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Old 12-21-2017, 06:23 AM   #1
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Motorhomes: how old is too old?

I'm looking for a motorhome under 32' (probably Class C, but I haven't ruled out a Class A) with the intention of living in it full time. My budget is only around $5000, which means I'll be lucky to find one any newer than 1990 or so. I'm planning to travel all over the country, but in small increments (short trips with long stays in between)...and I'll be pulling a Chevy HHR toad.

I already know what's available within my given parameters. What I don't know is where to draw the line. Assuming an RV has been well maintained, what's more important, age or mileage? Is there a "cutoff" point where it gets hard to find parts? How many miles can one reasonably expect to get from a motorhome before it's ready for the auto graveyard? Should I even consider an RV from 1978, no matter how good it might seem? Is a 1990 RV inherently better than a 1982, just because it's so much newer? Do repairs get more expensive as the vehicle gets older, as well as becoming more numerous? Does it make a difference whether you're talking about a Class A or Class C? This is so overwhelming...please help!!!
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Old 12-21-2017, 06:37 AM   #2
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Well "Too Old" is not so much a matter of HOW old as it is how well maintained.

A year or two ago when I was stuck in GA with a blown engine (nothing to do with this thread) There was a gent.. Parked across from me with a lovely BLue Bird Motor home, 25 years old if it was a day.
ANd beside him was parked an almost identical Blue Bird, same paint job, only majore differences was it was one of the last produced (Much much newer) and there is a piece of plastic with lights behind it on the front. The old one was sun damaged

Both RV's , save for that one piece of plastic, looked like they were still sitting in the dealer's showroom. Both INside and out were very well maintained.

On the othe rhand I've seen rigs 5-10 years old that were trash. All depends on the owner. Most folks do not believe my rig is 12 years old.
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Old 12-21-2017, 06:52 AM   #3
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Condition trumps age anytime! I would inspect carefully every component. With your budget, there is little margin for error. Professional inspectors are probably out, but you may have friends who are auto mechanics who can give the coach a going over for you. Don't expect a lot of patience for the seller if he/she is selling a coach in good condition for $5000 though. You need to be ready to pull the switch when you find the right one. Lots of help here on the forum though.

Remember, most coaches are made of off the shelf components, and chassis are generally from Ford, GMC, Spartan, or Freightliner, so even if the "manufacturer" is out of business, the parts should be available. Not so much for trim pieces etc, but for mechanical components they should be. Good luck in your search!
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Old 12-21-2017, 08:38 AM   #4
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Good information. It also depends on how mechanically handy you are. If you are not, and you are a "Checkbook Mechanic" that takes your RV to a dealer or shop for every little thing, almost every RV can be very expensive to own regardless of the age.

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Originally Posted by Hit_the_Rhod View Post
Condition trumps age anytime! I would inspect carefully every component. With your budget, there is little margin for error. Professional inspectors are probably out, but you may have friends who are auto mechanics who can give the coach a going over for you. Don't expect a lot of patience for the seller if he/she is selling a coach in good condition for $5000 though. You need to be ready to pull the switch when you find the right one. Lots of help here on the forum though.

Remember, most coaches are made of off the shelf components, and chassis are generally from Ford, GMC, Spartan, or Freightliner, so even if the "manufacturer" is out of business, the parts should be available. Not so much for trim pieces etc, but for mechanical components they should be. Good luck in your search!
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Old 12-21-2017, 08:43 AM   #5
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1990 is right when EFI engines and 4 speed automatics started being used. I'd recommend both those as must haves. EFI is much more likely to run good at 25 years of age, and an overdrive transmission will cruise at a lower RPM making it a quieter ride and use a little less fuel.
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Old 12-21-2017, 11:44 AM   #6
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I would not put much emphasis on mileage. Average mileage is less than 5k per year which means engines, transmission and the other moving parts are probably good for a quarter to half a century. As others have said, it's maintenance that matters, including the coach body AND the mechanicals.

Small sticking point - some resorts/campgrounds will have rules about rigs over 10 years old to keep out the rolling wrecks that come with no maintenance. Usually subject to some inspection & approval, but I'd say if they wouldn't let me in just because of vehicle age, it's not a place I want to stay.

Good luck with this - sounds like a great adventure.
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Old 12-21-2017, 11:57 AM   #7
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Check the roof & if it's good , take care of the roof . Most serious RV problems come from water damage from what I've seen, often times roof leaks .
We are fulltiming in a 96 Bounder we bought 4 years ago , thankfully the roof is in great condition , it was always cleaned & coated , also it was always stored indoors before we bought it .
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Old 12-21-2017, 12:08 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by karhorn61 View Post
I already know what's available within my given parameters. What I don't know is where to draw the line....
I personally think that with your budget that the very first RV you see and drive that seems ok you should go for. Consider all the gassers for sure. If you're not handy than this could be a huge mistake IMO.

Good luck with your search!
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Old 12-21-2017, 12:11 PM   #9
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+1 about condition. maintenance maintenance maintenance
Low mileage is actually a bad thing. Means its probably sat in someones yard being ignored at least part of is life.

Some general thoughts about the Class C design and why it doesn't age well.

The cabover leaks, the front window always leaks and the way they do the seams always leaks and the spot between the cab and cabover leaks. If you can find a one piece fiberglass front and rear cap with no front window you are better off. That won't happen in your price range.

Most people never catch the leaks until its too late and its a deteriorated mess. Price has no bearing on this happening. I looked at a 3 yr old Class C and the cabover was destroyed from wood rot. Its educated owners over the 20 years that keep it from being a problem.

My class C was rotted out in the cab over and the rear corners. It was a lot of my hours and money to refurbish. Paying someone wasn't an option. I will never do it again.

For $5000 the pickings will be slim. My eye Dr office lady picked up a MH locally out of some offer up type listing for super cheap. Her husband is a diesel mech but she says they haven't had any trouble with it...any that she is willing to admit to.

A good place to look will be the snowbird areas in the spring. NC is not a good place to look for MH I ended up going to FL. The person I purchased consignment from lost her husband and her family didn't want her traveling from Ohio to FL by herself so she moved to FL permanently.
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Old 12-21-2017, 03:28 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Forkyfork View Post

The cabover leaks, the front window always leaks and the way they do the seams always leaks and the spot between the cab and cabover leaks.
I hate blanket statements like this. My first class C, purchased at 10 years of age and used for 12 years: no cabover leaks, no front window leaks, no seam leaks, no between the cab & cabover leaks. My 2nd class C, also purchased at 10 years of age and then used for 15 years, same thing; no cabover leaks, no front window leaks, no seam leaks, no between the cab & cabover leaks.

On the other hand, my current class A, purchased last year at 13 years old, has a water leak somewhere around my bedroom slide that I am still searching for. Not all class C's leak, and not all class As are leak free.
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Old 12-21-2017, 04:09 PM   #11
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Don't be afraid to deal on the price either! I remember my dad's first RV, a used class c Midas, the seller was asking $5000, dad offered $3000, the seller complained that he wouldn't give it away, dad left him with his name and phone number. A few weeks later the seller called and said he would accept his $3000 offer, dad said since the rig was older than it was when he first saw it, he could only offer $2500, the seller just about blew a cork! Dad told him to make a decision, his rig was getting older and would only be worth $2000 tomorrow! The seller said alright, I'll take your d**n $2500! The memory still makes me smile every time I think of it. Dad cleaned it up, replaced some inexpensive things, used it for a few years, and then traded it in for a newer used rig.
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Old 12-21-2017, 07:03 PM   #12
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1990 is right when EFI engines and 4 speed automatics started being used. I'd recommend both those as must haves. EFI is much more likely to run good at 25 years of age, and an overdrive transmission will cruise at a lower RPM making it a quieter ride and use a little less fuel.
Exactly the point I was going to make. When it comes to engine longevity, the introduction of fuel injection easily added another 100K miles to the equation.
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Old 12-21-2017, 11:57 PM   #13
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Good information. It also depends on how mechanically handy you are. If you are not, and you are a "Checkbook Mechanic" that takes your RV to a dealer or shop for every little thing, almost every RV can be very expensive to own regardless of the age.
That's why I was thinking I might do better with an older RV. My first car was a '71 Pontiac LeMans...I wasn't then, nor am I now, a skilled mechanic by any stretch of the imagination. But I could change filters, tires, belts, hoses, fuses, headlamps, and even oil (tho that was definitely not my favorite!) I patched a leaky muffler and re-hung it, real professional-like, with coat hangers...and was even able to tweak the carburetor after borrowing a Chiltons manual from the library. BUT every time I got a newer car, things kept getting more complicated...and I was able to do less & less. Now, with my 2010 HHR, I couldn't even change a blinker light because it required dismantling 2/3 of the car's front end. More or less. Point being...tho' I have zero experience in RV maintenance or mechanics, it seems logical that the same scenario might apply...the older the engine, the more I'll be able to do within my limited scope??
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Old 12-22-2017, 12:31 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by Forkyfork View Post
+1 about condition. maintenance maintenance maintenance
Low mileage is actually a bad thing. Means its probably sat in someones yard being ignored at least part of is life.

Some general thoughts about the Class C design and why it doesn't age well.

The cabover leaks, the front window always leaks and the way they do the seams always leaks and the spot between the cab and cabover leaks. If you can find a one piece fiberglass front and rear cap with no front window you are better off. That won't happen in your price range.

Most people never catch the leaks until its too late and its a deteriorated mess. Price has no bearing on this happening. I looked at a 3 yr old Class C and the cabover was destroyed from wood rot. Its educated owners over the 20 years that keep it from being a problem.

My class C was rotted out in the cab over and the rear corners. It was a lot of my hours and money to refurbish. Paying someone wasn't an option. I will never do it again.

For $5000 the pickings will be slim. My eye Dr office lady picked up a MH locally out of some offer up type listing for super cheap. Her husband is a diesel mech but she says they haven't had any trouble with it...any that she is willing to admit to.

A good place to look will be the snowbird areas in the spring. NC is not a good place to look for MH I ended up going to FL. The person I purchased consignment from lost her husband and her family didn't want her traveling from Ohio to FL by herself so she moved to FL permanently.
Wow, sorry to hear you had such a bad experience, but thanks for sharing it. What make/model/year was that Class C of yours? If you got a lemon, that might be one for me to steer clear of. I've already walked away from a couple of promising rigs for just that reason (water damage)...Class A and Class C, one each. There are actually a surprising number of RVs for sale here in OH that fit the budget requirements...far more, so far, than I've been able to find near my sister's place in Clearwater. Just gotta be ready to jump fast when a good one shows up, I've learned. Anyway, thanks again for your input.
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