Buying An RV Sight-Unseen… Are You Crazy?!

9 05 2010

This may come as a surprise, but it’s not uncommon for buyers to purchase RVs sight unseen. In a conversation with the seller after we had sealed the deal, he mentioned that a family from New Zealand had expressed interest in the RV we bought and were willing to purchase it while still in NZ.

While there are of course risks on both ends of a long-distance vehicle transaction, there are practical steps that a buyer and seller can take to minimize those risks. Some things we did:

  • I spent hours on the phone with the seller going over a way too long checklist that I compiled. I documented the seller’s answers to my questions, and sent him my notes to confirm. Part of our written agreement is that if at the time of pick-up the RV is not as represented, the sale is off. I also requested many more ‘current state’ photos of the RV and its components and will confirm that what we see at pick-up matches those photos.
    • (Bonus: I’ve made the “Buying a Used RV” checklist available as a Google Doc. It is compiled from various sources, with my own items added in.)
  • I confirmed that a reverse look-up on the seller’s land line leads to his name.
  • I used Google Street View to see that the RV was in the seller’s driveway.  (I wasn’t expecting to see the RV there, but spotting it was a plus!)
  • I made sure that I felt comfortable with the seller on the phone, and that everything he said was consistent. For example, he referenced his wife [Name] being on Facebook during our call, so I made sure that her profile existed and had consistent content. I also called the seller’s house line during the day when he was out to confirm that his wife would answer the phone.

From the time I’ve spent talking to the seller, I am completely comfortable with our transaction. I am convinced that the owner takes great care of his vehicle, knows it well, and will deliver it in fine shape. I just can’t wait to get out to California at the end of July to pick the thing up!

posted by jayhorowitz

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4 responses

9 05 2010
Josh

Great points, and I completely agree! I used to sell a lot of online goods in a market that was rampant with fraud. Just doing a few basic checks, such as having a phone number that you can verify by reverse lookup (and then calling that number to make sure whoever answers is who they say they are) will eliminate 99.9% of the fraud.

You obviously have all your bases covered, and then some. Also, you still have an out in the contract if the vehicle fails your initial inspection. I’d actually say you have done a better job than most people would have if they were working with a local seller.

10 05 2010
jayhorowitz

Thanks for the vote of confidence! I actually just friended the seller’s wife on Facebook and saw a bunch of photos of the family camping with the RV! I think I’m pretty safe on this one 🙂

10 05 2010
Susie

Wow, good for you guys! I’m taking a contracts final in 2 hours, and I must say, you seem to have written a pretty solid contract. So often parties fail to account for what will happen if the product isn’t the same as was represented, and then the court has to step in to fill in the blanks.

10 05 2010
jayhorowitz

No mentioning of court – you might jinx us! I hope the final went well!

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