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How Long Will an RV Last?

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A lot of people ask me the question, "How long will an RV last?"

Asking how long an RV will last is like asking how long a house will last. The last time I saw George Washington's house and Thomas Edison's house, they both looked to be in excellent condition. By-the-way, if you want to see William Shakespeare's boyhood home where he lived in the 1500's, it's still in excellent condition.

Thomas Edison had a motorhome. I wonder if it's in a museum somewhere? If it is, I bet it's in excellent condition.

How long a house will last depends on how well it is taken care of. The same goes for an RV. I've been to some vintage RV rallies and seen some campers and motorhomes that are in better condition than a lot of new ones.

Below is a picture of Zepher--Chris and Cherie's 1961 bus that they converted into a modern, fancy, geeked-out motorhome.

<i>Zephyr--a 1962 converted and restored bus</i>
Zephyr--a 1962 converted and restored bus

You can see more pictures and learn more about it on their website at the link below:

How about this 1984 Airstream?

I saw this one on eBay and about the only thing I can see wrong with this motorhome is that it's out of focus. That should be easy to fix even with the camera on a cell phone.

Should You Buy a 10-year old RV?

I've heard people say not to buy an RV that's more than 10 years old. Some say don't get one that's more than five years old. Have you ever been to a vintage car show and seen some of the 1950s or even 1930's cars? Most of these cars are in better condition than they were when they were new. It all depends on how well they have been taken care of (or restored).

I've heard people talk about some campgrounds that won't let you stay there if your RV is more than 10 years old. I know that these places exist, but I've never experienced one. I probably couldn't afford to stay there anyway, so the concept doesn't concern me.

Don't get me wrong. A lot of old motorhomes and campers are just plain junk. They could turn into a money pit in a heartbeat. But if you have (or buy) an older RV and it's in reasonably good condition and you take care of it, it could last for many years--maybe for as long as you will, or at least as long as you will be RVing.

Sometimes people ask me what I'm going to do when I get too old to drive my car. I tell them I'm going to put it behind my motorhome and tow it.

Even with reasonable care, the engine and transmission of a motorhome will last for 200,000 to 300,000 miles without anything major going wrong. Diesel engines will last even longer. It's the inside of a motorhome or camper that starts to show wear and look shabby.

My motorhome is a 2002 model. It's 15 years old. I've had it four years and haven't had any major expenses with it. I did replace the refrigerator. I had the bottom couch cushions recovered, and I took out the old carpet and replaced it with laminated hardwood flooring. I've added a flat screen TV and a few electronic gadgets. I'll need new tires before long. And of course, it could use a good wax job. I did that last year and I'm going to get around to it again this year.

The one thing that can destroy or at least, seriously damage an RV

Water damage can be the death of an RV, so keep a close eye out for a leak and fix it immediately when you see signs of a leak. I use a moisture meter to check the walls from time to time to see if they are damp. Here's the one I use. You can get it on Amazon for $26 at this link:

One of the best ways to search for leaks is to get on top of your RV and remove and replace caulking that shows any sign of cracks. If you see a crack in the caulking, it's leaking or it's soon going to be leaking. I'm guilty of just putting more caulking on top of the old, cracked caulking sometimes. You can get by with doing this, but it's only a temporary fix. Do it right and you can prevent leaks for a long time. I would recommend carefully checking the caulking on your roof at least every six months.

Bottom line: You can find some real bargains in older RVs, but you have to inspect an older RV very carefully. A lot of them have not been taken care of. If you have an RV regardless of whether it's reasonably new, really old, or somewhere in between, by all means, stay on top of fixing things. If you will fix everything as soon as it needs it, your RV should last as long as Shakespear's house. Why not?

Your RV could be like the old joke about the hatchet that George Washington used to cut down the cherry tree. The handle has been replaced three times and the head has been replaced two times, but it's basically the original hatchet.

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