Buying Used

Follow these tips for great savings on pre-owned RVs.

Shopping for a used RV is like shopping for any other high-dollar used item. You need to do a lot of inspection to ensure your chosen vehicle is a peach of a buy and not a lemon. Here are a few points to remember when looking for that perfect used RV.

Where to Buy: If possible, shop in the driest part of your state or region. For example, an RV stored outdoors in a rain-soaked part of the state has a potential for water damage; however, an RV in a drier region may have sun-faded tape graphics but probably has little water damage potential. That's why desert areas like Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico are prime places to shop for used RVs. Buying in areas where salt is used on winter roads is also something to avoid.

Best Time to Buy: Just as fall and winter are slow times for selling homes, the cold-weather months are prime times to shop for used recreational vehicle bargains.

Finding Parts: Don't worry if an RV is from a manufacturer that's out of business. About 90 percent of the parts in most rigs are commonly used by other manufacturers. Parts for refrigerators, stoves, furnaces, air conditioners, water, LP-gas systems and the like are readily available for almost any brand of RV.

Watch for Water: Water damage is the primary source of used RV problems. Leaks in the roof, below windows and in the rig's underbelly can damage the roof, wall and floor structure in ways that are costly to repair.

When you inspect the exterior of any RV or trailer, check the roof, windows, edge seams and vent tubes for large globs of extra sealant that may have been applied to stop leaks. Inside, make sure you check the ceiling covering for stains, sagging fabric or delaminated vinyl hardboard covering. Check the walls just below the windows for paneling damage and inspect the floor for soft spots that could indicate body rot lurking below.

Rodent Damage: Look carefully at all of the rig's outside orifices, such as furnace, water heater and holding tank vents, the power cord opening and the refrigerator service panel. These are great places for wasp nests or rodent apartments.

Any such infestations must be removed and the accessory's function checked before use. Rodents particularly enjoy chewing wiring insulation, so check under the hood carefully. Pull some cabinet drawers out, and look for places where wiring may have been chewed by a rodent or modified by a well-meaning handyman.

Plumbing problems: The plumbing system is the Achilles' heel for many RVs. Holding tanks are literally built into some RVs and are costly to replace. Inspect the plumbing lines, freshwater supply tanks and holding tanks for obvious leaks and cracked or broken lines.

Easy Fixes: Upholstery, curtains, carpet and the like can be brought up to date relatively inexpensively as needed. As in purchasing an older home, what you're looking for is strong bones. Shop carefully and a used RV can save you thousands of dollars you can put toward more forays afield.