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Old 11-11-2012, 12:19 AM   #1
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How much will it cost to . . .

I see queries along the lines of "I'm think about buying ... what does it cost to maintain" or something along those lines.

When pondering such questions, I am reminded of the response made to such a query about Private Aircraft maintenance costs sometime in the early '70s by Richard Collins editor of Flying Magazine. I can't remember the exact way he said it but this is the essence of his message: When you buy a used Airplane for $25,000 whose cost was $150,000 [1970 Dollars] when it was new, don't expect to pay same the maintenance costs as you would for a new $25,000 [1970 Dollars] airplane. He went on to comment that you need to figure a percentage of the original, when new, cost as the basis for how much you will be paying for maintenance.

I believe this generalization holds up for Motor homes too.

So, how do you answer a question like: I am thinking about buying 1999 ABC used Diesel Pusher and I was wondering how much it more it would cost to run than a later model gas powered Class A XYZ that I could get for the same money?

I'd respond: in a rough ranking of maintenance costs against a Class A Diesel Pusher (DP) that:
a Gas Class A is about 3/4 to 1/2 of the DP cost to maintain;
a Class C would be about 1/2 to 1/4 the DP cost to maintain.

Why? It's all about the cost of the components. To some extent it is just like buying hamburger by the pound. The higher the GVW/CGVW of the Motor Home, the more you pay me now and pay them later.
--Class A Diesel Pushers use limited production, purpose built, medium/heavy duty truck & bus components (expensive), most of which have to be adapted in some way for Motor Home use. Because of this they require specialized facilities and mechanics to work on them.
--Gas Class A Motor Homes have a conventional front truck engine but access is limited, their transmissions are high volume pick-up truck based (high volume, lower cost). You can probably put FREDs (Front Engine [End] Diesels) in with this group.
--Class C have a conventional front truck engine and transmission, conventional suspension systems, smaller tires (all high volume, lower cost) and you can get them serviced at most Ford, Chevy or GM dealers.

As a group, we undo the reliability of the heavy duty components in a Diesel Pusher by not driving them enough. Just like my Airplane example, unused Airplanes and unused Motor Homes don't make their stated time to overhaul. DP would make their million miles to engine over haul if we drove them a million miles in ten years, but most only get to ~100,000 miles in 10 years. How many buyers think twice about buying a 10 to 12 year old DP with over 100,000 miles or over 600 hours on the diesel genset?

There are always exceptions to these generalizations. For instance:
-Jayco medium truck based Class Cs aren't exactly your standard Class C, they are more like a Class A FRED.
-Some of you are capable of doing your own work on your RVs, even DPs.
-Some of you actually do wear out your equipment by driving them and those few of you do it experience a lower cost per mile of maintenance expenses.
-Frankly, I don't know how to rank Mercedes Sprinter based RVs.

So, what do you think about this approach?

Northern California
2000 Alpine Coach 36' FDS, Cummins ISC 330
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Old 11-11-2012, 04:52 AM   #2
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I would say it depends. With an airplane, mostly your are maintaining the engine and flight controls with minimal other systems. You don't have a double electrical system or a sewer system or four slides or 6-8 tires or... you get my point that the analogy of the plane has some merit when you are comparing drive trains but the host of other components usually cost the average motor home owner more to maintain than the engine and I agree that the initial quality of the motor home certainly figures into the following costs to maintain. Of course you must figure into that factor the higher quality/cost motor homes also may be more complex with more features that may need to be maintained.

Just my thoughts.

Dan and Kathryn DeBruin plus dogs
2005 Newmar Dutchstar 4009
Victor NY
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Old 11-12-2012, 09:04 AM   #3
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The trouble here, as I see it, is that this discussion requires analytical thought and only about ten percent of the population is even capable of doing that.

Emotional decision making is the norm now days as we are far into the dumbing down of America.


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Old 11-17-2012, 05:42 PM   #4
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And then there's the group that states "'If you have ask, you can't afford it."
Rich & Judy
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Old 11-17-2012, 09:25 PM   #5
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Your forgetting that the house section is the same no matter what the chassis is.

Yes, it is more expensive to get the DP serviced, but you don't do it as frequently as the gasser. And you forgot to mention that it depends upon whether you are a fulltimer or not and where you travel. As a fulltimer who spends lots of time in the west, I wouldn't want to do it in anything but a DP because I love the climbing power and the exhaust brake coming down the mountain passes; plus it is hard to quantify how much the air ride is worth, not to mention the CCC. But if we were weekends, then it would be hard to justify the cost of the DP.

Luckily there is no one right answer.

Barbara & David O'Keeffe
Figment II (Alpine 2002 36 MDDS)
On The Road since 2006
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Old 11-18-2012, 08:28 AM   #6
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The bottom line for me is because I can do almost every maintenance/ repair myself, I purchased a 14 year old DP. If I had to rely on taking it to a shop and paying list price on parts and labor, I would never own a Motorhome.
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Old 11-18-2012, 09:17 AM   #7
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As Barbaraok brought up, a lot has to do how you use it. I'd have looked for a gas RV if I planned mostly to use it in short trips, with a few long trips added in. Since we went coast to coast in the first 6 months of ownership, we choose a DP. You pretty much have to go to a DP to get air bags and other 'long haul' features of transmission, frame, suspension, etc. The chassis of most gassers are built on medium duty, short trip truck chassis. I know you can add air bags and just about every other item found on a DP, but notice the word 'add,' an often used math function when talking about money.

As others have complained on the forum, having a vehicle that looks like the front end of a van or an engine badge found on the corner dealership doesn't mean it can be serviced at those shops. They still have to go to a shop that is willing to work on an RV.


Bob & Donna
'98 Gulf Stream Sun Voyager DP being pushed by a '00 Beetle TDI
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