How to Find Important Info About an RV You Want to Buy

Updated on January 19, 2019
TIMETRAVELER2 profile image

I am an RV enthusiast with more than 50 years of experience owning, driving, traveling and living in recreational vehicles.

If you want to get important information such as values, vehicle histories, and similar items about an RV you are thinking of buying, you need to know where to look.

When you are shopping, sellers give you a general overview but few have specific details that can let you know whether a particular travel unit is one in which you want to invest your money.

For example, finding out

  • whether a coach has been in an accident,
  • is properly priced,
  • has had an overabundance of repairs or
  • has hidden flaws

will let you about potential problems and help you to decide whether you will want to deal with them or not.

However, it takes time and effort to learn about such details, and you have to know where to look in order to find them.

How to learn all you can about an RV before you buy it.
How to learn all you can about an RV before you buy it. | Source

Contact the RV's Manufacturer

Once you have decided on the year, brand, and model of a coach you think you want to own, your first step is to learn all you can about how it is constructed.

There are several ways of accessing this information, but one of the best is to contact the manufacturer and ask about the materials that they use when building this type of travel unit.

You can find their phone number with a simple online search. Once you do, you can speak with someone in their construction or sales department and ask questions about items such as

  • the thickness of the walls,
  • the amount of insulation,
  • the type of framework used,
  • the brand of chassis and the weight it is rated to carry,
  • the roofing materials and
  • whether the coach has full or partial body paint.

If you’ve ever been to an RV factory or watched a YouTube video such as the one below that shows you how they are put together, you will need to understand that under the glitz of fancy flooring and rich upholstery often lie thin materials that are quickly installed and don’t hold up well to road vibration and weather.

It is usually shocking to watch this type of construction, but it's better to know about ahead of time than to find out after you've spent your money that things are not what they seemed to be!

Call the Manufacturers of Its Systems

Since RVs use many systems in order to function properly, it's important for you to learn as much as you can about them.

They generally operate independently of one another and are manufactured by different companies, so to learn about them you'll have to find out who manufactures them, their model and serial numbers, and their year of manufacture.

Most of this information can generally be found on the item in question, but if not, you can call the manufacturer of the RV, tell him its year, make, and model and ask him to provide you with the information you seek.

If all he can tell you is the name of the company that created the product, you will need to find their phone number and contact them with your questions.

If the product is no longer manufactured, you may have to search for dealers that specialize in providing outdated equipment.

Sometimes an experienced RV parts salesman or mechanic can also provide some of this information.

Doing all of this can be time consuming and tedious, but sometimes it's the only way to learn what you need to know.

Years ago my husband and I found that we needed to replace the small clips that held our coach's screens in place only to find that nobody was selling them! It took quite awhile to find some, but by using the above methods, we finally did.

Search Nada

You can go on NADA.com and do a search for any recreational vehicle that will reveal a good deal of basic information and will also provide you with valuations.

This resource has a special section just for Recreational Vehicles, so make sure that you are searching there.

The values you will see are not written in stone, but are good benchmarks for determining fair market value. How to Know What an RV Is Worth will give you more information about how to find appropriate pricing.

Read the Owner’s Manual

An RV's owner's manual can also be a very helpful source of important information. Usually they are kept inside of a coach so that potential buyers can easily access them, but if not, you can often find them via an online search.

People tend to ignore these manuals because they seem complicated, but they can be extremely helpful, especially if you learn how to read the schematics.

For example, my husband and I were having problems with toilet clogs, even though we thought we were doing all of the right things. However, by checking out the plumbing diagrams in our manual, we discovered that the pipes that leave our sewer tank have to 90 degree turns in them that can stop waste materials from passing through easily.

As a result, we made some basic repairs and changes and resolved this issue!

People think that all structural issues are the same in RVs, but they are not.

For example,

  • some allow all water from the shower and toilet to empty into one tank,
  • while others separate the shower and sink water from the commode water so that they go into separate tanks.

This is important to know because in the first instance, the sewer tank fills more quickly than in the second, which means you need to dump more often or risk backup and flooding issues.

Owner’s manuals are chock full of meaningful information that will show you everything from which cleaning items are safest to use to how to contact the manufacturer if you need parts or assistance.

How much do you really know about an RV you are thinking of buying?
How much do you really know about an RV you are thinking of buying? | Source

Visit RV Forums

Online RV forums are another good source of information. You can join or just stop by to see if others who own your type of travel unit have had similar problems to yours and, if so, to see how they dealt with them.

By visiting one or more of these forums, you'll be giving yourself the opportunity to meet RVers who represent many years of experience and are willing to share their knowledge with you.

The best way to find them is to do a Google search for online RV forums or, conversely, to type in the year, brand and model of your coach followed by a brief description of your issue.

For example, you might type wordage such as "1999 Country Coach Magna generator problem".

Fellow owners are out there right now waiting to hear from you. It costs nothing to join one of these forms,but the payback for doing so can be extremely satisfying.

Contact RV Owners' Clubs

Some of the more popular brands of RV such as Airstream and Safari have clubs individuals can join that provide access to all sorts of information and help from others who own your brand, year and model of travel unit.

There are many benefits to joining such clubs since they sponsor rallies, caravans and other fun activities that allow them to personally meet.

Sometimes manufacturers' representatives show up at the rallies and offer free and discounted repairs and upgrades to people who need them. I met a man awhile back who went to a Safari Owners' Club rally and bought two beautiful captain's chairs for half price!

To find a club, search the net to see if one exists that will work for you. Not all brands have clubs, but if you find one that is a match, you'd do well to join it.

Watch You Tube Videos

YouTube is another excellent resource for learning about your RV's systems and how to understand and work with them.

Many companies and individuals post videos that provide information about how to make repairs, problems they have encountered since owning their coaches, how to inspect units and more.

There is nothing more effective than actually seeing how something is done, and YouTube videos provide that experience.

Some share the bad experiences they had due to the fact that they did not find out about various things until something went wrong. Watching them can be an important tool that will help you to learn what you want to know.

The good news is that these videos cost nothing to watch!

Inspect the Coach

If you really want to learn about an RV, you should take the time to inspect it . The Best Way to Avoid Buying a Defective RV tells you how to do this properly.

If you don't do this, you will eliminate your chances of finding flaws you could not possibly know about otherwise.

Problems often occur in hidden areas such as on the rear walls of closets, in the interiors of the ceilings in upper cabinets, behind toilets, under sinks, around window frames and around any items that attach to roofs and sidewalls as well as in basement storage areas and even underneath coaches.

By carefully inspecting every area of a recreational vehicle, you can learn a great deal about it that will help you decide whether you want to own it.

For example, a coach that has lumps or indentations in the exterior sidewalls is one to avoid because they are telling you that it has delamination problems. These are very costly to repair and some cannot be fixed at all!

Let your RV become your teacher.
Let your RV become your teacher. | Source

Call Your Insurance Agent

If you take the time to contact your insurance agent and supply them with the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) of an RV, they can tell you whether it has ever been in an accident, has been stolen or has any title defects.

This important is vital to know, yet few buyers ever think to ask about it.

Make sure that you do!

Good Resources Are Key

While it takes time and a bit of creativity to find the types of resources that can help you to understand your recreational vehicle and its systems, you'll find that the effort involved in doing so will help you to do a better job of keeping your travel unit in good condition.

Your owner's manual, informational videos, RV forums and other resources are the keys to learning what you need to know, so don't ignore them.

Do you think you know as much about your RV as you should?

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This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

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    © 2016 Sondra Rochelle

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