Learning about RVs - Which older models are best?

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dazzlecat

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Oct 28, 2012
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Hello, I am just starting to learn about RVs so I can purchase one and live in it for a couple years. I am sick of my job, my huge mortgage and my house that is too big for me. I am really interested in the Small House Movement and have decided I want to give that lifestyle a try and see how it fits. It would just be me and my two cats.  I will need to buy a used RV since that's all I can afford. I like the class A style that have the back bedroom but want something small for easy driving and better gas mileage. but I am open to the Class C as well. I don't really plan to drive it that much. I want to head to my brothers for a couple of months (MN to KS), and then to TX for awhile. So mostly I'd be parked and living in it in a couple of places. A friend says the Rialta is the best RV but I don't have a clue. I am looking for something that is fairly reliable even if its 20 years old. Anybody got any advice on which older makes/models are good and which ones to stay away from? my price range is about $20,000. I am SO EXCITED! 
 

1275gtsport

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There are many threads like this on the forum, try a search for some of the answers that have come up so far. use terms like full time and long term.

I really don't have any true insight for you. however I will point out that there is really no free lunch by living in an RV. you are really just trading one expense for another.

I own a 1977 GMC palm beach 26 foot Motorhome. class A and I would think that anymore then 2 people for more then a week or 2 would be a bit crowded.
I am able to do a lot of the maintenance needed on the rig myself. and EVERY motorhome requires some maintenance even a brand new one.
things to consider when looking at the cost of living in an RV
-most things cost many times more the a standard residential equivalent - like the fridge RV is around 1700 small apartment size fridge less the 600.
-most things in an RV are smaller - storage space, appliances seating area. water heater usually only 6 gallons compared to 40 or 60 gallons in your home.
-tires age out before they wear out and you even said you don't plan on moving it much.
-and speaking of water and waste water. holding tanks on any rv are ment to be dumped. if your staying with relatives how to you plan on getting rid of the "stuff"?
-power usage while much less then a standard home will still cost something, either at a campground or with friends and relatives.
if you were staying at my place I would want something for the added power usage especially if your there for several months.
-many municipalities do not allow long term living in a camper/motorhome/mobile home.
-I know we have several people on this board that do live fulltime and they tend to travel to avoid the cold or heat. they also tend to stay in low cost national parks and discount club memberships. (check the library button above)

The Rialta is a good size small Motorhome based on the mercedes chassis if I am not mistaken. and fairly new-this means dealer repairs. some of which can be rather costly. so then can other models.

If 20k is ALL the money you have then you want to shoot for a MH priced close to half of that so you can do the repairs needed. any motorhome over 10 years old will need a lot of the rubber hoses,belts and seals replaced due to age (and will need to be done at about the same interval again)

water leaks are another big thing to look for, these are little houses that are being thrashed down the road and leaks are common. in fact  I would almost be so forward to say they all leak. 
repair of water damage can be very costly and difficult. I took a beating on my first rv, I thought I knew a thing or too about what to look for. I was wrong. that tiny little stain near the front window of the class c really ment that I had to replace the whole upper bunk and then all the interior walls and all of the cabinets and most of the floor and the fridge died and and and. I thought I was getting a deal at 3500 for the rig. I spent well over 7k more on material alone just to make the rig usable, doing the work myself and with the help of friends it took a year to make that rig road worthy. I used it one summer and sold it for 2k just so I wouldn't need to throw more money at it.
I was excited too.
On the second one I was much more careful on what to look for and took almost 2 years finding a unit with all the features I now knew I needed and one that was in very good repair for the right price. I still spent another 3 or 4 k above the purchase price changing or upgrading it to make it the way I want.

Good luck and please ask any questions you have first before you buy.
Motorhomes are not the best thing to do first then ask forgiveness for. do your homework and don't let the emotions get the best of you. there will be plenty of time for the joy of ownership after you have bought the rig that is perfect for you.
 

DearMissMermaid

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on the move, USA
I don't think there is one "best" older model.  It all depends on the prior owners and their upkeep. When it comes to used RV's it's really a buyer's market. There are so many used ones for sale all over creation.  Many owners that are selling directly often  price their beloved RV out of sight, then drop the price drastically as the months roll on and reality sets in. So even if you  like one that is overpriced...  keep their contact info...  6 months down the road you might still be shopping and they might have cut the price down to what you can pay.

Look at lots and lots and lots of models, even the ones you can't afford. This will help you come up with your short list of "must haves" and a long list of "wishful haves".  Picture yourself living in it, sleeping, cooking, working, entertaining, whatever your lifestyle is.  Buying an RV is ten times easier than selling one, so be patient and wait until you find one you really like, that you can afford that you can picture yourself living in long term.

I have owned and lived in houses large and small, sailboats, apartments, mobile homes and now a 1994 28 foot Class C motorhome for the past 3 years.

I am having a blast!  Doubtful I will ever own a large house again, I love the simplicity of my little old RV. I am mindful that my clothes don't exceed the storage allotted.  If new clothes come in the door, then old ones go out the door.  I don't collect up useless junk but I have outfitted my kitchen for cooking at home as in my case, eliminating dining out puts a lot of gas in my tank.

The first year I managed to travel to 17 states, but this past year or so, I've limited myself to mostly the southeast, just soaking up what's available in this given area.  Eventually I will travel far and wide again, but for now I am finding plenty of beauty and nature all around me.

I alternate between traveling, workamping and working part time for money.  I love the idea of owning my own home and renting or borrowing the land. Workamping has afforded me some adventures of living in beautiful places while working part time in exchange for rent and utilities.

I paid cash for my RV, as money comes available I make repairs and upgrades to make my home more comfy and cozy to my liking.  I try to keep all the systems working and the engine and generator functioning nicely.  I seem to be perpetually behind on everything, but eventually most of it gets done.

Go look at LOTS of RV's in all shapes and sizes, work on your budget to figure out where you will camp or live in it, how much driving and gas and so on. You always have to be setting aside money for future maintenance if you are going to have any fun in it.

But after 3 years, if you divide my costs  of owning my used RV against current rental rates for housing, I have made out like a bandit and been able to live in the places that appeal to me which are not the big cities, but rather places set in the heart of natural beauty.

It's not a lifestyle for everyone, many fulltime RV folks spend 10 times per month what I spend, but I needed a place to recuperate on a small efficient budget and this has worked out beautifully for me.
 

dazzlecat

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Joined
Oct 28, 2012
Posts
11
Hello everyone and thanks for the advice. Everything you just said is what I need to hear. I am just starting to learn about RVs, the pros/cons, the good/bad, etc.

So far I think I've narrowed it down to the Class C RVs. If my information is correct, those can be worked on by a regular mechanic while Class As need an RV specialist. My brother is a mechanic so he will be able to help me out a lot if I go with a Class C.

I plan to spend summers in S.D. and Kansas, and winters in Texas on a spot of land that is asking people to come help build a community. So I think I will be able to keep daily living costs fairly low.

Haven't thought out the bathroom thing yet. I am very interested in those alternative toilets - like the incinerator toilets  but will need to research and price those.

I am worried a bit now though, it sort of sounds like RVs break down all the time. Or am I just reading into what the replies here have said.

As for saving money, i know I will save way more money living in an RV then I am spending on my house right now. Just heating this place during the 5 months of freezing winters in MN is a huge expense. And i just spent $800 on a garage door, for pete sakes. So, anything is going to be better than this. Plus I want a different life. And living in an RV is about as different as it gets from what I've been doing.

I've got two years to research and find what I want. That's my goal anyway - two years from now I want to quit my job and head south.

Thanks!

 

1275gtsport

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New Brunswick
dazzlecat said:
So far I think I've narrowed it down to the Class C RVs. If my information is correct, those can be worked on by a regular mechanic while Class As need an RV specialist. My brother is a mechanic so he will be able to help me out a lot if I go with a Class C.

A Gas engine is a gas engine whether it is in a class c or a class a. The only time you need a special mechanic would be for diesel engines. You may have to go to a truck place so they have a large enough place to put the rig into. Your brother should be able to help even if he has to work in the yard.

dazzlecat said:
I am worried a bit now though, it sort of sounds like RVs break down all the time. Or am I just reading into what the replies here have said.

They don't brake down all the time I was able to put 2000 miles on mine this summer and was able to get home on each trip (had a few things that needed to be repaired but not stranded on the road.) there is a fellow the is from BC Canada that has been on the road since Aug and has now covered over 15k miles in a 1978 GMC the same as mine.

dazzlecat said:
I've got two years to research and find what I want. That's my goal anyway - two years from now I want to quit my job and head south.

I may have been a bit negative because I was concerned that you were going to fly into Motorhome ownership blind with a unrealistic belief that it was free and easy. Now that we know you have plenty of time listen to missmermaid (and read her blog it is very good, not to mention her book either) go see TONS of different RV's and don't rule out the smaller class A they are not harder to drive. My first was a 22 foot Class C and the GMC is 26 feet it handles better on the road and really other then the 4 more feet to park it in not alot different. When it comes to living in a motorhome it comes down to the LAYOUT that works for YOU.

Edit: fixed quotes  -scottydl
 

dazzlecat

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Joined
Oct 28, 2012
Posts
11
1275gtsport said:
A Gas engine is a gas engine whether it is in a class c or a class a. The only time you need a special mechanic would be for diesel engines. You may have to go to a truck place so they have a large enough place to put the rig into. Your brother should be able to help even if he has to work in the yard.

Great! So I don't need to rule out Class A RVs. thats good cuz I've seen some people who are posting that they are easier to live in full time, just more room. Although I do like the little cab bed in the Class Cs. So cute.

1275gtsport said:
They don't brake down all the time I was able to put 2000 miles on mine this summer and was able to get home on each trip (had a few things that needed to be repaired but not stranded on the road.) there is a fellow the is from BC Canada that has been on the road since Aug and has now covered over 15k miles in a 1978 GMC the same as mine.

I'm glad to hear that. I was getting a bit concerned. Mostly I want something to live in once I get down to texas. I want to try living in an intentional community and they accept RVers. 

1275gtsport said:
I may have been a bit negative because I was concerned that you were going to fly into Motorhome ownership blind with a unrealistic belief that it was free and easy. Now that we know you have plenty of time listen to missmermaid (and read her blog it is very good, not to mention her book either) go see TONS of different RV's and don't rule out the smaller class A they are not harder to drive. My first was a 22 foot Class C and the GMC is 26 feet it handles better on the road and really other then the 4 more feet to park it in not alot different. When it comes to living in a motorhome it comes down to the LAYOUT that works for YOU.

I never do anything without putting serious thought and research into it. sometimes I do overkill. But thanks for the concern.

I also just realized too that I need to haul my scooter as well. I see they now have SURVs available. don't know if i'll find any of those used, them seem pretty new to the market. Anyway I've got lots of time. thanks!


Edit: fixed quotes  -scottydl
 

scottydl

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dazzlecat said:
I am worried a bit now though, it sort of sounds like RVs break down all the time. Or am I just reading into what the replies here have said.

Not ALL the time... ;)  But there are a whole lot of house+vehicle parts crowded into a fairly small space with RV's.  They certainly need maintenance and you should plan/budget for repairs, and your eventual familiarity with your own rig will save you a lot of headaches and trips to the shop.

dazzlecat said:
As for saving money, i know I will save way more money living in an RV then I am spending on my house right now. Just heating this place during the 5 months of freezing winters in MN is a huge expense. And i just spent $800 on a garage door, for pete sakes.  So, anything is going to be better than this.

New garage door aside, have you considered downsizing the stick house and moving into something smaller now?  It sounds like you'd probably shed a whole lot of mortgage debt and monthly expenses, and make you life much easier for the next couple years until you kick off the RV lifestyle.

dazzlecat said:
I've got two years to research and find what I want.

That's a great time frame to learn all you can and check out LOTS of RV's to find exactly what will meet your needs.  And right here on the forums is a great place to ask questions and read our massive archive of RV-related topics.  ;)  Welcome to the forum!
 

Gary RV_Wizard

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I am worried a bit now though, it sort of sounds like RVs break down all the time.

The "house" part of an RV breaks down more often than a site-built house or apartment, simply because it is bouncing down the road and often left without heat or a/c, so it suffers more from moisture and temperature swings. They aren't broken all the time, but you will probably have more routine repairs than you are accustomed to at home.

Just heating this place during the 5 months of freezing winters in MN is a huge expense.

Heating and cooling an RV is expensive too, but if you travel to a more favorable climate you can probably save.
 

dazzlecat

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Joined
Oct 28, 2012
Posts
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scottydl said:
New garage door aside, have you considered downsizing the stick house and moving into something smaller now?  It sounds like you'd probably shed a whole lot of mortgage debt and monthly expenses, and make you life much easier for the next couple years until you kick off the RV lifestyle.

I just remortgaged my house last year and have saved lots of money that way. I also already have a fairly small house (compared to the average american house 2500 sf) - mine is about 1600. part of it is also a studio apartment that i rent out. so its not like i'm living in a mcmansion but its still too big for me. i never use the dining room or the basement.

i am learning lots about the Small House Movement and think that is the lifestyle for me. Getting an RV would be an in between from leaving my house to getting a Tiny Texas House built in 4 or 5 years. http://tinytexashouses.com (hope its ok to post a link to the site). As a single woman in my 50s I am worried about being a homeless bag lady in my old age. And even if SS is still around I know it won't be enough to cover my current living expenses. I want to move down there and learn how to salvage old barns and houses and use the materials to build tiny houses. That sounds like so much fun. something very different from my sit on my butt and stare at a computer all day job. I've always been into finding old stuff and fixing it up. I am just ready for a totally new life.

scottydl said:
That's a great time frame to learn all you can and check out LOTS of RV's to find exactly what will meet your needs.  And right here on the forums is a great place to ask questions and read our massive archive of RV-related topics.  ;)  Welcome to the forum!

Yes, i've been having fun looking at the different makes and layouts of the Class C RVs. I am so glad I found this place. I'm learning so much by just reading backposts. 

I am just curious - how much does it cost to heat or cool a midsized RV? is it in the 100s per month?

Thanks for all the great advice.
 

scottydl

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dazzlecat said:
I am just curious - how much does it cost to heat or cool a midsized RV? is it in the 100s per month?

There are many factors that would affect out-of-pocket costs.  Heat can be run from propane (RV furnace) or electric (space heater(s) inside the rig) which would differ in price.  A/C is all electric, but then it depends on where you are parked.  Some campgrounds give you all the free power you can use including in your nightly rate, or maybe charge a $1-2 daily fee for A/C use.  Others designed for fulltimers often have a power meter attached to each site and charge you actual usage.  Then of course the outside temperature will greatly affect the system usage and cost month-to-month. 

You might want to post that question in the Fulltiming section (or search that subforum for the same question that someone has probably asked before), since that's what you plan on doing and those folks have the most experience in RV utility costs.
 

dazzlecat

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Oct 28, 2012
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scottydl said:
You might want to post that question in the Fulltiming section (or search that subforum for the same question that someone has probably asked before), since that's what you plan on doing that those folks have the most experience in RV utility costs.

Thanks, I will do that!  ;D
 

jmugs

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Nov 4, 2012
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On the road
Hi and welcome  8)
We moved into our 27' class A in late July. In August, during 100+ weather we ran about 1/2 the electric as last year same month in a 1 bdrm apt (our downsize place).

We currently rent a fenced 1/3 acre with full hook-ups for $200/mo. We're a short drive out of town and there is plenty of shopping right down the road. We have cut our expenses greatly....happy as can be.

------------------------------------
27' Gulf Stream Classic class A
Wintering in Sahuarita/Green Valley, Az.
 

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