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carguy123 PowerDork
11/10/12 11:18 a.m.

Several threads on here have made me start thinking towards a cheap used motorhome or RV.

Would someone please post a primer of what to look for and what to avoid?

From what I've read I'm presuming I want a diesel and probably pretty large. I don't know or understand classes (I think that's what you call them), but when I started seeing <$30K motorhomes posted here that looked outrageously good that got the little lizard brain ticking.

This could be a Christmas buy, but it will probably be a next year buy so that I have time to do a little research and keep watch for an appropriately priced model.

I'm thinking that if I can get a good drivetrain and suspension the rest is almost like home maintenance, right?

D_Howard Reader
11/10/12 12:14 p.m.

Don't know your exact intended use but I thought this was a good read.


Jaynen HalfDork
11/10/12 12:35 p.m.

Hah :) we think alike.

Generally you have Class C = has a van front end usually e-350 or chevy. Has the sleeping area or TV above where the driver sits and tend to sleep more people

Class A = looks like a bus, usually heavier duty chassis like a larger truck so better brakes etc, more powerful engines available and the like. Floor plans have storage underneath but less room for beds/passengers

I've seen people take ambulances and turn them into decent little motorhomes as well especially for overland/offroad use. Kind of in the idea of the box truck article

Jerry From LA
Jerry From LA Dork
11/10/12 12:49 p.m.

Do Class A motorhomes require a truck or bus license?

Jaynen HalfDork
11/10/12 1:15 p.m.

No. If it's classed as an RV it doesnt count as commercial. You just can't haul over a certain weight.

I've seen guys buy used semi trucks and convert them to RV status to tow toy haulers with no CDL

carguy123 PowerDork
11/10/12 1:51 p.m.

I'm thinking family vacations, parking at race tracks, extra bedroom when lots of company over, things like that rather than a dire need to have one or my life will be incomplete.

AND could even got the grocery store if all other vehicles were down for the count for a few hours.

I'm thinking more Class A, but am open to anything. A while back someone posted some Class A's at what I thought was an insane price of around $15k-$20K. I always thought you were talking $100k or more for them even used.

IF we get to keep Sebring, with the new Nascar takeover, and IF it remains anything like it has been in the past, then I could make the trek from Texas and park it for the duration. PLUS I'm just a few hours from COTA!!!

Jaynen HalfDork
11/10/12 2:37 p.m.

My searches have been for 2000 and newer stuff and I have seen a lot of decent stuff under 20k. Less so with class A diesel vs gas however. Looking at most the 2000 to current stuff I don't see a big difference. Then again I still feel like a lot of cars from the early 2000's look quite new

Teggsan Reader
11/10/12 5:03 p.m.
D_Howard wrote: Don't know your exact intended use but I thought this was a good read. http://www.motoiq.com/magazine_articles/id/2425/the-ultimate-no-budget-racecar-transporter.aspx


Jaynen HalfDork
11/10/12 6:20 p.m.

Yeah a very GRM project who is going to do it first!

A new challenge category? Best car hauler under X :P?

petegossett UltraDork
11/10/12 7:57 p.m.

In reply to Teggsan:

Damn you! That's perfect!!!! 8)

44Dwarf SuperDork
11/11/12 8:17 a.m.

rule #1) It will leak at some point in time.

2) be preped to clean the roof twice a year min.

mad_machine MegaDork
11/11/12 8:26 a.m.

I like the idea of an ex-ambulance

Jaynen HalfDork
11/11/12 8:33 a.m.


yeah ambulance conversion is pretty cool. Won't haul a car tho :)

carguy123 PowerDork
11/12/12 9:36 a.m.

What are the deal breaker things to watch out for in a Class A?

pinchvalve UltimaDork
11/12/12 10:04 a.m.

Class A covers a WIDE range of vehicles. Front or rear engined? Gas or diesel? Over or under 35ft? (Important for some State Parks IIRC) Do you want slide-outs? Do you want more room inside or more storage space? Will you normally be hooked up, or do you want bigger water tanks for more self-sufficiency? On board generator? Washer/Dryer? Hose-out interior or imported Travertine Marble?

I would decide how many miles you plan to put on it, how often you will be in the mountains, and how you will use it first, then start shopping.

xflowgolf Reader
11/12/12 10:07 a.m.
D_Howard wrote: Don't know your exact intended use but I thought this was a good read. http://www.motoiq.com/magazine_articles/id/2425/the-ultimate-no-budget-racecar-transporter.aspx

I've had many thoughts about box trucks... and I think there's room for improvement for someone with a torch and a welder (most GRM'ers). I've considered either making more of a bob tail setup, or even lowering/tilting the whole box (similar to a ramp truck) and then chopping down the box height at an angle. Add in air suspension for ride comfort and loading convenience. Basically an extended bobbed tail and an adjustable air ride suspension could squat for loading and make a much less precarious ramp situation required.

Jaynen HalfDork
11/12/12 10:09 a.m.

I think he is looking for the more general stuff like

"If it has water damage run"

oldtin SuperDork
11/12/12 10:30 a.m.
Jay_W Dork
11/12/12 11:28 a.m.

I had a 27' class A for 19 years and 100k miles, it was my house for 3 years while I was getting my business up and running, the motor blew last year (amazing lifespan for a 6.2 diseasel) and have been shopping for a replacement since, looking at and driving a couple dozen different rigs. Here's a thumbnail of what I've learned... "If it has water damage, run".. heh, yeah, that. If you don't want to just drive from trailer park to trailer park, and wanna boondock even a little, and you plan on doing any towing at all, run away from anything not diesel. Run away from any of the "light truck" chassis. Mine was a Chevy P30 and like pretty much all of them, was loaded to max gross weight when it came outta the factory. Run far, far away from any of the low end makes. Just one walk through, say, a Bounder, will show you how cheesy they are. Most every Bounder I see around here wears a blue tarp in winter. Golly, wonder why? Contrast it or any of the other rigs in that price range with something from Country Coach or Blue Bird or Foretravel or Beaver ( my next RV will be from one of these outfits. Nothing else really compares), it's night and day. You pretty much want a bus chassis. This has enough loadrating to safely load it up with everything a family needs, and tow a racecar, without turning into a rolling road hazard. The downside is that they are enormous, and tires are expensive (Yeah the light truck tires are much cheaper but that advantage goes away with your first blowout. I had the vast good fortune to only have rolling blowouts at the back of mine. I caught the fronts the 2 times those let go before they blew... got it parked before they killed me. So the real bus tires cost 3 grand a set. Who cares?). Since these busses can cost a million bucks new, you prolly wanna shop for something from the early to mid 90's. This was the peak for most of the bus chassis manufacturers and the quality of materials and attention to detail was outstanding and you can find them for under 20k nowadays. My various test drives have told me that air ride (or that BFGoodrich elastomeric suspension) is mandatory. Go ahead and testdrive one that rides on springsnshocks and then drive one on air, you'll see what I mean. I don't think I wanna settle for anything less than air brakes, either. The 20k and under bus conversions, most of them homemade, are very hit and miss. Most of them are running with Detroit Screamers, some with 4 speed manual boxes or even 2 speed autotragics, get horrible mileage, and might not make it up a good hill. But if you find one you like and it has a decent drivetrain, it'll be worth looking over carefully. Detroit 8.2= bad reputation. Stay away unless it's been rebuilt by someone reputable and they installed the larger headbolts so the gaskets stay put. Cat 3208=Very underpowered unless you get the turbo version, in which case it'll go down the road just fine with as much stuff as you care to bring. It has a "throwaway" bad rap, no cyl liners, but you will be very very hard pressed to put enough miles on a motorhome for that to become an issue. Cummins 5.9= Not Enough. Onramp to freeway speed took forever. My 6.2 had more oomph, and the Cummins was forcefed and had bigger than stock injectors. Cummins 8.3= The Answer. This, in even a 38' behemoth, with an Allison 6 speed... well, I've driven slower cars. This thing pushed me back in the seat, and you can get 11-12 mpg out of them. My next rig will be 34' or less, on a Gillig or Spartan or Foretravel chassis, rides and stops on air, with the 8.3/allison 6speed. If it doesn't have hardwood or tile floors, it will after a very short time. I don't know why all the manufacturers insist on putting wall to wall carpet in these things. It'll have at bare minimum pair of 8D house batteries or equivalent, and there will be at least enough solar panel on the roof to be able to do maintenence charge. I stole from a Foretravel site a long, long comprehensive RV buyer checklist. This missive has gotten too long as it is, so PM me or something if you want me to get it to you. I have found it useful.

carguy123 PowerDork
11/12/12 12:07 p.m.

Now that's what I'm talking about!

I now have enough knowledge to get me in trouble.

Jay_W Dork
11/12/12 12:29 p.m.

Well now there ya go. ..

carguy123 PowerDork
11/12/12 1:40 p.m.

The more I've talked about this the more the wife (and now the kids who want to borrow it) are encouraging me.

Jaynen HalfDork
11/12/12 3:24 p.m.

So fleetwood/winnebago etc are all junk?

How do you know what chassis they are on?

An RV certainly is not a financial investment like a house but the industry I work in can be so volatile I am a little hesitant to buy even when we can afford it in case we have to move. If that did happen it would be nice for me to be able to take the RV and live somewhere until we found a place etc?

What is your experience on the cost of running/maintaining one vs just paying for hotels?

I am definitely there on being pretty sure I want sub 34' and a diesel. Slideouts are nice but if the layout has enough room for wife, myself, 2 kids, a small dog and a cat then more sleeping space would be nice for guests but not mandatory

fidelity101 Reader
11/12/12 4:04 p.m.

Get air brakes if you can.

avoid full power brake (HPB) Meritor-Wabco system.

Jay_W Dork
11/12/12 4:20 p.m.

The newest fleetwood/winnie stuff ain't anywhere near as bad as their '80's-90's stuff but being newer it's gonna be very spendy. As far as chassis ID goes, that info should be in the paperwork that comes with it. If not, google that make/model/year and that oughtta do it. As far as running/maintenence vs motels, well, it depends on how long you're out, how far you're going, and how cheap a motel you guys can stand. But if you get a nice comfy fun bus to play with you'll find it to make the trip enough more fun than motelhopping that you'll look at those costs and say it's well worth it. I pretty much figured if it was more than 2 hotel stays it's more sensible to take the bus, and as far as goin racin, I gotta to have a tow rig, why not have that tow rig do doubleduty as the hotel? Built in awning for the service area and a shower on site, best service rig evar. Just know that if you take the thing into an RV shop for pretty much anything, it's a thousand buck invoice. It's like they plan it that way. So I did my own startermotor change and roof seal and as much of the other work as I could in proper GRM fashion, to greater or lesser effect.

Oh and make damn sure the fridge works. This is no guarantee that it will continue to do so, but if it's being sold with one that doesn't, they are horribly expensive to repair or replace. Mine worked the whole time I had it and I hope we're as lucky with the next one.

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