9 Things You Shouldn’t Ignore When Buying a Used RV

3 shares If you’ve been paying attention to the RV industry, you may have noticed that the cost of new RVs has skyrocketed! That’s bad…

If you’ve been paying attention to the RV industry, you may have noticed that the cost of new RVs has skyrocketed! That’s bad news for those looking to purchase their first RV or anyone hoping to upgrade to a newer model.

Luckily, even though the cost of a new RV is higher than ever, used RV prices have stayed fairly affordable. As such, new and experienced RVers are exploring the used RV market to find a great deal.

While buying used is much more affordable than buying a brand new RV, it can also be riskier. Used RVs come with the potential of mechanical and structural issues, not to mention outdated aesthetics and fewer modern conveniences.

Granted, you don’t need a used RV to be perfect, as there are many issues you can repair yourself on the cheap. However, there are certain red flags you shouldn’t ignore when buying a used RV, including the following.

1. Slide-Out Issues

Photo Credit: Lance Campers

Checking the slideouts on a used RV typically isn’t the first thing on anyone’s inspection list. However, it’s the first thing on my list because I forgot to do it when we purchased our first travel trailer.

When checking the slide-outs, fully extend them to make sure they move in and out easily on the tracks. Check the slide-out bar that supports the slide when it’s fully extended to make sure it isn’t bent, which is evident if the slide makes a shrieking noise as it’s moving in and out.

Finally, check the inside of the slide around the ceiling and exterior walls for sagging or discoloration. These are signs of water damage, which means a pricy repair is in your future, not to mention the potential for mold damage.

2. Mechanical Issues

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It goes without saying that you shouldn’t ignore mechanical issues when buying a used motorhome. This is especially true of Class A and C motorhomes, as you’ll need to take your rig to a mechanic who specializes in motorhome repairs.

To avoid buying a used motorhome with mechanical issues, you should take the rig for a test drive before purchasing it. You should also take a mechanic to see the RV or ask if you can take it to your local mechanic on the test drive.

3. AC Problems

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Speaking as someone who loves camping but hates feeling hot and sticky for prolonged periods of time, I recommend always checking the RV’s air conditioning unit before finalizing a purchase.

RV air conditioners can cost thousands of dollars to replace, which means you want yours to work when you purchase the rig. Otherwise, you should subtract the cost of a new AC or AC repair from the purchase price so you don’t overpay.

4. Bald Tires

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Whether you buy a motorhome, travel trailer, or fifth wheel, old or bald tires are another red flag you shouldn’t ignore with a used RV. In addition to being dangerous to drive or tow an RV with bald tires, RV tires are pretty expensive if you purchase anything halfway decent.

Therefore, as with the AC problem above, you should figure the cost of new tires into the purchase price of the RV so that you can afford to put proper tires on your rig.

PS, don’t forget to check the spare tire as well!

5. Water Heater Problems

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RV water heaters are some of the most fickle appliances with which RVs are outfitted. They mean the world when you want to take a hot shower, wash dishes, or do your laundry, but any little thing can cause them to malfunction and cease to operate.

If you’re buying a used RV, it’s essential to check the water heater and make sure it works. This means making sure it actually produces hot water, that the water doesn’t contain residue, and that there aren’t any leaks.

6. Mold, Mold, Mold

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Mold is one of the biggest problems that RV owners will ever face. It’s not just unsightly, but it can be extremely dangerous for your health. Mold can occur because whoever owned the camper previously spent time in moist conditions, the rig has a roof leak, or any number of other reasons.

Regardless of why there’s mold, if you see any, run away as fast as you can and find a different RV to purchase.

7. Roof and Window Leaks

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If your used RV doesn’t already have mold, it will soon if you purchase one with a roof or window leak. These types of leaks are extremely common with RVs because of the materials used during construction.

Roof and window leaks are tough to spot without a professional inspection or unless the leak is bad enough to have caused water stains on the ceiling. Therefore, it’s wise to have an RV inspected before you purchase it so you know what you’re getting into.

8. Never Buy Sight Unseen

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Buying a new RV sight unseen is one thing. Buying a used RV sight unseen is completely different because you never really know what you’re getting into. If there are issues with a new RV, it’s covered under warranty and will be free to repair.

Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case for a used RV you purchased with pre-existing issues you didn’t know about. Depending on how old the rig is, there’s a good chance it isn’t covered under the manufacturer’s warranty, which means repairing the issues will come out of your pocket.

9. A Lack of Maintenance Records

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Finally, you should be wary of purchasing an RV if the owner didn’t keep good maintenance records. RV maintenance is essential for all RVs, as many of the components used during construction aren’t designed to last forever.

If the prospective owner kept meticulous records, there’s a solid chance that the RV is still in good shape. However, if they don’t have many, or any, maintenance records, it’s likely because they didn’t invest in proper maintenance or tried to do it themselves to save money.

Either way, proceed with caution and invest in a full inspection before purchasing the rig so that you don’t have a huge problem to fix before you can even use your RV. 

Author: Jalin Coblentz


Jalin Coblentz has spent the past three years living full-time in an RV with his wife and their Goldendoodle, Harper. They have traveled and lived in more than a half-dozen different states, including New Hampshire, Ohio, Maine, Michigan, Florida, Montana, Colorado, and Utah, living life one campground at a time. When he's not hiking, golfing, or walking the dog, Jalin enjoys writing about the ups and downs of RVing and helping others who are interested in pursuing a similar path.

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