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Old 01-30-2012, 04:45 PM   #1
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buying used 8-12 year old gasser - what to expect with low miles

First, some back ground - I want to be able to do 4-6 long weekend trips a year with a 1-3 week summer trip each summer. I want a Class A, ideally 30-34 feet that sleeps six. I've read lots of buying guides and loads of opinions on these boards. I want to spend no more than 40k and the lower the better. I grew up without slides and my wife would rather the kids be outside anyway so I'd rather have a nice, no-slide motorhome than one with slides--but if it has slides it must have a window in the front of the slide so folks in the dinette can see out. Overall i'm looking for something that a) has a low risk of unexpected expenses/breakdowns and b) low cost of ownership (including depreciation and cost of money). I can accept that having a motorhome is a hobby that costs money and I promise not to create a spread sheet--just want to enjoy it as a hobby while still putting money aside for retirement later. WIth the low hours and miles we will use it compared to many on these boards I can live with a compromise or two. One last thing, I'm six foot seven inches tall so those coaches with low ceilings need not apply. At my price point it looks like I'm still a year or two away from getting one of the 83" ceiling fleetwoods. I would like to stick with the larger gas chassis' from ford and WH but recently started considering an older DP if I can find one I can stand up in. I believe that the lack of depreciation would offset the extra maintenance costs enough that if I found a nice DP it could work out.

With the above restrictions I see gassers in the 2000-2007 range and DP's from 1993 (Pace Arrow for 18k) through 2003 (Monaco Cayman-although they did not reply to my email so that may be a fake). Ideally i figure if i can find an original owner with 4-6 thousand miles a year that is going to be in about as good a shape as I'll find. Of course, the used market has very few that fit into that window.

I'm going to do a two week camping trip this summer and made the mistake of looking at used ads when comparing rental prices on motorhomes. Starting with a 2000 Brave with just 16,000 miles on it from a dealer. But that seemed too low--I read posts about dried up seals, etc...Gassers with 80k seem too close to where you start worrying about transmissions and general wear/tear of applicances and such being shaken around enough to cause trouble.

Today I found a one owner 2000 Pace Arrow 33v with lots of upgrades (full banks power pack, synthetic oil for instance) but only 15,500 miles. But their price is only 5k more than the dealer wants for the Brave--and since it is PP I've written to ask for records which would help too.

Which brings me around to the question in my summary(thanks for reading this far!). On a motorhome that is 8-12 years old and only 15-25 thousand miles what should I plan on being able to troubleshoot/fix/have to repair in the first year or two of ownership? I know the obvious of have a slush fund ready for tires and on a DP for all fluids/filters to be changed.

In my mind there are two sets of issues. One with the drivetrain and the other with the coach systems. And if it is a snowbird situation then the coach systems may be well used and I only need to validate they aren't beat-and worry about the drivetrain. FWIW this coach has a Ford V10 but I assume any low mileage issues would be shared between Ford and WH. And in this type of situation would the repairs mostly shake themselves out during a few months of weekend trips or has the non-use likely to have created major and hidden problems. In other words, is the 'try to avoid low mileage coaches' a rule for the smart shopper or a guideline? Will 'seals are dry' mean I'll seep fluids onto my campsite or will water start pouring out of the wall when i switch on the water pump? I'm guessing one or both....But maybe it means some internal seal in the transmission blows and there is a two truck and a repair bill in the uh-oh range....Those are the questions I'm seeking answers to.

How about generator hours? I see lots that are 8-12 years old with under 100 hours. Some with 500 hours. Are these ok to just service and expect them to be reliable if they haven't run much? If not, what tends to fail?

My hope is that the consensus will be that with low mileage if the owner did regular engine maintenance and used/excercised the coach systems that low mileage can be fine. Or that I can put a $xxxx 'lot-rot' fund aside and be ready for some failures and negotiate that slush fund into the offer price. My concern is that I'm too ignorant of just how expensive troubleshooting/repairs are on a modern motor home.

Thanks for reading. You folks have built a not just a great resource here but a nice community as well.

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Old 01-30-2012, 04:58 PM   #2
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you want to get into motorhomes but you dont want:
- low chance of unplanned expenses
- low cost of ownership

Do this quick test to see if you have the stomach for it.
Take a brand new $100 bill. Light it on fire and watch it burn to nothing. Then take another... do it again. If you can do that... youre ready to delve into the "hobby" (a lifestyle for many) known as RV'ing.
As for no slides... it will be cramped quarters when it comes time to setup camp.

Best to physical shop to see what models would suit your needs. Then you can shop electronically (online) with more confidence and knowledge.

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Old 01-30-2012, 05:05 PM   #3
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Our goals were very similar to yours...we are taking a 30 day trip this summer thru the west...

When looking at a used M/H our price range regulated us to a gasser.

There a many opinions but I went with my brother in law's. He is a 35 year ASE certified mechanic who has been the service manager at a GMC dealership for the past 20 years.

He has been the one who "gets" to work on everyone in the extended families vehicles...

His suggestion was I was better off with something with reasonably higher miles than the same year year with low miles....everything drys out, rots and rusts sitting...

We looked at identical Damon's same floorplan, year everything except mies...at his suggestion I bought the 1999 with 60k miles instead of the one with 17k miles...he felt i would be much less likely to suffer mechanical failures due to the lower milage M/H sitting so much....

Just my (and my brother in law's) opinion..

Not for nothing...I really lucked out he is a mechanic by trade and has a very expensive fishing habit, so he got his contractors license on the side to support fishing...great guy to have around! (other than the sleeping with my sister thing,,,yuck!)
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Old 01-30-2012, 05:22 PM   #4
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A Gasser For Sure

When we got our first motorhome, an old friend who had RV's of all kinds his whole life explained it this way. "Son, if you ain't drivin' it, or sleepin' in it, you will be working on it.

My advice, don't buy an "orphan", a brand that is not made anymore, because parts and information will be harder to come by. That said, most things in one brand are common in another, such as stove, refrigerator, lights, switches, etc. I only have experience with Winnebago, but was happy to learn that the 1995 Adventurer still had all the wiring and plumbing diagrams available online to download. But on the other side, the aluminum line from the transmission to the cooler, that developed a pin hole leak, just before we were to leave on vacation, is no longer available from GM. I took it off and took it to a welder who repaired it.

The other thing is wiring. On most of the older coaches, they didn't use the newer style connectors that seal out moisture. I spent lots of time tracking down bad electrical connections. Either way, low miles or high miles you still will be fighting time, that takes it's toll on everything.

If you can find one that has always been garaged, or kept inside, that would be the one I would buy. Sitting outside is the hardest thing on motorhomes.
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Old 01-30-2012, 06:04 PM   #5
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Well now 8-12 year old house on wheels and no problems!!! I got one and I have owned it 6 1/2 years, they are a hobby the to do list is looong, just depends how pickey you are as to how big the hobby gets.

As to buying an older coach, make sure everything works as it should, and it runs and drives properly. After that who knows what will happen to a 10 year old m/h, there is no crystal ball. There are people (RV Techs) that for a modest fee will inspect a coach with you just like home inspectors they can save you a heap of heartach. There lots of older coaches out there that are in great shape just keep looking till you find the right one.
Bruce Linda and Zoey
1999 ForeTravel U295
012 orange Jeep Wrangler
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Old 01-30-2012, 06:09 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by wrongwayknt View Post
We looked at identical Damon's same floorplan, year everything except miles...at his suggestion I bought the 1999 with 60k miles instead of the one with 17k miles...he felt i would be much less likely to suffer mechanical failures due to the lower milage M/H sitting so much....
I understand, and sometimes agree with, the logic, but the difference between 17k miles and 60k miles is quite significant on transmission, brake and engine wear. Also, the low mileage unit may have been driven as often, but not as far as the higher mileage one. Without knowledge of how/why the mileage was accumulated, all is just guess work.

The condition of the interior would be my measurement of the two units.
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Old 01-30-2012, 06:39 PM   #7
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I completely agree and that is a good point...the unit we bought had been extremely well maintaned and serviced (and had the records to prove it!). Most of th elower mileage units we found in the same year range appeared to have been parked and orphaned...again i was just offering our opinion...so far it has worked for us (yep just jinxed it).
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Old 01-30-2012, 06:48 PM   #8
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EVERY motorhome at some point is going to be a MONEY PIT! Condition is more important than strictly mileage when looking at a used coach so don't be in a rush when looking at them, take your time-there's plenty of them out there...
2011 Ford F250 Lariat C/C 6.7 PSD-Curt 20k Lb Hitch
2013 Infinity 3860MS 5'er
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Old 01-30-2012, 07:01 PM   #9
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I know many are concerned about high mileage engines but with today's metals and oil technology, an engine should make it past the 200,000 mile mark with regular oil changes. My last motorhome was a 1984 and had 106,000 miles on a Chevy 454 cid engine when I sold her. The only engine related failure was an alternator. No oil burning or other mechanical issues. I currently own a Chevy pickup with over 280,000 miles and average at least 1000 miles to a quart of oil. Since I was not the original owner of this pickup, it did not receive the regularly scheduled oil changes that were required judging from the condition of the black film on the valve springs and the inside of the oil filter housing. It is a strong running truck however.
Nathan and Linda, 2000 Winnebago Chieftain 35U, F53 Chassis, Banks Power Pack
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Old 01-30-2012, 07:35 PM   #10
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I don't have the experience the other folks here have, but I finally purchased on the low end of my budget and am using what I didn't spend then to replace and/or upgrade things that would be expected to fail with disuse. I've got an 05 Gulf Stream Independence class A with only 23,000 miles on it and less than 100 hours on the generator. It's immaculate inside and out, and from what I've been able to figure out from the notes, maintenance records, etc. left behind with the original paperwork, it was used very lightly around Florida and probably stored here off-season. So far, so good, but as anyone here can tell you, it only takes a second for it to go from a gem to a money pit. Due diligence and high hopes is what it takes. lol
Susan in Music with Mizz Bizzy
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Old 01-30-2012, 08:39 PM   #11
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We started out with a 1985 Jamboree Spirit Class C. It was a 26-footer with a corner "double" bed and carburated 460 Ford with 3-speed automatic transmission. We bought it to "see if we liked the lifestyle". We love RVing, but we hated that POS. We reckoned, with all the problems we encountered, each night out for two seasons cost us about $400!

We waited 6 years before we could afford to take the plunge again. We looked at many sow's ears and a few silk purses, concentrating on essentially all the RV dealers in western Washington between Olympia and Bellingham. Almost without exception, they were priced about 25% higher than they were worth.

Out of the blue, we spotted a private sale ad in our local Sunday paper here in Skagit County. Called the guy up, went and looked at it. It was in fine shape, 12,000 miles on the odometer, 45 hours on the generator. His asking price was about $8K below NADA. I didn't even haggle. It's the rig in our signature.

We didn't get it until July, so our first season was short, mainly 4-day trips to places not too far away. We'd planned a more adventurous season last year, but our old Labrador got too feeble to get in and out - the steps were just too much for her. We ended up just taking two trips, a shakedown in Aoril, then a longer trip in September after she died.

We're going to do the more extensive trips this year.

The only things we've had to do were new tires (it had the original OEM Goodyears with a late 2000 manufacture date in 2010), replace the rotted-out slide-toppers and then to build new overhead cabinets for the dinette slide-out due to mold, which grew after we got rainwater in through a damaged slide seal.

I have some concerns about the cab a/c, which seems to give up cooling after about 90 minutes, and the living room roof a/c which only cools the air about 5 degrees. I'm sure next season will bring more problems!

When we were looking, Workhorse still hadn't figured out how to handle the Bosch brake problem, so we limited our choice to the Ford F53. We also had a limited amount of driveway to park it on for the off-season, so we limited ourselves to 32'.

Overall we're quite pleased with it. The original owners were diligent on maintenance (full records handed over) and the wife was a bit of a neat freak. It's in remarkably good condition for a 9-year-old vehicle. It's not perfect - some of the FR-Georgetown stuff is rather crudely made and the F53 rides very much like the 11-ton truck it actually is. I've decided I'd rather spend the money on gasoline and campground fees rather than try to make it ride like a Rolls-Royce. For 5000 miles a year, I can live with it as it is.

IMHO, for relatively low utilisation like ours, the cost of a diesel isn't justifiable. If we were full-timing, it would be a different story. I'm hoping for another 8 years before I can't drive safely any more (turned 70 in September). Maybe I'll still be RVing after I'm 80.
Frank Damp -Anacortes, WA,(DW- Eileen)
ex-pat Brits (1968) and ex-RVers.
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Old 01-30-2012, 09:09 PM   #12
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A couple of years ago, we bought a lovely, well-cared for (looking) older 32' Pace Arrow from a private party. First lesson, is don't believe everything you see (or don't), buying from a private party - no recourse if there are problems....and there were. An older coach with low miles may have done a lot of sitting. Replaced the front bushings to the tune of $5000 in our neighborhood. We could see that we would be buying tires, we were told the refrigerator worked fine (wrong, start it up if you smell ammonia plan on a new fridge.) I could go on, but at this point we have paid for the coach twice. Of course, it would be a heck of a buy now, everything is fixed - we have receipts. So, if you buy used, private party or dealer, ask to see receipts. Yes, our Pace Arrow is probably going to be traded this spring. It is nice, and I like it very much, but dear hubby decided he wants a diesel. Happy shopping!

My first post - please forgive any errors in form.

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Old 01-31-2012, 11:55 AM   #13
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I would also add to be certain to look through Craigslist (not advertising for them), it’s where I found mine.

After searching for many months a tremendous quantity of motor homes, I stumbled across an ad for a motor home that the seller stated they just did not use anymore. I was able to purchase a $20k motor home for only $8k. Everything works on the motor home and it drives well. The interior is worn but for the price…..

I will have to replace the tires as they are weather cracked and this will cost another $1500.oo. But so far, ……..

Please exercise due diligence and buyer beware. A thorough check by someone who knows how to evaluate the motor home is highly recommended.

But you can find the diamond in the rough if you search.

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Old 01-31-2012, 03:44 PM   #14
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I bought a 7 year old MH with reasonable mileage, and while I did not have major issues the minor chassis issues ate up a lot of cash. Major issue for me was replacing over the years all the brake lines. You need to be able to set aside a few thousand $ per year for stuff.

2004 CRV
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