Before you can think about buying a motorhome, let’s identify what a motorhome is. It’s an RV that has an engine and drivetrain built into the RV.
In other words, a motorhome does not need to be towed to go somewhere. It can travel down the road under its own power.
So what kind of RVs could be classified as a motorhome? Class A, Class B, Class C, and Super C RVs certainly meet those criteria.
That’s a lot of RVs to choose from. So how do you know which kind of RV will be best for you and the way you like to camp?
The tips I’m going to share with you will help you know whether or not the RV you are looking at is in good shape. Whether it has major issues that need attention or not.
But before you implement the 5 tips in this article you need to do some work in advance.
Buying A Motorhome – Advance RV Knowledge Needed
Yes, before you start getting serious about any one RV, get to know RVs in general. That means that you need to visit dealer lots and RV shows for a while.
Go through as many different kinds of RV motorhomes as possible. See what the differences are between the various motorhome classes.
Try to decide which class of motorhome will fit your needs and your budget. Then decide whether buying a motorhome that is new or used will be your best choice.
The more motorhomes that you walk through and investigate, the more knowledge you will gain about them. And pretty soon you will get a feel for the kind of motorhome that you feel fits your situation best.
Take your time in this stage. Don’t rush it. Even if it takes several months or even years, that’s OK. Getting to know the various motorhome classes is vital to making a good decision.
Tip #1 – Get To Know The RV Living Space
Once you have decided which motorhome class fits you, it’s time to look at individual RVs. And one of the most important considerations in any RV is – how does the living space work for you?
In general, there are only so many ways that the living area can be designed in an RV. And not everyone likes the sames layout.
So is the kitchen big enough for you? What is the location of the kitchen? Is the sitting area located in a logical place? How about the bedroom, is it laid out the way you like?
When it comes to the furniture in the motorhome, is it comfortable? It’s a good idea to lay on the bed, sit in the chairs and on the couch. See if you feel at home in that RV.
One big consideration is the bathroom. Is the toilet in a convenient place? When you sit on it, is it relatively comfortable? Is there enough storage space in the bathroom?
Then check out the shower too. Go ahead and stand in it to see if you have enough room to move around comfortably. Is it tall enough for you?
Note the position of the TV. Is it in a spot where it can easily be viewed from the sitting area? Or do you have to crane your neck to see it?
All of these considerations should be done before buying a motorhome. That way you will know whether that particular motorhome will meet your daily needs.
Tip #2 – Check For Water Intrusion
Water damage is the biggest threat to the life of a motorhome or any RV. It silently enters and weakens walls, ceilings, and floors.
If it goes on long enough, the motorhome will start crumbling from the inside. At that point, major repairs that are very expensive have to be made.
So it’s critical to try to stop water intrusion in its tracks as soon as it appears. Of course, prevention is the best course of action in this case. But you are looking at an RV that someone else has maintained now.
The best place to start to see how well the motorhome has been maintained is often on the roof. Look carefully at the roof material itself. Is there evidence of rips and tears that have not been repaired?
What about the sealant. Are there any gaps in the sealant that can be seen? Is the sealant old, brittle and cracked?
Now make the same examination on the sides, front and rear of the motorhome. Do you see areas where sealant is cracking, drying out, or even missing?
Now go inside the RV and look for water stains everywhere on the walls, ceilings and floors. Go inside the cabinets and closets and look all over for evidence of water intrusion.
Press against the walls and walk on the floors to see if you can detect any soft areas. That could be evidence of water intrusion that could be expensive to fix.
This is one of the most important inspections you can make on a motorhome. And you may be surprised to find that RVs that otherwise look fabulous may have these kind of issues.
Tip #3 – Inspect The Motorhome Tires
Another important area you need to examine closely is the tires before buying a motorhome. This is because replacement of tires is one of the biggest ongoing expenses for RV owners.
And the first thing you want to look for is the tire date of manufacture. It is stamped on the side of the tire and is represented by a four letter code.
The first two letters are the week that the tire was made and the second two letters are the year of manufacture. Why is this important to know?
Many RV tire manufacturers recommend replacing your tires between 5 – 6 years after the date of manufacture. This is regardless of the tread wear. So follow the manufacturers recommendation about tire replacement.
The reason for this is that RV tires rarely wear out before they age out. They are simply not usually driven enough for major tire tread wear to take place.
Instead the sun’s UV rays and other elements often dry out the oils in the tire rubber first. Then they start to crack and there is the opportunity for a major blowout to happen.
So the best prevention for that scenario is to just replace them every 5 – 6 years. That way you are erring on the side of safety.
So if the motorhome tires you are examining are near the end of their useful life, note that. And realize that you will need to replace your motorhome tires soon after buying that RV.
It’s best to know about this kind of upcoming expense before buying a motorhome. You may even be able to adjust the price of the RV downward due to the condition of the tires.
Tip #4 – Get a Fuid Analysis Done
Motorhomes by definition have a motor and drivetrain somewhere. And many of them have permanently mounted generators too.
If the engine, transmission or generator requires a major repair, that is a huge expense. So how do you find out the condition of these components?
First, it wouldn’t hurt to have a qualified mechanic take a look for any signs of possible upcoming repairs. But there is an even better way to find out as much as you can about the mechanical parts of the motorhome.
In fact, the best way to learn about the condition of almost any mechanical engine or transmission is through fluid analysis.
This means that you simply extract some of the engine oil and coolant. Then do the same with the generator. And finally get a sample of the transmission fluid as well.
Then send the samples to a qualified lab to have them examined. They will send you back a complete breakdown of what the fluids indicate may be going on inside those mechanical components.
This is because long before major failure of an engine or transmission part, it starts to leave residue in the lubrication fluid. This residue is a clue to future probelms.
And a trained technician who examines that fluid can give you a warning before the failure happens. But the lab has to be familiar with RV components to be able to read the fluids correctly.
So be sure to have the motorhome fluids checked if you don’t have a complete history of the maintenance that has been done on these mechanical items.
Tip #5 – Get An RV Inspection Before Buying A Motorhome
You had to see this one coming, right? I mean, what else would a certified RV inspector recommend?
Seriously though, getting an inspection by an NRVIA certified inspector is one of the smartest things you can do before buying a motorhome.
The inspector will give you a complete report on the condition of the motorhome and all of its systems. You will have a full rundown on the RV from the roof to the tires.
And getting a motorhome inspection is a good idea whether it’s new or used. In fact, many new RV buyers are getting them inspected before taking delivery of the coach.
This is because so many newer RVs and motorhomes are coming from the factory with multiple defects. And the manufacturers are expecting the RV dealers to fix these issues for the customer.
When you have a certified inspector go over the RV, they can list all of those problems in their report. And then the issues can be handled under warranty all at one time.
The inspection is well worth the cost in my opinion as it can save you from major hidden repair costs if it is used. And the inspector can even perform the fluid analysis on the mechanical components as well.
Just to review, here are the top 5 tips for buying a motorhome:
- Get to know the living space well. Try it out as much as you can and see if you feel comfortable with the motorhome layout and furnishings.
- Look everywhere for evidence of water intrusion that has already occurred. And then check for sealant problems that could lead to water intrusion in the near future.
- Carefully inspect the tires for the manufacture date and for signs of drying out and cracking. If they are beyond the recommended tire life from the manufacturer, replace them.
- If you don’t have full maintenance records on all of the engine and drivetrain components, get a fluid analysis done. This will help you know whether major component failure may be looming or not.
- Get the motorhome inspected by an NRVIA certified RV inspector. This will help you know the overall condition of the RV better than anything else you can do.