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Suggestions when looking at used Class A motor homes

Thermoguy
Explorer II
Explorer II
I thought I would create this post right before heading out for our final camp trip of the season. When we get home, I will winterize and cover the RV for the winter.

We currently have an older 5th wheel that we would like to upgrade in the next 6-12 months. We have been looking and have decided that if we buy a new RV we have 2 options. First, we have a problem where we have 2 trailers and 1 truck. We often have to take 2 trips, one for the horses and one for the 5th wheel. We started to look at new or slightly used 5th wheels and new or slightly used trucks. Our interest has taken us to where we would need a 1 ton truck if upgrading trucks and a larger trailer than what we have now. I have often thought that the ideal RV for our situation is a Super C with a 4 horse trailer. However, looking at Super C’s they are either really great and expensive or not what I want in a RV. So, we started looking at Class A’s and at a recent RV show were really surprised at the price of a new Class A gas RV. Comparing to a 5th wheel and new truck the Class A is less expensive.

That got me looking through a variety of sources for used RV’s. Lots of Class A’s on the market, I think as interest rates climb and fuel prices reach all time highs, more will come on the market. That leads me to some questions looking at used RV’s. In the Class A market there is gas or diesel. I would prefer a diesel pusher since I want to be able to tow up to 10K. But I don’t know what to look for or what to look out for. Finding a 10 year old Diesel pusher with 30-50K miles is common and at very reasonable prices, but is this a ticking time bomb? With low usage, my fear is the engine is ready to be replaced or overhauled. I have seen lots of adds with low mileage Class A units with replaced engines or rebuilt or lots or repairs. That is great, but concerns me. What should I stay away from as it relates to engines, mileage, or years? What should I look for as reliable. Can anyone tell me why I would want a gas Class A vs Diesel pusher? I know they are way lower in price initially but they all drop like a rock as one a few years old is very reasonable in price.

I know a Cummins diesel engine should go for 400K plus miles but why are RV’s needing rebuilt with under 100K miles, is it because they site too much and the engines are not designed to sit? Or, is it because they are overworked by the large home they are pulling and undersized motors? I guess the same is true for gas Class A rigs, any opinions on this from someone who has had to rebuild a motor with low miles?

My second question not related to the drive train is the house. I know from looking at trailers, they are built poorly. What about a Class A? Are some built the same as trailers or are they all built on bus chassis? I see a lot say freightliner chassis but some don’t say, what is good or what is bad? What about the walls or roof? It seems fiberglass roof is the preferred? But maybe I am wrong. What issues have some of you had with different roofs? We would like to find one with a drop down bed and possibly even bunk beds. My wife has her eyes on a Berkshire but being a Forest River product, I am not sure if that is built just like the travel trailers. What advice can anyone give me on this?

Looking at the used market, is there any reason to stay away from an older diesel pusher? It seems that what was once $400K can be easily found for $50-$75K if you are willing to go a few years older. We have been looking at 2010-2018. I think someone said stay away from anything newer than 2018 or 2017? Any advice on years? We are would like to stay under $100K but have looked at units up to $150K. I know I can get a new Class A gas with everything we want for under $150K as prices continue to fall. I was shocked at the discounts we saw at the recent RV show, I guess the correction is starting. I have heard stay away from Thor, is that year specific or anything Thor?

If anyone has any advice as to why a 5th or class A or Super C, I would be interested in your advice. I can think of some major reasons for staying away from a diesel or larger rv like the cost of maintenance, tires, repairs, etc. But buying a truck and a trailer has its disadvantages as well.

Before anyone asks why we don’t buy a living quarter horse trailer. Basically, 2 reasons, 1 is price, you can buy a new Class A for the price of a new horse trailer, the other is we camp more than we go to horse shows. So, we want something that accommodates both needs.

Thank you in advance for your input and advice.
10 REPLIES 10

S1n1st3r
Explorer
Explorer

One more thing to look at is a unit with a side radiator.  It is much easier to maintain the diesel motor with a unit that has a side radiator.  The slide-out generator provides the same ease of maintenance. 

RJ Follmer

GAZiggy
Explorer II
Explorer II

I would suggest you watch all the details. Not all class A Diesel pushers haul 10K lbs. I would suggest writing a standard list of questions and start there before any tour of a RV. The list should cover all the key items you want. If you want that Fiberglass roof, then that is a question. Same with pulling 10K lbs. You can also get with most Manufacturers with the Vin to see what was shipped. I found one that the guy took out the basement drawer, the kitchenette table and a few other items. 

I went with a Diesel pusher not just because of the engine. You get a better suspension and I think better unit (of course use your own judgement as each unit can be different or treated different). You mention Forest River Berkshire, and that is what I bought via a broker. While it was nice looking at almost the same unit from an owner, I got a fireplace, TV on the side, better layout, and the basement drawer for the same price and a year newer. Once you find one you like, well Google and see if there's another one nearby. I drove 20K miles looking for a boat or Motorhome the summer of 2020 while gas was cheap. Almost bought a 42 ft diesel trawler in Norther MI and got the RV in lower MI by Ann Arbor. I looked at a RV and boat in Pensacola and Brunswick GA. A bit extreme, but it got me out of the apartment. 

The engine issues I did not find, so not sure the cause. That being said, oil, transmission fluid, antifreeze all have a life span, so I changed them the first winter I had it. Build your own baseline. While I changed the serpentine belt and idler pulley, this past spring as I started up the AC unit froze due to these little BBs in the lines. That became a real issue cause the connector broke off with part of the housing. In speaking with the AC guy, there is a cleaning that should be done every 5 years or so. They say at 6-years tires should be replaced, and I had 7 on the front till I replaced this summer, and about to change the 4 rear tires. I have replaced 3 out of the 4 toppers and will finish the last one next winter. By being a boater, I found you have to be proactive and everything has a lifespan. You can replace it first, or wait till you are broken down on the side of the road, or as you want to pull out of the campground. Life is full of choices. 

One person mentioned they don't use it much. I would suggest consider how you will use it. I keep mine in a monthly site and drive there typically Thursday night work remotely Friday and Monday, then drive back on Monday night. I get to enjoy it much more than most. Find what works for you.

Like buying a home, doesn't hurt to get preapproved for financing. Todays rates might be why you are seeing the slowdown, and might also make you reconsider. 

Best of luck in your journey, just don't over think it and make yourself miss one, but get one you really want. 

Dave 

 

2012 Forest River Berkshire 390 FL Class A Cummins
2015 Chevy Equinox Toad

ALife2BLived
Explorer
Explorer

As someone who went through this very process for close to a year of researching before finally making a purchase in October 2021, the first thing I did was purchase the latest RV Ratings Guide here. This guide provides an overview of some of the most popular RV brands out there and how they hold up to a panel of different tests and maintenance track records provided by consumer input collected over the years.

Growing up, my Dad always had a motorhome and we would always go camping. The brand my Dad trusted the most all of those years was Tiffin, built in Redbay, Alabama.

Tiffin has long been one of RV enthusiasts most favorite RVs for many reasons but their reputation for quality of construction and unprecendented customer support are some of the driving factors.

Tiffin was recenlty aquired by Thor Industries but it was allowed to continue operating independently and is still managed by Bob Tiffin the founder, and his family.

We ened up purchasing a 2011 Tiffin Allegro Bus 40 QXP diesel pusher. It comes with the Cummins 450 HP 9L engine. Diesel because, just as the research suggests, if you keep up on maintaining a diesel pusher, you'll never have to worry about mileage. In fact, if you lookup a diesel pusher's value on the J.D. Power's website it will instruct you not to include mileage.

At the time, the motorhome was 10 years old but it looked brand new and it had all of the bells and whistles of a modern home (and then some) and they are really designed to travel extensively in upon retirement.

I am not quite ready to retire yet and have since realized that maybe I bit off more than I can chew. I say this only because I don't get to use it as much as I thought I would and the few things that have broken and I've had to fix, were really expensive to do so. Mainly because I am not as handy as I would like to be -which would have save me thousands of dollars in labor costs compared to taking the motorhome to a Tiffin certified repair center -which there are few, outside Redbay, Alabama.

Befofe we purchased the Tiffin coach we found right outside San Antonio, TX (we live in Florida), I hired a RV certified inspector from here who went out to the location of the motorhome and performed a complete inside and outside inspection based on a multipoint checklist they are cerfied to inspect. They also take fluid samples -both oil and antifreeze from the engine and genertor (if equiped) and send those samples off for analysis. Once the inspection was done and the fluid analysis results were returned a few days later and everything checked out good, we made the purchase.

Racklefratz
Explorer II
Explorer II
It would take more experience with RVing to answer all the questions you've posed than most people will ever have, IMO. But I've been at it over 30 years now, and owned gas and diesel Class As, and a 5th wheel. So I'll speak from that experience.
Thermoguy wrote:
I would prefer a diesel pusher since I want to be able to tow up to 10K. What should I look for as reliable. Can anyone tell me why I would want a gas Class A vs Diesel pusher?
That one's easy - you wouldn't. Motorhomes are big, heavy vehicles. Consider that there are no over-the-road semi tractor-trailer trucks on the road that are powered with gasoline engines. The reasons are beyond the scope of this post, but they're myriad. Bottom line, diesel is the choice for hauling heavy loads. The sole reason for anyone to choose gas over diesel is price. Test-drive one of each and the imperatives of diesel over gas will become immediately apparent.
I know a Cummins diesel engine should go for 400K plus miles but why are RV’s needing rebuilt with under 100K miles, is it because they site too much and the engines are not designed to sit?
Not my experience, owning 2 diesel rigs over 20+ years, nor have I read about other diesel RV owners who faced premature engine overhauls. If there are accounts out there about this, it's probably because it's always the bad news that gets reported - satisfied owners who never had to do a premature overhaul didn't post about it. I didn't.
I know from looking at trailers, they are built poorly. What about a Class A? Are some built the same as trailers or are they all built on bus chassis?...My wife has her eyes on a Berkshire but being a Forest River product, I am not sure if that is built just like the travel trailers. What advice can anyone give me on this?
The RV industry is like any other; construction quality is all over the place. It's mostly "you pay for what you get" - buy in cheap, and you get cheap, and vice versa. FWIW, "Forest River" is not a brand I'd buy, nor is "Thor".
Looking at the used market, is there any reason to stay away from an older diesel pusher?...I have heard stay away from Thor, is that year specific or anything Thor?
Meh, Thor is not a brand I'd recommend, but that's just my opinion - others will disagree. But, in terms of older RVs, one tall pole to consider is technology changes. Things like TVs and similar components in the "house" tend to be built-in to woodwork, and they eventually require replacement. It's likely that older equipment will no longer be available for purchase, necessitating buying something different, which may not fit in the space the old item used. That's when things get interesting. 'Nuff said.
If anyone has any advice as to why a 5th or class A or Super C, I would be interested in your advice. I can think of some major reasons for staying away from a diesel or larger rv like the cost of maintenance, tires, repairs, etc. But buying a truck and a trailer has its disadvantages as well.
Regarding advice, it seems to me that you'll just have to decide which option best fits your priorities.

For example, we chose our Class A size simply because we like the space it offers inside - a 23' Class C we rented years ago to get a sense of whether RVing appealed to us was so short the bed was adjacent to the kitchen - way to small for us. So we're in our 43' Class A now, which we like.

Cost of maintenance, etc - yeah, it comes with the territory. Test-drive both - a Class A gasser, and a diesel. The differences in terms of ride quality, power, stability, steering feel, yada, yada become immediately obvious - it's night and day. But there's the maintenance tail you refer to - I paid close to $10K recently to replace all 8 of our RV tires - OUCH! But as the saying goes, "If you want to play, you have to pay", right?
2012 Tiffin Allegro Bus 43QGP (All Electric)

SuperBus
Traveler
Traveler
Thermoguy wrote:

I guess one of my questions are all diesel pushers built the same? So a Forest River product would be similar to a Newmar or Thor?


I would venture to say most folks on this forum would agree Newmar is a superior product to Thor or Forest River. I would agree 100%. Newmar is one of the three to five makes I would consider great units that have some real quality and thought built into them.

As mentioned above, I have also heard some banks are not interested in loaning money for coaches older than 10 years. The solution in that case, if one is borrowing some money to put toward the purchase of an 11 - ? year old coach, could be to work with a credit union. Normally, they'll work with their customers on pretty much anything.

Campinfan
Explorer II
Explorer II
One thing I am hearing (and I have not verified it yet) is that banks do not like to finance a 10 year old RV. If that is true, that means someone needs cash to make the sale and maybe a lot of people cannot afford to buy an expensive 10 year old coach.
______________________
2016 F 350 FX4 4WD,Lariat, 6.7 Diesel
41' 2018 Sandpiper 369 SAQB
Lovely wife and three children

Thermoguy
Explorer II
Explorer II
Thanks for the responses. Hope to hear more from people with experience with different models or makes.

First, initially we will continue to use our truck and trailer for the horses, therefore we will have a truck to drive around when parked. We have thought about a toad for when we don't bring a second car. Looking at a bronco or jeep when camping. I had not though of the exhaust from a motor home being different from a truck pulling a trailer, will have to ask some with experience towing horse trailers with their motorhome.

I guess one of my questions are all diesel pushers built the same? So a Forest River product would be similar to a Newmar or Thor? Gas seems to be where the price drops the most. New ones are easily under $150K with great floor plans. Not the towing capability, but that may or may not be an issue for me if we can pull a toad.

Thanks again for the responses.

SuperBus
Traveler
Traveler
Hello Thermoguy.

Without understanding the laws in your state, could you simply pull your horse trailer behind your fifth wheel? I suppose it would be tricky due to the weight of the horses/trailer and getting the fifth wheel set-up properly, in addition to the overall length.

Something you may want to consider as well is once you get to where you are going with the new motorhome and the horse trailer, how will you get around? My parents recently entertained the idea of moving from a fifth wheel to a motorhome to solve a similar dilemma with their boat. The two reasons they did not go forward with that plan were getting around when they got to their location and the cost of maintenance on the motorhome. 

As far as recommendations on your class A search, it seems like you are already considering some of the key factors, like making sure the powertrain is up to the job. I'd recommend, as another did, to get into the large engines (11 liters plus) which are also used in over the road trucks. The downside is, for example, an oil change will run you $500 yourself (plus the $300 drain pan you will need for that job), or $1200 at the dealership. The annual costs continue from there add quickly up to a few thousand dollars on a "cheap" maintenance cycle.

Additionally, I'd recommend to look for motorhomes where "fixes" to common issues are "built-in". What I mean is look for coaches that don't have historical problems or poor designs in certain areas, but instead were designed and built right the first time around. This narrows your eligible makes to just three to five in my opinion, and may push you into older coaches based on your price point. However, I wouldn't worry about that because you will find many well cared for coaches with all of the options you want, and probably more, plus the pride of having an awesome coach.

A side question, how do you ensure your horses, regardless of what is towing their trailer, aren't being suffocated by noxious fumes from the tow vehicles exhaust? Would that potentially be worse being behind a motor consuming much more fuel and air than your current setup? I had never considered if that was an issue or not...

Good luck!

rjstractor
Traveler
Traveler
Thermoguy wrote:

I know a Cummins diesel engine should go for 400K plus miles but why are RV’s needing rebuilt with under 100K miles, is it because they site too much and the engines are not designed to sit? Or, is it because they are overworked by the large home they are pulling and undersized motors? I guess the same is true for gas Class A rigs, any opinions on this from someone who has had to rebuild a motor with low miles?


I haven't personally had to deal with rebuilding a diesel in a motorhome with low miles, but I think the lack of use and poor maintenance is part of the issue with low mileage engine failures in diesel motorhomes. There is also a broad range of durability among the various sizes of Cummins and other diesels you'll find in motorhomes. The 5.9 and 6.7 B series motors are fantastic engines, but in a 40 foot pusher pulling a 10K trailer, they are right at their limit. But the pushers with the "big block" diesels commonly found in class 8 trucks (in the 12 to 15 liter range) will last 1,000,000 miles with proper maintenance, and a 40K rig pulling a 10K trailer is nothing for these engines. But with those big engines comes higher purchase, fuel, maintenance and repair costs if something does break.
2017 VW Golf Alltrack
2000 Ford F250 7.3

Rick_Jay
Explorer II
Explorer II
Thermoguy,

If you want to tow upwards of 10,000 lbs., you can forget about the new gasser.

I'd recommend an older diesel unit before the DEF was required, which I think means 2008 and before, but not sure on that.

Even then, make sure the rig can tow what you want. There are DPs that have relatively modest tow ratings, and others with much greater tow capacity.

Do you have any preference for floorplan? It's often said that is one of the most important things once you've decided on the mechanical aspects.

Good Luck in your search. I'm sure you're ideal rig is out there somewhere.

~Rick
2005 Georgie Boy Cruise Master 3625 DS on a Workhorse W-22
Rick, Gail, 1 girl (27-Angel since 2008), 1 girl (22), 2 boys (23 & 20).
2001 Honda Odyssey, Demco Aluminator tow bar & tow plate, SMI Silent Partner brake controller.