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7 Things You Should Know Before Buying an Old Motorhome


If you’re thinking about buying an old motorhome, you’re in the right place. There’s a lot to consider when buying an old RV, but with the right research and planning, it can truly be a great investment.

There are benefits and downsides to purchasing an older RV. In this article, we’ll touch on the upsides and downsides. Then, we’ll lay out our top tips for buying an old motorhome to protect you in the buying process and throughout your RV ownership. Let’s get started!

1. Old Motorhomes Cost a Lot Less Than New Motorhomes

One of the main benefits of purchasing an old RV compared to a newer model is how much you’ll save on your purchase.

RVs depreciate a lot in their first few years even if they’re kept in pristine condition. So, whether you’re buying an RV that’s just a few years old or a model that was made a decade (or longer) ago, you’re going to save a nice chunk of change.

2. They May Require More Repairs and Maintenance

Just like purchasing any older model vehicle, used RVs and old motorhomes will very likely require more repairs and maintenance.

When buying any used or old RV, you should plan and budget for a few repairs and maintenance items immediately to get the RV road-ready. This may be things like cleaning, tank maintenance, or new tires.

And depending on the age and condition of the RV and how well it was taken care of, you may need more repairs and maintenance during your RV ownership than if you purchased a new model.

There are a few things you can look out for when doing your used RV shopping to help avoid an RV that will require a lot of ongoing work that we’ll cover in the following sections.

3. Old RVs Can Harbor Hidden Water Damage

old motorhome interior

One of the biggest issues with old motorhomes and old RVs, in general, is water damage.

Water can find its way into just about anything, and when it gets into an old RV it can cause some serious damage and problems.

While newer RVs are made with water-damage-resistant composite materials like Azdel walls and aluminum framing, many old RVs are made from wood. Older RVs have wood framing, wood walls, wood ceilings, and wood flooring.

And when wood gets wet and sits for an extended period of time, it rots, molds, and loses structural integrity.

Since RVs are constantly on the move and constantly exposed to the elements, water finds any crack or tear in the exterior and works its way in. Here are the most common signs that an RV has water damage and where to look.

Where to Look for Water Damage in an Old Motorhome

Water from rain and melting snow typically find its way into an old RV through a small tear in the roof membrane along seams, near exterior mounted appliances and vents like the AC or the fridge vent, and around windows.

Interior water leaks in the RV plumbing can also cause water damage in the walls and floor.

Here are the most common places to look inside and outside of an old RV for water damage.

  • Press on the ceiling around appliances like the AC units and roof vent fans. If the ceiling feels soft, there’s a good chance that a leak has compromised the integrity of the wood. Additionally, if you see discoloration, this could be a sign that a leak has occurred at some point.
  • Press on walls around and under windows and feel the strength of the floor beneath the windows. If there is any give in the walls or if the floor feels soft and spongy, it’s likely water damage.
  • Check around internal plumbing like under the sinks, in front of the sink and shower, and around the toilet. If the floor feels soft, it may need to be replaced.
  • Class C RVs are particularly prone to leaks in the cabover area. Feel the ceiling and walls in all areas of the cabover, especially along the corner seams and windows.
  • Look for exterior signs of water damage in the sidewall material like rippling or bubbling. Bumps or bubbling in the sidewall is called delamination. Delamination can be a sign that water has leaked between the sidewall and interior wall material and caused it to separate.

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7 Things You Should Know Before Buying an Old Motorhome 1
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4. What To Know About Insuring an Older Motorhome

Insuring a used RV is similar to insuring a new RV or your regular vehicle unless your RV is old enough to be considered vintage. There are different types of insurance you can get for your RV besides standard liability coverage.

When insuring an old motorhome, you'll typically get a cheaper policy than if you were insuring a new RV. However, you want to be sure that the actual value of your RV is covered, plus any upgrades you've made and your personal belongings inside the RV.

To learn more about insuring RVs and things to look out for to make sure you're properly covered, check out our article 7 Things You Need to Know About RV Insurance.

5. Well Cared For Motorhomes Can Be A Great Deal

old motorhome camping on beach

Used motorhomes can be a great deal - especially if they’ve been well taken care of by the previous owner.

It takes a bit of time and research to find the “diamond in the rough” motorhomes that have been meticulously maintained, but they do exist!

You can find great deals on used motorhomes on sites like RVTrader and RVT, but you can also find them browsing sites like Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist.

Note: if you search for RVs for sale on free marketplaces like Facebook or Craigslist, educate yourself on common scams before interacting with any seller. Marketplaces that are free for sellers to create listings have a lot of scam listings, so be extremely cautious.

6. Prepare to Pay Cash - Financing an Old RV Can Be Difficult

If the RV you want to purchase is older than 10 to 15 years old, it will be difficult to get it financed. Most lenders won’t finance an RV older than 10 to 15 years due to depreciation and other reasons.

Luckily, older RVs cost a lot less than new RVs. However, if you know that you need financing, keep your used RV search to RVs that are 10 years old or newer for the best chance of securing a loan.

7. Old Motorhomes Typically Won’t Have a “Shakedown Period”

Last but not least, a huge benefit of buying a used or old RV is the fact that there won’t be the same type of shakedown period as if it were a new unit.

The shakedown period is the period of time - a couple of weeks to a month, depending on how often you camp - where an owner takes a new RV out to test all of the systems and construction.

New RVs that just rolled off the assembly line often have little imperfections or things that will need replacing or repairing - that’s just the nature of RVs.

But if you opt for a used or older RV, you can rest assured that the previous owners have (hopefully) taken care of all the issues that came up during their shakedown period.

Even better - old RVs may have upgrades, additions, and customizations from the previous owners that you wouldn’t find on a new RV.

Is Buying an Older RV Worth It?

old class c rv in mountains

If you want to save money on your RV purchase and don’t mind the quirks that can come with older RVs, an old RV is definitely worth it. With research, planning, and proper RV inspection, you can get a great deal on a used RV that will last you for years to come.

5 Tips for Buying an Older RV

Ready to buy an old motorhome? Here are some tips to find the best rig and keep yourself safe in the purchasing process.

1. Watch Out for RV Sale Scams

First things first: watch out for RV sale scams. If you’re buying an old RV from a dealership or through RVTrader or a similar listing website where the seller has to pay a fee to list, you’re generally in the clear.

However, if you find a used RV on a free website like Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, or sellers' apps, be keenly aware of scammers. Here are some tactics scammers use for RV sales:

  • A price well below market value for a gently used RV
  • Only one picture on the listing
  • An email address that has random numbers and letters, sometimes the email address is overlaid on the photo of the RV
  • Photos with blurry marks - this could be dealer logos that have been obscured by a scammer
  • Asking to communicate via WhatsApp or anything other than in-person or on the phone
  • Asks for a deposit before seeing the RV to hold it for you - NEVER send money before seeing the RV
  • Tells you the RV is in a warehouse (sometimes an eBay warehouse) and they will ship it to you to try for a trial period before you buy it
  • Gives you a location for the RV so you can go walk around and look in the windows, but doesn’t have keys to let you inside.
  • Anything that feels fishy at all - trust your gut instinct.

If you’re interacting with an individual from the internet for a used RV sale, always try to do your research. Ask for additional photos of the RV, video, and to chat with them on the phone. If anything feels off, move on and find another RV.

2. Hire A Certified RV Inspector Before Buying

Anyone purchasing any used RV should hire a certified 3rd party inspector to look over the RV with a fine-toothed comb.

A certified inspector will look at many aspects of the RV and spend a few hours with it before giving you a detailed, multi-page report on the condition of the RV.

Hiring an inspector can help you avoid purchasing an RV that will be expensive to repair down the road, and it can also help give you a good idea of what repairs you may need to tackle once you take ownership.

You can find certified RV inspectors in your area through the National RV Inspectors Association website.

3. Learn How to Do Your Own RV Maintenance and Simple Repairs

Let’s face it: all RVs require maintenance and small repairs. That’s just the nature of driving a several thousand pound “home on wheels” down the road!

Things come loose, things break, and things need sealing up. You’ll save yourself hundreds - if not thousands - of dollars if you learn to do your own RV maintenance and simple RV repairs.

RVing turns a lot of people into DIYers and for good reason!

Our online RV Foundations course from our RVers Online University teaches you RV operations, safety, and maintenance so you can protect your investment anywhere the road takes you.

4. Sign Up for RV Roadside Assistance in Case of Break Downs

An RV roadside assistance plan is a good idea for any RVer - whether your RV is new or used - to protect you in case of a breakdown.

Escapees offers a comprehensive RV roadside assistance plan that covers you in the event of a breakdown, provides towing, tire changes, mobile mechanics, jumpstarts, hotel and rental car discounts, and much more - for your RV and your tow vehicle!

Learn about Escapees RV Roadside Assistance here.

5. An Extended Warranty Is a Great Investment

An extended RV warranty is a warranty for different components of your RV past the manufacturer's warranty date or mileage.

Types of extended warranty coverages can cover the powertrain, the coach itself, listed components, and more.

According to Jeff Shelton, owner of Wholesale Warranties:

“Most online providers will be able to offer their coverage for motorhomes as far back as 20 model years old with less than 125,000 miles on the odometer.”

So if you’re purchasing an old motorhome that’s less than 20 years old and has less than 125k miles - you’re in luck if you want an extended warranty.

Learn more about RV extended warranties in this article.

Is An Old Motorhome Right For You?

With research, planning, and RV inspection, an old motorhome can be a great investment.

Many people advise against buying a brand new motorhome for many reasons: the shakedown period, depreciation, up-front costs, and more.

Old motorhomes cost less, can be found in great condition, and can still be covered by roadside assistance and extended warranty plans.

If you do your due diligence, buying an old RV can be a great choice and one that you’ll enjoy for many years and miles down the road.

Learn More About What To Look for When RV Shopping, RV Preventive Maintenance, and Much More with our RVers Online University Courses!

Visit RVers Online University today to learn more about RV preventative maintenance, RV safety, RV shopping, going Full-Time in an RV, and so much more!

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7 Things You Should Know Before Buying an Old Motorhome 2

19 Responses

    1. I’ve owner 3 different rv’s and founded the best-selling is to check plumbing first then electrical. When checkung plumbing verify the “BLACK TANK” IS NOT OBSTRUCTED,or partially used with hard dried residue. TIRES should be inspected for WEAR DATES located on sidewalls. If air ride check air bags for wear, you’ll most likely want a new mattress. Hopefully this helps.

  1. Great information. Almost experienced the eBay warehouse scam today. It just didn’t feel right so we moved on. Now that I’ve read this article I’m glad we didn’t fall for the scam. Thanks for the great assistance.

  2. Certified inspectors charge $600.
    Ask “What was the last thing you had worked on & what is the next thing that I will need to work on?”
    Has the roof ever leaked?
    Shop around for insurance.

  3. You are not welcome at very many RV parks with hook ups. I wish I would had known this about older RV’s before buying our 1989 P30 Winnebago. It only had 44,000 miles on it, it was in a police impound for 5 years. So it needed some cleaning but it was like new beyond that. But I had no idea that most places won’t take RV’s 10 years and older. They are usually turned away when you try and book. Some wait till you get there before asking anything more than how long your motorhome is, then say nope when you get there. Always call before you book anything! You didn’t cover this part. Beyond that good article.

    1. We’re sorry to hear about your experiences! Fortunately, there are plenty of parks that may have that rule but are happy to make an exception for an RV that is in great working condition with a clean, well-maintained exterior, even if it’s technically older than their rule states. It helps to have exterior photos handy via email or text message that you can send ahead of time.

  4. B.B is on spot ! There are many places that are prejudice towards older or classic motorhomes/rvs
    I hope that it changes !
    People living in them and leaving them has done no justice to us classic rv owners .just because we own older rvs doesn’t mean we can’t afford or we are poor ! saying that , there are many people like myself that are old school and believe that the older stuff was built with love and built so much better ! when I purchase a older RV I totally go through it and remodel and update/modernize everything. There are many people that do the same as it’s WAY CHEAPER then paying the price in todays market and quality of work back then was solid !
    I have remodeled quite a few classics and have been turned down from private camp places or storage units until they have seen in person or photos and then they’ve changed their tune .
    We live a world of judging the book by its cover or quick to judge and that has to stop ! I know it’s tough at times but it’s their loss not ours !
    Today’s society SUCKS !

    1. Craig, we’re being gifted a motor home and I have no clue where to start with remodeling it. My husband is a retired Gen Contractor (new homes) but he is NOT a finish guy. (The final detailing). Is refurbishing a motorhome the same as a house remodel??

  5. I have been reading everything I can on 1988 40 ft RVs of any kind cuz I’m not sure what I’m getting my girlfriend is selling me for $1,500 her RV a friend of hers lived in it for 6 years in her backyard it does not run yet however I had a massive flood in my house black water flood from the sewer system so I’m losing two bathrooms I only have two my bedroom and two other bedrooms plus a hallway of everything so so pretty much my whole back end of my house is going to be demolished and I have really no place to go so she offered me this and I’m hoping that it’s as nice as she says it is she says it’s really nice so I’m looking forward to seeing it in the next few days cuz living in a house with mold is just not fun I have three children 16 8 and 9 they are not in the house with me because my insurance company did not pay for anything except enough for me to get the problem with the outside sewer system taking care of on my property so I will never have this happen again I’m pretty much on my own so I feel pretty grateful that somebody came along and said I have a home for you and so whatever and maybe someday I can get it running and find somebody to redo it I’ve been very interested in reading all the different things the warnings and the positive the negatives pros and cons I guess so I’m going to remember those and I’m going to go over my new little house coming in this week from top to bottom I am going to contact an inspector for RVs immediately this week.
    So even though I don’t know what it is I’m really looking forward to seeing it and hoping that it’s one of those that’s got metal all over it still I’m praying that it’s not all good although lately my luck hasn’t been that great LOL but thank you for allowing me to share this and I am looking forward to getting it checked cuz someday if it is still in great shape overall I will get it running and try my hand at being a little bit.

  6. We are in stage 1 of buying a 2004 used Beaver Marquis. We have RVed over 30 years so pretty much know the good, the bad and the ugly. We have owned 2 fifth wheels, 3 motor homes and a pull trailer. This project will be a restoration of an oldie but goodie. We are senior citizens and then some, but there are issues we feel competent we can do and there will be things, like paint work, that we will hire out. Stay tuned!

  7. I too talked to a lady today that told me Ebay would deliver in 3 days and I could live in the RV for a month before making my mind up on buying. I don’t deal with Ebay because the finance company is PayPal. PayPal will not help you if you buy something. I was scammed of almost $2,000 right out of my checking account!!!
    When you find a decent RV or motor home you best snatch it while you can. They go fast.,

  8. I just bought a 1997 coachman santara. Redid the interior everything works perfect but the outside is ugly. I live in Baltimore county and need to figure where to take this thing to get the exterior looking good

    1. Hello Bryan, great job on the interior! It must have been hard work! The exterior should be taken care of by someone who knows what to do with the kind of material the exterior is made out of. If fiberglass, then someone who specializes in that. If aluminum, a different specialist would need to be called. We don’t have recommendations for specific places around the country so getting online in your area to search where to go is going to be your best bet. Or, you can ask in any RV groups on Facebook to see if they have someone specific to your area. Good luck!

  9. Thankyou for giving me heads up on things to know before buying a older motor home, I to am old school and believe that nothing gets better these Days with age,but Jesus’s Love in our Hearts!!

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