Never Buy an RV That Has One of These 11 Problems

Updated on June 8, 2017
TIMETRAVELER2 profile image

I am an avid RV enthusiast who understands that my life and my safety depend on the condition of the equipment in my coach.

When shopping for recreational vehicles, always be on the lookout for the 11 problems that can make them unacceptable for purchase, and learn to walk away when you see them.

There always will be problems with any coach, but some which may seem small can actually be much worse than you might think.

Considering a coach that has one or more of them can be a major mistake that could cost you a great deal of money down the road, so you should always look for the “red flags” when doing your inspections.

Problems that fall into this category are

  1. signs of delamination,
  2. a rubber roof,
  3. older tires,
  4. signs of water damage,
  5. clogged AC filters,
  6. cigarette smell,
  7. pet odors,
  8. sewer smell,
  9. heavy rust,
  10. body damage and
  11. any windshield damage.

Red flags to watch out for when buying an RV.
Red flags to watch out for when buying an RV. | Source

Signs of Delamination

There are two reasons for delamination:

  1. the glue that connects the outer walls of a coach to the inner ones has dried out and lost its strength or
  2. water has seeped through seams and loosened areas of the external walls.

In either case, the resulting problem can be expensive as well as very difficult if not impossible to fix.

Always take a walk around a travel unit you are inspecting and look for bubbling or indentations.

Even if you see just one or two small areas of delamination, this is a warning sign that you should heed.

Don’t be tempted to buy because of the lower price, because in the long run, a vehicle with this type of problems will cost you far more than you realize.

A Rubber Roof

The best RV roofs are made either from fiberglass or aluminum.

If you are thinking of buying a unit with a rubber roof, you’ll be making a mistake because they are not durable, are difficult and expensive to repair, and the cost of replacement can be as high as $8,000!

Older Tires

If you make it a point to learn how to read the descriptive numbers on the sidewalls of RV tires, you won’t have to depend on your seller to tell you how old they are.

The Best Way to Safely Maintain, Use and Buy RV Tires shows you how to do this.

Although tires may appear to be good and seem to have plenty of tread, if they are more than 5 years old, you will have to either purchase new ones or negotiate pricing with your seller.

Don’t believe anybody who tells you that older tires are safe to use because this is not the case.

Furthermore, good quality RV tires can be very expensive.

We recently replaced our six 19-inch tires with a decent brand and paid more than $2300. The bigger the tire and the better the brand, the higher the cost.

Never buy trailers and motor homes with overly old tires because they are dangerous to drive and expensive to replace.
Never buy trailers and motor homes with overly old tires because they are dangerous to drive and expensive to replace. | Source

Signs of Water Damage

It is common for recreational vehicles to have water leaks.

  • If they are quickly eliminated, they don’t do much damage.
  • If not, they can ruin the basic structure of a coach!

If you see many water stains on ceilings, around slide rooms, on carpets or furniture or inside of upper cabinets, tread carefully.

Even though a coach may seem to be “dry”, it may have hidden and extensive damage.

If you smell mildew or mold in addition to seeing visible signs of damage, don’t buy the coach.

How to Protect Your RV from Water Damage and Flooding explains more about this issue.

Coaches with signs of water damage are not good ones to buy.
Coaches with signs of water damage are not good ones to buy. | Source

Clogged AC Filters

Always ask a seller to turn on the air conditioner while you are inspecting his RV.

  • If the amount of cooling does not seem right, ask if you can remove the inside cover and then check the filter.
  • If the filter is extremely dirty, it’s a sign that the owner has not done a good job of maintaining his coach.

When this is the case, it is highly likely that he has not taken care of basic issues such as changing oil regularly or caulking the seams of his roof.

Check the engine and generator compartments to see if the equipment is clean. If it is also filthy, this is not a coach you should buy.

Cigarette Smell

Recreational vehicles generally pick odors up easily.

Some you can eliminate, but if the seller is a smoker, you’ll be able to smell stale cigarettes all over the coach.

Unless you are willing to tear out the flooring, wash down the walls, remove and replace all upholstery as well as the ceiling fabric, you will never be able to get the smell out of the coach.

If you are a smoker, this may not matter, but it will matter later when you try to sell your unit to somebody else.

Pet Odors

If you don’t own pets, buying a travel unit that had them as travel companions will prove uncomfortable.

They have distinct body odors. Their hair also gets into everything and is impossible to eliminate.

You should only purchase such a vehicle if you either don’t care about the smells, or are willing to vacuum everything, shampoo carpets and sanitize the furniture.

Pet odors are hard to eliminate from recreational vehicles.
Pet odors are hard to eliminate from recreational vehicles. | Source

Sewer Smell

Black-water tanks emit a distinct noxious odor that permeates a recreational vehicle.

If the odor is due simply to the fact that the tank has not been cleaned properly, it’s not a problem.

However, it is possible that this odor is caused by a crack in the tank itself, or a leak in one of the pipes or valves.

  • In the first case, a simple cleaning and sanitizing should get rid of the smell.
  • However, in the second case, the coach may require major and very costly repairs that should be paid for by the seller. If the seller refuses to pay, or offers to lower the price so that you will handle the repairs, don’t buy the RV, because if you do, you may be asking for big trouble.

Heavy Rust

Most travel units, especially those that are kept in cold climates, will develop rust on the undercarriage.

A light coating is not a problem, but if the rust is thick it will eat right through the metal.

An RV specialist can blast it off, repair any damage and then paint the undercarriage with a protective coating, but having him do this job will be extremely expensive.

Rust on the interior of a coach can also be a big a problem because it is a sure sign of water intrusion that has not been properly addressed.

You should never buy a coach with rust problems because no matter what you do to try to fix them, you may never be able to do so and will spend a fortune trying!

Body Damage

RVs are tricky to drive. As a result, people often damage them as they travel.

Small dents and scrapes may not bother you, but if you see signs of major issues such as long deep scratches on the exterior walls, bent bumpers or big dents, walk away.

RVs are not made as solidly as you would like to believe, so a big dent could mean that the basic structure has been damaged internally.

Furthermore, repairs for problems like this are very costly, so you need to think carefully before buying a recreational vehicle that has them.

Damaged Windshield

In most states it is against the law to drive a vehicle whose windshield has any type of damage whatsoever because they can be dangerous for travelers.

RV windshields are large, so replacing them can be costly.

Some states have laws that make insurance companies replace them for free, but only if the problem occurred after you already owned the coach.

If you buy an RV knowing that the windshield has problems, the cost of replacing or repairing it will come out of your pocket.

Even if your insurance agent says he’ll pay for it, you can bet your rates will go up. Once that happens, they never drop back down.

So, if you are looking at a coach that has this problem, either insist the seller repair it or walk away.

So Many Problems, So Little Time

No matter what type of recreational vehicle you buy or whether it is new or old, it is going to have problems.

Those that make a coach unacceptable for purchase are the ones that require the most serious levels of inspection. Money-Wasting Problems to Watch Out for When RV Shopping shows you how to do a thorough examination of any coach you are thinking of buying.

What may seem a good deal could be one that ends up costing you a fortune or causing an accident, so don’t ignore what I’ve written here.

Owning a travel unit is a long term investment, so you want to make sure that you get the best one your dollars can buy.

Did you know you should look for RV problems like these before reading this article?

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Questions & Answers

  • We found a 2018 travel trailer that has NOT been Used. I looked underneath and realized the axles, and other components have a significant amount of rust. How concerned should we be? If the dealer pressure washes the rust and repaints, what insurance do we have that it may not get worse? (We wonder if it came from the North area in snow and may have not been cleaned)

    Rust cannot be "pressure washed" off. Removing it is a lot of work and requires the use of special chemicals. It his coach has never been used, I would question why it has so much rust! That would be a red flag to me. However, IF the rust is properly removed and a rust retarder is painted onto the axels, etc., that would probably be OK. It's what is inside of those axels that is more important, but either way, I would want the rust properly removed. Few dealers will want to do this because it is expensive and time consuming. If I had a choice, I'd pass on this coach.

© 2016 Sondra Rochelle

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