Once you’ve decided on your budget and the type of RV that you want to buy, actually finding vehicles that fit into both categories can become quite the daunting task. We’ve found that there are three primary sources for locating and narrowing down your RV selection.
This is my preferred stop as Craigslist is free to both post classified ads as well as view and respond to them, so theoretically you’ll get the largest selection. Depending on where you live, you might have access to only a few Craigslist sites or a few dozen, as Craigslist has expanded over recent years from only including major cities to smaller cities like Johnstown, PA or Fargo, ND. A few tips on searching Craigslist:
- Every Craigslist site’s homepage has a list of links on the righthand side of the page for all of the states and many popular US and Canadian cities. Click on the name of a state to see all of the cities in that state which Craiglist serves. You can start with the one closest to you, but we’ve found that having about a 300 – 500 mile radius of cities is much more realistic if you want to find some selection.
- Every city has an “RV” section, but these not only include motorhomes and trailers, they also contain everything from ATVs to boats to personal aircraft. I’ve even seen a hovercraft listed. To help narrow down your selection, so that you don’t have to wade through every old dirtbike for sale, use the min/max fields at the top to put in a wide range for your budget. For example, I use a value of $9000 for the minimum field and $25,000 for the maximum field, though our actual budget is around $18,000. This narrows down your choices and makes the list more manageable, while giving you some room on either side of your wallet to play with.
- When searching through multiple different cities, it can be a pain to click the RV link and then type in your min/max values again. If you know the name of the cities you want to look through, you can simply use this URL and replace the “morgantown” bit with whatever the name of your city is:
Keep in mind though that not every city simply has their name listed in the URL, some cities (like Johnstown, PA and Altoona, PA) only take on a nearby cities name.
Also, remember that you want to actually go and look at any RV before you up and buy it just from an ad on the Internet.
Large Online RV Databases
RVzen, RV Trader Online and RVT are two examples. These sites list both RVs being sold by individuals as well as those being sold by dealers, and they often have a huge variety and plenty of pictures to go around. On the other hand, the RVs are often much more expensive than they would be if you were buying from an individual (as is the case with Craigslist, typically) and sometimes they don’t list the price at all, which is annoying and fishy in my mind. Plenty of options to sort by price, make/model or even class make these sites typically very easy to use, but I’ve also found that while their inventory is huge, many times they’re not kept up to date and so you’ll contact a lot of people who’ve already sold their RV weeks ago.
Local Dealer Websites
These sites are almost always incredibly bad. They typically look like they were built in the 90’s by a high school kid, rarely have an up-to-date inventory to display, and sometimes they just don’t work at all. However, the good part about them is that since they’re local, if you get an idea of the quality and price of the RVs they’re selling, you could theoretically take a drive out and check out the inventory for yourself. This could give you a chance to see multiple units in one place and even talk to a dealer who will likely know more than an individual selling their old RV. All of that said, however, I have yet to find even one of these sites that produced a single interesting RV.
What I’ve mentioned above is primarily for finding RVs online. Keep in mind that you could also turn to your local newspaper’s classifieds (though since newspapers charge to print classifieds, you’ll often get less results than Craigslist, however many people, especially older ones, don’t even realize Craigslist exists and therefore still go with the old print methods). Keep an eye out as you drive around your own city or hometown as well, as many people will sell their RVs the old fashioned way, by sticking a for sale sign on it and letting it sit in their driveway. There are also Penny Saver-style magazines that you can pick up for a couple of bucks at your local gas station, however most of these do have websites so it’s kind of redundant to pay cash for something you can’t search through when they already have a more powerful, online resource.
Table of Resources to Help you Find an RV with Pros and Cons
|Online RV Databases (example: rvt.com)|
|Local Dealer Websites|
|Local Newspaper Classifieds|