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Old 07-25-2010, 11:09 PM   #1
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Should I be afraid to buy an older used diesel pusher?

DW and I are looking at buying a used class A. We intend to full time on a modest budget. We have looked at a lot of used class A's (1997 to 2001) within our budget, but saw a 1998 Airstream DP with Cummins engine and Allison 6-speed trans that looks very clean. I feel comfortable around gassers because I know them well and I am mechanically inclined, but I don't know much about diesels. Can anyone give me a few pointers on what to look for when inspecting a used diesel rig?
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Old 07-26-2010, 03:09 AM   #2
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Old 07-26-2010, 06:48 AM   #3
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Not at all. With reasonable maintenance, an older DP has lots and lots of miles left in it. Plan on spending a couple thousand dollars to bring ALL the maintenance up to date - filters, fluids, belts, etc. - and it should serve you well.
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Old 07-26-2010, 07:14 AM   #4
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Your choice should probably depend on how "modest" your budget is. While the diesel will probably go more miles it'll also cost more in maintenance (and repairs if it needs them). A typical oil and filter change on a gas engine runs less than $50.00 in our area. The typical oil and filter change for a diesel is about $179.00. The change interval for gas engines is usually 3,000 miles and at least annually. The change interval for most diesels is usually 15,000 miles or annually.

Depending on the miles you intend to drive there could make a substantial difference in annual maintenance costs. If you're only planning on 5,000 - 8,000 miles per year I would stick with a gasser. If you plan on roaming the country to the tune of 12,000+ miles per year the diesel is worth considering.
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Old 07-27-2010, 10:08 PM   #5
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Used older diesels go from simple - eg 1998 Winne 34' with cummins like my friends bought a year ago to very complex and expensive 1986 Bluebird 40'. My friends spent 32,000 and have spent very little fixing it up and driving it. They have already put 10,000 miles on it. And the Bluebird in my example could also be low cost. But likely the Bird would be WAY more expensive due to it's having very nice complex and expensive features.

My point. If it cost a whole bunch of money new (Bluebird, Beaver, Country Coach) it will likely cost a whole bunch of money to maintain. And the reverse is true of a low end simple motor home.
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Old 07-28-2010, 12:16 AM   #6
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Old 07-28-2010, 03:03 AM   #7
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Depending on the miles you intend to drive there could make a substantial difference in annual maintenance costs. If you're only planning on 5,000 - 8,000 miles per year I would stick with a gasser. If you plan on roaming the country to the tune of 12,000+ miles per year the diesel is worth considering.

I agree with Hikerdogs, it all has to do with mileage. You can get a newer, nicer gasser for the same amount of money that you would spend on an older diesel. Remember that the home itself may not be that much different no matter what drivetrain sits underneath it. We were going to get an older DP, but we are far enough away from retirement that we realized we couldn't possibly put more than 3 to 5k miles a year on it, so for us it just didn't make sense to go with diesel, so we bought a newer gasser. Everybodys situation is different so you need to do what's right for you, but I think you need to make a decision based on mileage as well as budget, but also keep in mind that a gasser is far less espensive to maintain in the long haul.
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Old 07-28-2010, 06:10 AM   #8
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After having an older DP (1994) I believe any of these older models (gas or diesel) are substantially less expensive to maintain overall than their newer counterparts. The older DP models are extremely simple compared to the newer models, fewer electronics, no smog controls, no complex cluster of flux capacitor type sensors

Overall the older DP's are substantially less complex. We know many people with gassers (and diesels) that are newer - 2000 & up and there are horror stories of things going wrong with some of the more complex systems with sensors, activators, flux capacitors and various other assorted errata. When something does go wrong it can take a rocket scientist at NASA to try to figure it out. I feel sorry for the buyers in the 'used' market in another 10 yrs or so from all these new DPF/smog equipped, computer controller complex drivetrain coaches... for long gone are the days of easy troubleshooting. The DPF filters alone are $2000.00. If these newer ones break down or have issues you need an expensive diagnostic computer and a degree from MIT.

Maintenance cost isn't just changing oil and filters, you have to factor in breakdowns, electronic sensor issues and various other complex system failures found in the newer models that are way more expensive to diagnose and fix than the older simpler models.
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Old 07-28-2010, 08:49 AM   #9
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Thank you all for your insightful replies. I know from mechanical car experience that the advanced computer emissions (OBDII) began in 1998. Any Idea when emission controls started on diesels?
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Old 07-28-2010, 09:36 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wanabee FTer View Post
Thank you all for your insightful replies. I know from mechanical car experience that the advanced computer emissions (OBDII) began in 1998. Any Idea when emission controls started on diesels?
I beleive it was 2008, could be wrong. We bought an older DP. Mechanically it was in good shape with only 73K miles. 300 Cat with Allison 6 speed. We had a full service done, oil, filters, antifreeze, etc. We had to replace the radiator surge tank and tires. My best advice to you is have and independant RV tech/mechanic check your prospective purchase out. Best of luck.
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Old 07-28-2010, 11:20 AM   #11
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Just bought my old one last year. I am changing filters and fluids little by little to stretch cost over a longer time. I keep records of everything so I don't forget. Constantly working on it.

I suggest getting electronic controlled engine and I think my 98 ISB275 was one of the first. That way you can monitor operation with a VMSpc which gives warning if there is problem. JUst my preference.

More than satisfied with my old one by but even if everything works it is more expensive than my old 5th wheel. Less expensive that newer ones.

The one your looking at probably is electronic so ask for a computer printout. My inline printout tells a lot about the engine. Good to have.
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Old 07-28-2010, 12:51 PM   #12
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Quote:
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Just bought my old one last year. I am changing filters and fluids little by little to stretch cost over a longer time. I keep records of everything so I don't forget. Constantly working on it.

I suggest getting electronic controlled engine and I think my 98 ISB275 was one of the first. That way you can monitor operation with a VMSpc which gives warning if there is problem. JUst my preference.

More than satisfied with my old one by but even if everything works it is more expensive than my old 5th wheel. Less expensive that newer ones.

The one your looking at probably is electronic so ask for a computer printout. My inline printout tells a lot about the engine. Good to have.
Actually electronic control can be had all the way back in 1991 care of Beaver and Caterpillar 3176 engines.
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Old 07-28-2010, 01:05 PM   #13
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Good point. But I think 98 was the first year for electronic with the ISB. Could be wrong on that.
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Old 07-28-2010, 01:54 PM   #14
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I wouldn't be afraid to buy an older rig. Make sure you have some maintenance records you can go over and inspect the rig as well. We were lucky to get our 94 Bounder from an original owner. It was a gas rig, had 92K miles on it when we bought it and when we traded it in it had 114K. The engine had been rebuilt by the previous owner and ran fine. He had meticulous documentation of every thing ever done to it. We really enjoyed the rig and I'm sure someone else is having fun with it now too.
As far as diesel vs gas, well I wanted a diesel but was not familiar with diesels at all so when all the dust settled we have another gas unit and we're very happy with it. As far as the amenities that some diesels have as far as upper end interior decoration I think our rig can hold up with the best of them. We are very happy with the decision we made and far as mileage I didn't think we would drive the distances to really warrant the diesel as we normally drive about 8K per year. JMHO
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