What You Need to Know About Buying Used RVs

Updated on January 23, 2018
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.

There is a great deal to consider If you are thinking about buying a previously owned recreational vehicle.

For this reason, you need to learn all you can before making a purchase because many of the most important items you should consider are not obvious.

For example, you might assume that low mileage is always a good thing.

While it is a benefit for those buying a motor home that runs on gasoline, it is not a good thing if you are considering buying a diesel motor home.

Diesel coaches need to be driven regularly to keep their engine parts lubricated. Therefore, those that have sat unused for long periods can create expensive repair problems for buyers.

There is a lot to learn about buying previously owned recreational vehicles.
There is a lot to learn about buying previously owned recreational vehicles. | Source

Learn the Facts About Used RVs Before You Buy

Buying a used travel unit 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!

Learning the facts about a used coach means finding information about items that relate to it 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.

For example, a coach with very low mileage may have only been used for full time living. Thus, while the miles are low, interior may need to be totally upgraded.

Furthermore if its engine has not been run regularly, a new owner will likely be faced with major repair costs before even being able to drive the coach.

This used diesel pusher is more than 20 years old.  Would you buy it?
This used diesel pusher is more than 20 years old. Would you buy it? | Source

Why This Information Is Important

The items above are important for these reasons:

  1. If many people have owned an RV, it may be because it has hidden problems or design flaws.
  2. If a unit was located where there was a lot of salt or bad weather, or was stored outside, the undercarriage has probably been compromised.
  3. If a coach has been in an accident, depending on the type of accident the frame may be bent or the slides may not work properly.

Even if the tires don't have many miles on them, if the sidewall ratings show them to be more than five years old, they are not safe. Here's some information that will show you how to read these sidewall ratings.

How the coach has been used is important, because if it has been poorly maintained its low selling price will not make up for future repair costs.

For example:

  • If it has a rubber roof that has aged, it can cost $9000 or more to replace it.
  • Upgrading worn carpets can easily cost $2,000.
  • An air conditioner that stops working can cost more than $600 to upgrade.

Few buyers think about these items, but they make the difference between purchasing a winner or having to deal with a loser.

Buying a Used Motorhome - How to get the most for your money and not get burned
Buying a Used Motorhome - How to get the most for your money and not get burned

This is the best book to help you with your research on how to buy a used RV and get the most for your money. I have never owned a new recreational vehicle and have always referred to this book. I think you will find it as helpful as I have.


Careful Inspections Reduce RV Buying Risks

All motor homes, travel trailers and campers will have issues that are upsetting, waste time, and can be expensive.

People usually start learning about them when they take their first vacation in their newly purchased coach. To the many discover problems such as

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

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

Inspecting means much more than simply walking around the exterior and interior. This article has a checklist of things to inspect inside and outside the RV to make sure it is worth owning.

Using this checklist could save you hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars.

How Much Do Used RVs Cost?

The average person only uses his RV seasonally, 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 $5,000 to $7500, a good older diesel pusher motor home costs around $40,000 and a decent gas-powered motor home will run between $20,000 to $25,000.

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

How much do used RVs cost?
How much do used RVs cost? | Source

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!

Buying An RV: New Or Used?

Do you think you would prefer to own a previously owned RV after reading this article?

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Questions & Answers

© 2012 Sondra Rochelle


Submit a Comment

  • TIMETRAVELER2 profile imageAUTHOR

    Sondra Rochelle 

    6 years ago from USA

    I once took a three week camping trip in a van with my husband and three good sized dogs. We only took clothes that were blue or white...that cut way back on packing and it worked out great. This might be something you want to do. At least it's worth a thought. Thanks for stopping by.

  • divajz profile image


    6 years ago from Southern California

    Yeah, I bet it is expensive.........just something we're considering - we have a Toyota Matrix, and it's fairly roomy (room for 2 dogs and luggage)...........we may just car drive and then stay in hotels; or maybe we have room for camping stuff if I can be persuaded not to take so much clothes!!! Maybe a little of both.........lots of pet friendly hotels out there..........and just so you know, I'm not sure that I will spend too much time here at HP; we shall see - I've been trying to wean myself away from the whole page view/pimp yourself type stuff. We shall see, but indeed thank you so much for reaching out a hand!

  • TIMETRAVELER2 profile imageAUTHOR

    Sondra Rochelle 

    6 years ago from USA

    divajz: Renting is extremely expensive, but if you are OK with the prices, it certainly is a possibility. However, long trip rentals would not be economical. Call around for prices and see what you think, and good luck. Thanks for the read and again, welcome to HP.

  • divajz profile image


    6 years ago from Southern California

    What about renting RV's?? We would probably only travel during the summer months; it might be cheaper to rent..........

  • TIMETRAVELER2 profile imageAUTHOR

    Sondra Rochelle 

    6 years ago from USA

    Shilander: Yep...smart decisions are always a good thing, but especially when buying an RV. Thanks for the read!

  • Shilander profile image

    Bruce Shilander 

    6 years ago from United States

    good read, rv owners make a sizable investment so it makes sense to make smart decisions in caring for the rv...


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