Considering Buying a Used RV?

Considering Buying a Used RV?

Considering buying a used RV?  If so please take a moment and learn from our mistakes.


We purchasing a used 2011 fifth wheel in July 2016, moved into it and became  full-timers.  It was and continues to be an interesting experience.

We spent a good deal of money on our fifth wheel with full assurances by the salesman that we were getting a great deal.  BUYER BEWARE!  (I know that “Buyer Beware” is common knowledge buy for us there was a good bit of emotion involved in this purchase.  This was a huge lifestyle change for us and we were very much caught up in the momentum of making things happen.)

Before I get into the sale story and lessons learned I will say that I accept full responsibility for the decisions made.  This is not intended to be a “salesmen are scum” or a “woe is me” article (although a bit of each might pop up).

The Purchase:

The boss and I were shopping around various dealers trying to figure out what we looking for in an RV.  We were not shopping to make a purchase, we were trying to learn what it was we wanted and needed.rv_dealership

We stopped at one of the larger dealers in our area “JUST TO LOOK AROUND”.  The salesman who greeted us came across as a pretty decent guy.  No pressure, very helpful and quick to answer questions.  After discussing our wants, needs and budget he suggested we look at a specific fifth wheel on his lot. Fast forward a few days and we bought it!  

WHY such a fast purchase?  We thought this unit was a home run; it was in like new condition, met all of our needs and was priced $6000 less that we could find the same unit or comparable units anywhere else online.  It seemed like exactly what we needed for a price we had budgeted for.  We were definitely caught up in the idea of making things happen.

Several times I asked the salesman why such a low price and his reply was something to the effect of “we got a good deal at trade-in and we are passing the deal on to you”.  What a great guy (sarcasm).  He was quick to point out several times that he was a member of the business owners family and that the business put customers first.! He said it without sounding like a salesman. My logic was that I was in the right place at the right time and “ran into a great deal”.  Was it meant to be?

Before going any further I must point out that we had zero camper experience and were pretty caught up in the moment with our recent decision to become full-time RVers. The salesman took full advantage of our ignorance and enthusiasm.  He got us hook, line and sinker.hooklinesinker

Fast Forward a few weeks….. We moved into the RV and became full-timers shortly after the purchase.

We discovered that the RV leaks and that the back wall of the RV was rotten from water damage (Details Here).  This never came up at any point in any sales conversation.  It never came up during the purchase when the service guy from the shop gave us our walk through and orientation.  It never came up when we pointed out a few minor issues that we identified in need of fixing before delivery (light bulbs, black tank level sensor, missing cover on an outlet).

I believe the dealership intentionally withheld the information to make the sale.  After reviewing a video I took of the RV on the day we purchased it I can now recognize significant delamination of the rear wall.  At the time I didn’t know what I was seeing and didn’t know to do a “tap test” to check.

The RV was purchased as-is with a 30-day warranty on appliances only.  Because of this fact, the leaky RV is now my problem and I don’t expect the dealership to help at all. I never wasted the time to contact the dealership to make them aware of the issue. I made the bad decision, time to take ownership of it. I’ll just focus on solving the problem.  

Am I mad….no.  Just a bit disappointed in my ignorance.  Live and learn!


What’s the point?  I suppose the point is that you have a responsibility as a buyer to educate yourself and shop with caution.  Bring a friend with some RV experience to shop with you and inspect any used units. Take some time to learn about potential RV issues before going out to look at RV’s.  As a first time RV buyer, all of this may be challenging. You don’t know what you don’t know.

Here are a few suggestions of things to consider when shopping for a used RV.


  • Check all exterior walls of the RV and perform a tap test looking for hollow spots or spongy exterior.
  • Look around the entire base of the RV for signs of water leaking from the frame (mildew, staining, rust, fungus)
  • Touch and inspect every seam inside the RV.  (ceiling to walls, walls to walls, floor to walls.)  Inside cabinets and closets.
  • Inspect bathroom.  Checking for moisture stains or any walls or floors that feel spongy to the tap or touch.
  • Have the seller turn on every light, tail lights, radio, TV, shower, sinks, toilets.  This will require them hooking to water supply and pressurizing the rig.
  • Turn on every appliance and ensure it is working.  Including the oven stove and oven.  Also, request that each appliance is demonstrated on propane and electric if so equipped.  Don’t take their word for it that they switched power sources.  Ask them to show you how they did it and know that it works in each configuration.
  • Exercise all of the windows and window dressings.  Blinds, blinds, emergency exits, windows, doors, hatches, locks, steps, antenna, AC, heater.
  • Inspect the roof for obvious damage, repairs, tears or holes.  It will be your responsibility after the purchase to ensure the seals are maintained (I recommend EternaBond RoofSeal Sealant) You just want to ensure that any existing problem has not been sealed over or hidden.
  • Plug in an electrical appliance to every plug in the RV.  Ensure that there are no issues with outlets or power supply.
  • Request that the RV be plugged into shore power and turn on all of the interior appliances at the same time and use hot water until you are sure that the water heater is on as well.  AC + Microwave + lights+TV + water heater element will trip your breaker every time.  This is just the way it is with our RV but It took us a while to figure out.  Better to know ahead of time.
  • Check plumbing under and around sinks, toilet and shower for signs of water leaks or damage.  Check exposed plumbing inside of any storage compartments for the same.
  • Inspect the tires and inspect for cracking and damage.  This might be an opportunity to sweeten the deal at a dealership.  Request new tires as a term of your purchase.
  • HERE is a very detailed checklist from another RV blogger that I found online (wish I had it at the time).  It has suggestions beyond what I mentioned above.

All in all, we are still pleased with our RV despite its hidden problems.  Replacing the water damage became an opportunity to learn a great deal about how my camper is built, sealed, insulated, held together, wired and finished.  I am much wiser for the experience.  

Repairing an RV is not terribly complicated because of the simplicity in how they are built.  Just think of a tree-house on a flatbed trailer frame.  That’s about it.  I’m grateful that I had the time and means to make the necessary repairs. The repairs were not terribly expensive but took a good bit of labor and hours to complete.

Good luck to you on your RV shopping adventures. Watch out for the distracting enthusiasm and excitement that comes with buying your first Home With Wheels. Take your time, seek wise counsel, and use caution when listening to those lovely salesmen!

We wish you the best!  Enjoy the adventure.

“Learn from the mistakes of others.  You can never live long enough to make them all yourself.”  – Groucho Marx

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Mediocre Life?

Mediocre Life?

How we decided to pull the trigger and move into an RV

This post is not a declaration that everyone need run away in a camper to live an extraordinary life.  This is simply an account of us waking up and realizing that the world is full of options.  

To not explore options and chase dreams seems a bit sad to me.

We are going to start exploring and chasing, Win or Lose.

First, the “back story”:

Life was/is good!  The boss (wife) and I are healthy and secure.  We had decent jobs, a comfortable home, a month of vacation each year and our finances were looking good.  Our 2 children were out to the house and doing well for themselves.  We were empty-nesters having conversations about vacations, hobbies and what to do next weekend.

I was a firefighter and the wife worked management for a large corporate business. We had captured our version of the “American Dream”.  Another 10 – 15 years of years of work and then retire comfortably.  Maybe travel a bit more and spoil grand-kids.  Our jobs were no longer fun but the pay was what we were trading our time for and the money took care of our needs and then some.

It was boring but it was working.  

Then came our visit to our daughter in Idaho:  (May 2015)

Our daughter had taken a job managing a horse stable at a fly-in ranch in the remote mountains of Idaho.  She is a young adventurous soul with a passion for horses getting paid to live in an amazing place.  When the opportunity presented itself to visit her we were all over it!

We flew out to Salt Lake city from Orlando, drove through amazing country to arrive in Salmon Idaho  (Didn’t see a single potato).  Idaho is a beautiful place!  From the town of Salmon we hopped on a single prop charter plane and flew into the mountains to visit our daughter.  There are no roads to get to this ranch. 


After snow covered mountains, breathtaking scenery and flying through cloud banks, we landed on a grass strip on the edge of a river in a valley surrounded by mountains.  We spent 5 days there with our daughter and every moment was wonderful.

Having made friends with the managers at the ranch while we visited and telling them how impressed we were with the place they offered us JOBS!  I’m not talking Fortune 500 employment or pay, it was a modest but fair offer for seasonal employment in an amazing location.



The wife and I considered it.  We wanted to say yes but our life was such that we had too many obligations and stuff to manage.  Besides, our retirement savings were not set up for us to take pay cuts and run away at this point in our lives.  After a day of deliberation, we had to decline the offer.

I was crushed to pass on such an amazing life experience and opportunity.  

We vowed that we would structure our lives in such a way to never have to pass on living a dream again.  But how?


We analyzed our priorities and found that experiences, not “things” were what made us happy.  Both of us are in our 40’s and in good health but we are aware that doesn’t last forever.  If we are planning to live life chasing experiences It will probably be more fun to do it in strong healthy bodies rather than in our bodies 15 years from now.

We also recognized that we don’t want to HAVE to work until we die.  How can we build a nest egg or parachute to ensure we could live our later years with comfort and dignity?  The stock market scared us.  Small business is an option but not much of a sure thing. Our solution was to invest all of our cash savings and disposable income into rental real estate.

I had a friend who was very successful in business and invested in residential rental properties.  He introduced me to the key concepts and how it worked.  I read books, listened to podcasts and scoured the web for practical information.  Over the course of the next 12-months we purchased and renovated 3 properties and put renters into them.  It damn near killed us but we made it happen.  We wanted it that bad!

Our nest egg now consisted of 4 properties (3 rentals plus our home), a partial pension from my job (starting at age 55) and a 401K from 17 years at my wife’s job.   We had no consumer debt and our incomes far exceeded our monthly expenses.  Our options increased dramatically.

Exploring our options we asked… much is enough?  We were working jobs we no longer found fulfilling just to make more money. To what end?  Our parachute was in place.  Now it was time to do what we wanted!  

Then the crazy idea came.  What if we convert the house we live in to a rental and move into an RV?  WE could live locally for a while, get our bearings and then hit the road. We could stop and work seasonally to cover expenses and then move on to another adventure.  The boss said she wants to sell ice cream, I want to be a whitewater river guide.  Let’s do it!

And here we are.  We sold 98% of our possessions, rented out the house we built 18 years ago and raised our kids in, bought an RV and a truck to tow it.  Currently we are living in a campground and saving every penny we can to build a cash emergency fund for the road.

Our life now is simpler and significantly more interesting.  Our current big challenges are, figuring out the nuances of living in an RV and figuring out where we are going when we hook up our home on wheels and hit the road.

We intend to hit our savings goal in Early 2017.  

When that number is reached we will hook up and pull out of Florida.  The plan is to point the truck West.  I’m not yet sure of the destination but i’m looking forward to the journey.  We aren’t sure what will happen but we are certain that it will not be ordinary.

Thanks for stopping by.  Stay tuned for updates!  

Please let us know you thoughts in the comment section below!

We bought an RV

We bought an RV

Video tour of the “New House” on purchase day

And the adventure begins

This was a pretty crazy day for the boss and I.  

We were committed to moving into an RV but had no idea it would happen this quick. The story of how we decided to make this purchase is posted below the video.   Events before and after the purchase can be found in our Jounal.


This is the account of us buying our RV as recorded in our journal…

6/22/2016  The Plot Thickens

Yesterday the Boss and I sat down to figure out some of financial goals.  We figured out out emergency funds goals for our invest properties and What we wanted on hand for emergency cash.  We also figured out our expected monthly travel budget!   The numbers are estimates based on our current cost of living but I believe we are pretty accurate knowing our spending habits.  

The big unknown is HEALTH INSURANCE…..this will be the next hurdle.

Today we spend the day driving central Florida looking at RV’s.  WE started last night on craigslist and a few RV sales sites and there are sooo many options we set out to educate ourselves a bit.

We managed to decide on what we want and don’t want, approximate size to meet our needs and have an idea what we will need to spend.  Too are lots of options, brands, and configurations.  Decisions need to be made.


Sitting at home in the early afternoon today, engaged in the same conversation as usual (working out details of our escape)  the boss stated that if living in an RV for the last months here in Florida would shorten our time until freedom she was in.

We worked out the math and found that if we put a renter into our primary residence and moved into our camper we could increase our savings rate by $570 a month.  In 9 months that +5130 extra = over 2  months on the road worth of emergency fund!  It will require we find a place to park with utilities for $650 a month.

I was surprised as hell by her ambition and at the same time a bit frightened that the reality of it happening was in front of me.

Looking around at RV’s (specifically 5th wheels) the other day we ran into a very impressive deal.  A 31’ fifth wheel in like new condition for 5k under retail price.  It met all of our needs and the boss found it very comfortable. Long story short we agreed to return and take a look at it, arrived, made a lowball offer and THE DEALER ACCEPTED THE OFFER!

We now own a 5th wheel camper.  We don’t have a truck to pull it yet but we own a camper!

The dealer agreed to deliver it when we were ready so now we need a place to put it.

This week will be “find a place to put our new home” week.  More to come soon!

Add-on (written 7/17/2016)

While reading back through my journal I realized that this short paragraph stating we found an RV and then bought it sounds a bit rash (it was a bit rash, but none the less) The longer version of the story is as follows:

The boss and I had no idea of what we were looking for in a camper/new home with wheels.  Our search started with local used RV lots.  We looked at:

  1. Pop-ups and small tow-behinds (way to small and no bathrooms)  –I have to admit I liked the prices and the idea of towing behind a smaller vehicle!
  2. Small motor coaches (Class C).  Although they had bathrooms (sort of) the boss and I decided that the space was a bit too intimate.
  3. WE RULED OUT Class B and C coaches.  WE didn’t like the idea that if our vehicle broke down our house would be in the shop as well.  The prices of these units were a bit intimidating as well.
  4. Larger tow-behind campers were nice but the small roofs and low ground clearance were turnoffs.  (I am 6’4”)
  5. WE DISCOVERED 5th-Wheels!

What drew us to fifth wheels was:  1)  Bang for the buck! (ignoring the price of the truck to pull it)  2)  The ceiling height!  What a spacious living space (if you can consider 300ft spacious) 3) The bathrooms and bedrooms would fit the needs of a large adult and his mate.

Once we discovered that we were shopping for a fifth wheel we focused our search.  The boss wanted comfort, storage and utility.  My focus was a bed that would fit me, a size that would be manageable to tow and park and a price tag that would allow us to purchase without debt!

We found it a bit too quickly as mentioned above.  Great price, met all of our needs and the deal was closed.

The purchase was as follows.  I called the salesman a day after showing us the rig asking him to explain why the price was $6000 under any price I could find online by any other seller.  His reply appeared honest (I am distrustful of salesmen) when he said they got a good deal on it through trade-in and they just wanted to move it off the lot.  He suggested that if I was interested I come in and make an offer.

Our intention was to remain debt-free through this process so we were hesitant to go back and make the offer on something we did not have the cash for.  We debated dipping into our cash reserve and making a low-ball offer and then financing the balance with the intent of paying it off in full before hitting the road.  That was our plan.

We arrived at the dealership and made an offer.  We told the salesman we would pay the sticker price “Out the Door”  after tax, title, license.  Our salesman took the offer into his manager’s office (the typical sales maneuver), then returned and congratulated us on the purchase of our new 5th wheel.  We in-house financed the balance for a ridiculously long  term with an insignificant monthly payment.  

We intend to pay the balance in full within the next few months.

Its pretty frightening how simple it is to purchase a RV!

That’s it! We own a 2006, 31′ Chaparral by Coachman.  NOW WHAT?

Did I mention we dont have a truck to pull it yet?

Stay tuned for updates!

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