Wear and Tear – Buying a used RV

Sep 21 2015

It’s an age-old debate.  Should you buy used or new?  From the car lot to the real estate market, it’s probably a question that you’ve asked yourself more than once.  Most of us know the pros and cons: shiny, new and never used usually means little worry but more cost.  Used, though, generally translates into less cash but more stress. And then, there’s the dreaded price depreciation factor.  Ugh.

You’ve done all your research on the different types of RVs available and have looked extensively at all the available options.  Your mind starts to race.  You know you want a bigger unit to fit the whole family and you’ll most definitely be after a few of the extra add-ons to make your creatures comfortable.  But you know that besides the purchase of a home, this could be one of the most expensive decisions in your life, so you break out the budget calculator (and talk to the spouse.)  The choice is clear.  Used it is! (This time.)

But now, more research.  What exactly should you look for in a used recreational vehicle?  Are there any tips for inspecting used RVs?

Here are some things to keep in mind when hitting the used RV circuit.


All used recreational vehicles have their own tale to tell.  Finding out where the RV has spent most of it’s younger years can go a long way in determining if you have a fairy tale or horror story on your hands.  An RV that comes from a harsh winter environment will normally have more wear and tear.  With vehicles from Northern States be sure to check for frozen pipe, rust and salt damage.  RVs from the South sometimes exhibit different sorts of wear and tear like siding defects, paint and decal damage or, because of the abundance of A/C use in the warmer climate, the air conditioning unit and it’s pipes may need some work.  Obviously, there are exceptions and these are not hard, fast rules.  There are a lot of pristine used RVs out there to look at! Quick tip: for a fee of about $25, you can purchase a vehicle history report on rvchecks.com


Water damage is one of the biggest RV killers known to man.  Often RV owners don’t even know that the damage is there until it’s too late.  Because it’s typically found under windows, inside cabinets and compartments, and any place that has been pierced on the exterior of the RV, you’ll want to be on a keen lookout. Watch for stains, dull fiberglass, dark colored wood, and bumps/bubbles in the paneling.   If the damage is limited to just a small area, in can usually be stopped and repaired without too much trouble.   If the evidence shows the problem lies on a larger scale, you might want to think about looking at another vehicle. Quick tip: see if you can take the RV to a Truck Stop wash.  After you’ve applied enough water, take a look at things from the inside.  Pay careful attention for bubbles and streaks.


A significant part of your RV investment is the suite of appliances and accessories inside your newly purchased road warrior.  You wouldn’t want to hit the road without a working stove, fridge, bathroom or AC/heating unit.  Try being as detailed with the insides as you would with the engine, brakes and main motor components.  You can always ask the seller to start up and operate every appliance inside.  Have them show you how it works and ask questions if you have them. Now is your chance to protect yourself.  Consider paying close attention to these things:

·  Stove top, oven, fridge, microwave, kitchen fans

·  Every sink (for leaks), plumbing lines (for leaks at the fittings), toilet(s), shower(s)

·  Onboard water pump, septic tanks

·  Slideouts

Obviously, these are just a few of the important things to think about along with test drives and road tests. The best RV dealerships out there will probably have a lot of these checklists in place – and, some more in depth than others.  Your RV is an investment, so invest your time in choosing the right dealer and inspection process to ensure your purchase is a sound one.

Who knows?  Soon, you may be asking yourself a different question, like is it time to upgrade my RV?