About to buy and RV for 4 months! Advice Appreciated!

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tomkrenning

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Aug 1, 2021
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5
Location
St. Louis
I'm about to buy this RV here (1985 Chevy Mallard) and roadtrip to California to live there for a few months while I take a course. Any advice? My friends have mentioned this type of Chevy is really reliable and the Carfax aligns with all of the work that this person said they did on the vehicle, which I pasted below! I'm about to drop around $10k on this so any thoughts on how I can care for myself in this transaction and once I get on the road are appreciated! I'm really looking for a checklist of what i need to check out before i buy and a beginners list of all the stuff i need to know and have on hand for being on the road with an older rig. Sending love to ya'll and so happy to be joining this community!

<3 Tom


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SeilerBird

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St Cloud Florida USA
10K for a 35 year old RV? Not a very good idea. You should pay an RV inspector to inspect it for you. There will probably be another 10K to get it roadworthy.
 

Mark_K5LXP

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About all that says it that it ran well enough to get serviced which is actually a useful data point. But it says nothing about the house side, which could be pristine, a train wreck or anything in between. The elephant in the room is water damage. Anything that old the chances of failed seals or shot roof is very good and unless fastidiously monitored and maintained, is almost a sure problem. After that you're looking at whether the systems function - A/C, furnace, water heater, batteries, charger and electrics, plumbing and tank integrity. All of this is 35 years old and none of it is designed to, or likely to function this long without some sort of failure. Read that as what hasn't failed yet is soon to do so. Another big one on the list is tires, 6-7 years is the limit on those. Upon inspection if the house checks out as only moderately decayed and mostly functional, the thing starts and runs and has tires that aren't dangerous, from there you can decide what purchase price you're willing to pay for the value you hope it offers.

Mark B.
Albuquerque, NM
 

TheBar

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MS
$10K is way overpriced for what could be a rust bucket from Ohio. $10K would pay rent for quite a while even in CA. You'll be paying lot rent when you get there. At 6-8 mpg it is going to take $1k of gas to get from St. Louis to CA. For every old RV success story there are a half dozen horror stories.
 
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Great Horned Owl

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Lake County, Illinois
I agree with Tom (Seiler Bird). This is way overpriced. Three years ago, I sold a 1994 class B RV, on a Chevy chassis for $7,000.

The one that you're looking at will likely need new tires. Unless the converter/charger has been upgraded, it will be a type that cooks your batteries. The refrigerator (if it still works) has already lasted longer than many of that age. The furnace and water heater may also be nearing end of life.

Have you looked into where you park it for those months? If the course that you'll be taking is in an urban area, the nearest camp ground might be on the order of 50 miles away.

Joel
 

darsben

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Central NY in summer beautiful Casa Grande AZ in w
Second on the new tires!. They may have plenty of tread, but the problem with RV tires is they age out because they deteriorate more rapidly while sitting than when driven frequently. Any tire on an RV that you did not personally take care of for it's lifetime should be suspect if over 5-6 years old (google how to find the date). A blowout on an RV can cost thousands to repair I know from first hand experience as the tire that blew was below my fresh water tank and it took out the wheel well and the fresh water tank and sundry other things cost was over 2000 to repair. It was also a pain in the arse to find parts and I was without a functional RV for a month.

What will you do if this happens to you?
 

Isaac-1

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SW Louisiana
A couple of more things, first off this motorhome was built in the era of the 55 mph national speed limit, and has a 3 speed automatic transmission, meaning you will be lucky to do 55 mph, and count on speeds of 45 or below when going up hill. Second being a 1985 model this thing may have a carburetor as this was around the time of the transition to fuel injection (which if memory serves occurred with the 1986 chevy cutaway vans). A Carburetor will likely need to be adjusted to compensate for changes in elevation, which can be a issue out west where you may go from sea level to 7,500 feet during a days drive.

Having said that as the others have said you are looking at taking a 35 year old vehicle on a multi thousand mile adventure with little or no time to prep, also you say nothing about you mechanical skills. The only way I would advise considering a project like this is if you have extensive mechanical skills working on vintage automotive systems, also don't expect to get much professional help along the way even if you have the money to pay for it, as most mechanics these days will not have a clue what to do when dealing with something so old it does not have an OBD-II port for them to plug their computer into. In other words don't take it to any mechanic that does not have gray hair.
 

Tom

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48,834
I'm about to buy this RV here (1985 Chevy Mallard) and roadtrip to California to live there for a few months while I take a course. Any advice? My friends have mentioned this type of Chevy is really reliable and the Carfax aligns with all of the work that this person said they did on the vehicle, which I pasted below! I'm about to drop around $10k on this so any thoughts on how I can care for myself in this transaction and once I get on the road are appreciated! I'm really looking for a checklist of what i need to check out before i buy and a beginners list of all the stuff i need to know and have on hand for being on the road with an older rig. Sending love to ya'll and so happy to be joining this community!

<3 Tom
Click the Resources button above and select Checklists on the left of the page.
 

JudyJB

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Ditto. And before you buy anything, make sure you have found a place to park it. Do not believe anyone who tells you that you can just park it in the street and sleep there. CA and many other states are cracking down on people parking on residential or even commercial streets and expecting to spend the night there. Also, how will you get to wherever this course is? Unlikely you can drive this old vehicle and park it in a college or school's parking lot.

A better choice is to take this course online or to find a local course you can take using your current living arrangements.
 

Ex-Calif

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The photos look good and you have some maintenance history. The tires look good but as others have said you need to check the date code.

How many miles are on it? It looks to be pretty well cared for.

As with all vehicles there can be surprises and especially that old many systems could be close to failure. Definitely worth a look and having an inspection done IMO.
 

tomkrenning

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Aug 1, 2021
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St. Louis
Thanks Ex-calif! 70300 miles on it! The current owner says they just put 3600 into it for repairs, i plan to get a mechanic to peek at the engine before i buy but i just talked to the person at AAA she took it to a month ago and they def said it was good to go… with any car like this there will be issues over a long trip! you think i should take it to a legit RV inspection place for sure? that’s probably a good idea.

i have a place to store it where i’m going and where i live no problem. def will check tires. i’m fine with learning to do repairs, i like older stuff bc it’s simpler but i don’t have extensive mechanic skills at all.
 

Mark_K5LXP

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Albuquerque, NM
Probably the least of your concerns with the chassis is the engine. Tires, brakes, transmission, suspension are more likely repair points. If the roof is rotten or the plumbing has leaked then it doesn't matter how well it runs. Not trying to pee in your wheaties but these are realities with any old RV or camper and just trying to set a realistic expectation level. The scale of mechanical issues with an RV is greater than that of a car, even a straightforward repair requires heavy tools, garage equipment and spendy parts, or buckets of money to pay someone else. With any luck this is a shining gem with useful life left but at this age it would be an exception.

Mark B.
Albuquerque, NM
 
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tomkrenning

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Aug 1, 2021
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St. Louis
thanks so much to everyone for the advice!! i have been looking hard to find the diamond in the rough and am hopeful but not overly optimistic.

i am committed to caring for a vehicle like this kind term and am not jumping into this without thinking about it. just learning!

i’ve also been considering this vehicle:

any advice on this guy as compared to the other?
 

Babe2201

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Walpole, NH
Looking at the pics it appears it is in very good shape. Being a 1985 I would check very close to the underneath of it for rust especially the frame and brake lines. Blowing a brake line on the highway sure could ruin your day.

A lot of people have said it is way over priced but I am not sure if that is the case. Some of the vintage stuff that has been restored can be worth a lot. Personally I would consider a new or used pop up that can be towed with what ever vehicle you currently own.
 
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Mark_K5LXP

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Personally I would pick domestic over foreign, irrespective of their condition or respective reputations. Finding parts for old foreign anything can be really annoying.

Mark B.
Albuquerque, NM
 

SeilerBird

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St Cloud Florida USA
i’ve also been considering this vehicle:

any advice on this guy as compared to the other?
You could not pay me to own one of these contraptions. They are way over weight before you start it up. Very underpowered and will not climb hills.
 

creativepart

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Jul 6, 2014
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Hill Country, TX
Here's what we all know that you do not know and really, can not know....

A person that has not owned and traveled and lived in an RV can never be aware of the issues that arise in ALL RVs with regular use.

You show all the signs. You're checking on the engine, the transmission, etc. You're thinking CAR.

All of us know that the "car" part is the absolute least worry of any RV - the "house" is the thing that must be in good to perfect condition. Just like any 36-year old home you must be concerned about the roof, the windows, the electrical, the HVAC, the water heater, the kitchen, the bathroom, the sewer system, plumbing and the list goes on much longer than you can imagine.

IF you buy it and do this trip the one certanty is that you will definitely learn what we already know. Unfortunately, it can be a very difficult and painful lesson.
 

Isaac-1

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SW Louisiana
Just to add one more thing to the above post, I agree the house side is where you will likely find the most issues, but at the same time a major engine failure on a coach of this vintage is likely going to be a show stoppers as repairing / replacing an engine will likely cost more than the RV is worth, or at least close to it. A transmission failure is similar, though tends to be a little cheaper, unless you are an advanced DIY'er. This and repair / upkeep cost are the big down sides to any older motorhome, just remember to walk into it knowing that anything that has not been replaced in the last 7-10 years is a likely source of failure at any moment, this includes all the appliances, water heater, electric charging system, plumbing, rubber seals, gaskets, bushings, hoses, etc. on both the chassis and house side of things. Sure the shower may look great, but that plastic is 35+ years old and brittle, the reason it looks good may be no one has used it in years, and the first time you step into it the whole thing may crumble.

p.s. as to the Toyota, they have a bit of a cult following, though they are all getting long in the tooth also
 
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