Looking at buying 1992 Damon Challenger - Need guidance

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Todd&Donna

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Madison WI
My wife & I are looking at buying a used MH - 1992 Damon Challenger - the price is $5200.
The MH has the Chevy engine with 58,000 miles on it.

It's about 5 1/2 hours away from us, so we're not looking at making multiple trips to check it out.

Any advice or guidance you could offer about checking it out, about the price, about anything else we should keep in mind would be most appreciated!!!!!
 

Ex-Calif

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Welcome aboard! Might help to know the length of the RV or model number.

I bought mine used last year and like this one is pretty old. You can probably expect almost everything rubber in the engine will need to be serviced or replaced for reliability. I had to rebuild my front suspension, shocks, stabilizers and air bags.

The interior can be hit or miss. Mine was slightly used and I would call in in "great shape" for it's age. The décor is "dated" but livable for now. It will likely have all incandescent lighting. The PO before me went on an upgrade tear and got most of the lights changed out. I have a couple left to do. Mine still needs all new window shades and I have decided to remove all the valances rather than rebuild them with modern colors.

The RV systems will also be hit or miss - water heaters and furnaces are susceptible to rust and dirt regardless of use. Not only can that make the units less reliable, the dirt can cause weird electrical problems.

Probably the toughest thing is if someone has messed with the electrics. In 45 years of wrenching I find that only 10% of mechanics out there understand DC electrics. As a result electrical systems can be completely messed up and bodged together. DC connections are also highly susceptible to dirt and corrosion which causes numerous problems.

All that to say that buying an old RV can cost many many thousands to repair and maintain. I am a lifelong wrench and nothing on an RV is daunting to me. If you can't fix stuff (like a lot of stuff) yourself you could get very frustrated at the high costs of maintaining a really old RV.

I've put over $4,000 in my RV and I've done all the work myself except change 2 front tires and the wheel alignment. Probably $8-$10k of shop work.
 

Todd&Donna

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Madison WI
I believe its a 33ft. I will try to get the model # as well.
The current owner says it runs well, that he's put new tires on it, new fridge.

We aren't really mechanically skillful.... Any advice for how to check it out when we get there?

Does the price seem reasonable to you?
 

Ex-Calif

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Well - The price in y gut seems low. That may not be a bad thing. I basically stole mine because the couple got tired of staring at it and it hadn't been used in like 5 years.

There are some standard things

First is that the layout must be right for you. There are things to consider like how it will be used. Two people regularly is pretty flexible. 4 people regularly is another thing, 4 people occasionally is also different. Sit in there and imagine being stuck inside for rain for 4 days. Are you gonna go crazy or are there different areas to sit - couch vs. dinette for example.

The galley will be a lot tighter than cooking in a house. There is usually limited counter space. OTOH RV cooking tends to be simpler (maybe) - is it workable for you and yours.

Second is water damage. That age I expect some weeping to be inevitable. Mine has a soft spot (recently discovered) near the base of the shower. I don't think it's leaking. I think it is 25 years of water splashing from the shower and getting past the floor tiles. I also have one soft wall near the door/dinnette. So, press your toes into corners near the vanity and shower. push on the walls (usually near the top).

But bottom line for me - any repaired damage to the roof would likely be a deal breaker. The most common places for RVs to get hit are the top corners - backing in and out of shaded areas and hitting overhead stuff. Some may accept that in an older RV. Another thing is how long you expect to own it - If you only plan to have it 5 years minor water damage may not progress much especially if repaired.

The next "big ticket" items for me are the engine and tranny. It definitely should be driveable. No smoke, grinding, stalling etc. etc. To me on an old vehicle if the engine or tranny goes the vehicle is basically headed to the bone yard. A big block 1990's engine replacement is expensive.

RVs tend not to have rust problems even in the rust belt because they usually are stored in the salt season but I always look at the underbody anyway.

The thing is you are buying a "bus" and you are buying a house. To give you an idea of things (my ballpark guess) A/C unit $2,000, Water heater $700, Refrigerator $900-$1500. Furnace $2000. Tires (assuming 6 replacements) $1800 plus install/labor/alignment. RV shop labor rates have been reported around here in the $100-$150 an hour range. About double that of a car shop.

There is something to be said about an old trailer vs. an old RV. With a trailer your are buying a house on wheels. You can always replace the "motorized" side of things with a new truck or tow vehicle...
 

Todd&Donna

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Joined
Feb 12, 2021
Posts
22
Location
Madison WI
Welcome aboard! Might help to know the length of the RV or model number.

I bought mine used last year and like this one is pretty old. You can probably expect almost everything rubber in the engine will need to be serviced or replaced for reliability. I had to rebuild my front suspension, shocks, stabilizers and air bags.

The interior can be hit or miss. Mine was slightly used and I would call in in "great shape" for it's age. The décor is "dated" but livable for now. It will likely have all incandescent lighting. The PO before me went on an upgrade tear and got most of the lights changed out. I have a couple left to do. Mine still needs all new window shades and I have decided to remove all the valances rather than rebuild them with modern colors.

The RV systems will also be hit or miss - water heaters and furnaces are susceptible to rust and dirt regardless of use. Not only can that make the units less reliable, the dirt can cause weird electrical problems.

Probably the toughest thing is if someone has messed with the electrics. In 45 years of wrenching I find that only 10% of mechanics out there understand DC electrics. As a result electrical systems can be completely messed up and bodged together. DC connections are also highly susceptible to dirt and corrosion which causes numerous problems.

All that to say that buying an old RV can cost many many thousands to repair and maintain. I am a lifelong wrench and nothing on an RV is daunting to me. If you can't fix stuff (like a lot of stuff) yourself you could get very frustrated at the high costs of maintaining a really old RV.

I've put over $4,000 in my RV and I've done all the work myself except change 2 front tires and the wheel alignment. Probably $8-$10k of shop work.

Well - The price in y gut seems low. That may not be a bad thing. I basically stole mine because the couple got tired of staring at it and it hadn't been used in like 5 years.

There are some standard things

First is that the layout must be right for you. There are things to consider like how it will be used. Two people regularly is pretty flexible. 4 people regularly is another thing, 4 people occasionally is also different. Sit in there and imagine being stuck inside for rain for 4 days. Are you gonna go crazy or are there different areas to sit - couch vs. dinette for example.

The galley will be a lot tighter than cooking in a house. There is usually limited counter space. OTOH RV cooking tends to be simpler (maybe) - is it workable for you and yours.

Second is water damage. That age I expect some weeping to be inevitable. Mine has a soft spot (recently discovered) near the base of the shower. I don't think it's leaking. I think it is 25 years of water splashing from the shower and getting past the floor tiles. I also have one soft wall near the door/dinnette. So, press your toes into corners near the vanity and shower. push on the walls (usually near the top).

But bottom line for me - any repaired damage to the roof would likely be a deal breaker. The most common places for RVs to get hit are the top corners - backing in and out of shaded areas and hitting overhead stuff. Some may accept that in an older RV. Another thing is how long you expect to own it - If you only plan to have it 5 years minor water damage may not progress much especially if repaired.

The next "big ticket" items for me are the engine and tranny. It definitely should be driveable. No smoke, grinding, stalling etc. etc. To me on an old vehicle if the engine or tranny goes the vehicle is basically headed to the bone yard. A big block 1990's engine replacement is expensive.

RVs tend not to have rust problems even in the rust belt because they usually are stored in the salt season but I always look at the underbody anyway.

The thing is you are buying a "bus" and you are buying a house. To give you an idea of things (my ballpark guess) A/C unit $2,000, Water heater $700, Refrigerator $900-$1500. Furnace $2000. Tires (assuming 6 replacements) $1800 plus install/labor/alignment. RV shop labor rates have been reported around here in the $100-$150 an hour range. About double that of a car shop.

There is something to be said about an old trailer vs. an old RV. With a trailer your are buying a house on wheels. You can always replace the "motorized" side of things with a new truck or tow vehicle...
Thanks so much..... All good info!
My wife has experience living in a 27 ft pull behind and a Class C, so not so worried about that aspect.

You've given us some really good guidance!
 

Todd&Donna

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Madison WI
Here's the ad with the pics of the MH
 

Gary RV_Wizard

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Be aware that the photos are nearly always more flattering than the real thing. And owners are too often ignorant of actual condition and some will outright lie or evade. The photos look about what I would expect from a 29 year-old coach - a bit tired. I see cosmetic defects on the exterior and wear inside, so the amount of care it has had is average at best and maybe not even that. Low mileage is common on motorhomes, but doesn't mean it's in great condition. The roof looks black and maybe worn (I can only see a small area), and the condition of the caulking (seams and around openings) is an unknown. Roof caulking defects are the major source of water leaks.

Tires and batteries are major expense items and usually poor on an old, cheap RV. A 7-10 year old tire is a time bomb even if it has good tread and looks ok. Batteries can show adequate voltage but lack stamina (amp-hours of use). 6 big tires and 3-5 large batteries can put a huge dent in your budget.

Engine and transmission are big ticket items but you can usually quickly assess whether they are in working condition or not. What is harder to guess is if they have any imminent failures. Even a mechanic can have a tough time predicting that. Clean oil & tranny fluid is a positive indicator. So is the availability of service records.

Much of what you need to worry about is the same as buying a house. Look for leaks inside & out, soft spots in floors, ceiling & walls, condition of appliances and plumbing/electric systems, etc. Furniture wear & tear should be obvious, and cabinets too. Check them all closely, though.

The price is in line with what an old & tired coach is worth, assuming no major flaws. If in nice clean condition it would bring $12k-$15k, but worn & tired is more like $5k-$9k. Personally I'd rather spend more to find a real jewel, but it usually takes a lot of searching and some luck. In any case, have another $2.5k-$5k in reserve for first year repairs. BTW, you will be shocked at RV shop repair costs. They get $120-$160 per hour and aren't bashful about the labor hours they claim. And they tend to throw expensive new parts at everything rather than fix or adjust. Quality of work is often dismal as well.
 
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Ex-Calif

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Definitely worth a look. Other than a couple of minor tweaks it would be the twin sibling of mine. I have the exact same layout. Shower is a slightly different shape and, my head is mounted directly for-aft.

Even the driver seats seem to be the same color - LOL...

Is there a generator in the back?
 

Todd&Donna

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Madison WI
Definitely worth a look. Other than a couple of minor tweaks it would be the twin sibling of mine. I have the exact same layout. Shower is a slightly different shape and, my head is mounted directly for-aft.

Even the driver seats seem to be the same color - LOL...

Is there a generator in the back?
There is a generator.... The guy did say it has to be primed to start - something about "less than a half tank of gas" making it need to be primed that I didn't quite follow...
 

Ex-Calif

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Generators (IMO) are notoriously neglected items that are extremely simple to take care of. Mine would not start reliably when I got it. New spark plugs and wires, new air filter, an oil change, a can of carb cleaner and I adjusted the mixture.

Most generators will cut off when the RV tank gets below a third to avoid running the RV dry while camping. Shouldn't affect ease of starting at all.

Someone here recently reported a generator fire - a really good place to look at the rubber fuel lines and replace them. It's on my to do list before I next try to "remote start" my generator. You can have a fire back there and not know it until it's out of control.

I am even contemplating getting a fire detection system and a remote fuel cut-off for the fuel supply. I've also got half a mind to disable the remote starter and start it while staring at it - LOL...

I am now a full timer. If my RV burns up I am homeless - LOL...
 

Ex-Calif

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I started by looking at 24 foot TTs. I had a specific budget and did not mind doing an interior refit (I've done so on boats). This Class A fell in my lap for stupid low money and I couldn't pass it up.

I have put hundreds of hours of work (and $$$) improving my RV. If the engine blows it is really going to be a tough call to spend several $1,000s of bucks or start over.

For that reason I wish I had a 30-ish foot trailer instead. OTOH - I do like the secure the perimeter, raise the landing gear and drive off aspect of the RV vs. hooking up a trailer. Also with the RV passengers can risk life and limb, unclip and go potty without having to stop every 100 miles - the more folks you have the harder it is to synch up the potty schedules - LOL...

Neither one is bad - they are just different. I am also an SUV guy vs a truck guy and there are only a few SUVs that are really suitable for towing a big trailer.
 
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Todd&Donna

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The guy sent us some more pics - at pur request...
3 or 4 big areas of water stains up on the ceiling.
We know enough to know that betokens likely issues,
so we withdrew our interest in it
 

Ex-Calif

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Yeah - Showing up to look tempts one to say, "Yeah. we can deal with that." - Good call.

My brother is looking for a 22-24 foot TT. Slim pickings up around Dayton.

Having just moved to FL (Spending time in Cocoa and along the east coast) my impression is that every 2 miles is a corner parking lot, an auto repair place or a vacant lot with 5-10 trailers and RVs with for sale signs. I am sure these are not getting advertised. I told my brother to come down, drive HWY from Daytona to Coca and maybe a bit south. Stop in heading south and kick tires. Turn around at the bottom go north and buy the best one you saw. He'd be done in a weekend - LOL...

Oh, every alternate mile is a lot with boats on it - LOL...

Talking to the owner of the park here he said it is common for a retiree to pass and either have heirs unreachable, unknown or not existing and have to get rid of an RV. Or have an heir say, "Here's the signed title. Sell it for what you can as fast as you can and send us a check."

Makes sense that this happens. In fact a gentleman in here just went in hospital. He may not come back - weird...
 

Todd&Donna

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I definitely could have seen us going that way - esp after driving 5 1/2 hours .....
"Oh yeah, we can deal with that."

We've run into lots of "selling this for my parents..... they've gotten too old/sick to drive it anymore but don't know how to post or sell things on the internet"

Also a surprising number with "open titles'" and having passed thru 2 or 3 hands since the title was signed off on.
 

Todd&Donna

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Hey,
Here's the link to another one.
A few years older, but even cheaper and much closer to us......

Any thoughts?
 

Todd&Donna

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The Florida thing makes sense..... so readily available there. Never really thought about that.
Not quite like that here in Wisconsin!
 

Todd&Donna

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I started by looking at 24 foot TTs. I had a specific budget and did not mind doing an interior refit (I've done so on boats). This Class A fell in my lap for stupid low money and I couldn't pass it up.

I have put hundreds of hours of work (and $$$) improving my RV. If the engine blows it is really going to be a tough call to spend several $1,000s of bucks or start over.

For that reason I wish I had a 30-ish foot trailer instead. OTOH - I do like the secure the perimeter, raise the landing gear and drive off aspect of the RV vs. hooking up a trailer. Also with the RV passengers can risk life and limb, unclip and go potty without having to stop every 100 miles - the more folks you have the harder it is to synch up the potty schedules - LOL...

Neither one is bad - they are just different. I am also an SUV guy vs a truck guy and there are only a few SUVs that are really suitable for towing a big trailer.
You really do have us re-thinking the MH v. Truck & trailer question.
We do have 2 vehicles we could even trade for a truck (try to get a truck for around $10k) and then have $8-$10k for a pull behind.

Lots of options, lots of thinking to do
 

TheBar

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MS
Hey,
Here's the link to another one.
A few years older, but even cheaper and much closer to us......

Any thoughts?
This one "looks" better overall. This one did show pictures of the ceiling but the ceiling may have been repainted covering any signs of water damage. If you plan on saving money by living full time in a motorhome or trailer that could be a mistake. All RVs require a lot of maintenance so if you have little experience it could become a money pit. Also they are not well insulated. In your northern climate heating bills could eat up any money you planned on saving.
 

Ex-Calif

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That's a good looking one for the vintage and extremely low miles which could be a good thing or a not great thing.

Some of my absolute best purchases were from grannys and grandpas who "only drove it to church on sundays" - I literally bought a 20 year old car like that for $1500. Had like 23,000 miles on it. My niece is still driving it to college 3 years on. It's in perfect shape.
 
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