Pre-purchase inspection checklist for used motorhomes, RVs, caravans and fifth wheels
Buying a used motor home is not as simple as it sounds. It can be especially difficult if you are going to be living in the motor home or fifth wheel for any length of time. It could be compared to buying a car and a house at the same time, except this house has a wheel and goes 65 miles per hour, and this car has a stove and a shower.
For this reason, it is crucial to have some great checklists to review to make sure you find any issues that may exist. Salespeople generally won’t tell you each and every problem they know about. Some sellers will try to hide known issues. As the saying goes: “Buyer beware”.
Using your checklist to review used vehicles at the used RV dealership is just as important. The dealership charges their commission no matter how long the RV lasts for you, so it’s really up to you to make sure you get a good rig.
So we’re going to save you time, money, and frustration, and we’ll provide you with some of the key things to keep in mind when viewing a used motorhome, camper, motorhome, class AB or C, or fifth wheel for the first time:
Oil analysis – As with any vehicle, oil is the lifeblood of the engine. Checking the oil is a great start in ensuring the integrity of the engine. If the oil smells burnt, has an unusual color or consistency, is too low or too high, you may have a problem with your hands.
Oxide – Rust is the natural decomposition of iron or a metal with iron in it. Rust is much worse in parts of the country with snow and road salt. Buying RVs in the South can help with rust problems, but they will generally cost a bit more. Do a full rust check. If there is structural rust on the frame, AVOID THE RV AT ALL COSTS. You are buying an RV at the end of its useful life.
Records service – This will show if the previous owners did regular maintenance on the platform. It will also show you how many previous owners there have been. And, if they don’t have any paperwork, why not?
NOTE: If the VIN number on the service records or receipts does not match the vehicle you are purchasing, obviously the paperwork is pointless.
Financing your RV – Many companies offer better financing for certain preferred builders and even certain models, especially those with the lowest depreciation. The purchase of any used business recreational vehicle should not be made without a thorough evaluation of the financial options attached to it. Some banks don’t finance a commercial vehicle until it has passed a DOT inspection, some offer lower rates for “occasional use,” and some charge a higher percentage rate if you plan to “live on board.”
RV insurance – this can be a real “dream buster”. How will you tell your family you got a great deal on the rv for them and they fixed it really well, but … well, no one will tell because it’s too old, or the brakes are aftermarket, or there was a recall ? in that. Motorhome converters, how would you like to finish your motorhome repairs with $ 30,000 in renovations only to find that it is not insurable with normal companies due to “gross vehicle weight issues”?
In my opinion, learning enough about RVs to make an informed purchasing decision is just common sense. What you learn before you get the RV will no doubt carry over to what you will need to know to keep your new rig in tip-top shape while on the road later.