8 Tips for Buying a Used RV

1 Be Courteous

The first step in the process of buying a used RV is to extend every courtesy to the sellers with whom you will have contact. Some RV sellers may start off suspicious and guarded. It’s up to you to ease their anxiety that you’re not a scammer and that you’re genuinely interested in their RV. You may talk with several sellers before you decide on the prefect RV but each seller deserves your respect, courtesy, and honesty. Establishing a good relationship from the start will build trust and make the whole process easier.

2 Arrange to Personally Inspect the RV

Before you arrange to inspect an RV, learn as much about it as possible from the photos, written description, and any conversations you’ve had with the owner. This preliminary assessment will narrow your search and save you time. Don’t schedule an inspection unless you are genuinely interested in buying the RV, if everything is as it seems in your preliminary research.

But there is no better way to determine if an RV will be right for you, than to get inside of it and inspect it for yourself. This may not always be possible because of distance and timing but if you can travel to the location of the RV, then certainly you should take the time to inspect it.

Scheduling an inspection demonstrates that you are genuinely interested in buying the RV so the seller should be willing to show you their RV and discuss its condition. If they’re reluctant to let you inspect it, or they’re vague about its condition, take that as a sign to keep looking.

RV inspections provide peace of mind during the purchasing process

3 When in Doubt – Ask Questions

If there is anything in the photos or written description that isn’t clear or raises doubts in your mind, be sure to ask for clarification. Don’t leave things up in the air assuming you’ll “get to the bottom of it” later. The time for clarity is when you first start shopping, not after you’ve arranged for financing and are about to buy an RV.

A checklist will show you all the major and minor defaults that can be addressed either before or after the purchase. 

4 Hire a Professional Inspector to Verify the RV’s Condition

Even if you have inspected the RV yourself, you might still want to hire a professional inspector to look at it again, unless you are extremely skilled in RV maintenance and repair. Having a professional RV inspection is like having a home inspection when you’re buying a house. They look for mold, evidence of dry rot, damage to the roof or chassis, and they evaluate the condition of key components like air conditioners, the water heater, generator, inverters, and other mechanical components that you might not have the expertise to evaluate. An RV inspection might cost a few hundred dollars, but it could save you thousands of dollars later on. If you are unable to inspect the RV yourself then having a professional inspection is even more important.

5 Know the Seller’s Financing Situation

Many “for sale by owner” RVs are not owned outright by the seller. Consequently, a lender has an interest in the RV and they’ll need to be paid before you will be able to take possession of the RV. Whenever there is an existing loan, you’ll need to know the details of that loan to be sure it will be fully retired before you take possession. Also, if you intend to finance your purchase, the two lenders will need to arrange for the new loan to pay off the old loan, so the title can be transferred to the new lender.

If you’re paying cash for a financed RV, you’ll need to personally coordinate with the lender, to pay off the loan and transfer the title to you. RV financing details and timelines can get complicated, but National Vehicle will help you through this maze.

6 If You Need Financing, Seek Help

In a similar vein, you don’t need to contact dozens of RV lenders to find financing for your new RV. Every lender you contact may pull your credit report and that could have a negative impact on your FICO score. It would be better to let National Vehicle work with their network of lenders to match you up with the best rates and terms. Not only will it save you time, and the aggravation of filling out multiple credit applications, it could result in more favorable rates over an extended loan term, which could translate to significant monetary savings.

7 Get How-to Information from the Seller

A very important step many people overlook when buying a used RV is asking the current owner for detailed how-to procedures in the operation and use of the RV. The current owner knows every quirk and idiosyncrasy of their RV, and given the opportunity, most will be happy to share that information. Perhaps the slide extension switch was installed upside down so now extend is labeled retract, and vice a versa, or the shower control is hypersensitive and the difference between scalding hot and freezing cold is a minuscule movement of the handle. Knowing this before you’re standing under the running water would be helpful. Ask the owner to share all the quirks of their RV so you can start enjoying your new RV from the day you buy it.

8 Trust Your Gut

The final tip for buying a used RV is to trust your gut. If you have any inner anxiety regarding the seller, the RV, or anything else about the purchase, don’t ignore it. Inner promptings are given for your protection, even if you don’t know why. The best thing you can do if your gut is telling you to walk away… is walk away! There will be other RVs to consider and potentially better deals to be made. Do your due diligence, but in the end, you may need to make the final decision based on nothing more than your instincts.