What to Look for When Buying a Used RV or Travel Trailer

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Last Updated on November 13, 2020 by Ted Mosby

Over the years, I have been asked by people, “what to look for when buying a used RV or travel trailer?” So, I’ve decided to write this comprehensive post to help folks out.

Buying a used RV or travel trailer is a great way to get the rig without spending a significant amount of dollars on a brand new travel trailer. Just like with brand new cars, brand new travel trailers considerably depreciates as soon as you drive them off the sales lot.

When you are buying a used travel trailer, it is like you are gambling. If you win, you will win big. But, there is a chance of losing as well. However, with just a bit of homework and patience, you can increase your winning chances. So, when buying a used RV or travel trailer, you should be careful.

What to Look for When Buying a Used RV?

If you are considering buying an old RV or travel trailer, it is critical to know what to look for, so you don’t end up buying a lemon. Below, I’ve outlined some helpful tips that will help you to understand what to look for when buying a used RV or travel trailer.

So, let’s get started!

What to Look for When Buying a Used RV or Travel Trailer?

1. Don’t Ever Buy a Used RV That You Can’t Get to See

RV Walkthrough

When you’re looking to buy a second-hand RV/travel trailer, do not make the transaction if you cannot get to see it. If the vehicle owner doesn’t want to let you take a detailed walkthrough, the best step you should take is to walk away.

You might find it a great deal, but without taking a closer look, you will never be sure if you are getting a rig that you want or just a lemon.

2. Inspect the RV Roof

RV Roof Damage

If you have found a used RV that is in front of your eyes and you can take a closer look at it, the very first and most crucial pre-sale inspection you should make is to inspect its roof. A leaky travel trailer or RV roof can cause costly damage, often invisible. Moreover, rots inside the RV walls can also weaken the entire structure, while the hidden mold will cause health issues.

Both a leaky roof and rots inside the walls are pretty expensive and time-consuming problems. If you are not sure and don’t feel comfortable to inspect the roof, hire someone who can do this for you.

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When examining the RV or travel trailer roof, make sure to check,

  • Inspect the cracks in the seams and joints. Also, inspect roofing material, such as rips, tears, and worn spots.
  • Inspect the sealant and caulking state. Pay attention to determine if it looks dried out or old. Moreover, also observe where the water creates a pool. Be extra careful when inspecting the front and back seams.
  • Pull off the vent cover and take a closer look at the seams underneath.
  • Make sure the gutters are working correctly and pay close attention to hear drips inside the vehicle.
  • Pull the fridge vent and waste tank covers. Use a flashlight for the inspection of vents to see if there are any clogs.
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3. Inspect Windows and Doors

Similar to the roof inspection, check all the sealants and seams of both windows and roof. Ensure that the gasket seals and bug screens are looking good. Spray high-pressure water inside to check if there is any internal leakage. If the windows are covered with films, inspect cracks and delamination.

Once you have inspected the windows, inspect the entrance doors, cabinets, and drawers. Pay attention to see if any hardware is missing, damaged, or has loose screws. Ensure that the locks and latches are working correctly.

4. Inspect the Exterior Walls

The third portion to take a look at after you have inspected the windows and doors is the travel trailer or RV exterior walls. Walk around the RV to inspect if the walls have any cracks, bubbles or bulges, or delamination. Moreover, also make sure that the decals are in good shape. Pay close attention to all the seams to ensure the entire sealing and caulking are in good condition and have no cracks or peeling.

Also, look for loose molding and mounting screws. Ensure that the exterior walls are square and true. If you see a wall that looks wacky or has cracks, it means the frame underlying it is damaged.

5. Inspect the Entire Electrical System

Once you have examined the exterior of the used RV or travel trailer, it’s time to look at its electrical system. The first point to inspect is the power distribution panel. Take a closer look at each AC breaker to make sure they feel stiffed when switching. Run the circuits and check if any of them is producing excessive heat. When inspecting the 12V DC circuits, ensure that they don’t have any damaged fuse.

  • Inspect the Lighting

Now inspect the lighting. Ensure that each fixture is in working order. Pull off the covers to make sure the bulbs look good, and the plastic holders and metal connectors don’t have any indication of overheating. Also, take a look at storage and exterior lighting.

  • Inspect the AC Outlets and Power Cords

For AC outlets and power cords, take a closer look at the main power cord and inspect the metal plug prongs as well. Ensure that there is no arc damage. Having a circuit tester is handy to walk around to inspect all the outlets of the AC. Make sure to check the outside outlets as well.

  • Inspect Battery Bank

Now, look for the battery bank (usually located in the vented boxy). Pay attention to see if there is any corrosion on the connectors. Make sure the wires are properly working and have no sign of overheating. Use a multimeter to investigate if the voltage measurement is between 12.6 to 12.8V when disconnected.

Use a hydrometer to get an accurate state charge of lead-acid battery cells. Also, check the date code on the labels of the battery. If it is older than six years, there is not much life left in it.

  • Inspect AC, Vents, and Fans

Take the AC covers off. Look for any water leakage from the roof gasket. Make sure the filter is in good shape. If you see a gummed filter, it means the AC has never had the maintenance. On the outside, check the condenser and evaporator to see if there is any damage or have any clogs due to the debris. Pay attention to the wiring, fan, and electrical connectors. Check if the fan is freely spinning.

Turn on the AC and run it for at least 10 to 15 minutes. Use an IR thermometer to measure the ins and outgoing temperatures. If it is between 18 to 22 degrees, it is normal. Moreover, also check the exhaust vent fans. Ensure there are bug screens installed, and they are in good shape.

6. Inspect Awning, Slide Outs, and Jacks

Patio Style Awnings RV

When inspecting awnings, slide outs, and jacks, run all of them in their full potential. Make all of them are moving freely without any squeaks and clunks. Check the rubber seals of the slide outs and the awnings material to ensure it is in good condition and has no wear and damage. Check all the mechanical parts to see if there is any damage, rust, or corrosion.

7. Inspect Plumbing System

Another critical part of looking for when buying a used RV or travel trailer is its plumbing system. Make sure to thoroughly check water holding tanks, water pump, water heater, and toilet and plumbing fixtures.

  • Inspect Water Holding Tanks

Check the city water hookup and fill the tanks with water and take the RV for a drive. Check if there are any leaks beneath the RV. Dump the waste tank to see if it has a good flow.

  • Inspect Water Pump

Now, check the 12V water pump to see the wiring and hoses condition. Check its smooth operation and leaks by running it. Make sure to check if it is supplying a consistent stream to each faucet.

  • Insect the Water Heater

While checking the water heater, open both exterior and interior access panels to check plumbing and wiring. Fire up the gas to see if the burner flame is up to the mark. Now, turn off the gas and turn on the electricity. Wait until the water come to its full temperature and then run the taps to test heating and clarity.

  • Inspect the Toilet Plumbing

Turn on and off faucets to check the flow and leaks. Also, check if the drains are working properly. Look around to see if there’re any leaks signs.

8. Inspect the Kitchen

You should also look for a kitchen when buying a used RV or travel trailer. Check all the appliances to see if they are in good condition. If there is one, fire up the LP gas stove to check each stove burner is working. Also, check the oven to test adequate heat by using an oven thermometer.

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Moreover, also check the refrigerator in both gas and electric mode. Again, use an IR thermometer to check the cooling in the fridge and freezer. Check the drain hose condition. Make sure the auto switches over are properly working. When there is no electricity, you will hear a sparking noise, and a tiny blue flame will be visible to you in the burner area.

9. Inspect the Axles and Suspension Components

Once everything is clear on the outside and inside the RV, don’t forget to check the undercarriage of a used RV or travel trailer. Crawl under the trailer and inspect the axles and suspension components. Check if there are any broken parts or any corrosion. Also, inspect the underbelly cover condition. Have a look at tires. Using the DOT code, you can find the age of the tires. If they are older than seven years, they need a replacement.

Final Thoughts

What to look for when buying a used RV or travel trailer? I have answered this question in detail. Make sure to pay attention to the hidden areas of a used RV, which most sellers overlook when cleaning up. For instance, sink drains, roof, furnace vents, and behind access panels – if these areas are in good shape, it is safe to say the RV has not seen excessive use and is in good condition. When buying a used RV, the final tip is to take your time to do a thorough inspection of the vehicle you are going to buy. By following the above instructions, you will end up getting a travel trailer that will bring you excitement and pleasure. Good Luck


Is it a good idea to buy a used RV or travel trailer?

Buying a used RV or travel trailer is certainly a great idea for those on a budget. You can get your favorite rig without spending much. However, when buying a used RV, make sure to buy it from a reliable reseller, especially if this is your first time to invest in a travel trailer. Also, make sure to take a thorough look at the entire RV before making a transaction.

How to check roof leaks when buying a used RV?

When buying a used RV or travel trailer, check the roof for leakage. In this regard, inspect if there are any cracks in the seams and joints.

About Ted Mosby

I am Ted Mosby from Cleveland, Ohio. I am a Freelance Architect. I live in New Jersey, USA right now and I take my RV every alternate weekend. I own a Forest River Berkshire XLT Diesel 45A Class A Motorhome. As I am a Freelancer I can work anywhere so most of my work is done inside my camper remotely.