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The HIDDEN COSTS of Buying a Used RV

In RV Life by TIM

RV Repair Costs

In the biggest surprise to no one ever-RV’s require a lot of repairs and maintenance.   We wanted to present a quick summary of the costs of repairs and maintenance (excluding regular anticipated costs like oil changes, lubes, etc).

In the most important of disclaimers- we bought this RV preowned from people who took great care of their vehicle.  This was not a forgotten RV rotting away in someone’s backyard- this was something that was cared for.

Broken-down RV Repair Costs

Ball Joints, Rear Axle Seal, Brake Job: $1578.30

My good buddy Dwayne is a master mechanic who helped us get the RV road ready as possible before our trip even started.   What we had thought was grease on the rear rotor turned out to be oil from an axle leak.   While the brake pads had plenty of pad on them they were in Dwaynes words “hard as a rock and too cooked to work well”.   Finally, the ball joints were just shot.   The RV was squeeking around with every bounce up and down.  

New Front Tires: $1,097.93

While some might trust their RV to Chinese made tires when it comes to betting my life I’m going top of the line for steer tires.   Michelin XRV’s are not cheap.   Is there a more cost effective option?   Sure.  Would I be willing to make that gamble for a few hundred dollars difference?  

There’s some old saying somewhere about never going cheap on beds, shoes, and tires. I’ll stick with the XRV’s.

Automatic Stair Step Motor and Linkage: $94

Two months in the florida salt air turned our step stairs into a rusted chunk.   I broke the linkage smashing the stairs back into place so we could actually drive away.  The stairs never worked terrific to begin with but a new motor gave them a little more gusto.

Replacement Wiper Assembly: $60

This fell apart and while zip ties worked to keep it together they didn’t inspire a whole lot of faith.  It’s nice to be able to see when driving in the rain.  Ordered straight from Winnebago.

Replacement Fluid Cap: $7.57

After stopping at three different auto parts stores and determining that the cap for a 2005 workhorse didn’t fit our RV, I just gave up and got a radiator cap that fit good enough.  Modern problems require modern solutions.

Tranny Fluid for Hydraulic Jacks: $8

Finally!  A non-specialized solution!  Our jacks were having problems extending/retracting properly so we had to top off the fluid reservoir with transmission fluid.  Guess how happy I was that this cheap solution fixed the problem?

Windshield Chip Repair: $112 + $92.99

If you ever go to Alaska in your RV be prepared for trucks to just be tossing rocks at your windows like crazy.  We had to have safelite come out and visit us on two separate occasions just two months apart.   They can fix bigger cracks then you might expect so give them a call before the crack runs across your entire windshield.

Generator Repair: $719.35

Before we even got into RVing I always thought that RV Onan generators looked like a huge pain in the ass.   No surprise when I was proven right.  Our generator crapped out when we needed it most- during the Arizona summer when AC was necessary.  We got a new solenoid, control board, voltage regulator, and some troubleshooting as well.

Hood/ Engine Cover Repair: $34.84

Winnebago mounts their hoods using adhesive for the brackets.   Why not just bolt it on?   I followed suite and got the heaviest duty bonding strength JB Weld and after a lot of work with a wire brush to prep the area managed to reattach the hood bracket.   It was so fun I did it twice after my first repair failed. 

Engine Repair Costs

Throttle Body: $651.50

Just into our second week we had a problem starting the RV and operated under REDUCED ENGINE POWER.   We managed to limp our way to a mechanic who installed a new throttle body for a hell of a mark up price. Better than being stuck on the beach though!

Tune Up, Spark Plugs, Spark Plug Wires, Knock Sensor and Ignition Coils $2280.87

We didn’t actually end up paying any of this as we disputed the charge through Chase this was the total for the bill.  The super shady RV mechanic told us that had fixed another problem we had as well but lied through his teeth.  We also had a check engine light on immediately after leaving the mechanic.   What a dirtbag.

Exhaust Repair: $216.64

Our exhaust burnt through a gasket in the last days of our trip and sounded like a racecar.  I thought it was cool but would have gone deaf driving it from Wyoming back to IL.   Easy fix but required a specialized gasket that would have been REALLY hard for me to find.

Interior Repair Costs

Fan for Bathroom Exhaust: $7.34

Little plastic fan for the bano had turned to dust.  This made our exhaust work again.

Propane LP Leak Detector: $87

You’ve never known the joy of waking up in the middle of the night was the LP detector goes off simply because its super old.  RV LP detectors typically are good for 5 years until they aren’t anymore.   Simple enough to replace but man- the sound of that thing going off is etched in my nightmares.

Electric Box $11

This came off the wall.  Boring problem and boring fix.

Water Pump: About $100

Toughest problem about replacing a RV water pump is matching up new model numbers to old ones.   In my opinion it isn’t worth the time or potential damage to fix an old water pump though many people do.

Total RV Repair Costs

That’s how easy it is to spend a little over $7000 within your first year on the road. Granted, we put a few miles (20,000) on some rough roads on her, but most of her repairs happened within our first 3 months in the lower 48 states through Texas, Arizona and Utah BEFORE we reached the tough roads of Canada and Alaska.

We hope this article is helpful in planning your budget if you are new to RVing and looking in to buying a used RV.