Important Things To Look For When Purchasing A Used RV - RV LIFE (2023)

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Important Things To Look For When Purchasing A Used RV - RV LIFE (1)

Important Things To Look For When Purchasing A Used RV

Buying a used RV can be a nerve-racking experience, but it can also be a way to avoid breaking the bank on a brand-new model. If you know what to look for in your potential purchase, you might just score the deal of a lifetime.

Shopping for a usedRV

Beforeyou decide to start looking for an RV, figure out what typeof motorhome or trailer will best suit your lifestyle. If possible, rent or borrow an RV and take it on a weekend excursion to see what you’re comfortable with. Can you drive a 40-foot rig? Do you enjoy camping in smaller vehicles, or do you need more space?

What floor plan is most convenientfor you? When you have what you’re looking for in mind, establish a budget for yourself. Remind yourself of your budget while shopping for RVs and don’t exceed it. This will prevent you from overspending. You can also request quotes from your insurance company to determine whatyour insurance will cover.

There are plenty of RVlistings online, from websites like eBay and craigslistto RVTand Camping World. You can also find classifieds on RV forums like Airstream Classifieds and iRV2. Shop around locally andpay attention to current prices and market values.

Do some research to educate yourself; you’ll feel much more prepared to bargain. Remember that low prices and gas mileage are not always a good sign. Why does the owner want to get rid of the vehicle so quickly? Why didn’t theydrive it often? Are there issues with handling? RVchecksoffers $25 history reports for some vehicles. The more you find out aboutthe RV’s history, the less likely you’ll be to buy a piece of junk.

Buying from a private owner versus a dealership

When shopping fora used vehicle, you have two choices. You can visit a pre-owned RV dealership, or you can buy from a private owner. Private purchases through craigslist or another site are better in many ways since they put the seller and the buyer at the same level of experience.

There is more freedom to negotiate, as the seller is usually eager to get rid of the large RV taking up theiryard. For even more bargaining leverage, you can offer to pay in cash and take the vehicle immediately. Oftentimes you will pay a much lower price when buying from a private source.

Alternatively, you can visit a dealer, who will most likely markup the price for pre-owned RVs. However, if it is your first time purchasing an RV, you might feel morecomfortable buying from an RV dealer without having to conduct a full inspection.

Visually inspecting the RV

If you decide to buy from a private source, always ask to take a look at the vehicle. Never purchase a usedRV without thoroughly inspecting it!

One of the biggest reasons to avoid buying an RV is if it has water damage. Walk through the rig, checking for mold, bubbling, and rot in all corners. Check for soft spots on the walls and around bathroom fixtures. If you see brown spots on the floor or ceiling, rust on the exterior screws, or dips in the roof, you should probably steer clear.

Important Things To Look For When Purchasing A Used RV - RV LIFE (2)

Walk through the rig, checking for mold, bubbling, and rot in all corners. Photo via clint623 on iRV2 Forums

Don’t be afraid to peer into cupboards and closets with a flashlight and stand in the shower to check its size. Jump on the floor and push on the walls to test structural integrity.

It’s also important to climb onto the roof and examine the seals. If the caulking appears crumbly or blackened, there’s a good chance that the roof will leak. While you’re up there, check the ladder for loose screws. Remove all vent covers and take a look at the seams underneath. If possible, use a garden hose to spray the roof and windows, then check for leaks inside.

Ask the owner to pop the hood so that you can check the RV’s oil. If there is engine damage, the oil will smell burnt. Check the power cordandbattery bank, and make sure the battery is running at 12.6-12.8 volts. If the date on the battery is older than 7 years, it needs to be replaced. Examine the tires as well; the last two digits on the inscription will tell you the year they were manufactured. If the tires were made more than 5 years ago, they need to be replaced.

Testing RV functions

Before purchasing, ask the owner to let you take the rig on a test drive. If they won’t let you test it, don’t buy it! Drive at top speeds on the freeway and practice maneuvering in an empty parking lot. You may also want to have the owner drive part of the time and experience the ride from the passenger’s seat. Check for odd noises or jolts while driving, and make sure that all systems are operational.

Important Things To Look For When Purchasing A Used RV - RV LIFE (3)

Check for odd noises or jolts while driving. Photo by Oscar Nilsson

After the test drive, make sure to run all other functions and look for issues. Check that all locks and latches are secure, and turn on light fixtures. Run all electrical systems, including air conditioningandheater.

Check awnings for proper function and make sure that no tears are present. If the RV has slide outs, make sure that they are fully operational and without damage. Inspect tanks and water heater for any leaks and check the plumbing as well. Check the water pump and turn on all faucets. Turn on the oven and stove and sniff around for any propane leaks.

If you find a few minor problems during your inspection, don’t panic. You may still get a good deal, though you will have to pay a little extra to fix the issues. Estimate repair costs and add themto the seller’s price to determine whether the purchase is worthwhile. You may even be able to point out problems that the seller had missed and use them to your bargaining advantage.

Questions to ask

One last step you should be sure to follow is to askquestions. Before starting your interrogation, make sure the person who is showing you the RV actually is the owner, not some friend or relative who happened to be available.

The owner’s mother is not likely to know much about the RV and most likely won’t be able to answer your questions. You should also make sure that the RV’svehicle identification number (VIN) matches the registration and paperwork with the owner’s name. If the owner can’t provide you with the vehicle’s registration,steer clear.

Important Things To Look For When Purchasing A Used RV - RV LIFE (4)

You may be able to point out problems that the seller missed and use them to your bargaining advantage. Photo by Rawpixel/Unsplash

Asking about the RV’s history can provide you with valuable information about the quality of the vehicle. How many people have owned the RV? If it has been through several owners and is still in good condition, chances are that it will last longer.

Have animals lived in the RV? This is a very important question to ask if you are allergic. Has anyone smoked in the RV? Did its past owners take good care of it and regularly check the safety features? Has the RV spent a lot of time in areas with extreme weather? Ask about warranties, past repairs, and the reason that the owner is selling it.

If you follow these steps when buyinga used RV, you’ll find that it’s possible to own a high-quality rig without spending a fortune. If you remember what to look for and what to avoid, your next purchase will be a walk in the park…the RV park.

Maintenance records

If you are fortunate, the previous owner has kept a file, a folder, or a notebook of some kind with all of the maintenance records and receipts. The less record-keeping that is evident, the lower the value of the RV. If you are extremely fortunate, they have used an online maintenance tool, such as RV LIFE Maintenance.

When you do finally settle on an RV that you believe will be the right fit for you, remember that it’s not too late for you to start keeping proper maintenance records. You’ll be able to keep all of your RV maintenance records and documents in one place and receive timely reminders via email when maintenance is due. Whether you have a small camper or large class A motorhome, RV LIFE Maintenance can keep track of it all. You can even keep up with the maintenance on two additional vehicles, such as your tow car or a motorcycle.

Read this article from Do It Yourself RV on why you should never buy an RV brand new.

Important Things To Look For When Purchasing A Used RV - RV LIFE (5)

Ella Emsheimer


What questions to ask when buying a used RV? ›

Game On: 7 Questions to Ask An RV Salesperson
  • What comes standard with the RV?
  • How much does the RV really cost?
  • What does the warranty and maintenance package include?
  • What are the dealer's and manufacturer's service levels?
  • Do you offer any dealer perks?
  • What financing options are available?

What is the average mileage life of an RV? ›

Owners who regularly use their RV or motorhome may expect a lifespan of around 200,000 miles. That being said, you could increase your RV or motorhome's lifespan up to 300,000 miles, on average, as long as the driving conditions are not unduly arduous and you maintain it in good condition.

How many miles is a lot for a used RV? ›

According to Meta Camper, anywhere between 100,000 to 200,000 is miles is considered to be a lot for a used RV. But the mileage isn't the only thing that should be considered when shopping. For example, a Class A motorhome that's less than 10 years old with under 50,000 miles isn't a good sign.

What not to do when buying an RV? ›

10 Things To Avoid When RV Shopping
  1. Buying the Wrong Size. When it comes to RVs, bigger is not always better. ...
  2. Ruling Out Used RVs. ...
  3. Not Doing Enough Research. ...
  4. Not Considering the Towing Vehicle. ...
  5. Not Considering The Height. ...
  6. Not Asking Enough Questions. ...
  7. Getting The Wrong Insurance. ...
  8. Rushing Your Purchase.
Mar 1, 2022

What should I look for in an RV walk through? ›

Keep an eye out for anything that seems off – loose seals, cracks in fiberglass, rust. Using a ladder climb on the roof and ensure any gaskets, seals, or areas where the roof was cut are sealed. As you make your way around the RV keep an eye out for delamination, bubbling, or protruding nails.

What is the best month to buy a used RV? ›

What's the best month to buy a used motorhome or travel trailer? On average, motorhomes and travel trailers are at their cheapest at the end of the year. You can also benefit from good deals in the neighboring months of November and February — after the high season ends and before the next spring season starts up.

How to negotiate on an RV? ›

9 Tips for Negotiating RV Price
  1. Get an RV Inspection. Having an independent RV inspector look at an RV before you sign on the dotted line is a great idea. ...
  2. Research Similar Models. ...
  3. Shop During the Off-Season. ...
  4. Buy at The End of an RV Show. ...
  5. Buy Used. ...
  6. Set a Budget and Stick to It. ...
  7. Use Negotiation Tactics. ...
  8. Ask for a Package Deal.
Aug 16, 2021

How do you know if RV life is for you? ›

10 Signs The RV Lifestyle Is Right For You
  • You love to travel. ...
  • You're adaptive. ...
  • You love the outdoors. ...
  • You're ready to meet new people. ...
  • You have a flexible job/you're retiring. ...
  • You don't need a lot of stuff to be happy when full-time RVing. ...
  • You want to spend more time with specific people.
Apr 1, 2023

Which RV lasts the longest? ›

Typically, fiberglass travel trailers last longer than aluminum trailers, because they are built to withstand harsher conditions. They are the perfect mix due to their soft and durable construction, plus they are the right choice for seasoned RV's owners who are always going camping.

How long should you keep an RV? ›

Luckily, travel trailers will last for around 10 years on average. However, 10 years is only the average life expectancy for a travel trailer. Some trailers will last longer, and some will have a shorter lifespan. That said, what you do to maintain your trailer is very important.

How many miles per gallon does a 25 foot RV get? ›

The average mileage that this type of motorhome gets is around 18 to 25 miles per gallon. This is actually better than some larger diesel trucks even get.

Is there a lot of maintenance on an RV? ›

Unlike a car that you do regular maintenance to every 3,000-5,000 miles, an RV tends to sit a lot. It's important that you do oil changes on a seasonal basis just to make sure that everything is lubricated and running to the best of its ability.

What is the best mileage for an RV? ›

RV Class B: If fuel efficiency is your main concern, an RV Class B is the way to go. The average fuel capacity of this motorhome is between 18 and 22 miles per gallon. The Class B Winnebago Travato 59G camper stands as the most fuel-efficient option, with 22 miles to the gallon.

What gas mileage do most RVs get? ›

While the standard RV will average about 10 miles to the gallon, the size of your RV can have a positive or negative impact on fuel economy. As illustrated by the chart below, the larger the rig, the more gas it consumes.

What is the 333 rule for RVs? ›

By adhering to this simple rule of thumb, you can make traveling easier for your whole family. It suggests to limit your travel to no more than 300 miles in one day. Then, arrive no later than 3 p.m. Finally, stay at your destination for at least 3 days.

What should I not tell my RV salesman? ›

For example, never tell an RV salesperson that you're new to RVing and are buying your first rig. This may lead the salesperson to try to get you to buy something you don't need. You'll be spending more money than necessary.

What is the most popular RV style? ›

Travel trailers are the most popular type of RV. Unlike motorized RVs that have their own engine and can be driven on their own, travel trailers are pulled behind another car. Travel trailers come in a variety of sizes and models, and can fit virtually any budget.

What do you really need in an RV? ›

RV Must Haves – The Essentials
  • Drinking Hose. Be sure to have a clean and ready-to-use drinking hose ready to hook up to your fresh water tank. ...
  • 2 (a). Surge Protector & EMS for 30 Amp. ...
  • 2 (b). Surge Protector for 50 Amp. ...
  • Sewer Hose. ...
  • Clear Sewer Connector. ...
  • Disposable Gloves. ...
  • Leveling Blocks & Chocks.
Jan 24, 2018

Is it illegal to walk around in an RV while driving? ›

Your state's seat belt laws will determine whether or not you can walk around in an RV while driving. Some states have stricter seat belt laws than others.

Are RV prices going down in 2023? ›

Inflation and a continuation of the supply and labor shortage that lingered from 2022 have been keeping prices from falling back to pre-pandemic numbers. However, as 2023 continues we expect prices will continue to fall and we might get there. You just might have to wait a bit longer.

Is it financially smart to buy an RV? ›

Is an RV a Financial Investment? The short answer is no. With the exception of some in-demand vintage models, the value of an RV depreciates over time. An RV is an investment in a lifestyle, but you can mitigate the expense by renting it out when not in use through a third-party rental site like Outdoorsy or RVshare.

Is it smart to buy an older RV? ›

Buying an old RV is a good idea because you can use the RV's depreciation to save money and still have the latest technology. Also, a used RV has already gone through its shake-down period, so the previous owner has identified and resolved any upfront issues.

How much of a discount should I get on an RV? ›

Be realistic.

For some RVs, you may be able to receive a discount of 20% to 30% or sometimes even more off of the sticker price depending on the circumstances. For others, you may not be able to receive more than just a few thousand dollars off. It's all about supply and demand.

How can I buy an RV without getting ripped off? ›

Being prepared to go to a dealership is the best way to make sure you're not getting ripped off. In most cases, you will know more about the RV than the salesperson. Stick to your guns and don't be swayed by traditional sales tactics. Forewarned is forearmed.

How do you determine fair price for an RV? ›

The dealer cost is typically about 70% of the MSRP. So, to calculate fair-market value you will take 85% of the MSRP (which, again, is halfway between wholesale and retail). Don't pay more than this figure. In fact, RVs can often be purchased at 75% to 80% of the MSRP.

What is the downside of living in an RV full time? ›

Limited storage space

One of the biggest drawbacks of living full time in an RV is the lack of storage space. Most RVs try to include as many cabinets and closets as possible, but there's only a certain amount of space available. By necessity, most full time RVers need to embrace a minimalistic lifestyle.

What should I look for in an RV for full time living? ›

Choosing the Best RV for Full-Time Living
  • Size. One of the most important things to consider when choosing an RV for full-time living is how big a rig you need. ...
  • Floor Plan. Along with the size of your rig, when making your choice, you should consider different floor plan configurations. ...
  • Amenities. ...
  • Electricity. ...
  • Waste System.
Mar 24, 2022

Does age of an RV matter? ›

If you don't plan on staying at RV parks, the age of your rig doesn't matter. But RVs over 10 years old run into problems at some RV parks because of their age. It's known as the 10-year rule.

Is a 20 year old RV worth it? ›

Is Buying an Older RV Worth It? If you want to save money on your RV purchase and don't mind the quirks that can come with older RVs, an old RV is definitely worth it. With research, planning, and proper RV inspection, you can get a great deal on a used RV that will last you for years to come.

How long can you keep water in your RV? ›

Two weeks is the simple answer to how long to keep fresh water in an RV tank IF you aren't using the water and refilling during that time. When water sits unused in a tank, it can become unsafe and therefore undrinkable.

Is it better to store camper with slide in or out? ›

When it comes time to park your RV between trips or for the winter, store your slide outs closed. This will help keep the elements from eroding the seals, and you won't run the risk of snow or debris accumulating on the slide out roof.

Can an RV last 20 years? ›

The short answer is that the average lifespan of an RV is around 20 years or 200,000 miles, whichever comes first.

What speed is best for gas mileage? ›

7. The Energy Saving Trust says that the most efficient speed you can travel in a car in terms of achieving the best fuel economy is 55-65mph. Any faster, though, and the fuel efficiency decreases rapidly. For example, driving at 85mph uses 40% more fuel than at 70mph (oh, and it's illegal too).

What speed does RV get gas mileage? ›

On average, the most fuel-efficient speed for RVs is between 55 and 65 miles per hour. The faster and more aggressively you accelerate, the more gas you'll waste just getting up to speed. Slow, steady acceleration and deceleration are easier on your engine, your brakes, and your wallet.

How far does a full tank of gas in an RV get you? ›

A 100-gallon fuel tank that gets 8 MPG can go 800 miles before refilling. However, a 25-gallon fuel tank with 16 MPG can only travel half that far.

How often does an RV need to be dumped? ›

Let's briefly review what we covered in this article: You should be dumping your holding tanks every 3-5 days or when tank levels reach two thirds or three quarters full. Dumping this often reduces the likelihood of waste buildup that could cause clogs, odors, or misreading sensors.

How often should you condition your RV roof? ›

So, make sure you care for your rubber roof kind of like your skin, give it a good wash, scrub, and condition to keep it hydrated and pliable, and your RV lasting you longer. Ideally, RV roof care should be done at least two times a year.

How often do you need to change the hydraulic fluid in an RV? ›

Hydraulic fluid in reservoir should be changed a minimum of every 5 years. NOTe: Check the fluid only when all the jacks are fully retracted. NOTe: When checking the hydraulic fluid level, fill to within 1/4" to 1/2" of fill spout.

Is gas or diesel better for a motorhome? ›

Diesel – Class B RVs. Most differences between gas and diesel engines from Class A motorhomes likewise hold true for Class B RVs as well. Diesel engines offer more overall power, last longer, typically require less service and offer higher resale value.

How can I increase my RV mileage? ›

12 Ways To Improve Your RV Gas Mileage
  1. Keep the RV in good condition.
  2. Check tire pressure.
  3. Don't drive in heavy wind.
  4. Lighten the load.
  5. Buy smaller RVs (if possible)
  6. Plan your route ahead of time.
  7. Maintain a steady speed while driving.
  8. Avoid traffic jams as much as possible.
Mar 16, 2022

What is considered high mileage for a used RV? ›

Roughly speaking, anywhere between 100,000 and 200,000 miles could be considered high mileage. An RV in the higher mileage range may or may not need some patching up. As you would expect with any vehicle, the more it has been cared for, the less worn parts it is likely to have.

Do RVs use a lot of electricity? ›

How much electricity does an RV use? Average use for a typical RVer is around 20 kWh a day. This comes out to about 608 kWh a month or 7,300 kWh a year. Usage will be lower during fair weather and higher during heating and cooling seasons.

What RV is best on gas? ›

‍8 Most Fuel Efficient RVs (Best Options)
  1. Winnebago Travato 59G - Class B. Winnebago Travato 59G. ...
  2. Thor Palazzo 33.5 - Class A. Thor Palazzo 33.5. ...
  3. RoadTrek Zion - Class B. RoadTrek Zion. ...
  4. Thor Motor Coach Tiburon Sprinter - Class C. Thor Motor Coach Tiburon Sprinter. ...
  5. Winnebago Paseo - Class B. ...
  6. Damon Intruder - Class A.
Feb 21, 2023

Why do RVs take so much gas? ›

Even the smallest RVs are large, heavy vehicles — it takes a lot of power to move all that weight down the road at speed! That power has to come from somewhere. And since they're still working out the kinks on those fairy-dust-powered RVs, right now, that “somewhere” is fossil fuel.

What is typical RV maintenance? ›

Monthly RV Maintenance Checklist

Clean the air conditioner. Check fluid levels. Make sure your emergency toolbox has plenty of spare parts. Check your carbon monoxide and smoke detector are operational. Test any safety equipment.

What is the best VIN check for RVs? ›

RVchex is the most RV-specific VIN lookup site and gives you detailed vehicle history reports on accidents, liens, odometer readings, and recalls.

What is high mileage for an RV? ›

Roughly speaking, anywhere between 100,000 and 200,000 miles could be considered high mileage. An RV in the higher mileage range may or may not need some patching up. As you would expect with any vehicle, the more it has been cared for, the less worn parts it is likely to have.

Is there a blue book for RV? ›

There is no Kelley Blue Book for RVs, but many use another website and database to help determine a used RV value. You have many factors and multiple data points to consider when pricing a used RV, but you can start with the vehicle NADA (National Automobile Dealers' Association) Guides by JD Power.

How can I increase my RV value? ›

One of the best ways to ramp up the value of your RV is to have plenty of sleeping spaces. You might like the look of a modern sofa or freestanding table, but unless it can convert to a bed, it will only decrease the attractiveness of the vehicle.

How do I appraise my RV? ›

It's called NADA, or the National Automobile Dealers' Association, and they list prices and values for motorhomes, travel trailers, and even truck campers and park models. Platforms like RV Trader, which help people buy and sell RVs, are also a great resource for getting an approximate value of your rig.

What is the best month to buy a RV? ›

On average, motorhomes and travel trailers are at their cheapest at the end of the year. You can also benefit from good deals in the neighboring months of November and February — after the high season ends and before the next spring season starts up.

What time of year is cheapest to buy an RV? ›

Usually, the late fall and early winter are going to be the best time to purchase your new (or new to you) RV. Off-season purchases are going to get you the best deal. If you can save money on your purchase, you will have more to spend on upgrades and adventures.

What is the most reliable motorhome engine? ›

The Cummins ISX is by far one of the most common engines and known for extensive reliability in RV's. You'll often find a Cummins X15 in large Class A motorhomes. On the smaller side, Mercedes produces an excellent diesel engine for Class B and Class C RVs.


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