What you need to look for before pre-purchasing a motorhome
Especially when buying a trailer in houston a After you’ve contacted the seller and arranged to view the motorhome, you’ll want to prepare yourself to do an inspection and test drive.
A part of preparing means not getting so emotionally attached to the idea of owning a motorhome that you overlook serious problems with the motorhome you are considering.
This happens far too often. You fall in love with the idea of owning a motorhome, and in your rush to become an owner, you fail to do a proper inspection.
To help you do a pre-purchase inspection, I’ve created a short list of the things to check.
When you go to inspect a motorhome, take these items with you:
- Notebook and pen
- Reading glasses
- Flashlight with fresh batteries
- Small digital camera
- Tire pressure gauge with 100 psi range
- Small mirror – for looking into hard to see places
- Cotton gloves – to protect your hands
- Calculator – to add up costs when computing offer
- Small tool kit, with screwdriver and pliers
- Rug or blanket – to put on the ground when you climb under the motorhome
- Refrigerator thermometer
After you arrive on a location to view the motorhome, speak with owner to find a bit about the history of the coach. If there are no red flags in history, ask permission to inspect the motorhome.
When the owner agrees, start with a exterior walk around, checking the following:
- General condition and curb appeal
- Accident damage
- Cracked or broken glass
- Signs of fluid leaks under the motorhome
- Missing or broken mirrors
- Low, flat or bald tires
- Flaking or cracked paint
- Cracks in the fiberglass
- Cracked or missing caulking
- Sings of rust
If you find serious problems, it may not e worth your time to continue. But if the exterior looks good, it’s time to check the inside of the coach.
As you open the coach door, check to make sure the coach steps extend as they should and work properly. The steps should feel from when you step on them.
On the inside, check the following:
- General condition of inside furniture and carpet
- General condition of interior ceiling covering 0 look for discoloration and water spots
- Any unusual odors (pet, food, smoke, mildew)
- Signs of water intrusion – look for water spots
- Soft spots in the floor
- Condition of windows, curtains and screens
- Couch, any unusual water or spotting on fabric, firmness of cushions
- Condition of dinette (if applicable)
- Wear and tear of counter, sink, faucets
- Overhead cabinets – open each to check if hinges work properly and to see condition of side walls within cabinets
- Location and size of bathroom – note whether it is a dry bath or wet bath
- Condition of toilet – It should be securely mounted in floor, no soft spots around it
- Condition and size of shower – check shower pan for soft spots (indication of rotten floor)
- Location of sleeping areas – check to make sure bed is wide and long enough for your needs
If all the above check out OK, continue your inspection by testing the mechanicals of the coach.
To check mechanicals:
- Test the generator – It should start easily and run without any stumbling. Run it with the coach air conditioner set to high so you can see how it handles a load.
- Test the refrigerator – place a thermometer in the fridge and let it adjust to interior temp. Fridge should be 38 degrees Fahrenheit or lower. Freezer should be 10 degrees Fahrenheit or lower.
- Test the plumbing system – turn the water pump on the flush the toilet. Run both hot and cold water in sinks. Look around toilet and under sinks for signs of leaks. Water pump should turn off a few seconds after you turn off faucets.
- Test the electrical system – try all light switches, exhaust fans, air conditioning, microwave, TV, and stereo system.
- Test the control panel – check to see that it shows all system and tank levels. Check that each panel switch operates properly.
- Test the propane stove – look for signs of rust under stove grates, then light each burner to make sure they all work.
- Test the refrigerator in propane mode – it should light easily and have no broken springs.
- Check that interior windows open easily and screens are in good condition.
- If there is a slide room, run the slide out to make sure it moves without problems.
If all the above checks out okay, it’s time to check the motorhome running gear.
Do this by:
- Sit in the driver’s seat and adjust as needed.
- If the seat has power adjustments, test that they work.
- If steering wheel is adjustable, test that it works.
- Start the motor. It should start easily. Check side mirror to see if signs of smoke from exhaust. There shouldn’t be any.
- Leave the motor running while you do other checks.
- Check that all the dash gauges are operational.
- Check that power windows roll up and down without problems.
- Check that power door locks work.
- Check that dash air conditioning cools down quickly.
- Check the horn.
- Operate left and right turn signals. (It helps to have an assistant outside to confirm the lights are working in tandem with the dashboard.)
- Check head and running lights.
- With foot on brake, put motorhome in gear. Listen for unusual noises. Put back in park. Make sure parking brake is set.
- Step outside of coach and listen to motor. There should be no unusual noises.
If there are no problems, it is time to check fluid levels and condition of the tires.
- Turn the motor off.
- Use the hood release to open the hood. Look for smoke or oil engine or signs of improper repairs.
- Pull oil dip stick and check condition and color of oil, using a paper towel.
- Look at levels of brake fluid.
- Check general condition of belts.
- Check under coach for fluids (air conditioner water drip is to be expected).
Since it is unlikely that you’ll have the expertise to do a full mechanical check of the motor and transmission, if you have concerns or if the coach has high mileage, you may want to get it checked by a local mechanic.
Check the general conditions of the tires. There should be plenty of tread left, and no cracking along the sidewalks.
To check the build date of the tire, look for a 4 digit number on the tire sidewall. The first two digits indicate the week the tires were
Manufactured, and the next two digits will be the year.
If you find a code that looks like:
It means the tire was built in the 51st week of 2007.
If the date code shows the tire is more than five years old, it is time to replace the tires, no matter how much tread is showing.
If tires need to be replaced, make a note and be sure to factor this in while negotiating a sales price.
If you’re satisfied with the general condition of a coach and have found no deal killers or mechanical problems, it’s time for a road test – but only if you are still interested in the coach.
If you aren’t interested in it, don’t waste the seller’s time and fuel by taking a test drive. Just thank the seller for his time and leave.
But if you are seriously interested, take a test drive.
When I do a road test, I usually ask the seller to drive for the first few miles while I sit in the passenger seat.
This gives me a chance to see how the coach rides without being distracted by the challenge of driving an unfamiliar vehicle.
This also gives me a chance to hear any unusual sounds, and see how well the current owner treats the vehicle as he drives.
Be sure to do the test with the radio or sound system turned off!
After the seller has driven a few miles, I’ll ask for a chance to drive.
When I drive, I’ll start on back streets so I can familiarize myself with the handling and braking characteristics of the coach.
If this part of the drive goes well, and I’m still interested in the coach, I’ll ask owner if we can take it out on the highway.
If he doesn’t agree, I’ll pass on the deal right then.
But if he does agree, we’ll go out onto the highway and see how well the coach handles at 65mph.
Ideally, it should handle well, not wander around the road, and not be easily disturbed by passing trucks.
On the highway, be sure to test the cruise control. It should be easy to set, and should hold set speed without problems.
Drive on the highway for at least five minutes, and learn if driving requires the two-handed ‘grip of death’ on the wheel, or if the coach can easily be driven one handed.
After leaving the highway, check behind for traffic, then test the brakes. Then head back to the seller’s location.
If at this point all has gone well, and if I’m interested, I’ll begin negotiating the price.