Buying a fifth wheel at an auction

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Well-known member
Oct 9, 2006
Home is Ohio but here for now (Denver)
I am considering a purchase of a 5th wheel from a local auction place.  Haven't investigated the options yet but they have quite a few in the lot.  What kind of trouble am I likely to get into with this type of purchase. What do I look for besides  obvious signs of leaks, construction quality, rust on underbelly, bubbles, pulling away from the sides.  I'm not real excited about having to get up on top and look for rips/leaks on the roof/around vents etc.  Any other options?
Getting up on the roof is a requirement.  Check the roof, look for signs of water leaks and check the tires and running gear.  Not sure what type of auction you are going to.  Repos, dealer overstocks, or what. 

Roof for leaks, bubbles or tears, damage anywhere, and tires.  Tires are the most neglected item on most trailers especially if someone if dumping it.
Your biggest problem at an auction will be getting the time - and power - to check out the appliances and systems. You really want to operate the fridge for several hours to be sure it cools effectively (a new fridge is a $1500-$2000 item).  Also want to run the a/c (need shore power), water heater (propane and electric), furnace, water pump, etc.  If the trailer battery(s) are dead or no shore power available (both likely) you will be just guessing about all that stuff.

Check the DOT date codes on the tires if the trailer is more than 5-6 years old - odds are the tires on an older trailer look OK but need to be replaced due to age.  Six to maybe seven years is the max safe life of any tire, regardless of apparent condition. If the trailer is 5-6 years old, plan in replacing the tires right after your purchase. If newer, you will get a few years before needing new ruber.
You could pay a reputable RV repair Tech to check it out. Odds are he/she has seen one like it and is also familiar with the appliances and such.....might be 50-100 dolars well spent?
reputable RV repair Tech

Like the ones that do the repairs at your local RV dealership???  ::)

And if he is willing to spend 2-3 hours at an auction with you to look at one or more trailers, it's going to be a darn sight more than $50-100.  And if it isn't, his opinion probably isn't worth asking...
My costs  might be dated, maybe it is more? I kow that the cost of an independent analyisi is valuable. When I was in the RV repair business I had a lot of clients that would pay to have an RV  checked out. I have always thought that an expert is better than an amatuer ;)
Ohhh, Thanks , lots of good points that I hadn't considered.  I also apppreciate the thought of having one of the repair techs go with me to check it out. If I go that way it would be money well spent.  Then HE could climb up on the roof :) 

It would be like buying a pig in a poke if all systems were without power. Wasn't thinking of the power angle.

I have  read about the tires  being only good for 5-6 years  and will remember!

Maybe I don't want to buy at an auction after all.  I would loose 2 days pay in the process.  I checked oot the routine this morning.  We'll see, I'm still pondering.  Thanks for the insight.   
Indeed.  And I suspect that at an auction you are going to be bidding for repros and against dealers who do have techs backing them up. 
Hi all,
Hhere's an update...I didn't go the auction route.  I went the estate sale route!  A friend of mind knew of someone with a 30' 5er for sale.  I checked it out and loved it. :D  '99 New Vision Ultra 2 slides with slide covers, and 8' awning and ducted air, heat etc.  Lots of storage which is what I was really looking for.  I will complete the sale on Friday and have it towed to the dealer where it was originally purchased to be checked out and I can get trained on it and they will also show me how to tow the thing!  My question is:  How much is reasonable for the inspection, the training on interior/exterior systems and how to tow it???

I'm still gonna do it but want to know what to expect or not to go in blind and get taken.

Thanks for all the help
How much is reasonable for the inspection, the training on interior/exterior systems and how to tow it???

Most likely you will pay by the hour for the time spent inspecting and showing you what you need/want to know. Plus labor and parts for anything repaired.  Find out the dealers labor rate before you start.

It's really impossible to predict how much time it will take - a new customer walk through could be anywhere from 30 minutes to 3-4 hours. Some dealers send out a flunky to walk you through and they breeze right through things in 30 minutes or so. That's insufficient for most newbies and a more conscientious job will take at least an hour and maybe two or even three if you ask questions, take notes, do the procedures yourself after being shown how, etc.  It's probably money well spent, though.

Oh, and CONGRATULATIONS! A New Vision Ultra is a really nice trailer.

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