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Older Luxury Model Vs. Newer (used) Mid-line

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We have an opportunity to buy a 1-owner 1998 Holiday Rambler Imperial diesel pusher, 30,000 miles, in immaculate condition with all records and maintenance, at price substantially below NADA value.

We are concerned about things that may start going wrong simply because of age. I am certain that this coach has been maintained at the highest level, but any additional major expenses would put a severe crimp in our ability to enjoy and use it.

As our first coach, would we be better off looking for something newer at a lower level of equipment and upgrades? Any thoughts, experiences, suggestions?

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That is a tough decision. It is exactly the one we faced when we bought our last coach in 1998. At the same price point we were considering new high-end gas, new entry level diesel and used high end diesel.

We chose a 5 year old high end diesel (1993 Foretravel). We have put over 100,000 miles on it and are VERY happy with our decision. Have things failed-- of course. But most of the little things that go wrong are easily corrected by someone with even average mechanical skills. And let's face it, to replace ALL the appliances is still less than one year's depreciation on a new unit.

Our coach is still extremely roadworthy (in fact we have friends with the same model who have over 300,000 on theirs). I look at the other coaches (the new ones) that were on our short list and sure wouldn't want an 11 year old entry level coach in place of ours!

BUT (read that a BIG BUT) only YOU can make the decisions on what is important to YOU.

Brett Wolfe

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Thanks for the reply Brett. I guess my main concern is not knowing what things one would expect to have to replace/fix under normal conditions at 11 years. If you bought a '93 in '98, you have obviously passed the 11 year point. Do you recall what your experience was at about that point?

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At 11 years into our coach's life, all appliances were still original. I had replaced a hydraulic pump on the engine. Virtually all other work was in the form of Preventive Maintenance.

Now at almost 17 years old, the refrigerator cooling unit went out in January so I replaced the refrigerator. I also replaced the A/C's with new, low profile more efficient ones, though they were still operating. We have remodelect the interior. Again, we have spent less IN TOTAL than one year's depreciation on a new unit.

But, many are uncomfortable if a warranty does not cover them. So for them, an older unit may not fit THEIR needs.

Would I buy an older unit, spending my last cent. NO WAY. Things will go wrong. But same for newer units.

BTW, be sure to get someone knowledgeable in chassis and house systems to do a mechanical inspection on it BEFORE you buy. Things like tire age, SCA levels in coolant, ride height adjustment, air brakes, etc are not intuitive to most new coach owners. Arrange to be present when he goes over the coach. You should leave with lists: Things that need fixing right now. Things that should be done, but are not critical. Also both lists divided into "things I can do" and "things I will hire out".

I do mechanical inspections on coaches, and really LIKE for a client to put on old clothes and start of the roof with me and 3-4 hours later end up crawling under the unit. And this is actually more beneficial to those who do NOT do their own work, as they really need an appreciation for what needs to be done so they can communicate that to their tech. Being able to see (and sometimes feel) something often makes it much easier to understand. Bring a notebook with you!

There IS a learning curve we all went through-- some many decades ago-- some are still "in it".

Brett Wolfe

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Sir......... For my dimes worth of advise I would go with the ''older coach''. As you stated that it was a 98 model with thirty thousand miles on it, it is just slightly broken in at that mileage. My Pace has 98 thousand miles on a ''gasser'' and it still runs good.

As to the appliances I would not worry about them. It's the usage, not necessarily the age and at thirty thousand miles, I have probably spilled more water than has been heated by the water heater. One thing that should be checked closely is the roof. Get a qualified person to check out the roof covering and the caulk around everything. The roof gets direct sunlight and that is a ''roof killer''. LOOK FOR EVIDENCE OF LEAKS inside the coach. My coach has a rubber roof and I am getting concerned about it. The only other consideration is that this unit probably does not have slide outs. They are really nice but you can live without them easily. As per ''wolf's'' advise. Crawl all over the unit. From top to bottom and get a creeper and go underneath the unit and do a hard look around. Do not be afraid to ask really stupid questions ..... They are much better than ''stupid errors''. My guess is that this is your first coach. If it is you will have a ''learning curve'' about driving and upkeep on the coach. In closing I will also go along with Wolf on this. A new coach is a dream come true. It has all the bells and whistles and all the little goodies and ''thingies'' that make you go ''OOOOOH , AAHHHHHH'' and stuff like that but you gotta remember the ''crack in the pavement'' at the entrance of the R.V. dealer lot. When you buy a ''new one'' and you drive it across that ''crack'',,,,,,,, you just lost about twenty percent of your investment ....... POOF ......

If this helps you owe me ten cents and you can pay me the next time you see me ...... If it don't help, I never knew you....... lol.....

Seajay the sailor man

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Seajay,

Thanks for your input. Since we are almost next door neighbors on two fronts (Charlotte & Linville), I'll be glad go way beyond the dime and spring for a whole cup of coffee...just name the time & place. I thoroughly enjoyed reading your bio in the "getting to know you" section of this forum, but the closest I can come to either the Navy or Marines is that I completed the Marine Corps marathon in DC a couple of years ago. My sincerest appreciation go out to all who have served!

Best,

Bill Flowers

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We had a 1989 Holiday Rambler Imperial for 12 years. It was an excellent coach. The interior held up well. Obviously a DP with 30,000 miles should have plenty of mileage left. I certainly would want a competent diesel mechanic to inspect the engine. Be sure to check the seals on the frig. If it is the Dometic the seals used to be a problem, and the replacements did not hold up to storage heat. As I think back, we didn't have any problems with systems except for the frig. A competent inspector will check the air, power, plumbing, etc. But, as I said before, it was a well built motorhome. Consider the tires, as it is recommended that tires be replaced every 5 year (plenty of opinions on this), but again, I think the tires are the 19.5 and just a little less expensive. I was younger then, and the layout of the Holiday was such that maintenance was not difficult. There were access points to the harnesses and plumbing, which is important as the tanks were all enclosed in the body, protecting from icing and the elements.

In short, the Holiday Rambler was a very good coach. If it fits your needs, and the price is right...after an inspection, I would have no problem making the purchase.

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My biggest concern would be that 30,000 miles might be too low! Diesel engines like to be run. Long periods of inactivity can be detrimental to their health. Be sure that you get that engine thoroughly checked.The cooling system too. Also, is the generator diesel or propane? A propane generator will drain the propane tank really fast. Also, generators like to be run too! Make sure that the hours on it aren' too low.

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In reply about buying an older motorhome, we too, purchased a Foretravel GrandVilla which was used. We made the purchase in 2002 and the

coach was 9 years old with 88,000 miles on it. We the coach physically was in good condition, and seemed very well built. It had complete maintenance records and the usual repairs. We did get a very good price, and considered the risk and went for it. We did have a major repair

with an engine overhaul, but feel very comfortable with knowing everything is in good condition. The fuel injectors needed to be replaced.

We have replaced the water heater, heater thermostats and new tires, plus the fuel line from the tank to the generator. So really considering

the well built coach we purchased and the money we saved versus what we had to spend on repairs we feel we made the right choice.

Now for my question to Brette Wolfe, you mentioned you had to replace the refrigerator. Well, how did that go? Smoothly we hope, as we

have the same year model of Foretravel. Did they have problems removing the unit and did you find one that exactly fit the opening of the

previous unit. If you wouldn't mind let us know the brand and model number, just in case this is a future fix.

4travel4/2-1993

Bonnie Kollorz

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Now for my question to Brett Wolfe, you mentioned you had to replace the refrigerator. Well, how did that go? Smoothly we hope, as we have the same year model of Foretravel. Did they have problems removing the unit and did you find one that exactly fit the opening of the previous unit. If you wouldn't mind let us know the brand and model number, just in case this is a future fix.

4travel4/2-1993

Bonnie Kollorz

Bonnie,

Since this is off thread, I will Private Message you on this.

Brett Wolfe

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Our first motor home was a 7 year old diesel coach. The mileage was about 50,000. We had only a few problems which were serious. The previous owner had replaced the original alternator with a different alternator (truck alternator) which was rewired to make it work with the motor home. I'm sure it saved him money to use the truck alternator but it didn't last long and we had to have the wiring restored to the original plan with the proper alternator. That took us a week to figure out and then fix. We had other minor problems, pac brake failure, replacement shocks, a holding tank fix, an air conditioner that failed, and replaced tires. Then the engine ate a valve and we had to replace the cylinder, piston, head and turbocharger. OUCH! This was at about 80,000 miles. Even if a diesel engine will go for 1,000,000 miles or more in full time trucking service, the run/store/run/store nature of motor home life will shorten this lifetime.

Shortly after that, we traded for a new (our current) motor home. Our unit has depreciated much more than what we put into the old used rig. OUCH! We still have occasional things that need fixing. But now I know the complete history of the vehicle and know that it has been maintained properly. Yes, we had all the repair receipts on the used rig. That was how we finally figured out that the alternator wasn't the proper replacement. Our current motor home has 80,000 miles and is in excellent running shape. I expect this motor home to last us until we have to give up full time RV'ing.

By the way, our first motor home was a 1994 Monaco Dynasty, going to a motor home that was 10 years newer but a step down in the Monaco line gave us a coach that was immensely superior to the old motor home. Larger engine, larger cargo capacity, much better systems for leveling, satellite, slides, generator/inverter, and on and on. Ten years is a long time in motor home development. Look at all the systems in the used model compare them to the systems in the new models to decide what will be comfortable for you.

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As I continue to research various thoughts about the wisdom of purchasing an older motor home, the fear of having a breakdown and not being able to get timely service has suddenly surfaced, as I have read of numerous bad experiences reported on various forums. Are there service arrangements that can help "guarantee" a service person in an emergency, such as AAA for autos? If so, are they worthwhile? How can you best determine the validity (honesty) and necessity of repairs, etc.? Also, what is the best way to find a reputable service center or person to perform a thorough pre-purchase inspection, especially if you are purchasing away from home? How about the pros and cons of buying from an individual versus from a dealer? Are you likely to have any better experience when a breakdown occurs far from the point of purchase?

Many thanks for all the previous responses,

Bill Flowers

Charlotte, NC

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Yes, there are several choices for the AAA for autos version for motor homes. Coach Net is one such service. You can find information about Coach Net on this web site or at www.coach-net.com Good Sam also has ERS (Emergency Road Service). I have used both in the last 8 years. They work well in most circumstances but you will encounter the occasional glitch if you use them often enough. I wouldn't go without having one if you are going to travel far from home frequently. I've had a broken oil line, flat tire, engine breakdown, and deep mud several times. The most difficult was the broken oil line which right on Carson Pass in the Sierra Nevada in California. I had to drive the toad 3 miles to get cell service. Then if I had to call again I had to go through the whole mess again to talk to someone. Eventually it was resolved satisfactorily but it was a process. These services will provide a wrecker for a tow and will identify the nearest place you can get your repair done. So they will get you there, then it is up to you to deal with the repair process. They can also provide information on where to get repair even if you don't need a tow to a shop.

If you are a trained RV service tech and a trained diesel mechanic you will be able to determine the validity and/or necessity of repairs! If you aren't both of these, then you'll have to do like the rest of us and read manuals, be active on web sites and talk to several dealers or repair shops. Ask lots of questions and evaluate the answers. Sometimes you just have to trust people, even mechanics and technicians.

As to finding someone for a pre-purchase inspection, you need to find someone you can trust. I would go with an individual, perhaps a tech for a dealer as an after work job or a retired tech. If you buy from an individual then you are at the mercy of any dealer you go to for service. If you buy from a dealer and have a problem somewhere away from that dealer you will be at the mercy of any dealer you go to for service. Our experience has been that there are dealers who are very willing to take in any motor home and give a fair deal. There are other dealers who won't give you a service appointment unless you have purchased from them. Some dealers give priority to people who have bought from them but will service others as time permits. We bought from a dealer and then they went out of business about a year after we purchased our motor home.

Service for a motor home is not an easy thing. The engine goes to the engine dealer shop or an independent mechanic shop for service. The chassis problems go to the chassis manufacturer or a truck chassis shop. Most of the rest of the things go to a dealer or RV service center. The other possibility is appliances which usually need to go to a certified repair shop for the manufacturer of the appliance. The TV goes to Sharp, the dish goes to KVH, the toilet goes to Thetford, a broken windshield goes to a glass shop, etc, etc, etc.

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It was interesting to read the replies that have been added. In November of 1998 I purchased a 1998 HR Imperial that had been manufactured in August 1997 and had kicked around on a dealer's lot near Santa Barbara, CA. We thought we got a fairly good deal. The sticker price was $225,000 & we paid $165,000. The coach had just about everything that was available, except washer & dryer (hookups are there). The one slide really opens the kitchen & living room up a lot. However, we typically leave it in when just my wife and I are traveling, when we stop for just one night, or when we park on a street (which we do often as we travel and stop to visit friends & relatives). The coach is fully functional with the slide in. The bed is fore & aft, and all the closets are easily accessed when traveling. (That's something to consider with the current new coaches.) We have 86,000 miles on it now, (I'd have to check, but I think there are over 400 hours on the 7.5 KW diesel generator) and have always towed a Jeep Cherokee. We used to get 10 mpg with the 325 hp engine, but with the current ULSD, now only get between 8 & 9 mpg. The miles have all been in the western part of the US (oh yes, in 2004 we did drive it to Alaska & back, then halfway across Canada), so we've driven it (towing the Jeep) up most mountain grades. It has gone over Loveland pass in Colorado quite a few times and traveled Hwy. 15 through the desert. It also has been driven through AZ more than once in the summer, when the outside temperature was 110 degrees. It has never overheated, although once when I was pushing it up the mountain grade going west from El Centro to San Diego real hard (sort of racing someone else), the overheat alarm came on. In that situation, after passing the other guy, I simply let up on the accelerator somewhat, continued driving, and the alarm soon stopped. The coach has given us very good service and is running fine now. Oh, I recently lost the power supply to the water pump, and I needed help to track it down to a "Radio Monoplex" that is located behind the small door in the wall that hides the alternating current breaker panel and a third (small) dc fuse panel, between the bath & bedroom. The refrigerator is a Norcold, and Norcold has performed two recalls on it (the door gaskets are getting a bit hard now & I've been told that Norcold will sell gaskets, so soon I'll try to replace them myself). I don't have much experience regarding driving other types and brands of coaches, but I remember the driver that delivered it to us in Las Vegas was very impressed with how well it handled. As for me, more than once I've driven 500 mile days and the coach is much much easier to drive than an auto. I do wish that it turned sharper, like some of the newer ones. Now, for the bad news. When we got the coach, it turned out to be a piece of junk. I had twenty some typewritten pages of problems, including what was done or not done by the San Diego Monaco dealer to repair it. Once, we were parked next to a Monaco (probably a Diplomat) and compared coaches. Although the two coaches were built on adjoining assembly lines in Wakarusa, IL, there was a great difference in the coaches. The Monaco's electrical wiring was neat and orderly. The Imperial's wiring was a nightmare. (Believe it or not, there is a fuse panel next to the driver's left knee, a second one behind the drawer that is below the radio, a third one ((I mentioned above)), and a fourth one under the bed near the rear heater.)During the summer of 1999, we took a two week vacation (from San Diego) to the Washington. On our way back we stopped at the Monaco factory in Coburg, OR. We sat down with someone and handed her a copy of the twenty some pages of problems, etc. She was a bit shocked. Monaco offered to fix everything on my list (either then or later) at the factory, and Monaco extended our warranty to two years. Yes, it took most of two years to get everything fixed. So we have found that new motorhomes aren't always perfect. Over the almost 12 years that we've had the coach, things have broken, but most of the problems occurred in the first year. In recent years, I replaced some parts on one of the windshield wiper mechanisms, the alternator has been replaced, the step motor system has been replaced, I've replaced the water pump (I never use shore water pressure), the cd changer, and the black tank dump valve. Oh, there is a single solar panel on the roof. Believe it or not, my house batteries lasted 9 1/2 years. Bottom line: I'd like to replace the coach but my wife says definitely not, she really likes it. If you have questions about the HR Imperial, you may email me at sdgorvr@gmail.com. David Wilson

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We have an opportunity to buy a 1-owner 1998 Holiday Rambler Imperial diesel pusher, 30,000 miles, in immaculate condition with all records and maintenance, at price substantially below NADA value.

We are concerned about things that may start going wrong simply because of age. I am certain that this coach has been maintained at the highest level, but any additional major expenses would put a severe crimp in our ability to enjoy and use it.

As our first coach, would we be better off looking for something newer at a lower level of equipment and upgrades? Any thoughts, experiences, suggestions?

We purchased a used 1997 Allegro Bus (330 Tubo Cummings engine, 6.5 generator, single 17' slideout) on the internet two years ago (62K) and have remolded it including a full paint job, adding a motorized motorcycle rack, new satelite system, new captain chairs, reupholstered windows, couch, took out a couch and added a computer fold down table, took out carpets and installed laminate flooring throughout. We currently have less than 85K total investment and really have done very little maintenance other than replace all tires ( should be done every 5 years), replaced alternator and batteries.

Although, I have either made the changes or found good deals this can be done at a fraction of the cost if you just look around.

The new Allegro Bus starts at $350k. If the motorhome has very few miles I would ask how many trips were taken each year and how long it has set up in between. Currently we have over 101K miles on the bus and it is still going strong. Preventative maintenance is the life of a motorhome. If you buy a used one then expect to have to make some repairs.

James & Edith McLendon

Nashville, TN F396991

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Hi brdtim,

I do not consider a 1998 Holiday Rambler Imperial old... :rolleyes: You may have found a good deal.

Last Sept. 08 I bought a 1982 Bluebird Wanderlodge PT-40. Yes it's a 27 year old coach this year. The first question, I am always asked is why would I do that. My short answer to that is the Quality of the unit, (custom made) this coach sold new for $265,000 in 82. Unit had 63,000 miles and all systems worked, we are the 4th owners.

In buying a new or used coach the first question that must be asked is, what do I want to do with my motor home and how do I want to do it? Here I can only give a few of my answers to that question and hopefully it may help those new to RVing and shed some light as to why buying used can be a good thing.

Safety is number one for me, how well is this unit going to do in a mishap? (Wanderlodge is built like a tank).

We will be going 3/4 to full time and moving to NM. (40' and good storage inside & out, usable floor plan)

Need a unit that can handle some weight with full timing and be safe going down the road. (My GVWR is 42,000lbs & the Sclwt. is 28,700lbs that gives me about 13,300lbs for load) (I find it sad that some folks buy a nice coach and find out later, that it's almost over loaded when they drive it off the lot).

What will I need to add to the coach? (more cost). (My coach is loaded)

Gas or Diesel? (with or without computers). (6V92 DD diesel for me, hooked to an Allison 5sp with no computers to go out, I like the KISS system).

How much fuel, water and holding does it have? (I have 300 diesel, 100 water, 72 gray, 82 black, 44.4gal LPG)

Sales tax & license? (you can save a lot here buying used)

Can I pull a toad with this coach? (Yes)

How much of the repair work can I do? (this is big one). (To be honest I can do about 90% of the work need to be done on our coach) However if you are not a mechanic, it is not that hard to learn how to fix a lot of small things, others will help you, if you ask.

Do I want or need slides? (No for me, more weight, leaks water and they get stuck).

Deprecation? (Not so much on used, just the market economy at the time you sell). In a down market, buying good.

So all of this went into buying the Wanderlodge and the economy help a lot, as the cost went way down. When we first found this coach, the asking price was more than we wanted to spend. It was priced right for a Wanderlodge in a good economy, not a bad one. The PO had been trying to sell it for 3 years and wanted out and he understood the down turn in the market. So we got a very good deal. Our deal with the PO, was all major systems had to be in working order. Before my daughter and I flew to TX, to inspect the coach, the refer went out and the PO installed a new one, at no cost to us.

When we got to TX, I drove the coach over 60-70 miles on the interstate, county roads and some city driving. I would do this if buying a new unit, always do a good long test drive. We then stayed in the coach and did a full 2 day check out of the unit, I was in or under everything. I bought the coach and drove it 2,345 miles home to Seattle. I drove mostly at 60-65 mph and the coach ran flawlessly the entire trip, engine used 3 qts of oil.

A few months ago I took my coach to Roseburg, Oregon for 8 new tires. I also stopped at Southern Oregon Diesel (one of the best shops in the PNW) for a chassis inspection. Remember, safety is number one with me. This is something I could have done myself, but would have taken me a month to complete. Getting under the coach would have been real work here at the house. Anyway we found some things that needed replaced right now, some others that I did because I was there. With the tires, chassis work and parts I left $6,500 in the state of Oregon. Keep in mind this went into the coach, to make it new again, money well spent. I now have a drivetrain & chassis that is as good as new.....

Knowing what I know now about my coach, would I still have bought it? Thats easy, YES!!! I am money ahead for what I have and what it will do. Is my 27 year old coach perfect? LOL no it's vintage and I have lots of little things to fix and upgrade and that is the fun part. My daughter and I stopped in Alamogordo, NM for 15 days on the way home. One thing I did not know I would be getting when I bought the Wanderlodge, (this came out of left field, lol) was the number of people, other RV'es that stopped by to take a closer look at my Vintage Wanderlodge.

In buying a used coach, brdtim has the right idea in asking questions. Learning as much as you can about a coach you are thinking about buying, will in the end save you money.

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All very good answers to your questions here. My input, based on being a motorhead forever, and a coach owner for a year should be balanced with more experienced folks, with older units.

Short answer: If you are mechanically and electrically "handy", then I say go for it. Any machine this complicated, like a house, will have usage issues, and older units may have issues show up sooner than later. However a premium quality unit will have fewer issues, and have features that make living in it more comfortable and convenient.

Check the tire DOT date - (read as week of the year, and the year). Anything over six or seven years old will need replacing. Figure $500 a tire. (Shameless plug - buy tires at Les Schwab in Oakridge, Oregon. He will also sell your old tires for you. Amazing service.)

A little counterpoint: I have read on forums that NEW units can have major problems, like being in the shop for six weeks after an initial weeks trip. But of course you would have warranties to help you there, provided the manufacturer is still in business.

I not only WOULD do it again (buy a five-six year old coach that had not been used for a few years) but would have done it ten years sooner, knowing what I know now. I only have experience with Country Coach, and cannot praise them high enough. They are still in business, by the way. ;*)

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