Fall is an excellent time to buy a used RV. While the full-timers are starting to travel south for the rest of the year, other people who spent the summer camping are now just looking to get rid of their rig instead of having to store it away for the winter.
Buying an RV used – even if it still looks brand new – can save a serious amount of money. But you don’t want just any old motorhome or camper. Keep these few things in mind before picking one up that’s already had a previous owner.
1. Know what you’re looking for, and determine a fair value for what it sells for used.
There’s a wide variety of RVs of all shapes and sizes to choose from out there. Do you plan on traveling in it with your whole family, or just your significant other? Are you going to be driving it full-time, or just on occasional trips?
Even if you don’t have a specific model in mind yet, try to decide whether you’re looking for a motorhome, travel trailer, or a fifth wheel trailer before you start searching. Or if you do know what type of RV you’d like, do a quick Google search to determine a fair value of what they sell for used. This will give you a general idea of the price range and budget you’ll be looking at.
2. Look for RVs and trailers in your local area before considering one farther away.
Good deals on RVs hundreds of miles away may be tempting. But sometimes they can be so expensive to drive all the way home, especially when there’s other options for sale closer to your neck of the woods, that it ends up not even being worth it. Try searching for RVs and trailers near you online through craigslist, eBay, and RV Trader before looking out of your immediate area.
Keep in mind, not everyone who’s selling their RV is computer and Internet-savvy. Also look out for listings in local newspapers, bulletins, or take a drive through RV parks to look for any “For Sale” signs posted in windows.
3. Be patient. Finding the right used RV or trailer can take longer than buying one brand new.
Finding the right RV for you, still in decent condition and at a good price, isn’t always easy.
If you’re lucky, you might come across the perfect one right off the bat and be on your way. Other times, it can be a much longer, drawn-out process. The first one you liked, but they were just asking for too much. The second one looked like a good buy at first, until you discovered it had some repairs that were too costly to fix.
But how much you’ll save in the long run is well worth the effort. If you can’t find one that interests you, stay persistent and continue to check listings across multiple websites and in your local newspapers every day.
4. Always inspect potential RVs and trailers to make sure they’re safe to drive.
Before buying any used car or RV, making sure that it’s safe to drive should be your number one priority. Outside, you may even need to get down on your hands and knees to crawl underneath trailers to see how the frame looks. If it’s badly rusted, the whole foundation could give way at any point. Look for any other cracks or major impact damage.
Check the tires to make sure they’re in good condition. Do they have any cracks or splits?
Make sure the batteries still work. Often times they’ll have died out in older RVs and will need to be replaced. If the bulbs inside still burn brightly, you’ll know they’re good to go.
Most importantly, you’ll want to make sure the brakes work well. The seller should allow you to travel a short distance in order to test them out. Repairing brakes can be costly, and your life and safety depend on them functioning every single time.
5. Know how to check for structural problems.
- A leaky ceiling, soft spots in the floor, stains on the walls. Any sign of water damage is usually a deal-breaker, unless you plan on completely remodeling all of it.
- The windows should open and close smoothly, the entry door should work well.
- Check to make sure the fiberglass sidewalls aren’t separated or peeling.
- Look for cracks and splits on the hoses leading away from the propane bottle. You definitely don’t want your propane connection to be leaking. Also check the nut that screws into the propane tank. If it’s worn out, it may need to be replaced.
6. Do a quick run-through to make sure all of the appliances are working.
All of the burners on the stove work? The oven is able to heat up? The fridge feels cold? The air conditioner can blow cold air, and if there’s a heating element, it’s able to get warm?
Having to repair or replace any of these appliances will run up your bill fast. A short walk-through to test them all ahead of time will tell you right away whether or not they’re still functioning.
7. Be cautious of sellers who aren’t listed in the title or can’t provide you with one.
Scams are a real, unfortunate thing. And they’re pretty common when people are buying from unknown sellers online. A legitimate owner selling the vehicle should be able to provide you with a title – with their name on it – so you can change it to your name in order to get insurance, etc.
Eyebrows should definitely be raised if a potential seller can’t provide you with the title for it. For all you know, it could be stolen. Be cautious, and opt to buy from someone else who can give you all of the legal registration information you need.
8. You may be able to work out a deal.
Many people who are selling their RV just want to get an upgrade or new model. They might have an idea of how much they’d like to see out of it, but depending on how many buyers have been interested and how badly they just want to get rid of it, they might be open to your best offer or working out some sort of deal.
But the longer an RV sits parked and unused, the more its value decreases. So if you and the seller aren’t able to come to an agreed upon price, you can always jot down your number and let them know they can always call you in case they change their mind.
Have you bought a used RV before? We’d love to hear some of your tips and insight below.