Seldom Home said:
Hello everyone. I have been looking for some time at the Rialta, it's seems ideal for my purposes.
Can someone tell me how I should go about inspecting a used model? What questions should I ask, and what items should I look for? I am thinking of looking at a 2000 model with about 150.000 km.
Are their any years or models that have particular problems or advantages$
I am somewhat leary about spending 25k$ on a 15 year old vehicle, should I be concerned?
Many of us can appreciate your concern over spending $25K on a 15 year-old vehicle but there is no need to fear doing so as long as you perform the same due dilligence you would looking at a 10-15 year old car. That said, keep in mind you are really buying two things, a cab and a coach.
Maintaining the coach is much like maintaining a house... electrics, plumbing, etc. True there is an LP gas circuit which demands professional attention if repairs are needed but I have otherwise done all my own coach repairs to include replacing the carpet with a laminate floor.
Concerning the cab, as long as the chassis/suspension is sound with little or no rust, the only really expensive items to repair/replace are the motor and the transmission, both of which should give many years and miles of faithful service if well maintained. VW's design criteria for motor and transmission service life before major overhaul was 125,000 miles (200,000km) but there are a number of owners well beyond that figure and stilll running on the original motor and transmission. That said, the transmission is working near its upper limit hauling around a 7,000lb (3+ tonne) vehicle so many of us have replaced the OEM transmission oil cooler with a much bigger and more efficient external one to help ease heat stress on the transmission fluid.
As for years/models.... Winnebago made the Rialta from 1995-2005 with several different floor plans and two motor upgrades, one in 1997 and one in 2002. You can read more about that at www rialtainfo dot com (aka The Baldy site) where there is also a checklist for how to inspect a Rialta when you are looking at one. I would also be happy to send you a copy of the spreadsheet I made to compare all the different Rialtas I was considering.
When we were in the market three years ago, we wanted the HD floorplan and at least a 1997 to get the bigger VR-6 motor both for the climbing/acceleration as well as improved fuel economy. Our budget for purchase/mods/repairs was $20,000 and we found a 99HD with 76,000 miles that we liked for $17,000. It was serviceable when we bought it but we did end up spending most of the remaining budget ($3000) in the first 6-12 months getting it really road ready and set up how we liked it.
If you can afford a Rialta that is less than 15 years old and with less than 80,000 (130,000km) miles on it, it is possible to buy an extended service plan from Good Sam that might take away some of the angst from buying an older vehicle. We considered it but declined due to the high cost figuring that if we didn't have a major breakdown in the first two years we would have saved enough in premiums to pay for motor or transmission overhaul. Three years and 15,000 miles later we have stilll not had any breakdowns so we are ahead. We do, however, maintain a robust roadside assistance plan with our insurance company to get us off the road and to a competent repair shop should we ever break down on the road.
Welcome to the community and good luck with your search. Don't hesitate to ask here publicly or PM me directly if you have any further questions.