5 Questions to Ask Before Buying a Used Camper

used camper parked during a sunset

There are many reasons why Americans consider buying a used camper: the dream to retire and live on the road, the appeal of inexpensive, mobile housing, or just the freedom to explore the great outdoors without depending on tents. Here are a few pointers and rules of thumb to help you find the right one.

1. Is a Used Camper Worth It?

A new RV can cost anywhere between US$10,000 and US$300,000 while used campers are generally less expensive. The trick is, buying a used camper is a lot like buying a used car. There are both great and sub-par options out there. Doing the legwork of researching and budgeting will help you get the best value for your money. Things like make, model, year, mileage, insurability, overall condition, and amenities will impact the price.

2. What to Look for When Buying a Used Camper?

If you want to purchase a motorhome to travel around the country in style or look for a trailer to make your home, it makes sense to pay more for the extra amenities. If go camping occasionally and already own a truck that can tow or fit a camper, travel trailers, pop-up, truck campers, or fifth-wheels are better.

Once you have an idea of what type of camper you want, schedule a pre-purchase inspection appointment with the seller. The golden rule is never to buy a used camper that you have not seen before unless you want to risk buying problems.

3. How Should You Inspect a Camper?

The easiest way to go about this is by hiring a certified RV inspector. Professional RV technicians can perform necessary and complex inspections required by banks, insurance, and warranty companies. A couple of hundred dollars spent on professional advice will save you headaches and paying extra for repairs. 

If you want to take your chances without an RV technician, try to bring along a friend who knows his/her way around campers and give you a useful opinion. On the other hand, if you decide to inspect campers on your own, there are a few things to consider. First of all, ask if it has any major repairs and check the camper’s documents to ensure the vehicle has received proper maintenance before inspecting it.

woman looking at a used camper with salesman

On the outside, look for cracks and signs of rust and rot in the camper’s chassis, roof and underbody. Pay special attention to cracks around windows and doors and to signs of leaks. According to Gordon White of TruckCamper, most campers and RVs are destroyed by poorly maintained seals. Remember to make sure that all exterior lighting, doors, and compartments work and look for damage in and around vents, towing equipment, and electrical, gas and water installations. As with any vehicle, check the state of the tires and suspension.

On the inside, follow your nose. Funny smells inside the camper might be a sign of mold, which means leaks in the water or drainage systems. Also, look for water damage in the roof, carpet, and furniture. 

4. When is the Best Time of Year to Buy a Camper?

The right timing can help you get better used trailers for your money. According to Aaron Richardson of RVing Know-How and Chris Coleman of RV Talk, mid-autumn and winter are the best time of year to buy a travel trailer. Most people will want to get rid of their RVs before winter to avoid paying upkeeping costs. RV sales also drop significantly around this time, so dealerships will offer better deals.

5. Can I Drive a Motorhome with a Car License?

It depends. A basic Class C driver’s license allows you to drive a housecar (motorhome) measuring 40 feet or less and tow a vehicle weighing 10,000 lbs or less. But the devil is in the details, so look through the weight and size specifications that California law prescribes. Bear in mind that the same amount of insurance liability coverage for cars applies to motorhomes, fifth-wheels, and other types of RVs to be road-worthy.

Protect your investment with a California motorhome insurance policy from Cost-U-Less. Start your free RV insurance quote online, over the phone, or by visiting one of our local offices.