What To Look for When Shopping for a Used RV
The best new RV makes the best used RV! If there was time for only one, short, piece of advice for anyone looking at used RVs for sale that would be it. In the current RV market the initial quality of the offerings found in a similar price point are roughly equal, however the rate of deterioration is not. The best RV manufacturers will use materials and manufacturing processes that produce a higher quality, longer lasting vehicle. An inferior manufacturer will cut corners in both production and quality of materials in order to maximize profits, a shortsighted approach. The superior manufacturer hopes that the quality of your current RV will have a large impact on what you purchase as your next RV, leading to repeat customers and allowing for more profit over a longer interval.
Don’t Get Stuck on the Sticker
How much an RV costs is an important factor in the buying decision, but it can carry too much weight. If an RV is overpriced we tend to move on, but if an RV is at an unbelievably low price we are drawn like a moth to flame. Problem is we often forget that there must be a reason it is so cheap when we are caught up in the thrill of the hunt. The low priced RV either has some issues or it started out less expensive than other brands, sometimes both. A lower retail price brings a lower sale price. So the low priced RV started out inferior and has issues in need of repair. I think this moth is beginning to realize that flame is a bug zapper. There are many ways to get a rough market value of an RV you are interested in, but RV Trader is probably the most reliable source for current RV values. It may take a little math, to find the average add up all the prices of the RV make and model you are interested in and then divide by the number of RVs. For example I searched for a Jayco Jay Flight 28BHS on RV Trader and found five listings within my search range priced from $29,000 to $39,000. I added all the sale prices and divided by five to find the average cost of a Jayco Jay Flight 28BHS in my search area is $36,000. I know better but I am attracted to the $29,000 price, I am also curious why it is priced so low. It’s worth investigating, but ask a lot of questions and look it over thoroughly. I include a short list below of common issues to look for in used RVs.
Buying an RV, new or used, is like buying a house and a car at the same time. Even if you prefer a towable style RV, it doesn’t have a motor but it has all the running gear a car would. Buying a house and buying a car are important decisions and can be tremendously stressful. Part of the stress is that when you purchase one or the other there is generally a pressing need for shelter or transportation. When you buy an RV it is usually because you want to enjoy all the RV lifestyle has to offer, not out of necessity, reducing the stress level some. Doing your homework by researching the makes and models that interest you and knowing what a fair price is helps to reduce the stress further, and knowing what your camping habits are will help you identify the “right” RV for you.
The Right One
The right RV for you is a topic that requires a blog of its own but here is a brief overview of the normal consumer type and the RV Class designed to meet their needs. Obviously there is an exception to every rule but the breakdown is as follows;
• Folding Campers (Tent Trailer), Smaller Towables, Class C Motorhomes – Traditionally the price point and design of these types of RV are great for families with school age or younger children, and are the most common choice for first time RV owners.
• Truck Campers, Toy Haulers – Traditionally outdoor enthusiasts, hunters, fishermen find these RVs to be the ideal RV type. They can still be very functional for families but allow the transport of toys.
• Class A Motorhomes (Gas & Diesel), Larger Towables, Class B motorhomes – Traditionally this group of RV is owned by the experienced RVer and not normally the first RV a newcomer to the lifestyle will purchase. They are often some of the more expensive offerings but much of that is because they are designed with the full time RVer in mind in terms of amenities and overall size.
If you take the whole motley crew of neighborhood kids, or your hunting buddies out a couple times a year a Trailer that sleeps six or a Class C with the overhead bunk should fit the bill nicely. Quiet fishing trips or rowdy weekends spent trail riding or spraying sand on the dunes? A Truck Camper or Toy Hauler is practically the only option. Long trips, extended stays in warmer climates, having the occasional visitor or additional passenger is more comfortable in the larger, more long term livable RVs.
Where To Buy It
You know what you want and how much you are willing to pay, do you buy from a private party or from a dealership? Both have their advantages, and both have their disadvantages. A private party will often have a lower price than a dealership, but you roll the dice on that person’s honesty. A dealer has the same opportunity to be dishonest, but thanks to the myriad of consumer review websites it’s quite easy to get a feel for their reputation. Plus there are laws regulating vehicle sales businesses in every state and a dealer that does not abide by them is not a dealer very long. In the eyes of a lender an RV loan is more of a gamble than an auto loan because, in theory, an RV could be driven off into the wilds and never be seen again, all while you enjoy your new ill-gotten cabin in the woods without making any more payments. You could do this in a car, but a restroom and sleeping quarters make the RV more susceptible to outlaw behavior. Buying from a dealer does not guarantee you will be approved for a loan, but the number of lenders and the added reassurance of a trusted dealer can help soften some of the loan requirements. Buying from a dealer also doesn’t guarantee you get a quality used RV.
The size and scope of a dealership has both positive and negative effects on the buying process. The larger the dealership the more overhead, which can lead to higher prices, but the hope is that the dealership has inspected and repaired the RV before you purchase it, offsetting the higher initial price. The negative to buying from a larger dealer is you may not find much in the way of a “hunter’s special” or any other flowery term for rough but functional. While they exist on the smaller Mom and Pop lots it is often because a larger dealer has sent the RV to auction or sold it directly to the smaller lot because the RVs condition does not meet their standards. This is definitely true here at Guaranty RV Super Centers. We are proud that we take anything on trade, but that doesn’t mean that trade makes it back to our lot for sale. Llamas and Beanie Babies aside, a trade in on an RV is an RV 99% of the time. Less than 50% of those trades make their way through our service department and onto the various sales lots. That means over 50% of the RVs we take on trade are of an age or quality that do not meet our standards. Not all dealerships are this stringent, but at Guaranty we have the benefit of being able to be picky thanks to volume at which we are able to help the RV shopper become an RV owner.
The Best Used RVs Started As The Best New RVS
To recap the best used RVs started as the best new RVs. The reputation for each RV manufacturer is easily found online and gives you a reasonably clear idea of their overall quality and owner satisfaction. We happily recommend any of the brands we carry with Newmar, Winnebago, Jayco, Heartland, and Northwood being some of the best of the best in our inventory and in the industry. If your camping plans or your disposable income mean the right RV for you is on the lesser expensive side you can still buy a good used RV. You may even find that, at a dealership, an RV that is out of your price range on the sticker may have manageable payments. No matter where or how you buy a used RV here are some things to be mindful of.
• Water is the sworn enemy of every RV ever built! Ever! Look at any entry point in the roof like vents and skylights, look for tears or patches in the exterior roofing material. Inspect the interior ceiling panels for water stains and gently push at the corners and the perimeter of the vents and skylights. The ceiling should give slightly but if it crunches that could mean hidden dry rot. Open all the exterior compartments and look for signs of water damage to floors and structure. Locate the water heater’s interior access and inspect there for water damage. Water heaters are notorious for leaky fittings on the rear thanks to the changing temperatures the fittings encounter making them swell and shrink repeatedly. Check the four exterior corners using the same gentle pushing technique. Aluminum or fiberglass siding will again give slightly but if it crunches it’s probably not good. Take a look at the vehicle as a whole for any signs of it settling on the frame. Aluminum sided trailers will often have a lower panel that is protruding and with fiberglass siding look for stress cracks and delamination (bubbles under the paneling).
• Use your nose, it always knows. A warm musty smell can indicate water damage, and an ammonia smell can mean the fridge is bad. Bathroom odors can indicate the previous owner may have not taken as thorough care of the RV as they should have. In a motorized coach engine smells like oil and gas fumes can indicate the same. A strong perfume smell may be thoughtful or it may be hiding something.
• Tires have a roughly seven-year lifespan no matter if they have gone 1 mile or 1 million. RV tires are almost never changed based on wear, but rather based on age and condition of the sidewall (common area for dry rot – small cracks in the tires rubber above the rim and below the tire tread). The last four digits of the DOT code indicate the manufacture date of that tire, with the first two indicating the week and the second two the year. A DOT code of 0409 means that tire was made the fourth week of 2009. No matter what the tire looks like if it is seven years or more past this date they should be replaced.
• Fuel lines need to have fuel run through them at least occasionally to keep them from drying out. So a low mileage motorhome has a sweet spot between under and over use. Mileage that is unusually low can indicate an RV sat more than they normally do and it will have been extra important to run the vehicle on a regular basis to keep everything supple. This applies to generators as well, whether the RV is motorized or not.
Please remember at Guaranty RV Super Centers we are always here to help. While we would love an opportunity to help you own your Dream RV, we are also here to help to make the most out of the RV you already have. Our RV service team can perform a full pre-delivery inspection before or after you buy an RV elsewhere, and they can fix whatever needs fixing. The Guaranty Travel Center and RV Park has 11,000 square feet of parts and accessories, a delicious café, and is staffed with helpful and knowledgeable folks who can get you the right part, the right beer or wine pairing for your meal, or get you the perfect camping site in our beautiful rv park for a few days to a few weeks. So call, click, or come by for a cup of coffee and let Guaranty help you enjoy the RV lifestyle. Remember We Don’t Just Sell Fun, We Guaranty It!