Top 10 things to look for when buying a used RV
1. Water damage. Any intrusion of water from outside OR inside sources. This is usually from seals that leak or roofs that leak. These problems can usually be spotted by stains on the ceiling, in the corners (be sure to inspect inside cabinets along the side and in the corners). Also check the floors along the sides and in the corners as well. Water could travel down an outside stud and stop at the floor and travel a few inches and caused dry rot under a cabinet. Also any cracked, broken or leaking pipes, left to spread water will eventually create problems. This is usually caused from improper or not winterizing the coach. So be sure to look under every cabinet, bed and inside drawers.
2. Moisture problems. Not only apparent water damage, but the subtle moisture that is caused from accumulations inside the coach. Look inside cabinets and behind drawers. Under beds and mattresses. In and around the bathroom. Often times the walls will have wrinkled due to excessive moisture. Proper venting usually keeps moisture at a minimum and causes no long term problems. When left unchecked the moisture causes molds to buildup and infiltrate very hard to reach places. Bathrooms, showers, sinks and cooking produce the most moisture and careful inspections around these areas is prudent. Once again, if the coach has been properly ventilated during use this shouldn’t be a problem.
3. Axles. When a travel trailer or 5th wheel is new the axles are lined up properly at a true 90 degree on the coach. However they are bolted to the springs or suspension and it only takes a degree or two of deviation to start causing major wear problems. If the axles are not true they will cause the coach to “dog walk”. The coach will still follow the tow vehicle, but the tires will want to go a different direction. This will cause premature wear down of the tires and could cause flats or blowouts.
4. Roof and roof seals. Most of today’s RV’s have a rubber roof and all seams, edges and protrusions are covered with a sealant. As long as these have been properly maintained there should be no problem. Periodically the sealant should be reapplied and the roof cleaned and inspected. Often time trailers are pulled in to camp sites where tree branches scratch the roof area or winds cause branches to blow down and penetrate the roof membrane. If the problem has been caught and repaired (sometimes you might see a patch) then there should not be a problem. But even a very small pinhole can create a leak that is unnoticeable. If a drip only occurs 10 times a minute, imagine how many drips in a 24 hr period of rain or snow. Careful inspection of the roof is critical.
5. Propane leaks. Propane sinks. It is heavier than air. That is why the LP gas detector is close to the floor inside your coach. Most of the time a leak will not be detected because it is outside your coach. The propane lines will be exposed under the coach for safety and this is where the majority of leaks come from. There are typically 5 to 8 joints from the propane tank to where it enters the coach. If one of these leak, only a little, it will bleed off propane and use it more rapidly as well as lose pressure in the lines causing appliances to not function properly. Have a qualified tech pressure test the lines to make sure the have no leaks.
6. RV Frame. Most coaches are built on an I-Beam frame. Some are extruded (one piece) others are welded (three piece) I-beams. If the coach you are considering has a welded I-beam, check to see if the beams are cracked and twisting or warping. If so this causes stress on the structure and can lead to expensive repairs.
7. A Frame. This is only on travel trailers. This is the front part of the trailer where the hitch is. It goes from the hitch through or under the main frame of the trailer. On the ones that go through the front cross beam, check the welds at the entrance points as well as the welds at the end where it attaches to the side of the frame. If the A-Frame is attached underneath, check the welds to make sure there is no cracks or splits in the weld seam. Nothing will cause more problems than an A-Frame that releases from the coach. It is dangerous and could cause serious injuries on the road.
8. All appliances function properly. Some of the appliances operate on propane some on 12 volt and some on 110 volt electrical. Some on one or the other like the refrigerator or the water heater. Plugged in to shore power the fridge might operate just fine, but while on propane it may not function at all. This takes time to determine if the fridge is working on both systems. It is worth your while to assure is function properly as new fridges cost upwards of $1,500 to $2,000 or more to replace. So turn on and operate all functions of the coach in all methods they operate on to make sure they are in proper working order. Just because you are told they worked last time it was used doesn’t mean they are fully operational now.
9. Proper hitch height. While this may not seem like a big deal. It is. There should not be more than a 1 or 2” height difference at the front and back of the trailer when hitched to the tow vehicle. Or better yet, when hitched up the tow vehicle and trailer should be level from the front of the tow vehicle to the back of the trailer. Improper hitch height causes too much load on a trailer axle and if the trailer is nose heavy or nose light it will also cause towing issues like undue sway. Make sure also that your equalizer bars are the right weight bars for the tongue load.
10. Overall condition. Everything from tire wear to upholstery. This is an indication of how hard to easy of a life the RV had with the previous owner(s). If the carpets are worn down or there are major stains on the walls, floor or ceiling, they may indicate other issues deeper inside. Be sure to carefully inspect all aspect of the coach before investing your hard earned dollars.
While this is far from completely comprehensive, this should be a good general guideline to what to look for when buying a used travel trailer, 5th wheel or Motor Home. The old saying goes; “You get what you pay for”. Often times if it is too good to be true then…..
Please fell free to contact me if you have any questions or if I can be of assistance.