Buying-an-Older-Class-C-Motorhome-11-70s-80s-RV- to-Buy

Buying an Older Class C Motorhome (11 70s-80s RVs to Buy)

Old and used isn't bad. In fact, if you go through the used RV ads, you can find a gem of a vehicle and pay far less than if you bought a new one. The extra savings can go for other activities or food you enjoy. Besides old doesn't mean washed up and useless.

This is a good idea if you can find one that is in very good shape. You will save a lot of money plus get the extra features the previous owner ordered. The thing about buying older is that you have to be more careful and make a thorough examination of the RV before buying.

To learn more about buying an older Class C RV, just continue to read our article. It will review different RV models plus provide tips and things to look for so you do not get stuck with a lemon.

Buying An Older Class C Motorhome Tips


There are several things to be aware of other than the amount of money you will save by buying an older Class C RV. Everyone knows what comes with buying new- high price, high insurance, high depreciation, great modern technology, great features, and comfort.

Yet, buying used can still get you great features, comfort and help you avoid depreciation, high insurance costs, and so on.

1. Save money- if money is tight, buying used will help your budget stretch further. Plus, you will save on insurance, licensing, and so on.

2. Do a test vacation- if the owner will allow you, rent it for a weekend and see what you will experience firsthand.

3. Look for leaks- this is a very great possibility with used RVs. make sure to examine the tanks, fuel lines, water lines, and seals, etc. You do not want to pay out more money for repairing leaks.

4. Look for broken parts- you need to know what needs to be fixed and if you can get parts to replace the broken ones.

5. Check for mold & rust- make sure the chassis and body are in good condition. Then make sure the interior is safe to live in.

6. Low mileage is not always good- if the RV has been sitting for a while, different issues can arise including cracks, small creatures making a home inside, and other issues. Low mileage is a benefit if the RV is in top shape and very clean.

7. Check the tires- they need to be in top shape or you will be spending a fairly hefty sum replacing them.

8. Diesel or gas engines- diesel motors have more power, they last longer than gas models and they are very dependable. But those benefits also move the purchase price up quite a bit. this one is your call.

9. Sit in the driver’s seat- you are going to be spending a lot of time there so make sure it fits you well and is comfortable. Also, make sure it is easy to reach all the important pedals, switches, and gears.

10. Find the right length for you- Class C RVs can be as short as 20 feet and as long as 40 feet. The price may be right but the length may not fit your needs or driving ability.

Pros & Cons Of Buying an Older RV


  • You save money- Not just on the purchase price but on insurance, licensing, and other fess.
  • You do not have to pay more for added features- The previous owner did all that. You just get the benefit of enjoying them.
  • Everything is broken in- You can use every componet right away without fear of breaking something because it is not broken in.
  • Low mileage can be good- That would mean that there is little wear and tear on important engine and body parts. Parts won't break down any time soon.
  • Retains its value better- New RVs depreciate very quickly in value and you lose a lot of money as soon as you drive it off the lot. Not so with used RVs.


  • Could be a lemon- many parts and features may be broken and you will have to spend a lot to fix it up.
  • Harder to find parts- engine and other parts are not made forever. You may spend a lot of time tracking down a usable part to replace the broken one.
  • If you borrow money for the purchase- Your interest rates may be higher for loans for used RVs than they would be for new ones.
  • Living space designed for the previous owner- You need to make sure you can live with the floor plan as everyone's tastes and lifestyle are different.
  • Questionable stains- We will let you think about that.
  • Lower fuel mileage- Older RVs do not have all the technological advances that help improve fuel economy.

70s RV

Some people suggest that when looking for an older RV, you should not go beyond buying one that is 15 years old. Their reasons are legitimate but not always accurate. There still are several 70s RV models that will hold their own and provide you with a great RV experience.

1977 Dodge Jamboree RV


One of the problems with going to an older motorhome is that no one likes to publish the specs. This model of Class C came with a 318 gas engine but mileage is not known at this time.

It is a self-contained unit and had a dinette area towards the rear of the interior. All the necessities were there, a fridge, oven, and heater as well as adequate storage space. The chassis was part of the Dodge M Chassis design which provided stability and good handling.

Its length was between 16 and 32 feet providing owners with as much room as they needed. Some models came with a rear bathroom instead of the rear dinette and depending on your preference, this may be a good design feature.

1979 Dodge Mobile Traveler

This model came with at least 2 engine options, the 318 and the 361 but its major issue will be with emission. This old RV doesn't have all the emission controls on it so it may not pass any emission testing.

This model also came in several lengths so you can choose how long you want yours to be. These may be a bit harder to find as not too many people have them for sale right now.

Dodge stopped making this line of RVs in 1988 and if you can come across one in good shape, it is a solid vehicle. Gas mileage may not be so great with up to 17 on the highway and 14 mpg in the city. Those figures will change depending on your driving conditions.

1979 Vanguard Motorhome

The closest we could get to this model was the 1977 version. This doesn't mean there are no more of the 1979s, it just means they are not being sold right now. The 77 version came with an ideal cab, captain’s chairs, 4 cup holders, and an easy-to-reach steering wheel.

The 23 footer was built on a 1 1/2 ton chassis and was powered by a 7.5-liter engine. The furnace, water heater, and fridge were all propane-powered and well organized in the spacious interior.

Wall-to-wall carpeting is everywhere including the cab. This helped absorb the noise as you drove. If you decide to check one out, don’t forget to look for leaks, broken seals, and any broken parts.

1977 Dodge Shasta


The Dodge Shasta trailer is very small. Barely reaching just over 13 feet in length, this trailer is better for hunting than vacationing. It will sleep 5 but its 6 and 1/2 foot width may not make that sleeping arrangement very comfortable.

At its peak, the trailer reaches 7 feet 8 inches high on the inside. Lots of windows to let the light in. The 16-gallon water tank will only service the sink as there is no bathroom or shower inside.

Its overall weight is 1150 pounds with 150 at the hitch. There is an optional electric braking system and you should double-check any of these models to see if they have this system or not. Other than that, you can tow this trailer with just about any vehicle you want and get to your destination with ease.

80s RV

It is hard to find RVs and trailers that are getting close to 50 years old. There seem to be more 80s models available right now as they are only approaching their 40th year. The 80 models will have the advantage of the technological advances of that time and probably be a bit more modern and comfortable than the many 70s models still in existence.

1984 Travelaire Motorhome

Over the years this RV model came in several different formats. The 1984 version looked just like the Class C RV of its day. The exterior had the box on the back of a van-like cab. The rear axle looked like it was too far forward.

This RV could sleep 5 and had 2 100 L fuel tanks to power it down the road. A rear toilet was behind the master bed and the shower was built on the outside of the RV. Then some models could be equipped with a 460 Ford motor which was heavy-duty for its day.

Then the cab oversleeping quarters is fairly wide as it partially covered the hood of the vehicle. One of the drawbacks to this model of RV is that the frame did not go all the way to the back of the vehicle. Sometimes it just stopped right after the tires

1983 Ford Class C Motorhome


The Ford Econoline E350 motor home comes with a 7.5 L V8 OHV 16 valve gas engine. That is lots of power to move this RV to your destination. With a 26 foot length, you had plenty of room for the family as it could comfortably sleep 5 to 6 people.

2 double beds handled the sleeping arrangements. The amenities are all standard for that era. There is a fridge, stove, bathroom, awning as well as a single slide out on some models.

Unfortunately, the RV only came with hydraulic brakes which may make slowing down a little difficult in emergencies. An automatic transmission made driving simple and easy without losing any power.

The interior cab is basic in design, with no frills and no luxurious seats. The seats are vinyl-covered standard vehicle seats and not captain’s chairs. The interior layout provided as much living space as possible.

1983 Skyline Jamee

When looking for an older RV to purchase one of the benefits you come across is that the previous owner may have made many upgrades. Instead of getting 40-year-old appliances, you are getting newer ones that will work well.

Also, mileage on these type of Class C RVs are low because many people may have only used theirs for two weeks out of the year. One model came in at 58,000 miles approx.

The Ford 8 cylinder engine was controlled by an automatic transmission which was placed on a Ford Econoline 350 chassis. The length of this RV option ranged between 18 and 26 feet and sometimes the company that built this model used a Chevy chassis.

The company is still in business and has many operational plants producing more modern RVs. The older ones still exist but not in any great number many ads expire and it is not known how many are still for sale.

1984 Champion Flagship RV

This Class C RV had a unique design to it. Built on a G30 Chevy 1 ton chassis the RV looked more like a bubble than a vehicle. The motor was a 350 V8 gas, with a 3-speed automatic transmission.

Mileage is unknown at this time but given its size, it is easily getting in the low to mid-teens fuel wise. The unique feature was the indented rear panel that held a fairly large window. The side access door is nice and wide allowing many bigger items to be carried in or out with ease.

The overall design was to help with aerodynamics as the front cab roof melted into the little cab-over space, making them look like one unit. Some models in the 1984 era had the access door in the rear of the RV. Then the same year models often have completely different floor plans

1986 Toyota Travelmaster


Toyota did not adopt the van cab design. Instead, it went with a pick-up truck look that may have given the company more engine options. Unfortunately, the engine they chose was the 4 cylinders automatic transmission style.

That left the owners without a lot of reserve power to get up steep hills. The 22RE motor did get about 17 to 18 MPG which would help anyone’s budget. Then this smaller Class C RV could only sleep 4 comfortably.

With lots of windows around the body, one will feel like the interior is more spacious than it really is. If the RV is well taken care of there should not be any leaks nor other problems.

This RV option is for those people who do not need a lot of space and like a smaller RV to drive. The interior was well built and soft easy chairs near the dinette allowed you to rest after a hard day’s drive.

1983 Triple E Motorhome

These looked more like a boat on wheels. Their design was very boxy a=with sharp linear lines that did not bring any attractiveness to the RV. This model may have been one of the first to have a door on the driver’s side.

Under the hood was a 454 gas motor and driven with an automatic transmission. Other features included cruise control, AC, a fairly large bathroom, and a sink and oven.

The interior is well organized and easy to move around in but for some reason, it doesn't seem to be that spacious. That could be because of the dark color on the cabinets and the overall design of the components.

The dual axle also had rear-wheel drive but the long overhang made it quite difficult to get out of some parking lots. The cab was very basic in nature with wall-to-wall carpeting helping suppress the noise.

1983-1984 Mobile Traveler Motorhome

This was a Ford E-350 Econoline van, Model 35C, Class C, 22' and it came with different lengths and a few different floor plans. Plus it had a Ford 460CI/7.5L V8 OHV 16V with a 3-speed automatic transmission. Gas mileage is unknown but it won’t be that great.

Its rear-wheel-drive should be powerful enough to propel this RV over very steep hills with little to no issues. The interior is very spacious, due to the many windows and how the different components are designed.

The master bedroom was in the back near the bathroom and the access door entered into the kitchen area. All in all these RVs seem to be in good shape but it is hard to tell when you buy used. There are leaks to one of the models we saw and a few other issues.

What To Do When Looking For an Older RV To Buy


1. Hire an inspector- you may know a lot about RVs but when it comes to older models you want someone who really knows what to check and what to look for. This may be expensive but it may save you a lot of headaches and money in the future.

2. Always visit the RV- do not buy sight unseen as you are going to have nothing but problems. Make sure to visit it and look through the RV yourself. Anyone telling you not to look first is hiding something and you should move on to the next seller.

3. Look for mold- not just in the easy-to-see spots but open drawers, cabinet drawers, look under the chairs, and more places. The presence of mold tells you that there are water, leak, and other issues you need to know about before you buy.

4. Double-check all appliances and condition of the interior- older fridges and other appliances may not work that well. You do not want to be given a bunch of parts that need replacing. Look for leaking pipes and other possible spots that may leak.

Windows may not seal properly anymore so check everything to avoid being disappointed later on.

5. Check the ceiling- vents, air conditioning units, and other places may not be sealed correctly and are possible leak hazards. Water damage can be repaired to some extent, however, some water damage can be quite expensive to repair or replace.

6. By from reliable sellers- this may be hard to do when the RV is being sold by the owner. But when you are dealing with a dealership make sure to know their reputation and watch how they try to sell you.

All of these things to do will help minimalize your getting a problem RV. They may not completely eliminate bad RVs or sellers but it helps narrow that possibility down.

Some Final Words

Buying used is not a bad thing to do. Older RVs still have a lot to give when they are in good shape. Plus, you can save a ton of money over buying a new one. The thing to do is to do your homework, know what you want and what to look for.

No one wants to buy other people’s problems.

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