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Old 09-02-2013, 02:46 AM   #1
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Join Date: Sep 2013
Location: Alberta Canada
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Default 1990 Roadtrek Versatile - good buy or money pit?

My young family and I are interested in purchasing a campervan and came across one that sounds like a pretty good deal. It'd be our first RV and we're not sure how much we'd use it so didn't want to spend a fortune (~$10k).

The van is a 1990 Roadtrek Versatile with ~222,000 kms on it. Sounds like the owner did all the maintenance in a shop over the past 5 years of ownership and kept the service records. Everything sounds good speaking to the owner over the phone. Dodge 318 engine. Listed initially for $9500 but just now called me and she's willing to drop the price to ~$7800. Mentioned that brakes were done this year, and also did the wheel bearings and seals but no other major work.

I've read a few of the other posts about buying a high mileage van and wanted to pick the brains of on this forum. We're going to take a look at it and if we're serious about buying it, we'd get it mechanically inspected. My main concern is the age and high mileage.

Was wondering what major repairs would likely have been done or will need to be done in the near future? Suggestions on what to look for on the van and while test driving?

In general, do you think this van is a good deal or should we look for something a little newer? We definitely wanted something that will sit and sleep 4 people but don't want to break the bank if we don't ending up using it all that much. We're located in Alberta so there doesn't seem to be too much around in our price range so obviously we need to make some compromises.

Thanks for your help!!!
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Old 09-02-2013, 01:21 PM   #2
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Location: New Brunswick, Canada
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Default Re: 1990 Roadtrek Versatile - good buy or money pit?

It is good to read through the list of Roadtreks for sale on the Roadtrek Chapter site:

You can read what has been replaced or what the owner thinks needs to be replaced on the older units. It gives you a good idea idea of US pricing but, as you've probably have seen, prices tend to be a bit higher in Canada.

222,000kms = 138,000 miles. It is high but not that bad. All the usually items should be checked out so your comment that you'd get it mechanically inspected is smart.

The brakes might have been replaced because of use or not being used. I'd prefer that it was from use and not from sitting and getting rusty. Definitely inspect the underside for rust. I've bought a few rusty vehicles over the years but won't ever again.

Tires can be a big expense. Go by age first, then tread. Many RV'ers won't run tires over 6 years old. These vans typically run near max weight so tires are important.

Yes, it would be nice to have something newer but brand name Class B Vans don't get much cheaper than the price you quoted. Assuming it is good shape for its 23 year old age then you should get a few years of enjoyment and still be able to sell it fairly quickly if camping this way no longer interests your family.

Buyers often ask if the RV has a generator and an air conditioner- those two items help with resale. Also, check to see if it has a water heater. Things like that are expected these days but were options back then.
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Old 09-05-2013, 04:11 PM   #3
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Default Re: 1990 Roadtrek Versatile - good buy or money pit?

We purchased a 1990 Roadtrek Popular 12 months ago for a little less than the price you are looking at. It had 140,000 miles on its 5.2L (318 CID) engine. We have since put 22,000 miles on it, with some major expenses along the way.

We decided to get this high mileage Roadtrek because it was very clean inside and out. It obviously had been garaged for most of its 22 year life. Also, the engine compression for all 8 cylinders was 150 psi plus-or-minus 10%.

We budgeted $7000 for deferred maintenance and upgrades, and have spent all of this and a little more. This has put us at approx $14K total cost, which is still less than the cost of mid to late 1990 Roadtreks - and those will also need work.

Regarding the van itself, here are a few of the expenses we incurred:
1. Repair engine oil leaks.
2. Repair throttle body (a previous owner had really messed up the vacuum lines).
3. Replace tires (Michelin's are reputed to be the best tires for Roadtreks, which we got at Costco).
4. Replace front brake pads and rotors.
5. Replace AC compressor.
6. Replace catalytic converter.
7. Replace radiator.
8. Replace fan clutch.
9. Flush transmission.
10 Flush cooling system.
Most of this work was done by auto shops.

Regarding the RV, here are a few of the expenses we incurred:
1. Replace house battery with dual 6V golf cart batteries (from Sam's Club). This required raising the height of the battery box and sealing it tight to prevent acid fumes from entering the rig - also added plenum and exterior vent for the fumes to exit the rig.
2. Install proper battery charger, 10 amp (the charger in the original Progressive Industries converter shuts off at 13.5 volts!).
3. Replace rusted battery isolator (diode type) with new solenoid-type battery combiner (Victron Energy Cyrix-i 12/24V 120A). This combines the starting battery and house battery bank during charging, and isolates them during non-charging times, and allows the house bank to have full voltage charging from the alternator (unlike diode-type isolators).
4. Install 2AWG and 4AWG power cables to replace existing undersized wiring.
5. Install Bogart battery monitor.
6. Install Samlex 300 watt pure sine wave inverter (for charging smartphones and laptops, etc.).
7. Install memory foam for king size bed.
8. Install new stereo CD receiver with USB port for iPod usage.
9. Repair rainwater leaks at rear door, rear taillight, water heater box, and skylights (this was unexpected and took a lot of effort).
10. Replace anode in water heater (I think it was the original 1990 anode - it was all gone).
11. Add external propane hookup for barbecue.
12. Add awning.
13. Replace interior light bulbs with LED bulbs.
14. Add a few 12 V DC power outlets.
I did the labor on all of this work (except for the awning).

My next project is to add a surge protector (Progressive Industries EMS-HW30C).

All in all, this has been a good rig for us, even though it is a little underpowered. The 5.2L engine has a great reputation for reliability, but I wish we had the 5.9L engine.

The key to buying an old Roadtrek is to plan and budget for some major expenses.

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