RV Doctor – How Long Should Major RV Components Last?

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February 22, 2009

Dear RV Doc,

We are shopping for a used motorhome and would love to have some guidelines for how long major components should be reasonably expected to last. Recognizing that there will always be wide variations because of usage levels, maintenance done and how many hours in campgrounds with poor voltage, etc., how long might refrigerators, air conditioners, generators, awnings, water heaters, water pumps, etc., last? We’re looking at a seven year-old Damon with only 23,000 miles on the chassis and 107 hours on the generator. But we wonder how much we might have to spend over the next couple of years. Should the roof air conditioner likely be good for a few more years or should we just replace it now even though it works? Ditto for the other bigger-ticket items.

Keith Bryan, (Grant, FL)


Boy Keith, that’s like asking how long is a piece of rope! But at least you did phrase your question in context. I’m of the opinion that, when cared for properly, RV components can last a long, long time. Regular preventive maintenance practices can really prolong the useful lifespan of just about everything on the coach.

How long? Like you stated, it depends on the treatment it has received during its life. I am personally wary of LP burning appliances approaching eight or nine years of age. Some components do wear out over time. One hundred hours on the generator is not outlandish, however. I’ve always said non-use is worse than abuse in many cases.

With any used RV I would heartily recommend that a pre-delivery inspection, (PDI), be performed on all the components in and on the motorhome prior to signing on the bottom line. This procedure will reveal compelling issues which can then become a bargaining chip for negotiating the final price.

I’m also of the opinion that just about anything can be repaired or at worst, replaced if need be. But I would never replace a major component until absolutely necessary. A seven year-old unit is not that old, (right now!), especially with such low mileage.

So I would think your chances are good that most everything will be in working condition as it stands. But again, a thorough PDI will reveal any shortcomings with the LP appliances and the major systems. Consider it cheap insurance to PDI the rig prior to taking ownership.

(Please feel free to comment, however, please also note that due to the volume of communications I receive from multiple channels I cannot guarantee a personal response in every instance. However, questions of an overall general interest may be considered and published in an upcoming RV Doctor column.)

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  2. Floyd Hardy

    What’s a PDI?

  3. gmas

    Proper and routine maintenance is the key to extending the life of anything to its maximum. PV+ M$= FV if PV+ M$ > FV replace.

  4. gmas

    how long will it last…. how long will a light bulb last. and what do you do when it burns out? same with anything mechanical. Only other factor to consider these days. Looks and functionality. Most people get rid of things because the are not keeping up with the jones… new means prosperous.. old mean ..poor. in our societys views today…

    If you ignore that… your good to go for a real fun time that makes lots of memories.. good, bad or otherwise. When the bulb burns out.. replace just it .. is what we say.

    It was actually determined to be more reliable and cheeper to replace parts than to buy a whole new rig that is un-proven… $$$$ With a division of age being vintage and still being able to get parts and technological financial saving improvements.

    Just remember all things mechanical do wear out and break… its the way they were designed… nothing last forever.

    Good luck with your decisions.

  5. Dave

    I Had a unit that I bought in 1989 —
    I just replaced the refiigerator this year – 2008
    Ever thing has been ok hot water tank AC. Gen all were ok but i had them ck..out every season and rep;ace the tires twice I put 125,000 on it so far and its been a good unit we use it full time its a 1989 allegro bus —

    so if its been well taken care of it should last a long time —

  6. Bob

    We have a 1997 Holiday Rambler TT. Everything works just as it’s supposed to work. We bought the trailer when it was 10 years old.

  7. We have an 02 HR Endeavor that we full time in, over 1000 hours on genset ( Onan 7.5kw) never had a problem with any of the appliances. The batteries were replaced at 7 years. ALL the appliances get serviced according to the manuals stated frequencies. We did have a problem with a circuit board in the hall toilet, took the toilet out and put a manual one in, the toilet in the rear of the coach is also electric but is a vacuflush model from sealand and has worked fine for almost 8 years now. We have 87k on the coach that we bought new on July 02. Currently on our second set of tires. The originals lasted almost 70k.
    Walt and Judy Kaiser

  8. Gene

    I have a 1973 Travco motor home ,everything still works when i get it out and fire it up,seems that I do have a little trouble with genset,but ones up and running still does the job

  9. John Shelton

    I had a ’74 Gigi motorhome until mid-90’s that was still on the original Norcold refrigerator, functioning as well as new when I sold it.. I also had a ’93 Nomad travel trailer with a Dometic refrigerator that NEVER worked from day one. (Circuit boards were replaced, baffles installed, and other “try this and try that”, but the refrigerator NEVER performed properly.)

    This story is only intended to back up Gary’s characterization as to life expectancy of an appliance as being equal to the length of a rope. Hard to make any kind of guess.

  10. Carlos Alvarez

    .I believe that the more you keep your unit’s such as Refrigerator both on 120Volt’s and once a month on LP running the longer they will last. A Genset should get service every 350 HR. As for batteries if they last you 2 to 3 years this sound’s great. The rest is normal maintained such as roof, inverter and so on. Tires should be checked every 30 day’s for proper tire pressure.

  11. What’s the date on the tires? More than five or six years, original tires? If so, they all need to be replaced. Forget tread depth, doesn’t apply to motorhomes–AGE does!

    How old are the batteries? Originals? Get them tested or simply replace them.

    107 hours on genset is hardly anything and I agree with Gary–non-use is far worse than abused–although a genset that has only 107 hours in 7 years is in my book ABUSE! Rule of thumb–run genset once a month (or maybe once every 2 months) under significant load for 3 hours).

    You’d do well to consider looking at a 10-12 year old Foretravel which will be on the road many more years than a Damon and likely far better taken care of too. Just the opinion of a Foretravel owner who has owned three other brands that, if still on the road are giving their owners more headaches than they ever thought possible.