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Discussion Starter #1
We’re looking to buy our first travel trailer. Budget will be limited and will need room for 3 kids under 10yo. I’m looking for any suggestions on what to look for specifically when kicking tires, lessons learned, general tips when buying used, etc. Just trying to not make a relatively large financial mistake by buying a polished piece of junk. Thanks in advance. And mods please let me know if this is in the wrong place.
 

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First things first, check for water damage. If you're able to get up on the roof, look for signs of a cracked rubber roof. Check the caulking around windows, and check inside of cabinets, and compartments also for possible water damage. If its got a built in generator, run it under a normal load, like having the lights, TV, and A/C running. Check the heater, fridge, water pump, etc for proper operation. Visualize it being used by your family, and see how comfortable it'll be when say, the couch(s) are opened up into beds, and the kids are climbing the walls. Open up and look at the awning. If all passes and you're serious about purchasing, hook it up, and take it for a ride. Check the brakes, and lights. Unless the fresh, grey & blacks tanks are full (eww), you might not discover if any have a leak until its yours. Oh, and batteries. Yeah, they don't like to last very long, at least here in the desert SW. Good luck!
 

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And look at the tires, in particular the age of the tire by the manufacturer's DOT date. I prefer LT-type tires over ST-type. Also note if there is an uneven wear pattern. Alignment of a trailer can easily cost $300-$400 if both axles are out of alignment. It's your first trailer and need not be fancy, just functional. Save your money for all the options on having fun with the family in your trailer.
 

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I like all of the suggestions above. I wouldn't sweat the battery because you'll need to buy a new one soon anyway (yeah, they don't last long). I am also anti- ST tire, because they tend to be (expletive deleted) and blow apart, except maybe for a few newer G-rated super-expensive ones that are now available. I like LT tires.

As mentioned above, water intrusion absolutely ruins an RV. Check for signs of leaks.

My best advice is to find a friend who has years of RV experience and take them with you. You might want to buy something on the cheaper side as your first one, to learn what you really need for your next one.

I also always suggest getting the smallest unit you can stand (like 20' or a little more if you must). It really depends on what you plan to do. National Parks and Forest? Go small. KOA's only? Go big. Driving into McDonalds and supermarkets? Much easier if small.

Some friends of mine (who didn't ask) bought very small trailers that had small Dometic refrigerators. These don't have a thermostat control when running on propane, just several flame settings. My Norcolds use thermostats on both propane and 120vac. Your choice.

Many LLY's have overheating issues when towing up long, hot grades, especially like in the west. You'll have to see how that goes. Some of us installed auxiliary radiators. Others bought newer trucks.
 

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Check whether facilities are accessible with the slide(s) closed, it's real handy to be able to get the little ones into a bathroom and then a snack from the fridge while at those inevitable road-side 'emergency' stops.
I would buy used as you will almost certainly be changing your rig and you don't want to be upside-down on a new, unsuitable rig.
We got our first fifth wheel in 2003 and only got the 'perfect' one on our current one, our fourth. And of course 'perfect' means we can both live with the compromises necessitated by the requirements of the other.
We prefer a fifth wheel because of the extra storage; we can go from "Hey let's go to ... this weekend" to hitched up and pulling out in about half an hour. Our friends with a travel trailer have to load up the back of their truck with all the gear, then unload on Monday.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Thanks for all the replies guys. What are your thoughts on a bumper pull vs 5th wheel? We’ll prob end up with something in the 28-32 ft. range to get the features we want.
 

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Water damage would be the absolute first thing I would be looking for. Even it shows no signs of wear and tear because it didn't get used, it likely sat in the weather and has had the abuse of the elements. Chasing water damage can be endless.

In addition, when looking at an old unit think about what the new units provide that you make opt for. For example, do you want a decent TV? And if so, will it be run on shore power, generator or inverter. While things like this can be upgraded, they come at a cost and should be considered in what you are willing to pay for an older RV.
 

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Thanks for all the replies guys. What are your thoughts on a bumper pull vs 5th wheel? We’ll prob end up with something in the 28-32 ft. range to get the features we want.
After (2) bumper pull toyhaulers, finally got a 5th wheel. Way more convenient...for US. Easier to hook up. They typically tow better. Don't get me wrong, each has its pros & cons. You're going to lose bed space with a 5th wheel. Measure overall length with say, a 32' bumper pull, and a 32' 5th wheel. Which set-up will be shorter overall? Don't forget to add tongue length to the bumper pull. Factor in pin weight of a 5er, or tongue weight of a bumper pull, overall loaded weight. Look at each with the features YOU want, and visualize how it fits YOUR needs.
 
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