Alert
Close

Take AARP’s Smart Driver course and you could save money on your car insurance. Learn more

Tips for Buying a Used RV

Here’s what to look for to get the best deals

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.

Jeff Yeager is the author of four books including How to Retire the Cheapskate Way and The Cheapskate Next Door. You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

Topic Alerts

You can get weekly email alerts on the topics below. Just click “Follow.”

Manage Alerts

Processing

Please wait...

progress bar, please wait

Tell Us WhatYou Think

Please leave your comment below.

The Cheap Life

Jeff Yeager Cheap Life Ultimate Cheapskate AARP YouTube web series save money

Catch the latest episode of The Cheap Life starring Jeff Yeager, AARP's Ultimate Cheapskate. Watch

Discounts & Benefits

From companies that meet the high standards of service and quality set by AARP.

Life insurance: you are covered rain or shine

Exclusive annuities for members from AARP Lifetime Income Program from New York Life.

AARP Credit card from Chase

Members can get cash back rewards on purchases with the AARP® Credit Card from Chase.

Homeowners Insurance
Member Benefits

Join or renew today! AARP members receive exclusive member benefits & affect social change.