So you have decided to buy your first RV, and you’ve also decided it’s a good idea to buy a used one. In this guide, I offer up some useful advice on how to buy a used RV from a private party aka a private seller.
Why Buying A Used RV Makes Sense
There are many advantages when buying a used RV from a private party. However, there are a few disadvantages as well that you need to know.
Below are the pros and cons of a used RV. The pros outweigh the cons, assuming you are diligent in your RV inspection and comfortable with the clean title, which we’ll discuss later in this article.
Buying a Used RV Pros
- The price is going to be substantially lower than new in most cases
- Insurance costs will be lower
- Little depreciation
- The previous owner has hopefully resolved issues
- Opportunity for a private sale
- Can get a third-party extended warranty
Buying Used RV Cons
- The unit had previous owners whose living styles you might not like (smokers, pets, etc.)
- The RV might have issues you might not see or that are disclosed
- Selection can be limited
Begin With Research
As a prospective buyer, the first thing you want to do before looking for an RV to buy from a private party is to do your research.
What exactly does that mean? It means you need to decide several important things before you start looking.
What type of RV do you want?
There are several types of RVs for you to consider. They fall into two major categories; drivable RVs like Class A, Class B & Class C motorhomes and towables like travel trailers, toy haulers, and fifth wheels.
To learn more about the different types of RV read this article I wrote on 7 popular RV types with the pros and cons of each type.
Visit RV dealers to get a feel for the different types of RVs and floorplans as this might help you narrow down what you want.
I highly recommend before you start, contact private RV sellers that you narrow down somewhat the type of RV you want to purchase.
Once you’ve chosen a model get online and see what owners have to say about the model you’ve chosen. There are two websites I recommend to get reviews on RVs. The first is RVInsider where you can easily search by brand and model, and Pissed Consumer where you can search in the same manner.
Also, search RV forums for reviews and more specifically issues owners have encountered. This will give you an idea of there are common issues across a model that you may want to be on the lookout for when searching for your RV.
If the brand or model you want has a Facebook group that is another resource you can use to ask questions.
Finding Your RV
So now that you know what type and model of RV you would like to purchase the next step is finding one available for sale. Where do you search? Here are several places to look:
- RV Trader – RV Trader is the biggest camper classified ads resource on the web. You’ll find thousands of RVs for sale across the US both new and used and from dealers and private sellers.
- RVT – RVT is an excellent resource for RV sales. Here you are unlikely to find scammers like you would on Facebook Marketplace. Sellers have to pay a fee to list their camper for sale. One feature of RVT is the ability to determine the market value of a camper. It searches both the RVT database and the J.D Power Guides RV database.
- Facebook Marketplace – Facebook Marketplace is another great resource to find a used RV. I do caution you to read the ads carefully as some are simply scams to get you to call them and they really do not have an RV for sale. If the price is too good to be true then usually it’s a scam.
- Craigslist – This is another resource to buy used RVs. Again be careful here since you will find scam ads. Also, the selection of RVs for sale on Craigslist seems to have dwindled a bit over the year as Facebook has become the preferred place to sell for many.
When searching for your used RV a picture can be worth a thousand words but don’t rely on pictures only. You need to take the time to see and inspect the RV in person in order to make an informed buying decision.
10 Questions to Ask When Buying a Used RV
When you have found a camper you want to buy there are questions you want to ask the buyer. Often times it’s better to ask questions before you go see a used camper as you may realize it’s not worth your time and cost to actually see it in person.
Here are 10 important questions to ask.
- Is the person you are meeting the actual owner of the RV? The actual owner will know the history of the camper and is more likely to answer your questions correctly.
- How many people have owned this RV?
- How long and how often has it been driven?
- Are there maintenance records available?
- How many miles on the tires? Have they been replaced recently?
- Has there been any water damage? Check the RV thoroughly for water damage.
- Were their pets in the RV?
- Can I bring an RV inspector to check out the camper? Being able to do an inspection is very important as many RV inspections have turned up issues the average buyer would not have been able to notice.
- Was the RV used full-time?
- Is the price negotiable?
Ensure You Have a Clean Title
Once you have found the RV you want from a private seller the next step is to ensure the title to the RV is clean. In addition, you want to see any maintenance records to make sure the RV has been taken care of. You also want to check if it has been in an accident.
For RVs that are drivable, you can check if it has been in an accident using a service like RVChex. RVChex is like CarFox but for RVs. It lets you review the history of the RV and in most cases will detail issues with the drivetrain. All you need is the RV’s VIN number.
It may also contain information about the RVs title such as salvage or damaged titles, salvage-stolen titles, and rebuilt titles. My personal preference is to stay away from anything other than a clean title and avoid salvage to rebuilt titles.
For travel trailers, I have not found a similar service so for the history of the travel trailer you’ll have to rely on the owner or previous owners.
Does The Private Seller Have a Loan?
Often times you’ll find the seller has a loan on the RV. You’ll want to talk to the bank or lender about the process so you can purchase the RV without a hitch (pun intended).
Inspecting a Used RV
Inspecting your RV or having an RV Inspector do it for you is one of the most important steps you will take when buying an RV from a private seller. Unlike a new RV that comes with a warranty, chances are your used RV does not have one.
In the video below Josh, the RV Nerd from Bish’s RV walk you through 5 common faults found on used RVs.
To find an RV inspector simply do a Google search for “RV inspector” and you’ll find a listing of inspectors near you. Below is an example search I did for my area.
Another good resource for finding RV inspectors is the NRVIA. The National RV Inspectors Association test and certifies RV inspectors and helps connect inspectors with clients. This is where you can search for a certified RV inspector on their website.
The RV inspection is going to tell you a lot about the RV. Some inspectors will also perform an oil analysis on both engine and transmission, which will tell you a lot about the internal condition of the engine and engine parts. Think of it as a blood test for humans. It may reveal an issue that you won’t typically see any other way.
Here are just a few of the things to look for:
- Is there a tear on the awning?
- Check caulking around windows and vents
This is just a shortlist to give you an idea the inspector’s checklist is a lot more thorough.
The RV inspection will help you decide if this is the RV you want. Yes, there might be problems with the RV but only you can determine if these are issues you can live with and that can be fixed.
It is unlikely that the RV your find has zero problems. Even the new RVs right of the assembly line end up with issues.
Let’s Negotiate Price
Now that the inspection is complete and you’ve checked NADA used RV values it’s time to negotiate the price. Even though the asking price might have been advertised your first question should ” What is the lowest price you’ll take? That’s the first step in you trying to get a better deal.
Often times a private seller inflates the price slightly since they know a buyer is going to negotiate. If the seller comes down in the asking price you need to decide if that is the price you want to pay. If it is not then consider walking away from the deal. You can always come back if you are dead set on buying the RV.
Completing the Sale
Once you and the private seller have agreed on the price it’s time to consummate the deal. Here are the steps you need to complete to take ownership of the RV.
Bill of Sale
You are going to need a bill of sale that will get signed by you and the seller. A bill of sale is usually a one-page form that includes the following:
- The date of the sale
- The sale price
- Full name and address of seller and buyer
- A general description of the vehicle, including its make, model, and condition
- The vehicle identification and license plate numbers of the car
- The person who owned it before the current seller
The above list is what needs to be included in a Bill of Sale in Texas. Your state may have different requirements so check with your motor vehicle agency.
Pay The Seller
If you can afford it the preferred method of buying an RV from a private seller is to pay with cash or a cashier’s check.
You can opt for an RV loan if need to, however just know that RV loans can take time to get and you might lose the deal if another buyer shows up with cash. If you are getting an RV loan make sure you can easily afford the monthly payments and are getting the best rates.
I recommend if you are getting a loan get pre-approved first.
Finalizing the Deal
Transferring funds to the seller can be done in several ways. One is simply to hand over the cash or cashier’s check. If the RV still has a loan and it’s a local lender you might be able to visit the lender and get the deal done there. You can also use an escrow service to transfer funds to the seller.
Have the seller complete the title transfer to you. The seller will need to complete the title correctly. I’ve seen this being done incorrectly several times so if you or the seller are not sure of how to complete the title call your DMV office.
You’ll Want RV Insurance
Now that you have the title and the keys to your RV and your transaction is complete, it’s time to get RV insurance. A call to your insurance agent with the make and model of the RV and whether you will be using it full-time or not is usually all it takes to get insurance quickly. Some agents may request additional information.
How to Buy a Used RV From a Private Party – Final Thoughts
Congratulation you are the new owner of an RV you just purchased from a private party seller. Hopefully, you have gotten the best deal you possibly could. Often times with the purchase of your RV you’ll want some accessories, so here is a list of RV accessories you might want.
I hope “How to Buy an RV from a Private Party” has helped you in some way with your used RV purchase. Now it’s to plan an RV trip, get to know your RV, and enjoy the RV lifestyle.