Are you shopping around for an RV? It can be overwhelming between all the options, price ranges, and dealing with dealership sales reps. There is so much that goes into purchasing an RV because you have to think about layout, RV type, size, and most of all budget. When working within a specific budget, one of the best ways to get a good deal is to buy a used RV from a private party. Here’s our guide on how to do this properly.
Before you hand over any cash, these are the steps you’ll want to take first to ensure you’re getting the best (and safest!) deal.
Before you even go look at a used RV from a private party, make sure you do your research. There are tons of different rig options, and the more specific you can be, the better you can research appropriate pricing.
Usually, we recommend you try and narrow down the RV type you want as much as possible before looking at private party sales. Going to RV dealers and looking at their inventory (even if you don’t intend to buy from them) is a good way to figure this out.
The research process can be daunting and there is a lot you need to know especially if you are buying your first RV. To help new RV buyers, we created an entire course over on RV Masterclass called RV Buyers Bootcamp. We highly recommend taking this course if you’ve never bought an RV before.
Once you have it narrowed down, you can do research on the particular models you are looking at. Type the particular model name into search engines, then read forums to get people’s real world experience with it. Try and figure out what the common problems are. That way, when you go look at the RV, you can look for these problems and ask about them. In your research, also try and get an idea of what a reasonable selling price is for the vehicle.
The next step is to find that RV. When searching for a used RV from a private party, you might have to be a little more patient or clever to find the perfect one. The best way to find private party sales is on the internet.
There are many sites online where people post RVs for sale, and you’re going to want to check them all. Some of them are Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, RV Trader, and RVT.com. There are also online forums for particular brands and rig types, so be sure to check those, too.
Always start with a search radius nearby, but consider that the best deal might be further away. Slowly widen your search until you find what you are looking for, then decide if it’s worth going to get it. We personally have traveled thousands of miles for the perfect vehicle and saved a lot of money doing it.
When looking for the right RV, patience is required. It can sometimes take months to find the right RV from a private seller, and you may need to see the rig in person to decide if it’s the right one. Pictures can be deceiving, so going to see a few different ones will give you a better perspective on the shape they are in.
After narrowing your search, make sure to ask the seller lots of questions. No question is off the table. This is important because you want to see if there is a willingness from the seller to communicate. Do they seem like they are being honest or do they seem to get frustrated with you? These are signs to help you get a feeling for their character and how they took care of the RV.
If possible, ask lots of questions before going to see it as you might learn that it’s not even worth your time.
If you’re feeling good about an RV, take the next step to make sure it has a clean title. You want all the records to look good and make sure it hasn’t been in any accidents.
If you are buying a drivable motorhome that has a VIN number, using a service like RVChex is a great way to check its history. It will not always include detailed information about the interior “home” space of the motorhome, but will give you an idea of any public records about the drivetrain.
Unfortunately, there is no service like this for trailers, so you will have to do your own due diligence. Also, see if the owner has a loan on the vehicle. Maybe they are behind on their payments, and it’s about to be possessed by the bank. You will want to make sure there is a clean break so you can transfer the title without a problem.
Before buying the RV from a private party, always get a professional inspection. Unless you are an expert RVer with extensive knowledge, a trained RV inspector will be able to take a close look at all the systems. They will go through with their checklist and make sure they catch anything that could be a potential red flag.
RV inspectors can be found by running we searches in your local area but we recommend that you use a NRVIA certified instructor if possible. You can find a list of their inspectors on their site. https://nrvia.org/locate/
Many RV inspectors will offer services like oil analysis of engine and transmission oils for motorhomes that are not something most people will look at. It’s just like a home inspection, where they deep dive into everything.
Do remember that it is the inspector’s job to inspect everything to help you make an informed decision. Just because they find something wrong, however, doesn’t mean it’s not the right RV for you. Nothing will ever be perfect – even on brand new rigs. Something will always break eventually. So you have to decide if the problem is ultimately a deal-breaker or not.
After the inspection, negotiate, negotiate, negotiate!
Even if the RV is absolutely perfect and spotless, always negotiate! It doesn’t matter if you’re at a dealership or buying used with a private party, you may be able to talk them into a better deal. If they say no, then walk away and see if they come running after you. If not and you still really want that RV and are okay with the asking price, then give it a few hours and say you’ll take it.
When finalizing a deal, always make sure you take care of these few things to protect yourself.
Always draft a bill of sale. This doesn’t have to be notarized or made by a lawyer (unless required by the State you are purchasing in). Just make sure you have it in writing and signed by both parties and dated.
The bill of sale should have a short description of what is being sold, for how much, to whom, and how it was paid for. This will act as your receipt to prove the transaction happened. Also, make sure to keep a record of any funds that are transferred.
It is best to pay in cash or with a cashier’s check with a private party, but if you need to get a loan, make sure to work with your bank. There will be specific things the bank will need, so be sure to provide all necessary information and documentation. Otherwise, you may get turned down.
You may not have as many financing options (like dealer financing) when going through a private party, so keep this in mind.
Now that everything is done, all you need to do is exchange the title and get the keys. When doing this, make sure you both exchange information such as your addresses and phone numbers. Make sure the seller fills out the title correctly and take pictures of everything for reference if needed later.
After you purchase your RV, call your insurance company and get the RV added ASAP.
Make sure you let them know that it’s an RV and tell them its intended use. Some insurance companies have to file it a certain way depending on how you plan to use the rig. Full-time use of an RV will be treated differently than one that is only used a couple times per year.
It can be stressful buying an RV, especially a used rig from a private party. It’s more than just a vehicle, it’s a house on wheels. Because of this, there is more to inspect and think about. But if done correctly, the reward is amazing. All the stress that came with buying your RV will melt away in your rearview mirror as you embark on your first adventure.
Lastly, try not to get too upset when something breaks and you think to yourself, “I just purchased a lemon.” You did your due diligence. And it doesn’t matter if it’s brand new or used, something will break, and that is normal. Keep a positive attitude, fix it, and keep trekking on!
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