youtubeI grew up camping with my parents, and we eventually graduated from tent, to tent trailer, to motorhome. My mother believes I truly caught the RV bug when my father took a sabbatical and we headed off on a six-month trip around North America in a 23’ Winnebago Indian. We eventually downsized to a Class B van, in which I took several road trips as a teenager.


Old Winnebago Motorcoach

Those were such great memories, so as an adult I have always owned motorhomes. While I have mostly purchased large diesel pusher RVs, I have owned every class of motorhome. All the RVs we have owned have carried my family not just on long annual vacations, mostly down to California, but also on countless short road trips throughout Washington and Oregon. A few months ago, I wrote about just a few of those adventures. But this article isn’t about my family adventures, it is about somebody else’s.


Class B Fun

Just before the pandemic hit, I posted my RV for rent and was contacted by a genuinely nice family who had never travelled by RV before. They spent several hours checking out every inch of my unit and were very excited about their upcoming rental. But I never heard back from them, so I decided to reach out to the husband. He told me they decided to purchase their own used RV so they could jump in with both feet. The wife was hesitant, as she was the one who suggested they rent first, just to make sure. However, in the end the husband prevailed. When I asked him why they didn’t rent my RV first he told me he thought it was just a little too big to comfortably drive, and the family had decided to just buy one. He explained his motorhome was a 1996 Newmar that they purchased privately. It is a bit shorter than mine, and definitely older, but the family was very excited to have it.


Motorhome

I didn’t think much about it until recently, when I decided to follow-up to see how he was doing with his coach. He responded that despite knowing it had “a few minor issues” when he purchased it, he subsequently experienced a myriad of problems with the coach. Some of these problems are as follows: no dash AC (which is a real shame, since he’s heading into the Okanagan very shortly – the hottest place in Canada), front brakes need replacing, leaky kitchen and bathroom faucets, range needs replacing, missing awning, leaky city water, toilet, and water pump, needs new tires, and the pin is stuck in the receiver hitch. While most of these issues are indeed minor, they spent over $5,000 getting them fixed, and some of them aren’t fixed properly.


Not getting the RV checked out before purchasing can cost thousands of dollars

The gentleman knows I am an RV Technician, but they purchased this RV on a whim, without consulting me or another expert. He drove many hours to pick up the RV, and identified a few issues on the way home, but it took a real shakedown trip to identify several more. It is likely they will discover more as they continue to use the coach. While the investment they have made in repairs so far does not deter from the value of the unit, some RV families become discouraged as they encounter problems with their coaches and pour money into them.

If you are considering buying a used RV, I highly recommend having it professionally inspected first. Most private sellers with nothing to hide have no problem with this, and for those that do, stay far away from their RV.  I recommend purchasing from a dealer whenever possible. They tend to be reputable enough to sell units in good condition, and in fact are required by law to disclose major issues. Dealers repair significant deficiencies on RVs they sell on their lots and send the ones not worth fixing to wholesalers. Never purchase an RV sight unseen, although it is OK to make a conditional deal. Offer to provide a refundable deposit, which is normal practice for dealerships.

Even if he did ask me to check out his potential ride, I could not have made the 8-hour trip up north to view the unit with this gentleman, who has since become my friend. But as an RV professional, I likely would have given him more questions to ask and things to check. He has not revealed to me whether the coach has any water damage or delamination, but this is something I will be checking for him. I have offered to help him address the issues on his coach, and I suspect I will find more as I crawl around it. If you don’t have the required knowledge to evaluate RV condition, some dealerships provide this service. Also, don’t be afraid to google a mobile tech in your area (preferably one with references) and ask them if they offer inspection services. It will cost money, but in the end having peace of mind is well worth it. Arrange to view a number of RVs with the technician.

RV travel is a great lifestyle, but it’s hard to enjoy in a coach that has defects. Take my advice and have your next RV properly inspected prior to purchase. If it’s used, it will likely have some issues, but you will know what you are faced with going in. Also, remember to keep your coach maintained after you purchase it. Too many RV owners neglect to have annual maintenance performed, which results in major headaches down the road. Don’t fall into that trap.

Happy RVing!

Questions? Comments? Please add your thoughts below.

Steve Froese
Author: Steve FroeseEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Steve Froese is a Licensed Professional Engineer in British Columbia, as well as an Interprovincial Red Seal RV Technician, which is equivalent to a Master Certified RV Technician in the USA. Steve was a personal friend and colleague of the late Gary Bunzer (“the RV Doctor”), and works closely with FMCA as the monthly “Tech Talk” columnist, as well as being a member of the Technical Advisory and Education Committees. Steve and his family are lifelong and avid RVers, mostly in the Pacific Northwest.

Comments   

0 #6 Steve 2021-09-07 01:43
Quoting Tom Wagner:
And the moral of the story; listen to your intuition, especially your wife's intuition!

What is the best way to find maintenance and storage facilities for RV's? I don't own one, but will purchase one soon. Also, why is it nobody, especially salespeople, like to tell what the annual costs of ownership of an RV is. Even some ballpark figures would help me decide to know what cashflow I'd need to sustain a purchased RV. Even trying to figure out the annual registration cost here in Washington state seems difficult on the government website.

Hi Tom, you asked some very good questions! Reputable RV mechanical service facilities can be hard to find, and once you find one, hold onto it. If you have a travel trailer, Find a good RV dealership, which could be your selling dealership, as the best place to have a trailer serviced is an RV service center. In the case of a diesel motorhome, I recommend a good heavy duty truck shop. For gas motorhomes, it's difficult to find mechanics that can accommodate large units, and those that can aren't always reputable. It is often a good idea to locate the dealership that matches your chassis manufacturer, then identify the location that works on trucks. In any case, it's buyer beware, so do your homework.
In regards to cost of ownership, this is a very tough question to answer, as it has many variables. For instance, there is the initial cost of the RV, which varies greatly, and the condition of the RV will dictate how much the annual maintenance costs will be. The best advice I can give is to have the potential RVs you want to evaluate for purchase professionally inspected, and learn to perform your own maintenance. This will help keep ownership costs down, but don't skip annual maintenance for cost reasons, as that will backfire on you for sure! Put away as much money each month as you can to cover maintenance and unexpected repairs. I can't provide more help in this forum
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0 #5 Steve 2021-09-07 01:24
Quoting Doug and Cathy Brand:
Another thing to verify BEFORE purchase (or at time of purchase) is that the holding tanks are empty. We know of two people who discovered (the hard way) that the black water tanks contained the previous owner's bodily wastes. In one case the tank was clogged and it was a nightmare! Buyers Beware, indeed.

Thanks Doug, this is GREAT advice! As a matter of fact, this can happen from time-to-time with used dealership units as well. It can be difficult to know if the holding tanks have been emptied on used units, especially if the monitor panel is not working properly (which is common). I recommend new owners research where nearby dump stations are and make a dump station their first stop after purchasing the RV and during the first shakedown trip. Believe me, it's very handy to know where the dump stations in your home area are.
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0 #4 Steve 2021-09-07 01:17
Quoting Linda Clauson:
Hi Steve, good article indeed!
I’ve not RV’d much at all but I dream of doing one day, just sell my home, store my stuff and experience this country & enjoy the adventures that await. So, my goal is to start in a couple years and I’ll be in my mid seventies by then, a single gal but still full of life, but I Ed direction on what’s a good class B van to buy, or should I rent for a bit first and how do I learn all the stuff I need to know to operate the thing?
Lots more questions but maybe you can start here.
Thanks!
I live in the Seattle area and want to see so much more of the PNW.

Hi Linda, I'm glad you enjoyed the article. I generally recommend that new RVers rent first. There are many reasons, including verifying that a Class B is the right RV type for you (I would tend to agree with that). But you might find it doesn't afford quite enough space for full-timing. In this case a small to mid Class C might be better. Also learning more about the RV and the lifestyle is a great reason to rent. Good luck with your RV plans.
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0 #3 Linda Clauson 2021-09-01 12:21
Hi Steve, good article indeed!
I’ve not RV’d much at all but I dream of doing one day, just sell my home, store my stuff and experience this country & enjoy the adventures that await. So, my goal is to start in a couple years and I’ll be in my mid seventies by then, a single gal but still full of life, but I Ed direction on what’s a good class B van to buy, or should I rent for a bit first and how do I learn all the stuff I need to know to operate the thing?
Lots more questions but maybe you can start here.
Thanks!
I live in the Seattle area and want to see so much more of the PNW.
Quote
0 #2 Doug and Cathy Brand 2021-08-31 18:30
Another thing to verify BEFORE purchase (or at time of purchase) is that the holding tanks are empty. We know of two people who discovered (the hard way) that the black water tanks contained the previous owner's bodily wastes. In one case the tank was clogged and it was a nightmare! Buyers Beware, indeed.
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0 #1 Tom Wagner 2021-08-31 15:36
And the moral of the story; listen to your intuition, especially your wife's intuition!

What is the best way to find maintenance and storage facilities for RV's? I don't own one, but will purchase one soon. Also, why is it nobody, especially salespeople, like to tell what the annual costs of ownership of an RV is. Even some ballpark figures would help me decide to know what cashflow I'd need to sustain a purchased RV. Even trying to figure out the annual registration cost here in Washington state seems difficult on the government website.
Quote

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