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Old 07-05-2016, 07:02 AM   #1
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How old is too old for a motor home?

We are selling our TT soon and looking to buy a used motorhome and our budget is pretty tight. We hope to spend 15,000 to 20,000 tops. We are finding some we kind of like that are late 80's to 90's models but I'm a bit worried they might become money pits.

I'm concerned about things like refrigerator. A/C and other appliance failures and issues with the motor and transmission, roof leaks ect . We hope to buy from a dealer because hopefully they at least look it over mechanically but we are seeing some good deals pop up from private sellers.

So how old is too old to be looking at? My husband is disabled and I'm pretty much not physically able to do a lot of work on anything we get.
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Old 07-05-2016, 07:19 AM   #2
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If I only had say 15,000 to spend I would look for the best MH from a private owner I could find. We bought our older Class C for 9500. The engine and trans. will likely outlast the rest of the RV. I've put a lot of sweat equity into this and it would be scary to think if I had to pay someone to do everything that I've done.

Good luck on finding that diamond in the rough! It's out there.
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Old 07-05-2016, 07:37 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by shelle007 View Post
We are selling our TT soon and looking to buy a used motorhome and our budget is pretty tight. We hope to spend 15,000 to 20,000 tops. We are finding some we kind of like that are late 80's to 90's models but I'm a bit worried they might become money pits.

I'm concerned about things like refrigerator. A/C and other appliance failures and issues with the motor and transmission, roof leaks ect . We hope to buy from a dealer because hopefully they at least look it over mechanically but we are seeing some good deals pop up from private sellers.

So how old is too old to be looking at? My husband is disabled and I'm pretty much not physically able to do a lot of work on anything we get.
Condition is more important than age. That being said, an '80's or '90's motor home is much more likely to require extensive maintenance, or upgrades.

Does you quoted figure of $15k to $20k include estimated costs of repair/upgrades, or is that your purchase price alone?

At a minimum, you should plan on spending money on:
  • Tires, up to $3,000 depending on size and type.
  • Mattress, sky is the limit depending on what you want to spend.
  • Flooring upgrade. Many coaches of that era are carpeted, probably needs replacing. Depending on whether you do the work yourself or have someone else do it, and what you replace it with, many $$$.
  • Exterior, at a minimum, much elbow grease to clean/wax, at a maximum, a new paint job = $$$.
  • A replacement fridge, water heater, furnace, or AC unit requiring replacement is going to run upwards of $1,000 each if someone else does the install.
  • Transmission and engine may be problematic at that age depending on maintenance.
On the coach, pay particular attention to any water intrusion (leaks) and damage associated with them. Any major leaks, and the coach is probably a write off.


Inspection is key, both chassis and coach. Best to hire a professional unless you are intimately familiar with engines, coaches, but that increases cost as well.


Good luck with your search. If you mention where you are located, and any specifics you can think of, ie; gas or diesel, Class A, or Class, C, etc, members on the forum may be able to do some searching for you or offer more advice.
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Old 07-05-2016, 07:55 AM   #4
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Thats generally in my price range - (I paid 13k for my 2001 Mirada 2 years ago)

Dealers generally know less about the coach than a previous owner, This can work to your advantage, They have no emotional ties and are looking at the bottom line. My Mirada was for sale at $21k, I drove it home after paying 13k, and the dealer put a new generator control board in it.

Start looking and be prepared to be shocked. you need to be ready to jump when a good deal comes up, but just as important, you need to be prepared to walk away.

be realistic on what you're capable of doing, In my price range, I need to be able to do all my own maintenance, and I do.

These are items I look at

1) water damage - depends on severity

2) tires - Age is usually more of a factor than tread

3) Truck chassis condition (trans, engine, brakes, suspension)

4) House condition (appliances, generator, awning, roof, vents, etc)

5) batteries Plan on replacing the batteries
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Old 07-05-2016, 08:16 AM   #5
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And, if you go to a dealer, know that they ARE NOT your friend, nor do they have your best interest in mind. Do not believe the BS they'll throw at you. Read all you can on these forums and go with knowledge so you can dismiss whatever they tell you
and not get sucked in. It's all about the sale for them...don't lose sight of that.

Good luck!!!!
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Old 07-05-2016, 08:19 AM   #6
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I would be skeptical of a dealer providing you with accurate information on the condition of a motorhome. Chances are they took an older one in at trade and just want to move it.

Most private sellers think their motorhomes are worth more then they are actually worth. The ones I see listed seem to have higher prices then I would expect. However, if a private seller is realistic about the value of the coach there could be an opportunity to get a well taken care of coach at a reasonable price.

An older motorhome may be more prone to problems but a lot depends on how well it was taken care of. Maintenance is the key so anything you look at make sure that it has records. If you are not familiar with all the components of a motorhome I would suggest a professional service.

On any coach you look at I would check all systems. Run the generator and try every appliance. If something doesn't work this would be a sign that the motorhome hadn't been taken care off.

Check tire date codes, rule of thumb is to change after 6-7 years so take that into consideration. Do a quick search of various tire sizes so you know what the replacement cost would be. Check the condition of the tires, some tire brands are known to have weather checking/cracks, these tires may have to be replaced immediately no matter what the age.

An older motorhome could be a viable option for you if you are patient and find the right one.
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Old 07-05-2016, 09:26 AM   #7
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Take your time and be prepared to jump on a real deal when you find it. We looked for over six months to find exactly what we wanted in a rig with a floor plan we liked at a good price. Found it at a small dealer in the next state.
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Old 07-05-2016, 10:14 AM   #8
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As the others have said, I found just what I was looking for, a 20 year old Monaco Windsor 38' MH, in great shape, PO had taken very good care of it, and it still needed just a few things to make it perfect! And I got it for under 20K! It already had the wood floors installed, new couches, both leather, new color side and rear camera's! Fridge upgrade, new Uline ice maker, porcelain toilet, and he left all the accessories for me too! It was a private sale, and I was very lucky! Also the tires were only 3 years old! So, if you look, they are out there, and you will know the right one when you see it! Do not limit your search area, and look all over the country and find a friend or hire a professional to do an inspection for you! Money well spent, I my opinion! "The one" is out there, you just have to find it! Hope this helps you? Rail!
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Old 07-05-2016, 10:31 AM   #9
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Take your time and be prepared to jump on a real deal when you find it. We looked for over six months to find exactly what we wanted in a rig with a floor plan we liked at a good price. Found it at a small dealer in the next state.
Well said. We searched for months, and my wife even flew from Seattle to San Francisco once to look at a MH.

We are on MH #2, and this one is twenty years old. We got it from a dealer. The dealer had installed a new refrigeration unit, new brakes, new radiator, new water pump, new fuel pump, new tires. All of these need to be suspect in a twenty year old MH. If the private party has not replaced them, negotiate the price accordingly.

That is not an endorsement of all dealers. We came across several that were simply trying to sell a pig with lipstick.

As an experiment, pick out a MH you would own, and pretend you actually own it. Now, go digging into owner RV forum, look for problems, and look for upgrade discussions. That will reveal weaknesses and potential manufacturer problems you might encounter.

That might also reveal upgrades that a private party might have done. For example, I have an F53 chassis with 460 engine. I learned, after the fact, that there are exhaust and suspension upgrades that, while not absolutely necessary, do enhance the operation and safety of the MH.

Good luck in your search!
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Old 07-05-2016, 10:32 AM   #10
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After you've looked at several (and you will) you'll get more of a feel for what works and doesn't work for you. Only you know what things you can fix and what things you'll need to hire out - but that affects your bottom line.

Others have given you good pointers, the only thing that I'd reiterate is that when you find the one that works for you buy it then.
If you keep looking for the PERFECT coach you'll never buy one.
And yes, there will always be another 'deal' on the horizon, you just have to get over that and move on with the one you eventually buy.

When I bought mine I was shopping in the same price range (and therefore the same years), a friend of mine suggested that automatically pass anything with a slide due to that being the early-ish days of slides, and they were still working out some of the issues. He was concerned about hidden damage and/or possible problems with the slides themselves. I took his advice and passed on anything with a slide. I have no way to know whether or not that was really the right thing to do since the one I bought didn't have a slide - but I'll pass that advice on to you as something to think about. Given the problems I read about slides here on newer rigs I'm not upset that I don't have one. The extra space would be nice at times, the lack of a headache is always nice.

This is our first RV after having been long time boaters, so we started with a lower dollar coach in case we didn't like RVing (we love it so far). If/when we decide to get another coach will probably be shopping for a roughly 10 year old coach, based on what we'd likely be willing to spend then. At that point I'll won't NOT look at something just because it has slides.
However, for now the one we have is treating us well and we're not in any hurry to 'move up'.

Good luck in your search
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Old 07-05-2016, 11:06 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by shelle007 View Post
We are selling our TT soon and looking to buy a used motorhome and our budget is pretty tight. We hope to spend 15,000 to 20,000 tops. We are finding some we kind of like that are late 80's to 90's models but I'm a bit worried they might become money pits.

I'm concerned about things like refrigerator. A/C and other appliance failures and issues with the motor and transmission, roof leaks ect . We hope to buy from a dealer because hopefully they at least look it over mechanically but we are seeing some good deals pop up from private sellers.

So how old is too old to be looking at? My husband is disabled and I'm pretty much not physically able to do a lot of work on anything we get.
Obviously the two things highlighted in red above are going to be your biggest challenges.

All motorhomes require some kind of work. Whether fixing things on an older one, or working out bugs on a new one... they all requie work! ... and yes, typically the older they are, the more likely they're going to have aging components. Components that can work for years... or fail in mere days.

I own a 1993 HR Navigator, I am able to do most work myself, but occasionally I've had to pay someone else to do repairs. The first was the transmission computer went out. That was a $4000 repair. Later I had to have a brake job done. That was a $3500 repair. Of course it's a diesel and you may be looking at gas, but I've had other issues that are not fuel source dependent. Example... my Dometic fridge caught on fire. That was a $4000 repair, but fortunately insurance covered that (covered under the comprehensive clause of my policy).

... and the problems listed above were the major things. There have been a plethora of issues that I fixed myself. Some big, some not so big, such as replacing my electrical transfer switch, ... replace house AC Blower motor. Replace dash AC compressor. Replace house AC thermostat. Replace genset fuel gate solenoid. Replacing the main engine fuel gate solenoid... and the list goes on and on.

I don't mean to be the nay-sayer... I'm up for an adventure as much as the next guy. I just want you to go into this with eyes wide open.

I think everyone on IRV2 will support you no matter what decision you make. We're here because we love RVing and love it when other also share in that joy. ...But you've got to understand that buying an old motorhome for $15,000 to $20,000 has the potential to go south really, really fast!

Good luck in whatever you decide.
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Old 07-05-2016, 11:20 AM   #12
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Vtwinwilly pretty much nailed it.

I pretty much do all the repairs to my coach. The only 2 things that I didn't repair myself was a radiator that had been damaged by road debris but this was covered by insurance and the second being my transmission ECU.

If I would have to pay for everything that broke or didn't work I couldn't afford to own it. Even at that I question the cost/benefit of owning but for me and my wife it is probably the only way we could travel as she has dogs and will not leave all of them at home for any length of time.

It does cost money to own a motorhome so if you don't have an emergency fund available you may want to reconsider purchasing.
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Old 07-07-2016, 04:02 PM   #13
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I agree with what the others have said about dealers -- their motivation is a commission and not to provide a detailed mechanical report. Whether you buy from a private party or a dealer, it might be a good idea for you to ask a veteran RVer to tag along who knows the kinds of questions to ask and the kinds of things to look for. The extended family of RVers is very friendly and helpful. You shouldn't have any trouble locating a seasoned ally to help guide you on decision day.

/ken
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Old 07-08-2016, 07:43 AM   #14
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There's at least one 1999 that I'm looking at now that I would gladly pay 160k for. I suspect it wouldn't need any immediate repairs either.

I also think the coach originally sold for close to 3/4 of a mil.
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