By Russ and Tiña De Maris
Shopping for a used RV can exercise your PQ – patience quotient. Many RV shoppers have a list of “just what” they’re looking for and high hopes they’ll find it in a hurry. But talk with any group of experienced RVers and you’ll find that most looked awhile, and probably drove more than a few miles to find what they were looking for.
When asked where they found their RV, a surprisingly large number of folks say, “On craigslist!” Yep, that widely known Internet classified service has lead to many happy transactions for both buyers and sellers. Still, some are concerned about being scammed. Should you decide to go RV shopping on Craigslist, note these tips:
1. Scam artists rarely post a telephone number for contacts.
2. Have a handle on prices. If the price listed for a given RV is much lower than what you’ve been seeing elsewhere, it’s a good bet you’re onto a scammer.
3. Look out for ads that use terms like “certified seller” or “buyer protection.” There are no such things on craigslist – it’s definitely a “buyer beware” situation.
4. Look the photos over carefully. Some cheats have been known to steal photos from legitimate RV dealers, post them as their own, and try and sell a phantom RV. While there are plenty of good photographers out there, if you see other RVs in the picture (looking like the “for sale” unit is parked at an RV dealership) go carefully.
5. Never send money – not even to “hold” a rig – until you have personally inspected the rig yourself.
While it sounds a bit scary, there are plenty of RVers who’ve bought their RV through a craigslist posting and come away happy.
Still, don’t drive down the street with your money in your hot little fist. It can be tempting to buy the first RV that “sort of” meets your needs. But our experience in shopping for a used RV is like the girl who wants to marry a prince – you may have to kiss a lot of toads along the way. Well, you won’t have to kiss them, but you may have look at a lot of junk along the way.
To weed out some of the trash without having to make a drive, we find it best to talk directly by telephone with a seller. They’ll be more than happy to tell you all that’s right with their RV, but you need to ask, “Now tell me, what’s WRONG with this rig?” Specifically, ask if the roof leaks or HAS EVER leaked. A water-leaked RV is one that’s best avoided – hidden damage can come back and haunt you very expensively.
If you find a rig you like the sound of and it’s a bit of a drive, ask the seller to email you more pictures – lots of them. If the seller is reluctant, take that as a hint that the rig may not be all that it’s held up to be. When you do make a personal walk-through, follow all the hints we’ve given you elsewhere regarding buying an RV. Before you begin to hash out a price with the seller, look him in the face (making direct eye contact) and ask him, “Is there anything else about this RV that we haven’t talked about that I should know?” Keep your eye on the seller until (and while) he responds to the question. Trust your gut – if you think he’s hiding something, he probably is, and whatever it is, is likely costly.