Purchasing an RV is an incredibly exciting experience, but the task itself can be rather daunting. This is especially true when purchasing a used RV, which comes with the added responsibility to consider, check, and research a variety of RV components to ensure you end up with a quality rig. Whether you’re an experienced RVer looking to upgrade, or brand new to the world of RVing, this list of tips should help you to ensure that you don’t end up purchasing a lemon. Here, we’ll cover the top ten tips for buying a used RV to help ensure you make the right decision.
- What type of RV you want
- Your budget
- Your must-have features
- Shopping around
- Price comparing
- Come up with questions to ask
- Take it for a test drive
- Check the title
- Request a third-party inspection
1. What Type of RV do you Want?
One of the first steps to figuring out what type of RV you may want should be researching the different types of RVs. There are many types to choose from, ranging from towable to driveable and several other unique varieties. Next, be sure to check out our helpful guide on deciding which type of RV is best for you. This article covers a variety of factors to consider to help you really narrow down the list.
After having a good understanding of the types of RVs out there, head to some trade shows to begin viewing and touring some of your favorite types of rigs in person. Take your time to really get a feel for the difference between motorhomes, Class Cs, and towables. Lastly, consider renting an RV similar to your favorite type. Driving and camping in a rented RV can allow your dreams to become more tangible. Don’t worry if you’re new to towing or driving a motorhome. We have your back there too with helpful how-to guides for beginners.
2. Set a Budget
This part can be tricky. Depending on the current vehicle you may or may not already own, your budget may encompass a large range. For instance, if you’re needing to purchase a truck to tow a fifth wheel, the budget will need to be a lot higher than if you already own a truck. Be sure to consider any equipment that may be necessary before hitting the road, as well. This can also impact a potential budget.
3. List out Must-Have Features vs. Desired Features
Any must-have features should be ones that are make or break for an RV. Slide outs could be a non-negotiable factor, for instance. Be sure to do ample research to see what is typically included with types of RVs and what isn’t. Make clear lists to narrow down which features are absolutely necessary for you and which are preferable but not deal-breakers.
4. Shop Around (Including Online)
Now comes the fun part. Begin shopping around at local dealerships, such as Camping World, and other outlets to find your dream RV. Likewise, you could check out inventories from the comfort of your home by shopping online. Some popular online RV for sale websites include RV Trader/RVT, Classy RV, and even your local dealerships. Cruise America even has a used inventory to check out selling their “retired” rentals. We’ve heard mixed reviews about buying from Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace. Use those outlets with caution and be careful to avoid scams. Never purchase an RV online without being able to inspect it first.
5. Price Compare
Before settling on a few RVs to check out, be sure to do some price comparison to avoid overpaying. Sometimes dealerships can considerably mark up the price on RVs compared to their current market value. Compare prices of similar RVs with the same year, model, miles, and features to ensure a fair price. Be sure to check out NADA Guides for RVs to view the current prices and values of types of RVs.
6. Come up with Questions to Ask
Brainstorm and write down any questions to ask the dealer or seller. For any private sellers, be sure to speak with the actual seller to ensure your questions can be answered. We’ve put together a helpful list of questions to ask when looking at a potential RV.
After your questions have been answered, be sure to perform a thorough inspection of the RV.
Check for leaks and mold around the ceiling, under cushions, on the walls, near the window trim, and in the tops of cabinets. Inspect the floors and ceiling for any signs of deterioration or previous water damage. Check the generator hours (if applicable). Test all lights, signals, and gauges on or near the dashboard. Turn on and test all components such as the hot water heater, fridge, microwave and oven, gauges, etc. Sit on the toilet and stand in the shower (fully clothed please) to check the comfort depending on your height. If possible, ask to see maintenance records.
Inspect the tires for their age and condition. Just because the tires have a lot of tread left does not mean that they are in good condition, as most experts say that RV tires age out after six or seven years of use. Check the slide outs (if applicable) inside and out to ensure that they operate and seal properly. Test the automatic jacks (if applicable) to ensure that they function correctly and actually level the RV. Check the exterior trim and screws for rust and corrosion along with the undercarriage of the RV. Inspect the outdoor storage bays thoroughly for any signs of damage or mold. Test the exterior walls by pressing on them in various spots to ensure they are still strong and intact. Lastly, climb on the roof to ensure the roof is still strong and that there are no leaks near the air conditioners or anywhere else.
8. Test Drive
If the RV passes your inspection, ask if you can take it out for a test drive. This will not only help test out what’s under the hood, but can also give you an idea of whether or not an RV of that size and type is comfortable for you. Be sure to carefully test the braking, accelerating, turning, and reversing of the RV. If the RV passes this step, you can move on to checking the title.
9. Check the Title
Next, run the VIN or license plate through an online service such as CarFax or RVChex. This can help verify the number of previous owners and if the RV has been in any serious accidents. If the report comes back with negative information on the title (fire, salvage, accidents), it may be best for you to walk away from the sale. Be sure to consider any and all possibilities before continuing on with the purchase of a vehicle with negative title history.
10. Request an Inspection
Our last tip involves requesting a third party inspection. Companies such as Aim Certify can perform detailed inspections inside, outside, and under the hood of vehicles, including RVs. They will also test drive the vehicle for you and provide an inspection report. An inspection like this can run around $200 which is a worthy investment to avoid purchasing a lemon.
Buying a used RV doesn’t need to be a scary process. Think of it as the adventure before the adventure to your first Harvest Hosts location with your new-to-you RV. We hope these tips help you when purchasing your next used RV!
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