Due Diligence – Purchasing a Used RV

Coming to the decision to (finally!) purchase an RV is exciting, and downright scary!  Once you’ve committed to the idea it’s time to settle in to some good old-fashioned due diligence on the vehicle you’re looking to acquire – especially when you’ve decided on purchasing a used model.  Whether it’s a last-year’s “gently used” demo vehicle or one that’s seen a few presidents come and go the research you need to do will follow the same process.  Our team has put together a checklist of sorts to help you as you navigate the 101+ things that could possibly be wrong with your prospective purchase.  Follow these steps and you’re sure to maximize enjoyment of your used RV and make memories for years to come while minimizing time in the shop!

First Things First – Pick a Budget

A deceptively simple step, it’s nonetheless mandatory.  Don’t stroll into a RV dealer and end up being hypnotized by all of the doodads and whizz-bangs featured by most RV makes today. Knowing your max budget including insurance and other expected costs will be vital as you move through the diligence period.

Will you be paying or financing out of pocket? If funding, now is a terrific time to get pre-approved through a lending institution by yourself, or to look into your prospective dealers’ financing options. Make sure likewise to have everything you require for a deposit or full purchase rate.

How old is okay?

When buying secondhand, some of the hot features you think of as must-haves won’t be available on older models – is that something you can live with (or better yet, are you able to efficiently retro-fit such options)?  If technology isn’t really as much of an issue to you, or if you understand you want to renovate and customize your RV, then an older model may be the very best fit. However, if modern-day benefits like a big screen and a full-size fridge TV are top on the priority list, then a newer design within your spending plan is what you ought to focus your efforts on.

What Kind of RV are you considering?

Toyhauler, Pop-Up, Class B, Fifth Wheel, Class-C, Class-A … These may all seem like foreign terms right now, however selecting a type of RV can quickly be narrowed down simply by selecting if you wish to drive the thing (as in a motorhome), or pull it (pop-up, travel trailer, or fifth wheel). From there, you can narrow it down some more by choosing how much space you will require to be comfy. Other considerations:

  • What is the maximum tow capability of your auto? Do you have a “tow package”? (Pull-behind)
  • What is the maximum length you’re okay with backing up and pulling? (Pull-behind)
  • For a Motorhome: How big is big enough (without being too big)?
  • Sleeping Capacity
    • 2-4 Sleepers: Pop-Up, Lightweight Travel Trailer, or Class-B
    • 5+ Sleepers (don’t forget pets!): Class C, Class A, or a 5th-wheel
5th Wheel Trailer

5th Wheel Trailer

Research the major brands

There are numerous producers in the marketplace, each with their unique functions and conveniences. Narrowing your search down early to a select couple of manufacturers that provide exactly what you are trying to find will assist you in the long run.

Check Out Customer Reviews

The fantastic part about purchasing pre-owned is that everybody has tested the models for you already. There are countless reviews on the web from customers, just like you, road testing these systems every day. Take exactly what they have actually found out and apply it to how you select the very best model for you.  Forums are going to provide you with the most down-to-earth, honest experiences of real-world owners, along with sound advice.

Request Insurance Quotes

This falls under being aware of all related RV ownership expenses, but here again you’ll find differences in the costs of insurance for an older vehicle vs. a recent model.  Now is a good time to gather insurance quotes from a range of providers to ensure you’re keeping within your overall budget. This is likewise a good time to find exactly what the insurance plan will cover on your new (used) acquisition. This will help you better prepare for upkeep and repair work down the road.

Dig Deep into that Dealer

This is likewise a terrific time to pull in advice from neighbors or friends who’ve bought from the local RV dealers. Their experience will help you ascertain if one is a trustworthy dealership. One of the numerous advantages of purchasing pre-owned is that you have many dealership choices out there. Unlike brand-new models, the majority of dealers will have consignment and trade-in vehicles on the lot, to boast a larger stock on hand. Once you’ve narrowed down dealers, try to determine how they treat their customers and what kind of service used buyers can expect.

Figuring out a Fair Price

The NADA (National Automobile Dealers Association) Guide is contested by many as being misleading for first-time RV buyers, but people who are aware of available options find this to be an excellent tool for identifying a reasonable price for the rig you have your eye on.

Research your Future Rig’s History

When you have discovered a RV that you have an interest in, you can– for a small fee– identify typical details associated to service records, remembers, and accident repairs. You will need the VIN # for the unit, then the RV’s history can be found here.

Get a bunch of questions answered via email before going to the lot

This is also a great way to feel out how the dealership treats customers.  You should have dozens of questions about the vehicle that strikes your fancy; don’t rely on hoping to get them all answered in one fell swoop at the RV dealer.

Inspect the Unit

Make certain you have actually done a comprehensive evaluation of the entire unit – mechanical, electrical, interior, outside, seams and plumbing– before moving forward on the purchase. There are some nice “100-point inspection checklists” online that we don’t need to replicate here.  Inquire into warranty life and what typical repairs might cost at the dealership since most have shops on location and do a large amount of maintenance work for their customers who’ve purchased from them.

Lay Down your Offer

Prepared with the NADA knowledge you obtained in your diligence phase, and armed with the real-world experiential advice from friends and forum experts, you should feel pretty good at this point with making an offer on your dream camper. While we could write an additional article just on this topic here is one tip you MUST keep in the back of your mind: don’t be afraid to walk away if anything during the negotiation/purchase process doesn’t sit right with you.  Another rig will indeed come along!

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