A Thorough Inspection
Before making an official purchase, be sure you see the product in person. Doing so will allow you to inspect the RV much more closely and accurately than you would be able to through looking at pictures and taking the seller's word for its current condition. Pay special attention to the following items during your inspection:
- Sidewalls - Look for dents, dings, rust stains, and scratches. This type of damage will be purely cosmetic, so decide for yourself if you can deal with the eye sores.
- Water Damage - Look for soft spots or any warping of the exterior fiberglass. This type of damage could be indicative of water infiltration which can be costly to repair.
- Awning - Withdraw the awning and make sure it extends smoothly and fully. Check out the condition of the fabric for any tears, sun fading, or mildew buildup. Make sure it stows away securely too.
- Rear Ladder - Investigate the ladder for signs of deterioration. Look for components that might be compromised. If it doesn’t look safe, don’t risk an injury by trying to climb it.
- Roof - Look for any cracking or tearing in the seals and seams. While mild wear and tear can be repaired with a rubber coating or silicon caulk, extensive damage will be much more challenging.
- Signs of Rust - Look for any areas that display significant rust damage. While rust will inevitably develop overtime, lots of rust can be a red flag that the RV wasn’t cared for, maintained, or stored properly.
- Storage Compartments - Check to make sure that these open and shut smoothly. Look to make sure that they appear dry and clean, and that they latch completely.
- Holding Tanks - Ask to run water into each tank to verify that none of them leak. You will also want to verify that the tank level indicators are working properly too.
- Tires - Check for sun damage, flat spots, bubbling, cracking, or tearing. Also look at the tread to see how worn down it is. If the tires are in rough shape, calculate the cost of replacing them when making your offer.
- Exhaust - When the engine is running on idle, the exhaust should be clear in the sunlight, and odorless as well. Billowing smoke can be a sign of engine trouble.
- Slide Outs - Withdraw and retract the slide outs to verify that they open and close smoothly. If applicable, check to make sure that the manual override works too.
- Leveling Jack/Stabilizing Jacks - Are they present? Do they work properly? If they are not included, investigate how hard it would be to install an after-market option.
- Hitch Tongue/Pin Connector - Look at the overall condition for existing damage, and then actually hitch it up to your tow vehicle to verify ease of use.
- Propane System - Investigate the tanks, hoses, and regulators for any safety concerns. Look for signs of sustained damage, or areas where components may be compromised.
- Entry Steps - Look to see if they extend and retract easily. Are they manual or automatic? Is a grab handle present? Ask yourself how important these features are to you.
- Lighting - Flip on every light to make sure that they all work. Inquire about whether they are fluorescent or LED, as LED will be much more energy efficient than fluorescent.
- Air Conditioning - Run the A/C for at least 10 minutes and verify that it is pumping out cool air rather than room-temperature air.
- Furnace - Start the furnace and run it for at least 10 minutes. Verify that it is working smoothly and producing heat. Check the hue of the flame to make sure it isn’t too blue.
- Flooring - Look at the condition of the carpets and laminates. Feel for areas of imbalance or spots that are warped.
- Ceiling - Check closely for damp patches, sagging, or signs of mold as these can each suggest a leak has developed. Most often these signs can be noticed in the corners of the ceiling.
- Windows - Do they open and close properly. How many panes are they? Are they tinted to prevent the sun from fading your interior fabrics?
- Water - Turn on all the faucets and look for signs of leaking around the tanks, pump, and water heater. Check under the sink for signs of leaking, and test the water pressure.
- Plumbing - Verify that your toilets flush correctly. Unscrew the panels around the shower to check for leaks. Make sure your drains dispel water properly and that your water heater works.
- Beds - Kick up your feet on each one of the beds to ensure that they are comfortable enough to get a decent night’s sleep on. Remember extra padding can be purchased if you’re not immediately satisfied.
- Range - Turn on each burner to make sure they all heat up. If your RV includes an oven, light that up and verify that it begins to warm. If applicable, check that your microwave works as well.
- Refrigerator - Check out the temperature of the running refrigerator and freezer in both gas and electric settings. Verify that the size of the fridge is acceptable for your travel tendencies as well.
- Sizes - Go room to room and decide for yourself if each is big enough for you to remain comfortable. Key areas to verify will be the bathroom, your bedroom, and the kitchen.
- House Batteries - Check out how many there are, and what condition they are in. Make sure that they are capable of holding their charge and that corrosive damage isn’t present.
- Electronics - Turn them on to see if they all work. Make sure none of the components are missing. If a TV is included, check to see if the RV comes prewired for cable.
- Countertops - Ask yourself if you feel comfortable with the amount of countertop space included. For easy meal preparation, ample surface space is essential.
- Furnishings - Sit in each one of the chairs and on all of the couches too. Make sure that they are comfortable and that they provide adequate views to the nearby TV, if applicable.
- Dash Panel Controls - If you’re looking at non-towables, these components will include cigarette lighters, USB inputs, radio, cruise control, blinkers, emergency flashers, side mirror adjusters, and speakers.
- Drawers & Cabinetry - Open up all the drawers, cupboards, and cabinets to make sure they function smoothly without jarring, jamming, or sticking.
- Safety - Look to make sure that a fire extinguisher, carbon monoxide detector, smoke detector, and propane gas detector are all present.
- Manuals - Double-check to be certain that the owner's manual is included, and that no other components of your RV are missing.
- Engine - If applicable, does it start up on the first try? Does everything sound like it's running smoothly (ie. no clunky sounds, jangling, or grinding noises).
- Brakes - Are the brakes responsive to your touch? Does the vehicle come to a stop smoothly. When you depress the brake, how does the vehicle react?
- Leaks - After you’ve done your test drive, check out the ground where the RV was once parked. Look for discoloration or wet marks which can signal fluid leakage.
- Maneuvering - When you’re test driving, ask yourself if you’d feel comfortable towing or driving that specific RV. Consider the difficulty of maneuvering through parking lots and into narrow campsites.
Now that you have a handy checklist for buying a used RV, you should be better equipped to identify defects and signs of damage so that you don’t unknowingly make a regrettable purchase. Is there anything else that you would add to this checklist for purchasing a pre-owned RV? Let us know by leaving your suggestions in the comments!