Buying used (& cheap): what to look out for? - Fiberglass RV


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Old 06-05-2009, 12:53 AM   #1
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I'm thinking about buying an egg as a first camper. *Growing up in the 70s, my family had small motorhomes -- VW bus, then something built on a toyota pickup chassis. *I was going to go that route, but I think a trailer is a better option. *Our 06 Durango hemi will tow a lot of weight (I think it's rated to over 8000 lbs), but I don't really want to tow anything big. *I am not in a hurry -- just lurking and learning for now. *Ideally, we would have the trailer ready to camp for next summer (2010), in order to do a 2-week trip out west. *If a good opportunity comes up before then, I might jump on it.

(1) I am looking to keep the initial outlay low, so I am looking at older trailers. *I am curious what sort of things to watch out for on these vintage units. *I have read about new trailer frames being installed, or new axles. *Is this often necessary? *If it hasn't been done, what should I look for to see if it's needed? *I imagine older appliances may be spotty, and I can deal with that (repairing or replacing as necessary). *But what about contruction? *Part of the appeal of the fiberglass trailers is their durability, but I imagine there are weak points. *How can I identify them?

(2) I am on the fence about a toilet/shower. *I would really like one, but I fear it would drive up the price and introduce a lot of potential failure points. *How big a hassle are they? *How likely to fail? *One idea is to buy a smaller/cheaper/older trailer without a bath as a starter unit to see how we like it, then decide after a year or so whether to upgrade.

(3) Size: I think something in the 16-18' range would be good. *I have toyed with the smaller 13' trailers, but I fear it would be too cramped. *We are husband & wife (average size) + 2 kids (small: 6yo & 9yo) + 75-lb dog (Akita). *The dog needs to have enough floor space to sleep and I'm worried that the 13-footers would not allow that. *Anyone with a 13' care to offer their experience?

(4) Floorplan: I think ideally we would want 2 bunks for the kids + a larger bed for us (and floor space for the dog). *I've seen a fair number of trailers with this floorplan. *Any downsides to this setup? *Any alternatives for our family?

(5) Winter: We love winter, and I would like to be able to use the camper when it's cold. *So I would need to look for an insulated model. *I don't have a good sense of which ones fit this bill and which do not. *I know the Bigfoots (many/all?) are designed for winter camping, but I can't tell about others. *Can anyone offer guidance here? *This factor may also counsel against a toilet/shower, as that is going to be harder to take advantage of in the cold. *

(6) I would like the ability to boondock in National Forest and similar unimproved areas; I expect we would avoid campgrounds whenever possible (except perhaps on longer trips). *I know I would need a good battery for basic electrical functions when unhooked. *And a decent water tank, with either battery operated or hand pump. *What else should we be thinking about ruling in or out for this factor?

Any thoughts, suggestions, cautionary tales are welcome. *I have enjoyed reading some of the threads on this forum, and learning about these great trailers. *I have yet to see one in person, though (anyone in the DC area want to show theirs off?). *

Thanks!

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Old 06-05-2009, 08:03 AM   #2
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Tom, your asking a lot for cheap, In your situation with a family and a large dog and the amount of camping you will do, (2 weeks vacation and a few weekends a year?)I would go with a popup and enjoy your family, those kids won't stay 6 & 9 for long, kids tend to grow, and even a 17' fiberglass is tight when the weather is bad.
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Old 06-05-2009, 10:28 AM   #3
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I agree with bill. You can find 17 foot bolers, but in my experience looking at them, in any kind of shape with a shower, you're looking at the $9000-$13000 range, at least in my neck of the woods.

for what it's worth, the bunks in my '73 13 foot boler are strong enough to support me (220 #), but they have been re-vamped with a thick plywood base and solid poles and brackets. we have no kids, but the wife and I are cozy on the bed, the bunks go unused for now...down the road...

We have 2 dogs, one 45 pounds and one 90 pounds - they like to sleep under the bed.
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Old 06-05-2009, 11:27 AM   #4
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Tom, Welcome, glad your looking to join us. I am sure there is a model that would work for you guys, but have to say that Winter camping in an egg with 4 people and a Dog, might be a little to much togetherness. Egg's are what they are (fantastic in most of our opinions) But they are limited when it comes to family size needs. Great for summer camping when most of your day is spent out in the fresh air but as I said may limit your winter camping enjoyment if you needed to all be inside together. That being said, a Bigfoot 17ft would be much more comfortable for all of you. More weight but worth it! For me a bathroom is a must! And with proper care you won't have issues with things breaking down. Of course older rigs have issues, I will let the experts get into the mechanical things if you were to run into any of them on a particular trailer. But have to say, you see a lot of 30 year old eggs on the road, so to me that says they have less issue than other types of camping units. As you may have seen, even 30 year old fiberglass eggs can demand hefty prices, cause frankly they do. But there are deals out there and with time and committed searching you just may come across one. As far as boondocking, most likely you won't find the perfect trailer all set up for you needs but thats the beauty of it, You can set up the perfect trailer to meet your needs with proper battery and or solar. Don't look for a trailer that has everything if your wanting a screaming deal. Look for a trailer that you can make into your perfect trailer. As long as it has good Bones you can make it work for you. Like I said, I think looking for a bigfoot would be a great place to start. They are much roomier and are built well. Best of Luck! Robin
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Old 06-05-2009, 06:50 PM   #5
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Thanks for the thoughtful replies. I guess I should have prioritized some things.

Cheap is probably not a useful descriptor. I have seen a bunch of vintage eggs from the mid-70s through the early 90s listed for $4,000 to $8,000. That seems a price range I could live with -- cheaper would be better, but that seems affordable. In your experience, are these not worth looking at? Are they more trouble than they are worth? I'm willing to put a bit of effort into fixing things, but if it means constant repairs, and the risk of breakdowns on the road/campsite, then I need to know that up front, and reevaluate price points. I am particularly concerned about how to identify potential frame/axle problems -- any advice here? Or is it not really a concern, even for 30-year-old units?

Summer camping (or 3-season) is the main use. Winter camping is more speculative & less likely/frequent -- it would also probably not include my my wife, so we would not be quite as cramped. So I don't think we need to spend more at the outset just to factor that in. If we could find a good 16-17' unit that is not fully insulated like the bigfoot, that would let us get our feet wet and see if we might eventually move up to a bigger, more robust model (the BF 21s look very nice -- I see a couple of them FS now, but they are a bit more than I am looking to spend or haul at the moment).

Robin -- I like the idea of looking for a unit that we can customize to our needs. I need to do a bit more research into what systems are better suited to adapting to boondocking -- probably more 12V, maybe with a converter that allows charging/usage from a small genset or solar panel?

Nate: Reinforcing the bunks sounds like a good plan, especially for when the kids get bigger. I may get back to you at some point for details on that.

Bill: You may be right -- a pop-up might make more sense as a starter unit. But I worry that it may not be as versatile in less-than-ideal weather conditions (even though it would have more interior room when folded out), and most don't seem to have the same comfort features (bath/shower, plumbing, propane appliances, etc.). But it may be worth looking more seriously at those units for now. (BTW, say hi to my mom & sis -- I grew up in Sarasota!)
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Old 06-05-2009, 09:29 PM   #6
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I am particularly concerned about how to identify potential frame/axle problems -- any advice here? Or
Check out the buyers check list in the document center on the left of this or any page.
With your tow rating you could tow just about anything that would be considered part of our class of trailers, barring 5th wheels.
Keep your eyes open for local trailers, bring your buyers check list and start looking. The more you see, whether you are buying or not, the more you will know when the right trailer for you comes up. Most sellers will be helpful in educating you.

Once you have figured out 2 or 3 trailers you might like, read the forums and see what kinds of problems people have had. Find out what to look for and how to fix them. Be informed, you've got a year. Prices usually drop a bit at the end of the season.
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Old 06-05-2009, 09:49 PM   #7
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Hi Tom, I lived in Roanoke for 25 years and having a daughter in Pa I've put a lot of time and miles going through the Shenandoah Valley, great country and I miss it a lot.
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Old 06-05-2009, 10:18 PM   #8
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Are they worth it? Well sure! But then we are all egg happy people here.

Yes, some of them can take a lot of work (new axels, new floors, etc), but for most of us it is a labor of love. I have a 1972 Boler American. We've done a lot of work, and have a lot more to do to it. It's almost a 40 year old trailer... How many stick built trailers do you see on the road that are that old? Very few. Cheaper is most likely going to = older, needs a bit of work. But if you are at all the handy type, don't let that turn you off. It's like restoring a classic car, or an old house.... CAN be a lot of work, but very worth it IMO. Does that mean you HAVE to do all the work before you can use it? No way! Fix it up a bit at a time. Personalize it and make it yours. With an egg, if you can dream it, you can almost always do it. That's one of the great things about an egg. They are all fiberglass, and learning to work with glass is not that hard. (Hint, this is a GREAT forum for that!) There are always people on here willing to help... who love to help!

Good things about an egg:

Won't rot! (except the floor!)
Easy to modify, repair (mostly)
light weight so easy to tow
Can get into spots many other RVs can't
With proper care, could last another 40 years!
Resale value is great! Chances are high if you don't like it, you can sell it for what you bought it for or more.

It's a classic.... everywhere you go, people will look at it and say "Wow! That's cool! What is it?" I can't tell you how many stories I've read of people having others come up to them and ask them about their trailer.

Spend some time looking around the boards here. There's just a ton of info here. Read what types of things people are working on to get an idea of some things you might need to do to a trailer. After spending some time here, you should have a pretty good idea if an egg is something you are going to be happy with... you might just find you've been bitten by the egg bug.

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Old 06-06-2009, 10:56 AM   #9
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Tom, You ask if they are more trouble than they are worth? Ummmmm No! IMHO. Cause the "Bones" are wonderful to start with so basically if something needs fixing and you fix it then it should last you for years of camping pleasure. Granted things like fridges, heaters, etc may break even when new. But chances are slim. Sure an older fridge may not keep things as cold as you like, but you can always put in a newer one. I really don't think there is anything you have to repair over and over again. If the trailer you buy needs repair, most likely you fix the issue and be done with it. You asked about the trailers in the 70's to 90's range, Depending on the care or should I say the use that the owners have done will vary from trailer to trailer. We bought an 85 Casita, that other than the carpet being musty and really ugly (both of which could be fixed/cleaned/lived with) a overall good bath, new tires it was campable! Of course had we kept it, we would have had it tricked out for the cute factor. We paid $2000 for it! But in the week or so that we had it, we liked it so much we bought a 2007. ( Acutally we were looking for newer when the 85 came along, but wanted any egg at that point, so I was on a buying spree) Sold it for the $2000 I had into it. I am sure there were other issues that could be addressed on it, and we would have, had we kept it. But it was still campable as we bought it. So as Roy posted, print the buyers check list and then just start looking at trailers. You will begin to be able to spot issues then you just need to decide if you want to tackle the issue. As far as frame an axle issue, again I will leave that one to the experts cause I don't know nothing about that kind of stuff. None of the ones I looked at had those type of issues. Oh and you asked about bathrooms, they too are like anything else if it has an issue, you fix it and be done with it. Your not having to constanly fix them. Again, GOOD BONES! Good Luck! Robin
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Old 06-06-2009, 01:17 PM   #10
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Tom, You may have answered your own question about whether to get a trailer with or without the bathroom. If you want bunks for the kids (whether they need to be reinforced or not) that'll probably preclude also having space for the bath - unless you go the fifth wheel (Scamp) or Bigfoot route. (Escape also makes a 5th wheel, but you're not likely to find one used... and even the Scamp or Bigfoot might not be in your price range.)


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Old 06-06-2009, 01:26 PM   #11
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All the replies to this post are spot on, and this topic is probably the most asked question ever in this forum. There's a world full of good advise here concerning shopping for a egg, especially the buyers checklist that was mentioned earlier.

For my two cents, I'll direct you to a reply I made on a simular "search for shopping guidence". It puts a bit in perspective as to what I expect my hard-earned cash should bring, IMHO.

Heres the link.

ConwayBob
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Old 06-06-2009, 03:09 PM   #12
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Mary, The 85 Casita, had bunks and a bath. I don't know what other brands have the same. That being said, there wasn't much more room for any thing else.

Tom, So if your willing to go older than you just might find what your looking for.
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Old 06-06-2009, 03:15 PM   #13
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Thanks, Robin. I forgot about that configuration, where there are bunks but no side dinette. (We don't have a side dinette, either, with the Liberty floorplan, so that would be okay.)


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Old 06-06-2009, 09:40 PM   #14
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Thanks, all! I'll keep looking. Not sure when it will happen, or what it will look like, but...
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