Expert Tips For Buying A Used RV in 2024

We have been traveling in a used RV full-time since 2021.

We purchased our first travel trailer used, went on to buy a pre-owned fifth wheel when we decided to do RV life, and when the time comes to buy another RV we will likely buy used again.

Buying a used RV can be a great way to save money on a higher-end model and avoid the steep depreciation that occurs when driving a new RV off the lot.

This said, there are some BIG risks to buying a used RV too, and plenty of potential pitfalls you will want to avoid along the way.

We are sharing our best tips and lessons for buying a used RV, including where to search, red flags to look out for, and important factors to consider.

Let’s get you the used RV of your dreams!

Why should you consider buying a used RV?

A large used RV camping next to a blue river with green rolling hills leading out to mountains in the distance
Our used RV has taken us all over the U.S. and Canada!

Buying a used RV can be daunting.

You don’t want to end up with a lemon with hidden water damage and costly surprise repairs…

And you also don’t want to spend a bunch of money on a new RV whose quality honestly might be pretty questionable as well.

The reviews of RV quality post-Covid have not been anything to write home about. They just don’t make ’em like they used to!

Buying a used RV can allow you to get into a higher quality, higher-end RV compared to what you would be able to buy new.

A newer RV is not always better, especially when comparing older RVs with higher-quality construction to newer RVs that are mass-produced as quickly as possible.

Pros and Cons of Buying A Used RV

There is no perfect RV and the decision to purchase new or used can be a big one.

Consider these pros and cons to help you make your decision:

Benefits of purchasing a used RV

  • Avoid steep depreciation of new RVs
  • Access to higher-end models within your budget
  • More wiggle room for negotiation and cost savings
  • Any warranty work or minor problems were likely fixed by the first owner
  • Potential cost savings on insurance premiums and registration
  • Money saved can go towards upgrades and personalization

Drawbacks of purchasing a used RV

  • No warranty coverage for repairs (unless an extended warranty has been purchased)
  • Potential for higher maintenance costs over time and some parts may be harder to come by
  • If the RV is over 10 years old it may be tougher to book at certain RV parks
  • There may be hidden damage that is hard to see
  • Used RVs may require updating if you want a more modern interior

We ultimately decided to purchase a used 2015 DRV Mobile Suites to live in full time for the following reasons:

  • Higher-end RV features within our budget (a luxury fifth wheel with independent suspension, full body paint, heated and insulated underbelly, residential plumbing, and automotive disc brakes)
  • Highly reputable maintenance facilities that specialize in DRVs
  • A helpful community of DRV owners who praised DRV quality and longevity (including examples of people still full-time RVing in their DRVs from 2006)

Buying a used RV allowed us to start full-time RVing debt-free and we were fortunate enough to purchase a fifth wheel that was well cared for by the previous owners.

Ready to try RV life? Check out this full-time RV checklist to help you get started!

We did our research and covered our bases to make sure we made a sound purchase and these are all the factors you will want to keep in mind when considering a used RV:

Considerations & What To Look For When Buying A Used RV

A used fifth wheel RV camping in the desert next to a white truck with mountains out in the distance

When shopping for a used RV, there are several critical factors to keep in mind to ensure you make a well-informed decision:

Dealership vs. Private Seller

We found our used DRV fifth wheel using this Facebook Group!

Buying from a dealership can often be the easiest way to purchase a used RV and secure financing if you are looking to take out a loan.

They will likely have a variety of RVs for you to tour, will have all of the correct paperwork (title, VIN verification, etc.) taken care of, and may even include some perks in your purchase agreement.

This said, buying from a dealer can be tricky as it can be tough to build trust and you will often end up paying higher prices.

We highly recommend researching reviews and testimonials before purchasing from a dealership to validate trustworthiness and reliability. Always trust your gut!

A private seller on the other hand can be a great way to buy a well-loved RV from another passionate member of the RV community and get a great deal on a used RV.

This said, to buy from a private seller you will need to pay cash or secure private financing and there can be a higher chance for fraud and scams.


Don’t let this scare you off, though. We purchased both of our used RVs from private sellers and had wonderful experiences.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when evaluating a private RV seller:

  • Is the seller reputable? We were able to weed out sellers by checking to see how much they knew about their RV and how it worked, asking for their maintenance records, and seeing if they were active in any RV groups or forums
  • Does the owner have a clean and valid title?
  • Does the RV’s vehicle identification number (VIN) match the one on the title?
  • Does the owner have maintenance records? Both of our used RVs came with all of their maintenance records and original paperwork

RED FLAGS TO AVOID: A deal that seems way too good to be true, salvage titles, sellers who resist having a private inspection done, high APR’s from dealers, salespeople who are overselling or overconfident about a used RV’s history

RV Age & Condition

White Toyota Tundra towing a used 2010 Casita 17 foot Spirit Deluxe travel trailer
The great thing about fiberglass RVs is that they rarely show their age! Our Casita was 10 years old when we bought it!

With time and wear and tear, RV repairs are inevitable.

This said, how an RV is used and how it has been cared for can say a lot more about its condition than just its age alone.

For example, an RV that has been lived in and traveled in full-time for several years will likely have more wear and tear than an RV that has been stored in a climate-controlled garage and used only a few times a year.

At the same time, an RV that has been used often and maintained well might be more “travel ready” than an RV that has been sitting stored for a long period of time.

When it comes to an RV’s age and condition be sure to consider:

  • What issues have occurred, and how often? Are there consistent trends or problems?
  • How has the RV been used and stored?
  • Is the RV older than 10 years old? How is its outward appearance?
  • Is the RV manufacturer still in business? This is important for being able to get replacement parts if needed
  • For older RVs have any of the main components been replaced? (roof, tires)
  • Has there been regular maintenance done on the RV? (Check out this year-long RV maintenance checklist to help you keep track)

IMPORTANT NOTE: Many private RV Parks have a “10-year rule,” and reserve the right to deny reservations to RVs older than 10 years old. Most will admit older RVs with satisfactory pictures, but this is something to keep in mind if you plan to stay at RV resorts

Type of RV

All different types of RVs camping in a campground surrounded by green trees with blue waters out in the distance

The type of used RV you are looking to buy can make a big difference in the factors you need to be aware of as well.

RVs without motors (travel trailers and fifth wheels) will have fewer components to inspect and be wary of compared to driveable RVs such as motorhomes or vans.

If you are considering a driveable RV you not only need to worry about the general RV components, but the engine health and additional automotive safety features as well.

For example, while it may seem like a steal to grab a used Diesel Pusher Motorhome with low miles, it is important to check the engine thoroughly (or have this done by a qualified diesel mechanic) as it can be harmful for diesel motors to sit unused for long periods of time.

Whether you are considering a motorized or non-motorized RV, we highly recommend getting a professional inspection done by a certified RV expert.

These can be pricey, but can provide you with additional peace of mind for your purchase (and thanks to you buying a used RV can often be made up for in the negotiation process)!

Pre Purchase RV Inspection

Before finalizing the purchase of a used RV, you will want to have the RV inspected by a qualified RV technician. (Honestly, you should do this if purchasing a new RV as well – even if the dealership offers a PDI or Pre-delivery inspection).

This can help you ensure you make an informed purchase by having a trained professional point out any potential issues or red flags that may not be immediately apparent (especially to the untrained eye).

A photo of the back front cap of a used DRV fifth wheel with comments from an RV inspector about the quality
Our inspection came with a detailed report with around 100 photos

An RV inspection will be a thorough checking of all parts of the RV (this list can also be used as a helpful checklist for buying a used RV):

  • Roof: Even a tiny leak could lead to water damage and mold
  • Walls: Inspect for cracks, peeling, or delamination
  • Slide floors and main floor: Look for stains, soft spots, water damage, warping, unevenness, and any signs of rot. When browsing RVs always feel the underside of the slides for soft spots and inspect carpet and baseboards for any sign of water intrusion (bubbling, discoloration, smell, etc.)
  • Storage areas: Ensure they are secure and free of leaks
  • Doors, screens, windows: Make sure everything is operational and secure
  • Electrical systems: Check the breakers and DC wiring, and run every circuit. Make sure there are no blown fuses or corroded batteries. Ensure every light and electrical outlet is in working order
  • Air conditioner: Check for functionality and filter health
  • Gas furnace: Check for signs of wear and tear
  • Plumbing: Checking of the faucets, sinks, toilets, showers, tanks, water heater, and water pump. Make sure there are no leaks and that all of the drains are flowing without issues. (If there is a dishwasher or washing machine, these should be run as well)
  • Tires: Check how much mileage is on the tires and when they were last replaced (these should be replaced at least every 5 years)
  • Appliances: Ensure the refrigerator is cooling and that all other appliances are in working order (stove, microwave, etc.)
  • Generator: (if onboard) to ensure it is working and well-maintained
  • Other Interior Features: Cabinets, ceilings, carpets, entertainment systems, furniture condition, etc.
  • Other Exterior Features: Seals, awnings, paint or paneling, etc. (look for signs of rust, damage, etc.)

A great place to find an RV inspector is the NRVIA (The National Recreational Vehicles Inspectors Association). They state “The NRVIA tests and certifies RV Inspectors as well as connects them with clients that need inspections done usually prior to the purchase or sale of an RV.”

Rates vary between inspectors and can cost anywhere from $300 to $1000+ and can take anywhere from 4 to 8 hours. It is very thorough and comes with a detailed report complete with photos!

We paid around $550 for the complete inspection of our 40-foot fifth wheel in Texas.

Again, this is an added expense but we highly recommend getting an inspection done before purchasing an RV. Think of it like some extra insurance before you buy!

Your level of handiness

RVer doing maintenance on a used RV using the Little Giant ladder

As an RVer, some level of handiness can well, come in handy.

RVs take a lot of abuse going down the road and things break (whether it is old or new).

As a used RV will be out of warranty, you will save yourself a lot of money by having the ability (or willingness to learn) to fix issues on your own. RV technicians and repairs can get pricey fast!

And if you aren’t handy already, have no fear! There are so many great resources for learning to fix things on RVs (blogs, YouTube, Facebook Groups, RV forums) and the RV community is incredibly helpful.

We went from not knowing how to fix much to being able to do most things ourselves in no time!

Best Places to Search for Used RVs

Used RVs can be found for sale all over the place.

When we were searching for ours, this is exactly where we had the most luck looking:

  • Facebook groups for the specific RVs you are interested in (this requires advanced research to know what you want, which we highly recommend to help narrow your search). This is how we found both of the used RVs we have purchased, one group for our Casita and one for our DRV!
  • Reputable dealership websites
  • You can also find deals hiding on Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist, but always be weary of potential scams that are frequent there

Tips For Buying A Used RV

A large used fifth wheel RV next to a white Ram truck camping in a field with the orange glow of a sunset behind them

Overall, buying a used RV can be a great way to save some money, make your budget go further, and get into RVing without getting into high amounts of debt.

Our biggest tips as you prepare for your pre-owned RV purchase are:

  • Beware of scams. (Avoid anyone who requires a down payment before seeing the RV, or offers up trades instead of payment. If a deal seems too good to be true, chances are it is)
  • Don’t fall for the pretty appearances. Have you heard the saying “lipstick on a pig”? That definitely applies in the RV world. RVs can look nice on the inside and have really impressive renovations, but that doesn’t mean that the bones are good. Don’t be fooled by superficial things that could be distracting from the actual integrity and quality of the RV.
  • Consider the 10-year rule if you plan to stay at private RV parks
  • Always ask how the RV was used and stored
  • Do an in-person walkthrough and/or test drive before committing to any purchase
  • Take your time and be thorough. Get down on the ground to inspect walls and floors, go under the RV, and get up on the roof
  • Assess the knowledge of the RV owner. Someone who knows the RV well likely took much better care of it
  • If you are not sure what type of RV you want, do plenty of research first! Key things to think about are weight (and the type of tow vehicle you have or will need), safety features, amount of storage, and quality of construction. We highly recommend renting an RV first if you are new to RVing (RV Share is a great place to do so) to try out different RVs.

Interested in other helpful RV Guides? Read More:

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