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If you plan to buy or sell your RV online, read this first

By Janet Groene
An Oregon couple plans to retire in 2023 and hopes to travel by RV for five years. They narrowed their choice to a Class C motorhome. On their “must” list are Brand A or Brand B, good fuel mileage, 25-28 feet, two years old or less and will be good towing a small car.

They also want it to be self-contained so they can boondock half the time. No local dealers could find anything close to their needs, so they went online.

They found good candidates in Rhode Island, southern Illinois and Louisiana. With their work schedule, they can’t go in person. Should they buy sight unseen?

Should you buy or sell an RV online sight unseen?

For insights we went to Rachel Heseltine, Vice-President of Consumer Growth at RVTrader.com.

Janet Groene: Does RV Trader provide a list of specifications that sellers must list?

Rachel Heseltine: “The basic requirements we ask for are GVWR, slideouts, bunkhouse, sleeps, engine type and make if applicable, water capacity, AC units, awning and leveling jacks.

“While these are just the basics to get listed on RV Trader,” Rachel says, “we also provide dealers with listing ‘best practices’ such as: be available to prospective buyers; include at least 25 images that include a 360-degree view, interior, front and back, upfits and tires. Lastly, RV Trader suggests sellers create a ‘robust’ description. Include class, mileage, condition and fuel type and specifics about ‘upfits.'”

Why use a paid site to sell (or buy) an RV

Janet: Why should RV sellers use a paid site such as RV Trader rather than free websites such as Craigslist?

Rachel: “Safety is (one big reason). We work overtime to ensure a consumer’s information stays safe and protected throughout the process. RV Trader offers (sellers) a variety of packages. Our top priority is to foster connections (of sellers) with engaged buyers. This allows sellers to have more control of the … relationship with the consumer.”

Janet asks: What are your fees and commissions?

Rachel: “Sellers are charged a listing fee, not a commission. For private sellers listing a single unit, one-time payments are $69.99-$249.95, depending on value and products. For dealers who want to list their inventory, we have a range of packages and products to customize.” See the media kit at RVTrader.com.

Janet: How do you vet buyers and sellers before accepting listings/inquiries?

Rachel: “With sellers we go through a process of quality checks to ensure authenticity.” She admits, “On the buyer side, we are not the direct line of protection. Our main job is to provide a connection between buyers and sellers. Therefore we leave it to dealers to determine the validity of leads. We step in if, for example, we notice a pattern of spam inquiries.” Rachel suggests seeing RV Trader’s online Safety and Fraud Center page.

Why do people buy an RV sight unseen

Janet: What is the main reason people buy an RV sight unseen?

Rachel: In a recent survey, RV Trader found that 38 percent of buyers want the “right unit” and have to look far and wide to find it. Another 28 percent shop for price. “If the price is right, people are willing to travel farther, or have it shipped,” Rachel finds.

Janet: What questions do buyers most often fail to ask?

Rachel: “(1) Maintenance and repair history. (2) Is this the original structure/layout or has it been changed? (3) Is external storage watertight? And, if the camper is towable, (4) How will this hook up to my vehicle?”

Janet Groene sums up

Thank you, Rachel Heseltine. I understand you put sellers and buyers in touch, then it’s up to buyers to make a wise choice. As a buyer I’d have more questions. Do warranties go with the RV or expire with the sale? Full disclosure about problems, repairs and the condition of soft goods such as window coverings and upholstery? Will the seller allow me to get an RV mechanic or insurer of my choice, at my expense, to do an inspection? Test drive?

What are exact measurements of beds, bunks, dining table, interior head room, aisle width when slides are closed? All tank capacities? Has the RV or accessories, such as the refrigerator, had recalls? How were they resolved? Are all items in pictures included?

RV brand, age, price and type of RV are factors in a buyer’s cost for RV insurance. I’d get some hypothetical rate quotes for this RV from an insurer. Ditto the bank, if I’m financing. I’d also check such sites as Carfax. Some list motorized RVs. A one-time report from Carfax is $39.95. I’d check for recalls and also look on sites such as Yelp, rvinsider.com, and RVtravel.com for ratings for brands, model, dealer and the website/social network I’m dealing with.

##RVT1049

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William Horton
5 months ago

I bought my 2017 Jayco trailer in 2021 from Craigslist. I found it in Sacramento about 75 – 100 miles away from where I live. It was a model I had looked at and admired in 2018 so I knew what I was getting. I had the owner show me that everything worked, paid him and hooked it up and drove it home. Since then, the trailer has had upgraded wheels and tires and has towed without trouble to Idaho and Washington.

Virginia
5 months ago

Unfortunately, some new buyers who have the luxury of walking through and actually seeing their RV still get a lemon. Too many new buyers (yes, we were those buyers some years ago) just don’t know what to look for or what questions to ask. For those buyers, they probably stand as much of a chance at getting a good one online as they do onsite.

Bottom line for buyers everywhere is educate yourself, ask questions, do your homework, and yes, find a reputable inspector or better yet, a certified RV tech who is willing to do a checklist for you. That checklist should include everything you CAN’T see. Too many buyers are awed by what the CAN see, and never look under the hood.

Caveat emptor.

Irvin Kanode
5 months ago

If you buy an RV sight unseen, have a RVIA certified inspector look it over. I recently sold one this way and I was impressed with how thorough a job the inspector did.

Be careful when selling over the internet. We had the trailer listed for 24K and received two checks for 32K and had at least one more buyer who was probably fraudulent. Don’t trust cashier’s checks.

Ali F
5 months ago

Great article. I’m glad to see an article by Janet on RVTravel again!

Lew
5 months ago

We found the perfect (for us) used Arctic Fox trailer via RV Trader and successfully negotiated with the dealer, located 1,500 miles from us. We made the drive, swapped rigs and headed home quite satisfied.

Joseph Phebus
5 months ago

We bought our 20 year old Class A from afar. First step was to get the maintenance records from the seller, then we scheduled a 1 and 1/2 hour video walk through with him to ensure everything was as advertised and represented.

Being our first Class A with little experience with diesal engines, air brakes, etc., the next step was the most critical. We asked for recommendations nd hired an experienced inspector. Our guy had 30 years experience working on Foretravels and was a shop foreman. Best money ever spent. Far less than the cost of a trip to see it ourselves, and with our limited knowledge and experience, doing our own on-site would have been of limited value. Our inspector did the inspection with us participating via Xoom, produced a punch list of issues and ultimately concluded it was a solid, well maintained rig. After purchase, we knew exactly what we needed to address in what priority.

No surprises when we picked her up and we are very happy and satisfied.

Dr4Film
5 months ago

Recently sold my RV using a broker called Pop RV. I had it on Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace and iRV2.com. I received a few tire kickers on all of the latter but no reasonable offers. I took the very first offer from Pop RV as I needed it sold before leaving in May for our Workamping jobs. I didn’t want to end up owning two coaches through the summer until I could relist it once we return in November. With regards to “certified” inspectors, do a thorough vetting of the person you want to hire to inspect the RV that is so far away. My “inspector” was a waste of $950 as I got stuck with lots of problems that he had no clue about BUT still claimed they were acceptable. I would have been better off flying there and doing the inspection myself. I should advertise myself as a “certified” non-professionally certified RV inspector as having owned a diesel pusher for 18+ years I would bet the deed to my house that I know more about RV’s than most “certified” inspectors.

Gary Vines
5 months ago
Reply to  Dr4Film

Have worked with 2 RVIA certified inspectors in purchasing a large fifth wheel. The units involved were 1500 and 750 miles from us, and we were going to have the rig delivered. The first inspector went to great lengths to insure the dealer correctly prepared for her inspection, and in the process uncovered water damage that disqualified the unit. She was at Level II inspector. She returned our entire fee when she determined the unit did not merit inspection.

Our second experience gave us details of thorough testing of all aspects of the rig; detailed photos of all important exterior and interior areas; and a thorough narrative of condition and issues for dealer attention. After inspection, we did, at the dealer’s urging, travel to see the unit and get a walk through. We have had the unit for two years, and it has been as the inspection presented it.

Bob p
5 months ago

I bought a new truck that was being dealer traded between Huntsville,AL and Montgomery, AL. It took 3 months of return trips to the dealer, 45 miles each way, to get all the problems taken care of. If I had that much trouble on a new truck think what you may encounter on a used RV.

Bob M
5 months ago
Reply to  Bob p

I’ve had good luck buying new trucks and cars. The only car I had plenty of issues with was a 2016 Cadillac ATS coup. Made on 3rd shift Sunday. Wife’s Cadillac SUV’s never any problems. My new 2 month old F150 already has two recalls. But no problem other than being too complicated.

Leonard Rempel
5 months ago

A major purchase like an RV sight unseen? NEVER, don’t do it!

Tim
5 months ago

In your third paragraph in reference to the Oregon couple you ask, With their work schedule, they can’t go in person. Should they buy sight unseen?
There are so many pit falls here, where do I begin. But bottom line even if the seller is honest and forthcoming what appeals or distracts to a buyer is almost always different than what appeals to a seller.
If such a transaction is not possible without the buyer actually seeing and touching the RV then he must have an uninterested 3rd party that he trusts look at it and report back to the buyer. There are several ways of doing this from hiring an RV inspector in the area where the RV is located to posting for help and info about the RV on several of the national RV forums. A forum member familiar with the RV I had requested info on in a forum offered to look at the RV for me before I spent the money to travel to the RV location. He lived in the area.

Claudio
5 months ago

To answer the question about buying without physically seeing the unit
A very LOUD NO !
The are car appraisers of all levels
And there is certainly an rv department
Better pay a few hundred $
Pictures do not show everything and if the seller doesn’t want you to see , he wont show
I have bought multiple cars online and it has gotten too crooked now
I have also bought rv’s and it also turned sour
I have stopped this side of my business because of the exchange rate but if i ever do it again , appraisers will be on the payroll

Brian
5 months ago

RV Trader is also a great way to shop brokers that list RVs all across the country.

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