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Purchasing a camper is a significant investment. A critical part of the purchasing process is the walkthrough. The walkthrough is the final step before you drive off the lot with your new camper. Going through the walkthrough process serves two essential purposes, and can last a few hours. The first purpose of the walkthrough is to check that you know how to operate your camper and that you are familiar with all of its components. The salesman should thoroughly explain everything about your camper, from how to turn on the refrigerator to how to operate the water pump.
Secondly, and most importantly, the walkthrough is your opportunity to ensure that all features on your camper work and that there are no scratches or dents. Once you leave the lot, it will be a hassle to get even the simplest thing corrected. Do your best to check that everything is in good working condition before you leave the dealership.
The walkthrough is your opportunity to ask about anything regarding your camper, and there are no inappropriate questions. The dealer should connect the camper’s water and electricity to ensure that your plumbing and electrical are in good working order.
During the walkthrough, ask about the camper’s warranty as well. For the warranty to be honored, there is routine maintenance that will need to be performed. While at the dealership, find out what maintenance is expected to be completed to keep your warranty intact.
You will discover that owners’ manuals are vague and may not be specific to your camper. For this reason, the walkthrough is extremely important. Learn while you have the salesman’s undivided attention. If the salesman does not have an answer to your question, ask him/her to find someone at the dealership who is knowledgeable about that topic.
Videos and Photos
Take many videos and photos during the walkthrough process. We have found that videos and photos are more effective than handwritten notes because you get word for word what the salesman is saying, and you are not distracted by trying to write everything down. I would videotape each process as it is demonstrated. The salesman is going to cover a lot of information, and it is going to be challenging to remember everything later. Video makes it possible to refer back and watch them as many times as you need. Do not make one long video of the entire walkthrough. Instead, shoot a series of shorter videos for every aspect that is covered during the walkthrough. This will make it easier at a later time when you want to find information about something specific such as the slide or awning.
Before you arrive at the dealership for your walkthrough, make a checklist of everything that you have questions about so that you remember to ask and get clarifications. Your checklist should include anything that you want to ensure works correctly on your camper.
Check for leaks on all plumbing fittings. It is not uncommon for fittings not to be properly attached and tightened at the factory. Open the cabinets under the sinks and check that there are no drips. We discovered that the drain from our kitchen sink was not attached correctly; it was a simple fix, and it prevented a more significant problem later.
Watch the dealer put water in your fresh-water tank. You want to make sure that the water pump is working. Filling the tank also provides the salesman with an opportunity to show you how to drain the fresh-water tank.
Even if your camper is brand new, look for signs of water damage. The camper has been sitting in the elements on the dealership lot, and if there are any manufacturing defects, they would have been exposed. Water leaks are generally the most common and expensive problems that RV owners face, so you must ensure that no leaks have occurred. Look at the ceiling, especially around the air conditioner, as well as other fixtures, for water spots. Also, if there is a musty smell, this is an indication that water has leaked into your camper.
Bring an outlet checker (Check it out on Amazon) with you to check that your electrical outlets work. Outlet checkers are easy to use. Plug the checker into the outlet, and if it lights up, the outlet works. Most new campers come with multiple USB connections as well. Bring your phone and a charging cable to plug into each outlet to ensure that each of them is connected and working. We discovered that one of the USB plugs did not work in our camper, and they were able to correct it immediately.
Turn on all of the lights in the camper to check that they are all working correctly. Power on the light in the vent hood as well as the vent fan. There may be some lights that operate independently of the switch. These lights will have to be checked individually. Often there is a button in the center of the light that serves as the switch. If there are lights that do not turn on with the switch, ask how to turn them on.
We missed asking about the lights on our last walkthrough. Since we didn’t ask, we spent the first two camping trips looking for how to turn on the bathroom light. It turns out that the light is turned on manually, on the ceiling, and the kids could not reach it. We ended up buying a nightlight (Check it out on Amazon) to keep in the bathroom. If we had thought to ask, we could have spent more time by the campfire and less time looking for a switch that never existed.
Your camper will have a fuse box, much like the breaker box in your house. Each fuse should be labeled as to what it controls. Definitely know where the fusebox is located.
Most campers are designed to sleep several people. If you have a dinette or a sofa, they will usually transform into beds. Be sure that the salesman demonstrates how to convert any of your furniture into places to sleep.
Have the salesman extend the slide-out to ensure that it sits flush against the wall. Also, have the salesman show you how to retract the slide manually. Problems can occur with the slide motor, and you want to be able to retract your slide manually if the motor fails.
Inspect all interior and exterior doors to check that they properly align. Ensure that the locks work correctly and that the doors open and close properly.
The salesman should show you how to open and close the awning. Check that it works properly. Electric awnings are simple. However, the steps for opening and closing a manual awning can be confusing. We recommend going through the process yourself. If you do have a manual awning, be sure to videotape them opening and closing it so that you can refer back to the video while at the campground.
There is usually a switch that allows you to change from one propane tank to another. Double-check that you know how to operate the propane so that you can use it when needed. Also, ask the salesman to show you any propane quick connects for grills or other equipment that are located on your camper.
Have your salesman turn on and operate each appliance to ensure that they work. Appliances include the oven, stovetop, microwave, refrigerator, hot water heater, television, electric fireplace, and any other items that might be included with your camper. Several items, such as the refrigerator and hot water heater, may operate on both propane and electricity. Check that you know how to operate them using each source of power. Again, take lots of videos so that you can review them later.
Air Conditioner and Furnace
Most campers have a furnace as well as an air conditioner. The air conditioner is usually electric, and the furnace normally runs off of propane. Have the salesman turn on the furnace and air-conditioner for assurance that they are working correctly. I would recommend physically checking each air and heat vent to make sure that they are blowing either hot or cold air. You do not want to arrive home to find that a vent was not ducted properly.
Windows and Blinds
Open and close each window as well as the blinds to see that they close properly and seal securely. Have the salesman explain how the emergency exits work so that you are fully prepared if a situation were to arise.
Television, Cable and Antenna
Many campers will also have an entertainment control unit. Usually, there is a DVD player (although this is becoming less prevalent in newer units) as well as Bluetooth speakers that are controlled by the entertainment center. Check that you fully know how to operate the entertainment center.
Ask the salesman to go over the operation of the television, even if your camper does not come with one installed. Most campers include an antenna as well as a place to connect for cable or satellite. The antenna needs to be turned on in order to fully utilize it. However, while the antenna is turned on, it will interfere with cable or satellite inputs. It is important that you know the proper settings for whatever mode you are using to watch television.
Jacks, Stabilizers, and Levelers
Depending upon what type of camper that you purchase, you may have an electric jack, stabilizers, and/or levelers. Check each of these items to ensure that they work correctly. Also, if you do have the electric version of any of these items, make sure that they show you how to operate them manually in case they ever fail or if you have no power. It is essential to understand how to use all electrical equipment manually.
12 Volt vs. 110 Volt
Many items in your camper will operate off of a 12-volt house battery, while other items will require that the camper be hooked up to another power source in order to function. Have the salesman go through what will work with just the 12-volt battery, what will work if you are connected to a standard 110-volt outlet, and what equipment requires to be hooked up to a 30/50 amp plug.
One of the options that we see added to more and more campers is solar power. Many campers are pre-wired for solar, which allows you to hook-up a solar panel that will provide minimal power, usually enough to keep your battery charged. However, some newer campers have solar panels built into the roof (sometimes referred to ask “juice packs”). The purpose of the solar panel is to keep a constant trickle charge for your 12-volt battery so that the battery does not go dead. If your camper is equipped with this technology, ensure the salesman explains how it works.
Shore Power and Water
Ensure that you know how to hook your camper up to power at the campsite as well as the water. You will most likely need a water pressure regulator. The walkthrough is a good time to ask about purchasing one if you do not have a regulator already.
Grey/Black Water Valves
Your camper will have at least one black and one greywater valve. Ensure that you know how to operate these and how to attach your sewer hose to your camper. Ask the salesman to explain how to use the black water flush if there is one included on your camper.
If possible, camp near the dealership the night you purchase your camper. There is no better way to check that everything is working than to actually use your camper and all of its features. Dealers are slow to make repairs; however, if you find something that first day, you might be able to get it corrected immediately. Some dealerships even have on-site campgrounds, which makes it convenient to test out your camper.
A good walkthrough is time-consuming, but it is always well worth your time. Ensure that all of your questions are answered and that you are ready to camp when the walkthrough is finished. Most camper repair shops are backlogged and can take months, even for minor repairs. You do not want your camper in the shop for anything that could have been corrected before you left the dealership. Any time in the shop is time away from camping with your new camper.
Do you have tips on walkthroughs? We would love to hear from you. Please drop us a line in the comment section below.