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Buying an RV is a major decision, especially if you are looking towards the used market in order to buy one.

You will be parting with a lot of money and you will want a safe, reliable and comfortable RV to enjoy special memories with your friends and family.

The good news is, there’s no reason why you won’t be able to find a good used RV to meet those needs.

It simply requires a bit of forethought and a keen eye when looking at RVs to buy. And that’s exactly what we will look into today with these top 18 tips.

So if you are ready, let’s find you an RV the right way…

Things to Consider before buying a used RV

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Before you actually start looking for a used RV you should consider your specific situation to ensure that the RVs you start checking out are appropriate for you.

1. Size of RV

The size RV you opt for will clearly be dependent on the amount of people you plan on taking on vacation with you.

If you are a family with teenage children you will need more space than a couple touring during retirement for instance.

Have a clear idea of what berth RV you need, along with living space arrangements. This will help determine the types of RV you begin searching for.

2. Towing situation

comfortable 5th wheel Rv towing

Do you plan on using a truck to tow a 5th wheel RV? Or are you looking for a motorised RV that will tow a small vehicle behind it.

These are fundamental questions that will help you decide which type to buy. Furthermore, the answer to these will guide you on what equipment needs to be bought or upgraded.

3. Where will you store it

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Your available space at to store the RV is another issue that could determine the type of vehicle you buy.

A very large RV may prove difficult to park when not in use, especially if you are a city dweller. This will mean paying for a designated spot to keep the RV safe and secure.

If you are lucky enough to have driveway space or an area of land to keep the RV, you will need to check dimensions (and maybe even with the neighbours) to ensure that you will not have any problems.

4. Maintenance Issues

How comfortable are you with repairs and general maintenance? The bigger the RV the more can go wrong. The largest motorhomes need their engines and other components kept in check, especially if you plan on long distance touring.

Anyone towing a large 5th wheel RV will need to keep the tow vehicle in top top condition too.

And then which ever type and size RV you buy, keeping things clean and habitable is an ongoing concern, so keep this in mind when looking to buy a used one. 

5. Gas mileage & Fuel efficiency

Miles to the gallon while either towing or driving an RV should be on your mind when buying such a vehicle.

Newer models are more efficient in this regard, and design that combines low weight with low wind resistance is always a plus.

In a good scenario you may be able to achieve a fuel economy between 8 and 20 MPG. If you are planning on driving long distances, these specifications become even more important.

6. Kitchen Facilties

rv kitchen area

Are you someone that likes to do a lot of self catering on the road and will need a good amount of space and facility to cook or do you only plan on a minimal amount of the time in the kitchen?

RVs vary widely in their allocation to kitchen space so your answer to this question will also help narrow done potential buying options once the search begins.

7. Connectivity

Although connectivity can be upgraded after purchase, knowing to what extent you will need such convenience before you buy is recommended.

For satellite TV, wifi and mobil the RV will need either need to be already outfitted with the correct gear, or at least have the potential to do so.

If on the other hand you plan on disconnecting while on the road, such details will not be as important.

8. Insurance Cover

The level of insurance and potential cost also varies on the type and size of RV you buy. If you want to keep these costs down, you will want a smaller less technically advanced RV.

If you are prepared to pay top dollar for your cover, you will lilkely have the larger rig to match.

Always shop around for the best rate once you have purchased your used RV. 

9. Purchase Price

Finally, the budget you have in mind is clearly one of the most important factors determining the type and size and age of RV you are able to buy.

Having a clear idea of your budget will help you narrow down your search to only the most relevant and best suited RV to your needs and available price point.

Things to Check when buying a used RV

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Now that we have covered the factors you should think about before buying a used RV, the search can begin.

This of course brings up a whole new batch of questions and issues of consideration. You do not want to buy a lemon; therefore you need to do your due diligence on any RV you might buy.

Here’s some tips on how to avoid buying a dud.

1. Always view the RV before agreeing to buy

It always amazes me that it is possible to buy sight unseen RVs on eBay and other online auction sites.

Who in their right mind is parting with thousands of dollars based on a few blurry photographs on a website?

Always try to have a scrutinizing look at any RV you are interested in. We will get into what areas to look for shortly, however more important than anything is having the chance to walk around and inside the vehicle so you can get a feel of its dimensions, condition and ‘soul’ if you will.

2. Inspection all the Floors

Carefully walk around the entire RV while checking the stability of the floors.

Pay close attention to where the walls meet the floor to ensure there are no signs of mold or brown spots.

There’s no need to feel silly if you decide to jump up and down too. Undue movement, wobbling or creaking could be a signal of weak spots where rotting has begun to set in.

Having a stable chassis and flooring is one of the single most important aspects of a good used RV. It is essentially the foundations of the unit and you want these to be a robust as possible.

3. Inspect the entire ceiling

Next its time to check out the ceiling for the same signs of leaks, mold, rot and instability. What you are looking for here is water damage.

Are there any marks to indicate where water has once seeped in and the dried?

If need be, grab a stool and press areas of the ceiling to test the integrity. A weak ceiling will need immediate attention and who knows what other issues may be lurking underneath.

Unless you are comfortable doing repairs and are able to get the RV for a steal, any signs of water damage should come as a big red light not to buy.

4. Signs of mold anywhere else

After checking both ceiling and floors for signs of mold or water damage, you should look over everything else with the same mindset.

Walls, crooks and crannies, cupboards and drawers. Under the bed panels and areas of the kitchen and of course throughout the bathroom.

Some cosmetic spotting isn’t the end of the world and should be solved with a good, solid clean. However, signs of damage or weak material as a result of mold is a cause for concern.

5. Test the exterior walls

Feel free to push against the exterior walls of the RV. Use force here to ensure that the surface is robust and the wall is in good quality condition.

There should not be much give in the walls at all, and if for any reason a panel buckles you know you have dodged a bullet by avoiding such a vehicle.

Look Inside all the Exterior Panels

Take time to open up the exterior panels to ensure that everything is clean, dry and clear of damage or mold too.

Corrosion and signs of rotting are a problem here as it is hard to tell the extent of such wear and how far it stretches into unseen areas.

6. Check the exterior trim

buying a used RV

After opening up the panels and checking there, its time to see if the exterior trip is in good condition.

If you see signs of corrosion and rust here, it could mean that water and moisture is starting to get in to spots where it can really do some damage, (inside the walls of the RV).

If the screws on the outside and along the trim look clean and still have their paint, it’s a good sign that the RV is sound from an exterior perspective.

7. A close check of the roof

Look around the entire roof by climbing up there. Check around the skylight and vents as well as the entire perimeter.

Is the caulking sound and clean? Blackened and mouldy caulk is a bad sign that water has been seeping in for some time.

8. Don’t be shy, walk around while up there

Give the roof a weight check, carefully walk around the roof to ensure that the structure is strong. A roof that gives or causes the entire RV structure to wobble (assuming you are walking slowly) is one that has been weakened. Another sign that you should avoid.

9. Head to a dealership or other reputable source

Avoid scams and poor condition used RVs by buying from a dealership. You should even get some sort of warranty depending on the age of the RV.

At the very least you know you will have some recourse should a major problem arise in a short time of buying.

If buying a used RV independently being cynical to the core and check all of the above points as thoroughly as you can.

Testing the condition of the RV properly will only take an hour of your time. It could save you thousands of dollars in the long run.