize yourself with what is out there, besides walking around campgrounds, is to attend RV shows and visit large RV sales lots.

Consider Your Tow Vehicle

Avoid overloading your tow vehicle, if you will be using one. Use the gross vehicle weight rating of the trailer as the actual towed weight to prevent exceeding the tow vehicle’s tow rating. Look up the tow rating of your vehicle in advance.

Consider Where to Look

There are more ways now than ever to shop for an RV, including printed publications, online classified ads and searches, plus dealers, newspapers, and online sites such as eBay. Traveling far to look at a rig (and transporting it home) can be costly, and the expense of getting there can tempt you to buy a rig that you shouldn’t. Therefore try to find RVs for sale nearby.

Avoid Scams

Unfortunately there are many scams that buyers need to be wary of, and purchasing a rig without seeing it from an unknown seller is risky at best. Avoid buying from persons not listed on the title (except licensed dealers) and those with long, convoluted stories. There are good legitimate deals on the Internet, but always perform a thorough pre-purchase inspection. If a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Related videos: RV Buying Guide

Perform an Inspection

A thorough pre-purchase inspection is crucial. Look the RV over carefully in daylight. Bring along a friend who’s knowledgeable about RVs. Check inside and out, on top and underneath, looking for signs of damage, dry rot, rust, leakage, and other problems. Look in each storage compartment and closet, and under sinks, beds. and sofas.

Check ceilings for signs of water damage and sidewalls for de-lamination – all are very expensive to fix. Check every system and item possible, including exterior and interior lights, gauges, TVs, and audio systems.

Test all coach systems, including generators, batteries, converters, inverters, solar panels, water systems, refrigerators, air conditioners and heaters, stoves, microwaves, hot water heaters, and other appliances. Operate all slide-out rooms through their full range of travel. Use a checklist and make notes.

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Inspect the tires for wear and cracking or separation. Read the dates – they are the last four digits after “DOT” such as 1312. The 13 would indicate the tire was made during the thirteenth week of the year, and the 12 indicates it was made in 2012. Tires older than six years are due for replacement due to deterioration.

Related article: RV Tire Care Tips: Don’t Take Your Tires for Granted

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Many storm and flood-damaged coaches have been cleaned up and put on the market. Water leaves lasting damage and electrical and mechanical components will probably fail early, and mold and mildew are difficult to eliminate. Look for any signs of dampness or rust that indicate flooding.

Unless you have a lot of RV mechanical and electrical experience, take the RV to a shop you trust for a pre-purchase inspection (PPI) before buying. They can inspect brakes and suspension components, check for signs of body damage repairs, leaks, and overall condition.

Afterward you can take the inspection report back to the seller and use it for negotiating a final price. A PPI can save you from major problems and thousands of dollars in repairs.

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Check for neglected paint and graphics on the exterior.

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Check for cracked or damaged window sealing.

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Check for missing vent caps and leaky sealants.

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Inspect the hot water heater.

Related video: All About Your RV Water Heater

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Check for bent jacks and landing gear.

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Check the trailer suspension.

Settle All Paperwork

Ask questions and insist on direct answers; evasive replies are a red flag. Ensure the title is clear and all paperwork including registrations and bills of sale are in order. Match the vehicle identification number on the title to the actual VIN on the vehicle. Determine if any warranties are still in effect and are transferable. Carefully inspect the original title to ensure it has no liens on it, nor is marked junk, salvage, flood, or another designation. Ask for a photo ID driver’s license which matches the information on the title, and record the seller’s details.

Great deals are out there, just waiting for you. With a little effort, planning, and due diligence, you can save thousands of dollars by purchasing a used RV, while obtaining an excellent vehicle.

More related videos:

Buying a Used RV: Inspecting a Slide Room
Buying a Used RV: Front End Inspection Tips
Buying a Used RV: Roof Inspection
Buying a Used RV: Chassis Inspection
Buying a Used RV: Interior Inspection
Buying a Used RV: Appliance Inspection

Discussion
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19 Responses to “Tips for Buying a Used RV: What to Look For”
  1. Dennis

    RV Make: Sportcoach, RV Model: Ecore 40TS, RV Year: 2006

    When plugged into shore power or using the generator the batteries don’t same to fully charge. It use too. I have had plugged into shore power and extending the room slides have it pop the breaker on the post. Never use to that. I’m lost…I installed new house batteries summer 2016. On two times I had to use the house batteries (4) to start the engine.

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hi, Dennis. I think you have more than just an issue with your batteries charging on shore power? If your batteries are not charging on shore power or generator you need to check the converter to see what power is being provided to the batteries. You can use a multimeter for this which is detailed in the video on charging. If you are popping the breaker on the campground post when running your slide room out, you are exceeding the 30 amps available so your slide room motor is not working correctly and drawing to much amperage. This is unusual because most slide room motors run off 12-volt power which is your house batteries and would not affect the campground 120-volt source? Then you have another issue with the engine battery draining and needing to “jump” them with the house batteries? These are on a totally different system as the house batteries so you need to find what is draining your chassis batteries as well.

      Reply
  2. JR

    RV Make: Coatchman, RV Model: Santara, RV Year: 1998

    Yes and one more thing especially if your going to seek financing check out NADA/Blue book or similar vehicle value sites to be sure your looking at a vehicle with some actual financing value

    Reply
  3. Mike Lasitz

    As an alternative to building a tiny home to live in on the west coast I am considering the purchase of a used larger 5th wheel or trailer. I am new to the rv world and would like some input into the possibility of gutting the interior and rebuild on the inside as you might do to a tiny home. Are there any issues in doing this to the interior of an rv trailer? I am thinking more in terms of structure integrity for this kind of renovation. Any input would be greatly appreciated.

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hi, Mike. Thank you for visiting the RV Repair Club site and the opportunity to assist with your trailer renovation question. I think purchasing a used 5th wheel is a much better idea than a tiny home as you have the flexibility of moving to different locations if the need should arise and even moving in case of emergency such as fire or flood! The only concern I would have in renovating is to make sure you look at the construction of the sidewalls and especially the roof to sidewall joint to see how the weight of the roof is transferred to the sidewall and ultimately the foundation. Some models rely heavily on the interior walls to support the weight and removing them will result in a sagging roof. Most 5th wheels have a very wide open livingroom/kitchen so it probably will not be much of an issue.

      Reply
  4. David

    RV Make: 2003 Keystone, RV Model: Tail Gator, RV Year: 2003

    I purchased a 2003 34ft Keystone Tail Gator I want to redo some of the caulking around the vents. After removing most of the caulking with plastic scraper, do I need to use something to clean the rest of it off before recaulking?

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hi, David. It’s best to use some Denatured Alcohol to get any adhesive or grim off the material. Make sure you let it dry thoroughly before applying new sealant. Make sure you have the correct caulking for the type of roof material you have. Fiberglass or rubber membranes require a special type of sealant, I recommend the Dicor self leveling sealant.

      Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hi, Lorre. There are several ways to sanitize and freshen your fresh water tank depending on your preference. I like to use common household bleach mixed with water and let it sit for at least 24 hours and drive a little if possible. The Clorox site recommends 1 part Clorox to 150 parts water which would be 1/2 gallon bleach for a 75 gallon water tank. In my opinion this is a little strong! I use one cup for every 30 gallons so a 75 gallon tank would only need less than 2 1/2 cups, not 1/2 gallon. I typically mix the appropriate amount of bleach with some water into a gallon jug and then use a funnel to pour it into the water tank through the gravity feed and then fill the tank. The bleach smell and taste usually dissipates within 24 hours. If you do not like the smell or taste of bleach, or want a different solution, you can use baking soda which takes longer and is less effective. Another option is using the Thetford fresh water tank freshener available at most RV dealers.

      Reply
  5. Marion

    RV Make: Coachmen Catalina, RV Model: ClassA, RV Year: 1998

    Looking at this rv tonight.28,500 miles Any thoughts on this model and what its future repair might be?

    Reply
  6. Danielle/Richard

    RV Make: Mallard, RV Model: Sprinter, RV Year: 1989, Model Number: M340SD

    where can i find the shipping/dry weight?

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hello Danielle/Richard,

      Most RVs built in the past 20 years either had a weight sticker inside the coach listing the dry weight, usually inside an overheat cabinet, or in the past 10 years they had a yellow sticker on the outside of the coach that listed the dry weight and cargo carrying capacity. If you can not find the stickers, I would just take the rig to a cat scale found at most major truck stops like Flying J or Pilot and get it weighed for $10.

      Thanks
      David RVRC Video Membership

      Reply
  7. deborah badawi

    RV Make: hornet, RV Model: keystone, RV Year: 2007

    i purchased a 5th wheel 2007 hornet keystone and i dont have a manual on how to do anything from water hook up , air conditioner not working, water leak under the camper from the main water tank at the seal and i need something to give me how to’s and

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hello Deborah,

      I would recommend contacting Keystone direct at their Customer Service number here: Phone (toll free): (866) 425-4369
      You will need the serial number of the rig before you call, but I have found they have a great staff of technicians that will walk you through just about anything and provide whatever documentation you need.

      Thanks,
      David RVRC Video Membership

      We’d love to have you be a part of our community. We are convinced you will enjoy the benefits of becoming a member and having access to the best instructional how to videos and professional tips. We would like to offer you a special promotion for your first year membership.

      http://go.rvrepairclub.com/C8824

      Reply
  8. Nancy

    RV Make: Forest River, RV Model: R pod 173, RV Year: 2009

    I am thinking of buying this camper. It is in excellent shape with new tires and batteries. All I see wrong is decals are peeling. Asking price is $8200 which is $2840 above NADA average retail. Is this a good price. I have had a hard time finding this year/model for sale.

    Reply
  9. Robbie mccarley

    RV Make: Jayco, RV Model: Gray hawk, RV Year: 2010

    Backed into a tree limb on my motohome skinning some of roofing on the edge. I used some of the tape ,is that OK or do I have to redo the whole roof ????

    Reply
  10. MARC

    RV Make: R-vision trail-lite, RV Model: 207DS, RV Year: 2014, Brand: R-Vision Crosover, Model Number: 207 DS

    Where can I find new strip.

    Reply