Shopping for a Pre-Owned RV?
Buying a used RV can be a great choice that saves you money. However, it can also be a chance you take that costs you money.
As with anything that is pre-owned, used RVs can present issues after being purchased. It has, after all, been used by someone else.
All RVs, even new ones, will have problems and require some amount of time and money to maintain. By doing your due diligence and following these 5 steps, you may save yourself some time and money buying a used RV.
Here’s 5 Things You Must Look For When Buying A Used RV
For those of you looking to purchase a motorhome or camper van, the mechanical operation and drivetrain of the RV will be a huge consideration and require a thorough inspection. For the sake of this article, we will focus on non-drivetrain-related items.
1. Previous owner’s maintenance
This is a big one and can tell a lot about what you are getting into with a used RV.
If someone is selling something, odds are they are going to “clean it up” so it looks good. Although a clean, well-kept RV is a good sign, it’s the things you can’t see as soon as you walk into an RV that count.
If an RV has been meticulously cleaned and kept, it’s likely the same can be said for the maintenance, but don’t just assume a clean RV is trouble-free. You want to confirm that the owners have kept up with RV maintenance and aren’t selling to avoid a known expensive service or repair.
Any work done at service centers will produce receipts and can be valuable to look at. Spend the time and look at the areas that show evidence of maintenance.
Some signs of maintenance you can look for are as follows:
Tires/Wheels: Are the tires wearing evenly? Have they been maintaining tire pressure and monitoring axle alignment? Is there evidence of wheel-bearing greasing?
Batteries: Do the connections look free of corrosion? If applicable, are the batteries topped up with water?
Roof: Has the roof been kept clean along with the rooftop A/C unit?
Water heater: If the RV hasn’t been used recently, check if the water heater has been drained. If possible, run water through the tank to check for signs of rust and scale being flushed out.
Slides: Look for lubricated slide components and that the slides open in good alignment.
2. Electrical issues
Electrical issues in an RV can be some of the most frustrating to diagnose. Troubleshooting can take time, and time is money in the case of service centers. Even if you are fixing these problems yourself, it can be frustrating to track down.
Electrical issues are something many people choose to have someone else perform, this is due to their inexperience with electricity. If you have a friend comfortable and competent with electrical systems, taking them along with you when checking out RVs can help.
When looking at a used RV, being able to hook up and check both 12-volt battery and 110 volt electrical systems is important.
Mold is something nobody wants to have to deal with. In many cases, mold issues can require major repairs in an RV. Mold issues can hide and only show up once it has been forming and spreading for a while.
Spend time looking at all wall, floor, and ceiling surfaces for signs of mold. Inside cabinets can be a problem spot for humidity and as a result, mold. Make sure to check inside cabinets for any signs of mold.
Areas surrounding windows and doors, both inside and outside, along with anywhere there are seams or changes in materials are possible areas for water to enter, so be extra cautious when looking at these areas.
Keep in mind what looks like a small water-damaged area often leads to a larger area, and in many cases, mold.
4. Roof repairs
It can be easy when you go to look at RVs to become focused on what you can see and forget about some things you can’t.
A roof inspection is extremely important and is an area that is vulnerable to multiple issues.
A roof inspection should expose any prior roof repairs which can be cause for alarm. Roof repairs sometimes are necessary and if done properly can be non-issues, however, it is common for roof repairs to be patched up repairs.
Your roof inspection will also show the condition of the roof covering and many seals on the roof around vents, sunroofs, antennas, and A/C units.
Related: RV Roof Maintenance 101: Keep Your Camper In Good Shape
5. A/C system operation
A/C repairs can be expensive, and in some cases, many service technicians and service centers are unable to recharge A/C systems as we do in our cars. RV A/C systems are sealed and in many cases, loss of charge means replacement of the entire A/C unit.
Check the filters and make sure they are clean and in place. Make a trip to the roof and inspect the condition of the fins on the unit and that while running there are no unusual noises. Ideally, the RV is powered and you can run the A/C long enough to confirm it is cooling.
Buying a used RV is exciting, but it can also be overwhelming for some. It is easy to overlook things or buy for the wrong reasons.
This is your investment so don’t be afraid to spend whatever time is needed for a thorough inspection including functioning systems and appliances and any mechanical checks you wish to do.
Take your time, have a checklist, and wait for the RV that is right for you. Then hit the road!
One of the best parts about RVing is engaging with the community of traveling enthusiasts. iRV2 forums allow folks to chat with other RVers online, and get other perspectives on everything RVing, including products, destinations, RV mods, and much more.
Kendall lives with his wife and their two cocker spaniels full-time in their RV currently in Mexico. He is one half of DashboardDrifters.com and the co-founder of RVSpotDrop, a web service for full-time RVers.
lynette McCormick says
I did enjoyed the article that I read on buying a new or used RV. It was very interesting. thanks for sharing.
Beware that newer RV coaches and appliances have a very limited warranty that IS NOT TRANSFERRABLE to the next owner. Contrary to the chassis OEM who may offer several years of protection to whoever drives it into the repair shop (like a car).
Makes me wonder dealers how they get away with such lousy support.
Claire Masters says
My husband wanted us to go travel after this lockdown has been lifted. So, we might purchase a used camper car or maybe an RV. Understandably, we might need to have it serviced so thanks for these tips especially about checking the condition of the AC filter, the fins, and noises that it makes when it operates.