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 > Buying A Used Motorhome Some Thoughts For First Time Buyers

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On The Road

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Posted: 08/12/04 01:11pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Buying A Used Motorhome Updated 3/11/2006

Ok folks here is a start, I know that there is a lot of insight and experience out there so please post constructive suggestions so that we may have a comprehensive reference for those that are shopping for a used coach...

There are several good reasons to buy used, one of course is that the big depreciation has already occurred and used often represent best value for the dollar.., It is also possible that the coach has some or all of the new coach maladies taken care of.. The other side of the coin is that you do not want to inherit some one else's headache...

One of the first things to weigh in on is what trade off you will want to make on the age versus opting for a higher end model but older Motorhome..

Finding a coach that is a good match for your requirements and pocket book is not the biggest challenge. The big challenge is determining if the coach will deliver to your expectations.

One last thing about buying used.. spend some time focused on what your recourse is if the coach has hidden defects... Get any verbal promises in writing.

Buying used still requires balancing financial considerations with requirements and preferences as is discussed in this Thread In fact I would look on this post as an addendum to the other... Try to limit your compromising to matching your pocketbook and requirements not on the coaches you select from....Limiting your search to what is conveniently available locally may be expedient but the more broader you extend your search the more likely you are to find exactly what you are looking for......Regardless of how much you end up spending the amount will not be insignificant..

You would be well served to do some research on availability and the market price of where your interests take you... While not as straight forward as buying new it is possible to arrive at a pretty fair estimate of what to consider paying for the type of coach that interests you.. Prior to looking for a pre owned Motorhome it is still a good idea to nail down most of the same issues as you would if your buying new... .. Doing some research prior to actually shopping will give to the best chance of getting the Motorhome is the best match to your pocket book and requirements...

Buying off the internet
There are basically three types of sellers, established brick and mortar dealers that use the internet as a marketing channel, individuals, and EBay only dealers. In the case of the latter caution is strongly advised. We have had instances of eBay only sellers get on the forum and basically hype a unit for sale, basically these are shills, there is no reason not to expect that the bidding will also have shills at work bumping up the prices. Here is a thread with additional comments Buying From eBay

Looking for used coaches on the internet will give you a wider selection than just shopping locally. You will also get a good sense for the range of asking prices. While the process is more convoluted via the internet, fax and phone you should be able to ascertain the condition via pictures and written descriptions. All expectations relative to condition and features and options should be reduced to writing as part of the agreement to purchase with the caveat that you reserve the right to have the coach inspected by an independent source and that your deposit is fully refundable should the coach not pass inspection or if there are inconsistencies between the written expectations and the coach.

What to pay

There are a number of factors that will affect what the best price will be.. Age, condition, features, and availability. You can do searches on RVTRADERand RVSEARCH to get a good approximation of what the asking price band will be.. You can also go to the NADA site and get the Low Retail, and Avg. Retail prices... From what I have been able to determine you can consider the asking prices on listed units as equivalent to MSRP, the same is to be said for the Avg price shown on the NADA site. The low retail price shown would be equivalent to the discounted or what the market value would be... The whole sale and trade in value is measurably lower. . If there is anything that will require expenditures to restore the unit to pristine condition that should be deducted from the Low retail price as listed in NADA.

When using the NADA site it is appropriate to add in the optional extras, the dilemma is knowing what was optional and what was including as standard when the unit was sold as new... I recommend being conservative when adding the options onto the base price...

A more indepth discussion on How To Determine The Fair Market Value of A Used Motorhome

Check for any RECALLS or Technical Service Bulletins

*****You will want to insure that the coach you are buying has had the recalls and Technical Service Bulletins performed.*****

Inspecting what you expect

Not doing a comprehensive and thorough inspection is not a guarantee that you will buy a bad coach. Conversely doing a comprehensive and thorough inspection will not be an absolute guarantee that you will buy a trouble free coach... But the odds increase in your favor the more comprehensive and thorough the inspection is...

The inspection process for a used coach needs to be much more comprehensive and thorough than buying a new coach.. You have to do all the things you would be normally doing for a new coach such as insuring everything works.. But in the case of a used coach you have to understand and calibrate the effect of use and time and understand the maintenance history as well.. A checklist and a note pad to record observations during the inspection process will insure that the inspection is thorough, systematic and that you will not lose track of what you find..

There are multiple areas that will need to be inspected.. The chassis and running gear including tires, suspension components, the house itself focusing on general condition, all of the added components such as air conditioners, refrigerator, heating, hot water heater leveling system and the like. Another area to be looked at as well would be the generator, batteries, and inverter/converter if applicable. Unless you feel comfortable as to your qualifications to perform a thorough inspection then you might want to get some help either in the form of a knowledgeable friend or hire a professional to do the inspection...

You will need to inspect the wear components such as brakes and tires and the life span components such as shocks, suspension components, hoses, belts, seals, batteries and tires.

If the coach has not been in continual usage there will be the added potential of problems with dry rot and compromised components relative to fuel delivery.. Particularly with gasoline engines... varnish can form in as little as 30 days of disuse of proper precautions have not been taken.

You will also want to post questions and do searches to gain insight to any of the particular high probability areas of concerns that are unique or specific to makes and model years.

Starting with the house, you will want to look for any signs of water leakage, delaminating, as well as roof condition and integrity. The doors ( including bay doors) should be inspected that they open and shut easily and securely, and that all the locking mechanism work. Windows seals should be inspected and in the case of dual pane window that the inner seal has not failed, any cloudiness is a red flag. You will want to insure that all awnings are in good repair by opening and stowing taking note of any signs of wear.. Awing should open and close easily, excessive sloppiness is another red flag.

You will also want to insure that all cabinet doors and drawers will open and securely latch when closed. Check the alignment of interior doors.. Then if equipped level the coach and note any changes especially in the alignment of interior doors including the shower door. Significant changes when leveled should be a concern.

Inspect the batteries for signs of bulging or corrosion.

Inspect for evidence of routine maintenance

Focus on know problem areas such as the auto brake if so equipped

Diesel cooling system test for sign of electrolysis

Air bags look for dry rot and signs of leakage

Look for signs of dry rot on belts and hoses

Run generator under load for a period of time difficulty in starting and surging is a red flag

Make sure that the refrigerator operates and will cool in all modes

Check the outlet temperatures of the dash and roof air conditioner

If the unit is equipped with slides in addition to insuring that they will extend and retract check the alignment of the slide with the side of the coach when fully retracted.. Slider problems are often preceded by signs of miss alignment. when retracted the slide should look the same in reference to the coach opening on all four corners. While your at it learn how and then do the manual retract operation...

Insure that the hot water and furnace are operating properly

If possible get the coach weighed and match that against the GVWR rating to understand what your CCC will be.

One last area to think about has to do with documentation such as Owners manuals wiring and plumbing schematics and diagrams... Make sure you get them...You will need them... Try to get as thorough understanding as you can about where things are... Have the person you are buying from demonstrate or explain dumping procedures, water system, winterizing... Knowing where all the fuses, switches, valves are located and what they do... may save you some headaches ...


* This post was last edited 03/11/06 02:28pm by JohnnyT *   View edit history


NE Ohio

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Posted: 08/12/04 01:40pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

An excellent post JohnnyT; we should save as a reference doc in this forum. I might add that my experiences have taught me to ignore coaches that were not used in the past year... Going by the old adage "Use it or Lose it", I've found lotsa great-looking used coaches that had real headaches because they've sat too long (brakes hanging up, exhaust rotted, unseen roof leaks/rotten wood, etcetra).

'04 BRAVE 34D


Williston, ND, USA

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Posted: 08/12/04 04:44pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Thank you for the excellent posts, I just looked at a used motorhome and really didn't know what to look for. This helped me alot. Timing was great!

Charlee (found my camper)">
2 adventurous girls (5 & 7)
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89 Bronco


Madison, WI usa

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Posted: 08/12/04 06:07pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

thanks......we've done tents, converted school bus, popup, and now class A.....but I printed your post to save if we get the itch to look/buy........thanks again for the time and effort.......dc & zz



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Posted: 08/12/04 06:41pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Thank you so very much. Your efforts are greatly appreciated. Buying used and this has come at just the right time.




Pgh, PA, US

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Posted: 08/17/04 10:16am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Thanks for all the sound advice John. This OLD PARATROOPER (48 yrs young) never thought he'd be back runnin around in the woods but I want my son to experience all the beautiful things mother nature has to offer. Kinda makes ya appreciate the simple things in life more, Hasta la Vista, Baby !!! GO STEELER"S Hey, by the way anyone out there belong to ROARING RUN RESORT here in PA. Look forward to seein ya there.

Happy Trails to You, GO STEELERS!!!
"A Stranger is just a Friend that you haven't met yet"
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Let Us Not Forget"
Rich Nix-(Nixie) Pgh, PA USArmy Retired (1st Infantry-82nd Airborne)
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between here and there

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Posted: 09/13/04 12:58pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Having just gone through this, I would add:

Go through the motions of throughly cleaning the coach. Look behind stuff, under things, where the sun never shines. You might be surprised, and possibly dismayed, at what you find.

Unfortunately I learned this by truly cleaning a used MH AFTER I bought it.



norfolk, nebr, usa

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Posted: 09/28/04 08:48pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

what you need to look at is how tall the mh is and does it have duals on back and how wide it is , i drive a bus school and greyhound type , school bus are dp and not as tall as coach bus, wind is stronger on the larger coach buses , more space to be pushed around. we have lots of wind on the plains and you get used to driving in strong winds and adverse weather conditions.


Tampa, Florida USA

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Posted: 08/26/04 10:19am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Just absolutely awesome insights Johnny. I agree with what someone said that these articles should be kept in a separate forum for reference only. This would be helpful in that you wouldn't have to "weed" through a lot of individual replies if you don't have the time.

One additional thought would be: for a given budget, should one look at an older diesel or a newer gas rig. What are the Pro's and Con's?


Discovery Bay, CA USA

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Posted: 09/13/04 12:26pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

hope this isn't to late a response.
I have a 1999 Dolphin 5370 (Gas) and can tell you that this truck is a great driving Motorhome. Now the Tradewind Model 7390 would be heavier since it's 2' longer and a Diesel.

I looked at all of the National Products Tradewinds, Tropical, Dolphin and Seabreeze. All of these coaches are basicly the same.
Tradewinds being the top of the line and Seabreeze being the entry level. You can get the Tropical in both Diesel or Gas depending on the Model Year.

Pay attention to the advise about how much room do you have when the slides are in. My model is fully usable with the slide in. ( I don't have a bedroom slide) Can you get to the Closet when the slide is in (without crawling over the bed).

Can you get into the bar cabinet with the slide in? Can you use the Coach as a bed with the slide in?

I chose Gas over Diesel because of cost. Initial and upkeep. Price an oilchange for both. and now that Diesel fuel cost more then Regular, I'm glad a got Gas.


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