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7 Things You Should Know Before Buying an Old Motorhome

old motorhomes on a sales lot

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 it’s 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 finds 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 for 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.

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 in side 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 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 year and miles down the road. 

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