When we decided to trade in our first RV and pay cash for a larger fifth wheel after seven years on the road, we knew exactly what we wanted. We actually bought the new trailer sight unseen. In fact, we did the same for our first Artic Fox 245N. But even though we love the Arctic Fox brand, and had researched floor plans for the perfect model, we did not intend to drive away in our new 2010 AF 275B before performing a thorough inspection and asking about any available warranty or guarantee. Since it is rare to find any dealer who offers a warranty on used RVs, we decided to spend the night in their parking lot. And it’s a good thing we did!
When buying a new or used RV, the Pre-Delivery Inspection is not something you want to rush through. It’s important to have a PDI Checklist and take the time to inspect every aspect of your new home. This is especially important for full-time RVers.
I was more than willing to set Rene loose on the new rig and postpone my inspection while assisting with the transfer of our satellite dish from the old rig to the new one. In fact, I persisted. But no, I was encouraged to check out my new RV. Reluctantly, I handed over the documentation for moving the mount—something I deeply regret and will get into more with a future post. If anything, I discovered an important factor when trading in an RV…read on for details about that and other considerations when getting a new RV.
Don’t Trust Just Any RV shop To Do Specialty Upgrades!
If you need to transfer any technology from your old rig to the new one, do it yourself. We had a Motosat F2 satellite dish mounted on our old rig. I had let the dealer know that we needed to move it to the new rig. I also informed them that I would be re-wiring the system myself, that I was bringing certain hardware required for the job, and that I intended to help. To make a long story short, re-wiring took much longer than expected after they damaged the system! Stay tuned for (many) more details to follow.
Make It Very Clear What You Intend to Keep
Just like when buying a sticks and bricks home, you need to be very specific about what you will be including with your current rig before trading it in. This is especially true for anything you would like to keep too! In the default world, there are detailed real estate contracts identifying such specific items as appliances or window coverings. We made a verbal agreement with the dealer about our trade-in value. We mentioned we would keep our satellite dish—moving it to the new rig—and leave the “solar power” on the old one. I wish I had been more specific about the meaning of solar power.
When I explained that I had documented the solar power system, including how to use the inverter and charge controller, to the sales manager his eyes lit up. “Oh, you have an inverter in there,” he exclaimed! Apparently I could have gotten away with keeping that equipment and just leaving the panels on the roof.
Once we had made the deal over the phone to trade in our trailer, we got to work. Fine print on the offer we received for our rig read “Subject to inspection…” Figuring they would perform a thorough inspection, with the price dropping accordingly at every check off some appraiser’s list, we decided to make our own list of repairs and detailing.
First, we spent days removing vinyl graphics and oxidation from our RV since we didn’t think it would be a good ide to show up with lettering all over the rig.
We also purchased a number of items to spruce up the home we’d been living in for 7+ years:
- new floor registers
- light fixtures
- shower head
When we saw the appraiser approach our rig with his clipboard, we were glad we spent the time to detail the rig and make other repairs including caulking, carpet cleaning, and more. We even put plastic down over the floors when we were done! Then we watched the inspector walk away after speeding through our trailer in just a few minutes. Maybe he made such a quick job of the inspection because we did such a great job. Or, perhaps we didn’t need to put so much work into it after all!
Inquire About Previous Owners
Nearly every used fifth wheel we looked at, had the original user’s manual and/or a binder filled with notes from the previous owner. I made sure to include ours, which we had been amended over the years with appliance manuals and other documentation about modifications we made. When checking out any used RV, look in all the drawers and cabinets, then ask the dealer for any available manuals or service records if you don’t find them. Ours included none, so we inquired about all previous owners of the rig, of which there had only been one. The trailer had apparently been used very little, and kept garaged. A quick look at the roof verified this as it is immaculate for a four-year old RV.
Kick The Tires, Literally
One of the most important things to inspect when buying a used trailer or RV is the tires. Look for the four digit manufacturer date code on each tire. The first two numbers will indicate the week and the latter two numbers the year that the tires were made. At first glance, the tread on our our tires looked great.
The common recommendation is to replace tires every five years, regardless of tread wear. Looking at the manufacturer’s code revealed they were just over a year old. The 2113 code indicates a manufacture date of May, 2013.
Inspect All Appliances
When checking appliances in your new RV, be sure to test both electrical and propane systems. Make sure the oven and all burners ignite on the range top, and ensure that the fridge reverts to LP gas if AC power is shut off when set to Auto. Check that you have adequate water pressure from the pump before hooking up your freshwater supply to a hose. Then shut off the pump, check pressure again and allow ample time to inspect for plumbing leaks everywhere.
I turned on our gas water heater and it ignited immediately so I presumed the heater functioned fine. After plugging in for the night, however, I switched the water heater to AC power. We waited for the water to heat up, and waited. After an hour I knew something was wrong. First I checked to see that the winterization bypass was not just diverting cold water around the heater. It was not. Frustrated, I went outside to access the water heater. I immediately noticed a small Cotter pin stuck in the power switch, preventing the heater from being turned on! Some people force the switch in the off position when winterizing or storing an RV to prevent accidental drain on batteries.
Be Prepared For Surprises!
Leaving the water heater off wasn’t the only thing our dealer overlooked when prepping this used trailer for sale. The next morning we had a really shitty surprise, quite literally. I wanted to pull all the dump valves myself before we left to ensure black and grey water drains were functioning properly. We had used the toilet, taken showers and added enough water to the kitchen sink to test the plumbing. What I discovered when I went to dump was that the cap on the drain pipe was very secure, doing a perfect job of preventing any drips. How So? As soon as I removed the cap to attach the sewer hose, black water gushed out the pipe! I immediately rushed to close all the valves that had clearly been left open by whoever last drained the plumbing.
Know The Value of Your Trade-In
Before approaching any dealer to upgrade your motor home, do your homework and know the average retail price for your current RV. In addition to researching NADA Motor Home Guides and the Kelly Bluebook RV Value, the best thing you can do to avoid any surprises when trading in your RV, is to shop around. RV and motor home Blue Book values, can be misleading. Most dealers rate RV resale prices based on actual average selling prices and comparisons to other RVs on the Market. So, when searching for your new RV, look up your current one to see what it’s going for at other dealers.
The only surprise we had when negotiating a deal on our 2007 Arctic Fox 245-N fifth wheel, was that no negotiation was required. After clearly being given a low-ball estimate from one Camping World sales rep, the dealer we purchased from offered us more for our used fifth wheel than we had seen it advertised for on various other lots. My only question was, “Can I get that in writing please?”
If You Don’t A-S-K, You Don’t G-E-T
After the nightmare with our satellite dish, it only seemed fair to ask for some sort of compensation. While I understood the dealer’s reasoning for not lowering our new trailer price a couple thousand dollars based on a vague repair estimate and my obvious irritation about the matter, I know it never hurts to ask. I had also noticed that neither of the roof vents on the new rig had any sort of cover. So I politely asked if they could install a couple Fan-Tastic Vent Covers at no charge. When the sales manager agreed, I requested a Maxxair vent cover for the fan in the bedroom. He kindly obliged. This was after we asked them to replace a cracked skylight shroud. You may not always get what you want, but you’ll never know if you don’t ask.
Pay Attention To Details
Rene was the first to notice a small repair in the side of our slide out. Once inside, I noticed a third cup holder in a funny location near the couch. Coincidentally it was in the precise location of the patch on the exterior side of the wall. Closer inspection revealed that someone had clearly tried to mask any apparent damage by covering a hole. After speaking with the service manager, we all agreed that any damage was likely just cosmetic. Of course they’re going to say that.
I guessed that the previous owner probably moved the trailer forward with the slide out, puncturing the outer wall. I never would have guessed that permanent damage may have caused misalignment of the slide resulting in leaks during a heavy rain—until the next big storm once we got home!
Take A Step Back And Look
One of the first things we noticed about our new rig, was its height. The 275-B seemed much taller than our 245-N, and it was. Why, was not immediately evident until I stepped up into the trailer and noticed the first step was higher off the ground. A quick glance under the rig and a discussion with the service manager confirmed that the previous owner had improved clearance of the fifth wheel by flipping the trailer axles.
This became much more evident once our truck was hitched up to our new home. The new fifth wheel had a rather obvious decline forward once we were hooked up. Our previous trailer actually inclined a bit whenever we were hitched up since it was much lower due to its stock axle positioning. When I went in to inquire the next morning, the service manager had already noticed the issue and recommended adjusting the pin box. I was more than happy to wait, and watch how they did it. I only wish we had done this on our previous trailer—we now have more clearance under the trailer for all those rough and remote boondocking spots paths we like to explore. More importantly, I have noticed much more clearance over the bed of our truck which has already come in handy when navigating dips, curbs and other steep turns.
We love our new fifth wheel. But we knew we would. If you’re looking to upgrade your motor home or fifth wheel, do your research to find the best rig to meet your needs. Then use these tips to make sure your new dream home, doesn’t turn into a nightmare. Got more tips for purchasing a new or used RV? Have any experience trading in an RV? Please share your own advice with a comment below!
Stay tuned for more details and lots of photos about how I rewired our satellite internet and remodeled the bunkhouse to make the workshop in our new mobile headquarters for Agreda Communications.
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