What to look for when buying a used RV

Even when buying used, an RV purchase is a significant investment and the process should be met with patience and research. Thoroughly inspect the vehicle's roof, walls, floors, tires, plumbing, electrical systems, and appliances. Obtaining a professional inspection is highly recommended, in addition to checking for a valid title and vehicle identification number (VIN).

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How to evaluate a used RV

Just as you would when buying a home, there are numerous areas to inspect before you buy a used RV. Check these to make certain the RV is suitable to purchase:

  • Roof: Even a tiny roof leak may lead to water damage and, consequently, mold, which could devastate the entire vehicle. Pay close attention to the sealants, caulking, and gutters. With the roof being so vital to your RV's health, you may want to hire a professional to inspect it.
  • Walls: Inspect the walls for cracks or peeling. Delamination develops from small cracks in the RV's lamination and is a common and potentially costly problem for RV owners.
  • Floors: Look for stains, soft spots, water damage, warping, unevenness, and any signs of rot.
  • Electrical systems: Check the breakers and DC wiring, and run every circuit. Make sure there are no blown fuses or corroded batteries. Every light and electrical outlet in the RV should be functional.
  • Air conditioner: If the filter is in poor condition, the vehicle's previous owners may have ignored the AC unit and other routine maintenance checks.
  • Gas furnace: A furnace that rattles could be a sign of debris or dirt build-up. A squealing noise could mean the bearings are worn out and need to be replaced.
  • Plumbing: Check the faucets, sinks, toilets, showers, and water pump. Make sure there are no leaks and that all of the vehicle's drains are flowing without issues.
  • Tires: Inquire about how much mileage are on the tires and when they were last replaced.
  • Appliances: Ensure the refrigerator is cooling and that all other appliances are in working order.
  • Exterior: While your natural focus may be the inside of the RV, don't forget to inspect the outside of the motorhome or travel trailer, including windows (check the seals around the windows as well as the slide outs), doors, awnings, panels, and the roof covering, if applicable.

Rent an RV before buying

Before buying a used RV, consider renting a motorhome or travel trailer for the weekend to find out the following:

  • How well a specific RV floor plan works for you
  • Whether the sleeping accommodations are comfortable
  • How easy it is to set up

If you rent an RV, learn how RV rental insurance can protect you.

Obtain a pre-purchase inspection

There are multiple levels of inspections an RV can receive before its sale. The most basic is the state-mandated safety and roadworthiness inspection. An RV should be current, regardless of being new or used.

A level 2 RV inspection is performed by a certified RV inspector and can take about a day or more to complete and can even involve sending fluid samples to a lab for review. It's highly recommended for used RV purchases, whether from a dealer or a private party.

Questions to ask when buying a used RV

In addition to making certain the RV hasn't been salvaged or stolen, protect yourself against buying a vehicle with a history of troubling repairs by asking the following questions:

  • Is the seller reputable?
  • Does the owner have a valid title?
  • Does the RV's vehicle identification number (VIN) match the one on the title?
  • Does the owner have maintenance records?
  • What issues, if any, have occurred and how often?
  • How has the RV been used and stored?

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