6 Keys to Success When You Buy a Used RV

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Many of us dream of hitting the open road in an RV and spending time with family while we take in all the sights around us.  A family road trip has been the theme in numerous movies, and it is a dream that many would like to make a reality.  With many RVs being quite expensive, it can be much more economical to search the used market for your RV purchase. Here are 6 keys to success for you to remember when you buy a used RV:

Determine what fits your needs

The first step to buying a used RV is determining exactly what you need.  There are so many different types of RVs for sale today that it can be a bit overwhelming.  Sit down and take the time to figure out which options work best for you before you start looking at specific sale listings.

Are you looking for a travel trailer or a fifth wheel?  Or does a Class C motorhome or Class A motorhome better suit your needs?  In addition to the type of RV you prefer, each also offers multiple floor plans from which to choose. 

There are many factors that determine which floor plan is the best option for you.  Some considerations include whether you are traveling with children, whether you have pets, and how much cooking you like to do.  After you have determined the type, size, and layout of the RV you need, then you can start to research the prices of those models.

Research the fair market value

Now that you know what you need, it is time to figure out how much you can expect to pay for your RV.  There are many tools available online to assist you in this step.  Start by looking at used RV listings to get an idea of the price range in your market.  Prices can vary based on where the RV is located.

Just like when buying a used car, there are services available that can estimate the value of a used RV.  One of these is the NADA guide.  You can input the model, condition, and other criteria to receive an estimate on value. 

Another good idea here is to ask your banker.  Banks place values on used RVs, and this is especially important if you will be getting a loan for your purchase.

Once you’ve researched the value, it is time to begin looking for your RV!  This takes us to our next point.

Buy from a reputable source

Always buy your used RV from a reputable source.  This could be the used section of RV dealers, a family friend, or even someone you don’t know.  However, when buying from someone you don’t know, be sure to watch out for any red flags.

Be sure that the person you are buying from can answer all of your questions.  The owner should know the history of the RV and be able to answer most any question you have about it.  Also, avoid anyone who pushes you to purchase the rig without a test drive, or in some cases, without even seeing it!  No matter how good the deal seems, it is more than likely too good to be true.

Once you are convinced that the seller is on the up and up, you can move forward and start to decide if this is the right unit for you.  Set up a time to look at the RV and be sure you know what to look for.

Know how to spot trouble

This is one of the most critical steps to your used RV purchase. Paying attention to this step can save you lots of money and headache down the road.  It is crucial that you know what to look for as you walk around and through the RV.

You should thoroughly inspect and test all parts of the RV to ensure that things are in proper working order. Operate the slide outs, if equipped, and make sure they move smoothly without any odd noises. Try the air conditioner and furnace to make sure they work. Turn on all the lights and test the electrical outlets.

If there is one thing you absolutely must do at this step, it is to look for potential water damage.  Look closely over the ceiling, in the corners, and along the walls to make sure there is no evidence of water or mold.  Walk the roof to make sure everything is sealed properly and that there are no soft spots.  Check the storage compartments to ensure that they are dry and tightly sealed.  You should almost always avoid an RV that has any signs of water damage.

Get a professional inspection

In many cases, you may be purchasing your first RV and aren’t quite sure how to check the things mentioned above.  That is when it pays to get a professional to perform an inspection of the unit.  A professional inspection is inexpensive, and it can save you thousands in the long run.

If you have decided to purchase a motorhome, you should also consider having a mechanic inspect the engine and drivetrain of the RV.  They should be able to spot any major issues or warning signs. If the seller will not allow you to have a professional inspection, then stay away from that RV!

Carefully plan your first trip

Once you’ve closed the sale, it’s time to hit the road and enjoy your new purchase!  Try to plan a quick trip close to home for your first adventure.  This will allow you to become familiar with the RV and ensure there are no hidden issues before embarking on a long journey.  The last thing you want is to run into problems halfway across the country and have your trip ruined by something that could have been avoided.

Now that you know how to have success when you buy a used RV, get out there and find yourself the right one.  It will be a fun and rewarding experience.  Safe and happy travels!

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