Importing an RV? My Experience May Help You

by Ed Boothman

My experience, shopping for and buying a motorhome from the US:

My search began with a Google search "for sale class A motorhome."
I quickly discovered the best prices were in the US and the vehicles I was interested in were coming up on E-bay. $50,000 and $60,000 coaches were starting out at $10,000 and $15,000. Wow what a deal!!

I quickly came to my senses and spent a few days watching people bidding and what coaches ended up going for. I also did some research on E-bay scams and fraud.

Here is what is really going on: Almost all of the Class A motorhomes I was looking at were owned by dealers. They post a coach for sale with a hidden reserve. Of course the hidden reserve is the retail price they want for the coach. It is just another marketing tool for them. They will sometimes make a deal with a curber to sell it for them. The curber will then post it as if it is his.

I would watch a coach being bid up over a 5 day period and see it finally selling in the last minute with a bid from someone that jumped in during the last few seconds. As much as it is against E-bay rules I am sure, in many cases, the sellers are bidding on their own coaches. E-bay have no way of policing this and rely on complaints to try to control it.

As an inexperienced bidder you will have no way of telling if you are bidding against the seller. Most sellers encourage you to phone them and make an offer. This again is against E-bay rules (no commission for E-bay) but they have no way of policing it.

Here is something I am still trying to figure out:
The bid starts low on a coach and I watch it slowly go up over a five day period. Then many bids in the last minute. If you are interested in a coach why keep bidding it up over the 5 days. All you are doing is increasing the price you will pay for it. The best strategy is to get a low bid in early then wait for the last minute of bidding and place your bid. This is again against E-bay rules but everyone is doing it and E-bay have no way of controlling it.

The fraud artist:
In my search I found a coach that was just what I was looking for. It would have been a bargain at $50,000 but the seller said in his ad that he only needs $25,000 for it. That was my first red flag. I phoned the number (a Texas number) and got an answering machine with an east European accent. That was my second red flag. Then in my search for that same make and model I found one not on E-bay, but at a dealer in an eastern state. The only problem here was the photos of the coach were exactly the same as the coach being sold out of Texas. I am sure when I phoned the Texas number it was answered by a computer in Estonia.

Here is the scam. I ran into this before several years ago with my first experience on E-bay looking for a computer. The bad guy gets a Skype phone number (you can get any number you want with whatever area code you want). The RV scammer picked a Texas area code. Then he searches the internet for something that has the photos he will need for the ad. When you win the bid he will tell you everything you want to hear and then ask for a small deposit of one or two thousand dollars. They almost always want to be paid by Western Union. (Not traceable.)

The dealer I bought from told me of someone walking into their office wanting to pick up the trailer he had bought online. He described a unit that the dealer had sold a few weeks before. The customer had paid someone a $2000.00 deposit via Western Union. He was out $2000.00.

This is still a good way to find what you are looking for. In the end it worked for me. I ended up with a very nice coach that I could easily sell in Canada for a good profit.

You can be sure that many of the RVs you find in Canada are being sold by curbers who have brought them in from the US. This is not necessarily a bad thing as the last two motorhomes I bought in Canada came from curbers selling units they brought in from the US. Both units I made money on.

Do not fully commit until you can inspect the coach. They never look as good as they do in the photos. Photos do not pick up the detail that separates the showroom condition coach from the lived in motor home loaded with rock chips and worn out stained interiors.

I got lucky. The coach I bought turned out as good as the photos showed it. However, there were a few surprises. They told me the coach would be taken into the shop and fully serviced. They would also test everything and replace anything that was not working. All ready to go when I arrived. This brings me back to the cold war phrase, "Trust but Verify".

As it turned out nothing had been tested and there was much they needed to repair before I could drive it back to Canada. To their credit, they apologized for the problems and offered to pay for a rental car for me while they looked after the fixes.

It then came time to pay as they explained to me that I needed to pay them then they pay the company that was carrying the debt and then arrange to get me the title. Not!

I explained to them that I was not going to pay them for a vehicle that they did not hold title to. They reluctantly agreed and within a few hours produced a clear title indicating no leans. They also looked after all the paper work that I would need to get it over the border. They sent the needed fax and arranged for a permit for me to drive it home.

It was a three day drive for me to get to the border and I was apprehensive about getting over the border as I had never done this before.
The US customs wanted the original title (not a photocopy), the bill of sale, and my passport. They disappeared with them for about 20 minutes then called me to the counter stamped them and said you are free to go.

Then at Canadian customs, they wanted what I gave to US customs plus the recall clearance supplied by the manufacture. I had to fill in a short form and pay the GST. They were fine with the debit card. They wanted my email address and told me RIV would be contacting me in a few days to deal with the rest. "Wow that was much easier then I thought it would be!"

I have it home now and am very happy with it.
I have owned 4 other class A motor homes over the years and this is my fifth. My last one was a diesel pusher and the new one is a gas unit.
Should you look for a diesel pusher or a gas unit?
That is another story.

All tips and advice contained in this article are purely my personal opinion and I accept no
responsibility or liability for any consequence resulting from it.

Comments for Importing an RV? My Experience May Help You

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May 12, 2013
Gas or Diesel
by: Ed Boothman

I found Gas the most cost effective but you can read my full story at my web site...

May 11, 2013
Gas or Diesel
by: Anonymous

I would love to here your story on gas or diesel I am always interested to hear from people that have the experience of both.

Apr 30, 2013
buy used RV in Ca to bring to US
by: Anonymous

How can I bring a used RV (2002 Travel Trailer 17' -20')bought in Canada back to the United States?

Jul 24, 2010
The paperwork
by: Ed Boothman

Yes there was some concern, but the dealer did satisfy all of my needs in the end and it was a fairly routine process for them.

Jul 24, 2010
How Can You Trust the Dealer?
by: Virginia Williams

Thank you, Ed - very helpful advice.
Just one question: After the dealer you bought from had dissappointed you by not having the RV ready as they had prmomised, and by asking for their money before they could prove clear title, how is it that you were willing to trust them to have all the paperwork in order for your border-crossing? I think I would have been very nervous about starting that drive home.

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All tips and advice on this web site are purely the personal opinion of the author who assumes no responsibility or liability for any consequences resulting from following said advice.