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How to buy used motorhome
in the United States

Ultimate guide
Updated December 2020
Buying motorhome was the idea of our lifetime. If you have same in your mind, let me congratulate you from the bottom of my heart.

The US is a treasure trove of motorhomes. This type of recreation is very popular here and an excellent infrastructure for this: campgrounds, wide roads, a bunch of national parks, specialty shops, services, parking, etc.

If you are planning a long trip across the American continent, often come here and love to relax in nature, buying a motorhome can be a good investment. And you will have your corner in the USA, even if it is movable, so much the better.

Types of motorhomes

Motorhomes are divided into motorized and trailers.

Motorized, in turn, are:
Class A - buses. Large and comfortable, but voracious.
Class B - minivans, suitable for a couple.
Class C is a so-called alcove mobile home, which has a space above the cab with a berth. Perhaps the best option for traveling with a company of 4-6 people or a family. We are going to highlight this one.

Let put you in the picture

1. Real touch

*RV (recreational vehicle) — most common word using for all the types of motorhomes and campervans in the US
Before you start your search, it is better to go to some dealer to see the motorhomes with your own eyes, feel them with your hands and lie on the crib.

Google the RV dealer, find the closest one with the most good reviews, and drive there.
Here you can see a variety of models in many modifications. You will have an idea of what you want and what kind of RV you need.

Also, If you've never traveled in an RV, it's a good idea to rent a one for a few days.

2. Define important criterias

Budget
I will guide you to the market prices for a used class C.
I would say that it is realistic to buy a motorhome, which does not require any serious investments, and will easily serve faithfully for a few more years, starting from $ 10.000.

In this price range should be RVs 1990−2000 years produced.
E.g., our 1995 Ford Tioga Montara with repairing of gearbox cost for us $ 9000 in total. We lived in it for six months and drove from the USA to Panama, covered 8000 km. We did not experience any serious issues, except repairing of the gearbox at the beginning.

Another example, our friends have traveled through Mexico for six months in a 1986 motorhome which they bought for $ 4,000. There also were no issues.

Always keep range.

Let’s say you have $ 20,000, then you can consider RVs in the range from $ 15,000 to $ 25,000. You’ll have a greater vision and understanding of the market. Moreover, it is always a chance to bargain.
Year of production
This parameter depends on the price. Use ranges of 5-10 years in your search.
1970-1990
$2000-$5000
1985-1995
$5000-$8000
1995-2005
$8000-$12000
2000-2010
$15000-$25000
2005-2015
$25000-$35000
2010-2019
$40000-$60000
new
from $65000
Size
Check the spreadsheet for better understanding

3. Keep this in mind when define a size

How many persons are going to travel?
Use spreadsheet above
Where are you going to?
The US has large spaces, roads and parking lots. There are no problems to have big vehicle. We traveled around Mexico and Central America in a 24ft house. It took one and a half parking spaces in length. If it were larger, for example, 26-27 feet, we would definitely have more difficulties in order to drive through the center of some colonial cities. Also, then longer RV, then higher risk of hitting the bottom of the rear of the RV when going down or up a steep hill.
How much time are you going to spend inside RV?
This is very important thing because when people are together for a long time in a limited space of a few m2, emotional fatigue builds up faster. We mixed airbnb, caravan overnight, staying on campgrounds. Accordingly, the more time you spend inside the RV, the more space you need to have.
Floorplan
Decide which layout you like and which will definitely not fitted for you.
The floorplan depends on size of the vehicle. Large RVs (over 27 feet) have a bedroom at the back, which is considering as a separate room.
Medium-sized motorhomes also have options with a bed in the back. This is exactly what we had. We hung up the curtain, thus dividing the space of the motorhome into two parts. Here the entrance is at the front of the house. If the entrance is at the back, then along the entire back wall there will be a toilet / bath or kitchen. With such a layout, it will no longer be possible to divide the space.

Search

Which States are the best
to look for an RV?

America is a huge country and there are thousands of motorhomes for sale in every state.
The best condition for RV, which were used in the southern part of the country, where there is no freezing temperatures and snow. Less temperature fluctuations, less wear. In the states of the east coast, where hurricanes and floods are frequent, you should be careful not to buy a "drowned man".
Easy way
  1. Drive to used RV dealerships. The main thing is that the seller has a lot of good reviews. Everything is simple here. The dealer also will do the registration for you. Usually dealers try not to deal with old motorhomes, so it makes sense to look here with a budget of $ 20,000 or more.
  2. Buy from a rental company. America's largest car rental company https://www.cruiseamerica.com. Prices here start at $ 27,000 for a 3 year old RV - it's cheap. However, the vehicle's mileage is likely to be over 100,000 miles.
An interesting way is to catch your luck
Here we are going to talk about how to get great RV at a reasonable or even low price from a private seller. We have tested this method on ourselves, so here is the process in details.

We were looking for our motorhome for almost 3 months, because we wanted to buy a good RV for cheap, and we were newbies. Such good RVs appeared averagely once a week and a lot of people hunted them.
We drove literally across America for the desired RV, and fewl times it left right from under our noses.

Market rules work here:
Found a seems good offer that posted a couple of hours ago? Consider that you are not the first caller. And the probability that you will have it in the neighboorhood area tends to zero.

What does a good option mean?
This is a motorhome was owned by an elderly married couple (this is an unspoken quality mark in the USA), cared for and cherished it, drove it out several times a year and took it to the service by the clock. Add to the excellent condition the price just below the market, and you have a few minutes to be the first to make an appointment.
If you are already in the United States, then outline for yourself the radius where you will be ready to go to pick up the motorhome. For example, we were looking around 500 miles from San Francisco, where we lived. By car it takes 7-8 hours. Plus, we included in the search large cities of the neighboring states: Las Vegas, Phoenix, San Diego; where you could fly quickly and relatively cheap.
Where to search
https://www.craigslist.org/
is your best friend in the search for an used RV. It is the largest classifieds resource in the US. Although it looks antediluvian, everything is simple here. We will analyze in detail how the site is arranged.
Craigslist search manual
1
Register on the website
.
2
Find the craigslist of the city or region where you will be looking for a motorhome.
3
Go to «for sale/rvs+camp».
4
Check the boxes "has image" and "bundle duplicates"
Also "include nearby areas" or specify a search radius from your US zip code.
5
Set your search parameters: price range and RV class.
6
"Save search" and bookmark the page.
7
Set up email notifications.
When a new ad appears, you will receive an email. Remember, a good option can slip away, so every minute is matter.
There are two more sites that I visited, but here, compared to craigslist, there are fewer ads from private owners:
https://www.rvtrader.com/
https://www.rvt.com/

Also, if you have an active facebook market, you can search there.
Scammers
If you see an ad that is extremely below the market price, it is most likely scammers.

You are only interested in a personal meeting and inspection of the RV with the owner face to face. Everything else, when the RV is somewhere in storage on ebay wharehouse, the owner is now in the operation of the duodenum and he urgently sells the motorhome so cheap - this is definitely scam!
Don't even waste time on such ads.
Buying
Found a good one - call
Note that Americans can't imagine their lives without voicemail and SMS. Not Whatsapp, literally old school SMS. They may even not pick up the phone in order to find out later what you wanted in a voice message. So if you do not get through, feel free to send voicemail and then duplicate the SMS.
Some ads are detailed, some pretty short
Before make an appointment we should get know everything about this RV
Which name is in title?
Is the person you are talking to? If not, will the owner be in person at the meeting. It is always safer if it is so.
How long has he owned a motorhome?
The longer, the more and more authentic the story you can get.
How many owners were there and in which states was it used?
How often was it used and where did it travel?
It is very important that RV is driven from time to time - the movement is life. If the RV has been sitting for a while then the materials dry out, deteriorate, rust.
Reason for sale?
Думаете о покупке автодома?
Мы занимаемся покупкой домов на колесах в США под ключ. Сможем купить, оформить и привезти в Россию, Украину, СНГ или Европу. Если хотите автодом для путешествий по Америке, то сможем приобрести и встретить вас в аэропорту США уже на вашем автодоме.
Let's get deep into details
Straight question: are there any issues?
Is there anything that needs to be repaired within next 10,000 miles?
Are there leaks now and were they in the past?
If so, where exactly and what damage got the RV? It is good idea to get pictures of damages spots.
When was the last roof resealed?
Do all amenities work inside the RV?
Is there a generator?
When did the tyres change? What is the condition of them right now?
A set of 6 tyres (on the rear axle of class C as two pairs of wheels) can cost $ 1200-1800, so if the tyres are more than 5-7 years old and the tread height leaves much to be desired, keep this numbers in mind.
Was the engine and gearbox replaced?
If not, when were the major repairs? If not, when was the last of those service and what was done on them?
Some more open-ended questions:
What else should I know about your motorhome before buying?

Will the owner be ok with the test drive and bring it to the closest mechanic?

If there are nothing to hide, sellers usually don't mind.

You can also ask to make a video review or video call, especially if you have to go far to watch.

Great features you would like to have with RV

Slide out

These are retractable walls which create additional space inside RV during. Appears on models from 2000 onwards. However, there are risky places for leaks.
Solar panels

A very useful thing - especially if you are traveling offgrid. Electricity is always with you.
Leftover

With a used RV you usually inherit a lot of useful stuff like camping tables and chairs, tools, hoses, extension cords, parts, and more.
What if you are not in the US?
Do you have friends in America? You can ask them to go see and buy.

Or you can contact us.
We will buy, register and meet you at the any US airport on your already own motorhome. We also send it to Europe or any other country.
Making an appointment
Find out if there is someone else who is going to see the RV in front of you. If you feel this is your option, offer to hold it up for you. Usually first come first served. Once we drove from Alabama to Arizona for three days with hoping to buy the RV, but two hours before arrival the owner sold it. At the same time, he honestly warned us that he would not hold it for us.

Therefore, it is important to make clear agreements, especially if you are traveling far. We mention that we are going with cash in hand and if everything is ok, then we will immediately buy it.
Inspection
Check outside
  • We go around the RV from all sides and look for bulges on the walls.
    If there any they are usually locating at the joints of the roof and walls. Better to look in sunny days. If there are large swellings, this means that water came inside the wall, then you need to check these spots from inside.

  • Check the seals on the angles
    It is important that it's solid and still flexible.

  • Get on the top of the roof
    In most cases you will face an EPDM type of roof. This means that on top of it lies a layer of thin rubber. It is important that the surface is flat, without bulging and waves. No holes, no cracks or tears. The edges must be sealed

  • Let's go inside the RV Look at the walls from the inside and those places that seemed to us swollen from the outside. We tap them and the walls near the ceiling around the perimeter. If, when tapping or pressing on the wall, you feel or hear a dry crackle, then there was water damage here. If the spot is small and there are no leaks now, then it is quite possible to live with it. But if you come across a soft or slightly damp place, consider that there is a leak and the decay process has started. This is not a good sign. It is worth assessing the scale of the problem in advance. In the same way, we check the inside of the roof.
Check the appliances
--
It is important that you have an electrical connection or the generator is running for testing.
Just turn appliances on in order.

- Refrigerator (from gas and electricity) if the check is turned off, then everything is ok. Wait 30 minutes until it's getting cold.
- A/C - turn on and wait half a minute until the hellish cold blows in.
- Stove - light the burners.
- The heater runs on gas, it also takes half a minute to blow out warm air.
- Microwave - everything is clear here.
- Water heater - you need to wait 20 minutes for hot water.
- Water pump - just turn on the water and you can hear the work of the pump.
- Generator - start up and enjoy the hum.
- If there is a slide, slide out and insert
- Solar Panels - Plug something into an outlet.
Moving on the chassis
  • Look under the car - check for traces of oil leaks on the engine and gearbox. If there are some - an alarming sign
  • Open the hood - check at the condition of the belts and pipes
  • Take out the engine oil dipstick - check the level and look at the transparency of the oil. Most likely it will be dark if it has not been changed for a long time. Apply on the nail, if the nail is visible, then the engine condition is within normal limits.
  • Take out the transmission probe - smell the liquid, if there is a burnt smell, then this is a bad sign.
  • Start the engine - listen to how smoothly the engine works.
  • Accelerate on neutral - turn on the headlights, air conditioning at full. Listen to how it works.
  • Checking the rest of the electrician - Windows, headlights, etc.
  • Start up and shut down few times
Let's hit the road. Test drive
It is advisable to test the RV in different modes.

- At first go slowly, trying to collect any bumps, listening to the suspension.
- Check the steering rack - make turns, turning the steering wheel completely.
- Check the traction and accelerate. It is important to find some uphill and see how the caravan gets into it.
- Check the functionality of the hand (foot) brake.
- Shift the transmission to modes 2 and 1. Check reverse gear.
- Find a highway and push the trigger. Let's see how the motorhome behaves at speed.
    Check it by professionals
    There are special certified RV inspectors available here or contact any RV service around.
    The average price for a motorhome inspection will be $ 250- $ 500 (house part only).
    Chassis and house together around $ 500- $ 800.
    You also can find a mechanic who will only check the chassis part within 1-2 hours. Hour rate, depending on the state could be $ 80- $ 120. But remember first come and bring cash first serve. The owner is unlikely agree go to a service for 30-50 km and waste a time if he has a couple of people on the phone who want to come.
    It is better to find a mechanic who come with you and inspect RV on the owner area.

    It is important to remember that you are buying a used mobile home and things may not be perfect here, so small imperfections are completely normal. And if the test is passed - congratulations, you have found a good option.
    At first glance, this whole venture may seem like a huge complexity, but this is literally as long as you do not rummage through the sites and chat with a couple of sellers.
    If you still do not want to get involved in this procedure, but you want to buy a motorhome, feel free to contact us. We will figure out how to do it for you as simply and quickly as possible.

    For details follow the link or write to the chat
    Want to try what a motorhome is? We do rent RVs all over the worls - details here.
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