Buying an RV was one of the coolest ideas we’ve ever had. If you’re thinking of doing the same thing, I congratulate you from the bottom of my heart!
The U.S. is just a treasure trove of motorhomes. This type of vacation is very popular here and there is a great infrastructure for it: campgrounds, wide roads, lots of national parks, specialty stores, services, parking lots, etc.
If you are planning a long trip to the Americas, come here often, and like to relax in nature, then buying an RV can be a good investment.
Types of RVs
Motorhomes are divided into motorized and trailers.
- Class A. Large and comfortable, but voracious.
- Class B – minivans, good for a couple.
- Class C – the so-called alcove house on wheels, which has space above the cab with sleeping space. Perhaps the most successful option for a trip with a group of 4-6 people or a family. We’ll talk about them in more detail.
What To Look For When Buying A Used RV?
You type RV dealer into Google, find the closest one with the best reviews, and go there.
There you will be able to see a variety of models with many modifications. You will have an idea of what you want and what kind of house you want.
If you have never traveled in an RV, it is a good idea to rent a house for a few days. Get to know it better and see for yourself that it’s definitely for you.
Let me guide you through the prices of a used class C.
I’d say it’s realistic to buy an RV that won’t require any major investment and will easily last faithfully for several more years, starting at $12,000.
Such options are not uncommon. These will be motorhomes from 1995-2000.
For example, our 1995 Ford Tioga Montara with a box repair cost $9,000. We lived in it for six months and drove 8,000 miles from the US to Panama. We didn’t experience any major problems other than the box repair in the beginning.
An acquaintance of ours traveled to Mexico for six months in a 1986 RV he bought for $4,000. And without too many excesses, either.
Always put a framework in place. Let’s say you have $20,000, then you can consider options in the $15,000 to $25,000 range. That way, there will be more vision and understanding of the market. Plus, there is almost always room for bargaining.
Basically, this parameter depends on the price. Also, use the 5-10 year ranges when searching.
|Year Range||Price Range|
To understand the size, here’s a table for you.
|Size||Length in feet||Length in meters||Sleeps|
When choosing the size of a RV it is important to understand
How many people will be traveling?
The table above will help you with that.
Where will the route be?
The U.S. has large spaces, roads, and parking lots. There is no problem with the size of the motorhome here. We traveled through Mexico and Central America in a 24-foot RV. It takes up a little more than a parking space and a half in length. If it had been bigger, like 26-27 feet we would have encountered a lot of difficulty getting through the middle of some colonial cities. Also, the longer the house, the greater the risk of hitting the bottom of the back of the RV when going down or up a steep hill.
How much time will you spend in the RV?
This is important because when people are together for a long time in a confined space, emotional fatigue builds up faster. We’ve diluted overnight stays in the motorhome with camping. Accordingly, the more time you spend in the house, the more space you should have.
Decide which layout you like and which layout you definitely don’t.
The layout inside depends a lot on the size of the house. Larger motorhomes (over 27 feet) have a bedroom in the back, which is actually a separate room.
Medium-sized motorhomes also have options with a bed in the back. That’s exactly the kind we had. We hung a curtain, thereby dividing the RV space into two parts. Here the entrance is at the front of the house. If the front door is in the back, there will be a toilet/bathroom or kitchen along the entire back wall. With this layout, you can no longer divide the space.
Where To Buy A Used RV?
America is a huge country and there are thousands of motorhomes for sale in every state.
The best condition is with RVs that have been used in the Southern part of the country, where there are no sub-zero temperatures or snow. Fewer temperature fluctuations, and less wear, and tear. In the East Coast states, where hurricanes and flooding are common, you should be careful not to buy a sunken RV.
The craigslist.org is your trusted friend in your search for a used RV. It’s the largest resource with private listings in the United States. We’ll take a closer look at how the site works since 95% of all the options we looked at were from here.
You can include neighboring areas to search “include nearby areas” or define the search radius from your US zip code.
The rest can be left untouched.
You will receive an email when a new listing appears. Or check the site several times a day. Remember that a good listing can slip away in literally minutes.
- Go to used RV dealers. The main thing is that the seller has a lot of good reviews. It’s easy here. The dealer will also do the registration for you. Dealers usually try not to take older motorhomes for sale, so it makes sense to look here with a budget of $25,000 or more. Dealers post their offers on the two largest RV sites https://www.rvtrader.com/ and https://www.rvt.com/.
- Buy from a rental company. America’s largest rental company is https://www.cruiseamerica.com. Prices here start at $40,000 for a 3 to 5-year-old RV – that’s cheap. However, the vehicle’s mileage will likely be over 100,000 miles.
Here we are talking about having time to buy a good house at a low price from a private owner. Now let’s elaborate because we have experienced this method ourselves.
We were looking for a motor home for almost 3 months because we wanted to buy a good home for the cheapest price, and we were new to this topic. These options came up once a week. And there were a lot of people hunting for them.
We literally drove across America for the RV we wanted and several times it was gone from under our noses.
The laws of the market work here:
Found a cool offer that was posted a few hours ago? Consider that you’re not the first caller. And the odds of having it in your neighborhood tend toward zero.
What’s a cool option? It is an RV, owned by an elderly couple (this is the unspoken quality mark in the U.S.), cherished and nurtured it, drove it several times a year, and as if by the hour to take it to the service. Add to the perfect condition a price just below market, and you have a few minutes to be the first to make an appointment.
Outline to yourself a radius where you will be willing to go to pick up a motorhome. For example, we looked around 500 miles from San Francisco, where we lived. By car, that’s 7-8 hours. Plus we included major cities in neighboring states: Las Vegas, Phoenix, and San Diego; where you could get a quick and relatively cheap flight.
If you see an ad that is heavily below market for the price, it is most likely a scammer.
You are only interested in a personal meeting and inspection of the RV with the owner. Anything else, when the car is somewhere in the storage on eBay, the owner is now on duodenal surgery and he is urgently selling so the RV is so cheap – it is definitely a scam!
Don’t even waste your time on such ads.
Tips For Buying A Used RV
When we find an option, we call. Keep in mind that many people like voicemail and sms. And not Whatsapp, but texting the old-fashioned way, and they’ll throw pictures at you. They may not even pick up the phone on purpose, to find out later what you wanted in a voice message. So if you do not get a call, feel free to talk to the voice and then duplicate the sms.
Before going to see an RV it is important for us to know:
- Who is written in the Title by the owner? Is that the person you are talking to? If not, will the owner be at the meeting in person?
- How long has he owned the RV? The longer, the more and more reliable history you can get.
- How many owners has it had and in what states has it been used? As far as the number of owners, it’s pretty clear, in the states it’s better if the motorhome has not been winterized.
- How often was it used, and where did it go? It is very important that the house is driven occasionally – the movement of life. If the RV has been idle for more than a year, the materials will dry out, deteriorate, and rust.
- Why sell?
- Ask the question directly: are there any problems?
- Is there anything that needs fixing or that will require repair over the next 10,000 miles?
- Are there leaks now and have there been leaks in the past?
- If so, where exactly and what damage the house has sustained? It would be nice to get pictures. The most important thing is that there is no hull rot.
- When was the roof last sealed?
- Are all appliances working inside the house (amenities)?
- Is there a generator?
- When were the tires changed? A set of 6 wheels (class C rear axle as in two pairs of wheels each) can cost $1200-$1800, so if the tires are more than 5-7 years old and the tread height leaves a lot to be desired, it’s worth keeping that figure in mind.
- Has the engine and transmission been replaced?
- If not, when were the overhauls?
- If not, when was the last maintenance, and what was done to them?
Asking an open-ended question:
What else should I know about your motorhome before buying?
Would the owner be okay with a test drive and a ride to a mechanic nearby? (If there is nothing to hide – usually not against it).
You can also ask for a video review or video call, especially if you have to drive far away to view it.
Additional features that can be in an RV
- Slide out. These are retractable walls, they create extra space in the house during a stop. A cool thing shows up on models from the year 2000. But can be a place for extra leaks.
- Solar panels. Very useful stuff – especially if you’re traveling wilderness outside the US. Electricity is always with you.
- Lots more. With used motorhomes, you can inherit a lot of useful stuff: camping tables and chairs, tools, hoses, extension cords, parts, etc.
Appointment of the meeting
See if there is anyone else who is going to watch the RV before you. If you feel it’s your option, offer to hold on to it until you do. There is a law in America – whoever gave the money first gets the car. We once drove three days from Alabama to Arizona for a house and two hours before we arrived the owner sold it. In doing so, he honestly warned us that he would not hold it under us.
So, it’s important to make clear arrangements, especially if you’re going far away. We mention that we are going with cash in hand and if everything is okay with the RV, we will take it right away.
- Go around the RV from all sides and look for bulges on the walls.
Usually, they are at the joints of the roof and walls. It is best to look at the sun. If there are large swellings, it means water has gotten into the wall. You need to look from the inside. We mark for ourselves these places.
- Look at the joints on the corners.
It’s important that they don’t show through.
- Get on the roof.
In most cases, you’ll get an EPDM roof. This means it has a thin layer of rubber on top. It’s important that the surface is flat, with no bulges or waves. No holes, cracks or tears. The areas around the edges should have a seal.
- We go inside.
We look at the walls from the inside and the places that seemed to us bloated when we looked from the outside. Knock them and the walls at the ceiling around the perimeter. If you can feel or hear a dry crack when tapping or pressing on the wall, it means there was water damage in this place. If the area is small and there are no leaks now, you can live with it. But if you come across a soft or slightly damp place, consider that there is a leak and the process of rotting has started. This is not a good sign. It is worth assessing the extent of the problem in advance. In the same way, we check the roof from the inside.
Checking the performance of household appliances
It is important that you have a power connection or a working generator to check.
Just take everything and turn it on in order.
- Refrigerator (from gas and electricity) if the check does not light up, then everything is okay. Wait 30 minutes until it gets cold.
- Air conditioner – turn it on and wait half a minute until it blows cold from hell.
- Stove – you ignite the burners.
- Stove – works on gas, you also need half a minute to blow warm air.
- Microwave – here everything is clear.
- Water heater – here you need to wait for about 20 minutes.
- Water pump – you just turn on the water.
- Generator – you start it up and enjoy the rattle.
- If there’s a slide out, slide in and slide out.
- Solar panels – plug something in.
Moving on to the automobile part
- Look under the car for signs of oil leakage on the engine and gearbox. If there is – an alarm sign.
- We open a hood and look at the state of belts and pipe joints.
- We take out the engine oil dipstick, check the oil level and see the oil transparency. Most likely it will be black if you haven’t changed it in a while. Put it on the fingernail, if the fingernail is visible, then the engine wear is within normal limits.
- Pull out the transmission dipstick. Take out the dipstick and take out the transmission dipstick.
- Start the engine – listen to how smoothly the engine runs.
- Load the engine. Turn on the headlights and the air conditioner on fully. Listen to how it works.
- Check the rest of the electrics. Power windows, headlights, etc.
- Start and stop several times.
Going for a test drive
It is desirable to test the car in different modes.
- At first, drive slowly, trying to collect any bumps, and listen to the suspension.
- We check the steering rack – make turns, and completely turn the steering wheel.
- Checking traction – give throttle. It is important to find any steeper hill and see how the car will climb up it.
- Check the manual (foot) brake.
- Shift the gearbox to 2 and 1. Check the reverse.
- Get out on the highway and give it a good squeeze. See how the motorhome handles at speed.
You can also engage professionals to check
There are specially certified RV inspectors you can find them here https://nrvia.org/locate/ or contact your dealership.
The price for a motorhome inspection will average $250-$400 (house only).
The house along with the auto part is $500-$700.
You can find a mechanic who will evaluate just the car part in 1-2 hours. The price of an hour depending on the state is $80-$120. And remember, whoever brings in the money first takes the RV. The owner is unlikely to agree to drive 30-50 km to the service and waste his time if he has couple or three other people on the phone who want to look.
Here it is better to find a mechanic who agrees to go with you and do the inspection on the spot.
It is important to remember that you are buying a used RV and everything cannot be perfect here, so small flaws are perfectly normal. And if the test passes – congratulations, you found a good option.
At first glance, this whole endeavor may seem like a huge hassle, but that’s literally until you rummage through websites and talk to a couple of sellers.
If you still don’t want to get involved in this procedure but want to buy a motorhome, feel free to contact the professionals. They’ll figure out how to do it for you as quickly and easily as possible.
Ever since I was a kid, I've been fascinated by travel. I inherited this passion from my parents. Since my college years and to this day, I have had a passion for traveling in a motorhome. I am here to share my experiences with you.