Buying older motorhomes

The friendliest place on the web for anyone with an RV or an interest in RVing!
If you have answers, please help by responding to the unanswered posts.

gasman

New member
Joined
Jan 9, 2006
Posts
3
I am considering buying an older motorhome in the 1985 to 1995 range and am looking for some advice on what to watchout for.  I would like to buy something that will probably have a lot of miles on it and maybe have the engine and transmission professionally rebuilt or have a rebuilt crate engine and transmission installed.  How much money would it take realistically to replace an engine or an engine and transmission?  Has anyone in this forum ever bought a used motorhome through E-Bay motors?  If so, I would like to hear about the experience...good or bad.  I have been watching several units on Ebay and have seen several that have been in my price range (less than 10K) but have wondered if they are really in the type of condition they claim to be in. 

Gasman.
 

Steve CDN

Well-known member
Joined
Jan 31, 2005
Posts
2,388
Location
Canada/U.S.A
Stay away from anything under the brand name Safari, built by SMC or models of Beaver if they were built by SMC.  The same would apply to Harney Coach, purchased by SMC in the late 90's. 

Safari eventually went out of business in about 2004 when their assets were bought by Monaco.  However from the mid 90's to the time they went out of business, their quality control was virtually non existent and their coaches were built with major and in many cases irreversible engineering flaws.  Safari's were dumped by their owners and though they can sometimes be bought  at seemingly attractive prices, they should be avoided at all costs.

Having had one and knowing many people first hand who owned them, I can substantiate my advice.

Regards,
 

Tom

Administrator
Joined
Jan 13, 2005
Posts
48,731
Gasman,

When you've narrowed your search you might care to look at some checklists we have in our library. For example, click the Library button above, select Checklists, then click Buying a used motorhome.
 

Gary RV_Wizard

Site Team
Joined
Feb 2, 2005
Posts
73,969
Location
At our Silver Springs FL home
Many motorhomes are used only for vactions and have surprisingly low mileage. The RV industry average is only 6000 miles/year, about half what a car typically gets.  There are lots of bargains around.

Look for one with good maintenance records. If the owner keeps maintenance records, he probably did routine maintenace faithfully (and will have records to prove it).    The transmission is the thing most often abused and neglected, so be prepared to replace it - you can get an estimate from any transmission shop.  Also look at the dates on the tires (see our RV Glossary on the home page if you don't know how to read tire date codes) . On RVs, tires usually die of old age long before they wear out. Anything over 6 years old will have to be replaced immediately, regardless of what the apparent condition is. Trust me on this!
 

Scoundrel

Well-known member
Joined
Jan 6, 2006
Posts
106
Location
Corona, California
I purchased a older HM. Mine is a 1992 Fleetwood Class A. Since this was my first experience with purchasing I did make some mistakes. First make sure everything is working i.e all lights interior and exterior including turn signals....mine didn't. Make sure all the appliances are fully functional. check for signs of water leakage/damage on the floor around toilet and bath and around the sink. Make sure all windows slide properly. Make sure the water pump works as well as the furnace. Checking the obvious like cushions curtains and carpet, they are cosmetic and easily replaced but worth taking a good look at anyway. Now for the heart.....LOOK UNDER THE COACH! Visually check under the coach for oil leaks, excessive rust and broke water and electrical lines. Test drive it thoroughly not just around the block. Put it under some load by accelerating hard to see if you can hear any unusually sounds.....like maybe trans problems or EXHAUST leaks.! :-\

These are only basics and there are allot of other things to look for like if the vent fans work....mine didn't and I didn't think to check them. make sure the generator can be turned on and off from inside the coach....mine didn't. Check the exhaust pipe to the generator....I didn't and it was attached with bailing wire.... :'( And the last bit of advise I can give you is take someone who is familiar with the class of motorhome you are looking for if you are not. Nothing beats experience... ::)   

Good luck!


 
 

Woody

Well-known member
Joined
Mar 10, 2005
Posts
917
Odometer readings don't mean much on an older motorhome. When I was looking a few years ago I found one that only had 21,000 miles on it but was worn out inside. Turned out that it had been used fulltime in Florida by a retiree.
One of the most expensive items to replace in an older motorhome is the refridgerator, check it out carefully. If you smell an ammonia smell it means it is shot.
Other expensive items are the genset and the hot water heater.

As someone else said, look for good documentation. This often means that the previous owner(s) carefully maintained the coach.

Woody
 

dsl4us

Active member
Joined
Dec 4, 2005
Posts
29
Location
Mid-Michigan
There are some decent unit out there if you look around. We found ours while looking at 5th wheels.

So far I've put in a few hours of repairs. Replaced electric lift pump and mechanical injection pump. The coach waterpump, was original,  exhaust, vacuum pump and various small stuff. Major stuff still works, fridge, micro, water heater, generator etc. Had some water damage previously where the front fiberglass cap sealed to the rubber roof. I had to R&R the bunk over the drivers seat and reinforce where it mounted.

All in all satisfied considering it has 138K on it. Motor and trans still work fine. I would look for something built heavier than a GM/Ford/Dodge chassis, IMO. The Cummins/Allison will run much longer than a 454/TH400 etc. The Oshkosh chassis is a heavier duty unit as well.

Ours has the fiberglass sides and an aluminum body frame, something I'd definitely look for. The aluminum frame, IMO, will last much longer and almost always give you something to work off of for repairs.
 

Bluebird Bob

New member
Joined
Dec 28, 2005
Posts
3
We bought a 84 Bluebird PT36 3 years ago. We sold our home to get this rig and just love it. We live in it fulltime and will be leaving the Tacoma, Wa. area in 20 months to tour our great country.
We found it on RV Search. It was back in Tennessee and after having the seller take in excess of 30 pics till I was satified it was what I wanted. It had a new Detroit 6V-92 with 200 miles on it.? Seems the previous owner had more money than brains...broke a radiator hose...bells and whistles went off on the dash..he thought it ment needs to go in for service so kept driving..fried engine. Was replaced for 15k engine and 5k labor.
My suggestion is get the best older rv you can afford.? Quality is built in and depending on the miles, less maintenance needed.
Look for one in this class with high milage as these rigs were ment to be used...low miles means low usage.? This translates into hoses and belts drying out..same with seals..
Our rig has the Allison 5 speed auto..bulletproof with proper maintance.
Hope this helps.

Bob Lawrence
84 PT36
Tacoma, Wa.
 

CheeseHead

New member
Joined
Feb 5, 2006
Posts
2
Steve said:
Stay away from anything under the brand name Safari, built by SMC or models of Beaver if they were built by SMC.  The same would apply to Harney Coach, purchased by SMC in the late 90's. 

Safari eventually went out of business in about 2004 when their assets were bought by Monaco.  However from the mid 90's to the time they went out of business, their quality control was virtually non existent and their coaches were built with major and in many cases irreversible engineering flaws.  Safari's were dumped by their owners and though they can sometimes be bought  at seemingly attractive prices, they should be avoided at all costs.

Having had one and knowing many people first hand who owned them, I can substantiate my advice.

Regards,

I don't want to hijack this post but feel the need to step in and respond to  the above statement.


We have owned  a 2000 Safari class C built by SMC  for several years and could not be more pleased with it's quality. I've spoken to many other owners with the same unit and have not heard of any major design flaws .I'm sure you will find disgruntled  previous owners of all brands and they will be more vocal than the many satisfied owners.

Good luck with your search for a good used unit,

CheeseHead


 

Chet18013

Well-known member
Joined
Mar 5, 2005
Posts
1,852
Location
Full time in RV. Home is where we are parked
You can really get some fantastic deals on the older motor homes, if you do your home work. We have a 1991 Beaver Marquis and have had it for 10 years now. It is one of the best units on the road.  We got it with 40,000 miles on it and now have 128,000. It's running better than ever.  Every once in a while I see a 1990-1993 Beaver Marquis on sale. (Stay away from Beavers that were built after 1993) If you can find one of these, regardless of mileage, and it's been well cared for jump on it. It's built on a 1,000,000+ Gillig Transit bus chaissis. I'm sure ours will serve us well for years to come.

Chet18013
 

Ernie Ekberg

Well-known member
Joined
Mar 17, 2005
Posts
1,546
I'd like to echo what Bob lawrence said about his Bluebird. They are indeed bullet proof.
Ernie EKberg, driving a Wanderlodge
 

King

Well-known member
Joined
Jan 30, 2006
Posts
354
Location
MA
If you are thinking of putting in a rebuilt engine, check around and find someone who has done it for a quote.  Most motorhome engines have to be pulled out through thr front and require a specially designed forklift engine bracket.  It won't make you happy to buy a 5k used motorhome and then pay 6 or 7 k to replace the engine.
 

Joe3of3

New member
Joined
May 15, 2006
Posts
4
I can respond to the E-bay motors portion of the question.  We bought a 1989 Class C Winnebago Warrior on a Toyota pickup chasis about six months ago.  I live in Fla. and the coach was in 'Frisco.  The seller picked us up at the airport, showed us the "how to's" on the unit, and gave us pointers on being RVers...as we were RV virgins.  We drove it south for two days, then north for two weeks.  An ignighter wire on the water heater came loose and had to be reconnected during that time.  On the trip from Seattle to Ft. Lauderdale we replaced the windshield wiper blades.  I will probably replace a U-joint before I sell the Warrior, which will be after we pick up our new (to us, anyway) Winnebago Adventurer next week.  Just before to reseach the seller and the vehicle's history, if possible.  Having done our research, we had felt comfortable buying based on the photo's...it was exactly as presented.  Also, make you have, in writing, that your deposit is refundable if the coach is not as described...we use a credit card on PayPal, just in case the selle'sr not completely honest.
Good luck and enjoy!
 

427v8

Well-known member
Joined
Apr 25, 2006
Posts
55
I just bought a '92 class c based on the Chevy G30 1 ton chassis. It had a few issues that I knew about at the time of purchase.

Tires; 6 new ones $850
Generator carb rebuild, Muffler, change oil, plugs and filters about $500 Muffler was $250 alone!

Brakes, New booster, $200 ( still not quite right )

There are still a few minor issues but nothing major. I also do all the work myself so I probably saved a couple of grand. If you have to pay someone to do the work it is going to get very expensive!

You can buy a new crate engine, like a 454 for $4000.
Or you can get the engine rebuilt for probably 1/2 of that.

But my 103,000 mile 454 Chevy is running just fine.

But you CAN save a LOT of $$$ buying an older MH
 

motojavaphil

Well-known member
Joined
Jan 22, 2006
Posts
667
Location
Rio Rancho, New Mexico
I have located a 38' Holiday Rambler that looks sort of tired on the outside but very decent on the inside.  Dealer is asking 69K and NADA rates it between 51K to 62K.  Has the Spartan Chasis with the cummins big block.  It has 33K miles.  Seems like a nice rig, RVCG gives it a 4 star!  Any thoughts or things to specifically look for?
 

Tom

Administrator
Joined
Jan 13, 2005
Posts
48,731
Click on the Library button above and select Checklists. You might find some useful information there.
 

chaajoad

Well-known member
Joined
May 29, 2006
Posts
322
Location
Poulsbo WA
Gasman - I just purchased a new-to-me coach from an ebay seller. Frankly, I trust ebay more than most dealers and private party sellers that I don't know. For one thing, most vehicles on ebay are covered by a fraud warranty of up to $20,000. So if mileage or condition are different than the seller represents, there's a a good chance of getting $$ back.

Some of my work buddies are amazed that when I decided to buy a coach, I turned to ebay. But I do the same thing for furniture, art work, computers, shoes, books, several high-end watches - I've made hundreds of purchases from ebay with very little trouble. Just use common sense. as you would any other purchase.
 
W

webhannet

Guest
I located mine on Ebay, but it was close to home and I was able to view it.?

Go to any RV page on Ebay and you will find "GUIDES" in the left margin - check the listing and read any which are related (most are just whining about scams!).? If you check the motorhome personally, you're ahead of the risk of most scams - and the deal will have much the same risk as any purchase.? THe GUIDES have some good advice - add that to what you read here.

BTW - Mine was only used for one trip - a 1994 with 4,000 miles, registered only for its first year - and I've have almost no "just sitting" problems.? There are LOTS of low mileage, good condition units out there - and they don't seem to sell for too much of a premium.? My personal thought is that higher quality motorhomes were usually kept better by more caring, affluent owners.

That said, I "won" another that was close to home, and found there were title problems since it was an estate with no funds and a title-holder located far away.? The title couldn't be expected for up to 4 weeks, and they expected me to pay cash up-front with only their personal assurances - NO WAY!? ?Thankfully, I hadn't traveled a long way expecting to drive it home - I'm not a fan of ISOLDIT and other listing agencies!? That coach still sits for sale after three months - the executor seems unable to resolve the issue.
 

Wendy

Site Team
Joined
May 14, 2005
Posts
12,535
Location
Colorado
We didn't buy but we did sell an older Class C motorhome. We sold our 1984 Coachman last year. We ran a couple of local ads and stuck a "For Sale" sign in the window and parked it on the street, especially on weekends when neighbors were having yard sales. It had high mileage but we kept up all the maintenance and had the paperwork to prove it. We sold it cheap.

Ask for maintenance records. Look at the tires (if they're brand new, maybe that's to look good and hide something else?). Ask why they're selling (we bought a new Class A). When did they buy it? What did they use it for? (in some areas, it's not much more than a hunting lodge)? Look at the generator hours....very few means they were usually in full hookup parks. Pets? Smokers?

If you buy it from the guy down the street, it's a whole lot easier to go back and complain than if it's 2000 miles away.

Do you like the coach? Do you like the floorplan?

Enjoy.
 
J

jaybird

Guest
We bought this gem two years ago, as our " disposable" trial to see if we liked a class "C" from having TT's and truck mounted.? If we didn't like it, what was $4,500? I could get that back.

Well, this coach is one that we will NOT sell.
460 V-8
56,000 original miles, bought it at 49,000
This summer took a 40 day vacation to:
Grand Teton
Yellowstone
Bryce
Zion
and Las Vegas.

Also during the " season" almost every other weekend to Desert Hot Springs to our seasonal spot.


Just remember:

"It's a FORD, not a Peugeot, and can be fixed anywhere"

http://i17.photobucket.com/albums/b70/jaaybird/rv3Small.jpg


jb
 
Top Bottom