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Oldav8r

Motorhome Purchase Guidance

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I am in the early stages of a motorhome search. At this point, I THINK I’m looking for a Class A Diesel in the 36’ to 40’ range. We may be full or semi full-timers (probably with a couple of large dogs) beginning in a couple of years. 

I have always bought my vehicles (cars, motorcycles, airplanes) used and am planning to go that way here as well. 

 

However, this brings up some questions as I’m not very familiar with Diesel engines/truck chassis. I’m hoping some of you can share some knowledge. 

 

What’s the history of Class A MH development? That is, how old is too old? Have there been significant safety or operational improvements that appear after certain years? ABS? Auto-leveling? Or...?? For example, DEF seems to appear after about 2010. Was that by law? Do all diesels use it? 

 

Are there certain years with certain brands that should be avoided? (or sought after?) 

 

I hope you get the idea of the kind of info that I’m looking for.

 

Thanks for any wisdom you can provide. 

 

Edited by Oldav8r

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You pose some really interesting questions and you will be much better prepared for a sound purchase because of your research. Not all of the questions that you have can be defined exactly but we are sure to offer at least some help. 

7 hours ago, Oldav8r said:

What’s the history of Class A MH development?    ~ ~  DEF;  Do all diesels use it? 

According to Smithsonian, "The first RV was Pierce-Arrow’s Touring Landau, which debuted at Madison Square Garden in 1910." I suspect that goes back a bit farther than you have in mind but thought it might be interesting to you. The earliest diesel-powered motorhomes were bus conversions but as diesel engines became popular in the smaller trucks they also became more common in the RV world. Well into the 1980's only the higher priced models of motorhome had diesel engines in them and even today they are rarely found in the entry-level coaches because of the higher cost. DEF was introduced with diesel catalytic converters in 2010 and by 2013 all US diesel engines were using it. In the motorhome world, the diesel has become more and more of the market, especially since 2000 or so. Today they are the majority of new motorhome sales, and part of the reason is the increased size and weight of the typical motorized RV. Even now the gasoline engine dominates the smaller RV industry, mostly due to it's lower weight and cost. 

8 hours ago, Oldav8r said:

Have there been significant safety or operational improvements that appear after certain years?

There is no specific year when major changes took place that can be defined. Because the federal highway safety standards that apply to automobiles mostly do not apply to motorized RVs, the RV industry has been very slow to implement then as they add significantly to the production costs. Even seat belts were not common in class A RVs until the 90's and other safety issues are slowly being introduced but many are still not there. RVIA, the RV manufacturer's association spends large amounts of their budget to lobby Congress to avoid the implication of highway safety laws and they continue to be successful in slowing that progression. Even though I happen to prefer to travel by motorhome, it is a fact that you are significantly safer when traveling in an automobile than in a motorhome, particularly a class A. All one must do is to view the result of most class A rigs that have rolled over to see why. The exception to this could be the bus conversion coaches since they have a much more survivable body than do the lower priced, fiberglass body on conventional diesel chassis RVs that most of us can afford. Class A safety records come mostly from the fact that they are driven fewer miles, have better visibility, and things of that nature, not from their construction/design. 

8 hours ago, Oldav8r said:

Are there certain years with certain brands that should be avoided? (or sought after?) 

This is an area where you really get more into personal opinions than hard facts. It is pretty safe to state that the highest quality of class A's come from companies like Newell, Prevost, and Marathon but they are also the most expensive coaches with new prices well over $1 million. If you want the best, those are clearly the coaches to be shopping for.  Marathon presently has a 2008 model available for only $629, 000 and Newell has a 2005 model in stock for only $349, 000!  With that said, we met some folks who travel in a restored Newell built new in 1977 who were still happily traveling it in about 5 years ago. Not many RVs are still on the road after 40 years of service.

I suggest that you do some looking at new coaches first just to get some feel for what is available to you and the prices at which they are offered. You can buy a new, 36' Bounder by Fleetwood Dutch Star from Newmar new, 40' Dutch Star from Newmar for just under $500k. On the surface, it looks like the Bounder is clearly a better buy, but there is much more to consider that first appearance and there are solid reasons for the differences in price. Each of those RVs has many satisfied owners who would buy the same again, so you need to study the reasons for the differences in price and quality. It is my personal opinion that Newmar is one of the top coachbuilders along with Tiffin and not too far behind would be Winnebago/Itasca. But Fleetwood has its supporters and satisfied customers as well. To list the coach builders that I would never consider on a public forum is a very dangerous thing to do as doing so will step on the toes of those who own such coaches and quickly start a war of words. There are some brands that I would never consider and I have some pretty solid reasons for my opinions, but they are opinions so if you want specific brands you will need to send me a private message and I will share those opinions. It is important to remember that there is no RV manufacturer that is so good that they have no unhappy customers, nor is any so bad that they have no supporters. 

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Kirk provided a good historic overview.  Another opinion on purchasing used is that during the years when the RV industry was struggling, early 2000's, many feel the quality struggled also.  

I would decided on a price range you want to be at, then start looking at what floor plans could fit into that range.  If you find a few floor plans then you could start researching information about that exact manufacturer/model.

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This was a pretty good book: Buying A Used Motorhome

You would also probably benefit from attending an Escapade and/or Escapees Boot Camp.

https://www.escapees.com/education/rvers-boot-camp/

https://www.escapees.com/community/national-rally/

The Family Motor Coach Association also holds rallys around the country that include educational seminars.

FMCA Events

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Also look at used bus conversions. Manufacturers were Eagle, MCI, Prevost, Setra amd GM. Last GM was produced in 1978. Eagle was the preferred entertainer coach due to "ride quality", Torlastic suspension not air bags.  

There are some very nice conversions from the mid 80's through early 2000's ranging in price from $45K to $150K. Since most people did their conversions approaching retirement they become available in  10-15 years after completion. Check out the Bus Conversions, a magazine, bulletin board and also  the BNO, Bus Nuts Oline, bulletin board. 

Just something more to think about.

 

Bill

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All, 

Thanks for the information. I’ll look up the publication and websites recommended. We’ve gone to a couple of RV shows and wandered through the new stuff and I’ve planned to attend a boot camp when we get a little closer to hitting the road. Maybe sooner would be better. 

Thanks again, great group. 

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