purchasing used RV

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purchasing used RV

Postby tatonka » Sat Mar 23, 2013 12:07 pm

Found a 1978 ford 460 with 40,000 miles on it . He just brought up here to Ore from Nevada . He hasnt fiqured out how to start the gen ( Onan ) and the electric part of the fridge dont work , but the propane part does. It has new tires and a new marine deep cycle batt.

What other questions should I ask and things to look . I know about dryed out stuff , with low miles it must have sit awhile.
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Re: purchasing used RV

Postby clocksnmirrors » Sat Mar 23, 2013 12:25 pm

look for leaks: good seal around roof, doors and windows? - look for yourself - don't expect them to tell you if you ask
get a ladder and climb up on top and inspect
look underneath too
look for rust, bad joints or connections, signs of water damage, signs of repair work, frayed wires, taped wires
do all the windows and doors open?
any locked/keyed areas make sure they give you the keys
any mold smells?
any rotted wood? rust?
engine oil leaks?
clean title?
previous accidents or damage?
plumbing check out in potty?
does it take an external electric hookup? if so test it

is the seller anxious to close the deal immediately? are they rushing you? are they pressuring you into saying you're serious about buying?
have they said anything inconsistent with what you see with your eyes?
do you have a gut feeling about the seller?

that's all that comes to mind immediately but i'm sure there's plenty more


good luck and remember: LET THE BUYER BEWARE

i'm telling you this because three days ago i purchased a trailer. i had a couple of warning signs that things were a bit "off" about the seller
i asked twice if there were any leaks. he said no.
i get the trailer home and it rains that first day and what do you know... leaks
i climb up on top and find the shittiest patch job ever. i never would have bought if i had only looked
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Re: purchasing used RV

Postby TomServo » Sat Mar 23, 2013 12:39 pm

Just my personal opinion, but I'd purchase a travel trailer before an RV. My truck's engine, I am familiar with, and plumbing problems won't prevent me from hauling it. The #1 problem with RV's...they have Engines. Towing, should it break down, will most likely put a damper on your burn. If you can find a good mechanic to go over the RV, and it checks out, go for it! I've owned three VW bugs, so am pre programmed to expect the worst...and deal with them.
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Re: purchasing used RV

Postby tatonka » Sat Mar 23, 2013 12:48 pm

thks guys , made a list :)

My Dad gave me a 20 ft trailer , but it needs alot .
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Re: purchasing used RV

Postby TomServo » Sat Mar 23, 2013 12:50 pm

tatonka wrote:thks guys , made a list :)

My Dad gave me a 20 ft trailer , but it needs alot .


Cheap parts, common sense. It will be golden!
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Re: purchasing used RV

Postby Captain Goddammit » Sat Mar 23, 2013 1:36 pm

I wouldn't go on a trip to BM in it without getting the transmission rebuilt, that's the most heavily stressed part of the drivetrain and most motorhomes only get 40k to 60k or so before they fail.
Get the radiator checked by a radiator shop or just put a new one in to be sure, that's the next likely issue with older RVs going on long trips.

Try every switch, system and appliance in the rig. Light the water heater and see if it works, use all the faucets, all the lights, and try the furnace and A/C if it has one.

Older RVs do generally fall apart, they're built really, really shitty - but if they are hanging together well enough, are perfect for the playa. I wouldn't want to take a new nice rig out there!
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Re: purchasing used RV

Postby Jackass » Sat Mar 23, 2013 1:39 pm

Take it on a good drive where you can get a little uphill action. When you get to the top of the climb, jump out and have a look at your fluids and do a visual to see if there is any leaks. If you dont push the engine a little then you wont know how it's going to do under load, and that's what you really need to find out. (Besides all that other stuff) That will be the deal breaker. Take it on that road in your avatar, that'll do the trick!
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Re: purchasing used RV

Postby EspressoDude » Sat Mar 23, 2013 5:39 pm

look at the roof for ANY sign of patching or leaks. water into the house frame will rot the 1 x 2 framing and 1/8" plywood or particle board walls.

1978 is 35 years old..40000 miles at most likely wide open throttle floor boarded. that is really hard on engines, transmissions,trannies..probably ridden hard and put away wet..
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Re: purchasing used RV

Postby tatonka » Sun Mar 24, 2013 9:41 am

going to look at it today , just looking , alot of RV's out there forsale. Trailer is looking better and better tho.
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Re: purchasing used RV

Postby Captain Goddammit » Sun Mar 24, 2013 10:30 am

Trailers are an excellent option, by far the best bang for your buck; I'd have one if I didn't need to pull a big flatbed trailer to carry my M/V.
You can get a bigger, nicer trailer for cheaper than any other type of RV, and you have no extra truck engine, transmission etc. to maintain. (Assuming you already have something to pull it with.)

First of all - get a weight-distributing hitch! Those are the expensive ones with the extra "spring bars" that attach to the trailer tongue a few feet back from the hitch ball. You absolutely need that, the difference in stability on the highway is huge.

You check out a used one the same way as others, try all the appliances, etc. The refrigerator is the only really important one, because RV fridges are very expensive. I once bought an old motorhome I didn't want just because it had a new fridge in it.
If an RV fridge has an ammonia smell, consider it junk; when they start leaking their ammonia, they are not gonna be a cheap fix.
I've seen a lot of used RV sellers claiming the fridge "needs a recharge". They don't know what they're talking about, if you hear that, consider the fridge junk.

Often a perfectly good RV fridge isn't working just because it sat too long and crystals form in the coils on the back. Frequently if you open up the access panel behind and whack the metal tubes with a block of wood a few times, it will start working again.

The rest of the appliances are somewhat important bit not as big a deal and not as expensive to fix. Make sure the water heater doesn't leak, they tend to rust out over time.

About the propane bottles: they are good for 12 years, then they need to be recertified - then every 5 years after that. If the rig is 12 years old or more, look at the date stamped in the bottles, propane refilling stations aren't allowed to fill them unless they're current.

I'd advise against any single-axle trailer because they sway a lot more than two-axle trailers.

Make sure the tires aren't too old, on your way to BRC tread wear isn't what gets you, it's old, cracked, dried-out sidewalls. That's why you see people putting covers or even pieces of plywood over their RV tires when parked.
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Re: purchasing used RV

Postby tatonka » Sun Mar 24, 2013 1:38 pm

it had new tires and new batt , ran good , but was kinda musty inside from sitting up here in Ore for a couple years. Will check out 1 ton trucks and campers also , thks all :)
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Re: purchasing used RV

Postby ranger magnum » Sun Mar 24, 2013 9:39 pm

Theres a place up in Oregon called northwest rv salvage. They are a good source of parts for an older rig.

As for the propane tank being good for only 12 years, I wasnt aware of that. Ive never had any filling station ask for or look for any type of certification.
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Re: purchasing used RV

Postby Drawingablank » Mon Mar 25, 2013 8:34 am

Aside from the stuff mentioned above, watch for sections of floor that feel spongy or bouncy - especially near the walls.

This almost always indicates a leak that has rotted the plywood floor.

I have encountered this on several RV trailers that had no visible signs of leakage (apparently the water ran down inside the walls).
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Re: purchasing used RV

Postby Foxfur » Mon Mar 25, 2013 9:42 am

If the fridge runs fine on propane then you're looking at a cheap AC/DC strip heater . They're peel and stick units in the flue above the propane burner. You can check it with a multimeter. If it's showing infinite resistance (or somewhere in the megohm range), it's bad.
Also, if your door key is a CH751 (look on the bow of the key), have it changed at an RV dealer. Ask for a unique bitting. There are only 6-8 different keys that will open about 75% of RV's and trailers here in the US. When I get a call for an RV lockout, I use my "try key" set and pop 'em open more often than not.
Might be cheaper to install a padlock hasp, especially if you already have a padlock.

On the genset, drop the bowl on the carb and clean thoroughly. Clean the main jet with a few shots of carb cleaner or a very small diameter piece of metal guitar string.
If it's a diesel, check the fuel filter and lift pump.

If the floor has squishy spots, pull up the carpet and replace the spot in the subfloor (or the whole thing) with pressure-treated or marine grade plywood.
Use Sno-roof paintable roof sealer for roof and wall leaks. They have an RV formula but the regular roof flavor works just fine.
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Re: purchasing used RV

Postby zerzura » Mon Mar 25, 2013 11:21 am

Everyone has really good advice, especially Captain Goddammit. I second the trailer over RV idea, as almost everything on it is fixable (except the fridge after a point). And yes, look for warping and sponginess. We bought a more recent toyhauler, and the lesson we learned there was the water intrusion one. Somehow water got inside the walls (which is odd because it does not seem to leak from the roof), so we ended up ripping off the entire side and replacing all the material. Not fun.
Also, the RV tank certification is a real thing, it is a crapshoot whether the station will check the certification and refuse to fill them or not. There is also an older valve to some propane tanks that they will not fill OR re-certify. We lost out on the that crapshoot in Reno last year, so part of our budget this year is replacing several older tanks.
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Re: purchasing used RV

Postby Captain Goddammit » Mon Mar 25, 2013 11:57 am

One other tell-tale of structure rot is countertops that sag or aren't quite straight and level.
In general, motorhomes, campers, and trailers are built really shitty.
I've never paid much for one, nor would I.
That's the reason guys buy school busses and transit or Greyhound type busses to convert. Those are built to last, they don't leak, they aren't made of 1x2 wooden sticks stapled together.

So along with all this other advice, keep in mind that RVs are a horrible investment and unless you can easily afford it, I'd recommend not spending too much on one in the first place. That again makes trailers the best deal, assuming you have or want a stout enough vehicle to tow it comfortably with.
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Re: purchasing used RV

Postby zerzura » Mon Mar 25, 2013 12:26 pm

So true about how terribly built all these things are. We moved on to a true cargo hauler and are fitting that out as a camper ourselves. All aluminum shop cabinets. I feel so much more secure with that hauling all our toys!
We bought our smaller vintage trailer from an estate sale and spent almost nothing. Now that 1972 model which is still going was a good buy. Have to get up at o'dark-thirty though.
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Re: purchasing used RV

Postby tatonka » Sun Mar 31, 2013 10:25 am

ended up gettind a 3/4 ton ford and now looking for a camper , and there are plenty. The Rv would be ok but not used much , I needed a truck anyway :) thks all
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Re: purchasing used RV

Postby Captain Goddammit » Sun Mar 31, 2013 1:39 pm

I'm gonna post a ton of truck-camper stuff...
First: the 3/4 ton will haul a camper, but after years and years of that I gotta say, there's a one-ton dually in your future if you carry a camper much. The difference in how it drives is night and day.
If your camper is heavy and you want overloads, air bags are the way to go. They won't make it ride like hell when it's empty 'cuz you can deflate them, and it's easier to back the truck under the camper because it won't sit all ass-high until you air it up.
And if you put on airbags, you really need onboard air. You can buy electric compressor setups - or do what I did on my last two 3/4 Fords similar to yours.
Those old Fords had big piston-style air conditioner compressors. Get one and the stock brackets that hold it on a 360 or 390. That's your air compressor. Plumb it to an air tank somewhere. I used to use a portable 5 gallon tank mounted in the front corner of the engine compartment where the second battery would go. Get an air pressure switch, either new or from an old home air compressor and plumb it in... run the power wire that goes on the A/C compressor clutch (right behind the drive pulley) to it, so the A/C compressor kicks on at 90 PSI and off at 120 PSI just like a regular compressor. Use an air pressure regulator from a home air compressor to feed air to the line going to your air bags... now you can dial your rear suspension as soft or as stiff as you need it, and even if you have the inevitable tiny air leak somewhere, this will automatically compensate and keep them inflated where you want them. If you plumb a quick-disconnect air fitting in (I mounted mine in the grille) you can also run air tools and inflate tires. Super handy.

Your old Ford will drive better with a camper on it if you put some really stiff shocks on the front (like Ranch 9000s dialed all the way to "firm") and put a rear anti-sway bar on the rear axle.
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Re: purchasing used RV

Postby ranger magnum » Sun Mar 31, 2013 6:35 pm

Those Rancho 9000's are great shocks. I just installed a set on my ctd dodge 4x4. I run them on the 3 setting. Havent tried 9.

Another option would be running coilovers. Those old fords run that independent I-beam, dont they? Are they torsion bars or springs?
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Re: purchasing used RV

Postby Captain Goddammit » Sun Mar 31, 2013 8:59 pm

I don't think he said whether it was two-wheel or four-wheel drive. A '72 Ford 3/4 ton two-wheel-drive has the twin I beams with coil springs, a '72 3/4 ton 4x4 has a solid front axle (Dana 44) with leaf springs. Yeah the Rancho 9000s are great because you can dial them back to around 3 like you do and only dial them up to max-firm when the camper is on.
I found that stiffening the front end made a big improvement on old Fords carrying campers.
All this advice about setting up the truck applies in a greater or lesser degree depending on the size (and top-heavy weight) of the camper you get. Everyone's got their own opinion and priorities, mine after having about six of them is get the biggest one your truck can handle because even the biggest are relatively small compared to every other type of RV. And get one of the extended-cabover ones with the huge front bunk if you can. You'll like it.
It's great that the bed is always a bed, and not a couch you have to fold up every day. And less interior volume gets lots colder when you run the A/C. Nothing beats sleeping off the hottest part of the day under your blanket shivering because it's too cold :)

I'm still gonna say again, the first time you put your camper on a 1-ton dually, you'll never use anything else again.
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Re: purchasing used RV

Postby ygmir » Sun Mar 31, 2013 9:33 pm

Captain Goddammit wrote:I don't think he said whether it was two-wheel or four-wheel drive. A '72 Ford 3/4 ton two-wheel-drive has the twin I beams with coil springs, a '72 3/4 ton 4x4 has a solid front axle (Dana 44) with leaf springs. Yeah the Rancho 9000s are great because you can dial them back to around 3 like you do and only dial them up to max-firm when the camper is on.
I found that stiffening the front end made a big improvement on old Fords carrying campers.
All this advice about setting up the truck applies in a greater or lesser degree depending on the size (and top-heavy weight) of the camper you get. Everyone's got their own opinion and priorities, mine after having about six of them is get the biggest one your truck can handle because even the biggest are relatively small compared to every other type of RV. And get one of the extended-cabover ones with the huge front bunk if you can. You'll like it.
It's great that the bed is always a bed, and not a couch you have to fold up every day. And less interior volume gets lots colder when you run the A/C. Nothing beats sleeping off the hottest part of the day under your blanket shivering because it's too cold :)

I'm still gonna say again, the first time you put your camper on a 1-ton dually, you'll never use anything else again.

well..........


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Re: purchasing used RV

Postby Captain Goddammit » Mon Apr 01, 2013 5:19 am

Ok or a fifteen ton duallie...
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Re: purchasing used RV

Postby jcliff » Tue Apr 09, 2013 7:35 pm

Well, I can share my used RV purchase. I bought a '71 Chevy Sportscoach in September of 2011. I should first stipulate that I'm in Illinois and my motorhomegirl is stored in Reno (with a Burner who runs her once a month.) Me being so far away was a complicating factor. I put some money into her when I first purchased and my trusted mechanic got her in what we thought was tip-top shape. I flew out to Reno several times over the year and it seems like each time I took her out we had a new failure. By the time the Burn came I had spent another $2000 on repairing various problems. The good news is that she ran like a champ at the Burn and has continued to. If I had to do it over I probably would have bought a trailer. An engine on board just adds so many unknown variables. This past Burn I had this constant nagging fear that she was going to break down or refuse to start when I needed to leave the playa.

However, now that she seems to be stable for the time being, I'm really happy I have her. The vintage RV's have so much character. My Brenda is a tough old broad and I have developed this sense of responsibility for keeping her life going. She's the same age as me!

Post script: She got her name as my friend and I were waiting for a tow truck for 4 hours at the saddest casino in the state of Nevada. We were jokingly griping about how my motorhome is a dirty old whore....and that's how Brenda got her name. No offense to any Brenda's out there!

One last suggestion! If you do buy the RV make sure you pony up the $99 for Good Sam RV Roadside insurance. I've had her towed twice in the first year. Towing and RV is really pricey!
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Re: purchasing used RV

Postby Dr. Pyro » Wed Apr 10, 2013 7:46 am

jcliff wrote: One last suggestion! If you do buy the RV make sure you pony up the $99 for Good Sam RV Roadside insurance. I've had her towed twice in the first year. Towing and RV is really pricey!


Probably the single best piece of advice on this entire thread.
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Re: purchasing used RV

Postby 171/348 » Wed May 22, 2013 11:24 pm

A little under 12 hours from now I'll know if I accidentally bought a weirdass 20 year old motorhome.
Holy crap ebay can be frustrating!
Researching one after another and talking myself into the merits of each enough to bid when I suck at commitment and decisions... and then keep bidding until I'm outbid at the last minute or even the last second like I was on a really cool one that I missed by a hundred bucks and literally one second (The 'confirm your bid' step got me).
I ended up frustrated to the point where I emotionally put in what has to be considered a let's just get it over-with bid on one without researching it first. And whereas the ones I was losing out on in the last seconds after hotly contested final minutes were going for half of the NADA values, I end up bidding right around book value* with a big enough cushion over the next closest bid that I will probably get it.
Mostly, I bid on it because it's my favorite color, crayola crayon green. Yup... Super bright kelly green. You've seen the color on vehicles before, I know this because I will have to find a way to remove the servpro logos from all around the rig. On the inside, it's basically a rolling office. Everything forward of the fridge and bathroom has been removed and replaced with two long desks with holes at the back for computer wiring and electric outlets along the floor. I'll have to look if I win it but I think they took a queen bed out of the back and put in a pair of twins. I hadn't been looking at ones that had twin beds but in this case I figured there'd be so much other stuff to change that part would be easy unless it was built with twins and there's innards hiding under the beds.
At least the 800 mile ride home should let know if it runs or not.
Although I will have to add a kitchen and some storage back in, the idea of a big rolling studio/workshop is pretty exciting. Not to mention having no trepidation as far as arting up the outside.

* Obviously, the NADA doesn't apply
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Re: purchasing used RV

Postby clocksnmirrors » Thu May 23, 2013 4:51 am

171/348 wrote:[and then keep bidding until I'm outbid at the last minute or even the last second like I was on a really cool one that I missed by a hundred bucks and literally one second (The 'confirm your bid' step got me).


the trick with ebay is to only bid once. only bid at the end. only bid what you're actually willing to pay.

bidding any sooner than that is just driving the price up.
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Re: purchasing used RV

Postby Sham » Thu May 23, 2013 5:44 am

I have used a site called esnipe to place my bids. It allows you to put your highest bid in at the last few seconds---keeping the bidding frenzy low as well as not making your intention to buy, seen by other bidders. This also allows you to cancel your bid before it's actually placed on ebay.
So many times in the past, I've place a bid for an item, only to find a better or cheaper item before the auction ended.
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Re: purchasing used RV

Postby Tiahaar » Thu May 23, 2013 11:27 pm

171/348 wrote:A little under 12 hours from now I'll know if I accidentally bought a weirdass 20 year old motorhome.

well? winner? pics if you got it :D
I only put 1 bid at opening price on the monster I bought, mostly as a favor to the seller to get it rolling...and ended up owning it (see bus thread)
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Re: purchasing used RV

Postby 171/348 » Sat May 25, 2013 1:02 pm

clocksnmirrors wrote:
171/348 wrote:[and then keep bidding until I'm outbid at the last minute or even the last second like I was on a really cool one that I missed by a hundred bucks and literally one second (The 'confirm your bid' step got me).


the trick with ebay is to only bid once. only bid at the end. only bid what you're actually willing to pay.

bidding any sooner than that is just driving the price up.
A friend of mine that's a big ebayer lectured me on this one when I told him what I did. He's got two teenage kids, I dread ending up on the receiving end of one of his lectures.

Fortunately, I was outbid by $200 with a few minutes to go.
The one thing I'm sorry about is that I won't get to see the Alabama town it's in, it's right next to a missile base so huge it was only with the last couple of clicks out on google maps that I couldn't see it anymore. Probably doesn't look like anything from the roads driving by, but I bet I'll try to be on one of those roads at some point to see what I can see. It just amazed me that it was such a huge perfect square.
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