What to Look for When Buying a Used Camper: 4 Warning Signs What to Look for When Buying a Used Camper: 4 Warning Signs

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4 Warning Signs to Watch for When Buying Your Next Camper

By : Rita Stadler

Camping season is upon us!  This is an awesome time for our family because we LIVE for the outdoors. I guess I should say that I live for camping, my husband lives for fishing. My kids, however, live for anything that doesn’t involve school!

Camper van parked next to a mountain lake

Shopping around for our first family RV left me feeling a little like Goldilocks from the story with the 3 bears. We looked at so many campers, trying to find one that was just right.  Looking at used campers offered substantial savings, but also raised some red flags. The first one was too smelly, the second one was covered in dryer sheets, and the third one was too messy!

While we were looking for major repairs like checking for signs of water damage, inspecting for signs of mold, double checking maintenance records, and making sure the water heater was in good condition, the number one thing I was on the hunt for was mice!  

Top 3 Signs of Mice I Noticed in RVs

  • The smell of mothballs. Often used as a pest repellent, this may indicate a previous rodent infestation. Not only that, but moth balls don’t smell too pleasant and can pose serious health risks. The scent can also stay in the used RV for a long time.
  • Dryer sheets everywhere. People use dryer sheets to ward off rodents as well. This could be another sign that previous owners found mice in the RV.
  • Mouse feces. If you ever find rodent droppings in anything that you plan on buying, you better think twice. This can lead to expensive, time-consuming, and unwanted work for you.

I was beginning to think we’d never find the right one when I came across a camper with a pouch of Fresh Cab rodent repellent under the sink. Not surprisingly, the camper that was protected with Fresh Cab didn’t have a single sign of rodent activity! 

EarthKind’s Fresh Cab and Stay Away® Rodent products are both used by many RV owners in preparation to prevent rodents from coming around, and with my experience, I am going to take that as a good sign that that specific camper has not had a single mouse prance through it.

4 Other Red Flags to Look for When Buying a Used Camper

Camper van parked next to a mountain lake with the words  “4 warning signs to watch for when buying your next camper” over the image.

  • Smells – The smell of a dead rodent is a very particular kind of smell that lingers. One of the worst places to have a dead mouse is in the heating duct. Mouse urine can also have a notably unpleasant ammonia scent. 
  • Rub marks – Found along floors and the walls next to them, these are caused by the grease in rodent hair and serve as signposts marking a trail for them to follow.
  • Nests – Found under couches, seats, sinks, closets, dressers, or under the hood of a vehicle. If the RV has an awning, open it and check that for nests or damage, too.
  • Chewed through wire and/or other materials – Look for chew marks on hoses, bedding or mattresses, and garments that may be in closets or dressers. Give electrical systems, including wires under the hood and in the dash, a thorough inspection to make sure that they have not been chewed through.

RV dealerships often see a rush of incoming used motorhomes, RVs, travel trailers, and fifth wheels in the spring season because inexperienced RVers forget to winterize their vehicles or protect them from pests. Dealers are usually honest about any damage to the vehicle, more so than private sellers, but neither of them are likely to tell you about a previous rodent infestation. They might not even know if there ever was a pest problem, especially if the camper was a trade-in that has had several previous owners. 

That’s why you should always do a thorough, in-person inspection of any RV you’re thinking about buying. Do a quick check after a test drive too because you never know what might have jostled loose after a drive. 

Making sure a camper is in good shape, has had regular RV maintenance, and is pest free is just as important as making sure it has the floor plan and amenities you and your family need. If you’re a first-time RV buyer and you don’t want to risk missing a big red flag, consider a professional inspection. I am happy to report that after two long weekends carting around the family to look for our new RV, we found one that is just right!

If you need any tips on keeping your camper pest free or getting rid of a mouse infestation, check out our article on Best Ways to Keep Mice Out of Your Camper or RV.

A Fresh Cab® Rodent Repellent package on a burlap sack with the words “get rid of rodents” on the side of the image.

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