The used Class A motorhome market is absolutely screaming these days for a number of reasons.
First, more people than ever before are interested in traveling by RV. Remote work opportunities mean that people don’t have to retire before hitting the road. And entire families are moving into RVs, with parents homeschooling their kids on the road (or “roadschooling” as it’s becoming known).
Second, used motorhomes that have been well maintained often have low miles and have years, even decades, of good life ahead of them.
And then there’s the matter of a brand new RV (or any other vehicle) depreciating considerably as soon as it’s driven off the RV lot.
For all of these reasons and many more, in today’s post, we’re talking about the places we think are the best to find a used Class A RV, and what to look for when you’re shopping.
- 1) Where to Buy Your Dream Used Class A RV
- 2) What to Look For When Buying a Used Class A RV
- 3) Conclusion
Where to Buy Your Dream Used Class A RV
There are a number of ways to search for and ultimately buy a used Class A RV. In this post, we’re going to focus on the top five.
Most of these sites/locations offer the ability to browse and compare online, making it easier to search across a broader geography, thus helping you to narrow down what you want in an RV, what the current market is in terms of price and availability, and where you may need to go to buy the right RV for you.
#1. RV Trader
RV Trader is a fantastic way to search for used Class A motorhomes (or any RV). This site allows you to conduct an advanced search by using filters to narrow down the results by location, price, type, the number of people the RV sleeps, etc. These tools are immensely helpful in saving you time identifying where in the nation there are RVs that meet your desired criteria.
RV Trader allows dealers to post to the site, however. You can filter dealers out if you’d prefer to buy from a private party, or can even conduct a dealer-only search.
It’s also possible to use RV Trader to search for RVs to rent, allowing you to try a particular type of RV before you settle on buying one.
While any RV purchase should include a thorough pre-purchase inspection, consider extending your search to areas where you have a friend or family member who would be willing to take an initial look. If things look promising, they might even be able to take it to a mechanic on your behalf. That can save you from making a long, expensive trip to a location far away from you for the purpose of seeing the RV.
Facebook Marketplace and other social media groups allow you to see what’s available in your area first. This is key because it allows you to readily visit the RVs to experience them in person, which should also help you to narrow down your search even further, and confirm that any particular rig is, or isn’t, the right one for you.
What you may think you’re looking for when you’re browsing photos and other information online can change once you’re inside an RV and realize that perhaps the living space is too small, or that you don’t feel comfortable driving something that large, or that the floorplan isn’t as practical as it appeared online.
When using Facebook Marketplace and similar social media groups you may also be able to learn something about the sellers and their RV use by looking at posting history. This might include posts in which they may have been complaining about issues with their RV while using it. Or maybe you have allergies to cats and dogs and they’ve posted multiple photos of themselves RVing with their pets.
Learning all you can about the history of a used motorhome is very important. So don’t hesitate to browse Facebook and other social media for “evidence” of how your potential new-to-you RV has been treated!
Also, check out the list of “friends” of the person advertising the RV in case it might include someone whom you know personally and trust. Contact that person and ask about the seller and how they used their RV. This gives you a step up in the process before you even meet the seller and see the rig.
Take advantage of the “social” in “social media”, and use it to your benefit as you search for the perfect, well-maintained used Class A RV for you.
Craigslist is a great way to browse used Class A motorhomes in search of your perfect RV.
There are a few different ways to search for motorhomes advertised for sale on Craigslist. You can search local to your immediate area or within your home state, you can extend your search to nearby states, or you can use a site like Onecraigs to search all Craigslist cities nationwide.
One word of warning about Craigslist: there can be scammers out there, so be thoughtful and aware. With the current high interest in RVs, there are probably more of them out there than usual. So, please take these tips to heart:
- Make any final deal locally, face-to-face. Follow this one rule and avoid 99% of scam attempts.
- Don’t provide payment to anyone you haven’t met in person.
- If a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is! A 1-owner 43′ 2005 Newmar Mountain Aire in great shape for $15,000 doesn’t exist. Take it from us! ????
- If the seller requests that you contact him or her only via email, usually at a very generic-sounding address like firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org, beware.
- And for the love of Pete, (or Peter in this case), if you communicate via email with a “seller” and you get some song and dance response like “I’m stationed overseas and the RV is in storage, but if you just wire the money to me I’ll have it shipped right to your door,” run away like you’re running from a dumpster fire. Because you are.
- Check out Craigslist’s own safety tips here.
Also, please take care when meeting someone. Have a phone conversation with the seller beforehand and assess who you’re dealing with from the outset. Take any precautions you feel comfortable with. Avoid meeting someone alone if you can. Use your intuition. If something doesn’t feel right, move along.
We’ve successfully used Craigslist all over the place many times for both buying and selling. So we don’t mean to make it seem ominous. Despite all of these cautionary notes, we believe that most people truly are good, and we’ve had some amazingly good experiences. But clearly, there are some among us with ill intent, and we all try to avoid those people. We want you to have a good shopping experience, and come away with your dream RV in good condition at a reasonable price.
#4. Local RV Dealers
If there are RV dealers local to your home city or state, you can visit the dealership to see any used Class A RVs they may have on their lot. This gives you the advantage of being able to actually get inside a motorhome to get a good, close-up view of the space and amenities it offers, and to take a ride in it, all without having to travel far away from your home base.
The disadvantage of this method of shopping for a used Class A RV is that it’s much harder to see a wide range of options because you’re limited only to the dealership’s inventory. It also removes an element from the sale that we really like — dealing directly with the person who knows the RV best: the actual owner.
Still, your local RV dealer, or even an RV show in your home area, gives you the opportunity to get the feel of an RV’s space and footprint, and to assess the quality of a certain brand or model in person. They also accept trade-ins!
Prices will also tend to be higher when buying a used RV from a dealer, but that is sometimes offset by a warranty or other purchase guarantee that you likely won’t get when buying from a private seller. Do what’s most comfortable for you.
#5. Conversion Trader
The new kid on the block, Conversion Trader, is a site where you can buy and sell conversion RVs. So while you may not find what is officially classified as a used Class A motorhome on this site, you may find a full-sized “skoolie” (school bus) that’s been converted into an RV that ticks many of the boxes of a used Class A RV.
You’ll also find partially- and fully-converted vans and shuttle busses, new and used, as well as builders and services to assist you in building out your own conversion RV. You can search by map view or use filters to select the conversions that interest you by price, style, or location.
With conversion rigs on an astronomical rise, we thought we’d throw this option in as there are sure to be many readers who are thinking of either doing their own conversion as a DIY project, or who are looking for someone to convert a van or bus for them.
What to Look For When Buying a Used Class A RV
As with any used vehicle or home, you’ll want to exercise the utmost discretion when purchasing a used Class A RV. You don’t want to buy “someone else’s problem.” You want to be sure that you’re spending your money on a solid, safe, well-maintained home-on-wheels with no major issues in the immediate or foreseeable future.
Here are a few things to look for as you assess a potential purchase:
A well-cared-for rig will have plenty of documentation available including the owner’s manual and the documentation for various parts of the RV such as the refrigerator, awning, air conditioning unit, tires, and anything that might have a warranty or information relative to its general maintenance.
All of this can be helpful to you when you need to repair an item in the future. In addition, there may be equipment with transferable warranties. For example, if the owner replaced the tires or batteries a year ago and they have a transferable warranty, you’ll want this documentation for obvious reasons.
Maintenance History of a used Class A RV
A detailed maintenance history is one of the most valuable things you can obtain in your quest to know how well the rig you’re considering buying has been maintained. Detailed documentation not only shows that the previous owner/owners took great care of the rig, but it also uncovers any major repairs.
If you purchase the RV and you experience some issues that are difficult to sort out, you’ll have documentation on hand showing you and your mechanic any repairs that have already been addressed by the previous owner.
For example, if you’re experiencing sway issues as you drive or evasive electrical issues, you can look at a good record of maintenance to see that the previous owner replaced certain parts within the past couple of years. This could save you a considerable amount of time and money as you attempt to sort out the issue. It very well may be the same issue cropping up again.
And finally, good documentation of a rig’s maintenance history allows you to determine whether there may be some big repairs on the horizon. Let’s say a rig is slated to require replacement of a major part at around 50,000 miles and you’re looking at a rig with 53,000 miles on the clock. If you have documentation indicating that the part was replaced during the 50,000-mile service, this gives you comfort as a buyer. If, on the other hand, the part has not yet been replaced, you can use that as part of your price negotiations.
Look for signs of previous accident damage, which can be visible when paint or body panels don’t match, or to the roof, which may have been damaged by tree branches, hail, extensive sun exposure, etc.
One of the most common and important issues to look for is any sign of mold or water damage. Not only can this indicate that there are current leak issues that you’ll need to address if you buy the RV, but it can also be a red flag of damage that you can’t see.
Look at the ceilings, near windows, and on the walls of the RV for water stains, as well as spongy areas in the roof, ceiling, walls, or floors. Unfortunately, an area where water may have leaked in previously, but has since been patched, can make hidden water damage very hard to spot.
Last but certainly not least, be sure to check for rust. Check the undercarriage, wheel wells, door jambs, window frames, and all over the exterior of the rig for any signs of rust. Some RVs have been driven in the snow on salty roads, but even a rig that has spent its life in the south can have rust issues from ocean exposure. Also, parking on grass can cause rust to develop under an RV relatively quickly, so be on the lookout.
Miles And Use: A Used Class A RV? Or Abused By Neglect?
People generally consider staying away from very high mileage used RVs which is understandable, but they often are unaware that very low miles could be a problem as well. While many people think a ten-year-old RV with 5,000 miles on the clock is a steal, that may not be the case at all.
Sitting unused for very long periods of time is not good for an RV. Engines suffer from not being run, parts that don’t rotate as they’re intended to do can rust, and seals can dry out. “Lot Rot” is a common result when an RV isn’t used very much.
A side note related to generators: We often hear people who are looking at used RVs say something like, “The generator only has 50 hours on it! It’s practically brand new!” A generator with very low time in relation to its age is NOT a good thing. Small engines need to be run just as large engines do. We’ve heard technicians say that the generators with the most problems are typically those with the fewest hours on them.
A generator should be run under load (meaning at least 50% of its output capacity) for at least an hour or two every month. So if you’re looking at a generator that’s 10 years old, you should see a minimum of 120 hours on the generator. And it would be better – not worse – to see a lot more than that, because it would indicate that it’s actually been used. Exercise is important for the longevity of the generator.
Our rig is just over 16 years old, and our generator is just about to hit an even 1,000 hours. That works out to an average of over 5 hours/month. If we’d upgraded to lithium batteries and our larger solar system sooner, it would probably be lower! But our generator still gets solid use, which is good for it.
Buying a used Class A motorhome is perfect for many RVers. Just be sure that, once you’ve identified the RV you’re interested in buying, that you have it inspected by a certified RV mechanic or professional inspector to avoid any expensive surprises. The relatively small amount of money spent on a professional inspection is well worth it if it saves you a fortune later on unexpected (and expensive) repairs.
There are so many used Class A RVs (and other types of RVs) on the market that have been well maintained and have a tremendous amount of life and adventure in them. They’re just waiting for the next traveler to come along and take them for a ride!
Check out our video The Pros & Cons of New vs. Used for some additional considerations:
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Friday 23rd of July 2021
Great information as always and liked the comparisons between new and used.
Friday 23rd of July 2021
Thanks Pat! ????
Friday 23rd of July 2021
Guys, enjoyed your post today, this was my life for 7 months last year searching for my dream coach in a high-demand, low-supply pandemic market. It is worth noting that with RVT not only can you filter your searches, but you. An save the searches and have an email automatically sent to you when a new listing matches your criteria.
Ironically, I found our rig on OfferUp, which is not on your list but the listings there are typically for what I would call Fixer Uppers. We got very lucky!
Friday 23rd of July 2021
Thanks for the additional tips, Joe. And congratulations on finding your rig!