Finding the right used motorhome for you and your family’s planned adventures can be a blessing. However, finding the wrong one can be a curse. The following is a partial red flag list on what to keep an eye on to make your hunt for a good used motorhome a successful one.
Exterior Red Flags
There’s a lot to look at on the outside of an RV. While you should avoid anyting with obvious storm or accident damage, you should also keep an eye out for the following items.
Unless it has been driven a lot, the tread will probably be okay. It’s the age of the tires that’s the issue. Check for cracks along the sidewalls. A brand new Class A motorhome tire, on average, costs around $300. And if a tire blows? That can cause damage to the motorhome’s exterior wall. Looking for more info on RV tires? Check out this article.
Faded exterior paint
Naturally, if the motorhome you’re looking to buy is old, it won’t have the best exterior finish anymore. But if it is relatively new, faded paint gives you an indication on how it was stored – out in the open with no cover to deal with the elements.
Loose roof caulking
Once you get on top of the roof, if caulking can be peeled off easier than painter’s tape off a house wall, chances are water has seeped into the motorhome. If there is no caulking, it’s definitely seeped in.
Sticky like pine tar or sap. Again, that’s an indication of improper storage. Under a tree where critters likely found refuge at minimum in the undercarriage of the motorhome. Personally, I once found a litter of kittens under a motorhome. Kind of showed it wasn’t being looked after so well.
Missing Exterior Access Doors
Access doors to your water heater, refrigerator vent, electrical, etcetera should be intact. If their covers are blown so to speak, it’s been exposed to elements, critters, and probably both.
Slide-Outs Coming Out Crooked
Severely crooked means a huge problem, so walk away from that one. But even a little bit crooked, when the motorhome is level, can be an indication the tracking for the slide-out is off and could only get worse over time.
Lack of Service Records
A two-prong issue. First prong, if there is a claim the service records were lost or can’t be found, that’s not exactly true. Every RV has a VIN number and every VIN number can be looked up on your own via a multitude of websites.
Second prong, a lack of service records may mean the only person who ever looked at was the owner. If this used motorhome is relatively new, some of it could have still been under warranty… and by doing everything themselves that may have taken it out of warranty.
Too many miles is too much, but too few miles is also problematic. It may mean the current owners haven’t taken it out enough to get everything running properly, including enough to get engine fluids through the system.
Ideally, the odometer should be at least over 10,000 miles. As for a maximum, it kind of depends upon the age of the motorhome. Newer ones with a ton of miles? Maight be a red flag that things are about to start wearing out.
Interior Red Flags
Generally speaking, carpentry problems in a used motorhome are the least of the red flag issues as they just take a re-application and they’re good. What takes up most of the red flags are plumbing and electrical. However, the first two are carpentry-related.
I wish the term ‘Trim Pops’ was a dessert, but it’s not. If the trim on door jambs is popping off, it could simply be a nail has come loose and you need to replace it. However, it could mean the board is warped and can’t be nailed back on which could mean… yep, water damage.
You can add this to the ‘exterior’ section as well regarding trim molding on corners.
When water comes into an RV, it goes between the interior and exterior wall. As such, it doesn’t immediately make a stain. That takes time. Which means, any stain on a wall means water (and now mold) has most likely been in there for quite a while.
Not only will you need to get the mold out, you’ll need to use some carpentry skills or a carpenter to replace what needed to be taken out.
Sometimes people spill stuff on the floor and it stains. That is not where I’m going here. I’m talking stains around the kitchen sink and the toilet. Those stains mean a leak and leaks mean a lot of money for both a plumber and a carpenter.
Some Lights On, Some Lights Off
Could be as simple as a fuse replacement and it probably is for recently made motorhomes. Or, it could be a wiring issue and need the services of an electrician. If that’s the case, you’re talking a lot of work and a big repair bill.
No Gas Flame
You can get the burner to ‘click’ but you can’t get it to ignite? If the used motorhome you have your eye on has sat for a while, it may simply mean there’s no gas or the pilot light has gone out.
Either way, the burners need to work before you plunk down your hard-earned money on it. Pilot lights and gas are easy. Replacing gas lines because of corrosion? Not so easy.
This has by no means been a comprehensive list. Other red flag items may involve the awning (coming out – and straight – is good), air conditioning (on and cool are best), generator (on and smooth running), heat (shouldn’t smell like a opossum lives in the ductwork) are a few more.
All in all, it’s best to take along someone else who’s well-versed in what to look for when used motorhome shopping, and who can look at it with a jaundiced eye for those red flags after you’ve fallen in love with it.
If you have any questions or opinions, feel free to leave a comment below!
One thing not mentioned in your article is checking for exterior delamination. I purchased an RV that looked good on the exterior and the roof had recent re-caulking. No signs of inside leakage. After purchase and upon further examination I found many areas of delamination. RV’s with the vinyl like siding can be checked quite easily for delamination by tapping the exterior walls with a screwdriver handle and listen for hollow sounds. If you find ANY, walk away! Exterior delamination is nearly impossible to detect by visual examinations.