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bgkast (Forum Supporter)
bgkast (Forum Supporter) PowerDork
6/29/20 10:56 p.m.

My wife and are thinking about buying an RV. It would serve a dual purpose: Detached office for us to have a quiet place to work (since it seems work from home will continue for quite some time), and an occasional weekend get away for our family of 6.

 

We don't have anything that can tow a big trailer, so it will have to be a motorhome. Based on the size of the family it seems like we are looking at a good sized one.  Budget is up to about 12k, and craigslist shows some mid 90s class As in this price range that look decent my untrained eye.

 

Any brands we should seek out (or avoid)? What should we be checking when we look at one?

Bestow your wisdom oh GRM!

frenchyd
frenchyd PowerDork
6/29/20 11:19 p.m.

In reply to bgkast (Forum Supporter) :

You're late to the parade. RV's have been selling like hot cakes because of the Virus and used prices reflect that.  
     It's no longer what's a good deal but can you get one.  You might luck out and find a older couple willing to sell something they bought a good one and properly took care of it.   But dally and others will be there quickly with cash in hand. 

Ian F (Forum Supporter)
Ian F (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
6/30/20 6:04 a.m.

There are numerous YT videos about inspecting RVs.

Most important: Does it leak? Has it ever had a leak? Most RVs are framed with the least amount of wood they can get away with, so water damage can be extensive.

After that: do all of the RV specific components still work, as those tend to be the most expensive to fix.

Figure on doing a fair amount of mechanical differed maintenance regardless of mileage as RVs tend to sit a lot. 

Like any used vehicle, it'll be a bit of a dice roll. Leave a fair amount in your budget to cover unknowns.

Dave M (Forum Supporter)
Dave M (Forum Supporter) HalfDork
6/30/20 6:36 a.m.
frenchyd said:

In reply to bgkast (Forum Supporter) :

You're late to the parade. RV's have been selling like hot cakes because of the Virus and used prices reflect that.  
     It's no longer what's a good deal but can you get one.  You might luck out and find a older couple willing to sell something they bought a good one and properly took care of it.   But dally and others will be there quickly with cash in hand. 

I think it's like the car market: plenty of new inventory, not so much used.

Fueled by Caffeine
Fueled by Caffeine MegaDork
6/30/20 7:05 a.m.

quick search of facebook marketplace shows plenty of smaller trailers and popups for less than $5k... 

Jay_W
Jay_W SuperDork
6/30/20 9:59 a.m.

All of the above is solid info. 12k might, if you are lucky, get you into one of the coaches that were built to last. I'd try to get my mitts on a (in no particular order) a Beaver, a Country coach, a Bluebird or a Foretravel. Everything else in this price range is gonna be... not as good. Our '89 Foretravel is built like a yacht not an RV, and did 11 mpg taking us from WA to OR to ID to Yellowstone to ND and back home. The trouble with any of these is they put you in the land of 2600 a set tires, 5 gallon oilchanges, that sort of thing, but you rly should check a few of these out, then compare them to say a similar vintsge fleetwood bounder so you can see what I'm on about. An alternative, you might be able to find a lazy daze class c. This is about the only one of these in this vintage and budget that's worth a e36m3. 

frenchyd
frenchyd PowerDork
6/30/20 10:11 a.m.

In reply to Fueled by Caffeine :

If you look at the new price of that $5000 trailer  it either hasn't depreciated much or it's pretty badly worn. 
 

plus you missed he doesn't have anything to pull it with. 

Toyman01 (Moderately Supportive Dude)
Toyman01 (Moderately Supportive Dude) MegaDork
6/30/20 10:27 a.m.

Look for rot or evidence of a roof leak. Check the floor around the toilet and shower. They are frequently soft due to toilet leaks. Look at the construction.

Get one that has the roof membrane that wraps down the side of the RV. They are less likely to have wall rot.

Not wrapped. This puts a seam at the top of the wall. Leaks are likely to rot not only the roof, but the walls. 

This roof puts the seam down the side of the wall. Leaks are less likely to rot the walls and will not rot the roof structure.

Mine is a '96 Tiffin Allegro Star. Aluminum frame, fiberglass/foam/luann walls. No slide outs, which are frequently problems and a cause of leaks.  It's pretty decent quality with 54k miles. It set me back $4700. I wanted the Ford chassis for ease of working on it and getting parts. I wanted a pre 2000 coach because I didn't want the Ford V10. It's not as pretty and fancy as the new ones, but so far it's been pretty flawless. 

 

Toyman01 (Moderately Supportive Dude)
Toyman01 (Moderately Supportive Dude) MegaDork
6/30/20 10:31 a.m.

Let me add. The roof on these is a maintenance item. It needs to be checked every year and resealed if anything looks questionable. I climb up every spring and scrub mine, checking all the seal joints as I go. Keep up the maintenance and it will last forever. Ignore it and you can wreck the entire thing in short order.  

 

pirate
pirate HalfDork
6/30/20 10:36 a.m.

Not trying to discourage you but I don't think you are going to find a motorhome in your budget that won't require a good deal of work. Newer motorhome are built much better then those in the past which contained a lot of wood. The biggest single problem in RVs of any kind are leaks. In older motorhomes these leaks contribute to wood rot and structural problems. Also many motorhomes were built for the casual user for a couple weeks of vacation and a few weekends a year so the materials used and appliances were often the cheapest available to make the units affordable. As others have said I would look for reputable brand names like Newmar, Tiffin and some of those named above. Whatever you do make sure you inspect any unit carefully including all the systems, electrical, plumbing, HVAC, etc. Tires on RVs are rarely wore out but need replacement due to UV damage, checking or old age. Most tire companies say they need replacement between 6 and 10 years regardless of tread wear or how they look. Tires are very expensive to replace. 

Toyman01 (Moderately Supportive Dude)
Toyman01 (Moderately Supportive Dude) MegaDork
6/30/20 11:02 a.m.
pirate said:

 Tires on RVs are rarely wore out but need replacement due to UV damage, checking or old age. Most tire companies say they need replacement between 6 and 10 years regardless of tread wear or how they look. Tires are very expensive to replace. 

As to tires, put them in your budget. When I bought my RV, the tires were 4 years old and looked to be in great shape. After 2 blowouts and a separation, I replaced all of them. Blowouts in a 16000 pound box towing a car trailer are not a laughing matter.  

aircooled
aircooled MegaDork
6/30/20 11:13 a.m.

Since you where not specific, I have always been a bit of a fan of the RV4.

Being a homebuilt, you will of course want be super careful to have it inspected, and importantly have good information on how and who built it (preferably someone who has a good reputation).

The later RV are nice also, but something about the simplicity of the RV4 is appealing.

Not sure how you will get 6 people anywhere.  Maybe buy 3?

smiley

Fueled by Caffeine
Fueled by Caffeine MegaDork
6/30/20 11:16 a.m.

In reply to frenchyd :

I don't think these asking prices have changed much in the past few years of my casual looking..  selling prices may be different.

bgkast (Forum Supporter)
bgkast (Forum Supporter) PowerDork
6/30/20 11:54 a.m.

In reply to aircooled :

Me too, but those aren't in the budget yet...

KyAllroad (Jeremy) (Forum Supporter)
KyAllroad (Jeremy) (Forum Supporter) UltimaDork
6/30/20 12:10 p.m.

Fly and drive RVs.  Older folks tend to have the dream of retiring to the open road and wandering the country.  But the reality of their reducing capabilities and herding a huge vehicle around quickly gets tiresome and they retire to the usual places (Arizona and Florida).  The RVs sit outside their retirement condos for a time before one or the other expires and the survivor decides it's time to liquidate possessions.

So shop those areas for your dream RV and plan a small vacation around the purchase.

Shadeux (Forum Supporter)
Shadeux (Forum Supporter) Dork
6/30/20 12:41 p.m.

RV's are an upside down boat.

Roof condition is critical, as others have said. Check the age of the tires. RV tires usually age out, not wear out.

It helps to be handy. It's a house that moves. Things like to break.

A 401 CJ
A 401 CJ Dork
6/30/20 1:01 p.m.

Bluebird Wanderlodge.  
 

old and weird looking.  
 

pretty sure that in a collision with a semi truck they'll come out on top.  Everywhere they need a rivet they have five.  
 

most that I'm familiar with use the 3208 V8 Cat so they're slow even when turbo.

A 401 CJ
A 401 CJ Dork
6/30/20 1:06 p.m.
Toyman01 (Moderately Supportive Dude) said:
pirate said:

 Tires on RVs are rarely wore out but need replacement due to UV damage, checking or old age. Most tire companies say they need replacement between 6 and 10 years regardless of tread wear or how they look. Tires are very expensive to replace. 

As to tires, put them in your budget. When I bought my RV, the tires were 4 years old and looked to be in great shape. After 2 blowouts and a separation, I replaced all of them. Blowouts in a 16000 pound box towing a car trailer are not a laughing matter.  

4 years old?  How often do you replace them?  8-10 years old, yeah, I'd be nervous.  But 4 years?

In reply to A 401 CJ :

After blowing out 2 and finding out one was separated, it didn't much matter how old they were they were getting replaced.

The current set will probably get replaced in the 5-7 year range, assuming I don't run into problems with them. 

 

pirate
pirate HalfDork
6/30/20 3:31 p.m.
Well what I said was actually 6 to 10 yeas not 4 years. The 6 to 10 years is actually quoted from the various tire manufacturers. I currently have some 6 year old Goodyear's and they look fine. I'm anal about tires having had a blowout which is not fun many many years ago on a Minnie Winnie. I check air pressure each morning before driving and keep the tires covered to protect from UV damage when the bus is in storage.
Curtis73 (Forum Supporter)
Curtis73 (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
6/30/20 4:27 p.m.

Go pre-2000.  I have to run to dinner, but I lived in RVs for a very significant portion of my life.  I'll get back to you.

PAUL TABONE
PAUL TABONE None
6/30/20 5:48 p.m.

Remember that a motorhome, like a boat of a larger size, is a mash up of products made by multiple vendors, screwed together by the branding manufacturer often with underpaid and uncaring employees. That means that when new, the thing is a piece of beauty, but as it ages, it becomes a POS to a degree. The physical interior parts are generally screwed together in haste with speed screws and it's nothing to see one inserted into the end grain of a piece of plywood or worse, press/flakeboard. The leaking roof is far and away the biggest concern, but also the history of the vehicle. A sweet looking job that had one meticulous owner regardless of make is more desirable than an Airstream that was neglected and passed around like a party favor.  And don't get blinded by the light. You may find that buying one is the easiest and often cheapest part of ownership.

 

There are several forums that might be helpful for information although I don't have any at my fingertips.

 

Good luck.

pirate
pirate HalfDork
6/30/20 7:07 p.m.

I agree there are some motorhomes brands that are slapped together that start falling apart as soon as they leave the dealership driveway. Other manufacturers have entry level units and on the other end of the spectrum super well built units for the full timers. I would not suggest the entry level from any of the manufacturers. 
 

if you want to find out about RV's or do research on just about any brand or model go to: https://www.irv2.com/forums/

Curtis73 (Forum Supporter)
Curtis73 (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
6/30/20 7:43 p.m.

If I were buying a 90s Class A, I would get an Alumalite/Holiday Rambler every day of the week and twice on Sunday.  This is the era where they had really perfected RVs and before Monaco bought the company (1999 I think).

They use an aluminum skin with aluminum studs and laminated/bonded foam as insulation and structure.  If a wooden-stick built RV gets a leak, it could be ages until you find it.  By then the wood is soaked, started to rot, will continue to rot, and grow all kinds of fungi.  Many people shy away because of the two-piece aluminum roof, but it has a single seam down the center with a slight curve to the roof.  My 1992 never leaked... at least not the roof.  The bolt that held the lower awning arm into the skin got a leak and I had a soft spot in the floor which was easily fixed.  The nice thing is, if you get a leak (and all RVs will leak eventually), you know that the structure of the RV can't rot if it's aluminum.  It's always worth fixing.

My 1992 Holiday Rambler TT spent the first 10 years of its life owned by a couple who parked it near a lake.  I bought it in 2002 for $9800 and towed it cross country twice.  Then around 2004 I took it to a lake and parked it.  I never covered it, babied it, or did anything other than winterize and kept some paraformaldehyde packets opened for the winter.  Last summer I decided to upgrade so I bought a 5th wheel to park there and I was able to trade my camper for 8 acres of land and a used 4-wheeler.  That sounds like a whopper deal, but the land is kinda useless.  I think the non-running 4 wheeler was the better part of that deal.

I personally don't prefer rubber roofs.  They require maintenance.  The UV damages the rubber, so you have to get up there and scrub it with a special cleaner, then treat it to protect it.  Then for the rest of the year, the slowly-oxidizing rubber drips gray streaks all down the sides of your RV.  I always felt that the increased sealing you get from rubber is more than offset by the once-a-year walking around on the roof and the extra maintenance.  I would say whatever roof you choose, get one with the least number of seams, and as Toyman ever so brilliantly pointed out, get one that that cap wraps down over the sides.

When looking at a potential RV, look hard at the cabinetry and floor coverings.  In an effort to keep weight low, most RVs make hideously awful cabinets that are a corner piece of 1x1 pine with luan stapled to it and covered with a vinyl sticker to look like wood.  While the cabinets may last just fine, I have never encountered an RV where this wasn't an indicator of cheap, lightweight construction everywhere else.  The cabinets in my Holiday Rambler were a similar construction, but they made stressed-skin platforms out of that 1x and luan, so it was skinned inside and out.  Still light weight, but super rigid and looked very nice.  I had no problems stuffing those cabinets full of canned goods and dishes and driving on Missouri roads.  (sorry, MO, but your roads suck).

Look at the hinges and grab the cabinet doors and check for hinge flex.  See how the doors line up.  All old RVs in this era will likely have awful plastic bathroom and kitchen faucets, but they follow standard sizing, so its easy to get a nice residential version of both and change them out.  Toilets will be pretty standard Dometic units that work fine.  They'll either be a side flush or a foot flush and both should serve you well.  If you don't like them, the aftermarket has some nice upgrades.  If you plan on frequently using it for family trips with 6 people, consider a macerating toilet.  If it's just going to be one or two trips a year, don't worry about it.  When you hook up to sewer, always let the black tank almost fill up before dumping.  You can leave the gray tank open, but if you leave the black tank open, the solids make a poo mountain and the liquids drain out.  Letting it fill allows time for the solids to liquefy, and any solids that remain will get flushed through by all the liquids.

90% of the RVs out there will have a standard complement of appliances; dometic LP range, 2 or 3-way fridge, and a gas water heater in either 6 or 10 gallon.  If you get lucky, you'll get the best of the best water heaters which has both gas and electric.  Great for having 6 people showering.  The electric will maintain hot water without using up your LP, and you can supplement with LP if you're all showering every day.

Unless you're going really big (as in two rooftop AC units and washer/dryer), a standard 30-amp 120v plug will be sufficient.  30A will run most electric water heaters, A/C units, and still have some left over for a TV and lights.  

I also like to keep a cube heater around.  On chilly nights it can pretty easily heat the RV without using the furnace.  Basically, I'm saying to take advantage of the electric utility included in your campsite whenever possible.  Most LP appliances in RVs are grossly inefficient and they use up propane quickly.

Since you're looking for a motorhome, don't neglect the chassis and drivetrain.  Many are built on the P30 (GM step van, often called the Workhorse chassis) and they are a bit stressed.  You'll find yourself potentially having white knuckles every time you're passed by a truck.   John Deere is the other big chassis manufacturer.  They sold to Oshkosh and Freightliner for their step van trucks and they are a much beefier option.  John Deere chassis often came with Ford running gear like the 460 or the 6.8L V10/E4OD or 4R100.  Workhorse almost always has Chevy running gear like a 454/4L80E.  Either one of those engines/transmissions is wonderful, but try for the John Deere chassis if you can. If you go to a diesel pusher (not as likely in your price range), you'll have to consult others on that.  I know they borrowed heavily from Blue Bird, Gillig, and Thomas bus chassis so they should be up to the task. 

Curtis73 (Forum Supporter)
Curtis73 (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
6/30/20 7:54 p.m.

Oh, a few other things.  90% of the awnings you'll find have vinyl fabric.  They're fine and do well, but they don't age well and they're a pain to replace the fabric.  Swanky awnings are made from a poly fabric called Sunbrella.  They are the bomb dot com.  If you encounter a fabric awning, it's potentially a sign that the manufacturer (and previous owner) knew what was good.  It's no guarantee of a top quality RV, but it can be one little sign that might be an indicator of quality.

 It's also unlikely you'll encounter an electric/automatic awning, but I like to avoid them.  A manual awning takes 45 seconds to set up and you can tilt it to drain any rain that you might encounter.  Some of the electric ones have load sensors and if they start getting rain weight on them, they retract to protect the awning... dumping 200 gallons of water on your patio and leaving your stuff exposed to the rain.  Dad has one on his new Forrest River.  We both hate it.  His you can pull down on an articulating lever to lower one side, but then any breeze can make it flop rather violently.  Just stick to a manual awning, keep the top arms tight against the roller, and carry on.

Since you're likely getting a class A, spring for one with an auto leveling system if you can.  It's not a huge deal to get out some 2x12 chunks and level up the thing, but it can be a lot of trial and error, especially for someone not used to it.  You might also find that some campsites are far from level requiring you to use a lot of 2x12s.  It cuts into your recreation time and puts the RV on 6" of lumber.  Not a terrible thing, but not ideal.  With auto leveling, you pull in, hit a button, and done.  Many of the auto leveling systems are not overly bulletproof, but if it dies... just break out the 2x12s.

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