6 Things to Look Out for When Buying a Used RV

These 6 things could make or break a used RV purchase

Used RV
••• Used RVs can be hit or miss if you know what to look for before buying one. John Lawson/Moment Open/Getty Images

Buying used is one of the hardest choices many RVers make, especially first time owners. When you're looking to buy an RV, it can be hard to justify how much money you spend to make it happen. With so many RVs on the market, it can hard to figure out what fits within your budget. It can difficult to determine if a used RV is in good enough condition to buy at an affordable price.

A used RV can be the quickest way to take advantage of everything it offers your family when traveling.

To avoid being swindled by a dealer or individual seller, use this checklist to make sure the RV is in working condition before making the buy.

Things to Look for When Buying a Used RV

Be sure to do an interior and exterior walkthrough of the RV without the dealer or owner present. When you do a walkthrough with someone else, they'll steer you away from any issues that may be present. By walking through yourself, you can check out things you may not have noticed otherwise.

Look for These 6 Things When Inspecting a Used RV

Be on the lookout for the following when doing a solo inspection:

  • Odors: Especially from water sources or appliances
  • Mold: Mostly found in corners of roof or laminate floors
  • Leaks: Often found in corners of carpeting near appliances and bathroom
  • Rust: Look for it under the chassis of the motorhome or trailer
  • Awnings: Make sure they work properly
  • Roof: Check for cracks or bubbling

    Just because you find any issues with the above list doesn't mean the RV or trailer is a bad buy. There are reasons a used RV is cheaper than a new one and these issues you find may contribute to that. If you feel you're seeing too many issues and the price is high, this is where negotiating comes into play and can benefit you.

    Ask for the full-service record for the RV in question. A reputable seller will have no issues giving this documentation over to you. Be wary if they don't. These records will give you a breakdown of everything that's been worked on, whether it's major or minor repairs and can be an indicator of on-going issues you will handle down the deal with down the line.

    Pro Tip: Make sure the vehicle identification number (VIN) from the RV matches the paperwork. Otherwise, you're being tricked into thinking the service record is clear of any issues.

    One of the quirkiest ways to check if the engine is in good condition or not is to look under the hood at the oil. Many dealers and sellers may be aghast to have to do this for you, but again, a reliable one will have no hesitation. If oil from the RV smells like it's been burnt, the engine integrity should be questioned.

    Look for any signs of rust on the inside or outside of the RV. Rust will occur on any RV, no matter where in the country it's located. You're looking for any signs of rust on the frame of the RV. Repairing a frame after rust damage is costly and not worth the time even for the price a used RV might be.

    Pro Tip: Rust on an RV frame means the RV is at the end of its life.

    Avoid it at all cost, even for a great markdown.

    Buyer Beware

    When you buy used, including RVs, you're taking a risk that down the line you'll invest a significant amount of money should something go wrong. If you buy from an individual and not a dealer, you'll often find you're buying a used RV as is. As is means you accept all liability for something going wrong the second ownership changes hands. If you bought a lemon, you're stuck with a lemon.

    It's imperative you do your research ahead of time, perform a thorough interior and exterior walkthrough of the RV and make sure all your questions are answered ahead of time before you consider making a used RV buy. Being stuck with an RV, even used, that doesn't work or requires more repair than you anticipated doesn't save you any money and can leave an impression on how fun and exciting you thought RVing was going to be for you and your family.