Buyer Beware

When buying a used motorhome don’t take anything at face value. It’s vitally important to understand the real condition of the unit before purchase. It might look great, but what has it been through?

There is nothing harder on an RV than sitting unoccupied and unused. Especially when the owner decides it’s no longer financially feasible to keep making payments on a unit where more is owed than its appraised value. As with any vehicle, when you drive it off the lot it immediately starts to depreciate. At some point any vehicle not properly cared for or even used on a regular basis will begin to slide downhill in appearance and functionality, and with it, its resale value.

If It’s No Longer in Use …

My advice, if you’re looking at a used RV that someone has stopped using, don’t wait very long for them to lower the price. Its condition is diminishing right before your eyes, often faster than the asking price. When a bank is involved, whether the previous owner has decided to voluntary surrender it or walked away from the rig and the loan, the time it often takes to get it back on the market is long. So long, that by the time the financial institution holding the title makes arrangements for its disposition, it may be too far gone.

Damaged Before Transit

A few weeks ago we witnessed a contractor for the lien holder come pick up a motorhome whose owner decided to step away from it voluntarily. The contractor readied the coach only to find that it had serious mechanical issues and specifically a safety issue that prevented them from being able to drive it away. The tires were in poor shape. So they arranged for the unit to be hauled away on a lowboy semi trailer.

The loading of this motorhome was the highlight of many who gathered to watch. Of course, it wasn’t without excitement and honestly some disappointments. First off, the contractor was not properly equipped and prepared. The motorhome had several issues, beginning with dead batteries which made it impossible to start. This meant that the air suspension and braking systems could not be pressurized. There was also a leveling jack fully extended.

For Want of a Proper Length Air Hose …

Had the contractor brought a sufficient length of air hose, it could have been connected to the semi tractor and the motorhome to inflate the suspension and pressurize the braking system to release the parking brake. This would have lifted the extended jack off the ground and made steering the coach easier during loading.

The first thing the driver did while spotting the flatbed trailer in front of the motorhome was to ram the back end of the trailer into the front of the motorhome, smashing and buckling the lower half of the front end and the generator access door.

Using a large winch, the motorhome was literally dragged onto the trailer. In the process the rear end of the motorhome scraped along on the ground because of the angle of the trailer deck. This placed undue pressure on the exhaust and the rear cap of the coach, which may have loosened it from the sides and top. The extended jack plowed through the ground and was almost ripped off as it reached the end of the trailer deck.

But, Will Anyone Notice?

I seriously doubt that whoever ends up with this motorhome will know or that anyone will ever disclose what happened to it. Even an inspector probably won’t catch any telltale marks that such an event occurred.

If you’re buying a used motorhome, inspect it carefully. If you don’t know how to go about spotting potential problems, get it inspected professionally before signing on the dotted line. Our motorhome was nine years old when we found her. We knew on that first visit that we wanted this particular unit to be our home on wheels. But before we signed for it, we had it professionally inspected top to bottom, front to back. If we ever upgrade, we’ll repeat the process.

It’s also a good idea to research and learn all you can about a specific brand, model, and manufacturer. You can ask questions and learn a lot from other RV owners at the Owners Corner Forum on the IRV2 Forum website.

For more information about buying a used RV, please check our Buying an RV archives.




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Gerald Voigt

Gerald's interests are wide and varied. His work career started in the United States Air Force and since then has worked in logistics management, retail & service management as well as manufacturing. He's an author, photographer, pilot, radio show host and marketing consultant who enjoys RVing which allows him greater freedom to explore, meet new acquaintances and serve his clients.