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Go Retro with a Used Motorhome. How to save money with a Used Motorhome.

Updated on December 18, 2017
Don Bobbitt profile image

Don has been an avid traveler and motorhome owner for most of his life and shares his experiences with valuable tips.

Introduction to a Senior Couple's Solution


We have gone Motorhome Retro!

I know, it sounds weird, but let me explain.

A couple of years ago, we were both going through a number of health problems and even though we had a really nice Motorhome, it was just sitting in storage most of the time.

And, we were making some pretty large payments on a machine that was constantly depreciating in value. I won’t go into the details of our health, but we both have disabilities, or as I prefer to say, “we have physical limitations” and we were seeing a lot of specialists.

At the time, we were not very confident that we would ever be able to travel like we had in the past and we were in our mid-Sixties so we decided to get rid of our Big Rig.

Now, two years later, we kind of have our health issues under control and we have noticed that we are continually talking about getting on the road again.

Oh, I don’t mean running coast-to-coast like have in the past, but we felt we could take a lot of short trips around the Southeast and have camping fun again.

My days of ten hour runs on interstates were over. My Doctors said I could run for five, maybe six hours a day, at the most, (Blood Clots, Blood Sugar, etc.). This restriction would make our travel runs longer to our destinations but to be honest, my wife was actually happy about this new restriction on me, considering her bad back and her need to move around a lot to relieve her pains.

And, as we looked, we soon realized that we could do this quite well, in an older motorhome that suited our comfort needs for trips of only a two-three weeks at a time. And it made our legion of Doctors happy because they could see us regularly to keep us as healthy as possible

So, we started to get serious about what we really needed (and could afford) in order to get back on the road. I even described how we searched for the right RV in my blog rvandcamper.

My used Winnebago Project

my new Used Winnebago Motorhome
my new Used Winnebago Motorhome | Source

Our Retro-Motorhome Criteria

The key criteria for us in our search were;

1- We wanted a Class-A Motorhome from 32-36 feet long, manufactured by a quality company and built between 2000 and 2006.

2- We needed the extra space provided by having at least two slides, one in the Living area and one in the Bedroom. We knew from past experience that we need space to get around while we worked on our projects on our PCs and when we relaxed at night.

3- We wanted a Gas and not a Diesel engine. Besides the lower cost for fuel, we are going to be short hop people, driving in Interstate highways but also on state roads to gt to the campgrounds and parks that we need access to for our book research..

4- We needed 2 TVs, mostly because we have different tastes in entertainment and in the evening, we got along better when we bot got what we wanted.

5- We needed a decent kitchen area because we both love to cook and you can't eat out every day nor can you survive on fast food or take-out. When on the road, we eat the same as we do at home.

6- We are both active on the web with our Blogs and Websites as well as the books we write that we both need a decent computer workplace and access to the web.

7- And, of course, all of those luxury amenities such as; ducted AC/Heat, Ice Maker, adequate storage for clothes, a roomy Bath/toilet, etc. And we needed a reasonable amount of outside storage for our grill, rugs, folding chairs, tables, and those other things that make an afternoon outside enjoyable.

After several weeks of initial research, we were really excited because we realized there were a lot of really good used Motorhomes out there, on the market, that were actually in great shape and were priced surprisingly low.

the damaged Decals on My Winnebago

A closeup of the damaged decals on my used Winnebago
A closeup of the damaged decals on my used Winnebago | Source

Sorting out what is on the market.

Accept the reality of yesterdays standards

Of course, we had to accept that an older Motorhome would not be as luxurious as our previous 43-foot Monaco Camelot. It would not have a beautiful full-body paint job. It would not have the room that four large slides provided. It would not have an Air ride, nor ride as quietly as a Diesel Pusher. The electronics and other accessories would be simpler, even if just as functional.

But, honestly, a lot of what we were seeing on the market looked pretty good for our new traveling needs.

As we searched, we narrowed the available Motorhomes to those within 500 miles of our home in Florida down to just over fifty before we even contacted anyone for more information.

See my website article on how we sorted down to these semi-finalists. I think you may find it interesting because this process of elimination was a task in itself.

We then sat down with the data we had on these fifty-plus units and did another, much more harsh, sort of each unit, how it looked in the provided pictures, its overall external, internal and mechanical condition.

RV Wash and Wax

Meguiar's G55012 Classic Wash & Wax Kit
Meguiar's G55012 Classic Wash & Wax Kit

I've used a lot of different products to clean my RV's over the years I have found this brand to be the best for the price. I use these cleaners exclusively.


New Criteria for our search after we had educated ourselves

New Criteria

Our main criteria this time was simply; roughly how much was it going to cost us to bring each used Motorhome on our list up to our standards of quality, reliability and of course, functionality.

Oh yeah, by now, after weeks of investigating what was out there and what they were selling for around the country, we had established three more requirements for our “new old-Motorhome”.

First, we knew we wanted a motorhome that was built no earlier than 2000, OF course, we wanted a motorhome that was as new as possible, but we knew that the other reality of price would control this requirement in the end. The real reason we wanted this date limit was actually because of the technology that would be available in models this age or newer.

Motorhome manufacturers, like automobile manufacturers and those of any product that is re-introduced annually, will constantly be introducing the latest technologies into their product along with the latest options available. And, we already knew, as most RVers do, that the year 2000 was a pivotal year for some very progressive and useful designs, functions and options in motorhomes.

RV Fiberglass Restoration System

Meguiar's M4965 Marine/RV Fiberglass Restoration System
Meguiar's M4965 Marine/RV Fiberglass Restoration System

I used this product by Meguiar's on my used Winnebago and it worked great for me, like all of their other quality products.


Buy Used for 10-percent of the same RV New.

Second, Our research showed us that if we were diligent, we could purchase a motorhome that met our needs for a price of between $18K and $25K.

With our limited funds, and our desire to pay Cash for what we bought, and not have any kind of loan outstanding, this ended up being our limited range for a purchase.

So, as I mentioned, we were looking for a quality RV for as little as 10-percent of the same unit NEW.

Our third requirement was just how much we were willing to spend to upgrade our dream camper and we had set a limit of $3K to $5K. These would be the costs necessary to upgrade the usual things that either wear out or become outdated in a motorhome.

Required and expected Upgrades

Many things go out of date on motorhomes, such things as; the electronics in the RV, HD-TVs, antenna, web access, a decent GPS system, BlueRay DVD player, Audio System, to name a few.

Also, with a motorhome at this potential age(10 to 14 years old) , even if it is well maintained would probably need certain maintenance upgrades performed on it.

Here is a list of what we were seeing in the used vehicles available that would require upgrades, repairs or replacement on different ones of the motorhomes we were looking at. Such things as; a new sofa-bed, a new lounge chair, an upgrade to a Convection microwave, carpet replacement, a new mattress, a decent stereo with external inputs, new window shades, a resealed roof, a good “up to 5000-lb.” tow hitch, good tires less than five years old and the list goes on.

Of course, most of the motorhomes would only require two or three of the major things I have listed, but still, every Camper we looked at had at least a few of these things that required a certain amount of money.

These new limits dropped our list of prospective purchases down to 24. That means two dozen prospects for us to move on to the next step and actually start making calls so we could ask our questions and if things looked good then maybe even start the negotiation process.

RV Patio Awning replacement fabric

SunWave Awning Fabric Ocean Blue Fade 16' *(approximate fabric width 15' 2-3")*
SunWave Awning Fabric Ocean Blue Fade 16' *(approximate fabric width 15' 2-3")*

The awning fabric on my used Winnebago was faded and torn in one spot so I purchased a new one from this company and it has held up great for me.


An accidental find, at the last minute.

Our list included motorhomes located in Florida, of course, but also in Georgia, South Carolina, Kentucky, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, Mississippi and even New Jersey.

After I started calling about these finalists, two were quickly eliminated because they were “Hurricane Sandy” motorhomes that looked good in the pictures, but did have “Scrap” titles.

It seems that there are some dealers who are buying motorhomes that have been damaged by water during hurricane Sandy and were scrapped by insurance companies, and then being cleaned up and listed in other markets, especially Florida.

Six others were eliminated because five were with dealers and one was with an individual seller because all of whom would not budge from their listed price. And, their listed price was on the high side, according to NADA.

Of the remaining sixteen, two only had four pictures in their listing and the seller did not want to send any more pictures. Each suggested that I “drop by” and check the camper out personally, which would be my next step anyway but each of them was two states away, so I set them aside.

Four others were close enough to our home (less than 100-miles) that we made quick trips and inspected them. One turned out to be a maybe, and the other three were nothing like their pictures.

So, now we were down to just ten prospects after several weeks of research.

Finally, I had been going through my contact list and trying to get someone to deal with and after several hours, I had called a dealer in Jacksonville (3.5 hours drive away) who indicated some flexibility in his price if I was talking a cash deal, which I was.

We made arrangements and my wife and I were going to be heading to Jacksonville the next morning. As I put all of my paperwork away for the day, looking forward to a nice glass of red wine to relax with after all of the work I had done, I looked down and I saw a listing for what seemed a good prospect, and it was less than twenty miles away from my home.

I groaned, expecting more disappointment, but I called them and, guess what? He told me he couldn’t drop the price on the unit I had called about. Then he threw in the big BUT! He said;

“But, I do have a consignment unit that I think you would love and the owner is willing to consider offers.”

In less than ten minutes of questions, I was very interested and we had set up a meeting for the next morning. After I had hung up, I explained to my wife that with this dealer being only twenty miles away we could stop by and look and if it wasn’t interesting, we would just keep going to Jacksonville as planned.

So, the next morning, we pulled into the dealership bright and early and the salesman walked us out to this 2001 Winnebago Adventurer. A quick walk around the outside showed that the body was in great shape, with no signs of any damage at all, and it had a new set of tires.

The thing that looked bad, and I happen to know turns a lot of RV hunters away was the stripes. They were decals and the owner had let too many people use a pressure washer on the Rig. You see, if the person operating the pressure washer lets that high pressure washer stream get too close to the Decals on a Camper, the edges will eventually start to lift and then try to peel away from the fiberglass body.

Anyway, this is the major cause of the edges of RV decals peeling and you would be surprised how ugly this looks on a perfectly good RV body. So, a lot of people just back off from considering these cosmetically challenged used Motorhomes.

I just shook my head, and made the salesman open all of the basement doors and there were three obviously good things under the Rig. 1- All of the doors and their latches worked perfectly. 2- All of the compartments were extremely clean. And, 3- everything mechanical and electrical in the compartments looked good and was functional.

When I had finished outside, I looked around and my wife and the salesman had gone inside, so I followed them. And, I was hooked! There were no odors, the carpet was new, and everything had obviously been taken care of by the owner. The upholstery was in good shape, the woodwork was real wood and had a good finish.

I could go on with my list, but to summarize, although some of the electronics was dated, the RV looked like it might be 3-4 years old, rather than 13. Looking over at my wife, I could see her obvious interest in this Rig after all of the others we had seen, so by this time I was pretty sure we weren’t going to Jacksonville.

My wife and I took a break from the salesman and walked around their lot discussing everything about this RV, especially the price. So, after a few minutes we walked back and I started grilling the salesman, jumping the conversation between the Rig itself, and what the owner wanted for it.

Finally, after a half an hour of dickering we agreed that I should make and offer, if I was serious.

So, having already looked the unit up on NADA from what he had told me the day before, I dropped a relatively low number on a piece of paper, along with a list of provisional demands. These were demands for a specific list of inspections, servicing, and repairs, if necessary.

In the end, after even more negotiating, I actually got my price and only had to add a few hundred bucks for some of the more costly service and maintenance parts costs.

It took them a week to get everything I had required done on the Motorhome and I drove it home with no problems.

Our new Used Motorhome is a Winnebago

We now owned a nice new (to us) used (2001) Winnebago Motorhome. And everything in and on it worked. Any money I needed to spend, in the future, other than for regular service, would be for any upgrades I wanted to add. And it was paid for. No monthly payments.

Here is what we ended up purchasing;

It is a 2001 Winnebago Adventurer 35U, Ford chassis and V10 Vortec engine with 4-speed Ford transmission, two slides, basement AC/Furnace, Onan 5500 Generator, rear camera, 2-TVs, new microwave, Queen bed with new mattress, all new tires, Dash Desk for Navigator seat, flip-up desk for lounge seat area, Corian countertops, stainless steel double sink, push-to-reset DC “fuses”, fridge/freezer with ice-maker, roomy bathroom and shower,lots of storage inside and out, and with the slides out, lots of room for a couple to move around and live comfortable, plus a single original owner and most of his service records.

What Now? Well, we are actually ready to hit the road and visit our relatives and friends in Virginia in a few weeks. We are shaking everything our as we load the Rig with our personal things and customize a few things to make the Rig a home.

Upgrading our Retro-Winnebago

That's what we are working on our plans to get done. As we use our Retro-Winnie, we are measuring and researching exactly what we can afford to upgrade and in what order we can get it done.

We will be writing a number of articles as we determine what to get done and we will give instructions with pictures and videos on both our decision process as well as the procedures we used.

How to remove old Decal Striping from your RV

2001 Winnebago RV Oxidation removal and wax

© 2014 Don Bobbitt


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    • Maria Antonia profile image

      Antoinette Lee Toscano 

      3 years ago from Raleigh, NC

      I love camping life Don. I spent 5-days camping and whitewater kayaking in the desert at Mexican Hat, Utah on the San Juan river. You are living the life man.

    • Don Bobbitt profile imageAUTHOR

      Don Bobbitt 

      3 years ago from Ruskin Florida

      Maria- I'm one of those people who has to learn his lessons the hard way.

      I spent a small fortune over the years buying the latest and newest RV.

      This time, in my newfound wisdom, I purchased an older RV, for a reasonable price that I could write a check for.

      And, guess what? We are very comfortable in our Retro-Winnie. So what if I have to replace a few worn out parts?

      All is well.

      And we are having a ball camping again.

      Keep the faith and, who knows? You could be camping soon.

      Thanks for the comment,


    • Maria Antonia profile image

      Antoinette Lee Toscano 

      3 years ago from Raleigh, NC

      Owning an RV is on my bucket list. We've rented in the past but I'd like to own one someday. Thanks for doing such a great job at breaking all of this down us. I'm a much more educated consumer now.

    • velzipmur profile image

      Shelly Wyatt 

      3 years ago from Maryland

      Great article friend! I learned a great deal, we have an older motor home and we are looking to upgrade it. I will be referring to some of your articles for tips and advice.

      Shelly Wyatt aka Velzipmur

    • Don Bobbitt profile imageAUTHOR

      Don Bobbitt 

      3 years ago from Ruskin Florida

      ladyguitarpicker- I guess it just gets into your blood after you spend a lot of time with great people and great sights. You miss it and I had that fifth-wheeler for over a year, but it just wasn't the same as rolling in your home.

      Thanks for the comment,


    • ladyguitarpicker profile image

      stella vadakin 

      3 years ago from 3460NW 50 St Bell, Fl32619

      Hi nice article, we have a very similar story even living in Ruskin at one time we bought a 2001 Kountry Star we both had health issues but went back to a class A motor home, because we miss the camping.

    • Don Bobbitt profile imageAUTHOR

      Don Bobbitt 

      4 years ago from Ruskin Florida

      JamaGenee- So Great to hear from you, again.

      And, I agree with you about having a fifth-wheeler as a home base and using the tow vehicle for exploration.

      We, went the other way, and used a Motorhome and towed a Jeep, for the same reasons.

      I guess it is a personal preference thing, really.

      As I mentioned, with our health situation, we can't actually RUN like we used to, but we can HOP from one place to another.

      We are going to take smaller trips and sit longer and "smell the Roses".

      Have a great day,


    • Don Bobbitt profile imageAUTHOR

      Don Bobbitt 

      4 years ago from Ruskin Florida

      wheelinall over- I guess you are right, once you set a real limit of how much space you need to live comfortably, it is an amazing thing. I found that what I had in my home (house) that I really treasured were pieces of furniture that mu Dad had made. Other than that, things that were essentially mementos of my wife and mine were precious to us, but there were only a few of those. So, we were traveling around the country with a few hard items and what it took to live well.

      I am so ready to hit the road again, just thinking about it.


    • wheelinallover profile image

      Dennis Thorgesen 

      4 years ago from Beatrice, Nebraska U.S.

      I found when I lived a year on the road that you will be amazed what you can do without. A 24 ft motor home carried everything I needed. It is also amazing what you learn. A motor home climbing constantly doesn't get good mileage.

      I agree you can park an RV just about anywhere you want. Just not on the side of the freeway. I was only in the South East in the RV one time. It was actually the most RV friendly area I was ever in.

    • Don Bobbitt profile imageAUTHOR

      Don Bobbitt 

      4 years ago from Ruskin Florida

      dahoglund- Thanks for the comment. We have enjoyed traveling in a motorhome for a long time and to us its our second home, just like many people have.

      Ours just has wheels and we can park it anywhere we want in the USA.

      Thanks again for the read and comment.


    • Don Bobbitt profile imageAUTHOR

      Don Bobbitt 

      4 years ago from Ruskin Florida

      rpward51- When were in better health, we were going to run around the country for several years and we had a Big Rig with a tag axle. In fact the one you see as the header of my blog rvandcamper.

      It does give you a nicer ride but the main reason for having a Tag axle is that you can tow/carry a larger load, with some rigs as much as 17,000 pounds.

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 

      4 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Sounds great. We have thought about campers but don't know if we will actually get into it. Enjoy your trips.

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      Oh, never mind about the tag axle. I was looking at the wrong picture. Stupid me.


    • profile image


      4 years ago

      Nice rig. I like the fact it's got a tag axle. They're supposed to help the ride and handling a good deal.


    • The Frog Prince profile image

      The Frog Prince 

      4 years ago from Arlington, TX

      Great article Don.

      The Frog


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