Skip to main content

How to Get the Best Deal When Buying a Used RV

I have bought and sold many RVs over my 50 years of RV ownership and want to help people to avoid RV buying and selling problems.

There are many factors to consider when buying a used RV. Here are the most common pitfalls and how to avoid them.

There are many factors to consider when buying a used RV. Here are the most common pitfalls and how to avoid them.

Tips for Buying a Used RV

If you want to get the best possible deal when buying a previously owned recreational vehicle, you must be willing to take your time and do plenty of research before deciding which travel unit will be a good choice.

Learn the Nuances of Recreational Vehicles

Many of the most important items to consider are not always obvious, so if you rush to judgment, you could be making serious mistakes that will negatively affect your finances as well as the enjoyment of any coach you purchase.

For example, sellers often proudly announce that their units have low mileage, and buyers might think this is a great selling point. However, while this fact may benefit those thinking of buying a motor home that runs on gasoline, it likely is not a good thing for individuals who are considering buying a diesel motor home. Gas engines have a shorter life than diesel engines, but diesel engines require regular lubrication in order to work properly.

Those coaches that stand idle for long periods of time (as when people are living in them year-round), may have engines that have dried out. This can create serious problems that can be quite expensive to repair and may even cause new owners to replace the engines. Another problem with low mileage might be that it was lived in rather than just used for travel.

When this is the case, everything in the interior may have been used to the point that upgrades and total replacements may be necessary.

For example, you may encounter any number of the following problems (not to mention many others not listed here):

  • The refrigerator may be on its last legs (e.g. have missing parts and/or rusted-out parts).
  • The foam in the upholstery may no longer be in good shape.
  • The air conditioners may be worn out.

All of these issues can represent ongoing and expensive problems, so it pays to find out if things like appliances, carpeting, window treatments and mattresses are original or have been replaced.

Tips that will help buyers get a great deal on used RV purchases.

Tips that will help buyers get a great deal on used RV purchases.

Research Is Extremely Important

Buying a used camper, travel trailer or motor home can bring many problems your way, but you can avoid them by doing some basic research. For example, you can check a coach's repair history simply by checking its maintenance records.

  • If the repairs you see have mostly been minor, chances are that the coach will endure.
  • If not, you could be opening yourself up to big problems if you buy it!

The Facts Matter

Learning the facts about a used coach is important because it means finding revealing information such as:

  • the number of people who have owned it,
  • where it was located for most of its life,
  • whether it has ever been in an accident,
  • how old the tires are and
  • how it has been used.

These are important things to know because

Scroll to Continue

Read More from AxleAddict

  • if there have been many previous owners, it's a sign that something may be wrong with the vehicle.
  • If it has been located in a cold climate or near salt water, it may have a good deal of rust on the undercarriage and on metal parts.
  • If it has been in an accident, the frame might be bent or there might be some sort of internal damage to the engine,
  • If the tires are more than five years old, they will have to be replaced because they no longer are safe. Here's some information that will show you how to read sidewall ratings.
  • If it has been lived in or used for constant, heavy travel, it might have parts or interior features that are worn out.

Not having knowledge of such issues can create problems.

It is much better for people to learn all they can about an RV before they buy one than after they close their deal because if there are issues they didn't find up front, it's going to be on them to deal with them.

The right RV can be a real pleasure.

The right RV can be a real pleasure.

Helpful Information

The Best Way to Avoid Buying a Defective RV shows how to do a good recreational vehicle inspection. The information will help you to sidestep many issues you might not otherwise consider when RV shopping.

Another thing that will help you is a book all potential RV owners should own called Buying a Used Motor Home: How to Get the Most for Your Money without Getting Burned.

My husband and I have used this book for years for every type of RV we've ever purchased and have found it an invaluable resource. It has saved us a good deal of money and has allowed us to purchase campers, travel trailers and motor homes that have had relatively few problems, thus saving us money as well as upset.

It has helped us to realize the importance of learning the facts so that we buy winners instead of losers!

RV Inspections Reduce Buying Risks

All recreational vehicles will eventually have issues that are upsetting, waste time, and can be expensive. Whether they happen sooner or later depends largely on how well they've been maintained.

When people take their first vacation in a newly purchased coach, they usually discover problems such as

  • slide rooms that do not function properly,
  • windows that fall out,
  • TV sets that don't work or
  • broken vent fans in ceilings.

However, those who inspect carefully when shopping can significantly reduce the risks of having these types of problems.

Cost Considerations

The average person only uses his RV seasonally, and units depreciate quickly, so paying a lot of money for one is not a smart move. Prices can vary widely, so even a used unit can cost upwards of $100,000. However, you can often find nice older coaches for much less.

A small, clean pull trailer can be had for less than $10,000, a good older diesel pusher costs around $40,000 and a decent gas-powered motor home will run between $20,000 and $25,000.

The deals are out there, but it takes time and effort to find them!

You should always comparison shop and use the Nada RV Buying Guide to help you determine the fair market value of any unit you are interested in purchasing. Remember that your goal is to find a good unit for the best possible price!

There are thousands of great used RVs from which to choose, but do so carefully.

There are thousands of great used RVs from which to choose, but do so carefully.

Why Buy Used?

There are a number of great points about owning older coaches. For example:

  • A well-maintained unit already has had many of its glitches worked out.
  • If some minor problems do still exist, the former owner can tell you about them ahead of time and often will help you to deal with them.
  • You also can see how well the unit has held up over time.
  • Owners often add nice amenities such as water filtration systems, doorbells, upgraded TVs and satellite systems that they include in the sales price.
  • Many times, previously owned units come with extras such as special hoses and connections. Sometimes you can even buy them completely furnished with dishes, linens, paper goods and cleaning items.
  • Because these vehicles are older, they have already depreciated significantly, so they lose value slowly.

Finding the Right Unit Takes Time

RVs of all types are luxury items that offer great travel experiences, regardless of their age or price. This is why formerly owned motor homes, trailers and campers are worth owning, for those who take the time to research them carefully before they buy.

Buyers who feel they do not want to sleep in the same bed or use the same toilet as previous owners may not realize that

  • toilets can be sanitized or easily replaced,
  • mattresses can be replaced and
  • upholstery and carpeting can be steam cleaned.

Doing these things costs very little and yields great benefits.

It takes time to find an acceptable previously owned RV, but once you do, you will realize that it can give you a lot of pleasure for a fraction of the cost that you might pay if you purchased a new one.

Good luck!

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.

Questions & Answers

Question: can the markup on a new RV rig be up to 50%?

Answer: This will give you all of the details about this issue. The markups can be quite high, but this article explains why.

Question: Would you purchase a 20-year-old Prevost RV if it were properly maintained?

Answer: I would be very careful when buying a unit this old because even though it is a high-end coach, it could have many problems that would be costly to fix.

© 2012 Sondra Rochelle

Related Articles