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Old 04-11-2021, 01:39 AM   #1
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Are all RVs going to smell musty?

I went to an RV show today and after going through some of the types we might actually be interested in, we had fun and looked at some of the huge 40 foot 5th wheels and coaches. I was shocked that just about every one of the used ones we went in smelt awful. I am not talking about 20 year old ones, I am talking about 2019 and 2020 5th wheels that were $90-$100k. Most had a very strong mildew smell, some of the seats were all scratched up, things were falling apart, etc. After going in a few those, I was so disgusted to see some one year old rigs in that shape, that I didn't even want an RV anymore! Is this common, or is this likely just rich people not taking care of them and trading them in every year or two for a brand new one? When I get one, I plan to at least cover it but likely put it under a canopy, but are you still going to get a musty smell after it is a year old?
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Old 04-11-2021, 03:59 AM   #2
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I went to an RV show today and after going through some of the types we might actually be interested in, we had fun and looked at some of the huge 40 foot 5th wheels and coaches. I was shocked that just about every one of the used ones we went in smelt awful. I am not talking about 20 year old ones, I am talking about 2019 and 2020 5th wheels that were $90-$100k. Most had a very strong mildew smell, some of the seats were all scratched up, things were falling apart, etc. After going in a few those, I was so disgusted to see some one year old rigs in that shape, that I didn't even want an RV anymore! Is this common, or is this likely just rich people not taking care of them and trading them in every year or two for a brand new one? When I get one, I plan to at least cover it but likely put it under a canopy, but are you still going to get a musty smell after it is a year old?
...

They must have some unusual problem. Our 2019 RV does not smell bad and neither do our friends late RV's, in spite of frequent use.

That said, RV's are actually fairly small in cubic feet and unvented odors from cooking and, worse yet, any tobacco smoke, can ruin them pretty quickly. Also high humid storage without at least a little venting is not good.

If you just give yours reasonable care, it will be fine. I kind of wonder if the units you ran into were just still there after all the better stuff sold.

The market for the isolation and privacy of RV traveling has been pretty hot with covid out there. I have to admit we feel safest visiting friends outside with our very own private bath, bed and dining just a few feet away.

Good luck in your quest and don't give up. Your dream is still out there. Days spent relaxing & camping are not subtracted from one's total.

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Old 04-11-2021, 05:50 AM   #3
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That’s bizarre. Where are you? I wonder if dealers in your area are trying to move water/storm-damaged RV’s? Maybe they think demand is high enough that they’ll move?

My little trailer is 6 years old this year. I keep it clean, always have it vented, and don’t cook anything strong inside, and (despite traveling with a bunch of pets) it smells like new.

Some of what you’re describing just sounds like abuse, but I’d be very wary of anything that smelled musty, water damage is not something you want to deal with.
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Old 04-11-2021, 07:00 AM   #4
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The musty smell might be a covid treatment that the dealer sprays in every unit. Our dealer has been treating units with a fogger and a commercial solution that smells like what you described.
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Old 04-11-2021, 07:52 AM   #5
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I think they smell musty because the dealer will keep them sealed up for various reasons like rain or wind or theft issues. The air in that small of a space will get stale in a hurry. The previous owners of my coach traveled with a dog. I'm positive they couldn't smell him. Pet owners are like that, but I ended up pulling and replacing the carpets because the smell would not wash out.

Mine will still smell damp if I leave it sealed for a few weeks. Because of this, I always leave a roof vent open and a window cracked, and to me and my really picky wife, it has no odor. The fan has a thermostat to turn it on if it's too hot and will close if it starts to rain. I have the luxury of being plugged in at home. A dealer can't do that.
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Old 04-11-2021, 08:09 AM   #6
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My unit has been closed since November, opened it last week smells fine. Like someone above said there is a PROBLEM with those units.

Good luck searching
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Old 04-11-2021, 08:40 AM   #7
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A musty smell in a used RV would make me very suspicious of a potential water leak. As RVs are built out of cardboard and Aluminum foil, a hidden leak will quickly turn it into papier mâché.
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Old 04-11-2021, 08:49 AM   #8
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Mine still has a whiff of 'new RV smell', pleasant, even 2.5 years later. I monitor humidity in my trailer year round with a remote sensor. I keep mine wrapped up with cover mid Nov through April, never any bad smells. I use DampRid style dessicants to keep moisture under control, and every once in awhile when ambient humidity is really low, I'll open the door and let some fresh air in (my cover unzips on door side for access).
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Old 04-11-2021, 08:59 AM   #9
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After five years ours doesn't have any lingering odors, it gets used a lot and is closed up for the winter months. Fortunately I have zero carpet and no cloth upholstery except for the cab seats. We cook inside and have had pets in it since it was new. Been stuck camping in some messy situations too. It all depends on ow well they are cared for.
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Old 04-11-2021, 09:02 AM   #10
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Mine is closed up in storage in central florida with no dehumidifier. Its under an awning so not exposed to direct rain. 1.5 years and no musty smell.
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Old 04-11-2021, 09:10 AM   #11
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Another answer could be a defective or very sensitive olfactory sensor I can't imagine every unit smelling that way unless like someone else suggested it was some type of disinfectant spray they were using.
I smell things my wife can't smell, and she hears sounds I can't hear. Make a good pair
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Old 04-11-2021, 10:08 AM   #12
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Musty smells are a result of stale air and moisture.

A closed up RV that was "put away wet" will smell like an old refrigerator when opened up in the spring.

From the description I wonder if these "used" trailers were used as temporary housing in a disaster area. From the wear and tear described it wouldn't surprise me.

When I got my latest trailer I sold my old 95 Terry. 22 years old and no musty smell at all. In the fall when I closed it up for the winter it got a good cleaning inside with furniture, walls, ceiling, cabinets, and counter tops all wiped down to remove as much of what we left behind from the camping season. I then closed it up with a dehumidifier running to keep humidity down.

Didn't smell new when I sold it but it didn't smell like an old basement either.
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Old 04-11-2021, 10:10 AM   #13
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Musty smells are caused by one thing and that is stagnant moisture. As someone suggested it is entirely possible those rigs have suffered from storm/water damage. My rig sits from mid August through April and still has a hint of that new smell. The fact that those rigs at the show display wear and tear is suspect, also. They've probably have been to one too many RV shows, and have had "hundreds" of people walk through them. All of this would cause me to turn around and walk away.
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Old 04-11-2021, 12:00 PM   #14
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That’s bizarre. Where are you? I wonder if dealers in your area are trying to move water/storm-damaged RV’s? Maybe they think demand is high enough that they’ll move?

My little trailer is 6 years old this year. I keep it clean, always have it vented, and don’t cook anything strong inside, and (despite traveling with a bunch of pets) it smells like new.

Some of what you’re describing just sounds like abuse, but I’d be very wary of anything that smelled musty, water damage is not something you want to deal with.
I am up in the Pacific Northwest. I forgot to mention that there was 2005 trailer I went in just cause I wanted to see what it looked like, and while it definitely looked well used, it hardly had any smell! So I guess if I have one and store it under a canopy, it will be ok to leave a vent open a little bit. It is good to hear from most of you that this is not the norm. That makes me feel a little better.
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Old 04-11-2021, 12:17 PM   #15
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I am up in the Pacific Northwest. I forgot to mention that there was 2005 trailer I went in just cause I wanted to see what it looked like, and while it definitely looked well used, it hardly had any smell! So I guess if I have one and store it under a canopy, it will be ok to leave a vent open a little bit. It is good to hear from most of you that this is not the norm. That makes me feel a little better.
I have covers over my roof vents but no canopy to store my TT under. On sunny days I go out and open the vents and may leave them open for a few days. I'll turn off the dehumidifier and let the air freshen up inside while the outside humidity is down. When rain is forecasted I go close up and turn the dehumidifier on again.


I find that frequent camping use from mid March through mid November helps a lot in keeping interior air fresh.
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Old 04-11-2021, 12:27 PM   #16
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The musty smell might be a covid treatment that the dealer sprays in every unit. Our dealer has been treating units with a fogger and a commercial solution that smells like what you described.
Now that's interesting. Hadn't thought of a disinfectant smell. They probably have to do it frequently at these shows.
If he was looking at rvs at and rv show, it wouldn't be unusual to see damage in a rig. It's possible that the rigs were demos on an rv lot and salespeople have stories about how visitors have damaged the rigs while touring. The last rv show we went to had salespeople everywhere trying to show people rigs while keeping them from damaging the rigs. Once it was sold, they locked the rig to keep other people out.
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Old 04-11-2021, 01:11 PM   #17
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Now that's interesting. Hadn't thought of a disinfectant smell. They probably have to do it frequently at these shows.
If he was looking at rvs at and rv show, it wouldn't be unusual to see damage in a rig. It's possible that the rigs were demos on an rv lot and salespeople have stories about how visitors have damaged the rigs while touring. The last rv show we went to had salespeople everywhere trying to show people rigs while keeping them from damaging the rigs. Once it was sold, they locked the rig to keep other people out.
That is interesting, but wouldnt that smell be in the new ones as well if it were a disinfectant? It was definitely not a disinfectant smell, it was a musty smell. Maybe they were just locked up since the fall or something. If you store it at home, is it good to just keep a dehumidifier running all year then?
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Old 04-11-2021, 01:30 PM   #18
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I am up in the Pacific Northwest. I forgot to mention that there was 2005 trailer I went in just cause I wanted to see what it looked like, and while it definitely looked well used, it hardly had any smell! So I guess if I have one and store it under a canopy, it will be ok to leave a vent open a little bit. It is good to hear from most of you that this is not the norm. That makes me feel a little better.
I also live in the PNW, on Camano Island and and I have never had this musty smell.
I agree that that smell could be a result of water leaks.
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Old 04-11-2021, 01:55 PM   #19
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That is interesting, but wouldnt that smell be in the new ones as well if it were a disinfectant? It was definitely not a disinfectant smell, it was a musty smell. Maybe they were just locked up since the fall or something. If you store it at home, is it good to just keep a dehumidifier running all year then?
Ahhhh.... sorry. I didn't understand these were used units only. It depends on if it's a musty smell like it hasn't had fresh air or a mildew type smell. If the smell is mildew, I wouldn't buy it. It usually means water damage somewhere. I can smell it even before I step into a unit and it makes me sick.
If you're storing it at home and are in a humid area, either use a dehumidifier or buy a large bucket of DampRid and change it when it starts to fill up with water.
As to damage, we do carry a screwdriver and Gorilla Glue (clear) because things do vibrate out as we travel and the glue they use doesn't hold up to our extreme humidity in Houston. You might also be looking at rigs that were rented out and no one fixes a rental.
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Old 04-11-2021, 02:04 PM   #20
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Ahhhh.... sorry. I didn't understand these were used units only. It depends on if it's a musty smell like it hasn't had fresh air or a mildew type smell. If the smell is mildew, I wouldn't buy it. It usually means water damage somewhere. I can smell it even before I step into a unit and it makes me sick.
If you're storing it at home and are in a humid area, either use a dehumidifier or buy a large bucket of DampRid and change it when it starts to fill up with water.
As to damage, we do carry a screwdriver and Gorilla Glue (clear) because things do vibrate out as we travel and the glue they use doesn't hold up to our extreme humidity in Houston. You might also be looking at rigs that were rented out and no one fixes a rental.
When I do purchase, it will be new so I know that it is always taken care of. I also imagine since a lot of people bought these last year, and since there are a lot of wealthy young people in this area, maybe they just bought them last year, didn't care about them, beat them up, let their dogs rip up the seats, kids break things, etc. then sold it off because they were tired of it already! Oh well, I always take good care of everything so I don't feel too bad now. And if it's from new, that is even better. I guess one thing I noticed that whether it's a 20k trailer or a 100k 5th wheel, they all seem just as cheaply made. Even some of the 3 or 4 year old $300k coaches I went in had doors sticking and misaligned and stuff! Sounds like I will have fun fixing things, which I love to do anyways!
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