I'm sure you will find valid contradictory feedback about any seller or dealer. Regardless of buying a previously owned coach from a dealer or private seller, I found a few basics that have helped ensure I had a great purchasing experience and get the most out of my new-to-me rv. This is my opinion and in no way, shape, or form is meant to be a complete list.
- I identified my budget, how I would use the coach and my “must haves.” Sounds like you’ve done that.
- I got the money together so I could make an offer when I found my coach.
- I found knowledgeable people to help me with my purchase – mechanics, and people who knew the specific coach I was buying.
- I researched the coach I was buying looking for recalls, reviews, known issues, talked to owners, and became familiar with the coach's chassis, engine, electrical and house systems.
- I had a ballpark idea what the going prices were.
Once on the lot I checked:
- Tire date codes and condition including tread wear and cracking. Uneven tread can be a sign of over or under inflation, among other things. Cracking, easily seen on sidewalls, typically means dry rot. Both are very dangerous. Most tire people say to replace your tires, regardless of tread wear or condition, between 5 and 7 years. To give you an idea of cost, this summer through the Michelin FMCA tire program I will be buying 8, 315/80r22.5 tires for just under $700 per each installed.
- Chassis and House Battery age and condition. This is another big ticket item. My manufacturer has a standard price for my house batteries of $3800.
- Look for service records and receipts.
- Overall inside condition and operation of the house. Microwave, stove, AC and heat, plumbing. Look for leaks, signs of fire, condition of electrical outlets. If tv is important to you, the age and provider and HD compatibility of installed satellite system.
- Overall outside condition and operation of the chassis. I checked all the lights, turn signals, brakes, headlamps, reflectors, looked for cracks in the windshield, washer fluid/wiper operation, made sure the horn worked. Basically everything from a DMV commercial Pre-trip inspection test.
- Check roof condition.
- In the engine compartment I looked for leaks, wire and belt condition and fluid levels.
On a test drive I looked for:
- Stability, driveability and noises. These things do have normal noises, but if anything stuck out I would ask and research the response. I checked the operation of the brakes, throttle response and acceleration, Jake brake and operation of all gears. I made sure the radio and dash heat and air were operational. I checked all gauges to ensure air, oil and water temps were with-in normal ranges with stable needles. A jumpy needle can mean a leak at the gauge.
I negotiated a price that reflected known issues and left myself 10k for initial service and unforeseen repairs. I also negotiated a Pre-delivery Inspection to get trained on the coach's systems and to identify any known issues that would be covered by the seller. I had a couple sellers asking market value that would not budge on the price when confronted with 5+ year-old tires. I left immediately.
Good luck. You’re going to love it!