Mileage, how much?

How much mileage is too much when buying RV or Van please?


I’m not convinced that mileage is as important as proper care and maintenance.

Since the early 1990’s, rigs will frequently need expensive repairs before 100k miles, with computerization comes added problems and expenses. Older pre-computerized rigs could easily go many hundreds of thousands miles with proper maintenance. My 1973 Dodge Travco camper van just turned 500k miles on it’s original engine & transmission, and other than normal maintenance, hasn’t needed a single expensive repair in the 11 years & 300k miles that I have owned it. Not bad for the $700 I paid for it, and the $300 I spent to recreate the interior. (It had been gutted when I bought it.)

Everything totaled up over the years, oil changes, tires, brakes, etc. etc. it probably averages out to $200-$300 year total. Totally acceptable. Even if I need to replace the engine or transmission etc., it could be done for under $1k, labor included. Replacement parts are cheap and easy to replace, unlike with newer vehicles. Simply better engineering to begin with. Built to last instead of being built to break like they have been for the last 30 years, and it’s only getting worse.

I’ve been rear ended numerous times in this van, but due to it’s original heavy duty bumper & my trailer hitch, it’s never even dented my bumper, only scratched it. But it totalled a Sprinter that hit me hard enough to push me clear through an intersection. They just don’t build them like they used to. The Sprinter driver & passenger both needed ambulance rides to the hospital, but my passenger & I were uninjured and able to continue on normally. Only damage was her spilled cup of coffee, which also took out her cellphone.

They want us to believe that newer is better & safer, but more than likely that’s a sales pitch, rather than reality.


"Be the reason someone smiles today!" ~ Van_Dweller

1 Like

Thank you!!! That was very helpful.

Anything over 100k miles is too much for me, really I wouldn’t buy anything with over 60k on it. If you plan on traveling a lot you will want the wiggle room. It really blows my mind that people buy vans with 200k miles on them and expect them to last another 200k. I get that proper maintenance is a key to longevity, but you have no idea if the maintenance was done properly unless you have done it yourself. Even if the maintenance was done right, it doesn’t matter if the owner pretended they were in a race everywhere they went and you have no way of knowing that.

Having a professional look it over or not, if you buy with excess mileage you are rolling the dice and things will start needing to be replaced if they have not been replaced already.

If you aren’t a savvy mechanic and do not want to learn, I would buy newer with lower mileage. It doesn’t matter if parts are cheap when labor is $100 or more an hour.


I don’t know, that new math has never worked for me or anybody I’ve known…

Since we’re just normal people, not sales people, and most aren’t mechanics either, we go by cost of ownership per miles driven.

Cost of ownership is purchase price + all maintenance, repairs, & replacements.
– selling price
= $xx per yy miles

For examples let’s use 100k miles driven during ownership to make things simple.

Okay, I just picked a random one off Craigslist, a 2020 Promaster with 53k miles, priced at $44k (The cheapest van listed with under 60k miles)

Purchase price: $44,000
Expenses: $3k (random price)
Selling price: $21,000 (Identical van w/ 147k miles. Highest priced identical van with added mileage)

So cost of ownership for 100k miles, would be $23k + whatever money was put into it, most likely at least $3k for tires, brakes, oil changes, belts, hoses, etc; probably much more, but let’s use that figure for simplicity. So that’s $26k for 100k miles. (conversion costs/losses not included)

Or, buy something older & cheaper: (1999 Dodge hightop, random off craigslist, 194k miles)

Purchase price: $5,000
Immediate maintenance & repairs to bring it up to 100%: $5,000 (purposely figuring extremely high, my 1973 with similar miles needed $0 to make it totally road worthy, and I only paid $700 for it!)
Expenses: $3k (same as above)
Selling price $5,000 (at 100k miles more)

So cost of ownership for 100k miles would be $8,000. (conversion costs/losses not included)
That’s an $18,000 savings over the newer van.

Real world example (me)

Purchase price: $2,500 (1976 Motorhome with 76k miles, totally road worthy & move in ready)
Total expenses during ownership: $3,000 (about 100k miles added) [tires, oil changes, hoses, & belts]
Selling price: $5,000

Cost of ownership: $500 for 100k miles

Looks to me like no matter how you slice it or dice it, using real world math, newer with low mileage is going to cost you considerably more. Depreciation is real on newer rigs, and it never pencils out, while fully depreciated rigs hold their value very well, and might even appreciate.

Maybe newer is worth the added costs to some people, but I don’t let my ego decide expensive financial decisions. I limit my ego to lower priced things, usually at the dollar store.

Older doesn’t mean any less road worthy, any less reliable, or any less comfortable. What older does usually mean is fewer needed repairs, cheaper parts, and much less time involved (labor costs) in making repairs. With much of the newer vehicles, it takes an extra 2 hours to get to what needs fixing, and another 2 hours to put all the garbage back after the repair. On older vehicles, it’s a 10 minute repair, or that ridiculous sensor doesn’t even exist. That older vehicle just saved you 4+ hours of extra labor time.

A friend just paid $700 to get a $59 sensor replaced on a Transit… Stupid engineering… Purposely designed to bilk the consumer out of as much money as possible. They’re still trying to kill off all the independent mechanics, to force you into going to the stealerships…

More statistics:

According to google, expected maintenance costs for 1st 10 years of ownership. (probably much lower than reality, due to probability of major repairs. They’re using 12k miles per year average, so 120k miles in 10 years.)

Sprinter: $18,634 + 56.68% chance of major repairs
Transit: $11,701 + 35.32% chance of major repairs
Promaster: $20,061 + 63.20% chance of major repairs

Real world, my typical vehicles:

My current van, 11+ years, driven 300k+ miles, $5,600 total maintenance & repairs, no major repairs.

Multiple MH’s, all $2500 or less purchase price, average 100k miles added, under $2500 total maintenance & repairs. Average resale price: $5,000 Net cost of ownership near $0

Multiple van’s, all $1500 or less purchase price, average 100k-200k miles added, Under $1,000 per 100k miles maintenance & repairs. Average resale price: $3,500-$5,000 Net cost of ownership near $0 Additional sale price was due to camper conversion, made a decent profit on most of them. Most conversions cost under $500 total.

So the bottom line is that with rare exception, if I followed my own advice, my total cost for vehicles & housing for the last 40+ years was nearly zero, and maybe even slightly profitable. Even with the losses due to stupidity, of $40k over the last 40+ years, that’s under $1,000 a year for housing & vehicles costs. Still acceptable, but totally avoidable.

That’s the way my math, my reasoning, and 40+ years of comfortable & reliable vehicle dwelling should work. Up until last year, my total yearly living expenses never exceeded $6k, and I never skimped on anything that was important to me. Full, delicious meals every day, and eating out 2-3 times a week before the pandemic. No rice & beans or ramen for me.


"Be the reason someone smiles today!" ~ Van_Dweller

I actually find it amazing that you can live off 6k a year. I mean if you’re eating ramen sure, but I’d love to see your grocery bill for 2 weeks, but that is for a different forum I suppose. Here are my real world examples:

Van from craiglist - 4.5k
Rebuilt carb, belts, plugs, interior upgrades - ~5k
Consistent tuning of the carb (was never right) - 0.5k
New Transmission - 1.2k
Staying in a hotel during transmission repair for 2 weeks - 1.2k
Sold for 2.5k - I really needed something reliable and didn’t have time to sit on(in) it
Total cost for about 3k miles ~10k

2019 Promaster - ~40k
Upgrades - ~5k
New Transmission - $0
Hotel Stay for 2 weeks - $0
Total cost so far is ~47k and have drove ~75k miles with many more ahead

If I sold now there is a good chance I could sell for well above 47k and turn a decent profit and at the very least could easily break even. I’m not saying you you are wrong or your math is wrong, but there are many was to do it and not break the bank. Old or new it does not matter, you are taking a risk and I believe that risk grows considerably with age.

I do not want to have trouble finding parts and junk yards are well picked through these days. I also do not want to bust my knuckles trying to get out a bolt that has been seized up for 40 years.

Wondering how they came up with 20k for maintenance cost. I’m halfway through that mileage and have spent maybe ~2.5 - 3k on oil and tires. Perhaps they are figuring inflation into it or something, but I wouldn’t do any extra maintenance for age unless it has sat.


So I’m curious what year & model your first van was. My $30k 2003 Chevy Express which was fuel injected & computerized cost me $10k+ in repairs between 80k & 86k miles. Lost over $30k on that one. (It was a $30k+ conversion, plus the mistake of it being a cargo van instead of a window van. Nearly impossible to sell due to the lack of windows…) The promoters screwed me good on both the van and the build.

Unlike the newer computerized ones, the older carbureted ones are pretty easy to fine tune to get the best performance and fuel mileage. Maybe your new carburetor was a lemon. I’ve rebuilt a few myself, for $10-$15 for the kit. Pretty simple, and brake cleaner really cleans them up like new. Brake fluid on rubber seals will restore them like new too if they’re not torn.

I bulletproof all my old Dodge’s for under $100, and then add a quart of Slick 50 at each oil change. Boy, you can tell that stuff works to reduce friction in your engine. After adding it for the first time, not only does it seal leaks, but your idle speed will nearly double. The difference is like sticking a new engine in a old tired rig, and it greatly improves your gas mileage too. Once a year or so, I’ll dump a bottle of fuel system/carb cleaner in the gas tank too. That keeps them clean and trouble free. Even fixed my gas gauge by unsticking the float in the tank. I’ve successfully sealed cooling system & head gasket leaks with sodium silicate too.

Man, $1.2k for a motel for 2 weeks!!! When I have company coming, I get $50-$75/week motels. Those old motels on the old highways that are now bypassed by the freeways, it’s not advertised, but many of them will let you stay for a week for the same price as a single night. That’s where the traveling construction workers stay for cheap.


"Be the reason someone smiles today!" ~ Van_Dweller

The first van (technically 2nd) was a 83 dodge xploerer 228 with the drop floor. So a Dodge B350 with a 360 and 727. The main problem was finding parts for this thing. They no longer make an EGR valve that will fit underneath the carburetor and you best hope your vacuum advance doesn’t go on you because you probably won’t find one of those or any other of the emissions parts. Getting someone to work on the carburetor was a nightmare and I definitely had altitude issues going from sea level to 8000 feet. Lost my secondaries on the way due to a thermostatic choke frying out.

Most mechanics don’t know what the hell a thermostatic choke even is these days. This carb was a bit of a behemoth as well. The Carter Thermoquad with ~14 total adjustments and a composite body.

Lovely every morning turning the key and the van going…

guh guh guh guh …
guh guh guh guh guh…
(me praying it turns over)
guh guh guh guh …
guh guh guh guh gun…
guh guh guh froOM!

Nothing against your standards, but I’m above staying in meth dens for $50 a week. I would rather pitch a tent somewhere. My wife certainly does not and did not want that either. It would have been the end of our vanlife just as it was beginning. I am also not sure of the validity of that statement around the Colorado Springs and Denver area.

The overall theme here is yeah, I am losing some money to depreciation, but buying vehicle is not a financial investment. It is a given that you will have upkeep and depreciation. Sure you can buy something older and have no depreciation, but you still have the upkeep that may not be possible at some point due to parts or just the fact that a mechanic may not know how to or may be unwilling to work on it. I have personally had that experience with a Vanagon and numerous mechanics telling me to go kick rocks. When I finally found someone they charged a premium.

Peace of mind pretty much drove all my decisions on buying new the 2nd time (essentially the 3rd time if you count the VW). With as much as we travel I do not feel I would ever get that with vehicle that is 20 years old let alone 40+.

For the record I would never put slick 50 or any type of lubricant, lucas oil, whatever in any engine especially an old one. I have seen this ruin many an engine. Likely buy breaking up all the old sediment inside would be my guess. (Quaker State Ads for Slick 50 Are False and Misleading, FTC Charges | Federal Trade Commission)


Hmmm… I had an '82 Explorer with the drop floor, but mine had a 318 in it. My only problem with it was tthe drop floor. Drove me crazy getting in & out of the side door. Just weird. Thought I’d get used to it, but never did.

Maybe there’s a big difference in parts availability between the 360 the 318. The carb on mine is a 4 barrel, but just has a fuel mixture screw and and an air mixture screw, not counting choke adjustment or idle adjustment. I just set the air & fuel mixture to the highest idle, and done. Haven’t touched it again in 11+ years.

I haven’t bought a new EGR valve in many years, I just clean mine with brake cleaner every year or so, so I can’t speak to their availability, but I’ve never really had any problem finding anything I needed. Tons of OEM stuff still out there.

One problem that I have had with many older rigs, is the backflow valve in the fuel pump would allow the gas to drain back to the tank overnight. Plus the fuel pressure was all over the place. So I add a fuel pressure regulator between the fuel pump & the carb. That solves the backflow problem, and increases MPG and performance.

When I bulletproof them, I also Y in an electric fuel pump on a switch, in case the original ever gives up, and electric cooling fans on a switch in case I see the temp going up. The fans are great in hot weather & heavy traffic, when the stock one isn’t running fast enough to keep up.

I remember that lawsuit against Slick 50, which was total BS. I think Slick 50 ultimately won that, but can’t swear it. Some BS about military specs or other irrelevant BS. Regardless, I like it, and can see first hand it’s benefits. I just passed 500k miles on the original engine in this rig and I credit Slick 50 for it.

I wouldn’t even consider a meth den motel. The ones I’m talking about are outdated, but mostly seniors on SS living in them. Most are really strict about no drugs or alcohol, and many are starting to be 55+ these days. I’m talking about nice Mom & Pop places run by senior citizens who are probably on SS themselves. I did one in Denver many years ago, but don’t think I’ve ever done one in Colorado Springs. They are disappearing though, probably as the owners die and the heirs sell the property for big bucks. Several that I really liked in the past are gone now. If the person behind the desk isn’t elderly, I don’t even go in.


"Be the reason someone smiles today!" ~ Van_Dweller