Want to Buy a Used RV? Before You Buy Read & Follow These Suggestions

Written By: Chris Water

Last Updated: 2021-01-13

It is always important to understand and consider the true cost of an RV before jumping in to the purchase. Things like cost of financing (unless you are buying the RV outright and making a cash purchase), extra charges for prep and other frills that the dealers might tack on. Insurance, taxes, registration fees and extended warranties must also be considered and planned for. On a used RV, you will also have to budget for repairs and maintenance as well as prepping cost of winterization and storage. All of these costs must be considered before you dive headfirst into RV ownership.

For a new buyer, buying a used RV can still feel like a tricky thing as it isn’t like any other ordinary vehicle. We have tried to make the process simple for you by narrowing it down to the following questions that you need to ask yourself:

  1. How will you be using your RV?
    Depending on how often you plan to travel and how far you intend to go, the size of the RV would vary. A smaller trailer would work well for weekend trips and occasional visits to campgrounds whereas full time road trips would be well suited to larger motorhomes with a lot more creature comforts.
  2. What are some options that you simply cannot live without?
    If you enjoy utilizing your culinary skills while camping out, residential grade kitchen appliances would be a must for you. If you prefer enjoying the greater outdoors, then you might need an RV that offers a lot of storage space for all your toys and gear. Electric jacks, outdoor kitchens and showers, air-conditioning and many others are among the list of features that you must consider.
  3. How many people need to sleep in your trailer?
    RVs with a single master floor plan are perfect for a couple only but if you have kids, you may want to look at RVs that offer bunk beds or even separate bunk rooms for more privacy and space.

Research Your Trailer (Hint: www.rvsnag.com)


Of course we'd promote our own brand! Why? Because RVSnag.com is amazing, that's why! But, honestly, we really do go out of our way to provide a great user experience, scouring the web for available RV's and motorhomes near you, at great prices. We highly recommend ourselves ;-). Sadly, we don't always hit the mark and you should let us know how we can improve your browsing experience by emailing us ideas@rvsnag.com.

NADA Guide

Once you have discovered the costs associated with RV ownership as well as narrowed down your requirements and needs, you must now begin the research phase of acquiring a used RV. Consider the fair market value for the RV before going out there and purchasing one. You can find that using the NADA guide for RVs.


Facebook pages created and run by RV aficionados and other online forums are a great alternative to RV shows and camping grounds where you can talk to RV owners about their RV’s and the experience of owning them. The remote communities are especially helpful alternative to live gatherings in this current age of a global pandemic. You can also get recommendations for great used RV dealerships from these resources.

Buying a Used Trailer Checklist

Once you have narrowed down what kind of RV you want and where you want to get it from, following is a list of things that we recommend that you inspect and take a look at when purchasing your RV. We have broken this list into exterior and interior items:

Exterior: What to look for on the outside of a used trailer?

  • Start with the exterior walls. Look for more than usual wear and delamination. Also check for any serious dents and damage.
  • Check the frame to see if there is excessive rust or any structural damage (this is a HUGE red flag for not buying a used RV).
  • Check the outlets - do they all work and when plugged into 15/30/50v are they grounded?
  • Check the roof and windows for cracks around the seams and improper seals.
  • Check the door step and make sure that it folds down smoothly.
  • Check all exterior lights including tow, awning, brake and cab lights (replacement lights are often pretty cheap and easy to repair: exterior light; break & turn lights).
  • Check the jacks to make sure the extend and retract without any issues.
  • The tires, axles and bearings are all functional, free of rot, rust and cracks. (FYI you may also need to lubricate the bearings with grease, and don't forget the grease gun)?
  • Check if the propane check been inspected for safety, is up to code and functional with proper hose and regulator.
  • Does the battery hold charge or will it need to be replaced?
  • Will the brakes pass inspection?
  • Does the awning extend and retract easily and is the fabric intact? (this CAN be replaced, but it'll take an afternoon).
  • If equipped, do the slide-outs open and close smoothly (FYI you can probably fix it with grease and don't forget the grease gun)?
  • Do the wipers need to be replaced and is the windshield free of cracks?
  • Have the engine, drivetrain and transmission fluids inspected.

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Interior: What to look for on the inside of a used trailer?

  • Check the floors, ceilings and walls for water damage, stains, rips or tears. Check and make sure there are no soft spots on the floor. This may be indicative of rot. You may need to buy dicor.
  • Do the sinks, shower and toilet function well?
  • Are the holding tanks and waste water valves in good order?
  • Do the sewage and plumbing systems work as they should? (consider a toilet tank sprayer, sewer equipment, and possibly more pex piping to replace anything that is in need of repair).
  • Are the appliances in good condition? Replacing these can be expensive. But if the used trailer is priced right, it may make sense to fork out the additional funds.
  • Does the RV come with provisions for safety such as fire extinguishers, smoke, carbon monoxide and propane detectors and are they all functional?
  • Do the windows open/slide easily and are the shades/blinds in good condition?
  • Does the furniture match the interior and is it in good condition?
  • Does the interior smell musty or unpleasant in other ways? (musty/moldy smells may be signs of interior water damage).
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Conclusion on Buying a Used RV, Trailer, or Motorhome

Have the RV professionally inspected if you can. Spending that extra bit of money will go a long way in acquiring an RV which will be free of serious but hidden defects that you might not detect at first glance but end up spending a fortune over down the road.

In the end you need to decide if you are buying someone elses problems, or inexpensively buying your way into RV'ing? At RVSnag.com we like to think that every memory made on the road, in a forest, by a lake, in the desert, or otherwise 'glamping' is worth every penny, no matter if you bought new or used!

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