After extensive research, you’ve determined to find the best-used travel trailer to get the best deal on the RV of your dreams. You may have the exact floorplan, RV category, and the ideal tow vehicle in mind, but do you know what to ask when buying a used camper?
Private sellers conduct over 60% of all RV sales over RV dealers. There are important questions to ask when buying a camper. Here are 10 questions to ask when buying a used camper:
- How many people have owned the RV previously?
- It’s okay to ask why they’re selling the RV
- Can the Seller Provide All of the Documentation?
- What Additional Equipment Comes With the Coach?
- Where Was The RV Stored During the Off-Season?
- Were There Any Pets In The RV?
- Conduct An Inspection/Bring in An Inspector
- Can I Take It For A Test Drive?
- Tell Me About Your Camping Trips With The RV
- Is the Price Negotiable?
Be Sure to Scroll to the End of the Article for the Necessary Procedure to Write Up a Bill of Sale and Transfer the Title
How to Find That Perfect Diamond in the Rough Used Camper
There are several methods on how to choose a camper that fits you and your family. Before you begin your search, you have to determine a few things first:
- What type of RV lifestyle do you want to live? Glamping, back-to-basics, or somewhere in-between?
- Do you want to tow or drive your RV?
- How often are you going to be camping? Weekends, part-time, or full-time?
- Does your daily life and finances allow you the time, money, and effort?
- Can you keep up with the preventive maintenance and repairs?
We don’t mean to throw cold water on your dreams, but you need to understand the RV lifestyle’s realities. It’s fun and exciting, but it comes with specific responsibilities that can turn a dream-come-true into an absolute nightmare. That’s why we always recommend trying before buying by renting through Outdoorsy or other peer-to-peer RV rental companies be for you invest in a coach of your own.
Finding your dream RV is simple now that you’ve had the rental experience and know the type of RV lifestyle you want to live. You have all of the search criteria you need to begin a proper search. You can use websites like RVtrader, RVT, Craigs List, and others to go through the various listings throughout your area.
What To Look For in Buying a Used Camper
The best way to determine what to look for when buying a used camper trailer is to make a checklist. Inspecting the RV is a requirement. You need to use a travel trailer checklist to make sure everything is working correctly. The seller may have kept the RV in good working order, but there may be a few surprises. Once the RV is yours, those problems are now your problems.
Here are some items you should bring with you when you walk through the RV. Take your time as you look at everything on the checklist. There are many different checklists you can find online.
- Screwdriver (flat and Phillips)
- Carpenter’s level
- Adjustable wrench
- Pliers and needle nose pliers
- A bathroom-size disposable cup
- Water in a small container
- Three different washable color dyes
- Class IV hitch on your vehicle
- Tire pressure gauge
- 2 Thermometers
For more expensive RVs, you may want to hire a professional inspector. NRVIA inspectors have the training, licensing, and insurance to look at every component correctly. When they complete their work, they’ll give you a written report of their findings. Advanced testing procedures will even send fluids to a forensics lab to test for contaminants and other problems.
Questions to Ask When Buying A Used Travel Trailer
1. How Many People Have Owned the RV Previously?
You’ll want to know the whole history of the RV. If you’re buying it from the second or third owner, there will be gaps in its history. The current owners may have maintenance records based on what they’ve done, but you won’t know how old the tires are.
Some manufacturers have an internal record-keeping system. New owners can register their new or used RV through the manufacturer’s website. Fleetwood RV offers this program to all new and used buyers. It allows owners to learn all they can about the coach they’ve purchased.
2. It’s Okay to Ask Why They’re Selling The RV
Selling an RV is a big decision. You’re not trying to be intrusive, but you need to know everything you can about the second-biggest investment you’re about to make. Are they selling because there are too many issues that require repair? Is there something about the RV that’s out of code? These issues are rare, but they do happen.
Most sell because they either are moving into a different chapter of their life, or their financial requirements have changed. A significant portion prefers to sell their coach on their own to get better value than what an RV dealer can give them as a trade-in.
3. Can the Seller Provide All of the Documentation?
Buying an RV without a title, registration, owner’s manuals, and other documentation should be a big red flag in your mind. Some are in a situation where they owe more to their lender than what the RV is worth. Buying an RV without a clean title is illegal and fraught with problems.
Most people are honest, but according to the law, even if money changes hands and you take possession of the RV, the title will remain in the seller’s name. The title is transferable only after the resolution of the debt. Once the seller receives the original title, they must take the necessary steps to transfer it to the buyer.
Many restored RVs come out of the scrap yard or people’s yards. The paperwork no longer exists, and most of the parts are from many different coaches. The builder must complete the salvage titling process to make the RV legal.
Did you know that changing a passenger bus to an RV requires a title change? The process takes multiple steps, and many states require a DMV inspection. The point is, make sure you look over the documentation to make sure it’s on par. It’s the seller’s responsibility to have the paperwork in order, not the buyers.
4. What Additional Equipment Comes With the Coach?
Most of the time, the answer is, if it’s not nailed down to the RV, then it’s not yours. There are exceptions to this, and you don’t want any misunderstandings. The RV may have a screen room that connects to the awning. The sellers may have added some upgrades or customizations. You want to know what you’re paying for and what they’re removing.
5. Where Was The RV Stored During the Off-Season?
Cold temperatures, ice, and stormy weather are not ideal for RVs that sit in one place for long periods. Was the RV properly winterized? Did it have inside RV storage, covered RV storage, or exposed to outdoor RV storage? Were the coach’s tires, batteries, and other components maintained while inactive?
Their answer will determine what kind of inspection you need to conduct. More than likely, since the owners are selling it, the RV is sitting idle now. Winterizing the plumbing is a good idea whenever the RV is inactive for a long time. It prevents the pipes from degrading. Ask the seller about that.
We didn’t ask this question before buying our used Class C RV and if we did we would have learned that it wasn’t winterized! Don’t make the same mistake we did. When we took our RV out for her maiden voyage and we turned on the water pump water came pouring out from under the dinette because the water pump housing cracked! Yikes!
6. Were There Any Pets In The RV?
According to the RVIA (RV industry authority), 65% of all RVers travel with pets. 90% of them bring dogs with them. Traveling with pets shouldn’t be a strike against anyone. If you’re allergic to dander, this could be an issue. Pets also like to scratch, jump on furniture, and do other pet things.
Conducting an inspection help you identify any pet damage. If you’re okay with it, then it isn’t a problem. Pet dander does get everywhere, including ventilation ducts. There are ways to clean the ducts out if you’re really in love with the RV.
7. Conduct An Inspection/Bring in An Inspector
As we stated above, conducting an inspection is necessary. Whether you do it yourself or hire a professional, you need to know what to look for when buying a camper trailer. The owner should expect it and be comfortable with it. If not, it’s always a good idea to have more than one RV as your top choice.
Part of the inspection should be requesting a copy of the seller’s maintenance records. Motorhomes should have gone through oil and other fluid changes. You should see evidence of caulking on seams and the roof. All of this should have receipts and a log. If not, at least the significant repairs should have paperwork.
8. Can I Take It For A Test Drive?
In today’s world, you can buy a car online, and they’ll bring it to your door. The most trusted dealers will take you on a test drive before you take full possession. You shouldn’t buy an RV without a test drive either.
If you’re a total newbie and haven’t taken an online training course yet, the seller should be willing to take a drive with you. You’ll want to know how it feels to drive the coach. If you’re looking at a motorhome, you want to learn the blind spots, how clear the camera picture is, and how it maneuvers.
Towables have different driving experiences. Fifth wheels buck against the kingpin. You’ll want to check out how well you can see around the sides of the travel trailer. Every RV has little quirks when backing up. Learning these little things make a big difference.
9. Tell Me About Your Camping Trips With The RV
This question is a great way to begin the conversation. It’s also a way to figure out how the sellers used the RV. Did they use it often? Was it mostly used in a campground, dry camping, or off-road? You can get a good idea of what the trailer has been through the past few years.
10. Is There a Kelley Blue Book for Campers? Finding the Right Price
If you own a house or car, you probably didn’t pay the asking price. Sellers want the most they can get for their RV, like anyone. They came up with that price based on several factors. They looked at how much others are selling similar RVs, what dealerships are advertising, and what the NADA suggested retail price shows. Before you head over to the seller’s place, take a look at similar websites.
Completing the Camper Trailer Paperwork
The sale can take a while to complete. You’ll want to research the proper documentation and correct procedures to transfer the RV over from the seller to your name. You may need a notary or another official to witness the sale. Every state has its laws and regulations, so make sure you know what to do. Everyone may have the best intentions, but you want to make sure the legal procedures complete.
Here is the necessary procedure. You’ll want to type it up on a word processor. There are websites where you can download premade documents that include notary and witness signature areas if needed in your state:
- Title the document “RV Bill of Sale” at the top of the page. Include the date of sale underneath the title.
- Include a paragraph that describes the RV. Give information like the VIN, category, year, make, model, and that it’s being sold “as is” or if there are special arrangements between the seller and buyer.
- List the final agreed purchase price of the RV. Delineate the amount of a deposit that was initially accepted. If financed, including the lender’s name, the amount financed, and how much of a down payment was received.
- In the signature section, list the contact information of both the buyer and seller. When both parties sign, include the date signed.
- Make two copies, so both parties have a copy.
- (If necessary) have witnesses and have notary (or another official) sign both copies per state requirements.
Transferring the Title at the DMV
Once the bill of sale is complete, the buyer then has to take this document, the signed title, and their photo ID to the Department of Motor Vehicles in their State. Before you head to your local branch, go to the DMV’s website to see if your local branch handles RV transfers. Some states may require extra steps like inspections or certified weight documentation.
Once you find the right DMV and have your paperwork in order, go to the DMV branch that handles RV title transfers. If they need to do an inspection, be prepared to spend a few hours there. When it’s your turn, the clerk will look over all of the documentation for accuracy. If everything looks good, you’ll pay the transfer fees, and the clerk will let you know when you’ll receive your new title via U.S. mail.
The clerk will give you a new registration and/or license plate on the spot if you are okay with standard plates. Custom plates usually take time to print and come through the mail.
Now That You Purchased Your Used Camper it’s Time to Load Her Up with RV Gear!
Congratulations on your new purchase! Now that you have your RV, don’t forget to purchase the essential accessories you’ll need to hook up. If you’ve never set up an RV before, check out our video and checklist to help you get started. Welcome (or welcome back) to the RV lifestyle.