Buying an older model, used RV


Its been years since I bought an RV.   Its also been years since I wrote my ebook “An RV Tech’s Checklist for Buying a new or used RV” (click to learn more and buy ebook). This spring our son Rick, a freelance designer and web designer / marketer for Tough Tops told us he wanted a change in his life and he wanted to hit the road.

It’s January, Rick lives in Boulder Colorado and its not the time of year to RV shopping. Myself and my wife are in Mesa Arizona, and it was not winter here at all. In fact people are buying and selling RV’s like crazy.   And why not?   It feels like summer, the snowbirds are in town, if you’re a seller this is the time to sell, and if you’re a buyer this is the time to buy. Rick starts looking on craigslist daily and lets me know of any RV’s he finds attractive for me to follow up with… and I start my research and looking as well.

The challenge? He’s on a limited budget for this project and finding something inexpensive that will work for him. Being an old RV tech I have my doubts we are going to find something he can live in!

I quickly learned I was in for a surprise. Some sellers knew very little about their RV’s, in their defense they may not have used it in a while. Others were short term owners which is very scary! Still others…I could understand why they didn’t use them as they were in bad shape.   Some were selling the RV for someone else and at times it was difficult to get any accurate information on the RV.   Some had no power in them, no water to check the plumbing system, or LP gas to check appliances.   I was going crazy!   We quickly learned any older RV that was decent and was priced right… SOLD…AND THEY SOLD FAST!

My first guideline in my book in buying a used motorhome is “do not fall in love with the “house” or living area part of the RV until the chasis is checked out.   If there are issues with the chassis, you’re not “going” anywhere.   My advice has always been to learn as much about its history as possible (which I was having difficulty doing) and have it checked out by a mechanic.  How long have you owned the RV, how did you use it, is mileage accurate, what is maintenance history, etc. Also I like to get fluid (engine and tranny) samples. This tells you a lot!!!  

Obviously this was not going to be possible because lower priced used RV’s were selling fast.   Our search was, much like anything else, the longer you do it the better you get at it.   Once we had a “hot “ lead we jumped on it.   One day we finally got lucky or at least we were hoping it was luck! The owner had just listed his RV on Craigslist, he was not a long term owner but he knew some of this history on it. It was very clean for its age, low mileage, he had power in it so I could see the appliances were working.   I took it on a test drive and it seemed to be ok.   We had to make a decision as other prospective buyers were on their way and his phone was ringing as we were talking with him. We bought the RV!!

So with fingers crossed we took it home.   First we had a muffler installed, next we took it to a truck mechanic who checked things out.   Brakes were good, (we’re happy about that), shocks, hoses, and engine wiring were original, so those were replaced and freon was added to the chassis A/C.  

A few weeks later Rick arrived in Mesa to meet his 27’ class C RV.  While he’s visualizing himself living in it we went to work installing a solar system as he wants to be totally self sufficient. (We’ll report on that project in a few weeks).   He and I learned a lot.   I checked out all the appliances and other systems and they responded remarkable well. The old Norcold refrigerator will blow away anything there that their manufacturing today…his beer will be cold!

Now Rick and his RV are back in Colorado, Mother Nature christened both Rick and the RV as they encountered storms of wind, rain, hail, and snow on his way back home.  Mechanically things went well.   One night out he encountered extreme winds outside Santa Fe which did some damage on one side of a rear panel…but this is to be expected on an older RV.

So…to date this has been his experience.   There still may be a chassis A/C issue but he will have to take things as they go.   Rick will be blogging on his new endeavor and we all have our fingers crossed that all goes well. More to come….

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