What To Look For When Buying a Used Camper

By Kelsi Nuss
Web Director, Johnston RV

Used campers are an amazing option for anyone wanting an RV at a lower price. However, when shopping pre-owned, it’s crucial to keep certain things in mind so that you choose a camper of the highest possible quality that will provide you the best possible camping experience.

First Things First, How Do Dealerships Obtain Used Campers?

Franchised dealers (like Johnston RV) largely obtain used inventory through customer trade-ins and consignments. Used camper dealers get their inventory from auctions, individuals, and by purchasing campers from other dealers at wholesale.

So, what do you look out for when shopping for a pre-owned RV?

The Exterior

Propane Tanks: Sometimes they are traded in with the camper, sometimes they aren’t. Even if they are present, you may end up needing to buy new ones depending on their condition.

Surface Rust: Surface rust on the frame is generally okay. These are thick, tough frames, and a little surface rust doesn’t indicate a big problem. Always check for severe rust, though, as that is an issue.

Tongue Jack: Check to see that it’s working properly.

Battery: See if it’s included and the condition it’s in. Sometimes campers are traded in without them or with ones that need replacing. 

Lights: Check that they work.

Paint Condition on Front Cap: Peeling and fading can be a costly endeavor should you choose to have it repaired.

Sides: The main thing you’re looking for is water damage (spongy areas or bubbles). This may be easier to detect on smooth fiberglass siding than aluminum siding.

Seals: Healthy seals aren’t dry and brittle.

Compartments: Open all compartments to check door functionality and condition.

Awnings: Roll it out and check its condition.

Exterior Lights: Are they working?

Tire Condition: This is super important. Make sure tires have good tread but always verify the year they were manufactured as well. Even if they look good, a 15-20 year old set of tires needs replacing. Don’t forget the spare!

Slides: Check those seals.

Roof: This is one of the most important areas to inspect for damage, particularly water damage. Dealers may not allow you to climb up yourself to look for safety reasons. If that is the case, ask for sectioned pictures of the roof.

The Interior

Water Damage: Walk the entire floor to examine for soft spots. Search all corners high and low for water damage. Check the slides, bathrooms, and cabinets. This is the most important type of damage that you will be looking for. 

Furniture: You may encounter damaged, mismatched, or missing furniture. Note that you may need to replace furniture and if that eventual cost would be a factor in your purchasing decision.

Superficial Items: Note any small items that need attention like broken drawers, scratches, or loose screws.

To see this list in action (and view an example of a used camper with damage you should walk away from), click HERE!

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