Buying anything used is a recipe for worry. There are many reasons why you should check your prospective used RV carefully before making the final purchase. These vehicles aren’t cheap, so buying something you regret can leave you in a deep hole from which you can’t quickly recover. And these worries could become worse when buying from a private seller who may (or may not) offer you a refund.
But don’t be concerned my friend as I’ve bought many used RVs in my day and I’m here to intricately share with you my experiences. . RVs are different from other vehicles so buying one isn’t like buying a used car or truck. Below is my used RV buying guide checklist that is sure to help make your purchase easier and ensure that you walk away with the best used RV you can find.
#1- Check for Strange Smells
• You should first take a deep whiff and make sure the RV hasn’t been smoked in before. (That is, unless you are a smoker and plan on smoking in it yourself!) Once the smoke smell sets in, it’s almost impossible to get rid of it.
• If you catch wind of a musty smell, keep in mind that the RV was probably kept in storage for an extended period of time. Ask the owner how long it was stored to gauge whether the smells are from storage or something more serious.
#2 – Make Sure It’s the Right Length
• You want to find the Goldilocks zone with your RV: not too small, not too big, but just right. Apprehensive shoppers often shop small at first. When they want something bigger, they exceed their needs and get a huge rig that can’t fit into campsites easily. Make sure you check with the places you intend on camping and call ahead to know their limitations before you buy.
#3 – Important Bathroom Considerations
• The toilet is the most important part of the bathroom, so be sure to check it first. Make sure that the closing hatch fully seals. You should also pour some water into it to make sure that it pools. Return after a few minutes. If the water is still there, you are good to go. If it isn’t, that toilet needs repair.
• Also check if the toilet is made from plastic or from porcelain.
• Another toilet point: Is it big enough for men to use?
• Next, move on to the shower. Is it big enough to shower comfortably?
• Is there a seat for women to be able to shave their legs?
• Can you spot any mold or mildew?
• Can you see if there is any way water can spill out of the shower?
#4 – Check the Windows
• You want to go around to every window and make sure it closes tight. Open and close them each several times.
• Are there shades and curtains attached? If not, don’t worry, you can always buy them on the cheap later on.
#5 – Check the Awning
• Is the awning powered?
• Check the position of the awning. You definitely don’t want an RV that has an awning hanging over the front doors. If so, you’ll walk outside and have all the rainwater splash on top of your head.
• Make sure you note the difference between side awnings and slide toppers. I’d recommend you go with the full side awnings, as the slide toppers are meant to prevent debris from falling into your cracks.
• Make sure the awnings are not broken in any way. They are expensive to repair: upwards of $1,500.
#6 – Furniture Considerations
• If you plan on watching movies or lounging, check if there is a comfortable squatting piece. Travel trailers are often without couches, so this is important for future consideration. A set of chairs might seem nice for camping, but not so comfortable when you are trying to relax.
• Is there enough seating for everyone you plan on camping with? That includes your entire family and/or group of friends. Sure, you could always add furniture later, but now is better than later.
• Check all furniture carefully to make sure it isn’t stained or damaged. If those points aren’t important to you, you could probably haggle your way into a discount if the owner turned over a stained cushion so you wouldn’t see it.
#7 – Let There Be Light
• If you are buying a towed trailer, then connect it to the vehicle you intend to tow it with. Then check every light carefully. This includes the headlights and exterior lights (running lights, brake lights, accessory lights, and more).
• Is the RV stocked with an LED light strip? Again, you can always buy one later if this isn’t important for you at the time of purchase.
#8 – Check the Power Ports and Outlets
• Make sure that there are power ports throughout the RV. This becomes important for charging your phone and other camping accessories.
• Also, check the RV to make sure the outlets are placed as you’d like. Kitchens with minimal outlets can be a drag on long trips.
#9 – Do You Have Running Water?
• First, check the hot water heater to make sure you can take hot showers.
• Also, make sure you test the gray and black tanks by filling the fresh water tank. Check the gauges to make sure it is working properly with measuring the water level as the shower is being run.
• Make sure the shower head doesn’t leak.
#10 – Make Sure You Are Safe
• Check the fire extinguisher to make sure it hasn’t expired.
• Also, be sure that you bring a can of gas with you so that you can make sure the carbon monoxide detector works. I cannot stress the importance of this enough.
#11 – Check for Water Damage
• Walk around the inside and outside of the trailer looking for bubbles on the side or roof. If you see any bubbles, I will urge you not to buy this machine. This means there is water damage.
• Stand on top of the roof and check the pipes and openings for sealant cracks.
• Walk inside the kitchen and press hard on the floor to check for soft spots.
• Look under the kitchen and bathroom sinks to see if water has leaked from the pipes.
#12 – Check the Tires
• You want to crawl onto the floor and check both sides of the tread on the tires. If you find one side has more wear than the other, this means they weren’t rotated. Either skip on this RV or tell the owner to replace the tires. A set of RV tires can cost upwards of $1,200.
• Check the brand of the tires as well. I want you to get quality, so be on the lookout for Goodyear or Michelin. If not, again, tell the owner to replace them or buy a different RV.
#13 – Check the Beds
• Does the RV require you and your family to set up the beds each night? Are you and they prepared to do this?
• Measure the bed in the master bedroom. You want a real queen, which measures 60 by 80. The short queens are 60 x 75.
#14 – Solar Panels
• Is there a solar panel attached or is it prewired to support one?
#15 – Does the Air Conditioner Work?
• Go inside and turn on the AC unit. Wait three minutes. If the air is not ice cold by this point, the AC is no good.
• Is there one or more ACs? If the RV is more than 30 feet, you will definitely need more than one to get you through 100-degree summer weather.
• Are the ACs loud? Can you handle the sound?
#16 – Sound Worries
• Speaking of sound, make sure the fans in the RV don’t make a rattling sound.
#17 – Make Sure It’s Level and Stable
• You need to make sure that motorhomes (and some 5th wheels) have automatic leveling. In the event that it doesn’t, you need to then check if it has powered levers. One of the other is super important.
• Check the stabilizers on the travel trailers and 5th wheels to see if they are powered or manual. If it comes with powered stabilizers, check the speed. I once bought an RV with a stabilizer so slow it drove me mad to the point where I had to get rid of it.
#18 – Extra Features
• Does it come with a spare tire?
• Is the spare a donut or a full tire?
• Are the propane and gas tanks full? This is a nice touch that could save you around $150 if the seller gives it to you with full tanks.