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Old 03-29-2015, 03:20 PM   #1
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Buying cheap to fix, good idea?

Hi all, I have a question that hopefully some of you experienced RVers can help me with. I am currently in the market for an RV. I don't have any experience with them, but I have been doing an extreme amount of research on them for the past 4 months, so I have a good idea on how to inspect them, and know trouble spots to look for. However, I am still new to the whole thing. I have about 11,000 grand to spend on a used RV, and I have been scouring craigslist. My questions is this, would it be better to spend 10-11 grand on a much better "looking" coach, and then not really have too much cash left over for possible future repairs (only about 500 dollars as insurance), or to buy much cheaper, for example around 5 grand, and then have 6 grand for repairs on hand? Can decent RVs that have still have some decent life in them available for so cheap? It would be a nightmare for me to spend all of my available finances, then halfway out my trip something breaks, and I don't have any money to fix it. That is probably my biggest fear.

My plan is this. I want to buy the RV, have it ready to go within 3 months of purchase, go on an epic excursion up the west coast for 4 months, and then settle down again to work and re-up my deleted finances. This will be my home for the next several years.

I see some RVs that look "nice" on craigslist, 80's to very early 90's models, with desirable floor plans, and the ads say they are running and in good condition, but I wonder if it is really worth even checking them out? Maybe with such old and low priced RVs, there are serious issues that I will not be able to identify, and I end up buying a clunker without realizing it. However, I am definitely wanting to learn about RVs once I purchase them so I can become handy with them, so I do have an interest in becoming RV savvy/mechanically inclined eventually.

I would really appreciate any feedback on this issue, thank you very much! =)

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Old 03-29-2015, 03:38 PM   #2
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There are many good/older motorhomes out there, but you need to kiss a lot of pigs to find them. I started out that way 3 years ago and found a good one, drove it 2 1/2 years, sold it for 50% more than I paid for it and made 20% overall. The big things to look for are De-Lamination and roof condition, tires are a given problem. If you go with a pre 1999 Ford F53 the tires are 16 inch and much cheaper than 19 or 22 inch.

Good luck.

2008 Bounder 38P F53 24/30K V10, 2013 Kia Soul Basic 6 speed manual, Ready Brake Elite tow system (previous equipment 1996 Pace Arrow Vision w/Acme Dolly)
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Old 03-29-2015, 03:57 PM   #3
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Yes, look at a lot of them first to get a feel of what to look for. Water damage/tire over 6 years old/pet hair and smoking smells as well. we got our 1987 4 years back and now have 10K miles more on her with no problems other that the heater. Did buy new tires right away and batteries.
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Old 03-29-2015, 04:14 PM   #4
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What kind of RV are you looking at for that price? Motor Home, Fiver or bumper hitch type trailer?
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Old 03-29-2015, 05:27 PM   #5
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You put this up in the Class C section so assuming that is what you are looking at. We bought a 1989 Fleetwood Tioga, 26 ft Class C for 7k. We got lucky and the unit is in great shape. There are no needs, just some wants. Everything works and for a 25 yr old unit it is in good shape. The 460 engine is strong and the transmission shifts great. It was listed on Craiglist but we got the ad forwarded to us from a friend of Facebook so we weren't really looking for it. There are some good deals out there but you may have to look for it. I am a woodworker and mechanic so fixing things or rebuilding things was never an issue for me. If you are comfortable with making minor repairs then go for it. The previous owner of our unit bought the unit and totally stripped the inside and fixed all the rot and leaks and had pictures to show there work so we knew it was a dry unit with no leaks. Take your time and look around.
Rick and Mimi
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Old 03-30-2015, 01:20 AM   #6
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My advice is to buy the highest quality Rv you can afford, and if you find one you really like - spend a couple hundred dollars on a good professional inspection. I thought I knew what to look for when I bought my Rv as I am former classic car flipper and shade tree mechanic. However my "good deal" had about $4,000 in fairly hidden issues. I think a good inspection would have caught some of these, and I would have walked away. Good luck to you.
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Old 03-30-2015, 05:45 AM   #7
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Take your time. I paid 13k for a 30ft 2001 Mirada that was in very good shape. The seller was originally asking 19k. And they fixed the generator and it had new tires on it. :-)

The key is take your time, the right one will come along, but you must be prepared to jump when it does. Expand your search area out a few hour drive. We even looked at ads in FL, and were planing on a trip there to look at some MH.

Your not getting new, so if your a DIYer, you can save substantial money and get a lot of MH for your dollar.

If you need to go to the dealer to fix every little item, you probably need to be looking at new MH.

Spring is sellers market, demand is high, prices will be higher.

It sounds like your learning the systems so you should be able to do a good inspection.

I need reliability so I plan on bringing all the maintenance up to date (tires, brake, belts, filters, flushes, etc, etc.

Check the dealers also, They are bringing in units on trade and need to move them. They will deal if its been sitting on their lot (I bought my MIrada from a dealer, been on his lot for 4 months.)

Do you homework, be firm on your negotiation. One of the nice thing about looking at 10 - 15 units, the good one will stand out, and you've had enough experience walking away.
1999 Fleetwood Southwind 35S (Ford F53 6.8L V10) - Toad 2003 Saturn Vue.

It won't do MACH 2, but I can get a sandwich and take a pee.
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Old 03-30-2015, 06:17 AM   #8
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You've gotten a lot of good information but much depends on your level of knowledge and especially skill. There are 4 major areas of concern that to me would be deal breakers for anyone on a limited budget: Engine, transmission, Tires and coach water leaks. The first two unless you have the shop,tools and skill are very expensive to repair. I have rebuilt dozens of engines and automatic transmissions but with no shop and no specialty transmission tools no way would I attempt these jobs today. Because of my experience I can diagnose a lot of issues with these two items. If you have questions regarding how to inspect these items just ask on these forums.

Tires are just very expensive. If you cut corners there you are asking for trouble. Having a flat tire is just that. However not only will they blow they can do serious coach damage when they come apart. You've done the research and you know tires have a limited life.

Water damage to a coach is also way out of most peoples league. Even if one has the shop and tools it can be very difficult and costly. Hidden mold can be a killer and or a health hazard. Even in a new coach moisture build up during the cold months when the furnace is heating the interior can and will increase the moisture inside. We are on a trip now and have had water inside the rear compartments twice that I'm going to have to deal with. Signs of interior water leaks would be a deal breaker for me.

All the other stuff is just that stuff. Some of it is necessary like the furnace, AC, water heater, all the pipes, toilet, shower etc. When these things don't work you can still get by. Use the facilities at the campground. Plug in a couple of electric heaters and just open up the windows and use fans. Even water is not a problem. Just use jugs. So these items can be fixed without breaking the bank.

In my opinion your current skill level, amount of tools both hand and power (at home) and your willingness to learn, learn and learn some more are the most critical factor. Also your willingness to be inconvenienced when some of these mentioned items breaks until you can get the parts to fix them.

One more item. Even new coaches require a level of skill far greater than just owning a car. You will own a house on wheels and even new stuff breaks. Our coach has 11,000 miles on it and I fix something every trip almost every day.

TeJay Auto Instructor/4-yrs USAF/ Liz: RN/ WBGO 2014 Vista 30T/ F-53/CHF/5-Star/Koni * Bella & Izzy * Golden /Cocker mix/ Louie The Cat* All Retired
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Old 03-30-2015, 06:30 AM   #9
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All good advice.

Here's a little more: don't let pet or smoking odors put you off an otherwise good coach. You can permanently remove pretty much any odor, no matteer how offensive with an ozone generator like this one..
They can also be rented, but to be effective they need to put out at least 3500 mg/hr. This is a hazardous amount of ozone, so people and pets need to be removed while the unit is running.
I'm know these work because we own one and its AMAZING.
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Old 03-30-2015, 06:47 AM   #10
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Many look at drive train when establishing value/condition, which I believe is a mistake. The reason is if the coach's body is shot, it's going to the bone yard no matter the condition of the drive train. There's just no fixing them. When/if you spot a soft spot or delam, turn on your heel and find another coach to look at.

So, my advice would be to become very picky about the body (roof/walls/floor). If that passes your inspection, THEN start thinking drive train.

To answer your question, I would be looking for something with a solid body at a price that would allow me to "freshen up" the drive train (belts/hoses/liquids/tires at minimum) with my reserves.
1997 37' HR Endeavor, 275hp Cat, Freightliner
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Old 03-30-2015, 06:50 AM   #11
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Water damage - As TeJay said, you need to learn about this as it will most likely be in some of the MH that your looking at.

If your able to repair WD, you can make some very, very good deals. I looked at an identical Mirada to mine that the entire front corner on the drivers side was rotted away. Other than that, perfect, 5k would have taken it away. ( I didn't have time to mess with it)

Mine had WD under the rear emergency exit window. I knew it was minor and an easy fix, but other buyers walked away from it, thats why it sat on the dealer lot for 4 months. Its about a one hour fix, pop the frame out, re-seal it, and replace the wall panel while the windows out.

If you can do this kind of stuff, you are in fat city. :-)
1999 Fleetwood Southwind 35S (Ford F53 6.8L V10) - Toad 2003 Saturn Vue.

It won't do MACH 2, but I can get a sandwich and take a pee.
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Old 03-30-2015, 07:32 AM   #12
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Body and frame are the big things, if they're solid everything else is rebuildable.

Early Ford V10s liked to crack the exhaust manifold, sometimes that funny engine sound will make people dump an otherwise great coach for cheap.

Biggest thing is to know your ability.
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Old 04-02-2015, 11:27 AM   #13
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We bought a 99 that had delamination issues in 2 places but no water damage. About 1/2 price and only 40k Miles tires a year old. 20k miles later it's still going strong and headed to Florida in a week for another close to 10 k miles. Getting rid of the carpet and putting hardwood in when we get back.

Best advice get it and use it don't let them set
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Old 04-05-2015, 05:40 PM   #14
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Thank you for the replies folks! Nothermark I am looking for a smaller Class, around 20-24'. Brockx, thats a nice little profit to have made after getting to use your RV. If I may ask, what year/model was the RV? And how many miles was on it when you sold it? What was your purchase vs selling price?

Your comments reverberate a lot of what I have read up on so far. Make sure coach roof/walls/floor are good. Be extremely wary of any water damage, as in soft spots or delamination. The frame must be solid. And drive train must be in good working condition. As TeJay pointed out, all the other stuff is much less crucial. Thanks!

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