If you’re buying an RV and you think you’re getting a sweet deal, then wait and read this article. We all love a good deal. Beware of offers too good to be true. Your momma was right! If a deal is just too good, walk away!
Not to say there aren’t good offers out there, you just need to know what to look for and more importantly, know your legal rights. This article will give you the information you need to purchase wisely and how to spot a lemon.
What Do I Need to Know Before Signing a Contract on a New RV?
The RV Lemon Law
What every New RV buyer needs to have on their sales paperwork before signing. When you include these 9 words in your contract, you will have a strong legal position, this only applies to the purchase of a New RV. This is very simple. Have the dealer, in his own handwriting,
Add these 9 words –
We give buyer a 24-hour warranty against defects.
Don’t sign until they do!
Ron Burdge reveals 9 simple words that buyers of New RV’s need to have ‘ handwritten’ on their purchase agreement. Click Below for more info – Podcast – RV Lemon Law
This makes a difference between what your rights are and what you do not have. You might think this is no big deal.
However, legally this statement is critical.
Because when they say “we give buyers a 24-hour warranty against defects”, under federal law, in most states, you will get a four year of implied warranty of merchantability. This is crucial because it’s going to be a lot longer than the warranty offered by the manufacturer. Adding this handwritten sentence overrides the “as is” clause.
The manufacturer and dealer are going to look for ways to avoid doing anything for you when the need arises.
But when an RV dealer establishes on the contract that ” we give buyers a 24-hour warranty against defects” then the whole deal about we didn’t warrant it and all that hullabaloo goes out the window, and you automatically under federal law will get a four-year warranty in most states. According to lawyer Ron Burdge.
So this is huge. So, even if the manufacturer says ” sorry but I can’t help you” you still have the dealer on the hook.
So, before you get all excited to sign those papers, be sure the dealer adds the 9-word clause to your contract. Because if you don’t, you might be doomed if something goes wrong. Almost all sales contracts have a little clause, on the backside of the contract which says the dealer is selling the RV “as is” and they give no warranty on the rig.
This could also include no implied merchantability warrant for years.
But if you make sure the dealer adds this sentence –
We give buyers a 24-hour warranty against defects
-in his own handwriting to the contract before you sign. You will have a strong legal standing that overrides any disclaimer given in the contract.
Buying an RV & How to Spot a Lemon
I have made printable Inspection checklists to take with you. Along with your checklists be sure to bring
- Pencil & Notepad
- Tape measure
- Camera or Phone
Shopping for an RV can be overwhelming, you see an RV you like and you love the floor plan, and you love the colors and it’s just really easy to get pulled in and you go like ” Oh my gosh, this is it, I have to get it” based on what you’ve seen.
However, it’s usually what you don’t see is what matters most.
RV Dealership or Private Seller
One way to avoid buying a lemon RV is to know who you’re dealing with. With the dealer, it’s pretty easy because you can see what the online reviews are, whereas a private seller, that can be a hit or miss.
One of the benefits of buying from a dealership is that you will know the reputation of the dealer is by recommendation and online reviews. Some dealerships offer to have their technicians inspect the camper before you buy it.
If they don’t have a technician inspect it, be sure to hire a qualified RV technician. However, if you buy it from a private seller, ensure to have a professional technician of your choice check it out for you.
More information below on hiring a professional.
Check Out the Roof
It all starts from the roof. Make sure you check the membrane of the roof, if you realize the membrane is completely worthless or worn out, then it is an easy way to rule out that RV, Fifth Wheel or Travel Trailer.. The membrane shows if the RV was properly maintained.
With the roof, even a little spot can open up and allow water into the rig which can ruin the entire rig from there. And it cost about $7000+ to repair a rubber roof membrane depending on the length of the coach.
So, if the roof membrane is worn out, walk away. Another thing you can look for is any kind of voids or cracks in the sealant around the vents or the skylights.
My final tip about the roof is, do not get on a roof that doesn’t have a roof ladder because that indicates that there is a high probability that the roof is not walkable. If you were able to make it on top of the roof, be sure to check the corners of the roof. You want to make sure that the corners are not cracked or worn especially around any kind of vent.
Checking your RVs A/C and Vent Lids
While you’re on the roof, you’ll want to check the back of the air-conditioner. If the vents are all bent up, it’s probably been in a hailstorm, and therefore the AC might not work efficiently. This means it can freeze up a lot easier when it’s on a super-hot day and it’s just constantly running.
With the vent lids, a lot of times with hailstorms in places like Colorado, vent lids can get cracked, and have holes punctured into them. This could be a possible way of water getting into the rig.
When you’re inside the coach, check the ceiling of the RV.
Check for leaks, stains and any form of rots. These are due to water coming inside the RV due to a bad roof. This is another red flag, which indicates a bad roof.
Check the Walls
Another thing you want to do is to open up the cabinets and make sure the walls and the front are all nice and tight, and that there hasn’t been any water damage. Sometimes water damage can hide in these cabinets- especially in the corners.
Do not Overlook the Wallpaper
Another red flag is if the wallpaper of the RV is peeling off or becoming detached or delaminated from the wall itself. What you want to do is to knock on that area to see if it’s solid. If it’s solid, then you’re good to go because sometimes, the glue of the wallpaper does fail due to heat and it just comes off.
However, delaminated wallpaper can also indicate that it is an area where water runs down and the glue fails due to water damages. If you knock on it and it is soft, it indicates it is due to water damages. So, knocking on it will let you know if it’s one or the other.
Exterior Walls On the outside of the RV
Expanded wood indicates that there is a good chance some water got in and has rotted out the wood, which is a red flag. If you see bulging areas or can smell mold, that is a red flag. Check for rusty screws. Rusty screws indicate that water has gotten inside the walls, a warning for you to have a little bit closer look,
Inspect the Floor
As far as the floor goes, you want to kind of push around, especially right around the sink area, and around the bathroom area, to ensure that there are no soft spots. Also, check around the vents.
The reason you want to check around the kitchen and bathroom is that that’s where the shower can leak, the toilet could also leak, and you can even have the vent up the ceiling opened while in storage and that could have leaked on the floor causing it to rot. If the floor is uneven, is a sign of water damage. Repairing the floor of a lemon rig could cost you anywhere from $620 to $6100 depending on the space.
Turn on all appliances, refrigerator, microwave, A/C, stove, oven, ceiling fans, tv, hot water, run water in the shower, flush toilet, open/close all windows, cupboards, and drawers. Open and close slide outs. Check all window shades. Furnace Turn on the furnace, check the temperature.
Check all outlets, after lights and power have been on for at least 20 minutes, feel all switch plates. When we purchased our used 2008 Select Suite fifth wheel (2017) from a dealer, they let us spend the night in it and plugged everything in. That’s when we noticed one of the light switches become almost to hot to touch. The dealer fixed it.
They also put all new tires on and replaced the old flooring in the bathroom. We would not have known most of the issues if we hadn’t spent the night in it before we purchased it. We should have also hired a professional RV Inspector.
Make Sure the Refrigerator is Working. Check the temperature. The last thing you want to do is replace a refrigerator. You could spend 2 grand or more- especially for a gas-electric refrigerator.
You also want to see if you smell any form of ammonia or mold. The smell of ammonia and mold is tough to get out of a fridge. Ammonia indicates that the cooling unit isn’t working efficiently.
Also, if you see yellow stuff, almost like a liquid or powder, inside the RV refrigerator, could indicate the cooling unit isn’t working properly. And it can cost you a thousand bucks to get a new cooling unit.
Moreover, you want to check the refrigerator from the outside. Your refrigerator has a spot outside where the fridge can drain. All refrigerators that are gas-electric have a drain spot.
Check the drain spout to make sure it didn’t freeze over the winter. This can cause rust to the compressor of the refrigerator, and can also rot the wood supporting the compressor.
Go Under the Rig
Look to see if it has a fully enclosed underbelly. This is important if you want to stay in the RV a little bit longer than usual during the season, or if you’re a full-time RVer.
Another reason is to see how the rust looks like. A little rust is no big deal, however, it is a big deal if you see one with excessive rust, especially by the leaf springs or the axle.
If you see that your propane line is rusted, it is pretty normal for propane lines to rust. Our propane line was completely rusted through, the dealer replaced that also.
Tanks, Faucets & Drains
Fill and empty tanks, make sure there are no leaks. Look for leaky faucets, make sure water drains properly.
Check the Water Heater, is there hot water? Take out the vent closing to the water heater, and take a look at the system. If it is expanded out or bulged out, that could mean the water heater isn’t working. The expansion is caused as a result of the ice being frozen, therefore pushing out the pipe and there is usually a crack. If that’s the case your water heater will not work and could leak into your RV.
Are there Bubbles on the Walls of the RV?
Having bubbles on the walls isn’t something to worry about on an aluminum sided camper. However, for a fiberglass sided camper, if there are bubbles on the wall, or if you realize the wall is separating from the camper, itself, then that could indicate a cosmetic issue.
It could also indicate that you’ve had some water damage coming down the side of the coach and eventually the bubble will keep expanding till it gets to an edge. And by the time this happens, that side of the wall can completely rip off.
Checking RV Tires
Usually, you run out of sidewall before you run out of the tread. So you want to carefully examine the tires for any kind of cracking.
Check to see if the RV has a spare tire. Make sure you know the age of the tire. Even if it’s a new RV, don’t assume that the tires are new.
Slide-Outs & Awnings
One thing you need to pay attention to is the seal on your slide. Something that most people miss when they are checking their seals is they look to make sure there is no water. But what you want to do is, you want to reach your hands underneath the seal, and you want to feel for any type of gap, that could prevent the bottom seal from making contact with the floor.
Another way you can do this is to look really low, and when you realize there is any form of lighting coming in during the day, then it meaning you have to pay attention to it.
Is the Awning manual or electric? Check the mechanisms of the awning. Are the mechanisms bent? Does the awning open smoothly and quietly? Is the fabric faded or worn?
Check for leaks on tanks and if they have been certified? And what is the capacity of the tanks?
Can I have a Third-Party Check Out my RV? Yes, you can. If you want to purchase a new or used RV, you can use NRVIA.org.
NRVIA.org is a site that provides you with certified and professional third-party RV inspectors anywhere within the United States. Personally, I highly recommend that any first-time RV buyer uses this website to find a professional inspector to inspect the RV before you purchase it.
Check with your dealer to be sure they’re okay with a third-party inspection of the RV on your behalf, even if the dealer claims to have looked through the RV thoroughly.
Inspectors from NRVIA.org take anywhere from 7 to 8 hours to check the RV thoroughly and provide you with a detailed report. You’d be shocked at what that report will show in need of repair that you wouldn’t even notice if you were the one inspecting it.
After thoroughly checking the RV and you do not see any of these red flags, then go ahead and sign that sweet deal. Two or more of these red flags means you should rethink this purchase.
Talk about these issues with a professional inspector and dealer. Is it repairable, what is the cost and what is the dealer willing to do? If you don’t feel comfortable with your options, it’s time to walk away. Don’t let anyone pressure you to sign a purchase agreement unless you’re absolutely sure of your decision!
You can always leave and come back later. Even if the dealer claims someone else is interested. It’s your money!
Why we walked from what we thought was a sweet deal
We walked away from what we thought was the perfect deal. It was a private seller, exactly the price and fifth wheel we were looking for. Put a $500 deposit to hold it for 30days, which they agreed. We then purchased a truck two weeks later to tow it.
We contacted the seller to arrange a time for us to get the fifth wheel. The seller then informed us he was not including the hitch that was on the fifth wheel. It would be another $1000 dollars to include the hitch! What?! We were so upset!
Now, what do we do? We had 2 weeks to be out of our house that we just sold. We told the seller to forget it! The seller kept our deposit. And we were about to be homeless. Within a few days, we found the fifth wheel we have now and are so happy the first sweet deal fell through! So don’t get discouraged, be patient. You will find the perfect RV!
So finally let’s take a quick recap to help you avoid buying a lemon:
- Know who you’re dealing with.
- Check out the Roof
- Check the AC and Vents
- Run All Appliances
- Check the Side Wall
- Do not Overlook the Wallpaper
- Check the Walls
- Examine the Slides
- Inspect the Floor
- Make Sure the Refrigerator is Working
- Go Under the Rig
- Check for Bubbles
- Scrutinize the Tires
- Check the Water Heater
- Check All the Seals
- Have a third-party from NRVIA.org check if possible.
- Know the Lemon Law
- Be willing to walk away
Related Post – RVing Basics for Beginners
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RV Groovin Life