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Old 12-17-2015, 08:46 AM   #1
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New to diesel - our top 5 buying concerns

We recently stopped looking at gas models and are switching to looking at diesel. We want to full time and our budget is $60-$100k so we are looking at older diesels.

We would appreciate hearing from folks on what to prefer or what to avoid on these aspects (especially on older coaches back as far as 2001)...

1. Overall quality
2. Slide issues
3. Roof types
4. Engine/transmission/chassis
5. Leveling system

Things we think we already know:

1. Carrying and towing capacity
2. Have it inspected before purchase - both mechanical and coach
3. Get maintenance records (but not sure how we'd know it was properly maintained!)
4. Test drive extensively in many conditions.
5. Full body paint is preferred
6. Check tire age (newer better, need to replace if around 7 years)

Our approach is to understand what manufacturers are high quality, then select several models that have floor plans we like then review the rest of our concerns to narrow down the list. Then search nationwide for those models. Not sure how to deal with test driving if it's not close to home.

Another approach we've taken is to see what is for sale in our area, select a model with the floorplan we like, then try to get answers to the above 5 concerns by searching here and elsewhere. The problem with this approach is that takes so much time and "deals" may come and go while we're trying to research!

Currently it seems overwhelming so we'd really appreciate any thoughts you have on any of this!

Thank you for your time and expertise! Someday I hope we can "give" to this community instead of always "receiving"!
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Old 12-17-2015, 09:08 AM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lnanne View Post
We recently stopped looking at gas models and are switching to looking at diesel. We want to full time and our budget is $60-$100k so we are looking at older diesels.



We would appreciate hearing from folks on what to prefer or what to avoid on these aspects (especially on older coaches back as far as 2001)...



1. Overall quality

2. Slide issues

3. Roof types

4. Engine/transmission/chassis

5. Leveling system



Things we think we already know:



1. Carrying and towing capacity

2. Have it inspected before purchase - both mechanical and coach

3. Get maintenance records (but not sure how we'd know it was properly maintained!)

4. Test drive extensively in many conditions.

5. Full body paint is preferred

6. Check tire age (newer better, need to replace if around 7 years)



Our approach is to understand what manufacturers are high quality, then select several models that have floor plans we like then review the rest of our concerns to narrow down the list. Then search nationwide for those models. Not sure how to deal with test driving if it's not close to home.



Another approach we've taken is to see what is for sale in our area, select a model with the floorplan we like, then try to get answers to the above 5 concerns by searching here and elsewhere. The problem with this approach is that takes so much time and "deals" may come and go while we're trying to research!



Currently it seems overwhelming so we'd really appreciate any thoughts you have on any of this!



Thank you for your time and expertise! Someday I hope we can "give" to this community instead of always "receiving"!

Sounds like a very good plan and it appears you have a good handle on areas of concern.

My experience is with Monaco coaches so I will speak to those.

The Monaco Dynasty is a very high quality coach with lots of "bang for the buck". The years '03-05 should be in your $$$ range.
1. Over all build quality is high.
2. No particular slide issues. At this age you should inspect the outside of the slide box, floor in particular, to make sure there has been no water damage.
3. The roof is fiberglass with seamless transition to the front & rear caps.
4. Cummins ISL/Allison 3000/Roadmaster S Series semi monocoque chassis. One of the strongest chassis used in motorhomes.
5. Air leveling is standard with air and jacks as an option.

Although Monaco has been through 3 ownership changes since these vintage coaches were built, Monaco still provided tech support and parts. A very large and active owner base.

If you pursue a Monaco, feel free to PM me anytime.
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Old 12-17-2015, 09:08 AM   #3
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It's all condition and fulltime maintenance. I'd be very carful about any coach that hasn't been used regularly. It's contrary to the way we normally think at things but in the case of RVs and especially diesel pushers, using them is healthy exercise.


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Old 12-17-2015, 09:15 AM   #4
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I admire your thought process but as a practical matter there are limitations. The more expensive brands will be built better in terms of engineering and materials, but all RVs are hit-or-miss on quality control. An American Eagle or a Newmar King Air can have a roof leak or faulty slide mechanism, just like the cheapest brand/model. However, I still believe that the original MSRP is a solid guide to the overall quality of construction and materials.

Much is said about roof types, but most of it is overblown. The roof material isn't what leaks - it's the seams and openings (vents, antennas, etc). By all means get a durable fiberglass or metal roof if you can, but do not expect that alone to mean "no leaks". Far from it. TPO is near as good as a roof material, but EPDM rubber requires a lot more care to keep it clean and prevent chalking on the sides of the coach.

Slides are mechanical and subject to various problems, and the openings in the walls are one more place that leaks can occur. But they add so much to the usability that they are worth it. Hydraulic mechanisms seem to be the most free of mechanical troubles, but the Power Gear mechanical slide mechanism is mostly a solid performer too. Again, the installation and fit of the slide by the coach builder is a factor as well.

Diesel Pusher chassis are largely Spartan, Freightliner and (in your age range) Roadmaster. Freightliner makes a broad range of chassis configurations and cheap coach builders buy minimal chassis configurations. The mid & upper tier coaches use better the Freightliners, or Spartans. Monaco/HR made their own Roadmaster chassis for years and it is as good as any. They all assemble from trucking industry standard axles, engines, transmissions, etc., so there isn't much difference under the covers. Frankly, I wouldn't focus much on this aspect unless you are buying a low-end model.
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Old 12-17-2015, 01:56 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lnanne View Post
...
3. Get maintenance records (but not sure how we'd know it was properly maintained!)
...
You are mostly looking at intervals. Was it serviced once a year? Do the maintenance records show the correct type of oil and other fluids?

Do maintenance records show a consistent use pattern? (If it was 3 years between oil changes but mileage only increased 500mi then you know it sat.)

I got fairly complete maintenance records with my coach. I know it had a rear wheel blow out in 2011 that required $8000 worth of repairs, but the repair was done well enough that i couldn't see it.
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Old 12-17-2015, 02:10 PM   #6
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My experience was that you can learn an immense amount by looking at coaches and focusing on what floor plan(s) and features are really important. You can compare a lot of different brochures (easily available on line) to see what might work. Once you narrow that down, you can look at specifics. Keep looking for good deals. They're out there if you are patient.
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Old 12-17-2015, 04:41 PM   #7
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Here are the "biggies" IMHO:

-Fiberglass roof

-Side Radiator

-8.3 liter displacement engine or larger

-Large capacity tankage (100 gallons fresh water, 150 gallons of fuel, 60 gallon grey and 40 gallon black plus large capacity propane)

-Wood cabins and drawers (no particle board)

-Floorplan that does not restrict access or activities while you are rolling down the road.

-Good factory support for older coaches from both the manufacturer and chassis builder. (Engine and transmission techical support at a high level are a given with Cummins, CAT, Allison etc.)

-Good driveability (smooth, not impacted by passing semi's or buses). Independent Front Suspension helps with this.

Have fun looking!!!
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Old 12-17-2015, 05:28 PM   #8
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After you do all your research make sure you leave some reserve cash ($10000 to ???) in the bank for the what if that the inspector or previous owner did not tell you about. That assuming the tires are almost new and don't forget sales tax.
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Old 12-17-2015, 06:44 PM   #9
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Also don't worry about missing out on the "deals" on other coaches when you are looking at one that appeals to you - there are always deals somewhere.

Also once you buy be prepared to see the same coach for less and be prepared for someone to say you paid too much .

Once you find one you like, don't get emotional and get it at any cost - at some point you have to be able to walk away if they won't negotiate to your price range.

I went through 3 MHs in two years, wasn't sure what I really wanted or needed. Started with a 36' gasser but found too many things I didn't like. My first DP (38')was based on wanting a diese( - emotional - paid too much for one with too many problems that I tried to ignore ). I bought my 3rd while I still had my second because it really was a good deal, I knew the dealer and it had everything I wanted (at least 2 slides, 10K towing, mid size motor -350 hp, great paint scheme, washer/drier etc).

My current financial situation wouldn't allow me to do this again, but I pretty well broke even on my first two MHs so I didn't cost me too much to learn my lessons. Still have the 3rd MH (going on 3 years) and don't get to use it nearly as much as I want, retirement has been put off at least three more years but will probably keep it because basically it is very sound.

You can also look on the forums about buying an older (10 years +) MH and the responses are overwhelmingly positive, although anything can happen. In your budget keep a reserve to do some things right away (oil, fuel filters, maybe hoses and tires) and keep some in the bank just in case.

The main thing is that this can be fun! I kept a spreadsheet with the details on each MH we looked at (cost, slides, motor, extras, year, NADA value etc)

I also took my camera (now a phone) and took dozens of pictures of each MH. It allows you to go back home and review the features of each one and when you blow them up, sometimes you see things you might have missed while the sales guy was gabbing about how great it was. I actually had a dealer I trusted look at some of my pictures and he was able to point out water damage that I had missed on one of them.

Also, after you buy, when the dealer or sales guy walks you through the features video tape everything he does and says - this really helps if you forget how something operates, especially if he is knowledgeable. If not this forum will help out.

Go and enjoy the hunt, I think it's the second best thing of this lifestyle!

P.S. I couldn't get the maintenance records as the dealer had bought it at auction, but the interior was spotless with some nice touches added that showed someone cared. The exterior also had a few extras the previous owner had put on (only one owner who lost it to the bank after almost 9 years - I still feel sorry for them). It's better than my 2nd MH which had records.

Chris
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Old 12-17-2015, 07:01 PM   #10
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Here are some to consider....

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Old 12-17-2015, 07:28 PM   #11
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I can vouch for Holiday Rambler (Monaco). We bought used with 32M miles. Got a lot of coach for our money and have had nothing but great things said about the quality of the beast.


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Old 12-17-2015, 09:03 PM   #12
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I think an older high end is better than a newer mid range. Mine is 20yrs old and I am 100% certain it's got another 20 yrs in it. I bought it from the original owner and it was stored inside it's entire life and owned by someone with the $$$ and skills to keep it in tip top shape. My coach literally still looks brand new (unless you get under it!) but that was due to the severe attention to detail of the PO. Before I bought this one I had just sold my 32yr old coach (another BlueBird) and I know it has 15 yrs left in it if the new owner cares for it the way I and previous owners did.


I wouldn't worry as much about factory support as some (I'm a DIY'er) as has been mentioned most are built on a 3rd party chassis and factory support for that is available. Everything on top is generic RV stuff (albeit high end), just depends on the quality and workmanship.

I've always told people never buy from a dealer, buy from an owner as with a used vehicle the previous owner is just a big part of the equation as anything else.
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Old 12-17-2015, 09:08 PM   #13
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In your price range any diesel that is in good shape would be a candidate. At that age the bones must be pretty good for it to have remained sound for that length of time.

Buy one with the floor plan, accessories and amenities that will suit your lifestyle. It may not last as long but something you do not like will sure seem like it lasts a long time.
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Old 12-18-2015, 05:30 AM   #14
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Only look at higher quality coaches, such as Newmar, Tiffin and Country Coach. After that, find one that has been loved. Get maintenance records. In the years you are looking at, look for sidewall checking. Make sure it has a floor plan you live with - slides in and out. Check the tire condition. Mileage is not a big concern on the diesel.
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