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Old 03-17-2015, 07:08 AM   #1
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Older Class A Motor Homes

First off, a little about me. I'm a boater. Much like motor homes, boats are expensive. Many times you can get nearly new, save a lot of dollars and have a great time on the water. I'll assume the same is true of motor homes and many other big ticket items.

I'm a couple years form retirement and would love to travel the land once that day comes. In the mean time some short weekend trips to relatives and friends places would be a blast. Only problem is, I cannot afford a nearly new motor home. I'm looking at one in the 17k range. A 97 HR.

As the former owner of a 50' Houseboat I know when you buy something like a houseboat or motor home you are buying the motor portion and the home portion and everything is more expensive to replace or repair than in a regular house. Toilets are different, sinks and faucets are special size. So is the stove and microwave. And all has to be ready to handle the movement when traveling down the road (or river in the case of the houseboat).

While I'm surprised I can purchase a Class A MH for less than 20k, I am concerned about what expenses I have to be ready for when buying something that is 18 years old with 74k miles on a GM 454 gasoline engine.
Now, finally, to my question:
How dependable would a 18 yr old MH be?

Would you take it on a cross country trip after having it serviced?

What is reasonable to expect in maintenance costs for each year?

What mileage would you expect from a GM 454, 35ft MH? When towing what would mileage be?

I tow my boat, and I towed a Kubota RTV back to Ohio from Alabama, on that trip I only got 10mpg with a 3.4 chevy engine. With a 7.3 (aka 454) would I get 6 or 7mpg?

Thanks in advance for your answers.

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Old 03-17-2015, 07:29 AM   #2
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I'm certain someone with a like MH will get back to you on your questions ...
Good luck with the new rig ......

Hal & Jackie .... 03 TS Select 45DS01
02 Haulmark 20' Edge .... 02 Corvette Rdstr

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Old 03-17-2015, 07:31 AM   #3
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We travel about 1/2 time in an 18 year old coach that we purchased last year. I would recommend a DP over the gas motor. I believe you will enjoy the experience much better. Would you put a gas motor in a 35 foot sailboat? It doesn't have all the toys of a new coach but allows us to travel as we want to and doesn't break the bank. It is not the fastest uphill, but we are in no rush when we travel.
I was able to do all the engine service before we got on the road which helped us to relax and not worry. Not to say there has not been surprises. Imagine a power steering hose bursting and trying to steer a rig with no power steering. We were lucky! Double lucky as I called a shop only ten miles away that was open and could make a hose. Crawled underneath the rig, got the hose off, unloaded a motorcycle to go have a hose made. Things happen on any rig.
One day we may purchase one made in this century but for now we are enjoying life.
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Old 03-17-2015, 07:35 AM   #4
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Miles on the 97 HR are fairly low considering age. Does the coach have any maintenance records, which would be a good indication of what you may have problems with in the future. Regular oil changes and air filter changes are the life of the engine.

Has the transmission been serviced, another big ticket items if it fails. Also check that the chassis has been lubricated.

Tires age out whether used or not, most people say max of 7 years, I have run mine 10 years. I have a tire monitoring system to keep good pressure and warn of problems.

My guess is you probably have disc brakes on the front and drum brakes on the rear, have they been changed. If not inspection is probably in order.

You are right as far as the home portion, any of the appliances could fail but most of the time relatively cheap to replace. The AC units would cost ~2K to replace unless you can do it yourself.

Look for any signs of leaks in the ceiling and delamination in the sidewalls. Inspect the roof and see if it has been maintained, cleaned and protected. Also check all the seals around vents and openings, this is a good source of leaks. Is the roof rubber or fiberglass. A rubber roof has a shorter life expectancy and if it needs to be replaced it could cost +4K to replace.

As far as general annual maintenance, the cost will be similar to owning a truck or vehicle. Oil change and filters aren't too expensive compared to a diesel pusher (it costs me ~$150 to change oil and filters). If you are handy you can do this yourself.

Good Luck
Jim J
2002 Monaco Windsor 38 PKD
2005 Jeep Grand Cherokee w/5.7 Hemi
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Old 03-17-2015, 07:44 AM   #5
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Location: East Texas
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Mine is a 1995 mod has the 5.9 Cummins mechanical engine (no cpu) with 6speed 3060 Alison and a few banks parts . I'd hit the road to anywhere anytime in it . I've owned several 5.9 and they are quite easy to mod and work on and millions of them out there running . 12mpg is a good average for the 5.9 mines a 32 footer no slides and we have plenty of room for me and the DW although we do not live in it we do travel in it comfortably .. PA
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Old 03-17-2015, 08:04 AM   #6
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We went from an old houseboat (1970s 40' Drift-R-Cruz) to an old motorhome, and aside from missing the social life of the dock, we have no regrets.

We now have a diesel 1998, which we bought about 1.5 years ago for less than .07 on the dollar, compared to new. Looking at our decade of RV ownership, costs of maintenance have run probably around $1000 a year, on average. I do nearly all of the maintenance myself - I have hired out an alignment and front brakes.

Things will break, though I suspect not a lot more than a new RV. New ones are probably more reliable, but are also more complex. Lots of things, if broken, will not stop your progress, just make it a little more inconvenient (space heater when furnace breaks, campground shower vs, your own.)

Amazon and the like have changed the rules dramatically. If your coach is dead somewhere, you can likely have parts delivered to the nearest postal address within 24 hours!

We have been dead along the road a few times. I replaced clogged fuel filters and was driving in 45 minutes. A leaking filter was replaced in ten. Dead batteries were replaced in a Sam's Club parking lot in an hour. A dead transmission computer literally left us in the emergency lane - back and running in four hours, including 3.5 of driving the dinghy to get the part.

For reference, we bought a 14 year-old DP with air bag suspension, diesel engine, diesel generator in excellent mechanical and cosmetic condition for $20K. No slides.

+1 on delamination issues!

Matt B
Matt B
1998 Monaco Windsor
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Old 03-17-2015, 08:13 AM   #7
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I bought my old (1982) MH 5 years ago. I spent $4500.00 and had to spend about $1,000.00 on her to get her ready for the Road. We bought it after buying a 64 caddie from a guy in our car club, So that helped a little with the decision to buy it.
It needed a good cleaning on the outside as it had sat for a few years (6) with very little use. The PO had, had a stroke so he stored it then brought it home for the summers and it just sat collecting the junk from the tree's.
It needed some exhaust & manifold work. We had it gone over by our shop that we have do our Autos, and also does MH work.
Word of mouth is a good starting point and/or a lot of research.
We get around 8.5-9 MPG Towing our toad or with out. A lot depends on the winds also, if your bucking a good head wind it is going to cut it down a bit.
Its also a Gasser 454 Big Block Chev. it had 44,000 miles and 250 hours on the Gennie so it was just barely broken in. I spent about a week waxing her and brought back the shine.
While looking at them remember your going to want a set up that you want so spend a little time in them to make sure it has everything you want. Look for water stains, not a good sign, go up on the roof and take a good look, Seals, repairs, is it Rubber, Fiberglass, or metal like ours. Check the dates on the tires if more than 10 years old they will need to be replaced no matter how the tread looks.IMO
I find that DP are a little more expensive, Maintenance and fuel is about a buck more a gallon, If I could afford one I wouldn't mind a Diesel.
Again Welcome and take your time. When you get the one you want take Pictures inside and out for those of us that like to see what others are driving.
Good Luck,
1982 Pace Arrow 30ft.
KarKaddy SS, Toad:99 Concours
Lilly and Rubie Our 4 legged Kids & Tim & Joe
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Old 03-17-2015, 08:47 AM   #8
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20 year old 454 gasser here. Normal maintenance and replacing the occasional broken fuel pump and you're good to go. Mine has 40,000 on it and starts right up every spring. Like Pa Miller, I'd de-winterize it and take it anywhere tomorrow.

Also own a 19 year old DP. I haven't been into this coach yet so we're taking some local trips to shake out the bugs. 128,000 on the CAT 3126.

There are some great deals if you know what to look for. If you don't buy a new paper bag bus.
Jerry & Jeanne
1996 Safari Sahara 35' - White Tiger
Cape Cod
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Old 03-17-2015, 10:33 AM   #9
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I'm sure there will be many opinions and it may have to do with the everyone's personal experience in this area. If you are mechanically handy and an older rig is something you can work on yourself and save money, that will be a factor. We have a 1996 Gulfstream, diesel (hubs prefers diesel in just about everything) that we purchased 2 years ago. We lived over 1700 miles from the rig, found it on eBay. Spoke in depth the the current owner as well as viewed maintenance records and spoke with the servicing dept. of where the work had been done. We are the 3rd owners and were fortunate enough to speak with the original owner, as well. This gave us a comfort level of knowing what had been done to coach over the years and what had not. There had never been any leaks and we couldn't see any signs of delam. The decals had been removed and she was plain looking. We decided to paint the decals back on. The 100' rule applies here, from that distance it looks great. Of course, up close you can see imperfections. But for $50.00 worth of rustoleum and our labor, we can live with it. Mechanically, she runs like a top. We drove this rig home 1700 miles without one problem! We did prepare ahead of time and purchased roadside assistance in case of a break down which I might add can happen to anyone in any year motorhome. We did pack plenty of tools for the trip home in case something happened that hubs could fix to get us to our destination. We bought this one because that is what we could afford. Now that we will be going into the 3rd season with it, we've talked about "what if" we had more money and would we replace her. The answer is "no". We've had more fun traveling around and the layout is very suitable for us. We prefer a larger bathroom and this has it with a garden tub/shower. There are no slides, not to say that we would not enjoy them but we are happy with the way this is. BTW, we had owned a travel trailer with a large slide in the past and I didn't feel we needed it for our use. It is not perfect but for the price, it can't be beat. Our Gulfstream is 36' and we travel with a cat. Don't be afraid of the age, just look it over real good and do as much research as possible. There are deals out there for good older rigs, you just have to look for them. As I said, it's just my opinion.
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Old 03-17-2015, 04:15 PM   #10
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I think all the above information is very correct. I have owned boats and always bought them older because someone else took the big hit on depreciation. usually qith an older boat (15-20) WHEN YOU BUY IT ALMOST EVERYTHING has been replaced or repaired at some point. The same is true of MH's.

The important thing is you. Are you handy? Do you enjoy getting into the grease and fixing somethings? Are you inquisitive as how things work? and on and on. If the answer is yes then buy an older one and enjoy yourself because it isn't going to break much more than a brand new one. That is if it has been taken care of. I would wind up hunting down the manufacturer and probably lynching him if I paid 700 grand for something that broke all the time. 20? oh well.

Now what to watch for. Of course engine so does it run, have power, burn oil, shift well. overdrive work. Any clunking or stalling with the tranny, fluids seem clean.

Any leaks on the body? Delamination? Look at the house part, any waves or ripples you can see from looking low into the plane. walk on the roof does it sag, bend. any bubbles, cracks.

I could go on and on but surfice to say just read everything here and read somemore and more. You will learn and know.

I have always thought of boats and MH sort of like houses. MOST people and especially women look at one and want it to be very nice, clean, pretty etc. If not they r4eject it.

I prefer one structurally sound, everythings works, no major problem, dirty, needs cosmetic help, painting, carpets, blinds. These are usually always rejected by the wife and you can buy them cheap.
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Old 03-17-2015, 05:29 PM   #11
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I like Older motor homes , they are tested and proven campers... Many have lots of life still left in them if cared for right.. The diesels I have owned in my life from backhoes tractors to trucks I don't see how you could stop one without trying they are work horses that like to be run . If taken care of most RVs would out last two or more generations easy ... If you don't mind used stuff it's a buyers market ! skys the limit
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Old 03-17-2015, 05:46 PM   #12
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Hi, I don't have an answer to your question, but if it's any comfort, we left Ft. Myers yesterday and the fella next to us in his 2015 Tuscany was still waiting for parts and that was after spending 6 weeks at the factory. Owned it 5 months and told me he'd spent more time trying to get it fixed then enjoying it. Now up in Orlando and my neighbor can't deploy the jacks on his 4 month old Entegra. Been on the phone with leveler company and dealership.
So my point is if the floor plan works and she runs decent, enjoy your time traveling in it. Good luck on your decision and hope to meet you on the road.
Tom and Gloria
2007 Itasca Suncruiser 35A, TOAD: 2015 GMC Canyon, Blue Ox Towbar, Baseplate and SMI Stay N Play
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Old 03-17-2015, 07:27 PM   #13
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Mine is a 99 National.

My first real MH as well so experience may be somewhat analoguous

At they age, there are often a number of age related issues, the biggest of which can be the roof. The material ages out and may need to be replaced. Also there can be issues with things like hoses, rubber trims and so on. I basically had to repair/replace faucets, hose connections, windshield trim and so on. Those are normal and should be inspected closely.

What I didn't bank on was the transmission going out (twice) or mice nibbled connections to my PCM which needed to be repaired. I also have changed tires because it has the originals on after about 10 years.

The engine (v-10) had about 40 on it and basically has been a strong performer. So long as your engine has been taken care of, it will probably be fine.

I will also say however that my unit had been neglected and it has taken some effort to recover from that (a task that continues). So long as your unit has been maintained properly, it is likely that you won't have half of the stuff I had.
1999 - National Tropi Cal
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Old 03-18-2015, 04:17 AM   #14
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I've always wanted to restore a older RV , maybe convert a old brave to diesel drive train a smaller one I could hit the woods with during hunting season..

1995 Monaco Dynasty
32' B5.9 Banks, 6 speed Alison 3060
2008 HHR Panel toad
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