There are two primary reasons to buy an RV fixer-upper:

  1. You’re trying to start small and save some money, while also adding some personal touches to make the vehicle uniquely yours, or
  2. You enjoy working with your hands and renovating things either for your own personal use or to flip the vehicle for sale after the renovation has been completed.

However, unless you’re a skilled mechanic with welding equipment, a metal grinder, a lot of money, and plenty of time on your hands, there are RVs that can be too far gone, even if someone gives it to you for free. So, what do you need to know about buying a used toy hauler or other motorhome with the intention to renovate? To help you make the best decision, RVT is providing six key tips for buying an RV fixer-upper.

1. Know Before You Go

Before you do anything else, you need to determine what your budget for the entire process will be. This not only provides you with a ballpark estimate on what you’re willing to spend for the RV itself, but also the repairs and renovations that will be needed to make it a valuable asset for you.

With this number in mind, you can spend a little more on a used RV if it looks like it might be in really good condition. Conversely, if it has some flaws and needs some work, you might be able to negotiate down the price so you can free up more money to fix it up.

2. The Search Is On

RVT has thousands of listings for pre-owned Class A diesel motorhomes and other used RVs to help you begin your quest. You can search our marketplace by RV Type, Make, Brand, or Keywords, and narrow your options down to whatever distance you are willing to go to visit the seller and take a tour of the vehicle for sale. You’ll also be able to search by a minimum and maximum price, which is why setting your budget first is so important. 

Once you’ve narrowed your search down to a few choice selections, you can make an appointment to go onsite to see each RV in person. For the rest of the article, we’ll break down what you want to look for when conducting your inspections:

3. Watch Out for Water Damage

As a word of caution, some RVs on the market have been purchased at auction after being damaged by flooding. Even after being dried and professionally cleaned, a keen eye may spot evidence of water intrusion in the backs of closets or storage areas.

Carefully check the walls, the ceiling, and the floors inside the RV. Look for discolorations, especially around areas in the roof or walls that have been penetrated for various installations. This could include windows, skylights, vents, fans, etc. Also look for peeling or peeled wallpaper/paint and soft or squishy areas on the floor.

An RV that has been in a flood or other water damage can have a lot of hidden issues that can become costly down the road (no pun intended). In fact, any evidence of water damage from flooding or leaks can spell big trouble, so if you find water damage, you may want to move to the next travel trailer RV or other motorhome on your list.

4. Let There Be Light

Electrical issues are the second most common problem with used RVs. Try all of the light switches and appliances, including the water pump, furnace, generator, refrigerator, air conditioner, and water heater. Plug your phone into every socket to make sure you are getting a charge.

If the RV is in storage or a state of winterization, it may not have a battery installed. Nonetheless, it should be able to be plugged in while conducting your electrical test. Unless you’re a licensed electrician who has experience with wiring harnesses, if you find any electrical issues, you once again might want to continue your search for a less complicated renovation project.

5. Diamond In The Rough, Or Bucket Of Rust?

Going back to the picture at the top of this article; even from a distance you can see rust on the bottom of the passenger door, severe damage to the exterior cabin door, and the tires look like they are in sad shape.

Any sign of rust is a red flag. Rust has a tendency to spread, which can cause serious structural damage. Look around the windows and doors, all of the edges of the RV, including around the storage areas and the undercarriage. Rust equals bust, so run if you find any.

6. Eyes Like A Hawk

Once you find an RV that suits your needs and lives up to your standards, you still may want to invest in a professional inspection conducted by your local dealership. They know what to look for and they have the knowledge to spot issues you might not even notice. Spending a few extra dollars up front may help save you from a nightmare of financial problems in the future. Find a dealership near you with our handy Dealer Searcher to find a dealership near you.

Ultimately, the final decision is yours to make in how much time, money, and energy you want to invest in your fixer-upper. Your dealership inspection can give you a better idea of how much of each you’ll need to make the vehicle your next gateway to the open road. Make sure what they point out is in your budget before settling on a final purchase price with the seller. And if you’re ready to start searching, browse all the new and used motorhomes for-sale on

By Barrett Baker

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