Our new home
In the past year we’ve poked around RV dealerships, read countless RV reviews, watched hours of YouTube walk-through videos, and asked experienced RVers as many questions as we can think of; all in the name of finding our first rig for full-time RV life.
Research. Research. Research.
It’s been “fun” (aka educational) to watch our RV dreams morph right in front of our eyes over the past few months. We started with plans for a 7 or 8 year old 43 foot toy-hauler and a ¾ tonne dually to haul it. We are now super excited about the possibility of owning a 10 – 15 year old 28 foot travel trailer that we can renovate to feel like home. Oh, don’t get me wrong, that giant toy hauler is still on the list but it’s been bumped to the “someday” list instead of the right now list.
- there’s only 2 of us so we don’t need a bunkhouse
- an outdoor kitchen would be nice, but it’s not a “need”
- we prep and cook all our meals so a decent amount of counter / cupboard space is important
- we don’t mind a small or squishy bedroom
- because we live in Canada, it needs to be insulated and built for cold weather
what type of RV do we need
- we don’t want to have to buy a “toad” so a Class A or C are off the list
- we need more inside space than a van offers so a Class B is a no-go
- someday we’d like to add a motorcycle or two to the family so a bumper pull would work as we can put the bike(s) in the back of the truck (or someone can ride the bike if the weather is decent).
where do we want to go with it
- we love the idea of boondocking so tank sizes, clearance, and solar options are important
what size do we need / want?
- we also love the idea of camping in national and state/provincial parks so staying under 35 feet is the goal
what is my budget
- things are pretty tight right now so we definitely have a dollar amount that includes the trailer, the truck, money for repairs / renos, and necessary accessories like hoses, levelers, etc.
how much do I want to repair / renovate
- we’ve learned a few renovation skills over the years and my Dad (a full-time RVer) is really handy so we don’t mind a project trailer
- we don’t want to gut it and start over so the skeleton has to be structurally sound
know the market value for your area
- at the auction people were bidding higher than local Kijiji or Craigslist ads
- when you walk into a dealership or onto someone’s driveway to look at a trailer, knowing how much a similar rig would sell for in your area (or an area you’re willing to drive to) is a powerful tool in your bargaining tool kit
YouTube walk-through videos
- I actually enjoy these but Kent gets motion sick after watching a few
- you might see an ad in the classifieds that only gives you the basic information for a rig but if you check it out on YouTube, you’ll often find the exact year, make, and model that a salesguy has walked through to either sell it or as an orientation walk-through for a client
Browse the used RVs at dealerships
- try to go during less busy seasons or time of day. We often went on cold, rainy days in the middle of the week knowing that the sales team wouldn’t be offended with us “wasting their time”
- be open and honest about where you’re at in your shopping timeline. Tell them you’re just looking today and planning to purchase in a year (or whatever)
- some sales people will be okay with this and others won’t give you the time of day. Now you know where you might buy an RV from and where you won’t! I always think of that scene in Pretty Woman “Big mistake. Big. Huge. I have to go shopping now.”
- our favourite is RVGuide.com as you will find oodles of information on many makes, models, and years of RVs
- sometimes just checking out other classifieds like rvtrader will give you the specs you’re looking for
Ask experienced RVers’ advice
Advice from Epic Nomads
Never underestimate the value of the experienced RVer. Whether it’s your parents, neighbours, favourite RVing YouTubers, or members of RV Facebook groups, any tips and advice they have for you are absolutely worth their weight. We are members at my.epicnomad.life and we asked what advice some RVers would have for us about shopping at an auction and here is the feedback we received. By the way, we encourage you to check out their social media links and follow or subscribe to each one!
Don’t box yourself in on the time factor to buy it on a specific date. Take your time and resist the urge to jump at a deal. -John Nejedlo GeoAstroRV
Someone pointed out to us the signs of overloading….. it shows up in the siding…… look down the length and make sure there’s no “rainbowing.” –Melissa Harris YouTube channel: Little House of Big Facebook page
Look for a great quality RV when it was new and it will be good for years to come. If it was a low quality RV when it was new, I would avoid it used. Don’t get too involved with the process that it becomes a emotional challenge that you need to win. –Scott Fox
In our area, used is anything that says ‘LITE or LIGHT’ on it. Most people have been to the hills/mountains with them and they structurally aren’t made for those roads. Especially if the owner only had the weekend to get there and back. –MLouGrabowsky
When it comes time to start narrowing down your choices and you actually get to see, touch, – and yes – smell those RVs, you’ll want to bring someone with you; preferably someone with RV experience, a handy-man, or a certified RV inspector. And then it’s time to really get to work. Here are a few things we’ve learned during this part of the process:
- Wear comfortable clothing as you’ll be crawling around, above, under, and through the RV and some of them are not as clean as we would hope
- Bring a pen & paper or record each rig with your camera /phone so you can reference the information later. Trust me, you won’t remember which rig had the patches on the roof or the hail damage on the side by the time you get home let alone next week when you sit down to analyze the data
- Read (and record) labels and stickers
- Walk around the outside looking and feeling for delamination, bowing, rust, cracked axles, etc.
- If you walk into a rig and it really stinks or smells moldy, run away. That is a problem you don’t want to have to deal with. If it just smells old or like mothball or pickles, keep inspecting
- Look and feel for soft spots in the walls, floors, in behind cupboards and cabinets, under and behind the bed, etc.
At the Auction
I love what Scott says above about not letting it become an emotional challenge that you have to win. It can feel like a game, but try to keep the emotions under control and go in with a solid game plan. After spending several hours, over the course of two days, we wrote out our pros and cons for each rig on our short list. Then we made a little sticky note for each one (we had 9 on our list) and placed them in the order that the auctioneer would call them out. We also noted what our absolute top bid would be for each rig based on our research, how much we might have to put into it for repairs, market value in our area, and what we thought would feel like a “smokin’ deal”! We didn’t get to test all the systems in these RVs so, even after all our research and inspections, we’re really going in blind without seeing if the slides work, if the pumps are functioning, if the tanks have leaks, etc. so it is a pretty big risk but we’re usually risk-takers and we’re good with this. If you’re NOT a risk-taker, my recommendation is to steer clear of any and all auctions. Seriously. In the end, we didn’t buy anything at the auction as every trailer was sold at a much higher price than we were comfortable with, but we learned a lot and it was a unique experience. And so we continue the search for our new home-on-wheels and will definitely keep you posted. I’m curious, have you ever purchased a big-ticket item at an auction? What was your experience like? Would you recommend it to people? What are your best tips and advice for us if we choose to try this again?