looking for love in all the wrong places



After an exhausting 3 month search for the “Perfect” RV, I quickly came to realize there was no such thing. As a whole, I found that most previous owners have no idea how to properly maintain an RV and have no idea what realistic condition their camper is currently. The other frustrating issue I ran into is that across-the-board, sellers are very confused about how to value their trailer using NADA. NADA is the gold standard in value reference.  The problem is sellers almost always improperly check the accessories and option boxes provided in the online evaluation process. Around the mid-2000’s all RV manufacturers started adding most “options” as standard equipment (I.e. A/C, awnings, spare tire, propane bottles, heated undercarriage/ polar package, etc). Unfortunately sellers in their haste will check all these boxes thus inflating the value of their trailer by 20-30%. In searching for RV’s this was very frustrating and led to many uncomfortable conversations with sellers along the lines of “if you’ll consider selling at actual value I’ll come take a look”. Not many were willing to admit that their $10K trailer that’s been on the market for 3 months isn’t selling because it’s actually worth much less.

Secondly, most owners were either ignorant to, or unwilling to provide info about leaks, damage, delamination of fiberglass, etc. After driving hundreds of miles and spending multiple weekends looking at junk, I finally came to realize there was no perfect trailer. On one particular occasion I nearly fell through a slide-out floor on a fifth wheel that was advertised as “pristine”. After talking with the owner and pointing out leaks in nearly every area of the RV, they err still unwilling to budge on price.

What we were looking for:

– 28-31’ fifth wheel or travel trailer
– Rear bunks with closing door so kids would have their own space (and adult time after bed :))
– Aluminum structure
– Less than 10,000 pounds
– Preferably aluminum siding
– Tub/shower combo for small kids
– Stored under shelter or covered storage (Rubber roofs only last 10-12 years and should be sealed every 3-4, no one does this until it’s too late.)

What I quickly realized was this combination was very popular and when a camper that checked all these boxes was posted on Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace, they didn’t last long. It also did not help that I was shopping end of summer with camping season just ahead.

Finally in August I found our camper on Craigslist. It was advertised just over NADA value but was listed as great condition and stored under shelter. I drove about 3 hours one Saturday morning to central Georgia and was immediately disappointed that the pictures didn’t convey the actual condition. This RV was a wreck; rat droppings everywhere, leaks in the front bedroom and skylight, rubber roof was past its usable life, and nearly every plastic piece or accessory on the camper was cracked, broken, or inoperative. It was a real let down to tell you the truth but there were a few positives. First, it checked all our boxes. Secondly most of the items were easy fixes and generally cosmetic. Since I knew we were planning a full transformation I didn’t worry much with cosmetics. Lastly, the floor was very solid and didn’t seem to be weakened or compromised in any way by the water damage. I negotiated a couple thousand dollars off the purchase price by explaining the dire need for a new roof even though I had no idea just how bad it was.

The search was over! If I had wasted another weekend looking at RV’s with a 20 month old and a newborn at home, Annie likely would have killed me. The camper wasn’t the ideal candidate but I could see it had potential.




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