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The Ultimate Checklist for Buying a Pre-Owned RV
When you finally come to the decision that buying an RV is right for your family, like many others, you may find that the best move is to buy a pre-owned model. However, there are still many items to keep in mind before you complete your purchase – which is why we’ve put together the ultimate checklist of topics to help you get on the road sooner!
We’ve broken out our checklist into the three main phases of the pre-owned RV buying process - Pre-Purchase (Research), Purchase, and Post-Purchase – with everything you need to keep in mind during every phase of the buying process.
Pre-Purchase (Research) Phase
Set a Budget – This may seem like common sense, but it’s easy to walk into an RV dealership and become transfixed by all of the features and upgrades that many RVs feature today. Knowing what you are comfortable spending – and sticking to it – will be critical as you move through the process.
Decide on a type of RV –Pop-Up, Travel Trailer, Fifth Wheel, Toyhauler, Class-C, Class-A… These may all seem like foreign terms right now, but deciding on a type of RV can easily be narrowed down just by choosing if you would like to drive the vehicle (Class-B, Class-C, Class-A, or Class-AD), or tow the vehicle (pop-up, travel trailer, or fifth wheel). From there, you can narrow it down again by deciding on how much space you will need within the unit to be comfortable. You can find a simple tool to help with this selection here.
Towable or Motorhome
Towable: What is the maximum tow capacity of your automobile?
Towable: What is the maximum length you are comfortable towing?
Motorhome: What is the maximum length you are comfortable driving?
Sleeping 2-3 (Pop-Up, Lightweight Travel Trailer, or Class-B)
Sleeping 3-4 (Travel Trailer or Class-C)
Sleeping 4+ (Fifth Wheel or Class-A/AD)
Choose a Floorplan – There are quite a few options when it comes to the general layout of RV interiors. Depending on how you will be using the RV when you travel, certain floorplans may be a better fit than others.
Bunkhouse – Due to the set of bunkbeds found at the rear end of the unit, bunkhouses are ideal for families with young children.
Toy Hauler – You will find plenty of space for motorcycles, ATVs, and sports cars within a toy hauler floorplan.
Rear Living – A very popular floorplan for those who like to entertain, many have the option of exterior cooking spaces and kitchens making hosting guests a breeze.
Research manufacturers – There are many manufacturers on the market, each with their special features and conveniences. Narrowing your search down early on to a select few manufacturers that offer what you are looking for will help you in the long run.
Read Customer Reviews – The wonderful part about buying pre-owned is that everyone has tested the models for you already. There are thousands of reviews on the internet from consumers, just like you, road testing these units every day. Take what they have learned and apply it to how you choose the best model for you.
Ask your friends and family – Know someone who already owns an RV? Great! Ask for their opinion or join them on their next camping adventure to experience firsthand what you like – or don’t – about a certain RV manufacturer or floorplan.
Determine an Age Range – When buying pre-owned, you open yourself up to a large range of models available to you, which can be quite overwhelming to someone starting to research. However, not all models are going to contain all of the features that you may want or need. If technology isn’t as much of a concern to you, or if you know you would like to remodel the RV, then an older model may be the best fit. However, if modern conveniences like a full-size refrigerator and a big screen TV are top on the priority list, then a newer model within your budget is what you should aim to find.
Search Online – In today’s day and age, much of your search can be done from the comfort of your home, right on your computer. Many search functions will allow you to filter down to the manufacturer, type or model that fits your search. Make sure to write down any questions that you have on particular RVs to ask the salesperson at your local dealership later on. Click here to see details on RVs for sale in your local area.
Request Insurance Quotes – Now is a great time to request insurance quotes from a variety of providers to make sure you are getting the best coverage for your money. This is also a great time to discover what the insurance plan will cover on your pre-owned RV. This will help you better plan for maintenance and repairs down the road.
Research and Choose a Dealer – This is also a great time to recruit those you know who have purchased an RV in the past. Their experience will help you a great deal in finding a dealer that you can trust. One of the many benefits of buying pre-owned is that you have so many dealership options from which you can choose. Unlike new models, most dealers take in RVs on trade or consignment, so they have a great variety in-stock at all times. Ready to schedule an appointment? Click here to find an RV dealer in your area.
Determine a Fair Purchase Value – When buying pre-owned, the NADA (National Automobile Dealers Association) Guide is a great tool for determining a fair price for the unit you have decided is right for you.
Research the RV’s History – Once you have found an RV that you are interested in, you can - for a small fee - determine common information related to service records, recalls, and collision repairs. You will need the VIN associated with the unit, and then the RV’s history can be found here.
Ask Questions – Arrive at the dealership prepared with questions on the unit – you should have a list ready from when you researched online. A good sales associate will take the time to walk through any questions or concerns that you have about an RV brand in particular or any known history of an exact unit.
Inspect the Unit – Make sure you have done a thorough inspection of the entire unit – mechanical, electrical, plumbing, interior, and exterior – before moving forward on the purchase. If there are items that need repair, assure the dealer is aware and has a plan in place to help you resolve any issues. The fine folks of ChangingGears.com put together this full checklist for you to bring with when inspecting the RV.
Determine how you will Pay – Will you be financing or paying out of pocket? If financing, now is a great time to get pre-approved through a lender on your own, or through the dealership’s choice lenders. Make sure also to have everything you need for a down payment or full purchase price.
Make an Offer – Prepared with the NADA knowledge you acquired in the Pre-Purchase phase, you should feel comfortable at this point with making an offer on your desired unit. You’re one step closer to traveling the open road!
Develop a Maintenance Plan – RVs require regular maintenance to keep them running safely and efficiently throughout the year. You should have resolved any service concerns during the purchase phase – or at least put a plan in place – so that you can enjoy as much time traveling as possible.
Determine if you’ll Renovate or Decorate –Whether it’s upgrading the furniture, installing a new backsplash, or just changing out the bedding, renovation and decorating will help make your RV feel like home. For ideas on how to update a pre-owned RV, click here.
Add Accessories – If renovating isn’t your style – or just not your expertise – Adding accessories to your RV is a fun way to personalize at a lower cost. You will find thousands of parts and accessories to complete any RV vacation here.
Join a Club – To get the most out of your pre-owned RV purchase, consider joining an RV club (Like Good Sam Club) or community. Thousands of people come together for RV rallies, camping get-togethers and many other events around the country.
Do you have some good tips for buying a used RV? Share them below!