My RV Renovation #1: What not to do when buying a used RV :(

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Blog entry by Irwin posted 02-15-2008 05:07 PM 46482 reads 1 time favorited 4 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of My RV Renovation series Part 2: Let the Demo Begin! »

Hello All,

I had wanted an RV for years and I had finally settled on a travel trailer. Well we had a tent trailer for a number of years but they were just a lot of work to put up and take down so we began thinking of which kind to get. I would spend every waking minute, it seemed, pouring over craigslist and finding that RV prices were pretty steep even for the older ones.

During this time, my grandmother unfortunately passed away. As part of her estate I was granted a sum of money and thought this was the time to get the RV I had been looking for. Now my wife loves to camp but she really wasn’t on the same page as me and wanted to pay off some debt, probably the smarter way to go for all you Dave Ramsey fans (myself included now). But we compromised on paying off some debt and finding a good used trailer (the newest we could afford). Well a couple of days later I came across an ad on craigslist for a 5th wheel RV in a nearby city. The price was within what we could afford and it was about the size we wanted. I should mention that my wife is one of those just get it done types so she just wanted to find something and buy it.

We went to look at the trailer and it was nice needed a little bit of cleeaning (from my limited knowledge of RV’s, at that time. Believe me I’m an expert now) but was definitely doable. We asked if he was firm on his price and he said that he just needed to get it sold so that he could move (red flag number one, not heeded). He immediately dropped the price $1,250.00 (red flag number 2, not heeded) and we thought this was pretty cool we’re getting a 1994 5th wheel trailer for a lot less than they were going for in the market. We immediately accepted and handed over the money. Well since my other trailer was a bumper pull I had to buy a sliding 5th wheel hitch (I have a short bed pickup) and install it before I could pickup our new trailer. I was so excited to get our trailer, when I met the seller he handed me the title (not in his name, red flag number 3) and several bills of sale documenting possession of the trailer since it was repo’d (red flag number 4, also not heeded). But at the time all that didn’t matter, we had our new trailer.

Once I got it back to our hometown, I took it immediately to the DMV to transfer the title. Luckily that went without a hitch (first red flag averted). I parked it safely on the side of our house and sat back to admire our big score. Well as I was looking at the night stand next to the bed I noticed that the table top was swelled up and the formica was delaminating (first indication that we had a problem). Water leaks, the death of most RV’s. This was just the start of my journey into RV renovation. I’ll be sharing my experiences along the entire process so sit back and enjoy.

-- If you're walking on eggs, don't hop!

4 comments so far

View Jimthecarver's profile


1124 posts in 4171 days

#1 posted 02-15-2008 05:16 PM

Irwin, I have been there done that but in the end it was still a great deal and I knew exactly what I had.
Good luck with the renovation!

-- Can't never could do anything, to try is to advance.

View Dadoo's profile


1789 posts in 4376 days

#2 posted 02-15-2008 05:26 PM

My father-in-law (passed on two years back) bought a 1986 26’ Tioga motorhome from a Sherriff’s Deputy who claimed “everything works!” Now that statement alone has got to be worth at least 100 red flags!

Yep. He wasn’t even close. As a matter of fact, the only thing that did work properly was the brand new Dometic fridge he had installed for $2100.00! Really. Can you begin to count how many red flags I’ve described yet? Yes…We inherited it. Anyhow, I’ve gotten very good at RV repair. This one’s all fixed, runs like a top and we’re planning a trip to Cape Cod this summer. So if you need any advice or ideas, feel free to PM me anytime.

I’ve got another motorhome (1986 22’ Winnebago LeSharo) that was given to me. It’s in need of major repairs too but looks salvageable! I really can’t refuse “free”.

-- Bob Vila would be so proud of you!

View MsDebbieP's profile


18619 posts in 4546 days

#3 posted 02-19-2008 10:22 PM

hmm I wonder if the renovation process will fit with Martin’s new home renovation site :)

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (, Young Living Wellness )

View csmbux's profile


5 posts in 3668 days

#4 posted 06-01-2009 03:25 AM

I have the same type of project soon to get under way, I have a class C unit with a cab over sleeper that I have to pull all the plywood out and replace. I’ve had this unit for years and never really had any issues with it before. I’m up for the challenge as I’ve never attempted anything like this before but basic carpentry is basic carpentry. I look forward to your future posting, I’m sure I’ll be able to use some of your methods in during my project. Good luck.

-- CSMBUX, [email protected]

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