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RV’s in general are high depreciating vehicles and a lot of people thus go for used travel trailers or motorhomes. Getting your first RV or travel trailer as a pre-owned makes sense since a brand new one can cost a lot. A new Class A RV or a Class C RV can cost thousand of dollar and even more. Even after paying so much you may not get an ideal one. And thus a used RV is a great option to try. Used RV or travel trailer market is also huge and therefore you get lots of options.
So, you have almost decided to go ahead with buying a used travel trailer? It could come at less price but it may also turn out to be bad deal. You need to make sure the already owned RV is in good condition. For this you need to pose different questions to the owner. Lets check out 11 most important questions you should ask the owner while checking the RV on your first visit. This guide will also indirectly answer the other question “what to look for in a used travel trailer or RV”
1. How many people have owned the travel trailer previously?
Not necessarily the owner from whom you are going to buy will be the first owner of it. Many times i have seen people make this mistake. A neighbor of mine who bough a fifth wheel few months ago didn’t knew that he was buying a rv that was actually owned by 3 more owners previously. It was only on the day of deal that he came to know about it.
While its perfectly okay to buy a multiple owned rv, but some of the things may not fall better for you though. You will not know the full history of the travel trailer or rv fully. And that could be bad for you to judge the rv overall.
You will not know the full maintenance history, whether the tires were replaced on time or not. Knowing the person and the family who owned the rv can have fair idea of how much rv was used. Also where the owner of the rv lived could also make the difference. Understanding the owner of the rv could play a role in knowing few other things.
A young couple without any kids could be using the rv more often where as couple with kids with a daily job may not be using it that often. Remember a rv or travel trailer when used more often remains in good condition. A rv staying in garage for months could be bad for it. A more often driven rv will need less maintenance as compared to the one that stood still in place for days.Oiling, and other maintenance for it will be harder.
Best thing to do is simply pose this question to the immediate owner and ask about all the previous owners of the rv. If you are not satisfied with the answers then its better to think twice about going ahead with the deal any further. Remember, even though you would be paying much lesser than the price of brand new rv, it makes a lot of difference as the rv would be up for maintenance cost and other costs.
2. Ask all the details related to travel trailer maintenance record
This is going to be another question in your buying a used travel trailer checklist. Maintaining the rv or travel trailer is way much more important that people think. A well maintained travel trailer can last many years. Here is my complete travel trailer maintenance checklist (It includes details right from trailer tires to its roof. Many of us overlook some of these steps)
As a buyer pose this question directly to the owner and ask about all the details. Ask for all the receipts and papers, bills of all the maintenance done.
A family relative of mine who bought travel trailer few years ago told me about his experience. He got all the document even smaller repairs that were done. An awning repair, tires replacements, floor cleaning every smaller repairs and replacements were supported with bills and papers. He was surprised about the kind of details he got and that kind of confirmed the correctness of the maintenance record. That gave him confidence and the deal seemed good even though he was paying a little bit more.
A confirmation by documents rather than a word of mouth should be your priority. Travel trailer are more prone to damage and need repairs specially during winters. Cleaning is also important and if neglected can quickly become serious and irreparable . Storing awnings, covering the trailer while not in use is key.
A owner who don’t even keep the major maintenance records could be neglecting the overall care of the travel trailer. Ask for how tire pressure is maintained and how often the travel trailer is weighed. Question about the repair dealer where the owner has serviced previously and check for authenticity. Get details about repairs or replacement in case of tanks.
3. Ask about the roof condition and previous maintenance or replacements done
Roof in a travel trailer or in any rv is very critical. A leaking roof will give you nightmares. Fixing a water leaking roof can be tough and a very tedious job. Understand that a roof that has been leaking previously will mean you will face similar issues going forward unless it was completely replaced.
Make sure you ask owner about this vary question specifically and ask about all the details like if the roof leaks or if any kind of maintenance was done on the roof or not. Water leakage from roof is one of the reasons why many people sell their rv and you definitely don’t want to buy it. Another fact that people end up buying such rv’s is because you cannot make out if the roof is leaking or not. It is only when the rain starts that you come to know about the leaking.
Even walls or windows of the travel trailer could be leaking water . It may be hard to spot such defects in walls as they may be hidden. The best thing to do is take your own time in analyzing the rv. Don’t be in hurry and don’t go for the looks. Not necessarily a good looking rv will not leak water inside.
Read : Dealing with RV water damage
A travel trailer roof or any other rv roof definitely has certain age limit and if you are buying that old 10-12 years old rv or trailer then be more careful. An old rv is definitely up for that leakage unless good care of roof was taken. Not all old rv’s will have this problem, but there is a good chance of this.
An owner who has been doing good maintenance and also storing the trailer in proper covered garage then it should be fine. It is all upto how a travel trailer is maintained. Understanding the roof material can also be a better thing. You get travel trailer that can have rubber, fiberglass or aluminium roofs. Fiberglass roofs are less maintenance but are more costly. Rubber roofs are more common but need little bit more maintenance. You can ask these questions to owner and see if the owner is aware of the material used.
A well aware owner will be in good position to understand what kind of maintenance is needed. If you see the owner is in position to explain these things then may be you are buying from a good owner who may have taken good care of the roof. This however may not always be a guaranty but kind of gives you some assurance. I am saying this because the maintenance things that you use will vary for roof material.
4. Ask about the travel trailer tires
Ask about the travel trailer tires. You should be able to physically verify this, even then make sure to ask specifically on when the the tires were replaced. Try to get the receipts of the new tires that were put . A tire for the rv has a limited life and need to be replaced within time.
It does not directly depend on how much the rv was used or has traveled but depends on may other factors like the roads, and how the rv was protected overall during winters and snows. Check out here about exactly how long travel trailer tires usually last (in terms of both miles and years) and when you should replace them.
A typically travel trailer tire would last around 4-5 years but people tend to use them for more years. But that can be a bad thing and you should replace them within time. Thus make sure to ask this question upfront and take a detailed answers.
Apart from asking these questions its only logical to check how much tread has left in tire, and if your feel the tires are not going to last long from there on, then make that discussion happen.
Try negotiation on the cost of tires that will need replacement soon. As a new owner you would want tires that are fit and thus assume you would replace the tires immediately. As a new driver you should be comfortable with the rv, the existing owner could be used to it or may not even driven the RV for months, thus just keep this aspect on priority. Check for dry cracks inside and outside of the tires, even small cracks can become a reason for blowouts so better be careful with this.
Read : Protecting RV Tires
5. Ask about the appliances in travel trailer
Fifth point in your used travel trailer checklist is the appliances inside the camper. RV appliances are a a critical part for your camping experience. They are also costly and you cant take it for granted. Ask about the current status of all the appliances that the owner mentioned. Ask owner to run the refrigerator before you arrive to check it. It will take some time for it to cool and thus make sure it was turned on at-least 2-3 hours before you arrive to check the Camper or motorhome.
Many times a refrigerator would work for some time when you start but wouldn’t cool much later thus its best to test it right. Also when you start it, it may turn on the light but wouldn’t cool at all and there is no use of it then. Make sure it is not accumulating too much ice in deep freezer. If the inner door is broken or does not lock fully then it may accumulate ice on the surface and that’s very bad.
Similar thing goes for other appliances like air conditioner, television or any other appliances up for giving. Make sure you turn on and check the functioning of all the other appliances.
Check if the heater is working or not, such an appliance will take time to actuate and show results. Thus, take your time and practically see the functioning. Depending on the working of appliances you should negotiate the prices. An appliances not working shouldn’t be a put down on entire trailer or rv deal though. But you can always try getting the deal price down if that’s the case. Often owners would quote higher depending on the number of appliances included but if you feel the appliances are not worth then you should make the point clear right away.
6. Ask about pets that have lived in rv
Another point to consider is pets. Some people are allergic to certain smells or pets. You too could be allergic to some pets. But, even if not, its better to know about all the pets that have lived in. Its not that pets make it worst but at times the rv could be smelling because of the things that are used with pets.
Not all people would be willing to live with pets and thus just a point you should ask. Generally when the owner would be showing you the rv, it could not be smelling but later when you start living inside you could get that issue. Its also better to check if the owner or any of his rv users were smoking inside.
7. Ask about the batteries used in travel trailer
Batteries in Campers are important and you should be aware about all the in and outs about them. Ask the owner if the 12 v or 6 v batteries are used. Check whether the batteries are connected in parallel or series. Some other things that you should verify include whether the batteries are deep cycle or not.
A battery is able to run lot of things in rv and thus check what all things in the trailer were run on them. Check if the inverter is installed or not. If yes, then how much time does it work on an average.
Check on the age of the current batteries in place. Batteries generally last for around 4-5 years in rv. Its very important that proper maintenance is done on them else they may not work well. Ask about water type that was used for the batteries. Check on brand type of the battery and if the same type batteries were connected together or not.
8. Ask about the generator
A generator in rv or travel trailer is a must if you go boondocking or dry camping. Clarify if the owner is willing to give away the portable generator with travel trailer. Or check if the travel trailer has an in-built generator or not. Mostly a travel trailer would not come equipped with built-in one. Motorhomes like class A or class C rv’s come with built-in generators.
Check on the portable generator brand, ask about how much noise it makes. A generator noise is a very annoying thing and you definitely don’t want a one that makes lot of noise. Good thing will be to do a quick run and hear the noise.
Also, a thing of proof would be to run various things on the generator. More load you put on generator more noise it will make. Thus try running things as you would actually do while camping.
Ask about the watts of the generator and the watts of the appliances. The generator max watt rating should be higher in comparison to the sum of all the appliances watts. A 3000 watts may not be good to run all the appliances specially if you are employing dual ac and other stuff together.
Read : Generator or Solar for RV
Also check on fuel consumption of the generator. Rv’s or campers in general give less miles per gallon and on top of it if you have a less efficient generator then that will be bad.
9. Ask details about the tanks in the camper
Fresh water tanks and holding tanks in travel trailer or any kind of rv are critical specially when you are not connected to any hookups. Dry camping is all dependent on size of these tanks. A travel trailer can have these tanks of varying sizes and you cant assume some average size.
Ask about the size of each of the tanks (grey tank, black holding tanks and fresh water tank). Ask if owner ever needed portable tanks while camping, this should give you fair idea of the tanks capacity. Check on how often the tanks were cleaned, keeping fresh water tanks clean is critical.
Also makes sure the tank sensors are working fine. Many times the holding sensors are not working and that is so much unreliable. Paying attention to these small details will make all the difference and you will not get a rv that will have so many faults about features that matter so much.
10. Towing car used and its MPG
Ask about what kind of car was used in towing the trailer. Check on what was the mpg of the car with trailer. You may not get all answers to point but try to get as much information as possible. Inquire about what all journey has the trailer had. Whether the trailer was stored during winter season properly or not. Ask about what location has the owner lived most. Harsh weather has bad impact on rvs if it is not stored or covered properly.
11. Ask the reason for selling
This is a valid question any new buyer should ask the seller. Ask for the reasons why the travel trailer or motorhome is being sold. Its better to know upfront the reasons, rather than finding them later. There could be various reasons why one is selling a travel trailer. Someone could be upgrading to bigger motorhome like class a rv or class C rv or even a fifth wheel. Or someone could be just getting away from the rv lifestyle.
Or the owner could be facing issues with the travel trailer, that’s the one you need to catch. Many of the owners would be willing to get rid of their trouble making trailer and you don’t want to be owner of that rv going forward. If you are lucky and the owner spills out all the issues, you may think about the deal with more insight and avoid the deal if the issues are worse or could get worse. Knowing the reason from the owner can actually help a-lot to decide whether to buy or not buy that travel trailer or RV.