Older RV Purchase

Q. My family has been tent camping, graduating to trailers, and would like to try our hand at a small motorhome. Economics dictate a used Class C. I recently found one our budget could handle, but it is 13 years old, with only 30,000 miles.

What are the problems I might expect to have to solve to keep it roadworthy, safe and operational? It’s built on a Chevy cutaway chassis, with the 350-cubic-inch V-8 engine. All equipment appears to be original.

— J.K., via e-mail

A. Buying a used motorhome is exactly like buying a used car or a used house. There’s no secret trick to such a purchase, other than following the usual careful inspection procedures you’d use for a car and a house. If possible, take the motorhome to a trusted mechanic for a powertrain-and-chassis evaluation, and to an RV dealer for a onceover of the coach’s structure, accessories and appliances.

If there’s a big area of concern, it’s water damage and intrusion. Look around ceiling fixtures and below windows for signs of leaks and possible delamination, dry rot or other damage. If the motorhome has
been stored inside, you’re money ahead on the deal. Water damage is probably the No. 1 cause of product degradation in an RV. Perform a careful inspection, and you can make the best-informed decision.

— J.J.


Jeff Johnston, TL technical director, started RVing at age 6. During his more than 20 years as a writer/photographer, he has worked for Truckin’ and Four Wheeler magazines before joining TL’s technical staff in 1985. Johnston also has produced an award-winning travel video and TV commercials.

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