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Hello!

My husband and I are new to the RV life and are looking to purchase our first camper van. We plan to live in it full time for the next 10 months and take it all across North America. So far we have been drawn to Class B vans that are 21' or less. Yesterday we looked at a used 1999 Road Trek 170 on a Dodge Chassis. It has seen some wear but has had many things replaced and drives well. We took it on the freeway and up a hill and felt good about how it was running. Overall we really liked it and for $10,000 the price seems right. However, it has been well used and has 260K miles on it. At 170 miles the engine was rebuilt. We have not had a chance to get a third party to look at it yet and wanted to see if we could get some advice from the community. At that amount of miles is it really a good idea for our needs? 

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Welcome to the Escapee forums!

1NADA lists the low retail as $9150 and average as $11,000 but that is an awful lot of miles and it is now 20 years old. If they have proof that the engine was rebuilt, that helps some but it is still 90k miles since that was done. What about the transmission? Are there maintenance records on it? Is this from a private seller or a dealer? I doubt that you can buy an "extended warranty" for a rig that is 20 years old so that probably isn't an option. Have you seen all of the appliances work properly? Are the appliances all original or have some of them been replaced? Most RV refrigerators last about 10 to 15 years under moderate to heavy use and with the miles this one has it has probably seen a lot of use. The same is true for the roof air conditioner. An RV water heater has a tank that will often fail in the 10 to 20 year age range as well so all three of them are on borrowed time if original. I am guessing that this would be your only means of transportation while traveling? If so you need to have reserve funds available for major repairs and for housing while being repaired if you will travel very far with it. In my opinion, the price isn't really out of line by much but it probably isn't a good choice for your purposes. If you do choose to buy it, I suggest that you offer $8,000 and would not pay more than the $9150 suggested by NADA.

Edited by Kirk W

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Welcome to the forum!

Experts will be along soon, but my 2 cents worth:  You get what you pay for.  How inclined are you/hubby at on the road repairs?  Breakdowns can get expensive rendering your pocket worthless.  It could run for many years, it could break-down 5 miles out the gate.   At this age/miles, IMHO, you are buying someone else's problems.  I'll put it this way, how many cars/pickups for 10k do you think you could drive hard for 10 months across the country and have no problems?  It's a crap-shoot.  Even if it has a new engine as they told you, and feels good now, what about the transmission, rear-end, brakes, shocks, electrical system, etc.  How well do you know the person selling it?  Why are they selling?  Old, retiring to a home, young wanting to pass off their money pit, replacing it with a newer one, etc.  How's the body, paint?  Any bubbling/rough spots under the paint anywhere?  That's a sign your buying a very soon to be rust bucket, looks matter?  Tires, they good, fairly new?  That could be up to $1k repair shortly.  You just traveling around, retired, um-employed looking for work, working out of van, lots to consider.  I'm not trying to get info on your pocket, but you need to think hard about it with that inexpensive a vehicle your going to be living in.  Could be good if it gives you no problems, could get very bad, ie strand you somewhere in the middle of no-where, only you can decide.

Stick around, someone will be along shortly to tell me I'm full of it.... LOL  Good luck and have a great time, lots to see and do!

 

Edit, Kirk beat me to it, said it more eloquently.  🙂

 

Edited by NDBirdman

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At that many miles it would seem the next problem is just around the corner.  Only you know what you are willing to pay but I would try to find a vehicle with less miles.  This may cost more but hopefully it will be less trouble.  In any case a road side assistance policy and a financial reserve for trouble, probably  should be included in your plan.  Our 5th wheel is nearly 20 years old and I have rebuilt and updated it extensively but there are still miscellaneous problems now and again.  That is pretty common with most RV's but major problems can be very expensive.

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Thank you so much for your replies!

It's a private seller in his mid-30s. According to him the original owner drove it for a long time and put almost all the miles on it. They rebuilt the engine and transmission and there are records of this although we haven't seen them yet. The next owner had it for a couple years and didn't drive it much, then the current owner bought it and has had it for a year and a half.

He seemed pretty fastidious. He replaced the A/C unit and driver's seat, front brakes, front tires, and front shocks as well as a bunch of the hoses in the engine and the black/grey water pipes were recently replaced. He showed us that the stove, water pump, faucets, toilet, and furnace all work, but we didn't see the water heater working. He said he can't stand squeaks so he fixed all the cabinets so they wouldn't squeak and his selling post said he had previously planned to keep this forever until he moved and didn't have a place to park it. He showed us every window shade and window opening and closing. Riding along for the test drive everything about his story lined up and there were no red flags, so we feel pretty good about the seller.

There are a few dents and scratches but the paint is overall in good condition for the age of the vehicle. Some damage to a grate on the top of the vehicle and a large dent on the back, but they appear very cosmetic.

We want to take it to a mechanic to get inspected but we're unsure on what they will look at. Can we get them to look at the rear brakes, shocks, and test the transmission and stuff like that? Will they be able to give us good information on the condition of those parts or are they going to be in the dark too? Are there "standard" inspections?

Definitely feels risky but we do have the funds and we could repair it if we had to, but then why not spend the extra money to buy something with fewer miles? Trying to find the price point where the tradeoff makes sense. 

Thanks again!

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Are you sure of the size you would be confined to? A class B is going to feel awfully small by the end of 10 months for most people. 

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What type of places do you plan on visiting, tight/confined, wide open boon docking, RV parks, etc.  Reason I ask, why look as such a small camper?  I see Class Cs for sale all the time, many with 30, 40k miles.  Has alot more room but not like a class A.  I see those every so often too in that price range, again, with much less miles.  Kirk again said it right, after 10 months, small quarters, are you leaving the boxing gloves at home?  LOL  Either way you go, I bet you end up with lots of repair work on the road making for an aggravating trip.

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Way too many mIles to consider. You will always be dealing with repairs no matter how many  things have been repaired. 

 

 

 

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22 minutes ago, Earl1 said:

Way too many mIles to consider. You will always be dealing with repairs no matter how many  things have been repaired. 

 

 

 

I agree completely.  

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For a period of full time use you have planned that unit is way too old with too many miles.  I would not make an offer even if I thought the seller would take $7,000 for it.

Keep looking.  There are a ton of good quality used RVs out there.

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I'm a sucker for punishment. I'd buy it, and drive the tires off it. No way I'd come close to his asking price, probably settle around half of it. Keep the rest in close reach to cover the repairs that will be needed. Most I would handle myself, but the transmission is on borrowed time, as is most of the running gear. RV parts are built to fail, so expect to spend some time and $$$ there, too.

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Thanks everyone for taking the time to weigh in! We really appreciate all the input and can already tell what a wonderful community this is. We are going to pass on this old girl and try to find something with less miles that we will feel more sure of. For our first camper van we need something with a slower learning curve. 

Thank you!!

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Also keep in mind the age of the vehicle you purchase.  If you plan on staying at City, State and Federal campgrounds

age is not a big deal.  If you are planning on staying in RV Parks, even KOA's there usually is a 10 year rule, too old no 

you can not rent from them.  Just my $0.02 cents.

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We know a couple who are full-timing in a 1977 (yes, 1977) Dodge conversion van. They are not small people, but they are minimalists. They have been doing this for a couple of years now, and really enjoy it.

I realize that the OP has decided to pass on this, but I thought I'd share this part anyway. It may help someone else. We were told that the first owner put most of the miles on the vehicle, the second one didn't use it much, and the third has had it only a short time. That tells me that for the past several years the vehicle has spent more time sitting still (drivetrain not being used) than being driven. That will most likely lead to all sorts of leaks, as seals and gaskets dry up from lack of use. I experienced that with a used car I bought when I was young and foolish. Nothing that can't be taken care of, but something that needs to be kept in mind.

There are a lot of us who travel with coaches that are more than 10 years old. Some of us do so because we can't afford new ones, and some of us because we like the older coaches. So what if some private campgrounds don't want our business? There are plenty of places that do. To each his/her own.

One of the challenges of a Class B is that you may not have any other means of transportation available, so you must pack everythying up for travel when you want to go to the grocery store. Our friends, mentioned above, do set up a screened tent at their site. In it they have a table, their dorm-size refrigerator, microwave, chairs, etc. They don't pack that stuff up to go to the store, and it shows that their site is actually occupied. It doesn't take them long to get ready to go, but there is still some work involved. Something to think about.

For some reason, Class B coaches seem to be more expensive than a Class C of the same age, and the C will have more room and can tow a small vehicle for shopping and sight-seeing. The C will use more fuel going from campground to campground, but I suspect that the combination of a Class C and a small towed will actually use less fuel than a Class B by itself. That also gives you a backup vehicle should something happen to one or the other.

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1 hour ago, kb0zke said:

One of the challenges of a Class B is that you may not have any other means of transportation available, so you must pack everythying up for travel when you want to go to the grocery store.

When I lived in my Class B I simply went to the grocery store and/or laundromat when I packed up to move sites anyway. I usually had a meal in a restaurant that day, too. No big deal.

Linda Sand

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