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How to Avoid Buying RVs That Will Become Money Pits

Updated on April 22, 2017
TIMETRAVELER2 profile image

I am an avid RV enthusiast who has traveled, lived, workcamped and volunteered nationwide for more than 50 years and am still going strong!

If you are shopping for RVs and want to make sure that you choose one that won't turn into a money pit, the best way to do so is to inspect any unit of interest thoroughly.

Motor homes, travel trailers and campers are composed of many systems, and nobody, no matter how smart or experienced, can remember to evaluate each of them every time they look at a different unit.

For this reason, it's a good idea to use check lists to jog your memory when you are RV shopping because even missing one problem can end up costing you plenty.

  • A couple purchased a beautiful and costly motor home. They didn't think to check the windows, which were the new type that does not have frames.
  • Before too long, several of those windows fell right out of the coach! The cost to replace them went into the thousands.

This is a true story, and a sad one, because they could have avoided this issue simply by checking to make sure the windows worked and were secure before they got their "good deal".

Learn how to identify problems in coaches before you buy them so that you don't end up for paying endless repairs.
Learn how to identify problems in coaches before you buy them so that you don't end up for paying endless repairs. | Source

Evaluate Everything Carefully

To make a good job of it, you have to check the entire outside, inside, basement, roof, tires and underbelly of a travel unit completely.

Coaches can house many hidden problems such as

  • rust,
  • fissures or
  • black mold

so you need to do everything you can to avoid issues like these.

Finding serious problems before making a purchase can save you a small fortune, so taking the time to inspect is worthwhile.

Learn to Separate the Good From the Bad

Recreational vehicles, even new ones, all have problems, some of which are much worse than others.

Therefore, it's important to separate those that have overwhelming issues from the ones that have problems you can deal with comfortably.

There is a big difference between finding out that a few drawer pulls are loose and discovering that a slide room is not working.

The guidelines below will help you avoid buying decisions that you may later regret. Copy and use them to help you as you shop for that dream coach you've always wanted.

Never, ever, forget to inspect the roof of any RV.
Never, ever, forget to inspect the roof of any RV. | Source

External RV Inspection List

Your first step should be to check out the exterior, roof and underbelly of the coach by doing these things:

  1. Crawl under it to check the bottom of the chassis for rust. If there is a great deal of it, this means that the unit has been exposed to salt or water and the chassis is corroded. This is an expensive item to fix and thus should be a deal breaker.
  2. Climb up onto the roof and check its condition. It will be easy to tell whether it has been well maintained because it will be clean, dry and devoid of cracks or peeling, just like the one in the photo.
  3. Check the engine and generator compartments for cleanliness. If they are dirty or show signs of corrosion, oil leaks or rust, be very cautious about buying.
  4. Open all curtains and blinds on dual pane windows to inspect them for fogging. Fogged windows will need to be replaced and the cost for doing so can be significant. What You Need to Know About RV Thermal Windows Pros explains more about this issue.
  5. Make sure that jacks and TV antennas move smoothly.
  6. Check to see if the steps are working well.
  7. Look for body flaws such as scrapes, dents, bubbling, faded paint or peeling.
  8. Make sure the tires are safe. Best Ways to Buy, Maintain and Safely Use RV Tires shows you how to do this.
  9. Inspect the slide rooms carefully for areas of leakage and to make sure they are working smoothly and easily. Make sure that there are enough supports and that they are spaced correctly for the load they are carrying. Also check the proportions. A 36 foot RV with a 25 foot long slide is a recipe for disaster.

Do not be shy about doing these things.

If a seller refuses to let you inspect this way, do not buy. He is trying to hide something.

The inside of an RV should be clean, comfortable and well-designed.
The inside of an RV should be clean, comfortable and well-designed. | Source

Internal RV Check List

Over the years, I have evaluated hundreds of motor homes and campers.

Here is a list of some of the problems I actually found that will help to guide you in your own search.

  • televisions and antennas not updated to digital,
  • propane odors,
  • slide rooms that do not function or sit properly,
  • a passenger seat that does not recline properly,
  • a missing ice maker,
  • air conditioner leaks,
  • mildew smell throughout coach,
  • cabinetry parts replaced with cheap, mismatched wood,
  • the slide out floor in front of the passenger seat in a motor home does not work,
  • ammonia odor in refrigerator,
  • sewer tank odor throughout coach,
  • upholstery overly worn or damaged,
  • windows do not open or close easily,
  • water damage, especially inside of cabinets and closets,
  • cabinet doors and drawers neither open easily or shut firmly,
  • cracks in the windshield,
  • leaking faucets,
  • pet odors,
  • cigarette odors,
  • urine odors,
  • body odor residue,
  • light fixtures are rusted out or missing parts,
  • ceiling vent fans do not work,
  • counter tops that have burns, cracks and scratches
  • the area beneath the stove top burners is dirty or rusty,
  • and flooring is damaged or badly stained

Some of these flaws are small and easily repaired, but others, such as the odor issues, can be very serious. Those are deal breakers, but only if you recognize them for what they are.

If you do not check for flaws such as these, you could spend a great deal of money on repairs and still will never be comfortable when you use your RV.

For example, anybody who tells you that cigarette odor can be eliminated is taking you for a fool. Buy that coach an you'l be stuck breathing third hand smoke and endangering your health as well for as long as you own it.

Don't Forget to Check the Small Details

RV evaluations take time, are dirty and are a great deal of work, but using inspection lists helps you to do the best possible job. Sometimes, it can even save your life.

One broken propane gas detector or water filtration unit can make you sick or even kill you.

If you don't believe me, read RV Accident Stories That Will Blow Your Mind to see the types of things that can happen when problems are not discovered prior to purchase.

Checking out an RV you are thinking of buying and using inspection check lists to do so is just common sense.

RVs cost a great deal of money, and you want to make sure that the one you purchase won't turn into a bottomless money pit.

Have you ever purchased an RV only to find that there were problems you failed to notice?

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© 2016 TIMETRAVELER2

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