Things To Ask Before Buying Used RVs
Few things signal the oncoming arrival of freedom quite like an RV does. Whether you are planning on going camping or plotting a cross-country road trip, an RV is a valuable asset that can either help your plans come to fruition or destroy the dreams that you had been so carefully planning.
The very first choice that you will be presented with is buying your RV.
Whether you are buying your first RV or looking to buy your tenth one, making the decision on which one to buy will be one of the hardest choices that you will make.
If you are like many owners, justifying the expense for a brand new vehicle will be difficult, because an RV has a high depreciating value. Instead, many adventurous RV buyers choose to go with buying a used RV.
Buying one used can be intimidating.
This guide will help you to identify the types of questions you should ask before you decide to buy a used RV. By going into the sale prepared, you may spare yourself excessive costs and the disappointment that come from buying an RV that won’t be able to withstand the adventures you plan to embark upon with it.
1. Who owns the RV?
If you are going to a dealership to buy the RV, you will not have to worry about who owned it. But when you are purchasing a used RV, you may decide to buy from a private owner instead of through a dealership.
In some instances, the private owner may entrust the daily showing of the RV to a close friend or family member. If the true owner is off on a vacation in a newer version, it is even more likely that you will be talking to someone who does not own the it.
Why should you only want to deal with the RV’s true owner? Someone who does not own the RV cannot answer your questions truthfully or thoroughly.
They also cannot negotiate a price with you. For example, if you suddenly discover that the RV has a malfunction that can be easily repaired, only the true owner can agree to reduce the price by the $500 that it may take to repair it.
Additionally, the true owner can tell you important facts about the general maintenance of it, such as:
- How the RV has been stored
- Any routine maintenance that the RV had
- Repairs that the RV needed to have that were outside of the ordinary maintenance
- How many years it had been owned and driven
If someone is not the owner, yet still tries to answer these types of questions for you, move on to the next seller.
2. How many previous owners has the RV had?
If you are buying one used, it may have had more owners than the person showing the vehicle to you.
Whether you are buying from a dealership that specializes in selling RVs or you are buying an RV from fellow adventurer, you need to know the full traveling history of the it before you decide whether or not to purchase it.
Is an RV with lots of previous owners a bad purchase decision? That is not necessarily true. In many instances, one used with several previous owners will be perfectly acceptable for the trips that you may be planning on having.
However, when you buy a used RV that has had more than one previous owner, you have to rely on the current owner’s knowledge about the RV’s previous owners, including how often they preformed maintenance.
Knowing how many previous owners it had may also make a difference if the RV was previously used in extreme climates, such as deserts or places with heavy snowfall.
If the current owner proves unable to give a satisfactory answer or if they seem vague in their reply about how many previous owners the RV has had, it may be best to move on to another one for sale!
3. Do you mind if I do an inspection?
Before purchasing any RV, you should of course do a thorough inspection.
If the person selling you the RV is unwilling to allow you to perform one, or if they attempt to hurry you along while you are attempting to inspect the vehicle, that is a good sign that you should be wary of purchasing the vehicle.
While you want to be respectful of the current owner, that doesn’t mean you need to believe their word along when they tell you that everything is in perfect working order.
When you inspect the RV, these are a few of the common problems that a used RV may have which you should try to find:
- Smells: Be on the look out for strange smells around the drains, appliances and undercarriage.
- Leaks: Pay close attention to the carpet corners, roof, windows, appliances, bathroom and doors.
- Roof: Examine carefully for any signs of cracks or paint splitting.
- Mold: Used RVs are a common source of mold, which can make you sick. Inspect all the corners, seams, cabinets, appliances and creases within there for any sign of it.
- Awnings: Whether they retract or not, make sure that the RV’s awnings retract properly.
If you can afford the extra expense, also ask the owner if they would mind if you had the RV professionally inspected before agreeing to buy it.
This extra cost will generally be approximately $200, and a professional inspector will be able to find problems that you can easily miss.
Some owners will be comfortable with your private inspection but will deny a professional one. If they are unwilling to allow you to have a professional look over the RV, you might wish to make a purchase elsewhere.
4. Is this RV still under a warranty?
When you purchase a used RV, it is unlikely that you will be purchasing a vehicle that comes with a warranty. Most RV warranties do not last very long, and expire with their first owner.
However, if the vehicle is still under warranty, that is definitely a reason to consider buying the vehicle, especially if you plan to do a lot of traveling with it.
If the RV does have a warranty, it is important to determine exactly what type of warranty that includes. While an RV warranty typically covers a variety of mechanical costs, including refrigerators, engines and hot water systems, not all mechanical malfunctions will be included.
It is important before you buy the RV to know exactly what you will be expected to pay for in case the vehicle has a malfunction.
5. What is the maintenance history of this RV?
The maintenance history will be one of the most important deciding factors in keeping a used RV in good shape. An RV that is well maintained can last years longer than one that simply sits unattended in a garage or driveway.
When you ask the owner about the maintenance history, do not be afraid to ask for details.
It will also be important to have the owner’s verbal maintenance history verified if it is at all possible. Ask if they have maintenance records or receipts.
Confirmation through written documents will provide you with the most reliable proof that it has been taken care of by its previous owners and will be more likely to last through your planned trips.
A few common maintenance records to ask about include:
- Clearing of storing awnings
- Tire pressure
- Major repairs
- Previous accidents
6. When were the tires last replaced?
Even if you are unable to obtain the full maintenance records from the current owner, it is particularly important to know how many miles have been put on the tires and when you will need to replace them again.
Replacing tires on a used RV can be very expensive. This is particularly true if you are buying a Class A RV.
The tires for this type of RV are more expensive than other types. If you are going to have to replace these tires in the near future, you will want to be able to factor that expense into the price you are paying for the RV.
You can easily pay at least $300 per tire when they need to be replaced, so make sure that you have solid proof of the last time that the tires were changed for the RV.
In general, an RV tire that is well-maintained and has a consistent tire pressure can have a life expectancy of at least four years. Many experienced RV users are able to make them last much longer than that.
However, the older the tire, the sooner you will have to replace it.
When you ask questions about the age of the tire, do not be afraid to negotiate the price of the RV based on the age of the tire.
If you feel that the tires will not last very long and will need to be replaced soon, discuss that with the current owner to see if they are willing to reduce the price. If they are not, you might find a better RV elsewhere.
If you truly desire the RV that you are looking at and it does not have a verifiable history of tire maintenance, check the tread carefully. Inspect the tires to see if there is any proof of sun damage.
Do research to discover how much it will cost you to have to replace the tires to determine if you can afford that expense.
7. Can I stand in your shower?
Of course, you should not ask to use the shower before you purchase it. But asking to stand in the shower to determine if it will be large enough for you is something that you should do before you purchase the used RV.
If you plan on taking the RV with you on multiple trips and spending the night in the RV, you will want a shower that you can use. It may be smaller on the inside than it looks.
The last thing you want to have to deal with his a shower that won’t work for you and forces you to seek out different methods of bathing while you are on the road.
8. What additional fees will there be that are not included on the sticker price?
If you are purchasing from a private owner, this may not be a question you have to worry about when you are buying your used RV.
However, if you are buying a used RV from a dealership, they will likely have additional fees beyond the sticker price that you will have to pay in order to take the RV home with you. Common fees include dealership fees, taxes and title fees.
In the case of a used RV, dealerships may commonly post a very low sticker price for the vehicle in order to draw in customers who are looking for an affordable used RV.
Then, after the customer has already expressed interest, they will raise the price significantly through the use of additional fees.
9. What types of pets have lived in this RV?
You or your family member might be allergic to certain pets. If that pet has traveled as part of the current owner’s family, that smell and dander will likely be all over the furniture and flooring.
Even if are not allergic to any animals, you should still be aware of the RV’s pet history. When the weather changes or you find yourself in a new climate, a new set of smells may hit you.
If you are aware that the previous owner had a beloved cat, the familiar smell of its markings may be more readily identified.
10. How well do the appliances work?
Ask about each of the appliances that the RV includes. Check that the air conditioner works, the refrigerator cools and the television plays.
Make sure that the doors to all the appliances shut completely and are able to lock so that they will not come open as you are driving down the road. Some used RVs develop problems with their appliances no longer shutting completely.
If the doors do not work, your appliance will not work for you long term.
Make sure the heater works as well. In the case of both the heater and the air conditioner, it will take time for them to activate. If the owner is impatient with your and does not want to give you time to see if these appliances work, then you should carefully consider finding another RV.
11. Why are you selling it?
If you are buying from a private owner, this is a very important question to ask. The current owner might have a number of reasons why they want to get rid of their current RV. Common reasons include:
- They are no longer able to move around comfortably enough to travel.
- They simply want a newer RV to take on their adventures.
- They need a larger or smaller RV.
Of course, they may also want to get rid of a RV that no longer works. You do not want to be the owner that is stuck with a faulty RV that no longer works.
If the owner seems vague in their reasoning or you do not trust that they are telling you the truth, look elsewhere for your RV.
12. Can I take a test drive?
Most sellers will be wiling to allow you to take the RV for a test drive. If they are unwilling to allow you to test drive the RV, this is a huge red flag that you should not buy the RV.
When you do test drive the vehicle, see how it handles. Is the RV too big for you to handle? Does it feel like it can handle the terrain your travels will include? Does it make any strange noises?
Be wary of any noises, rattles or problems that you cannot immediately identify.
Keep In Mind
When you look at used RVs, you might want to see if they’re handicapped accessible. It depends on the year they were made and the rule(s) at that time.