We have purchased six recreational vehicles; all of them used. We have owned gas powered, diesel pushers and 5th wheel trailers. I now know a seller will tell you just about anything in order to sell his or her RV. While this may not be surprising, buyers need to be especially wary because repairs can cost thousands of dollars. If you're a full timer this can be particularly concerning because you lose your home while repairs are conducted. Here are just some of the things we have experienced since diving into the world of RVing.
Water damage is the number one thing to look for. Walk away from any damage, indicated by delamination (bubbling of the gel coat or outer skin), stains, sealant in odd places and soft spots on the roof. By the way, an annual roof inspection and reseal will pay for itself over the life of the RV.
If you purchase a motorized RV, you really need two inspection specialists to help you. One to look over and inspect the drivetrain and one to inspect the RV side. They are two distinct specialties, like cardiologists and podiatrists.
Before you tour a unit give the outside a thorough look over. You should be able to tell pretty quickly if it has been cared for. The key here is that you do not want to buy a project.
Tires are especially important, with age being the dictating factor most of the time, due to RVs sitting so much. There is a date code on every tire and you can Google how to translate it. RV tires should be changed every 5-6 years, regardless of how good the tread looks. Two tips. Most trailer manufacturers put the cheapest tires they can get away with on RVs; usually a LT or light truck tire. Because of blowouts most trailers can greatly benefit from the installation of G rated tires (it means more plys or belts, making it a meatier tire). Get with a tire pro as you can sometimes up the tread width, giving the trailer a wider contact patch, which spreads the load and increases traction. Finally; purchase a TPMS (Tire Pressure Monitoring System) and/or check your tire pressure every time before you move. It's cheap insurance.
I believe that an inspection by a certified RV technician is a good investment, especially if you're not familiar with the inner workings of an RV. Make sure every major component works while connected to water, sewer and electricity. Then disconnect the unit and ensure everything needed to be self contained also works. You cannot take too much time conducting this inspection. Believe me, you will discover things you missed after spending some time in the RV and then it will be a lot harder to get them repaired.
There is a world populated by predators out there that take advantage of folks with limited funds and lower credit ratings. We went that route couple of times while we worked to pay off debt and increase our credit rating. It was very frustrating in many ways, especially because the selection is limited and the condition questionable. We are dealing with a reputable dealer these days and the change is palpable. We are treated better, the selection is better and the knowledge that we have a reputable dealer to lean on is invaluable. It would be nice if everyone selling RVs would just be honest and above board, but that simply is not the case. Ask a lot of questions and do a lot of research before making the plunge.