Brand new RVs come with a hefty price tag — and as of 2022, buyers can expect to pay anywhere from $35,000 to $300,000, depending on the class of RV and the features they are looking for. If RV life is calling out to you loudly, but you simply can’t afford that (or you’re not quite ready to sell your home to embrace being a full-time RV-er), you do have another option. Get a used RV.
Buying a used RV from a private party is, without a doubt, your best bet if you’re looking for a great deal. The process is also intimidating, however, not least because there are, unfortunately, some scammers about. Here’s a look at the steps you need to take to safely buy a used RV from a private party.
How To Safely Buy a Second Hand RV from a Private Party?
Buying an RV is exciting, but also daunting — and if you’re looking to buy a second-hand RV from a private party, the process becomes slightly more complicated as compared to buying a brand new RV or buying a used RV through a dealership. Safety should be your top priority. In this particular context, that means two things; you have to make sure you’re not being scammed out of a ton of money, and you have to make sure the RV you’re buying is fully functional and road-worthy.
1. Research What Kind of RV You Want
Always start with preliminary research. It’s easy to get carried away by a seemingly good deal otherwise, and you may be tempted to buy an RV that doesn’t meet your needs. Research what kind of RV you want, what make, model, and manufacturing year you are interested in, and narrow your search down to a limited number of options.
That way, when you browse the internet for private sellers, or ask around in your local community, you’ll know exactly what you are looking for.
2. Ask Questions About the RV
When the RV of your dreams does show up on a used RV platform on the internet, you may be tempted to ask for a test drive right away. Even before you meet the seller in person, however, you can begin asking questions.
If there’s any information you’re after that was left out of the used RV listing (and there will be!), your next step can simply be to ask the seller about that. Here’s a list of the 15 most important questions you should ask before buying a used RV, if you were after a guide. Never forget to ask how many owners the RV has had, why the sellers are listing the RV, and whether the RV has a clean title. Don’t take their word for it, either — have a look at the title yourself. (Read more about checking if a vehicle has liens here.)
Also, however, feel free to ask technical questions about the vehicle’s mileage, features, and any amenities it may be equipped with.
The answers you get to the questions you ask before you ever meet the seller will inform your intuition. Is the seller friendly and willing to answer all the questions you have about the second-hand RV, or are they pushing you toward making a purchase? If no red flags go up and you are still interested in the RV after getting answers, you can go ahead and set up a meeting to view and test-drive the RV.
3. Get a Professional RV Inspection
Seriously. If you would never buy a home without getting a home inspection done first, don’t skip this step when you’re purchasing a second-hand RV. If you do, you’ll come to regret it later. Of course, you will give any RV you are interested in buying a visual once-over yourself first, but never labor under the illusion that you’ll be able to spot any problems the RV has yourself. It’s OK if the used RV you buy has some issues, but you need to know about them beforehand.
While you’re at it, check the history of the RV you are interested in buying on RVChex.
You’re buying a used RV. The inspection will likely reveal some problems. You can use these to haggle with the seller. If you’re financially savvy, you’ll want to save as much money as possible, so never simply accept the asking price.
5. Prepare a Bill of Sale
In many states, this can be a private document agreed on by the buyer and seller. Your bill of sale should describe the used RV you are buying in detail, list the names of the buyer and seller, detail the price, and also list your payment method.
6. Apply for a Loan
You can skip this step if you’re planning on buying your RV in cash, of course, but otherwise, look for a lender who will fund your RV purchase.
7. Get Your New RV!
Congratulations! It’s now time to finalize the sale. If you’ve made it this far, the open road is calling out to you! If you’re about to finalize the sale, now is the time to check if your current auto insurance provider offers RV insurance, and to shop around for the best RV insurance options.
Buying a Used RV With a Lien From Private Party
Most experienced RV-ers would simply advise you against purchasing a second-hand RV with a lien. The used RV market is big enough to help you avoid the challenge of buying an RV with a lien, and unless you are absolutely sure that you know what you are doing, a lot could go wrong during the process. In the worst case, the seller (who may ask you to provide them with funds to pay off the loan before transferring the title) could simply take off with your money.
There are ways to complete a sale successfully despite this challenge, but the RV loan will have to be paid off before the sale is finalized. In some cases, buyers complete this process directly with the seller’s bank, in which case the bank will be able to provide you with a notarized letter.
Tread very carefully, but don’t discount the possibility of buying a used RV with a lien altogether.
Buying an RV Out of State From a Private Seller
If you buy a used RV from a private seller in a different state, you can again expect some extra paperwork. Don’t skip any of the previous steps, and still make sure that an independent RV inspector completes an RV inspection before you make the sale.
To be able to drive your RV home to register it in your state, you will have to apply for a moving permit in the seller’s state. You’ll need the title, bill of sale, proof of insurance, and, depending on the state, further paperwork. After you obtain this temporary tag, you will be able to drive your RV home, and can register it in your own state.
How to Write a Bill of Sale for a Camper
You will not always need an attorney to write a bill of sale — in many cases, the seller and buyer will be able to draft a bill of sale between themselves. Writing a bill of sale for a camper or other RV can be daunting, but the process is not that difficult. You will need to include:
- The full names and addresses of the seller and buyer.
- All relevant details about the camper, such as its VIN number, make, model, manufacturing year, and odometer readings.
- A clause specifying that you are buying the RV “as is”, following inspection.
- The price and method of payment.
- The buyer and seller should both sign the document.
Should you not know how to get started, you can also turn to one of the many bill of sale templates for RVs freely available on the internet. Here’s one example of a bill of sale template for an RV.
How to Get a Title for a Camper That Doesn’t Have One?
Maybe the current owner of the camper you are interested in buying also bought the camper from a private party, or maybe the camper is old and the title was lost. This can happen. You will need to apply for a title with the local DMV. This requires you to file your driver’s license, the camper’s bill of sale, a lien status document, and any other documents the DMV asks you. Fortunately, they will usually be able to assist you with missing paperwork.