RV Advice

RV 101: Buying a Used RV


With the current state of our economy it seems there is resurgence in used RV sales. In many situations it just makes sense to buy used rather than new, for example:

– you only plan to use an RV a few weeks out of the year.
– you want to finance a lower dollar amount for a shorter time period with a lower monthly payment.
– you want to get a better deal. (Used RVs already suffered the brunt of depreciation.)
– you plan to upgrade to a larger or newer RV in a couple of years.

As you can see there are some advantages to buying a used RV, but there are many other factors involved that can change a great deal on a used RV into a disaster. Let’s take a look at what you can do to make the best used RV buying decisions possible.

Buying From a Dealer

When considering a used RV cost is one of the driving factors. The majority of RV dealers use the NADA guide www.nada.com for Recreation Vehicles to determine used RV pricing. Used RV prices are based on the age of the unit, the condition, optional equipment and mileage, if it’s a motorized RV. NADA guides include wholesale and retail pricing for used RVs, and all NADA pricing assumes the RV is in good condition, and proper working order.

Ask to see the NADA price for the unit you are considering purchasing, or look it up on the Internet. For accurate figures you will need to know the make, model, year, options, and for gasoline motorhomes the chassis manufacturer and mileage. You wouldn’t pay full Manufacturer Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) for a new automobile or RV, so you shouldn’t pay full retail price for a used RV either. If the used RV you are looking at is in good condition and everything operates properly a fair price would be somewhere between the NADA wholesale and retail price guidelines.

Buying From a Private Owner

Another option is to purchase from a private owner. Some RV owners don’t use their RV enough to justify keeping and maintaining it. One common problem with buying from a private owner is they still owe more than the RV is worth, or they think the RV is worth more than it really is. This is where it is important to do your research before making any offers. Find out the make, model and year of the RV and look it up in the NADA guide online. Remember, the pricing in the guide is based on the RV being in good condition. That means there is no damage and everything on the RV operates properly.

Another consideration when buying from a private owner, is completing all the required paperwork with your local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Check to see if there are any liens on the title and what needs to be done to clear the liens. Do not purchase an RV that is not properly titled for the state you live in.

Know What You’re Buying

I mentioned a moment ago that the RV needs to be in good overall condition. If you decide to purchase a used RV make sure all of the systems and appliances operate properly, and there is no type of hidden damage that can’t easily be seen. Damage caused by water leaks can be hard to detect and extremely costly to repair. If you are not knowledgeable about RV’s you should take someone with you who is, to thoroughly inspect the unit you are considering purchasing.

It may be possible to hire someone to inspect the unit before you buy it, similar to how you would have a home inspection done prior to purchasing a house. If you purchase the used RV from a dealership they normally perform a Pre-Delivery Inspection (PDI) on the RV, to determine the condition and make any necessary repairs. Most RV dealers will give you a walk-through orientation of the RV, demonstrating that everything is operating properly. I recommend that you purchase an RV training video on the type of RV you are buying and view it prior to the scheduled walk-through. You will have a much better understanding of how everything works and you can ask more targeted questions.


Another factor when purchasing a used RV is warranty. If you decide a used RV is your best choice, check to see if there is any type of warranty available on the unit. If you buy a used RV from a private owner it is normally “AS IS” with no warranty. This is true with many RV dealers too.

Replacing an RV refrigerator or other major appliance can be very expensive. Most RV dealers will offer an extended service plan or contract if the used RV meets the service plan criteria. You can also purchase these plans from RV clubs and reputable RV related websites on the Internet. The age of the unit will factor into the cost of the plan, but you should be able to negotiate with the dealership concerning pricing for a service plan.

It is extremely important to read all of the fine print, and understand exactly what is covered and what is not covered in any type of service plan or contract you purchase. Many times service plans offer different levels of coverage, based on the cost of the plan. You also want to make sure other RV dealers and repair facilities will honor the service plan you purchase. It won’t do you any good if you need repairs while you are traveling and nobody will honor the service plan. In many cases you pay for the repairs up front and get reimbursed later. Check it out before you sign on the dotted line.

To sum it up, when purchasing a used RV, research the product and the pricing, thoroughly inspect the unit for any type of damage, check into a warranty or extended service contract and negotiate the selling price. Now load it up hook it up, fuel it up and JUST RV IT!

For more information on how to purchase, use and maintain your RV be sure and visit www.rveducation101.com.

Happy RV Learning,

Mark J. Polk