Why We Bought a Used Motorhome

The struggles & benefits of purchasing a pre-owned home.

Melanie & Jeremy Scroggins  |  10.10.2017

The spring of 2016 proved interesting for my husband and I. Jeremy was down with pneumonia and I was on the brink of a work-induced anxiety attack. We made quite the pair.

One particular evening during this time, we sat down to watch a documentary about tiny homes. We started having conversations about the future – what it looked like, what we wanted to do.

But while the film played, something else started moving within us. We both felt it. Whether it was to be a tiny home or a tent, we wanted to live under our own rules wherever we pleased.

By the spring of 2017, we were married and moving into the next phase of our lives together. We had solidified plans to travel abroad for a couple months, we’d sold most of our things and left our apartment in Austin, TX, in the dust. But we had no idea where we were going to live once we were stateside again.

The Old Nag’s Head: The official start to the Pennine Way, Edale, UK.

It wasn’t until we joined a community of like-minded individuals at the RV Entrepreneur summit, pretty much on a whim, that we knew we were going to live in an RV. So after our two-month journey abroad, we started looking at RVs to buy.

Why a Class C?

During our research, we went back and forth about which type of RV we wanted.

“I think a trailer makes more sense. I don’t want to be stranded on the side of the road if our Class A, B or C breaks down. I don’t think I could handle that.”

This was a constant sentiment of ours while we debated the types. We loved the space a Class A offered, but we also liked the idea of better gas mileage and the ability to stop and make a sandwich like the Class C offered.

We talked about this for months.

It finally came down to what we were willing to spend. While a trailer safeguarded the chance of not being stranded, it also meant we’d have to sell both our cars and buy a truck to pull the trailer. Hm.

So our budget of $40,000 at the time went up to about $60,000 in an instant. Yikes. That was not the plan. The plan was to save money, and that option simply wasn’t going to cut it for us financially.

After talking more about our options once the trailer was out, we agreed on a Class C – which eventually led us to Melvin, a used 2001 Class C Winnebago Minnie.

Officially leaving Texas for Oregon.

Challenges of Buying Used

The key to buying a used RV is to find one that works well for you, has minimal damage, and doesn’t break the bank. This proved to be much more difficult than we imagined.

And while I can say we started looking for RVs after our trip, that’s not the whole truth. We started looking seriously at RVs to buy after the trip, but I looked a good six months before we left.

Six months. And nothing.

A couple rigs piqued our interest along the way, but nothing panned out. We were partly hoping to find our home before we left the states. That would have made it so much easier to travel without worrying about getting home just to find a home. But of course, we didn’t.

One of the RVs we looked at before we left was almost a done deal. We met the guy, looked around, took it for a test drive and thought it was good enough. As with most great Craigslist stories, the seller ended up being super shady about the whole thing. While we sat waiting in a Ross parking lot, he was making a sale to someone else he had spoken with the day before.

I know that sounds sad. Waiting in a Ross parking lot for a potential RV seller, but that’s where we were and that was part of this long journey. It wasn’t heartbreaking to leave without an RV that day. It was heartbreaking because we were tired and wanted to find our new home.

Shortly after returning from our trip, we found Melvin and are happy with our choice. Our main concern was simply, will this get us to where we need to go safely? And he could. However, we did have to compromise with our final purchase.

My dream pick was a Winnebago, so it felt like fate that Melvin magically appeared online one day. He only had two owners in the past, as far as the dealer knew, and he was kept under cover for most of the time, so his exterior paint was darn near perfect. He looked good.

We knew of some water damage in the over-the-cab and back part of the rig on the driver’s side, but he was in remarkable shape in other ways. The floors were not scuffed, the carpet was almost spotless, the cabinetry was in great shape, the generator ran well, four of the six tires were pretty new, and his slide worked flawlessly.

When it was time for repairs, were they all easy to complete? No. To be honest, we ended up hiring someone to repair the over-the-cab damage because we just didn’t have the time to do it ourselves.

It’s important to remember that while you save money, buying used means that you are also buying the rig’s “baggage.” Melvin will need work even after we’re seemingly finished working on him. He’s 16, so he gets a break, but I really can’t think of a better way to learn how to take care of our rig and learn new skills that we can use down the road.

Benefits to Buying Used

Gaining Financial Peace

Everyone has different motivations for living on the road full time, but saving money and paying off debt is one of our top priorities.

Jeremy served in the Air Force, so his education was paid for via the GI Bill. While we are extremely grateful we only have one education to pay for, we still have mine to pay off.

When we got married, my student loans stood at a conservative $16,000. I paid for the first two years out of pocket, but this number was still hard to swallow.

Newly married, it worried me. And we’ve already made a commitment to not have kids until it is paid off, so there is more at stake for us than having a little bit of debt.

Living in a consumer society, we desire to be fiscally responsible with what we are given and what we have in the future. And yes, this includes our children.

A used rig made the most sense for us, so we set a $30,000 budget. With that amount, we were able to buy our rig and tow dolly, paint the walls and other smaller elements, and repair aesthetic problems in the RV without going over budget.

Yes, we will be paying off my loans and the RV simultaneously for a little while, but when your rent is half of what you paid prior, that task doesn’t seem so insurmountable. Plus, in the end, we’ll own our home.

Figuring Out What We Want for the Future

As newlyweds, buying a home just to pay it off for many years to come did not sound appealing. Not only that, but we don’t like to stay still for too long. When you can’t stomach the idea of renting an apartment for an indefinite amount of time, you need another option.

We didn’t know what we wanted to do.

Living in an RV gives us the flexibility to visit other places of interest and decide where we could possibly end up. Renting apartments in every place we visit simply isn’t feasible for us. This way, we can take our home wherever we go.

Freedom to Make It Our Home

When you rent a home or apartment, there are normally rules against painting and personalizing the space. When you buy an RV, you have the freedom to make it look and feel how you want. And when you buy a used RV, there is less pressure to keep things as the factory made them.

Our used motorhome allows us the opportunity to paint, organize, and design our home as we please. He’s old enough to need a small makeover, but the design of the rig is so well done that most of what we’ve worked on is purely aesthetic.

Our new and improved bedroom.

So far, we’ve painted the walls, reupholstered the window valences and dinette, painted most of the handles, replaced the wood in the over cab, and put our personal items on the walls.

It did not take long for Melvin to feel like our home.

What my office space normally looks like, but notice the window and dinette seats!

Figuring Out Our Next Rig

We see the next few years in Melvin as an opportunity to shop around for what we want in our next rig.

That sounds counter intuitive, right? Well, we haven’t had any experience living in an RV, so we want to use this time as a learning platform for the future.

We ask ourselves questions like: Is this enough space for us? Is this too much space for us? Do our lives fit the design? Is it easy to park and move?

Everyone has different needs and ways of moving in their spaces, and an RV is no different, especially when it’s your home.

Learn More about the Winnebago Minnie Winnie


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20 Comments

  1. Melanie Posted on 11.05.2017

    Steve,

    Thank you so much for taking the time to read about our journey. I’m glad you’ve got some experience under your belt and are fully informed about what you like and don’t like.

    Take care!
    Melanie

  2. Steve Saint Martin Posted on 11.04.2017

    I would Never buy another Class C unless it had auto leveling I would get a good used A or one of the new small Thor Axis

  3. Melanie Posted on 10.25.2017

    Scott,

    Yea, I think that is a smart choice on your part. You must let us know how it goes! I hope you have a safe and fun journey. Congratulations on this new adventure!

    -Melanie

  4. Scott Walker Posted on 10.24.2017

    Perfect, thanks! Yep, I’ll plan to get a 3rd party inspection done, as our situations are different. I’ll be flying into a city I don’t know, to go to a dealership I know only from the internet, to buy a 1-year old Minnie; I need to know it will tackle a 6,000 mile sojourn, starting Day 1. Again, thanks for the video, and I’ll go look for more!

    Scott

  5. Melanie Posted on 10.24.2017

    Scott,

    Good catch! We did not get the rig inspected by a third party because the dealer did most of that for us. It wasn’t an in depth thorough inspection, but I had done a lot of research and we had looked at other RVs so we used the knowledge we had along with the dealer inspection to help us make our decision.

    I think the decision to hire a third party inspector is completely up to the buyer. For us, we had dealt with this dealer and trusted their judgment as well as our own. Our priority: get to Oregon safely and deal with the rest there. Since we were able to do that, we weren’t too concerned with the rest. It’s an old rig, so we knew we’d have to deal with other things down the road.

    I hope that answers your question, Scott. The take away is that it’s up to the buyer, but we did not feel the need to hire someone else.

    Thank you for your question!

    -Melanie

  6. Scott Walker Posted on 10.23.2017

    You didn’t mention anything about a mechanical inspection of your rig before buying; did you get one? Why not? Thanks for sharing!

    Scott

  7. Melanie Posted on 10.23.2017

    Dad,

    Thank you so much for taking the time to read this and embarrass me. Just kidding, I love you!

    -Melanie

  8. Dale Knott Posted on 10.23.2017

    Hi. Im the lucky guy who calls myself Dad to these two. I have had the profound privilege of living this adventure with them and the overwhelming feeling of pride that accompanies that shared journey. Love you. Dad

  9. Melanie Posted on 10.22.2017

    Doug & Linda,

    Thanks so much for reading! Happy trails to you, too!

    – Melanie

  10. Doug/Linda Posted on 10.22.2017

    We started with a Minnie Winnie moved up to a classA(gas), then to a diesel pusher, down in size to a class C, and in 2014 bought a Winnebago aspect 27 K. The first two were used and the last Three were brand new. We loved them all.we had no problem adjusting to any of them. Our mind set has always been that at any time we barely occupy more than four feet. Happy trails.

  11. Melanie Posted on 10.22.2017

    Mike,

    Thank you so much for your well wishes and great insight.

    We can relate to your reasons for buying used. I hadn’t thought about the rig having “bugs worked out.” When you’re buying used, and for the first time, it’s smart to know the rig runs and holds up on the road. That’s a really good point.

    Oh man, a Class A Adventurer. I’m jealous! We may do a Class A in the future, who knows. I love the space and storage they offer.

    We are loving the road even though we don’t move often. Yea, it is very interesting and we’ve met some interesting people, to be sure.

    Thank you, Mike!

    -Melanie

  12. Melanie Posted on 10.22.2017

    Les,

    Thank you for taking the time to read about our little adventure, ha!

    Oh wow! It sounds like you guys have a similar RV story to us. I’m glad your Winnie has treated you well over the years; they’re good rigs.

    Best of luck selling the Winnie!

    -Melanie

  13. Melanie Posted on 10.22.2017

    John,

    Thanks so much for your question.

    To be honest, we haven’t had anything we’ve needed to take the rig in for while we’ve been on the road. However, when we first got the rig, we hired a guy to fix our over the cab renovation. He came out to the house where we were living and fixed it there. When we needed new tires, we took it to Discount Tire.

    I would say it depends on what it is you need done. In this day and age, it is so much easier to find the “reputable” places you are talking about online. YELP and Google Reviews have helped us out with where to take the rig as well as other things and places we are interested in.

    I hope this helped answer your question, John. Thanks again!

    -Melanie

  14. Mike Whelan Posted on 10.22.2017

    Congratulations. Welcome to married life and life on the road. A used RV is a great way to start out and to help the budget. We are a retired couple who were going to travel. We decided to go with used for two reasons. The first being most important to us was the used rig had the bugs worked out by the previous owner so dependability was good. The second was budget. We found a 2003 Winnie Class A Adventurer that was well taken care of with low milage. We had a RV technician do a pre purchase inspection which cam out very good other than tires and batteries. The previous owner even put on new tires and batteries so all it needed was gas and us. Winnebago quality was apparent so we have a great RV that will serve our travel bug until we are ready to do an upgrade. Probably to a newer used Winnie.
    Enjoy the road it is an interesting life.

  15. Les East Posted on 10.21.2017

    Good story Melanie. I traded “up” to a 2002 34ft Winnebago Brave in 2010 – & have enjoyed it thoroughly. Haven’t gone too far since – staying in the AZ area. New carpet & flat screen added just before storing in Yuma Fall 2016, so altho I’ve put significant $$ into my “Winnie”, by buying used has had it’s benefits. We’ve stored it south every year (we are Canucks), & regenerate each January for a few months. Age has caught up with me, so we’re selling Winnie this winter … tell your friends!

  16. John Monteagudo Posted on 10.21.2017

    How do you find reputable places to get the uses RV fixed up?

  17. Melanie Posted on 10.21.2017

    Thank you so much, Don! I really appreciate you taking the time to read it.

    -Melanie

  18. Don Scroggins Posted on 10.21.2017

    Great article! Nicely done Melanie.

  19. Melanie Posted on 10.18.2017

    Steve,

    Thanks so much for sharing part of your journey! Glad to know we’re both in the Minnie family! We have loved traveling freely and living where we please. As mentioned, we are currently on the coast of Oregon and LOVE it.

    Wow! Your RV came with a car? That’s fantastic, makes it so much easier for y’all I’m sure. I agree with waiting to buy new. When there isn’t a clear economic gain it can be difficult to jump at the opportunity. Like you, we are staying open to that possibility but not anytime in the near future.

    Thanks, Steve!

    -Melanie

  20. Steve Posted on 10.13.2017

    Congratulations. We bought a 2004 Minnie WInnie 3 years ago and have absolutely loved it. We live in California and have been to Yellowstone, Canada, Yosemite, Palm Desert and recently did 2 months on the road travelling through 24 Southern and mid States. In 2018, we’re doing 3 months through the remaining Northern States and all Canada Provinces.
    Our 32′ size has been perfect and, buying used, the price was perfect as well. And it came with a towed car (Ford Fiesta) and all connections.

    We’ve thought about buying newer and bigger but at this point we don’t see an economic gain. We have fit 7 of us in the home for a weekend at a lake in SoCal. It’s easy to drive for both of us. Amazingly, our gas milage with the Ford E450 is 7.8 mpg and the deisel mpg for my friend’s $250K 42′ Tiffin is exactly the same (although they climb and descend mountains more easily).
    Have fun.