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Buying an RV Sight-Unseen: 7 Red Flags to Watch For

Buying an RV Sight-Unseen: 7 Red Flags to Watch For

RVs have been highly-coveted items for the last few years. Trying to find an RV in some regions means shoppers buy their RV sight unseen. Due to the high price of many rigs, this can be very risky for buyers. Scams are possible, and we hate to see anyone become a victim.

If you’re considering buying an RV sight unseen, there are several things that we think you should see as red flags for a scam. If you notice any of these during the transaction, run from the deal as fast as possible. Let’s take a look! 

Why Would Someone Buy an RV Sight Unseen?

Desperate times call for desperate measures. If you’re looking for a specific floorplan for an RV, you might have to search the country to find it. This could require the buyer to spend hundreds of dollars and hours seeing the RV in person. For some shoppers, it’s a risk worth taking.

I got conned buying sight unseen. Worst case scenario vintage camper travel trailer.

There are situations where shoppers are in a time crunch. They want an RV for their upcoming vacation and have a tight schedule. They may be unable to travel to the RV and must buy it sight unseen.

Are RV Scams Common?

With the demand for RVs at unprecedented levels, it’s plausible that scammers could see the potential to make a quick buck. While they’re not too familiar, they happen more frequently than they should. Some scammers do a great job of tricking victims.

Some scams will be for fake RV listings, bogus links that redirect shoppers to malicious websites, and other potential dangers. Scammers often have elaborate stories to explain why they can’t complete the transaction in person. Sadly, too many people fall for these storytellers and their scams.

Scam alert button on a key board
Be cautious when buying an RV sight unseen to not fall prey to a scam.

Buying an RV Sight Unseen: 7 Red Flags to Watch for

If you’re planning to buy an RV sight unseen, here are some red flags. You should watch for signs and walk away from any transaction you are uncomfortable completing. Until you sign on the dotted line, you can back out of any significant financial transaction.

No Maintenance Records

When buying an RV, you want to ensure that the dealer has done routine maintenance on the unit. The seller should have a list of records or proof that they kept up with the maintenance. We understand that not every owner keeps a folder full of notes detailing every item they’ve maintained. However, there should be some proof that upkeep is up to date.

The owner should be able to tell you the last time they checked the seals on the roof and around the edges. They may not provide the exact date, but a timeframe is at least helpful. Unless the seller had the maintenance done by a third party, there’s not likely going to be physical proof.

Pro Tip: Keep these 10 Things We Looked for When Buying Our Used Class A Motorhome in mind when looking into buying a used RV.

Old RV parked in forest
Sellers should be able to give you maintenance records for all the work they have done.

Vague Listing Information

A listing that provides very little information regarding the RV should be a significant red flag. Sellers should know they must give ample details to attract potential buyers. A listing with minimal information could mean the person creating the listing has zero knowledge about RVs. If they’ve never owned an RV or spent time around them, you might want to question how or why they claim to be selling one.

Also be wary of listings that are sold through brokers or agents. Many times scammers will set up elaborate brokerage or dealer websites to make it look legitimate. Always call and talk to the seller and anyone else involved in the sale to make sure these are legitimate companies.

Requiring Cash, Wire or an Advanced Deposit

Large transactions should always have an easily traceable paper trail. Anyone asking to complete a transaction with cash is likely trying to hide something. They should also never ask for any advance deposit during a private sale. You should only give money to a seller when you are 100% comfortable completing the transaction.

If you plan to buy the RV sight unseen, there should be no need to pay a deposit. However, if you can hire an inspector to check out the rig and are comfortable committing to buying the RV, you may have to pay a deposit to hold the RV until you can arrange shipment or delivery. This should be a reasonable amount however and not a large percentage of the sale.

Tom from Mortons on the Move in front of a motorhome
Yes we bought this RV mostly sight unseen, and I traveled across the country to get it. We put a 1000 dollar deposit on it, however, and made the final transaction in person, going to the bank to get the cashier’s checks with the seller.

Wire Transfer Before Delivery

If you’re buying an RV sight unseen, you should never wire transfer money before scheduling the delivery. Once you or the delivery driver has arrived and confirms the RV is present and in the agreed-upon condition, you can transfer the money. However, moving the money before the driver confirms the RV is physically present could leave you without the funds and an RV.

Wires are great quick easy ways to send money, and we use them a lot, however, remember that they are nonreversible.

Seller Won’t Allow Third Party Inspection

This is one red flag we often see in used and new RV transactions. Some dealerships and private sellers will proceed with caution when allowing a third-party inspector to examine an RV they’re selling. This is likely because they’re hiding something or worried about what might get discovered.

Repairs and fixes are not your problems until you take ownership of the RV. An inspector might discover a significant issue that drastically reduces the value of the RV. Issues with slide mechanisms, evidence of water damage, or electrical problems can be invisible to the untrained eye. These can be expensive fixes you likely won’t enjoy making on your new RV.

Old RV with hole patched up on the side
If a deal sounds too good to be true, it’s likely a scam.

The Deal Sounds Too Good to Be True

Anytime something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. If you find the perfect RV at half the price you expected, you should proceed cautiously. Scammers often come up with creative stories about how they or a family friend had to leave the country unexpectedly for work and needed to get rid of the RV as quickly as possible. 

A healthy dose of skepticism can protect you from becoming a scam victim. If you are in this situation, you should report the listing or contact the local authorities.

Seller Is Difficult to Deal With 

It’s natural for anyone buying an expensive item to ask questions. It’s not realistic for a seller to not provide answers or to give incomplete information. A motivated seller should be happy to answer all buyer’s questions. The seller should have no trouble answering your questions if you’re showing genuine interest in buying the RV.

If the seller is being difficult, you can take your money elsewhere. No deal is worth getting ripped off because you couldn’t get accurate information. When making a large purchase, you should have the knowledge to make that decision confidently.

Pro Tip: Stay on alert so you don’t miss these Top 10 Easily Missed Things to Look for When Buying an RV.

Vanlife Nightmare! We Got Scammed

Avoid Getting Scammed When You Buy an RV Sight Unseen

If you keep an eye out for these red flags, you’ll significantly reduce the chances of being scammed when you buy an RV sight unseen. Is it a good idea? Probably not in all circumstances, but we know people who had no other choice and were happy with the outcome. Do your research and proceed with caution when making a large transaction with someone you’ve never met.

Would you ever buy an RV without seeing it in person? Tell us your thoughts in the comments!

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