We just went through buying a camper to travel across Canada from east to west. We will describe our experience, hoping that this story will help other people go on a road trip in Canada or elsewhere.
The search for the camper
To be able to buy a camper, you must first do a search to find out what you want; size, style, budget… Before we even went to Canada, we had looked at RV classifieds on kijiji.ca and on Facebook Marketplace.
We had decided to look for a class C motorhome, between 23 and 27 feet. Our only imperatives were that we wanted it without extension (slide-out), but with an awning. Our starting budget was $10,000 CAD, but we could go up to $20,000 CAD depending on the condition of the vehicle.
When we arrived in Montreal in February, we looked at the ads more seriously, asking for visits. Unfortunately, in the middle of winter, there were not many offers.
We visited six motorhomes before we found ours.
- The first one was too big, 27 feet. So we reviewed our size criteria between 22 and 25 feet.
- The second was good even if it was within the maximum range of our budget. The snow being abundant, the owners could not move the RV so we could not have it inspected. We did not want to take the risk of buying a camper without inspection, and we did not want to wait for the snow to melt.
- The third one was fine, but a bit pricey for its condition so we preferred to continue our search.
- The fourth was more expensive and in worse condition than the third.
A little disappointed, by the few offers there were, we decided to wait until the end of the winter. We went to other cities, Quebec, Ottawa and Toronto. We paused on our research even if we kept an eye on the offers. When we returned to Montreal at the end of March, there was already more choice.
- For the fifth, we’ll tell you more a little bit lower in the “first try”.
- The sixth was a trash RV. It had a huge infiltration of water with the roof collapsing, and the engine would not even start.
- The seventh will be the one. 🙂
We almost bought the fifth camper. It was a 24-foot Class C dating back to 1987 at a reasonable price, $6,900 CAD. We started the purchase process by leaving a deposit of $250 CAD to reserve the RV, to give us time to do the inspection.
It was not registered*, so we could not take it to a garage for an inspection. We had to bring an inspector on site. We paid $460 CAD for this inspection, which was very useful. There was a big problem with water infiltrations, and the fridge was not working well. So we decided not to buy this motorhome.
Very disappointed with this experience, we wanted to bounce back directly. We took advantage of having a rental car to visit other motorhomes during the day, even if we needed to review our size criteria.
In the afternoon, we visited our seventh camper of 26 feet… And it was the one!
Things to check before buying a camper
We are completely new to motorhomes. We had to learn the whole “theory” on the job by visiting RVs. Here is a non-exhaustive list of points to check, if possible:
- Check all walls and roof if there has been a water infiltration by tapping on all surfaces. If it is curled, there must have been some damage, whether it’s inside or outside.
- Make sure that all appliances (pump, oven, fridge, stove, water heater, flush…) work whether it is with propane (gas), or electricity on 12v and 110v.
- Look at the condition of the joints in the bathroom and kitchen.
- Inspect the condition of the inside and outside seals of all windows, check the mosquito nets and if the windows open properly.
- Climb on the roof and see its general condition
- Do not hesitate to try the appliances, lift the mattresses, open all the closets, etc.
In Canada, there is no technical control, like in France, which provides proof that the vehicle is in good condition when it is purchased.
You have to organize an inspection in a garage to know the real state of the vehicle. It also allows you to know the total cost of repairs, if you decide to buy a camper. And, thus, have an additional way of negotiation.
Before buying a camper in Canada, you can also ask the seller if he has a “Car Proof“, a report on the history of the vehicle. You can otherwise ask for it on internet for about $30 CAD. It traces the whole life of the vehicle and thus shows if it was accidented or declared wreck.
In Quebec, you also have the possibility for $3 CAD to consult on internet the Register of Personal and Real Furniture Rights (RDPRM) which allows you to know if the vehicle is indebted or mortgaged.
Buying a camper
We visited the seventh camper which we liked very much. Three days later, we took it for a complete inspection to a specialized garage: Mecanique St-Jean in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, which we highly recommend.
The inspection did not reveal any major problems with the camper, but some repairs had to be done on the steering block, among others.
We bought a 26-foot Ford Tioga, class C, which dates from 1990 with 220 000 kilometers on the meter, for $7,500 CAD instead of $9,800 CAD.
Steps for buying a camper
Once the inspection was over and the price set, the next step was to go to the bank to ask for a bank check. The bank issues a check by directly withdrawing the account to make sure the payment is possible. This service costs $7.50 CAD and it is, according to what we understood, the cheapest solution to make a certified payment in Quebec.
The Quebec Automobile Insurance Corporation (SAAQ)
In Quebec, after purchasing a vehicle, you must go to a SAAQ office with the seller to transfer ownership and register the vehicle in your name. At the SAAQ, in addition to paying registration, you have to pay taxes. They are about 10% of the purchase price of the vehicle, but it is possible to scramble with the seller to say that you paid less to pay less tax.
Buying a camper over 25 years old
There was a peculiarity in our case because we bought a vehicle over 25 years old. Before going to the SAAQ, we had to have the value of the vehicle certified by an expert. It’s an extra step that costs a few hundred dollars. Once the value is certified, the SAAQ taxes must be paid on the highest value between the certified value and the purchase price.
Thanks to the seller of our motorhome, we were able to bypass this system. We pretended to buy the vehicle from a dealership (one of his friends) who vouched for the certification on the value of the vehicle. He estimated the vehicle at $1,200 CAD for us to avoid paying too much tax, but the price remains credible to the SAAQ. The vehicle had been certified at $22,000 CAD two years ago by a real expert. So we paid $120 CAD taxes and $150 CAD to the dealership for the process.
Then, with the paper that certifies the value of the vehicle and that proves that we have already paid taxes on the purchase, we went to the SAAQ to register the vehicle. The price of registration varies by vehicle category, weight, age, and place of residence. One year of registration costs us $464 CAD.
*Here in Canada, the registration of a vehicle is paid annually and it is possible to “unregister” a vehicle when it is not used to have fewer expenses.
After buying a camper
Repairs and improvements
After buying our RV and doing all the registration work, we left it in the same garage that inspected it. The mechanic will do all the necessary repairs so that we can hit the road serenely. We also asked him to redo the joints and the roof sealer to protect us from infiltrations for the season.
In order to be even more autonomous on the road, they will install an inverter (which transforms the electricity from 12v to 110v) and three new batteries so that we can connect our electronic devices without being plugged-in in a campground.
We had inquired about insurance even before our departure, and we knew where we could apply to be insured as non-Canadians and non-residents. As the vehicle is over 25 years old, we have the minimum insurance which covers our civil liability in the event of an accident. We are insured by Leclerc Assurances, a Quebec insurance broker, for $650 CAD for one year.
Quebec driver’s licence
It is not mandatory to take the Quebec driver’s licence, especially if you intend to stay in Quebec for less than 6 months. There are agreements between France and Quebec for permits. We applied for the international driving license before leaving, for after Quebec, just in case.
The insurance has asked us to take the Quebec driver’s licence, so Pierre-Adrien changed his permit.
You need to call the SAAQ to make an appointment and find out the list of necessary documents. When we called, there was no appointment possible in Montreal until mid-May. We did not want to wait so P-A got an appointment in another city, in Sherbrooke.
They asked him to bring his French driver’s licence, his work permit, proof of his address in Canada (telephone bill) and ID (passport).
As with the registration, the driver’s licence is repaid every year. He paid 47 bucks.
Normally, it is an exchange of permits. They take the French driver’s license in exchange of the Quebec driver’s license. Pierre-Adrien was a little frustrated with losing his French permit. Finally, they gave it back to him so he now has two driver’s licenses. And as a bonus, he has a Canadian identification card, because the permit serves as an identity card. 🙂