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Old 05-05-2012, 11:55 PM   #1
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Help! I'm about to take the plunge!

So I've been looking for a used Class C on various websites for several months now. Given my budget, I'm looking at RVs from the 1980s, and not surprisingly have had a hard time finding one in good shape. I'm on my own with my kids, so need to find something that's reasonably priced and won't cost me a great deal anytime soon (am I dreaming?). I'm getting so tired of this search, and growing really antsy to find something and start camping!

Tomorrow I'm looking at a 21ft 1988 Chevy Elite (asking $8000 canadian). It's more than I can spend, so will try to bargain the price down. The RV looks to be in good shape (in the pictures), all the appliances work, and the owner says he's never had a leak (roof tarped in the rainy winters we get here in Vancouver BC) and that all's well mechanically too. I'm going to get it inspected by someone who does mobile inspection, but want to know if anyone here has any thoughts on Chevy RVs, and Chevy Elites in particular. Are these known to have any particular problems or weaknesses? Anything I should be looking for?

Any advice and information is much appreciated!

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Old 05-06-2012, 08:40 AM   #2
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It's a good thing that you are having a pro check out the Class C you are considering. The main issue you mentioned is water incursion. Almost all units eventually get it and it takes persistent maintenance to keep water out of these units....especially those with the corrugated metal exteriors over 1x2 wood framing. I would also double-check the pro by walking into the unit and look for water stains, especially up high. That is a good indicator of past leaks. There are a hundred things to check, but leaks is a biggy. The problem is that dry rot sets in and destroys your wood framing and you won't know it for awhile.

I would also ask the seller to cool down the refrigerator in propane mode before you arrive so that you can make sure it works. It takes at least overnight to do this. Refrigerators are notably unreliable in these RVs and expensive to fix or replace. Good luck with your purchase!

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Old 05-06-2012, 04:05 PM   #3
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Yes, have a pro or at least a real good friend check it out. When I bought mine, it was 40 so when the guy turned on the AC I did not notice only the the fan was blowing....but after the west Texas heat started warming up, you guessed it, no AC among other little things. I purchased my RV from a dealership.
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Old 05-06-2012, 11:34 PM   #4
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Yes, I absolutely think that the water issues are the most serious concern.

So I saw this class C today. It looks to be in great shape except, of course, for a bit of a leak under the mattress above the cab. This was disappointing - there's no window at the front on this unit so I was hopeful to find a dry bed up there!

The inspection will be on Wednesday, so I will get a better sense then of how serious the problem is, but here are my questions in the meantime (I want to educate myself and don't want to rely exclusively on the inspection guy):

- Is it possible to tell (without ripping walls/floors apart) how severe the leak is, and whether there's any structural damage/dry rot? When there's a leak, is dry rot inevitable?

- How about the tires? These looked great, but how can I tell if there's dry rot there?

On a positive side, I negotiated the price down to $6500, subject to inspection.

Thanks for your feedback!
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Old 05-07-2012, 12:04 AM   #5
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Sad to say, but water leaks of any kind can be devastatingly expensive to fix and notoriously hard to track down too! Once water gets into a unit, it can rot wood, destroy insulation, be a wonderful growing environment for molds and what have you. In addition, the only way to truly gauge the extent of the damage most of the time is actually open up the roof or side panel to see how much penetration there has been. It isn't uncommon for the damage to be more extensive than the visual clues suggest. At least that is my opinion. I live in your region and am very familiar with the climate and I have first hand experience with the challenges of a leaky roof. I can assure you that it made RV'ing a challenge (is it going to rain today kinds of worries), cost me significant amounts of money to fix the issue and although I am now very happy with what I have, would be much more leery of ever again buying a unit with signs of previous water damage. You are doing the right thing by getting an expert to assess. Repairs to the leak could easily cost more than the unit is worth at the price point you are talking.
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Old 05-07-2012, 11:16 PM   #6
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Thank you for your thoughts, Sirpurrcival. I'm torn between walking away from this RV and taking my chances with the leak. If I walk away, I think it will be because I will have come to terms with the impossibility of finding a class c in my price range that's free of water damage.

Here's my question for you - if the extent of the water damage is hard to gauge by a visual inspection alone, what good will it do me to get an inspection, since he won't be able to tear the roof or paneling apart?
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Old 05-07-2012, 11:32 PM   #7
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Leaky Class c

You are right. If you can't tear the roof off or tear the wall out you will not be able to tell the extent of the water dammage. Do you have any rv dealers in your area that can do what is called a pressurezided leak down test to find out where the water intrusion is coming from? Should cost about $200.00. Sometimes sellers will keep a rig covered to hide water dammage. You won't see any evidence of water stains as soon as they had a drop of water come in they always kept it covered or garaged.Best of luck in your search.
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Old 05-07-2012, 11:45 PM   #8
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Best to walk away if the damage is serious.
We once looked at a Type A that had a rip in the roof and showed water damage in the bedroom cabinets.
After the DW and I discussed it I called the back and said I wanted to look closer at the rip and leaks. When I got there they had patched the roof and cleaned the cabinets. When I found that I just turned and drove away. No telling what else they had tried to hide!
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Old 05-08-2012, 01:33 AM   #9
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The reason you want an expert in the matter is just to get a better sense of the facts. My opinion is just that, an opinion and I wouldn't call myself an "expert". Furthermore, a description is not the same as seeing. Having an expert put their eyes on it first hand might come out with something different. Believe me, having been bitten by the RV bug, nothing would make me happier than to say it won't be a problem and enjoy. However, I do think you may have a better grasp of the realities of an older RV. I won't say it is impossible to find one without water damage but in our climate, I think your chances of finding one that has been kept water tight that number of years is going to be pretty rare. If we lived in New Mexico or someplace like that, it might be a different story but we get 200 or more days of inclement weather per year. Anything that has spent time outside in that had to have an owner extremely dedicated to keeping it water tight in order to prevent the inevitable.

As for the questions of tires and what not, your inspector should be able to gauge that as well. If the tires are more than 7 years old, they are living on borrowed time although you might be able to squeeze a couple of years out of them still.
If you are paying for inspection anyways, make him earn it. Ask anything and everything that seems relevant. You basically have the following systems.

1 Mechanical - engine and drive line, brakes
2.Electrical - lights, some appliances, batteries for coach, generator (if equipped)
3. Plumnbing - sinks and washrooms, water pump? leaks in faucets, pipes, holding tanks, water heater,
4. Propane - stove, water heater,
5. Other Stuff, Coach condition, Weather seals, tire age, approximate costs to put problems right.

I really do hope you find what you want. There is great joy in the outdoors and your desire to give your children these opportunities makes it even more important that you don't give up on your dream. Even if you need to keep looking for now, you may in fact find that 1 extremely pampered and cared for Class C that will have all the things you want on your bucket list. And here is something else you may consider. You might try getting an RV to come to you. I would be willing to bet that there may be an RV owner or two out there who deeply loves their rig but for a variety of reasons can no longer use it. They may be intending to sell it some day but can't "bring themselves to part with it". Owners like that might just be moved by a single mother's desire to spend quality time with her children in the safety of a well-loved previously owned rig. For them, it might be like saying goodbye to an old friend but something that might be easier if they knew it was going to someone who would cherish it and create a whole new set of family memories.

No guarantees of course but it never hurts to ask. Buy and Sell is free, so is craigslist.

Good Luck!!!!
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Old 05-08-2012, 05:42 AM   #10
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I don't know if this will help but if you can go to Florida USA you can find some pretty good bargains on used RV's we are like the used RV capital of the world. We have a large elderly population and for one reason or another they are forced to sell their coaches. The flooded market allows for some nice coaches at very affordable prices...
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Old 05-08-2012, 09:52 AM   #11
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Water leaks never get better, only worse, and if not fixed quickly after detection will result in a lot of structural damage that, as previously stated, can be really expensive to fix.

As for the price of the unit itself, I don't know about BC prices, but in Toronto that coach would be $5-6k at best.

A friend just bought a 1996 24' C out of Florida for $8k in really nice shape.

IMHO, keep looking.
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Old 05-08-2012, 11:08 PM   #12
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Wow! I'm so thankful for, and moved by, all of your thoughtful answers.

Lots of food for thought. I might well walk away from this one after the inspection tomorrow; and if I don't, I will aim to bargain the price down further.

I still have a while before the trips I'd planned for July and August, so have to remind myself not to rush.

Thanks again!
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Old 05-09-2012, 06:25 PM   #13
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Maddie123, I had a class C with leaks once. I didn't think they were very bad, until, I started removing interior wall panels and ceiling panels. I even rolled back part of the roof. Eventually, I got 'erdone. Building is my trade. I guess that was a plus for me.
Let me suggest, you check with the rv campgrounds near you for rvs that have been confiscated for past rent. I have gotten a couple deals like that.
Don't give up. Yours is out there. Ya just gotta search diligently for it.
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Old 05-10-2012, 12:02 AM   #14
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Thanks for the good tip, Bo Walker.

FYI, I walked away from the 1988 class c. The known water issue in the top bunk, plus the bad caulking and flaking roof scared me away! The search continues....


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