Thinking about getting an older Motorhome


I’m considering getting a 1989 Springer Mallard RV with a Chevy 454 that has 22000 actual miles and want to know if this is a terrible idea. Typically in my world lower miles are better, but these are extremely low miles for a vehicle of this age. The current owner claims that they haven’t had any mechanical problems of any kind, and that they used it very sparingly. What sort of problems should I look out for on a vehicle this old with such low miles. Is an 89 Chevy 454 going to be reliable and easy to service. I plan on driving it from Indiana to Oregon and possibly back again. Any ideas, suggestions, advice would be great. Thank you.


My very first post and I messed it up. Heh. It’s actually a Mallard Sprinter Motorhome. I don’t know if that really matters or not, but there you go.


This vehicle has spent a LOT of time sitting around. When this happens, gaskets and seals dry out. The engine may be mechanically OK, but it may start leaking oil like crazy when you try to put into use. I would be suspicious of all belts and hoses, too, unless there is proof that they’ve been replaced recently.

This vehicle may be in good shape, or not, it’s really hard to tell from here.

I would be concerned about the fuel costs, especially if you have to use 91-octane gasoline. You should expect fuel mileage in the single digits.


Low mileage is fine. However age also causes problems since rubber/plastic parts degrade over time as do gaskets etc.

I would have it checked over before purchase by a motorhome mechanic and especially long range trip.


Remember too that your brake fluid could have water in it from sitting and rubber brake hoses could be brittle and or bubble coming down a mountain. A big mountain. It’s fine to break down, it’s not fine to be barrelling down a mountain with no brakes. Oh yeah, tires too.


The mileage might be a good thing if the owners used it once or twice a year, every year, and ran it a couple thousand miles each year and then changed the oil. If, on the other hand, they used it for 30 thousand miles in the first 3 years and only drove it a couple thousand once every 5 years after that, and didn’t change the oil at least once a year . . . well that’s another story.

As others have said, check the rubber and plastic parts which get brittle and cracked with age, but if the engine doesn’t leak around the seals and has good compression, it’s probably OK. Does the AC work? Has it been recharged? If so, how recently? A recent recharge could be a sign of a leak and those can get expensive on an RV. I always figure $1000 for a leaky AC system.


I know they put new tires on it 2 years ago. I’ll definitely ask them about their usage pattern and take a good close look at all of the rubber parts that I can get to. I do know of an RV mechanic that will do an inspection for $150 - $200, which I believe will be money well spent.

I think the mpg are around 9, which I am prepared for (I think). :slight_smile:


This is probably typical for a motorhome. Have you asked this question in a motorhome forum?


Gaskets drying out from age is just a lot of hooey. Not a problem in my experience with a 20 year old car, a 25 year old motorcycle and also a 20 year old motorcycle. We also had a 10 year old motorhome for two years until sold. Possibly gaskets drying out was true of the earlier Japanese cars until they got it right. A motorhome has a considerable variety of systems that can go wrong including engine, driveline, absorption type refrigerator, gas furnace, house wiring, lighting fixtures, 12 volt charging system for engine and house battery, 120 volt house battery charger, water system, drain system, stove, dash and house air conditioners to name several. The possibility of roof leaks is always a consideration with most designs and there is tire rotation to be done with 7 tires and a spare to include. If you are not a DIY person, then be prepared to travel almost always with some portion of your motorhome non functional or else pay out plenty. This is mostly true with a new motorhome too; we had one of those.

A motorhome is a great way to travel, the best in my view, but it is not a simple vehicle to keep.


The inspection will tell you what parts may need to be replaced, like the hoses and belts. I’d check the AC to be sure that it functions well. I bought a car that sat on the dealer’s lot for over 6 months. The seals on the compressor were bad from lack of use and had to be replaced. You can use the suggested and mandatory repair list to adjust the price.

jtsanders, who does not like being dropped in the middle of a response. I hate agreeing to the terms of service, don’t you, Cyberbabe?