What to Look for When Buying a Used RV | How to Not Buy a Lemon

Buying any RV is one of the biggest purchases you might make in life, in order to make your experience a positive one, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with and find out what to look for when buying a used RV.

In this article, we will cover all the important aspects that every owner of a used camper van should know before actually buying a second-hand RV. If you read through this checklist, you can avoid being conned by a dealer when buying a second-hand vehicle. It will also ensure that you get the best value for your money.

What to Look for When Buying a Used Motorhome

Questions to Ask When Buying a Used RV

Before we get into any further details, let us first understand and identify the questions that every prospective buyer of a used camper van must ask during inspection to avoid any trouble or problems later on. Some of these questions are:

Q: How much has the van been driven?

In order to determine the wear-and-tear and worth of your RV, do not shy away from asking the dealer or van owner about the number of miles that the van has been driven. This will help you determine the conditions of the van’s engines, its tires, and will also allow you to work out how long the van has got left before it gives in.

Q: Are the maintenance records for the van available?

It is of paramount importance that you ask the concerned person for the RV’s maintenance records. It’s important for you to know what has been repaired, replaced, or taken out in case there is a recurring problem, and you need to get it fixed again. Background knowledge of your vehicle in these situations will save both time and money.

Because your vehicle is a used one, it is even more important for you to have its records to know what the van has gotten changed. If you ever have it repaired or serviced, you can tell the serviceman about it.

Q: What animals have lived in the RV, and for how long?

When investing in a used RV, you must ask the dealer or van owner whether any animals have lived in that camper van and how long they have lived there. This is especially important if you are planning to accommodate young children in this van since they might be allergic to the fur or feathers of some animals.

Therefore, if you want to avoid any emergencies or health hazards while out in the van, it is best that you inquire about any animals that have lived in the van.

Q: Can you take the van out for a test drive?

If you are planning to invest in a used, second-hand camper van, it is your right to test and inspect the van to your heart’s content and satisfaction. If the owner has nothing to hide, they will not hesitate to let you take the van out for a drive. So don’t feel shy to ask if you can take the van out for a test drive.

When driving the RV, keep an ear out for any strange noises, drive at different speeds, test the breaks, and see how the van handles swerves, turns, and sudden breaks. You should feel comfortable with the van before you finalize the deal. And a test drive will help you make up your mind quicker.

Q: Ask if you can inspect the camper van.

Now is when you get the chance to determine the camper van’s condition, value, and details. Do not hesitate to ask the dealer or van owner to let you inspect the van; this is your right. You need to know if there is anything wrong with the van, if the van is in a fully functional working order, and if you are getting a fair deal for it. If the owner objects or denies permission, do not, we repeat, DO NOT buy the van.

What to Look for When Buying a Used RV

Now that we have discussed some important questions that you’ll need to ask your dealer or the van owner at the time of inspection, let’s talk about some of the exact things you’ll need to look into at the time of inspection. The first and foremost step should be to inspect the camper van under discussion both internally and externally to ensure that you know what you are getting. A thorough inspection will also help you determine the motorhome’s condition and exact worth. While carrying out the inspections, consider the following factors:

Funky Odors

Be very observant for any odors emanating from the van, especially from any water sources or appliances within the camper van. Also, check the van’s storage compartments, drains, pipes, and tank for any stenches. If you do detect any strange or unpleasant smells, immediately ask the owner about them. If the owner or dealer cannot give you a good reason for the smells, or refuses to look into the matter, don’t go any further with buying the van.


Another critical factor to be careful of when inspecting a camper van is mold. If you find mold in the interior or exterior of the van, you should instantly dismiss the idea of buying that motorhome.


If you detect a strange odor or find traces of mold in the van, there is a high possibility that there is a leak somewhere in the van, which is causing the smell and the mold. Firmly press against the camper van’s walls and boarding’s, feel for any soft and sponge-like spots. The presence of any paint peeling off the walls, bubbles, odors, and soft spots is a clear indication of serious water damage in the van.

Also, look into cabinets, under the carpeting, and on the roof for any leaks. If you find any, politely decline the offer for the van.


Ensure that the camper van that you are inspecting has fully functional awnings that are well maintained. This is because a damaged or nonfunctional awning is expensive to replace as well as repair, so you should have a van that has functional awnings.


When inspecting an RV, inspect its roof for any cracks, damage, peeling paint, and bubbles. A damaged roof will be very costly to repair and replace, and therefore, you need a van whose roof has been regularly cleaned and well maintained to avoid paying for any further expenses.

Rust and Corrosion

Another very important feature to be wary of when buying a used camper, which is usually overlooked by buyers, is rust and corrosion. Once a camper van starts rusting, there is no going back. Such a vehicle is only going to be very high maintenance and will cost you a lot of money in terms of repair and restoration.

Some of the important spots to look at are the roof, awnings, windows, pipes, and especially the undercarriage of the van. And if you find your prospective camper van rusting or corroding in these important places, opt out of the deal.


To ensure that you have gotten the best value for your money, check that all the buttons of the van are working fine. Having functional buttons is essential to avoid any additional repair charges and to avoid any trouble while you’re out with the van.

Check the ignition, and inspect every light, such as the clearance lights and brake lights. Make sure the generator button is working, and all the jacks are functional. The last thing you want is a broken button while you are out with your family in the wilderness, miles away from a mechanic or technician.

What Should You Do if You Find Any Problems or Issues in the RV?

If you find any issues in your prospective camper van, what should be your next step? Well, firstly, you should determine the seriousness of the issue and find out if the issue can be resolved. If something is broken, can it be repaired or replaced, and if something is not in working order, can it be fixed?

If you can get it repaired or replaced, how much is it going to cost? When the repair value is added to the van’s value, is it still a good deal? If you feel that the problem is too serious or that getting it fixed is going to cost too much, then your best option is to not buy the vehicle.

If you think that there are too many problems or faults and the price is too high, you can also try negotiating the van’s cost with the dealer or van owner. Considering how you will have to pay for the repairs, you should get the concerned person to reduce the van’s price.

Expert Tips

  • When buying a used motorhome, make sure that you check the van’s vehicle identification number (VIN). Also, ensure that the VIN matches the van’s paperwork. If the number on the van does not match the van’s documents, it is a clear identification that you are being tricked, and the best approach for such a situation is not buying the vehicle and reporting the dealer/owner to the authorities.
  • In order to check whether or not the van’s engine is in good shape, you can check the oil under the hood of the van. If your dealer or the van’s owner stops you from checking the oil, you are not getting a good deal for yourself. And if the oil smells like it has been combusted, it indicates the van’s engine is not in good condition.

It does not matter what country you are located in or where the van was driven. Every vehicle eventually starts to corrode and rust. Therefore, before you buy a used vehicle, always check for any rusted or corroded spots on the body of the motorhome. Check the interior, exterior, and the undercarriage of the van, and if you find even the smallest bits of the van corroding or rusting, you should pass on the deal.

One of the most important parts where you should be looking for signs of rust, damage, and corrosion is the RV’s mainframe. Repairing a frame that has been damaged by rust or corrosion is both costly as well as time-consuming. Moreover, you do not have any guarantee that the repair will be long-lasting and that you will not need to get it repaired again.

When investing in a second-hand, used motorhome, travel trailer, or van, you are always taking a risk. No matter how well you inspect the vehicle and no matter how many test drives you conduct, there will always be a possibility of something being wrong in the car that was not brought to your attention at the time of purchase. Therefore, always ask the questions that we have discussed earlier in this article.

Another point worth remembering is that if you are buying from an individual van owner and not an authorized dealer, there is a high possibility that you will not get a warranty for your vehicle, so keep this in mind when deciding on a price for the vehicle. Buying a used vehicle implies that you are accepting all liability for the vehicle.

As long as you what to look for when buying a used motorhome, your buying experience should be a much more positive one.

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Used RV Buying Tips
Stephanie Lynne