5. Check the RV's history
For a fee of about $25, you can purchase a vehicle history report on rvchecks.com. You'll need the RV's 17-digit Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) to order the report. Depending on the vehicle's history and the data available, the report may include information on whether the vehicle has ever been damaged, rebuilt or stolen, as well as the manufacturer's specifications and recall notices.
6. Ask away
Before you even inspect and test-drive a used RV, you should ask the owner or dealer about the condition of the vehicle, its history, title, warranties, repair and maintenance records, reason it's being sold and so on. The website frugal-rv-travel provides a good checklist of questions to ask. When you test-drive a vehicle, ask the seller to have all mechanical systems fully operational and charged before you arrive. Ask to test-drive the vehicle with the seller onboard to answer any questions, and let the seller do part of the driving as well, so you can see how the RV rides as a passenger. Look for noises or other problems that you might not be aware of while you're behind the wheel. Test-drive the vehicle on different roadways, particularly at top speeds on an open highway, and find an empty parking lot to see how it backs up and handles in tight situations.
7. Beware of common and not-so-common problems
You might think that an RV with low mileage is a real plus, for example. Not necessarily. In his book, Bill Myers recommends looking for a used RV with at least 10,000 miles on it (and preferably not more than 35,000), since too few miles can be an indicator of a problem-prone vehicle or one that's difficult to drive. Motorhomes that have been parked and unused will almost always require expensive service, Myers writes, including replacing fuel pumps, belts, batteries, tires and brakes, and rebuilding the carburetor on the generator. Another costly problem: leaks in the roof and other seams. If you have the chance, try to inspect and drive an RV during a downpour to help reveal leaks and give you firsthand experience with how the vehicle handles under harsh conditions. And if you're looking at a used unit that has spent some winters in cold climates and perhaps has not been properly winterized, be sure to check the plumbing for possible burst pipes and other leaks.
8. Make an offer
Arm yourself with information on fair market values, recent sales and prices for comparable vehicles, and a list of any problems with the specific vehicle you're interested in, all of which will support your case for offering a lower price than the asking price. Also, offering to buy immediately and pay in cash can be a powerful bargaining chip. If you need to finance the purchase, the website DRVFinancing says it's more difficult to find a willing lender if the RV is beyond five years old. In some cases the lender will want to inspect and approve the used vehicle.
One more tip
Before you set off on your first road trip, consider enrolling in a roadside assistance program offered by Good Sam Club to cover towing and other services. Its programs, which start at about $80 per year, can provide some peace of mind as you head off on the happy trails in your previously loved RV.
Also of Interest
- 10 common spending regrets
- The best places to retire
- Sharpen your memory and problem-solving skills with our FREE Brain Games!
Join AARP Today — Receive access to exclusive information, benefits and discounts