Following A Forewarning, A Weekend Of Local RV Shopping

I believed when I began this odyssey that I would likely buy a Newell coach. I set my sights on late 1990’s Newells, sometimes built for rock stars and NASCAR drivers, all white inside, reminiscent of “2001, A Space Odyssey.”  I had already named the coach in my mind: “Hal 9000.”  My trip to Dallas on April 1 to inspect a Newell was eye-opening.

My RV budget just reaches six figures. The 1999 Newell  was almost $900,000 new, but within my price range 17 years later. Through the amazing assistance and advice of Newell owners at newellgurus.com, I hired Dallas/Fort Worth mechanic, Brandon, who routinely services Newells, to inspect the coach with me.

My lay person eyes could see that the coach had its rough spots, but I had no idea.  One day following the inspection, I received the following report from Brandon:

99 NEWELL INSPECTION

In order of importance and of course cost:

1. Main slide FWD de lamination on the forward edge, this has been a Newell coach issue in a lot of these coaches. To my knowledge it is a 10k plus repair. The entire exterior wall has to be removed. New structure, new skin and matching paint.

Brandon12. Complete set of tires. Steer tires are the newest at 2012, rears are 08

3. All the batteries need replaced, mismatched dates and batteries, starting and house 6x8D

4. Basement air conditioners would not turn on. Fwd or rear using thermostats.

5. Aqua hot heating system would not run on diesel. This is a must for northern climates and provides constant hot water.  Overflow tank was empty as well as some leaks in the case.

brandon2brandon36. Engine:
1. Coolant tank overflow tank is cracked and the lid off
2. Bad oil leak under valve cover next to the engine driven air compressor.
3. The charge air cooler needs all the couplers replaced. Dry rot
4. The hydraulic fan shows signs of leaking.
5. The transmission has fluid seepage on the pan, a little is normal
6. Engine alternator voltage was low, with the generator on and the inverter/charger on this            should have been at 13.5v to 14v, it was at 11-12v idling. This could be batteries.
7. No service dates or mileage on any filters.
8. Belt pieces on the inside of the engine door from alternator belt. He mentioned having to put an alternator in the coach.

brandon4brandon5brandon6brandon77. Generator fan belt loose and barely spinning the fan, no service dates. No oil leaks to speak of and ran smooth. Air slide functions well.

8. Test drive notes:
1. Shocks are slow to respond.
2. Engine braking works well.
3. Brakes work well.
4. Temperatures and oil pressures within range.
5. Dash air Inoperable.

9. Exterior:
1. Damage at front passenger side, under gen. fan door, around headlight, docking light full of water
2. Driver side bays 2,3,4,5 all have weak floors due to water damage.
3. Driver side bays 4,5,6 outer edge trim coming off due to rust.
4. Electric bay Drivers side: floor rusted, original transfer switch- no surge voltage protection at all.
5. Battery bay’s rusting and have been painted over.
6. Roof paint clear coat chipping.
7. All awning fabrics need replaced. Awning operation not checked.
8. Exterior of main slide shows bulging, signaling water in the slide. Refer to #1.
9. Driver side rear fender flare loose.
10. Engine door has stress cracking. Minor

brandon8brandon9brandon10brandon11brandon12brandon1310. Water bay driver side:
1. No filters in the tank fill filter or either of the drinking water filters. Allows calcium in your faucets and premature tank spoilage.
2. Water pressure was at 45psi and should be at 55-60psi.
3. Signs of water leaks at bay ceiling.

brandon14brandon1511. Interior:
1. Main slide fascia loose.
2. Water damage fwd passenger front seat.
3. Bedroom vanity faucet leak.
4. Mold in rear closet floor.
5. Wall paper pulling up next to toilet.
6. Toilet air pressure low or inoperable,
7. Refrigerator electronic lock inoperable

brandon16In closing I hope this report helps you make your decision. There is nothing that can’t be repaired depending on your budget. The coach generator was running and all lit up upon our arrival. That makes finding cranking issues difficult to find.  It was a pleasure meeting you.

Sincerely,
Brandon

Boy howdy, what a wake-up call for me!  I want to be clear that I am not casting aspersions on the owner of the coach; it is simply in the condition it is in, and he gave no warranties, express or implied (oops, a little lawyer just slipped out).

I learned a great deal from the Dallas experience: 1) Unless you are an expert yourself, always have a coach inspected by someone who knows the product and knows what to look for – Brandon charged me $400 and it was well worth it; 2) The mechanical soundness of the rig must trump the fit and finish – it may look cool inside, but if the innards are rusted and moldy, I don’t want the hassle; 3) No coach that is almost 20 years old is going to be in turn-key condition; 4) The more expensive the coach when new, the more expensive it will be to repair it; and 5) I don’t know jack shit about how an RV actually runs or works, and I am looking forward to the steep learning curve.

I am still very interested in Newells, and if one becomes available in my price range in a condition I can live with or afford to repair, I will make an offer.  In the meantime, I expanded my horizons and spent the weekend looking at local, mid-level diesel pushers  which are less than 10 years old and whose MSRPs were in the $300,000 range when new.

On Saturday I went to Maple Grove RV Sales in Everett to meet with Tony, who is very personable and knowledgeable – not only about the coaches in his inventory, but in the RV business in general.  On Saturday I went with Judi and her husband Ivan.

Judi & Tammy

Judi & Me

On Sunday, I returned with Izzy.

Izzy

The Iz

The owner, Tony, is deserving of the high praise of prior customers.  Tony maintains a small inventory, which he buys mostly in neighboring states and drives to Washington himself, so he is very familiar with each coach.  He has developed a proprietary, after-market LED lighting system which really smartens up the interior of the coach, both in terms of the fixtures and the ambience of the lighting.  He answered every stupid question, sometimes more than once, and there was no pressure whatsoever to buy.  He readily admitted when certain repairs or changes were needed on a coach, agreeing to negotiate the price and/or to do the work before the sale – such as replacing fogged windows and tires.

Drum roll please … here are the contenders so far:

2006 Beaver  Monterey Laguna:

Beaver26,000 miles; 4 slides; original owner in Burien; forced sale due to health issues; 8 solar panels; 400 HP CAT; Allison transmission; AquaHot (on demand hot water); central vac system

And …

2007 American Tradition 40Z:

American60,000 miles; bath and a half; 3 slides; Cummins 400 HP engine; Allison MH 3000 transmission

The Beaver is closer to my desired price range than the American.  The next step is to figure out the finances and to get the coaches inspected by a reputable mechanic in the Everett area; anyone have any recommendations?