Used RV Shopping? How You Can Avoid Buying a Lemon

Buying a used RV can save you tons of money in the long run. Also, with the biggest RV craze we’ve seen in years, it’s getting harder to find new models since everybody is out trying to get one. Without proper education on what to expect in a camper, you could end up buying a lemon. You’ll want something that will last a long time without shelling out your life savings to get it. 

It’s happened before, and one author on insider.com experienced a particularly bad one. If you want to save money on hotel bills, a used camper is the way to go, but what can you do to avoid getting stuck with a lemon. 

The adventures of buying an RV that turns out to be a lemon

Winnebago Outlook motor homes are offered for sale at the Camp-Land RV dealership
RVs for sale | Scott Olson/Getty Images

As with anything, you can buy an RV and find out that what you bought was really a dud, if you don’t take the time to do your research before purchasing. One woman and her boyfriend learned the lesson the hard way. They bought a camper with the intent of using it on an upcoming trip but quickly began regretting their decision. 

It all started when they decided to buy a used RV, despite having no previous knowledge of these kinds of campers. They bought one on a whim and set out on their planned trip all excited about the memories they were hoping to make with their new purchase. 

It turned out to be a nightmare, however, when the RV’s tires started blowing out, the shower didn’t really work, and the air conditioning didn’t blow any cold air, and this was only the beginning of their troubles. 

The list continued with the shower being too small, the gray pipes leaked, the fridge didn’t work, the onboard generator was broken, and their Homeowner’s Association wouldn’t allow them to park it at their house. All in all, they spent over $4,500 on it and there were still more repairs that were needed. 

How to avoid getting a bad deal on an RV camper

So you don’t end up with the same horrific tale that the woman and her boyfriend did, there are a few things you should do and not do when you’re looking to buy a used RV. The most important one is to do your research. Know what you want and need before you hand over the check to buy. Like the boyfriend in the previous story, he was 6-feet 2-inches in height, but the shower wasn’t tall enough to accommodate him comfortably. 

Avoid buying specifically for a trip, unless you’re planning a long way out. Give yourself enough time to thoroughly check over your options, and have it professionally inspected before leaving on your journey. Know what repairs or replacements will be needed and get them done before you head out. 

Don’t take a seller’s word that everything works before handing over your check. Have them go through each item and show you that it works fine unless they’ve reported that something is broken. For the items that you know don’t work, you can decide whether you want to take on the responsibility to fix them or replace them. Also, check for signs of roof leaks while you’re at it. Know what you’re getting into before buying. 

Things to know if you’re new to camping in an RV

Buying an RV is more than just putting gas into the tank and driving it to a campground. You’ll need to know some basics of driving one, like how to back up with it, how to check to make sure it’s ready to go, and where you can go and not go with it. 

RVs are built differently from trucks, so you’re going to notice that it’s harder to back up due to its size. According to Camper Report, you should learn how to use a partner to communicate whether you’re going to hit a tree or other item, so you can avoid damaging the camper. 

Before you leave to set out on your trip, or before you leave your campground, make sure everything’s ready to go. This means doing a proper walk-around to be sure any slide-outs are pushed in and secure, and any awnings aren’t still hanging out. If you leave with one of these still open, you may end up hitting something, like another vehicle with it. Make sure you’re ready to go, no matter how long it takes to perform your checks.

Also, know the places you have to avoid due to the size of your camper. Some bridges may hang too low, and the top of your RV can break off or get damaged when going under it. Measure the height of your camper to the tallest portion, usually the AC unit, and be aware of bridge signs that let you know how tall they are. This way you can avoid the bridges your RV won’t be able to go under. 

Camping in an RV can be time-consuming and exhausting, but it’s still a lot of fun. Repairs are a huge part of owning a used camper, so know what to check for when buying a used camper and know how to run it before you take off on your next trip. 

RELATED: Own an RV? Lemon Laws Probably Don’t Protect You