Buying a used travel trailer can save money over purchasing a new one. The key to a successful purchase is knowing the difference between a good deal and purchasing a headache. Unlike motorized campers and RVs, travel trailers do not have an odometer to tell the prospective buyer how many miles it has traveled. Select a bright sunny day for the inspection and never examine a used travel trailer at night.
Buying a Used Travel Trailer
Ask the seller for the year, make and model of the travel trailer. Check the Kelley Blue Book for RVs and Campers to determine the approximate value of the travel trailer.
Arrange to see the travel trailer during daytime hours. Be wary of sellers who can only show the trailer at night.
Examine the outside of the travel trailer. Check around windows, doors and openings to ensure all seams are sealed and intact. Look for warping, mismatched panels or panels that appear newer than the rest of the unit.
Put on latex gloves. Open the waste cover. Look for any signs of damage. Expect some bad odors. Excessive odors and dirty connections indicate potential problems.
Open the access panel to the heating and refrigerator units. Look for signs of corrosion, animal and insect infestations. Use a ladder to check the roof for signs of damage and potential leaks.
Enter the unit and check walls, ceilings and floors for signs of water damage. Use a level to check countertops and cabinetry for level. Look for signs of wear on seating, cabinetry and floors.
Open and close all windows, doors, appliances and cabinets to check for proper operation. Windows and doors that are difficult to open and close indicate potential water damage that is expensive to fix.
Fill the water tank and run the water in every faucet. Start up the heater and refrigerator. Run both to make sure they are in working order. Check operation of all appliances on all three systems: propane, electric and battery. Make sure the hot water and air conditioner are in working order.
Run the oven and the stove. Run the microwave. Dump water into the toilet and flush it. Make sure the toilet flushes well and there are no signs of backing up of foul odor.
Check the tires and the trailer hitch. Crawl under the unit and look for damage to pipes, tanks and undercarriage. Look for signs of leaks. Take a flashlight to see into dark areas.
Use the information gained from the inspection along with the value stated in the Blue Book to determine the actual value of the travel trailer. Make an offer to purchase the unit.
Items you will need
- Kelley Blue Book for RVs and Campers
- Bubble level
- Paper and pencil
- Disposable latex or rubber gloves
- Drop cloth or mechanics creeper
- "The RVer's Bible: Everything You Need to Know About Choosing, Using and Enjoying Your RV"; Kim Baker and Sunny Baker; 1997
- trailer image by Greg Pickens from Fotolia.com