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Buying an older RV


Brook34

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Hi, I am new to this forum and Escapees and glad to be getting some great information here.

 

I am planning on buying an RV (motorhome, not trailer) in the spring once we sell the big house and downsize. I will be doing lots of trips on my own of at least a few months at a time, as hubby is not that interested. I have seen so many people on the forums who have older RVs as in 15 or 20 years old--including solo women travelers.

 

I just wondered what your experiences were as I am trying to decide what age RV to buy. I would definitely lay less out of pocket on an older rig, but are they really worth it? Do they break down easily and turn into money pits?

 

I am leaning more toward a 3 to 5 year old rig that has been taken good care of, but would really like to know others experience with older motorhomes. Thanks.

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Hi Brook,

 

My experience has only been with older RVs. All of the RVs I have owned over the years have been 10-15 years old. From what I have seen in talking to hundreds of people out there, the biggest problem times are the 1st year, and then in the 5th or 6th year depending on how one uses the coach. Years 6 to 10 are usually problem free other than regular maintenance. I have no problem buying a 15 year old coach, and in fact, I'm in the market right now and looking at 99-2001. The only thing I won't buy is a coach with low miles. A 1998 with 17K miles will have more problems than one with 85K miles IMO. A well used coach is usually a well maintained coach.

 

Can they turn into a money pit? Yup! But if you're careful, and buy from a proud owner and not a snake oil salesman, you'll probably be okay. Most RVers are proud of their rigs, and they track all of their expenses. They're glad to tell you the history of the coach and you can tell by the records they keep how they took care of it. I met a couple in Alaska a few years ago who had a 1991 Winnebago. They had 310,000 miles on it, virtually problem free, and were on their way to Florida. In all that mileage, all they repaired other than regular maintenance was a transmission rebuild and a few front end parts.

 

My rule of thumb is, if the coach doesn't have 3 or 4K miles/year on it, I'm not interested. Dry rotted seals and bushings can cost a fortune in repairs. I have also bought a couple of coaches off eBay. I look for the buy it now deals and make a deal for the seller to take down the item predicated on a mechanic coming to look at it. Then I place an ad on Craigslist in that area for a mobile mechanic and send him out with a list of items to check and photograph. I pay $75 and there are quite a few mechanics that answered the ads.

 

If you're not mechanically inclined, place your own ad and have a mechanic go over the coach really well. You can usually get all the information you need in a good conversation with the owner. Verify it with a mechanic and you should make out okay. $75 is nothing for insurance against a bad coach.

 

So long story short, I prefer to go older and broken in. You can buy high end, broken in coaches on a budget and still travel in style. I personally have around 120,000 miles under my belt RVing in the last 25+ years and I have never had a serious breakdown in older coaches.

 

I'm sure others will chime in with their opinions as well... good luck to you!

 

-Rich

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Two main considerations when buying a used rig:

 

1) The original quality of the unit

2) How it was cared for

 

IMO, I don't consider 3-5 of age to be an older unit. To me, they're just used:)! 6+ years old, is now going into what I'd consider older units.

 

And to me, I'd have no problem dropping a few years older then the 3-5 years mark, to obtain a higher quality unit. (I've recommended on several threads to "Drop years to remain within budget, and buy the highest quality RV that you can, as long as it meets your needs."

 

That is where the maintenance and care come into play the most. Even a younger coach, a poorly/improperly maintained RV could be a real problem.

 

I followed my own advise, and we bought a then 5 years old Country Coach, that had had proper maintenance.

 

You don't mention gas vs DP, or small/medium/large in size? Class A, Class B, Class C?

 

I know one lady neighbor (Lost her husband three years ago.) has kept their 36' National Dolphin Class A, and goes out now for several months at a time. Then each year, she also does what she calls her 'Grandkid Fix' trip for the holiday season:)!

 

She said she considered trading her 36' in on a 28' Trek (She liked the size, and it still had the Workhorse with 8.1 which was her husbands favorite chassis/engine combo.) But, she looked over their receipts, the modifications they'd made together, on I think it was a 2004 (Had the 5spd vs 6sp Allison, so that era.) Dolphin - and decided to stay with what she knew. And she's added two more dogs to her fleet of animals, a parrot and existing dog, and figured the bit extra space was nice.

 

Sorry to have gone on about my neighbor, but the point is she was very comfortable in this size Class A. Both in driving it, and in the locations she could take it.

 

So suggest you go sit in many coaches, come up with a shorter list of manufactures and models you like that are within your budget range, then go shopping. Older vs Newer Used? Condition, condition, condition - balanced with - meets your needs, meets your needs, meets your needs:)!

 

Happy hunting,

Smitty

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Thanks for your reply. It is very helpful. You mention that coaches can have problems in their 5th and 6th year. Since I am thinking of buying a 3-5 year old RV I am wondering what types of issues show up then?

Typically, RVs are rarely used, so we're talking build quality issues, that if it were a daily driver would show up in the first year. RVs are not like cars, they are built by, sometimes three different companies, and are modified in many ways. Quality control is an issue, especially since they've become exempt from the lemon laws. There's no specific problem, just many potential ones that, if they show up, will do so around the fifth year according to statistics.

 

-Rich

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Thanks, Smitty.

 

I am considering a Phoenix Cruiser 2351, as they seem to be well built for the price and I love the openness of their website. Everything is clear with great pictures and pricing information. I would like to buy a few years old, but I saw some online that were older with floor plans I really liked. I just hesitate to be a woman on the road alone with a problem RV.

 

I am savvy about many things around a home. I can replace electrical outlets and light fixtures, have repaired our refrigerators a few times (with help from google), but don't know very much about vehicles or rvs. There are so many systems in an rv and when I read about them, and try to understand them, my head swims.

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I think you'll find a wealth of information on the road itself. RV parks are very close knit communities, and any time I had to repair anything, I always had two or three people begging to help.

 

You Tube and Google are your friends! You can find out how to fix anything in minutes...

 

 

-Rich

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My DW and I have a 17 year old MH that we have full-timed in since 2004. I would NOT hesitate to start off tomorrow for another trip (except that I remember how much fuel cost me last time) I can't say that NOTHING is going to happen to it, but I know that it is well trained, that it is a well-built coach, (its a Newmar Dutchstar), that there is a great lineup of repair facilities across the country, and that there are a WHOLE lot of nice people out there to help me if I have a problem!

 

Go for it girl! Just keep your powder dry!

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My RV is a 2000 DP. Got it for $40k. Put about 6k into it. love it. TIp for ya. Prior to buying one, Check out all of it. A/C is it cold enough, Jacks go up /down, Hrs on the Generator. From what i have been told 5000 hrs is when ya need a new one. 500 - 1000 hrs on one is ok. Check Plumbing under the sinks. Slides go in/out ok. an MOST Important of all. Check Yr on tires. Replace every 7 yrs. Don't be fooled by great amount of Thread on them, Check the DOT yr. The Above is just a major tip of the iceburg. my next rv will be a DP but about 6 yrs old or so.

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We're full-timing in a 1993 Foretravel, and there are quite a few people full-timing in even older ones, as well as Bluebirds, Newells, and other high-end coaches. These coaches have engines and transmissions designed for heavy-duty trucks and buses, so as long as they get regular service they will last a long time. The biggest problems with coaches older than about 15 years is the appliances (refrigerators especially) that reach the end of their useful lives. Since we don't boondock much we chose to put in a residential refrigerator. Figure on spending $10,000 or so within the first year to repair and upgrade whatever you buy. Look at the ages of the tires and batteries. Anything older than five years will need replacing soon. Look at maintenance records. Ideally they will go back to new, but the older you go the less likely that will happen. At least the current owner should have records. If not, keep looking.

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We specifically looked for coaches older than 2004 when we bought ours. We already had RV fulltime experience and had seen lots of MH. Finally 3 years ago we found our MH, a 2000 Monaco Dynasty. At 102k miles we didn't even blink.

Sure appliances can age out but were prepared for that

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Thanks, Rich,

 

I guess I'll have to just be a big girl on a big adventure and get myself out there.

You'll do just fine! We meet a lot of single folks out on the road. Just last year, we met a young girl who workcamps across the country. She had a 1988 or maybe 85 Class C and spent a great deal of her free time doing preventative maintenance watching YouTube videos.

 

BTW, If you want a copy of my mechanic check list, let me know and I'll post it for you.

 

-Rich

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