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I've stumbled across a Craigslist listing for a 22-foot RV, being sold for about $2000.

It's not ridiculously old, and appears to be in great shape.

Supposedly it runs well, and the current owner is a widow whose husband owned it and who no longer can stand to use it, and wants to get rid of it.

I'm very, very tempted to purchase this, as I was considering investing in turning my existing vehicle into a bit of a camper, but the prospect of landing a very cheap, and fairly usable camper/RV has caught my attention.

It seems like a deal that's a little too good to be true, though, and I'm not sure what to do / what to look for, as far as scams go in this regard.

What can I do to protect myself, when attempting to purchase this vehicle, to ensure that I'm not getting ripped off somehow?

I'm of course going to go see it in person, but I don't know of other seemingly 'common-sense' things to do.

Edit:

After following up and requesting to see the vehicle, it did turn out to be a scam.

I received a response that the vehicle was not actually in the Phoenix region, as posted, and was actually in Iowa.

The seller would need to ship the vehicle to my location, at their expense. This is suspicious because the expense to do so would easily eat up the majority of the actual cost of the vehicle if it's being sold for $2k, it costs at least $1,000 to ship a vehicle in the US and I'm sure more for large RV's.

So, the seller claims, I'd need to work with their Shipper, who they claimed was part of eBay - including sending me a faked email that attempted to be from eBay - to get the vehicle down here.

They wanted me to send them my name, address, phone number to ship it to me, and claimed that I'd have 5 days to 'try it out' before buying it, or they'd be able to take it back at their expense (Also suspicious considering they'd end up losing more money than what they're even asking for the vehicle at this point).

At this point, not wanting to send any personal information that would end up getting used for spam phone calls / telemarketing, I stopped communication.

I'm sure I'd later receive a message about how their 'shipper' needed me to send them some sort of payment after they sent me a fraudulent check of some sort, but it did not get to that point.

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    Note - After following up and requesting to see the camper/RV, I found it was indeed a scam. Glad I posted the question though, the response was interesting. – schizoid04 Jun 18 '17 at 5:45
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    For the benefit of others in a similar situation, can you add the details of the scam to your question? How did you find out it was a scam? How were they planning to get your money? – D Stanley Jun 19 '17 at 19:35
  • @DStanley will do. – schizoid04 Jun 19 '17 at 20:40
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    Thanks for adding details on how you determined it was a scam. This is a good example of your hackles being raised initially (price too good to be true?), and making note of every potential red flag as it appeared, not making any rash decisions until your fears were assuaged (which in this case they never were). – Grade 'Eh' Bacon Jun 20 '17 at 13:22
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Find a mechanic in the area that will, for a fee, do a pre-approval inspection. Then when you call the seller to inquire you can ask them to let you take the vehicle there as part of your test drive.

I'm not sure how many RV mechanics there are that don't work for a dealership, and those that do may be less inclined to assist you in purchasing from a private party. You could also have a friend or family member who is a mechanic or good with vehicles come along. Also, the seller may not want to bother with the extra hassle, and if it really is a good deal, they likely won't need to.

Of course, the other option is to just test drive it and trust your gut. This doesn't sound like a huge risk at 2K. Even if it breaks down right away and can't be repaired for a reasonable price, you could scrap the vehicle and hopefully make up a significant portion of the purchase price.

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    This doesn't address all the risks associated with him paying the money and not winding up with clear, legal title to the RV he test drove. – David Schwartz Jun 18 '17 at 2:20
  • @DavidSchwartz yes, good point. The wording of the question made me think that OP's chief concern was being misled about the vehicle's condition. I'm afraid I can't speak to the process for verifying a vehicle's ownership outside of my home state. – Wesley Marshall Jun 18 '17 at 3:11
  • Hopefully, the OP knows not to purchase vehicles without getting title. . . you know, the document that conveys ownership! – iheanyi Jan 18 '18 at 17:22
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A quick Craigslist search in my area (New England) pops up a number of RVs in claimed good/running condition in the $2000 - $5000 range, so it's not "too good to be true" that a motivated seller would sell one slightly below market: selling things is a lot of work, and lowering prices is essentially paying the buyer to not make you do that work.

Of course, you should still do you due diligence:

  • take it to a mechanic to make sure that it is in good working order
  • Carfax works for RVs, get the VIN to do lookups
  • thoroughly inspect the interior for anything that would make it less usable. Since this is an RV, I would check for real-estate type problems (e.g. vermin, rot, black mold, interior fixtures in poor condition, etc.) as well as automotive type problems.

If the seller objects to you doing this, then you should be suspicious (inexperienced sellers, e.g. a widow whose husband may have handled these things in the past, might get spooked by asking to take it to a mechanic, so be prepared to reassure on that front). Otherwise it's no more risk than any used vehicle purchase.

  • In my area there are mostly similar vehicles being sold at easily 10-15k at that age / condition. Hence, the low comparitive price compared to market out here is why I was concerned. Good answer, though! – schizoid04 Jun 19 '17 at 20:40
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A rule of thumb I like to follow when purchasing things from CL listed well below value is this..

Assess the level of affluence of the seller. People living in poor neighborhoods are much more likely to try and hide things that would deter buyers as they are more likely to need the money.

I find that when I go to a big house with 4 cars in the driveway the seller is more likely to be honest because she likely doesn't need the money from the sale.

Edit: I seem to have angered the PC police with this answer. This is based on facts and statistics, not my opinion. I have no bias against poor people.

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    Counterpoint: 4 cars in the driveway can be a sign that the seller buys and sells cars as a side-business. This may mean they have a strong sense of the value of what they are selling [more cynically, it may mean they are more likely to try and turn as much profit as possible out of every sale]. – Grade 'Eh' Bacon Jun 19 '17 at 19:36
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    If all 4 cars are registered and have valid plates it seems unlikely they would be any sort of dealer. Obviously some degree of common sense must come into play. – iwrestledabearonce Jun 19 '17 at 19:43
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    My point is that stereotyping the seller may not be helpful. In fact, a good 'conman' [perhaps the primary concern in these instances] will be exactly that - a confidence trickster who plays to your emotions to gain your trust. If you feel that you have sharper eyes than the person ostensibly trying to scam you, be wary. Instead of stereotyping, look at the asset itself [in case of vehicle, get it checked by a mechanic, as mentioned above], and value it on its own merits. – Grade 'Eh' Bacon Jun 19 '17 at 20:14
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    @Grade'Eh'Bacon - I fully agree. I didn't mean to imply that you're always safe if you buy from an affluent seller. Quite the opposite. I'm saying be extra wary of sellers that are clearly desperate. I'm talking about red flags, not green lights. – iwrestledabearonce Jun 19 '17 at 20:22
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    @Iwrestledabearonce. Could you edit to clarify that point? As is it makes the answer look as if your sole criteria for trusting someone / thinking they're honest is how wealthy they are, which comes off a little... rough. I'd suggest editing that to say something along the lines of generally 'Be wary of someone who seems desparate for the money from the sale' or something like that... – schizoid04 Jun 19 '17 at 21:13

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