How To Buy a Used RV So It’s Covered Under an Extended Warranty

So you’ve decided to take a leap of faith into the wonderful world of RVing. You’ve done the rigorous research between a travel trailer, fifth-wheel, pop-up camper, Class A, Class B, and Class C and decided which is best for you and your adventure crew. Now, you have to weigh your options between a new home-on-wheels or a used one.

On one hand, a new motorhome is straightforward when it comes to vehicle specifications and a manufacturer’s warranty – not to mention that new coach smell. On the other hand, a used RV is a much smaller investment and it’s likely the previous owner already handled initial mechanical failures on the rig.

In general, used RVs are a financially-friendly introduction into life on the road that avoids the imminent depreciation of driving a new motorhome off the lot. However, without the safety net of the manufacturer’s warranty, breakdowns can be a turnoff for purchasing a pre-owned RV.

With the cost of repairs skyrocketing, it’s more important than ever to have a plan of action in place to ensure you don’t blow your travel budget on repairs when the unexpected happens. One way to do this is with an RV warranty.

But how do you know if your pre-owned motorhome will be covered under an extended warranty?

With this used RV buying checklist, you can ensure your well-loved rig will be covered by a warranty policy. The checklist includes questions to ask the previous owner or dealership, items that will never be covered, the importance of inspections, coverage on upgraded parts, and resources you can use to verify the condition of the motorhome.

1. Gather information and guarantee you know the answers to these questions before purchasing your pre-owned RV.

There are some essential questions that a buyer should ask prior to purchasing a used home-on-wheels. Not only do these queries verify the quality of your rig, but they are a resource for smooth claims processing down the road.

Have there been any aftermarket modifications?

Every potential customer of a pre-owned rig should find out whether or not the unit has had any aftermarket components added. Any modifications that alter performance can be cause for a warranty claim to be denied if that part fails. Additionally, if an aftermarket component was added that is not within the manufacturer specs and it affects another part on the vehicle, neither component would be covered in the event of a failure.

Can you provide the maintenance records?

It’s important to certify that the previous owner kept up with recommended maintenance. This is a huge indicator that the vehicle was well cared for, and is in solid working condition. This is a trend you’ll want to continue as you take ownership of the rig, as warranty companies will occasionally request maintenance records on older rigs when filing a claim. Without proper documentation, the repair claim may be denied under the grounds of neglect. However, for pre-owned vehicles, they will not require maintenance records prior to your date of purchase.

Take note that every motorhome will have different care requirements, and it’s imperative to get accurate records specific to your model. The best way to collect this information is through maintenance receipts from the seller during the purchase process. If that documentation is unavailable, a secondary option would be the reports found on sites such as Carfax. 

How often was the RV used?

A rig’s mileage is a good indicator of when components will need to be replaced or repaired. The heavier a rig is used, the more likely that parts will start fail. If an RV was used extremely often, it’s more likely that things will start to fail all at once. In its second year, 3 out of 10 RVs will have a major breakdown. That statistic jumps to nearly every RV by its eighth year on the road.

Although heavy use can indicate mechanical and electrical failures on the horizon, you don’t necessarily want something that’s been sitting in a garage for 10 years either. The more often an owner drove their rig, the more likely they were to provide proper care and keep maintenance records. 

Where was the RV stored?

The storage facility the rig was located in can help you determine expectations of the motorhome’s condition. If an RV is stored somewhere dry and away from the elements, it’s going to be in better shape than a motorhome that’s been exposed to the outdoors during non-use.

Is there any water damage?

Water damage can be RV kryptonite. Not only can it wreak havoc structurally and health wise (you don’t want to be breathing in mold), it can eventually affect the mechanical and electrical components in your home-on-wheels as well.

If a warranty company sees water damage that happened a long time ago and it causes mechanical failures, it would not be covered under an extended warranty due to the indication of a preexisting condition. At the end of the day, it’s your job as the potential owner to make sure there is no water damage to the rig prior to purchase.

One thing to note is consequential loss coverage that can be added into some warranty policies. Consequential damage is the failure of a covered part due to the action or inaction of a non-covered part. This would come into play if the water damage happened during your ownership of both the unit and the warranty coverage, and it caused damage to a covered part. The consequential loss coverage means that the covered part would be paid for during the claims process in this case.

2. Realistic Expectations: There are items on a used rig that will never be covered by an extended warranty.

Extended warranties are for mechanical and electrical components only. It does not cover maintenance items, nor does it cover every item in your coach. It’s important to know what will and won’t be covered when purchasing a rig, so you know exactly where your responsibilities lie.

Lamps such as tail lamps, headlamps, or any kind of sealed lamp, will never be covered under an extended warranty, regardless of a unit being used or new.

Another good definition to be aware of is seals and gaskets. While most reliable warranties will cover seals and gaskets, there are certain types that will not be covered, including weather stripping or unit seals. The weather stripping and unit seals are motionless seals that secure the motorhome from the elements and other debris, but do not aid or effect the mechanical function of a component. Due to their stationary nature, these items are not considered mechanical or electrical and therefore are not covered under an extended warranty.

Exhaust components are another excluded item to notice when reading through your policy. These components are considered wear and tear, and while wear and tear clauses exist in some contracts, the exhaust components are always listed in the exclusions. This is because these items are extremely vulnerable to the elements. They’re more likely to wear quickly because they’re consistently exposed with nothing to cover them against road impediments, such as puddles, while driving.

Additionally, exhaust components naturally accumulate moisture, which can lead to rusting as a result of combustion. Generally, they’re not made to last – depending on the climate they have a shelf life of 3-4 years. Read your contract and ask your salesperson questions on the clauses you don’t understand to ensure there are no surprises down the road.

3. Facilitate a third-party inspection on the unit.

Third-party inspections are key in the used RV buying process because it gives a nonbiased opinion on the condition of the motorhome. Even if you’re not getting a warranty, having a third-party inspector is invaluable to avoid preexisting issues when purchasing a preowned rig. These inspectors are particularly trustworthy as they have no stake in the sale – they’re simply checking what they were hired to check.

First, ask the original owner or dealership if there are any existing conditions that have not been addressed. Verify with a third-party inspection. In some cases, a motorhome is traded into a dealership without the shop’s knowledge of existing issues. Whether intentionally or unintentionally, the shops won’t always know about and disclose that information. If the inspection does uncover a few minor problems, many RV buyers are able to have those repairs paid for before the purchase is complete.

4. Know what upgrades have been done on the RV.

If an upgrade was done on the manufacturer level, it will be covered under the warranty. However, the majority of do-it-yourself and dealership modifications are not covered.

Manufacturers specify that a unit is built a certain way, with all components and specs meticulously notated upon completion of the unit. When upgrades are added, they can affect the manufacturer specifications which would not only void coverage for the part itself, but any other components the modification is affecting. For example, many RVers choose to modify parts of their engine in hopes of getting better gas mileage. However, this alters the manufacturer’s intended functionality of the engine, thus voiding any and all warranty coverage for the entire engine unit.

Check with the manufacturer to confirm the upgrades added don’t go outside the factory specifications. If there is no effect to the original specs and the alteration is manufacturer installed, the coverage will generally act as normal.

5. Use your resources to get as much information as possible before purchasing your used motorhome.

Carfax and similar sites are good resources for maintenance records and vehicle history. It’s important to get multiple versions because there is room for error within the reporting. Having more than one source of information can iron out any inconsistencies with mileage, maintenance, and other specs.

At the end of the day, a used rig is a great way to affordably break into the RV lifestyle. However, without the manufacturer guarantee that comes with a new rig, the cost of repairs can be daunting on any budget. An extended warranty can alleviate those repair woes, and get you on the road with peace-of-mind coverage.

After you’ve made your purchase on a used rig, it’s time to buckle down and decide on the warranty that will be right for you and your RV. “Decoding Your RV Warranty Policy” is a 3-part series that will help you understand what to look for in a policy, and help determine what coverage is right for you.

If you’re ready to purchase an RV extended warranty – you can get a free, no-strings-attached quote here.

Article written by Wholesale Warranties, the premier provider of RV Extended Service Contracts, commonly referred to as RV Extended Warranties.


This information is for educational purposes. VIARV shall not be responsible nor retain liability for RVer’s use of the provided information. Prior to making any RV service decision, you are advised to consult with an RV professional.

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