Friday, June 2, 2023


Ask Dave: What advice would you give to someone buying a used RV?

Dear Dave,
We are about to purchase a Starcraft Launch Ultra Lite travel trailer to go full-time. We’re in our 60s. We need alllllll the information on what to know before buying this used unit, please. What are the most important things to check out in order to buy this RV? Thank you! —Lynn

Dear Lynn,
Whether you are purchasing the travel trailer from a dealer or private owner, I would go through it with a fine-tooth comb and have it inspected by a certified RVIA technician. Here are the things that need to be verified:

The unit has no leaks! The best test is to have someone with a Sealtech machine run the test as it will find the smallest of leaks by drawing air inside the rig to pressurize it and then soak it down with soapy water to find the air bubbles. You can initially look for leaks by opening every compartment inside the rig and looking at the entire roof-to-sidewall joint, front cap-to-roof “J” channel joint, back wall, and all around the floor. Open the slide room and check for soft flooring as well as any soft flooring throughout the rig.

You did not mention how old the unit is, so I would check the roof material to make sure it was properly cleaned and conditioned and check the sidewall for any delamination. Check around the roof air conditioner to verify the spring-loaded bolts were tightened yearly so the gasket is properly seated. Look for delamination under windows, and along the floor level. Open all the compartments and look for leaks.

Perform a pressure test on the water system. You can use an air compressor set at 40 psi with a gauge, pressurize it, then let it sit for 30 minutes and see if it maintains pressure.

Run all appliances in every mode and have an RVIA-certified technician perform a propane test for water column pressure. The refrigerator needs to have not only a performance test on both 120-volt and propane, but it must also be verified to not have a cooling unit plugged, which requires a 24-hour test.

Since it is a trailer, have the bearings, axle, and brakes checked as well as the tires for tread and uneven wear. And get the unit weighed and find out what carrying capacity you have before getting to Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR).

Then have the entire 12-volt and 120-volt system tested and get the batteries verified they have not gotten sulfated.

Then before you go full-timing, take a shake-down cruise at a campground close to home so you can find out if anything needs to be addressed and you can become comfortable with how things operate. More than 50 percent of the service calls Coach-Net gets are from owners not knowing how the systems work. I have heard horror stories of people buying a rig and taking off on a long journey or full-timing only to have issues happen and no place to get them fixed. Learn everything you can before hitting the road.

I don’t mean to scare you, but be prepared. Let’s see what other advice our readers have for you. Readers?

 You might also enjoy this

Learn from others’ RV buying mistakes

In an poll, we asked our readers: Did you make buying mistakes when you purchased your current RV? Continue reading for the results.

Dave Solberg is a leading expert in the RV industry and the author of the “RV Handbook.”

Read more from Dave here


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Dave Solberg
Dave Solberg
Dave Solberg is a leading expert in the RV industry and author of the “RV Handbook” as well as the Managing Editor of the RV Repair Club. He has been in the RV Industry since 1983 and conducts over 15 seminars at RV shows throughout the country.


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Joe G in FL.
6 months ago
Reply to  Dave Solberg

Dave, by this I’m not saying you’re always right, but it seems since Bob P is better at answering these questions, maybe it’s time to switch places and let him do your job, and you do the criticizing. 😅

7 months ago

Please do not buy an ultra light for full time. Ultra light = ultra cheap build.

Joe G in FL.
6 months ago
Reply to  Capt-Kirk

I agree. Ultra light for full time use will not hold up long, unless your ‘full time’ doesn’t last very long. 😏

John Macatee
7 months ago

In my humble opinion:
1. spend the time to research several brands new and used for a better understanding of features, benefits, and conditions relative to age & normal wear.
2. As one would do prior to purchasing and or selling a home, get an understanding of the market trends regarding price. Is it a buyers or sellers market.
3. Know that an extremely few sellers of either new or used would allow anything near the investigation outlined above. However, one can climb all over and or hire a representative to investigate for you. Primarily for Previous water leak damage, and what is or isn’t working, as well as any service records, replaced items, modifications and or upgrades.
4. As with a home it’s (re: used) “as is where is” and the price is negotiable (refer to #2). For the “right” purchase price quite a few items can be taken care of.
5. Know that once your purchase is 10 years old you will be limited to the number of private RV resorts you be allowed to stay at.

Thomas D
7 months ago

Before joining the full time group,what is your experience with camping? Have you ever gone a month out? 2 months out? can you live with your partner for that amount of time in a sardine can? Are you handy and can fix anything or can’t you fix anything? Lots more to full timing than being gone from a sticks and bricks home. Besides the camper itself you will learn how to prepare meals with fewer utensils, smaller stove, little bathrooms, etc. If possible, talk to others that have gone the full time route.

John Irvine
7 months ago

I don’t trust an RV billed as “Ultra Lite”. How did they pare the weight down, or just marketing so you can towed an overweight trailer with your underweight truck?

7 months ago

If you’re not good with tools and can’t fix problems that come up on the road I would not choose the full time option.

Jim Johnson
7 months ago

Both Dave’s and preceding comments represent a hard to obtain utopia in today’s used travel trailer market.

If I were a private seller, would I allow a stranger to drive off solo with my trailer and keys without having been paid or done a bunch of background checks on what is still a potential sale? Do I spend my time to ride along to drop off the trailer for inspection? Do I live near a RIVA trained inspector? And how likely is that equipped inspector to be available after my and the potential buyer’s work day to do an inspection with little notice?

And the big kicker, it there going to be another buyer right around the corner who will do his/her own inspection and make the purchase on the spot with verified payment the next business day?

On the flip-side, I wholly agree that such inspections and nearby trials should be done before heading out on a vacation.

Bob p
7 months ago
Reply to  Jim Johnson

I think Dave is using Johnny robot to answer questions lately!

David V
7 months ago
Reply to  Bob p

I’m thinking the initial question was asked by…Johnny!

Bob p
7 months ago

I disagree with the air pressure test of the water system. Air compressor and related connections can leak minute amounts of air without your knowledge causing the air compressor to recycle. The more positive way is pressurizing the water system using the winterizing suction hose, then if the pump recycles there is a leak.

7 months ago

Check, check and check again. Ditto on staying in it at a campground near the dealer to operate every system before you hit the happy trails.
Everything breaks, just when and where.

Bill Hatfield
7 months ago

I would never ever ever buy a new or used unit without first finding a campground close and staying in it for a few days. Actually living in one you will find out so much. In 2020 I bought a brand new Grand Design Reflection travel trailer without doing this. They had a great reputation so I thought all would be fine. On the first trip out we have so many problems , stuck dump values , key locks frozen , radio and DVD player would not work and other issues. Again this was a brand new trailer. Do your work ahead and avoid these issues. Best of luck. Retired and love the RV life.

Bob p
7 months ago
Reply to  Bill Hatfield

I don’t know of any dealer that will let you live in a RV for a couple of days before you buy it. I know of a dealer in Ohio who has a vacant lot they encourage you to stay in AFTER PURCHASE to find any problems so they can fix it before you leave.

7 months ago
Reply to  Bill Hatfield

You will never find a dealer or private party that will agree with taking a new or used RV for a test trip for a few days. Liability issues! Who’s responsible for damage or an accident? Plus that new RV is now a used RV.
It’s not the same as test driving a car with the salesman in the back seat before buying it.

7 months ago
Reply to  Bill Hatfield

Bill, you’ll never buy an RV again because no one is letting someone use it for a few days to see if they want to buy it.

Sounds like your dealer didn’t do their job. Clearly their PDI sucks!

Stu Neilson
7 months ago

Go back a year and read every issue of RVtravel!
Check Mark & Trish early UTube. Mark gives a ton of how to advice, from driving to tools:
Also early episodes of Long Long Honeymoon for more great info:
The more recent episodes of each have gotten into where they are exploring, rather than how to’s, but still fun and informing.

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