Last Updated on 05/06/2024 by Glynn Willard

Checklist For Buying A New Travel Trailer

This list will help instill peace of mind before hitting the open road in search of National Parks and the best camping.

Let’s get towing!

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Are You Buying A New Camper?


Prepare yourself for rapid depreciation and several initial repairs when buying new.

It seems to be “standard operating procedure” for RV manufacturers to release new RVs with immediate repair issues.

This can be challenging for first-time RV owners and test your sanity.

Seasoned RVers know this and are prepared to have issues handled immediately by the dealership.

Regardless, some individuals prefer to be the “first owners” of anything and I can respect that outlook.

As long as you’re prepared, you’ll be fine.

Are you Buying A Used RV?

In my opinion, buying a used trailer is the way to go, but it comes with a few caveats.

Buying a used travel trailer will minimize the amount of depreciation you incur in the long run.

If you time it right and buy a camper that’s still fairly new, you might even be able to use it for a couple of years and sell it for almost as much as you paid.

New RV owners will especially benefit from the slower depreciation if they ultimately feel like they made a mistake and want to sell.

It happens.

  • Buying Used From RV Dealerships
    The dealer may or may not be honest about issues with the camper, which is why I suggest hiring an RV inspector later in the article.

    But, you’ll be able to negotiate some maintenance or repairs into your potential purchase.

    This can be priceless in the long run.

    You’ll also have a pre-determined location for servicing your RV.

    We’ve found some dealers that are only willing to service the rigs that they sold. Yes, there’s that much demand.

    Lastly, you can compare the RV you’re considering with a lot of other RV options right there on the same lot.


  • Buying A Used Travel Trailer From A Private Seller
    There are some real benefits to meeting and buying a pre-owned RV from the previous owner.

    Every RV has its quirks.

    The previous owner can fill you in on the specific nuances of your new vehicle.

    I was fortunate to have that experience when the previous owner of my first travel trailer filled me in on every detail.

    Another benefit is that most of the warranty work has already been dealt with by the first owner and they’ll likely have records.

    That translates into less for you to have repaired.

    Lastly, the overall purchase price will likely include many of the RV essentials that don’t come with a new RV.

    That’s a real bonus!


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New Travel Trailer Checklist

Note, that this list is not in a particular order, so I incorporated checkboxes for you to maintain your sanity.

You have enough to consider and think about during this overwhelming experience.

   Is Your Tow Vehicle Adequate?


This is so important! Most half-ton trucks might state they can tow X amount of weight, but in reality, the tongue weight of your trailer might exceed the entire payload capacity of your truck.

This is not something to take lightly (pun intended).

Exceeding you’re truck’s payload capacity is unsafe to you and others on the highway.

Unless you’re buying a tiny trailer, arm yourself with a 3/4 or full-ton truck. Seriously.

This takes us to the next item on the list.

    What’s The GVWR, Tongue Weight, And CCC Of The Trailer?

Take the time to learn the weight limit, cargo carrying capacity, and tongue weight of the towable RVs you’re considering.

Sadly, many salespeople will not know these numbers, so it’s up to you to calculate to make sure all of your personal items, water, and tools can travel with you safely.

You can take a deep dive into this information in my article:

Guide To Understanding RV Dry Weight, GVWR & Cargo Capacity

If you buy privately from a single owner, they may already have these numbers calculated for you.

    Is There Enough Storage Space?


Check all the nooks and crannies to make sure they’re the right size for all of your possessions, including larger outdoor gear.

Keep in mind, that you should always carry the essential tools to make repairs when you’re boondocking in remote areas or stranded on the side of the road.

It helps to generate a list of everything you’ll take on your road trips to make sure it will all fit in the storage areas.

    Is There A Digital Interface To Control The Systems In The Camper?

Older travel trailers are far less complicated.

Read that as fewer things to break or stop working.

I love tech as much as the next person, but some of the newer systems can be confusing and introduce new problems.

Make sure you ask a lot of questions

We have a FireFly control system on our latest RV and it’s cool, but it’s already had problems.

The goal is to get out there and enjoy camping, not problem-solve your RV’s systems.

Ask the salesperson or seller if the firmware to the unit is the latest update. If not, have it taken care of if it’s a dealership.

    Where Are All The RV Systems Located?

​Take some time with the delivery specialist to learn where and how to access all of the systems in the RV.

This knowledge will help with potential repairs and keeping those systems cleaned and maintained.

​Ask them to grab a screwdriver and start removing panels.

This may seem tedious, but it’s a big deal in the long run of caring for and maintaining your rig.

    Check And Learn How To Use The Water Heater


Water heaters in different RV’s all seem to have their own unique operating instructions.

Go over how to turn it on, and off and how to do regular maintenance on it.

This will also offer you the chance to make sure it works properly if it’s a used RV.

    How Do The Air Conditioners Work?

Air conditioners are fairly simple and the older style thermostat was simple.

The air conditioning on our newest RV is completely different and requires an advanced degree in the FireFly system.

Please don’t assume your potential travel trailer’s air conditioner will be simple to operate.

Take the time to review everything with the delivery specialist.

    How Does The Plumbing System Work?

An RV’s plumbing system is very similar to a house including the use of PEX lines.

There will be multiple bypass valves for which you’ll need a cheat sheet. Take the time to video, photograph, or write down what you learn.

Spend some time clarifying the following:

  1. How to sanitize the freshwater tank.

  3. How to winterize the RV.

  5. Dewinterizing the RV.


    Is The Water Pump Easy To Replace?

​Frequently used water pumps break at some point. Not having access to your water when you’re boondocking the desert is a real issue.

We’ve encountered full-timers who always carried a spare water pump for the “when not if” it happens situation.

Knowing where your water pump is and what kind it is can save you a lot of frustration eventually.

    Where Do You Fill The Water Tanks?


Some trailers incorporate gravity-fed systems and others require pressurized water to fill the tank.

Have the person selling you the rig explain how your particular system works.

    How Do You Dump The Gray And Black Tanks?

This is most likely fairly simple if it has a gravity-based dump system.

Pull the black handle and when finished pull the gray handle. Pretty straightforward.

But a lot of newer RVs are incorporating an inline macerator.

It’s a little more complicated, so spend some time reviewing the workings of such a system.

    Batteries, Inverters, And Solar Power Systems Are Complicated

This is a big section!

A couple of solar panels and deep-cycle batteries are simple.

But by incorporating lithium batteries, inverters, charge controllers, battery monitors and a vast array of solar panels the RV’s power source rises to another level of complicated.

Hopefully, your potential purchase comes with a separate manual for the power system.

If not, video the person walking you through the care and operation process.

If it’s a DIY install, it’s even more important that the seller guides you through the systems.

There will likely be no manual and mistakes and be both dangerous and costly.

    Where Is The Fuse Box And Circuit Breaker?

The salesperson will likely point the locations out during your walk-through without you asking.

Just make note of the location and do yourself a favor and buy the appropriate spare fuses to have on hand.

It’s cheap insurance.

    How Do The Microwave And Oven/Stove Work?


Take the time to understand how your kitchen appliances work with regard to the RVs power system.

Some ovens require you to light the pilot light every time you plan to use it, so make note if this is the case.

Many of the newer travel trailers use a conduction-top stove which requires the use of an inverter or being plugged into shore power.

Propane systems are more suitable for off-grid boondocking.

    Proper Tire Pressure And Wheel Care


​The person showing you the RV may not know this, so take it upon yourself to learn the proper tire pressure based on charts supplied by the tire manufacturer.

Knowing the weight of your trailer and the use of the charts goes a long way toward tire safety.

Learn when and how to properly maintain your wheel bearings.

Yet again, ask me how I know.

Improperly maintained bearings are a common problem for travel trailers

    An Easy Way To Check Axle Alignment

If the trailer you’re considering has dual axles, take a long straight edge with you to easily check the alignment.

Place the ruler or length of the board directly across both axles horizontally.

If it evenly touches all the sidewall surfaces, the axles are in alignment.

If not:

  • An axle might be bent.

  • The bushings on the suspension system could be worn out.

  • The bearings may have already gone bad.

  • Or the tire pressure could be “grossly” off.

You can see an example in our video. The location in the video is listed in the timestamps.


    How Does The Leveling System Work?

If it’s a manual system, you’ll rely on blocks or Anderson levelers.

​We wrote a helpful article on how to level your travel trailer.

6 Easy Tips To Level Your Travel Trailer (On A Slope)

If it’s an automatic system, make sure it all works properly and have the delivery specialist demonstrate it while you take notes.

    How Do You Maintain And Operate The Slides?


Campground fees can add up fast.

If the travel trailer you’re buying has slides, learn the steps in using them as well as your concerns.

Also, have them walk you through how to properly maintain your slides.

​Any moving part of an RV should be tested thoroughly while you’re still at the dealership.

Not the first time you take the RV camping.

    Where Are The Propane Tanks And How To Fill

Not all trailers are created equal when it comes to storage of the propane tanks.

Most are located on the tongue just in front of the trailer body.

​Go through the steps of removing the canisters and where to have them filled.

We prefer Tractor Supply as our propane goto.

    How Does The Generator (If Equipped) Function?

There are a handful of travel trailers and toy haulers that have on-board generators.

Take the time to learn how they operate in conjunction with the other power systems on the rig.

It may be more complicated than you think and is worth reviewing.

    Learn What Is Required For Regular Maintenance


Part time RV living

Maintenance on an RV is a lot easier when you have a home to park it.

The manual that comes with your RV will most likely list periodic maintenance.

We have a good article outlining a preventative maintenance checklist.

You’ll find it helpful in maintaining the “youth” of your travel trailer as well as its safety.

    What Maintenance Is Required On The RV Roof?

​Most travel trailer rooves can be walked on and require some care.

Find out what the in-house RV techs suggest for treatment for your particular type of roof.

Knowing this upfront will save you research time and contribute to the longevity of your roof.

It may also require resealing on occasion. You can have this professionally done or do it yourself.

I checked my roof every time I washed the rig and corrected any broken seals I found with ProFlex and Dicor.

Yes, those are affiliate links to help you know what I’m talking about.

    What’s The Best Way To Clean The Trailer’s Exterior?


The dealership or person selling you the travel trailer may have some suggestions as to how you keep your RV cleaned.

If you have the means to have your RV professionally cleaned regularly, that’s great.

But there’s still value in doing it yourself as a means to get up close and personal with your travel trailer.

This is when you find issues that might be missed if someone else is cleaning your RV.

I wrote an article about my favorite and easy cleaning products for travel trailers. The keyword is “easy!”

Best & Easiest RV Wash And Wax To Use (Ceramic Review)

    How Much Time Is Left On The Warranty?

If the RV is used and it’s still fairly new, inquire as to how much time is left on the warranty.

If you have a short window of time remaining, have the rig inspected and take care of repairs before the end of the warranty.

Always set aside a “repair fund” for your travel trailer, fifth wheel, or motorhome.

Again, it’s not if, but when recreational vehicles will need some type of repair.

Having the funds “ear marked” in advance will eliminate some (not all) heartache.


Hire An RV Inspector

A seasoned and qualified RV inspector will have their own RV inspection checklist.

If you’re buying used and you’re a new RV owner, I can’t stress enough the importance of hiring an RV inspector.

An inspector will know what to look for and can take a closer look for red flags.

Chances are you will not notice any hidden water damage that an inspector will find.

Any potential mold in a used RV is a serious issue and needs to weigh heavily on your decision to buy the RV or not.

How do you find a qualified inspector?.

You can use the National Recreational Vehicle Inspectors Association (NRVIA) to locate one near you or near the RV you intend to buy.

Before Hitting The Great Outdoors

Doing more than one shake-down camping trip before longer road trips is a good idea.

Reading the manual and playing with the RV in your driveway is not enough.

One doesn’t learn the systems and nuances until you actually use the RV the way it was meant to be used.

It’s also likely you will find issues that require warranty work.

Having these issues remedied before your first RV trip will eliminate heartache and improve the experience for every family member.

Ask me how I know!

Wrapping Up New Travel Trailer Checklist


Checking the above boxes before and as you take delivery of the camper will arm you with the right information.

Pro Tip: Joining the specific FaceBook groups for your new RV will put you in touch with knowledgeable RV enthusiasts who know your rig better than most.

They’re a priceless wealth of information!

The world of RVing is amazing and it changed our lives for the better.

I hope you have the same experience with your new camper!
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