Finding the RV you want and making sure It’s in good condition for the price can be a daunting task. first, you should figure out the type of RV you think you want (motor home, travel trailer, 5th wheel, truck camper, etc.) Check out this post to learn more about the different types.
After you have a good idea of the type you want, you get to start your hunt! Below, I have put together some tips for things to look for when checking out used RVs.
Set A Budget
This is obvious, before you start looking, figure out how much you can actually afford to spend. stick to what you can afford and I wouldn’t even bother looking at anything that’s more than you want to spend, It will mess up your comparing, get used to looking at plenty of RV’s within your price range so you can make a better decision when you go to buy.
Choose your size first. I think this is the most important part. The size of your rig will make a huge difference on everything you can and can’t do. I have a post about figuring out the size of an RV that’s right for you, check it out over here. After you know the size you want and you know your budget, you can start looking at RV’s.
Before you even spend any time looking at the condition of the RV make sure the layout is something you really want. Don’t settle with a layout you don’t really like, this is not something you can change. You should have already seen pictures of the layout before you even go to check out the RV, but sometimes, especially with small RV’s, the pictures of the inside of the RV can be deceiving.
So make sure the layout is something you really can live with. For example, I don’t like the layout with the kitchen in the middle, I prefer rear kitchens. I also prefer bathrooms you don’t have to walk through to get to another room. having said that, sometimes you may feel OK with making a sacrifice here and there. Just make sure you think it over!
To the Roof!
If Its in your budget, and is the size and layout you want, go right to the roof. Many older RV’s have had roof leaks over the years, and this can lead to all kinds of problems with all kinds of headaches. Mold will get you sick and spread in the roof and walls. Rot will weaken the roof and walls.
Things you might wanna check on the roof:
- Seams and joints for cracks. check for rips and cracks in the material.
- Sealants and caulking, is it old and dried out looking? Look at where the water would pool on the roof. The front and back seams are known for leaks.
- pull up the vent covers and look at the seams underneath.
- Look down the fridge and other exhaust pipes up there, use a flashlight and make sure it’s not blocked with any debris or rodent homes!
- You can even get a hose on the roof and soak it down, look inside for any possible leaks.
Under the RV and Under the hood (if motor home)
If there’s an engine I would suggest bringing a mechanically inclined friend with you if you don’t know a lot about engines. Generally make sure the engine starts right up easily, watch with the hood up to see if the engine shakes or rocks while starting it (that’s not good). check the oil, coolant and transmission fluid. When you look at the oil, look at the bottom of oil cap, make sure there’s no coolant on that. Look at the state of the belts, make sure there are no cracks. Start the engine a few times, go for a test drive, make sure you go on the highway and up a hill.
Next, get under the RV and have a look at the axles and suspension. Look for any broken parts or excessive corrosion. Make sure It’s not too rusty under there. Inspect the tires for defects and you can even use the DOT code to find out how old the tires are if you want to. Any tires more than 7 years old should probably be replaced. (If you find old tires you can maybe talk the price of the RV down, considering you have to replace the tires).
Go around the RV looking at the walls, look for cracks, bulging or bubbles. look at mounting screws, make sure they’re not loose. Make sure everything looks square and proper. If things look out of whack it could mean a serious frame problem. That’s no good.
Make sure everything works
Check everything! Here’s a list so you don’t forget anything. Open everything you can, look in the nooks and crannies. Look at every inch of this RV if you are serious about buying it. Turn everything you can on and test everything out.
Make sure the electric Jacks go all the way up and all the way down. Test all the jacks on the RV, the back stabilizer ones as well, make sure they go down and up properly.
If you have a slide or two, make sure they come all the way in and out easily.
Test out the awning, take it out and back in, look for mold on the awning as well.
AC and Fans
Turn on the AC, check all fan levels, make sure it’s coming out cold. Turn on all exhaust fans, make sure they’re working.
Make sure the RV gas furnace fires up quickly and the fan doesn’t have any squeaks. Check each output vent for heat and decent air flow. open the furnace access panel and see if the area around the furnace is clear of dust and debris.
Check out the tanks, find out the size. if possible, fill them up a bit and empty them, watching for leaks and such.
Make sure the fridge is up to temp (40 degrees or lower) you can test that it works on LP gas mode and AC power mode if you are at a place with shore power (RV hookup).
Fire up the oven and all the burners on the stove. make sure they all work properly,
Turn on the water pump, and test all the faucets. See if supply’s a good stream to all faucets, listen for smooth operation and also check for leaks. Go look at the actual water pump and look at the condition of hoses as well.
Look at the water heater, both the inside and outside compartments, make sure wiring looks good. Turn it on and highest temps and test faucets for hot water.
Go around and test a phone charger or something in each outlet. The DC (car lighter kind) and the AC (house plugs). The AC outlets will only work if you are connected to RV hookups. Or the RV is plugged into a house outlet.
Go around check all the lighting, make sure it all works.
Battery bank/ Solar system
Get all the information about the battery(s) from the seller, go look at the battery connections, look for corrosion, check the wires. You can check the voltage with a multi-meter to make sure the batteries are good. (should read at least 12.7 if they are charged, higher if they are charging or RV is plugged in) If There are solar panels on the RV, go look at their condition.
Make sure that the RVs LP Gas system (Propane tanks) has been inspected and certified. In most jurisdictions, it’s the law before sale. Even so, have a look for yourself. Check the age of the propane cylinders; many are only viable for a refill for ten years. Look at the condition of the rubber hoses, regulator and tank switch over valves. Move all around the RV inside and out sniffing for any sign of a propane leak. (Will smell kind of like rotten eggs)
Hunting for your perfect RV is exciting but It’s also a lot of work. It took me months of looking before I got my first RV. I’m currently in my search for my second RV and finding what I need has been a long and difficult search. There’s a lot to consider when buying.
Remember, If you find anything wrong with the RV from the list above, It doesn’t mean for sure you shouldn’t buy the RV, but the more things you check and the more things you find wrong you can better negotiate the price down for the RV, thus more funds to spend on repairs and such to fix the problems. So best of luck finding your new RV!
Hope to see you on the Road!
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