RV Buyers Guide
Recreational Vehicle Buyers Guide
by Jason Odom
Records - If you're buying from an RV dealer and they
can't produce something - you've got problems - possibly
serious ones. If not, he'd be proudly displaying the records.
There should at least be receipts for repairs, service
work, and possibly old owners manuals.
See http://busforsaleguide.com/rv_types.htm for the advantages
and disadvantages of each major class of recreational
vehicle on the market.
Body Leaks -Other than structural rust, I know of no other
exterior related problem that will cost you as much money
and cause you as many headaches as exterior body leaks.
Body leaks are among the most difficult to fix if the
body design is less than first rate. Front facing windows
on many Class C's are nearly impossible to stop leaking
due to flexing and stress.
I have been incredibly pleased with the purchase of my
1993 Class A. However, the wood over skeleton frame roofs
like the type Georgie Boy used in this coach has begun
to sag between the support tubes or "skeleton".
The weight of air-conditioners, vents, my roof mounted
kayaks, and walking up there to fix seams, has permanently
created "ponding" issues. Price quote from my
very trusted and competent local RV service center was
$4,200 to rebuild my entire roof.
Ponding is water sitting on the roof when the coach is
level. When this happens you have increased chances of
leaks, bugs, slime and algae growth, and dirty water run
off when you drive somewhere. Rounded formed fiberglass
roofs are the very best but only appear on the newer coaches
that were out of my price range.
I have seen $30,000 to $60,000 coaches nearly ruined by
leaks that went unchecked. Be especially cautious if you
see ANY delamination of the side wall. I have never seen
the permanent damage fixed for less than $4,000 and that
is WITHOUT a guarantee that it won't happen again. This
is usually caused by poor roof and seam design.
Nearly everyone underestimates how serious this is. I
know I almost bought one. Couldn't figure out why a great
looking Santara diesel pusher would only cost $24,000.
Then I walked around to the drivers side and saw the fiberglass
body delaminating. I didn't think it looked too expensive
to repair. I figured caulk the seam and just screw the
panel back tighter to the frame. Of course the salesman
WRONG! People do not realize especially in older coaches
that the WOOD (yes I said the WOOD) that is under the
fiberglass skin does offer quite a bit of the stability,
and rigidity of the exterior. Once it gets wet for a prolonged
period of time it rots, breaks down, and becomes heavy
enough to cause the entire skeleton to sag. Windows no
longer fit right, seams pop open worse, storage doors
underneath stick, and on and on. Do NOT buy an RV with
this problem. It can cost as much as $13,000 to fix (highest
horror story I have read about on the RV chat logs thus
Body integrity is one of the more important advantages
that the big solidly constructed bus conversions have
over 95% of the factory built RV's in use. Do NOT purchase
an RV that has signs of leaking without a thorough plan
for paying for and fixing the problem. Otherwise, I can
assure you, it will destroy your experience and investment
in a short time.
Mechanical Leaks - Look for ANY signs of leaks, particularly
from Automatic Transmissions. Some Allison transmissions
used in diesel motor homes have wimpy front seals and
leak constantly when the transmission gets too hot. Don't
buy an RV with a leaky transmission. A replacement Allison
can cost $3,000 parts and labor to replace. Leaking brake
components or hydraulic systems can be expensive to repair
Leaky radiators can be expensive to repair or replace
on larger coaches especially if the labor to pull them
involves pulling a lot of other items. Same goes for leaky
dash air-conditioning systems.
Body Style - Check out the visibility differences. The
entrance door positions vary as well. The rear pusher
buses offer a quieter ride. Fifth Wheels usually do not
have flat foors inside and almost universally offer the
Transmissions - Get an automatic unless you really like
the absolute control of a standard and never intend to
resell it. Standard shifts are MUCH harder to sell as
conversions because retirees are the most common motor
home buyers and they don't like to shift. Allison makes
the best transmission systems in the world. Many older
gas RV's were mated to inferior transmissions that just
cannot handle the extra weight and pull issue.
Some RV's have engine/transmission setups that are so
underpowered you will never be able to afford to use them.
These transmissions are forever blowing seals, leaking,
overheating, and breaking down. Buy a replacement transmission
and guess what? Your only option may be a rebuilt version
of the problematic transmission you already own.
Engine - If you are going to be traveling through mountainous
areas regularly get the biggest engine you can afford.
There is NO substitute for size (raw cubic inches) I don't
care what the ads say. My car has a 440 in it. Why would
you buy a 34' RV with a 318 in it? Check carefully how
many miles on the engine or since the engine rebuild.
Gas engines last about 60 -100,000 miles, depending on
whether they are driven stop and go in the mountains or
over long stretches of flat highway. Diesels can often
approach 200,000 miles before needing much of anything
with proper maintenance.
If economy is a major concern, look for a good affordable
coach with a great miserly engine/transmission combination.
I bought such a coach with a Cummins 190 HP 6 cylinder
diesel engine mated to an Allison 4 speed automatic transmission.
Over the course of our 31 day, 7,980 mile trip, in mixed
traffic, tough mountain and city driving, we averaged
10.6 MPG in our 34 foot fully loaded class A liveaboard
coach with 4 people and 2 kayaks.
NOTE: After evaluating the information above on SPECIFIC
issues related to this particular platform you may find
the prepurchase checklist found at http://busforsaleguide.com/bus_prepurchase_checklist.htm
helpful. It covers GENERAL issues you should be aware
of for ALL platforms. It will serve as a very valuable
resource to assist you in evaluating a bus, motor home,
or RV for purchase. Take a copy of it with you when shopping.
About the Author
Jason Odom wrote http://busforsaleguide.com as a complete
website full of bus and Rv buying information including
the advantages and disadvantages of each type, make and
model. Jason Odom has 14 Years in the business of assisting
people in finding the Bus or RV that meets their needs.