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Understand the Process of Making a Deal on a Used Rv.

Updated on March 27, 2021
Don Bobbitt profile image

Don has been an avid traveler and motorhome owner for most of his life. He shares his experiences along with valuable tips for RV owners.

The Urge to get Outdoors and enjoy Nature

So, You want to buy a Camper and enjoy the great outdoors?

You say you want to take the family out to a nice campground or even a state or federal park and sleep under the stars (well,actually, under a camper roof)?

You want to sit around a campfire, cook Hot Dogs on a nice gas grill, and teach your kids about nature and animals and other neat outdoorsy stuff, right?

Or maybe, you're just looking for a way to camp in the many nice public parks around the country and fish or Hunt to your heart's content.

Or, how about traveling around the country for a year or longer with your PC and Camera at hand and writing a great travel book about America from your personal perspective?

Whatever your reason, if you are reading this, you are already part of the way down the road to selecting a Camper of some sort.

So read on and find out how to select the right Camper but also how to get a quality unit for a low price.

Know Your Finances before you start shopping

How much are you going to Spend on your Used Camper?

Your first reality check in your investigation, is for you to make a serious preliminary check of your finances.

Before you go out, shake a salesman's hand and have him walk you through his inventory of New and Used campers, you need to be financially honest with yourselves. You and your spouse need to determine where your "Financial Limit" for purchasing a camper happens to be.

You need to know how much CASH you want to spend, and if you decide to finance a Camper, you need to make the calculations and then actually write down on a piece of paper, just how much you can afford to finance.

And, once you determine these limits, you need to stick to them. FIRMLY!

I recommend that you keep that little piece of paper with you at all times as a reminder of the reality the financial limits of your camping dream.

Anybody can buy an RV

There is an old saying;

All you need to buy an RV is a Checkbook!

All you need to operate one safely,

is a year or so of training!

Be careful when around RV Dealers.

You must understand and remember that RV all salesmen are in the business of getting as much money out of you as they can. That's their job.

They really doesn't care if what they are offering you actually puts a financial strain on you and your family for years to come.

You hear sales people say things like "It was what they wanted! And either I was going to sell it to them or someone else was!", all of the time.

The salesman's goal is to push you to the limit of what their banker will lend to you, not to your financial comfort limit.

So, before you start, know what your REAL numbers are.

I even recommend that you write these numbers down and keep them with you as a reminder during your search.

Oh, and whatever you do, never, never let your salesman know what your financial limit is.

Just having that number allows the salesman to use it to inflate the price of his inventory thus taking advantage of you when they propose a deal.

Another thing that you need to control is your desire to "HURRY".

Everyone wants to walk out and take that RV of their dreams home with them the same day they se it.

In reality, If you don't like what a dealer is showing you or their pricing then you should just tell them that what they are offering you is not acceptable and move on; either to another Camper you may be interested in, or even to another Dealer.

Trust Me, that salesman and his camper will most likely still be there, even a week later, after you have taken the time to look at other options he or others are willing to sell you.

And, if you really want a dealer to contact you with a better offer, have a pocketful of personal cards available to hand them, with just your name and phone number on them.

If they are any kind of professional salesperson, then you can leave and you will likely get a call with a better offer from them within a few days.

If not? You have just eliminated a stubborn and probably inflexible salesman from your list of potential RV sources.

Used motorhomes are often the first choice for camping Newbies

Old Motorhomes are great low-cost options for people looking for a cheaper way to get into camping.
Old Motorhomes are great low-cost options for people looking for a cheaper way to get into camping. | Source
Used Motorhomes come in many sizes and styles, and there are always some that  will fit into most peoples budgets.
Used Motorhomes come in many sizes and styles, and there are always some that will fit into most peoples budgets. | Source

The Search for that Great Deal

Simply put, there are two major sources of Used Campers, and they are; Dealers and Private Owners.

But before you start out, keep in mind that during your search you must always maintain your financial perspective. You see, dealers are not there to save you money; rather they are there to sell campers and make a nice profit doing it.

Today, almost every RV Dealer has a website nice to list their Used (and New) Campers for anyone that might be interested.

Knowing this, within a very short timeframe, you can do a lot of your shopping for your dream camper online and in the comfort of your home.

Private Owners

The private owners of RV's, at least the smart ones, will often have their used camper listed on one of the many websites designed to help private owners in selling their camper, such as the popular site, RV Trader.

There are numerous such sites that provide potential sellers with a place where, for a price, the owner can list their camper, add some nice pictures and even add a detailed description of the camper and its accessories.

One of them is the largest online store where you can list your Camper for Sale. It is a site that everyone knows about, called eBay Motors.

And, as I have said, there are dozens of other very good RV listing sites available on the web where an owner's RV can gt a lot of exposure with potential buyers. In fact, there are a couple that I like and have used myself which are; RV SEARCH and another is NATMLS.

There are some people who will just put their camper in the local paper, and even a few who will just let their Camper sit in the front yard with a FOR SALE sign hanging on it.

I suggest that before you look at these locally "for sale" campers, you need to use the available web sites and learn the important details about Campers every owner should understand, such as;

  • Manufacturer brands,the good and the bad
  • Differences in the years manufactured
  • Any potential design problems,
  • and how well each one holds their price.

All of this information is available on the web just waiting for you to educate yourself.

Learn about Used Rvs on eBay

For example: you can set up an account on eBay, and you can then tag and :"watch" other people selling and buying Campers that interest you.

Over a few months of "watching", you will start to get a feel for the real value and potential sale price of your favorite Campers.

After this, you will be a lot more informed for the next phase of your search for your ideal camper.

However you do it, you need to get a good feel for the variety of campers out there as well as what they are really selling for.

Want to TRADE Something?

Once you know what you can afford and what types of Used Camper you might buy, you are ready to actually start calling and negotiating with Private Sellers and also visiting Dealerships.

Make a trade?

One thing that you might want to do is have something of decent value that you can trade for a part of the price (or even all) of a Camper you might like.

This is something that many people will do when looking at a camper that is being sold by a private seller.

I did this with my first Motorhome. I had decided to get a used Motorhome, and I had a nice 5-year-old SUV, in good condition that I no longer needed.

I was "watching" Motorhome sales listings on eBay and I woud call some of them and ask them if they would take a used SUV as a trade.

And one day, I hit on a dealer that was actually looking for a vehicle for his daughter.

We exchanged photos, negotiated, and finally, one day, I drove from South Carolina to Florida and we checked each others vehicle out and came to a deal.

I had just traded my old SUV for a majority of the cost of a nice used Motorhome.

So, you should at least try to work out a swap if you own something that you think people might want.

It's always worth a little effort to try and if it works, then you have saved a bundle on your dream camper.

Anyway, trading aside, you can only go so far on the web in your search, before you have to actually go out and kick a few tires and talk to people about their specific Camper.

When you go out, even to a dealership, you need to know the real value of what you are looking at.

I suggest that you write down the details on the Camper you are interested in, and then go home and check out the value on one of the big dealer pricing web sites like, NADA.

Access to these sites is free, and you can come away with another negotiating leverage tool if you have the true value data.

Inspect that Used Camper!

At some time you will need to pick a camper that you think might meet your needs and desires and go out there and inspect it yourself.

A good Camper Inspection can take a little time and a lot of knowledge so you need to prepare yourself to perform this task well.

Wear some clothes that you don't mind getting dirty and go out there and check that camper out properly.

And, even if it passes your personal inspection, remember that you can always tell the owner that you are still looking but that his camper is very interesting to you and give him your card in case they get someone else that is interested before you get back to them.

Closing the Deal and other things you will need.

So, you finally picked a camper and you want to get it onto the road and use it.

Well, there are a few things that you need to consider.

The Finance Guy

Because you have already used the NADA site and are very aware of the true value of your potential new camper, you are ready for the dealers finance guy or the banker if you want a loan.

The dealer finance guy is going to add things to your deal, just like they do at a car dealership. And, I can only tell you to be prepared, just as with a car, and handle them the same way.

At the same time, if you are dealing with a banker, then you have already talked to them about what they will loan you and all of the particulars of a loan. And, the closing will be a lot easier with a banker if you have prepared them ahead of time.

Get a Used RV Warranty

A dealer might offer you a warranty on the RV you are purchasing that covers the RV and it's accessories. These warranties are often through some third party company.

If so, make sure that you check the company out as being reliable and that they are not a rip-off company that never pays claims.

Some of these can be good and worth their price for your peace of mind.

But, you can also get on the web and research other companies, yourself, and often get a decent warranty on your RV, on your own.

So, the smart Rv buyer should be aware of the need for a Warranty of some kind and should do their homework on these specialized companies that sell warranties which cover those special things in a camper which are not covered by a typical automobile type insurance policy.

RV Insurance is not the same as Automobile Insurance

Your RV will of course need vehicle type insurance that you can usually get with your existing auto insurance company.

But be aware that the standard automobile policy does not cover many of the campers appliances, furniture and such; they will only cover what in your Rv that is part of a typical automobile.

But I do recommend that you contact your automobile insurance company before you buy and discuss if they cover RVs and if they do what will be covered and for what price.

Many auto insurance companies will not cover an RV so prepare yourself to shop for this insurance also.

To get full Insurance coverage on an RV, you will need to find a specialised Insurance company that insures RVs such as; Good Sam Insurance.

ROADSIDE Insurance

If you don't have Roadside Assistance insurance, then any camper owner will recommend that you get a good policy.

And remember that an Rv, especially a large one is not something you will repair yourself if it breaks down, so make sure you get coverage with is a policy that will provide at least the basic options of;

  • free towing to a qualified service center,
  • free fuel (for a Motorhome) if you run out along the road,
  • free tire repair if you have a flat along the road,
  • or just a free jump for a dead battery.

You do not want to have any of these things happen to your camper and be sitting on the side of some dark road without a clue where the closest service center can be found.

The larger of these companies have literally thousands of participating service centers that they will call and get help to you quickly. And they will be skilled service people that you can trust to take care of you and do it at a fair price.


That's right, Congratulations. If you are shopping for these final things; like insurance, then you already own a camper and you are ready to go out and enjoy the world of traveling with, and using, a camper.

Ways to spot an RV that's a Lemon

Inspecting a Used RV

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2013 Don Bobbitt


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