What Should I Check When Buying A Used RV

Over the years I’ve been asked by numerous people the question(What things should I check when buying a used RV?). To help everyone out, I’ve decided to write up this checklist style blog post. Hopefully, it will give you a starting point on your venture to your new, Recreational Vehicle or ( RV ) for short.

This list is based on my experience owning a Class A 40FT Diesel Pusher. However many of the tips are transferable to any form of RV. These checks should help you quickly narrow down that perfect RV without having to pay for an inspector each time you find your eyes set on one. However (for most people) I recommend if you are not mechanically inclined, to hire a professional RV inspector for a final inspection before you sign your name on the dotted line.

Check EVERYWHERE for water damage.

After buying our RV, we found a soft spot on the floor next to the driver seat right below the driver window and right in front of one of the slides. After a major rainstorm in Florida, we noticed a large area of the carpet was sopping wet after this storm. This leak became a constant headache for us and a major lesson in properly sealing the RV. (We highly recommend all RV’ers travel with Eternabond tape, and Lexel Sealant the Sealant of the gods.)

The best place to start is With The Roof One of the most important pre-sale checks you can make on an RV is up on its roof. A leaky RV roof can cause massive damage often hidden from casual view. Rot inside the walls can weaken the whole structure, and unseen mold can make you sick. Both of these problems are usually expensive and time-consuming to have repaired. If you aren’t comfortable accessing the roof it’s well worth hiring someone who is.

Windows and Doors

Same as the roof, inspect all seams and sealants around the windows. Make sure the rubber gasket seals and bug screens are in good shape.Look very carefully for signs of MOLD. (If Applicable) Spray with high-pressure water and check for internal leaks. If the windows have films on them, check for cracking. If windows are double pane look for any fogging or water in between that would indicate a failure.

Have a close look at entrance doors, cabinets, and drawers. Look for any missing hardware, damage or loose screws. Make sure the locks and latches are in working order.

Interior and Exterior Walls

Walk Around the RV inspecting the walls looking for any cracks, delamination, bubbles or bulges. Check the condition of the decals. Look closely at all the seams making sure the sealant/caulking is clean with no cracking or peeling. Check for possible loose molding and mounting screws. Press on the walls and feel for soft spots that may indicate previous or continuous water damage. Make sure all the walls look square and true. A section of wall that looks like it is out of whack is usually a sign of underlying frame damage. Cracks are another sign. Water damage–in my opinion–is the number one reason not to buy a used RV. If it has water damage, save yourself now and DO NOT BUY IT !!!. The reason why?….(See pictures below)….. Oftentimes it’s hard to see exactly how bad the water damage is until you start digging into the wall. One little soft spot could actually be much more damage than you realize.

Kitchen Appliances

Ensure that all appliances are in good working order. If possible, light the LP gas stove checking each stove top burner and the oven if equipped with one. Use an oven thermometer to test for adequate heating.

Test the fridge in electric and gas mode. With an IR thermometer gun check the temperatures in the freezer and fridge sections for proper cooling. Open the outside access panels and make sure everything looks clean with no debris. Check condition of the drain hose. Confirm the auto switch over feature is working. When the electricity is removed, you should hear a sparking noise outside and be able to see a tiny blue flame in the burner area.

Ensure the fridge has had the recall done if that model fridge called for one. There was a problem with some fridges causing fires. Make sure the Rig you are looking at has been checked and taken care of.

Air Conditioner, Vents, and Fans

Remove the inside AC covers. Inspect for any signs of water leaks from the roof gasket and check for a filter in good condition. A gummed up filter is a sure sign the AC unit has never had even basic maintenance. Outside: On the rooftop inspect the condenser and evaporator fins for damage and make sure they aren’t clogged with debris. Check the wiring, electrical connectors and fan. The fan should spin freely without wobbles or squeaks.

Replace covers and fire up the AC. Run for 10–15 minutes and with an IR thermometer gun measure the in-going and out-going air temperatures. For most RV air conditioners a difference of 18–22 degrees would be considered normal.

Check cooling and exhaust vent fans for proper operation. Make sure bug screens are installed and in good condition.

Battery Bank

Find the Rigs battery bank, usually, found in its own vented compartment. Inspect and ensure there is no corrosion on the connections, and the wires are in good shape with no signs of overheating. The rubber around the wires will be a sign of overheating . With a multi-meter look for a voltage measurement of between 12.6–12.8 volts when not plugged in.

If the battery is a lead acid type then test each cell with a hydrometer to get a more accurate state of charge. Also, look for a date code on the battery labels. If older than 5–7 years there is likely not much life left in them. If you run into a situation that the rig’s batteries are not in good condition and will need replacing. I would factor that into the deal or negotiate a reduction in price. Most RV’s come with anywhere from 2 to 8 batteries. The price of the batteries can range from $100 to $1000 depending on the type.

Power Distribution Panel And All Buttons

Check each AC breaker. They should feel stiff when switching. Run all the circuits and check for excessive heat on any of them. For the 12 Volt DC circuits make sure there are no blown fuses.

Press all the buttons: Turn on the engine (when applicable). Turn on every light. Check the clearance lights and brake lights outside. Turn on the generator (when applicable). Level the jacks. Turn on the hot water heater. Try the water pump. Turn on all the faucets. Test every feature to make sure they work. The last thing you want is to boon-dock one weekend and find out your water pump is broken.

Check operation of any TVs, Audio Systems, Satellite, DVD and remote controls. Check all speakers for clear sound, don’t forget the outside ones. If possible, hook a signal to the outside cable input to confirm its functionality. Test the rooftop antenna and it’s signal booster.

Lighting, AC Outlets, Power Cords, Awnings, Slide Outs, and Jacks

Have a look at each fixture to ensure that they are in working order. Pull the covers and confirm the bulbs are in good shape, and there are no signs of overheating to the plastic holders or metal connectors. Don’t forget to check all the exterior and storage bay lighting too.

Inspect the main power cord for defects. Pay close attention to the metal plug prongs. Make sure none of them have arc damage. Using a circuit tester go around and check all the AC outlets in the rig. Don’t forget the outside ones as well.

Run the awnings, slides and Jacks through their full range of motion. They should move smoothly without squeaks, squeals or clunks. Inspect the rubber seals on the slide outs and the awning material for wear or damage. Inspect all the mechanical parts looking for any damage, rust or corrosion. If you have easy access to the drive motors, feel them making sure they don’t get too hot when working.

Plumbing Systems

Fresh Water and Waste Tanks: Test the city water hookup. Fill the fresh water and waste tanks then take the RV for a spin. Check for any leaks under the RV. Dump all the waste tanks looking for good flow and a smooth feel to the waste gate valves.

Water Pump: Locate and inspect the 12-volt fresh water pump. Check condition of wiring and hoses. Run it and listen for smooth operation while checking it for leaks. See if it can supply a consistent stream to all faucets.

Water Heater: Open interior and exterior access panels to the water heater and inspect the plumbing and wiring. Fire up in gas mode and look at the burner flame. It should ignite quickly and be mostly blue. Turn off the gas and turn on the electric mode. Let the water come to full temp, run taps testing for adequate heating and clarity. On the outside open the pressure relief valve to confirm it’s operation. (Watch out the water may be hot)

Shower, Toilet and Plumbing Fixtures: Try turning on/off all faucets looking for good flow and no leaks. Make sure the drains work properly. Look around the toilet for any sign of leaks and check the bowl seal. It should hold water. Check shower head and the seals on the door and stall walls.

Stand in the shower

I’m DEAD serious …. Stand in the shower and see if you can handle it. Make sure that you fit, all RV showers are not created equal. While it may sound silly now, you’ll be glad to have a rig with a good shower after three months out on the road, trust me.

LP Gas System

Confirm that the RVs LP Gas system has been inspected and certified. In most jurisdictions, it’s the law before sale. Even so, have a look for yourself. Check the age of the propane cylinders; many are only viable for a refill for ten years. Look at the condition of the rubber hoses, regulator and tank switch over valves. Move all around the RV inside and out sniffing for any sign of a propane leak.

Gas Furnace: Make sure the RV gas furnace fires up quickly and the fan doesn’t have any squeaks, squeals of rattles. Check each output vent for heat and decent air flow. Pop off the furnace access panel and see if the area around the furnace is clear of dust and debris.


Check under the unit for damage, rust, etc.Crawl under the RV and Look for rust, cracks, broken welds, broken wires, excessive corrosion, and or anything hanging. Have a look at the axles and suspension components. Have a look at the condition of the underbelly. Often RV’s scrap the back end due to so many sloped driveways. There are metal wheels designed to keep your back end from dragging. While normally not a deal breaker for the buyer, if the wheels are missing or used (a lot) the point is to be sure to take note of the undercarriage of the RV and how it’s been taken care of in that area especially.


If possible, find out how many miles are on the tires and when they were last replaced. Even if you don’t know much about tires, checking the tread is quite easy. Use the penny test if you are not familiar with it, look it up. Inspect them, do they look worn out and or do they have sun damage? If so, they probably don’t have much life left in them. Inspect the DOT code to find out their age. DOT Date stamped on the tire. You do not want to travel across the US on tires that are 7 to 10 years old. Do some research on how much it would cost to replace all necessary tires and then ask for that amount discounted from the price of the RV.


The first two digits are the week of manufacture, and the last two digits are the year. For example, if the last four digits of the DOT code are 0216, that means that the tire was manufactured during the second week of the year 2016.

Safety Equipment

Check for functioning smoke, carbon monoxide, and LP gas detectors. Look for one or more up to date fire extinguishers.

Test Drive

Ask for a test drive.Most dealers or private sellers will let you take the rig for a test drive. If they don’t, DO NOT BUY IT. Major red flag. Take the rig on open roads (especially if this is your first time driving an RV!) and FLOOR it. See how it accelerates, how the rig handles at various speeds, how it handles turns, braking, swerving, etc.

Most importantly, see how you handle driving it. Does it feel much too big for you, or something you can adjust to? You have to think about your future plans with the rig. If you plan on taking the rig to national parks with mountains, take it up a few hills and listen to the engine (specific to motor homes). Does it get too hot or whine in protest? Keep in mind that the rig you test drive is likely empty and will be much heavier when it’s carrying all your belongings, family, and full water tanks.

Listen (or have whoever looks at the rig with you listen) for things that are rattling and moving while the rig moves. While not a deal breaker, this can be frustrating. I do know one couple who purchased a rig and had an entire cabinet detach from the ceiling and crash to the ground while they were driving. So listening to these noises can be important!

Final Tip

As a final tip — Pay close attention to the hidden areas of the RV which most sellers will miss during clean up. Grab yourself a powerful flashlight and go all around the RV looking into every nook and cranny. Serious problems to look for are signs of water leaks, dry rot, mold or rodent activity. Look in the sink drains, Open all the cabinets and storage bays. If possible, unscrew any access panels and have a look inside. Undo a few sections of the underbelly and have a gander in there. Inspect behind access panels and inside the roof and furnace vents. If these areas are in a pristine condition you can bet the RV hasn’t seen too much use and has been stored in a good location.

I hope you have found this article helpful for your used RV buying quest. It’s an exciting time hunting for that perfect RV. But, take your time to thoroughly check over prospective rigs. It will guard against possibly much more wasted time, expense and huge disappointment down the road. Also, discovered defects will give you some ammunition during the negotiation phase to get a lower price. For more useful RVing Tips be sure to check out the lyfesjournee.com Camping and RV Section 

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