What To Look Out For When Buying A Used Motorhome

Buying a used motorhome can be a great way to get a good deal. There are plenty of used motorhomes on the market and it’s not difficult to find relatively new vehicles for sale that haven’t done too many miles. You might be lucky enough to find one with lots of extras fitted and there’s the added bonus of the vehicle having been thoroughly tested and any teething problems sorted out.

However, some people are understandably cautious when it comes to purchasing a motorhome second hand. Whether you’re buying new or used, it’s a big investment and you don’t want to get it wrong. In this article, we’ll walk you through what you should be looking out for when buying a used motorhome. 

Buying a used motorhome privately vs. buying through a dealership

A frequently asked question when it comes to buying used motorhomes is whether it’s best to go through a dealership or a private seller. Generally, if you’re new to the world of motorhomes or not confident in carrying out an inspection of a vehicle, dealerships should have all the pre-sale checks well in hand and offer that extra peace of mind. They are also obliged to ensure that the vehicle is safe and will sort the paperwork out for you.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t consider motorhomes from private sellers. There can be some great deals available but be prepared to do your research and be scrupulous with your checks of the vehicle and its paperwork before you part with any money. If you do find your perfect motorhome via a private seller, you can always pay a professional to do an inspection for you.


Inspect the exterior

Have a good look at the exterior of the motorhome, checking for any signs of damage or modifications.  

  • Ask about any dents or areas where the panelling doesn’t look right. Any new paintwork or additional stickers or decals might be hiding some damage so be sure to check these out too.
  • Get a good look at the tyres and make sure they’ve worn evenly. If they haven’t it could be a sign of some issues on the road or that the motorhome hasn’t been looked after over the winter causing flat spots on the tyres.
  • Check the chassis for any signs of corrosion and take a look under the bonnet. Any signs of rust or leaking fluid could signal some issues that might be costly to correct. 
  • Look out for signs of any DIY jobs. If the motorhome is still under warranty, certain modifications might invalidate this. It could also be dangerous if the person making the modifications didn’t know exactly what they were doing, especially if any of the electrics or gas systems were involved. 


Inspect the interior

  • When you first step inside the motorhome, ensure that you take note of the smell. If there’s anything that strikes you as damp or slightly musty, you’ll want to get it checked out. Damp can cause big problems in caravans and motorhomes.
  • Do a thorough check for any visible signs of damp too. Check the seals around windows, rooflights and doors and have a good look in cupboards and storage compartments too.
  • Make sure everything is working. Give it all a go and make sure you have the instruction manuals for the appliances or you’re given a lesson in how to use them. Try all of the appliances in the kitchen and the bathroom, which should give you an idea as to how well the electrics and gas are working. If the fridge can run from battery and gas, try both of these out. Check any plug sockets are working too and switch all the lights on and off.
  • Take a look under the sinks and by the water pumps to make sure there aren’t any signs of leaking and that all the joints are still nice and tight. 
  • Don’t be shy to lift up the seat cushions and even the mattresses to check for any signs of damp or any unpleasant stains. 
  • Try out the seating and the beds. Make up any beds that will need to be converted from living areas, try out any pop-top roof beds and make sure you’re happy getting in and out of the beds if there are any ladders involved. If the mattresses or the seat cushions have seen better days and aren’t as supportive as they should be, make sure the cost of replacing these is reflected in the price of the motorhome. 
  • Get into the cab and make sure the seats are comfortable and that you can swivel them and lock them in place. 
  • Have a look in all the storage compartments and try to assess whether they meet your needs. If you’re likely to be going on long trips you might want to take a fair amount with you, so make sure there’s enough space.
  • Listen to your instincts. You’ll usually be able to tell pretty quickly if a motorhome hasn’t been looked after properly as signs of neglect can be tricky to conceal, especially if you can smell damp. If you get the feeling that it’s not quite right, don’t ignore it. Get an expert to check it over for you or keep looking, there are plenty of great used motorhomes out there. 


Get a professional in

If you’re considering buying a used motorhome from a private seller, you might not be confident in completing all of the checks yourself, especially if this is your first motorhome. In which case, you might want to get an expert in to complete some checks for you so you can be absolutely confident in your purchase. This is an extra expense but could be well worth it in the long run. 


Go for a test drive 

You are likely to be spending long stretches of time behind the wheel of your motorhome, so it’s important that you’re comfortable and confident driving it. Making sure you have the correct insurance cover first, take it for a test drive, just as you would if you were considering buying a car. 

Take it out on different types of roads if possible to get a feel for how it copes with different surfaces. See how the steering and the brakes respond. Make sure you get it up to a good speed and try some manoeuvres to see how easy it will be to do things like parking. While you’re driving, listen out for any odd noises or irritating rattling from the living quarters.


Check the paperwork 

If you’re happy with the checks and want to go ahead with the purchase, make sure all the paperwork is in order before you hand over any money. A dealership will have this all in order for you but you can always ask to check things over if you want to be sure. 


If you’re buying privately:

  • Make sure you get an HPI check done to make sure the vehicle isn’t stolen, hasn’t got any outstanding finance and that it hasn’t been written off. 
  • If possible, arrange to meet at the owner’s house as this will help you match up the details of the seller with the details on the vehicle’s documents. It’s crucial that they are who they say they are and that they have the authority to sell the vehicle.
  • Ask to see proof of work that’s been done on the vehicle, whether that’s repair work or getting additional equipment installed. If the owner is able to provide a full service history, that’s a good sign that they’ve been caring owners and you’ll be able to check the work was carried out by a reputable service centre. 
  • Bring someone with you, especially if you’re going to make some or all of the payment in cash.

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