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Old 03-06-2016, 02:23 PM   #1
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Question Used stinky campers?

You all have been great with information!

A new question:

Went to an RV dealer yesterday. Every single used camper I went in stunk horrendously. The new ones smell like new campers, the used campers all had various highly unpleasant odors. I went in 15 used campers and had to stop because I was so discouraged.

They all smelled different, it ranged from: heavy perfume (probably covering funk), pee, moth balls, and many with a general nasty strong yuck.

Is this common? Do you think they could have put the stinky campers out front to try to get rid or them? Or maybe they were trying to get people to buy new stuff?

If I buy a new camper, will the stink become inevitable?


Newbies with kids. Camping with a KZ Spree 289KS. Pulling with a Nissan NV 3500 passenger van.
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Old 03-06-2016, 02:58 PM   #2
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Campers do not have to smell! We had a trailer for 10 years and it didn't smell when we got rid of it.

At one time, I used moth balls when storing for the winter. The smell goes away if the camper is allowed to air out for a day or two.

If the campers weren't cleaned properly, there could be a build up of odors from sitting closed up for a long period of time. If the gray and black water tanks weren't emptied and flushed properly, they could contribute to foul odors. Water leaks can lead to mold, which may (or may NOT) lead to smells.

I would proceed carefully with any camper that really offends. I would want the camper to be venitlated (windows open) for a couple of days and see if the smells persist. You could always insist on all upholstery and carpeting to be professionally cleaned prior to any purchase offer. Again, make sure the camper has aired out for a couple of days to get rid of any scent used in the cleaning solution.

I also suggest that you check out some different dealerships and see if your experience is different. Likewise, with a new camper, you can have off gassing from materials containing formaldahyde and other chemicals. I've noticed that, especially when looking at some cheaper trailers where as we didn't experience that with our Minnie which we purchased right after it was delivered to the dealer.

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Old 03-06-2016, 03:14 PM   #3
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We toured a half dozen used trailers yesterday and noticed the same thing with the smells. One smelled like pipe tobacco and another like pet urine - safe to assume that's the cause in those cases. The idea to open it up for a couple hours and see if the smell remains seems reasonable.

Years ago I purchased a room air purifier which used an ionizer. The filter was washable. The thing actually worked as planned. Not sure what model it was but here is an example.
Mark from Missouri
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Old 03-06-2016, 03:17 PM   #4
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That is one of the reasons we bought new, many of those we looked at smelled, a lot of cigarette smoke even though they swear they were never smoked in. There is no reason a MH has to have bad odors unless it hasn't been cared for properly. Ours is two years old and still smells brand new inside. If you don't store smelly stuff in it, clean the holding tanks properly, don't smoke or let non-potty trained animals stay in it, and air it out, you will be able to keep it fresh smelling forever. Some peoples house have those same odors, it's just more noticeable in a smaller area.
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Old 03-06-2016, 05:37 PM   #5
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How old were they? Ours is 4 years old and has no smell. We don't smoke but do cook 50% of the time inside. I think it really has to do with how people used the RV and how they took care of it. We've been in used ones with no stink and some that had a funky smell. My guess is the ones that stink alot are the ones that got used more and where the owners probably just sat inside, smoked cigarettes and cooked liver and onions every other day. The ones that don't stink probably weren't cooked in as much and the owners spent more time outdoors.
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Old 03-06-2016, 05:42 PM   #6
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Yep, we've been in some atinkers, cigarette smoke , pet smells, body odor smells, mold smells, etc.
The one we have now is a 96, the folks who we bought it from were very OCD, & it was kept very clean.
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Old 03-06-2016, 05:44 PM   #7
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last year I purchases a 10 year old trailer from a dealer..

was clean and no real smells.. a slight smell of some kind of cleaner... but slight and was gone in a few days.

find a better/different dealer.

Happy Hunting/Shopping.
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Old 03-06-2016, 05:51 PM   #8
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Stinky coaches

I've noticed that as many as half of pre-owned coaches we see at shows have a disagreeable odor. Smoke seems to be the most common, followed by pet odor. One had a cat urine smell so strong it made our eyes water in seconds. I couldn't imagine why the dealer took that one in trade, as that car urine must have soaked into every nook and cranny and would never be completely removed no matter how much cleaning happened.

This is one of the reasons we bought new.
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Old 03-06-2016, 08:23 PM   #9
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I think the smell of the coach is the most important indicator of how good it was taken care of. I have noticed that EVERY coach has a unique smell. BUT only some coaches have a foul smell (either pet accidents, fridge, black/gray tanks, or mold/mildew of the trailer itself). I believe this is a mark of a coach that has been taken care of vs neglected. If tank chemicals were used, the trailer dried out if a leak occurred/repaired, fridge properly dried out after use, pet accidents properly cleaned, there should be no foul odors.
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Old 03-06-2016, 08:45 PM   #10
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Or just the opposite ---> My first motorhome was used Tiffin Phaeton that smelled of wonderful pumpkin. Until we got it home and a few days later it turned to the smell of a dead animal! And since the dealer was so dishonest, lets be sure and call them out by name: Crabtree RV - Alma, AR.

As a follow-up they later filed bankruptcy when things got tough back in 2008. Of course they're still in business and although the Winnebago products were driven off their lot, Winnebago is back with them as a dealer!?! Suffice to conclude they will NEVER touch my Itasca!
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Old 03-07-2016, 04:18 AM   #11
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This has been my experience also, which just baffles me.

Our current camper is 3 years old, and with the exception of sometimes smelling like bacon , it smells new every time we step into it.

We owned our pop up for 15 years, and my wife would go out to the driveway and open up the door just to get her fix on that 'camper smell' (yep, she's a bit strange). When I gave the camper to my sis, it still smelled new.

On the flip side, we stepped into an '06 Country Coach (which appeared reasonably priced) this last weekend and it was obviously well cared for and was void of any offensive odors.

I don't know, we have begun to believe if the coach smells, we don't want it.
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Old 03-07-2016, 08:17 AM   #12
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you can use an ozone generator to rid of odors.

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Old 03-07-2016, 09:07 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by sprayman View Post
you can use an ozone generator to rid of odors.


Depends on the source of the odor. I had a rental apartment with a strong urine odor - people had kept a dog and puppies in a closet. A pro-quality ozone generator did nothing. We had to remove the bottom 18 inches of sheetrock in the closet, spray the framing with enzyme odor killer several times over a couple of weeks, and THEN use an ozone generator for several days.

One could have the same level of foreign substance intrusion in an RV, but it would be much harder to remedy.

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Old 03-07-2016, 10:09 AM   #14
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Ours developed a bit of a smell from campfires and from cooking inside. We removed all the cushion covers and laundered them, and then used Lysol wipes throughout on most surfaces... and it smelled like a new camper again... It isn't hard, just a bit of work. Febreeze works well, too, in between thorough cleanings.

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