How to buy an RV

We had found a good deal on a 5th wheel that seemed to be just what we wanted. We drove 6 hours (RT) one day to check it out and make sure it was The One. We made an SMS-based deal with the sellers.  But we had no clue what the rest of the process looked like.  Steph and I have bought several different houses.  Like real estate this was a pretty big purchase and it will be our home….but it has wheels so its more like a vehicle….right?  Steph and I have bought several cars, always used, twice with salvage titles, and always with cash.  But almost none of that experience translated to buying this fifth wheel.  What to do?

The first thing I did was draft a purchase agreement.  I found a pretty good one on line that I used as a starting point and I had a neighbor/friend/lawyer help me make it a bit more fair for both buyer and seller.  Other than the standard stuff there were a few other unique items in this deal:

  1. There was the potential to purchase the remainder of the warranty.  So I added that the seller must provide a copy of the policy clearly explaining coverage, and that the warranty was transferable and cancelable.
  2. I added an addendum similar to a property disclosure where you clearly mark what was is included, what works, what doesn’t etc.
  3. The seller needed to live in it for awhile until they got a replacement rig.  So we created a timeline that was comfortable for them and also gave us time to figure out how to move the trailer (we didn’t have a tow vehicle yet) and where we would store it.
  4. I wanted to do a “proper” inspection of the unit….so we added some verbiage about that taking place at delivery time and several options for handling any issues found (adjust price, or have current owner use warranty, etc)
  5. The seller did not hold the title….the bank did.

The seller worked their tail off to get #1 taken care of but from my POV it was a disaster.  There wasn’t even a claim being made and communication with the company seemed horrific.  I’m not a fan of warranties any way so we nixed that from the deal and I put the money saved into the WHEW (Wach’s Hefty Extended  Warranty).  When this whole thing is over I’ll let you know how that turned out.

The seller obliged my #2.  I’m sure they thought it was a bit silly….but I figured over communication was better than the opposite.

Our church family came to our rescue on #3.  One family offered to let us store the trailer on their land and another family offered to help us transport the rig.  Keep in mind this unit is BIG and it was 3 hours of mountain driving from Longmont.  So….a “shout out” and gazillion thank yous to the  Ryplewski and Austin families of Berthoud, CO!

Eric Ryplewski said he’d be happy to help me inspect the unit when we went to get it.  He has owned several RVs and done all his own repairs on them.  Plus the dude was a nuclear engineer living on submarines while in the Navy….so he knows a little something about living in small, self-contained units!  So that covered #4.

And good old #5….the title.  Because we’ve always paid cash for our cars (we buy CHEAP cars or get them as hand-me-downs) we’ve always held the title.  I did not even think about the fact that the bank holds the title if you finance the vehicle.  The seller figured out the payoff amount, how much they had in cash and we used the remaining balance as the deposit amount.  The idea was, they pay what they had in cash, we pay the deposit, and with the loan paid off the title can be released to the current owner.  It was a sound idea but it took a bit of trust on our part.  I kept envisioning this scam where the seller struck deals with several people getting each of them to commit to a relatively small deposit paid toward the loan, the loan is paid off and they disappear across the border living on the beach in Baja in a 5th wheel paid for by a bunch of others!  Their bank would not tell me the balance on the loan, or even if after my payment it was paid off.  But I trusted this family and so I made the deposit.  The seller contacts the bank to get the title which is actually held by the DMV in their home state of Iowa and we are told the sellers should get the title in hand in 10-14 days.  So I marked off 14 days and made plans with my buddy to spend that day taking delivery of the 5th wheel.

For the remaining balance paid to the seller I preferred cashier’s check but I knew that from a seller’s POV those can be risky so we ended up paying half cashier’s check and half cash.  That was the biggest wad of cash I’d ever held I think!  So I have funds all ready and the days are clicking by but still no sign of the title.  The seller starts to get a little worried and spends significant energy trying to track it down.  I’m sure they could write a whole post about the SNAFU that turned out to be but the short story is the day we were going to take possession there would be no title to hand over.  On top of that, the seller’s were still not fully transferred over to their new trailer.  But Eric and I showed up anyway to do our inspection, finalize the deal and take possession.  I felt a bit guilty as we drug the rig away from the YMCA campground with the previous owners stuff piled in garbage bags on picnic tables…but I know they needed to get the deal done and they were holding up their end of the bargain just as we were.  They let us keep their license plates on it to reduce our risk of getting stopped.  While its best to have the title, I talked to the state patrol and they just needed proof of ownership.  Between the bill of sale and a letter we had from the bank explaining that title was in transit to the sellers I hoped we had enough proof for Ponch if he happened to pull us over.

Let me make this very clear….there is not a better guy I could have had with me that day than Eric Ryplewski.  He gave me confidence that the unit was in good shape and that we’d get it delivered safely.  Eric taught me a ton that day about trucks, diesel motors, gearing, brakes, etc.  In the end we took it to his house to store it.  Such a wonderful family….we are honored to know them and call them friends and be brothers and sisters in Christ!

The sellers finally received the title and they finally got it sent to us.  I now need to get it titled in CO and we can call it a done deal.

The family we bought it from was a very trustworthy family and they were very patient with all my concerns and worries.  I really don’t know how we could have made the process any smoother or less risky for either party.  It should go much smoother when we sell it on the other end of our trip since we already hold the title.

Now to buy a tow vehicle!

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