Buying A Used RV From A Private Party: Tips To Get It Done Right

Last Updated on February 20, 2023 by Jess

Like all vehicles, RVs lose value shortly after leaving the dealer’s lot. During the first three to five years, depreciation increases rapidly.

At the same time, many families who invest in an RV find that their children outgrow the vehicle and they need to upgrade it, or that the children grow up and they need a smaller vehicle.

This means that many good used RVs are being sold by private parties that could have a long life left in them.

However, these people also paid a high price for the RV when it was new, and you can expect them to want to get as much back as possible from their big investment.

If you’re in the market for or have your eye on a used RV, you need to be astute to make sure you’re really getting a good deal. The last thing you want is to buy an RV where you feel buyer’s remorse.

When buying a used RV from a private party, there are some important steps you can’t afford to skip.

These include being aware of your financing options, how to find the right RV for your needs, how to properly assess the value of a used RV, and how to negotiate the best price without screwing up the deal.

Step One: Know Your Financing Options

Before you can make an offer on a used RV, you need to have your financing sorted out.

Many people don’t have the cash to make such a large purchase, so you need to find out about your financing options first.

Contact your preferred lender and inquire about used car terms. In order for the lender to underwrite a mobile home loan, you must meet the specific criteria. These include, but are not limited to.

  • A limited term of up to 10 years for a used mobile home
  • An approved inspection prior to closing
  • The percentage of the required deposit
  • The types of mobile homes they are willing to finance
  • Documentation requirements that go beyond a sales contract.
  • The interest rate they are willing to offer on your credit score

You also need to know your state’s laws regarding out-of-state purchases.

In many states, when you buy an RV out of state, you must pay an ad valorem tax. This is a percentage of the purchase price you pay to the seller.

If your state imposes a 6% ad valorem tax and you set your price range at $100,000, you will need to factor in that additional $6,000 and other fees when negotiating.

Contact multiple lenders

It’s also a good idea to contact multiple lenders. Different lending institutions offer different terms for different types of used mobile homes.

Some lenders have restrictions on the type of mobile home they are willing to finance. Some may offer better terms for an RV whose value is easier to assess than a pop-up RV that depreciates quickly.

Once you have multiple terms and understand each lender’s requirements for financing a used RV, you can select the best lender for the type of RV you are considering.

This will also help you determine your budget and the amount of down payment you need to set aside.

Step Two: Thoroughly research your used RV options.

Before contacting private sellers, do thorough research to make sure you find the right type of RV for your needs.

Study Floor Plans & Features

Keep in mind that most RV manufacturers produce multiple floorplans of the same model. Some differ drastically, but often you’ll find nearly identical models with slight differences in interior features or appliance layout.

Examining similar models with different floor plans will help you understand the overall durability and material quality of that brand and model in general.

Then you can focus on a particular brand, model and floor plan to find out what makes it stand out. This will also help you better evaluate if it really is the right motorhome for you.

Take for example the 2022 Jayco – Redhawk 26M Class C motorhome and the 2022 Jayco – Redhawk 26XD, they are the same length, have the same appliances and a single slide-out.

The difference is that the 26 XD has a rear master suite and can sleep up to 8 people, while the 26 M can only sleep 6 people and has a sleeper sofa that serves as the main bed.

The similarity between these two models means that even if you’re interested in the 26 XD but the reviews are sparse, you can make a big deal out of reading the reviews on the 26 M.

If the used motorhome is no more than 1 to 3 years old, you may also be able to find a display model at a nearby dealer so you can see it in person.

All you have to do is feign interest in an RV salesman, and he will give you tons of information about the model while you tirelessly quiz him.

Searching for a used RV at a dealership can also help you better set the price barometer.

Keep in mind that many RV dealers charge a 15% to 25% markup, even on used models.

So expect to pay at least a 20% markup on the sale price if you want to make an offer on a used RV from a private party.

Visit motorhome shows & motorhome events.

If you’re relatively new to the world of RVs, it’s helpful to familiarize yourself with the features and terminology.

Knowing the difference between a wet bath, which has a combination shower and toilet, and a dry bath, which has a separate toilet and shower, will help you better evaluate whether a particular used RV is really right for your family.

Spending a Saturday afternoon at an RV show, touring models and talking to experts, can help you figure out which features are right for your travel style.

You may even find that the model you’re interested in isn’t exactly what you want, or you may discover that it has rare and valuable features.

Read online forums

Nowadays, there is a forum or message board for almost every topic.

So it’s no surprise that you can participate in many great RV forums online for free.

There you can read the opinions of experienced motorhome owners and find out if anyone else has the motorhome you are looking for.

Again, you don’t necessarily have to ask for the exact floor plan you are looking for. If you’ve done your research well, you’ll know which floor plans are similar to the one you’re looking for based on the opinions of other RV owners.

Step 3: Search for online ads

Search for online ads

The Internet offers a variety of websites that sell used RVs. These include websites such as:

  • RVUSA – This is a great website for researching national ads as well as a resource for a wide range of RV models. This is a great resource for researching different floor plans as well as comparing different floor plans to find the one that is perfect for your family.
  • RV Dealers– Offers the ability to buy and sell used RVs, as well as read online reviews of popular RV models.
  • Motorhomes car – This is an extension of Auto Trader’s website specifically for buying, selling and valuing motorhomes.

Other national websites such as Craigslist, local RV dealers who sell used RVs on consignment, and even Facebook Marketplace can also be good sources for finding used RVs sold by private parties.

Consider the distance

The truth is that sometimes the ideal used RV for you is not anywhere near where you live.

So when you search national websites, you should filter the search results by distance.

Ask yourself how far you are willing to travel to get your used RV.

If the distance is more than 100 miles, you will also need to factor fuel costs into the purchase.

If you buy a motorhome that is a thousand miles away, and that motorhome has a fuel economy of 10 MPG, the bottom line cost can increase by $500 to $750. So

If you’re not willing to drive a long distance or incur the extra fuel or airfare costs to get the used RV of your dreams, then you need to be willing to be patient.

Step four: contact the seller of a used motorhome.

Contacting the seller of a used motorhome

Let’s assume you’ve done your due diligence. You’ve done your research on the type of motorhome you want, you know similar floor plans, and you have an idea of what this model is worth.

Then you’ve searched far and wide to find the perfect RV in your area.

Now it’s time to contact the seller. This is the first step in any negotiation process, and you need to approach it with the right attitude.

While you must always be cautious, you must also respect the seller’s interest in getting the highest possible return on his initial investment.

He is probably selling a mobile home for the first time, and he will be just as leery if you take advantage of an offer he considers generous.

After a friendly conversation, you can start asking the most important questions. The seller should expect you to ask a lot of questions, because you want to find out if there is a willingness to buy.

As the conversation progresses, ask yourself if the salesperson seems to be honest or if they are frustrated?

Asking questions early

Before you get into the hard and fast process of negotiating a final price, ask some simple questions to assess the condition of the RV.

In doing so, you should look for signs of pride of ownership. These include questions such as:

  • Why are you selling the motor home?
  • How to store it in the winter?
  • How long have you owned the motorhome?
  • When was the last time it was adjusted/maintained?
  • How many kilometers has the motorhome already traveled?
  • Are there any maintenance issues I should be aware of?

Ask for pictures or a personal inspection

There’s an old saying, “A fool and his money are soon parted.” This is true for anyone willing to buy a used RV sight unseen.

It is a large purchase and a long-term investment. Ideally, you should visit it in person.

If the RV is too far away to reasonably allow this, you should ask for plenty of pictures. These include pictures of:

  • the tires of the motorhome – With notes on tread depth and pictures of the sidewalls.
  • The ceiling – Ask for pictures of each room, and look for the telltale orange stains that indicate a leaky roof.
  • The nose of a trailer – A follower’s nose and tongue can take a beating and reveal a lot about previous incidents he has experienced.
  • The roof of the camper – Again, look for signs of previous roof leaks as well as roof repairs you have made yourself.
  • The underbelly – This involves signs of rust and damage to the underbody as well as signs of leaking lines, leaking differentials and rust on the bearing housings.
  • The interior of household appliances – The cleanliness of a refrigerator or oven says a lot about the pride of ownership.

If the seller won’t provide you with most of these pictures or refuses to see you in person, there’s a chance they’re hiding something.

As much as you may like the RV on paper, it is wise not to buy it.

If possible, ask lots of questions before you view the vehicle, because it may turn out not to be worth your time at all.

Step 5: Inquire about the title and status of the loan.

Inquire about the title and status of the credit

Let’s assume you’ve done your research, found the used RV you want, and the seller has provided you with enough pictures and answered enough questions that you’re confident you can complete the purchase.

The next important step is to make sure the vehicle has a clean title. You want all the paperwork to look good and that there have been no accidents.

If you’re considering buying a used RV, check the VIN using a service like RVChexto to learn more about accident history.

This will at least give you an overview of any public records about the drivetrain.

However, for trailers and other towable RVs, there are no VIN searches, which is why the picture portion of the negotiation/communication was so important.

If the RV is still encumbered by a lien or was previously financed, the seller must provide you with a lien release card or similar official documentation from the lender.

Step Six: Professional RV Inspection

Just like buying a home, you should have a professional inspection done before buying a used RV from a private party.

This is especially important if you are not an experienced RV owner and don’t know what to look for.

A trained RV inspector, on the other hand, can take a close look at all systems.

This inspector will go through a comprehensive checklist, making sure to catch anything that could be a potential warning signal.

If they find anything serious, or the RV seller refuses to agree to a third-party inspection, be sure to back out of the purchase.

You can find an RV inspector near you by searching for “RV inspectors near me,” or you can find a list of NRVIA-certified instructors at NRVIA.

Step Seven: Negotiate the price of a used RV.

Negotiate the price of a used motorhome

Now that you’ve done your research, you’ve asked your questions, you’re confident in the condition of the RV, you know it has a clean sales title and has passed inspection, you can now negotiate the price.

A motivated private party may be persuaded by you to make you a better offer. If he does not engage in negotiations, be prepared to walk away from the vehicle.

Chances are they will get back to you with more willingness to negotiate after a cooling off period.

However, if they insist on their price, you need to ask yourself how far you are willing to go.

If the price is reasonable, you may have to put your ego aside if they insist on their asking price.

Important details when buying a used motorhome from a private party

Important details when buying a used motorhome from a private person

When buying a used RV from a private seller, there are some important details to keep in mind. These are important measures that must be officially observed to protect yourself.

Drawing up an official contract of sale

A bill of sale is important to establish that you are indeed the new owner of the RV, and it is likely something that your state’s DMV will later require when you register the RV.

It does not have to be notarized unless your state requires it by law. However, you must make sure you have it in writing and signed and dated by both parties.

Make sure the official bill of sale includes a basic description of the RV being sold, with identifying information such as the VIN number and/or license plate number.

A detailed bill of sale will serve as a receipt to substantiate the transaction. Also be sure to record any money that is transferred.

Knowledge Where to get financing for a used motorhome

Unless you’re buying an older RV or an inexpensive model like a pop-up camper, chances are you’re not buying the used RV with cash out of your pocket.

When you go through a lender, you need to make sure you pay attention to all the important details.

This usually includes things like a professional inspection. The lender wants a third party to assess the real value of the RV and any potential defects that could shorten the life of the lender’s investment.

If it’s a mobile home, they will probably also ask for the VIN accident report.

If you are paying the seller, it is always best to pay with a cashier’s check. Your preferred lender may have other specific requirements before they will sign off on the loan.

Make sure you provide all the required information and documentation or you may be turned down.

Title & Registration for a used mobile home.

A clean mobile home title includes fields that need to be filled out. Once this is completed and you have the signed bill of sale in hand, all you have to do is exchange the title and take delivery of the keys to your new motorhome.

However, you should also make sure that you both exchange information such as your addresses and phone numbers.

Make sure the seller fills out the vehicle title correctly and takes photos of everything so you can refer back to it later if needed.

You will then need to take the signed bill of sale to your local DMV. If you purchased the RV out of state, you may have to pay the taxes, title and registration fees applicable to your state.

Most states require you to register your RV in your home state within 30 days. However, in some states you can wait up to 60 days.

Conclusion

There are many important steps in the process of financing, finding, researching and closing the deal on the used RV of your dreams.

Before you start searching the Internet for used RVs for sale by private parties, you first need to get your financing in order.

Many sellers make offers from multiple parties. If you are pre-approved for financing and know the terms of your loan, your offer will be at the top of the list.

Researching the type of RV you want and understanding its value in the marketplace is also a crucial step in finding the right used RV for sale from a private party.

It also helps you weed out models that may be overpriced before negotiating.

Once you’ve found a used RV for sale by a private party, you can start negotiating and make sure you’re in compliance with the lender’s financing terms.

This will likely include having the RV inspected by an independent inspector and making sure the seller’s title is clean.

When you’re ready to close negotiations, you should have a detailed purchase agreement drawn up.

Your state’s DMV will need all of this information to register the mobile home in your name, and this information will be used to assess any ad valorum taxes that might apply to the sale.

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