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Old 03-12-2013, 08:14 PM   #1
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100% Noob, shopping a used TT- need advice!

Very glad to discover this forum! Poking around doing some research as a TOTAL newbie to RV's and Forest River...

We are looking at a 2006 Flagstaff 26 FS but to tell the whole truth, I have no idea about quality, issues or what to look for. I have researched countless check-lists to try to identify what to watch out for, but posting here to get some community insight. Tow vehicle will be a 2010 Silverado 1500 4x4, realizing I will need to add a brake controller (the trailer includes a weight-distributing hitch).

We are looking for a dual-purpose RV... I say dual purpose because we intend to use it for weekend get-aways for the family, consisting of me, the wife and two daughters 12 and 17 (the 17 yr-old heading off to school soon). The "dual" is due to my being Military and considering using the trailer as my "home" since I will likely be a geographical-bachelor for part of my next tour (family not moving with me).

My biggest fear is what I dont know, and that's a lot. I have never owned an RV so I am not even knowledgable on how to set one up and since this is a used trailer, dealer delivery and "training" is not an option. We are currently in Connecticut near the shore-line and would love to learn from anyone in the New England area!

Any advice available for the Flagstaff 26FS (prices, issues, pros, cons etc) would be great and suggestions for additional research resources would be even better!!

Respectfully,

Allen
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Old 03-12-2013, 08:43 PM   #2
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Allen,

Being new to RVing is where we all started. If you do some research in the forum you will find that most (but no where near all) say you should stay away from used units. Here are my reasons for buying new (even if you have to finance it) rather than used.

1) Since an RV counts as a 2nd home, finance interest is tax deductible.
2) RVs can be financed for 10 years at reasonable rates keeping the camper's monthly cost about the same as a car payment. - My camper new, financed for 10 years had a 300.00 a month payment.
3) Since a nice small (30 foot or less) Travel Trailer or 5th wheel will run about 30,000 (or about 30% UNDER MSRP); the depreciation costs are very manageable and if you HATE RVing (some do) you can sell it on the used market for very close to what you paid for it.
4) If you buy a 6 or 7 year old camper and hate it; you will be pulling it to a junk yard.
5) With a new unit you are camping right out of the chute. With a used unit plan on a few hundred bucks (or more) getting it "camping ready."

There are many more on the "new" side of the ledger. Using the cash you would have paid for somebodies "cast off" as a down payment, you can get a pretty nice new unit for a very low payment.

Read "how can one dealership sell for so much less" here on the forum (How can one dealer sell for so much cheaper? also read the "Confessions of a car salesman" on Edmunds.com (http://www.edmunds.com/car-buying/co...-salesman.html)
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Old 03-12-2013, 09:13 PM   #3
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The first thing you need to do is better understand your trucks capabilities than just my truck can tow x lbs. (I learned this the hard way). Most TV are limited by their payload. To find out your TVs true towing capacities then you need to go weigh it. Load the tv up with all occupants, pets, and cargo that will be in it when towing plus a full tank of fuel and then go weigh it at a local scale (CAT Scale ). Weigh each axle on a separate scale pad so it will give you a breakdown of front and rear axle weights individually and a total weight. Take the total weight and subtract it from your Trucks gvwr to get your available payload. Take the scaled Truck weight and subtract it from your Truck gcwr to get your adjusted towng capacity.

Next understand you will never tow an unloaded or dry trailer. Those numbers are somewhat irrelevant. You can either add the amount of weight of cargo you will tow to the dry weight (this is heavier than you think as most add 1000-2000 lb of gear) or simply use the tt gvwr to do your calculations. Being that this is your first tt, using the tt gvwr is the safer route for you. Next understand that the tt loaded tongue weight needs to be subtracted from your available payload. The loaded tongue weight is typically 13-15% of the loaded tt weight. For your purposes go wiith 13-15% of the tt gvwr.

Doing some research it looks like the flagstaff you mentioned has a gvwr of 6510 lbs. so 13% of 6510 is 846 lbs tongue weight. Does your truck have enough payload leftover to absorb this? Also ouble check your hitch receiver ratings to make sure it is rated for this. Finally does your truck have the factory tow package? If not you will want to add a transmission cooler for towing.


For wdh you may want to check out this thread weight distribution hitch set up procedure

Also some good info here: how weight distribution hitch works

Does the wdh that comes with the TT have sway control? You will want sway control. Preferred is wdh w/ integrated sway control like Reese dual cam or equal-i-zer. Acceptable would be 2 friction sway bars all the integrated sway is the more generally accepted for over 26 ft. Good luck


On edit- make sure you get a proportional brake controller (prodigy P2 or P3 are both really good) and not a time based brake controller.
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Old 03-12-2013, 10:09 PM   #4
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The seller is local and is selling privately- retired but unable to use the RV due to health. The question mark at this point is the actual trailer- we are taking an initial look tomorrow as a go/no-go from a layout and general impressions perspective. If the initial look is a go, we will dig into the recesses of the trailer for any potential issues. I know looks can be very deceiving hence the research on potential problem points.

Not looking at new to avoid the debt but the point is VERY well taken. The other advantage we are looking at with shopping used is we can enter at a lower price point (less than a third of new) in this case avoiding the instant depreciation and getting a taste of the RV world. At this point, we don't really know what we like, dislike find useful and useless for us- purchasing an inexpensive used RV gives us the chance to get a feel for our preferences. This may sound odd, but being military and moving so much we have really discovered what we like and dislike in houses and that developed over years of living in different homes. When I retire and build a house, it will be spot-on based on experience.

I am not sure how to explain this next point but will try. I may opt for new some day, along with a new TV to match but not just yet- I need to learn by experience (but don't want to get burned). The way I look at it, every new RV will be "used" and have issues shortly after signing the papers. Yes, I understand warranty coverage on a new unit but by starting out with a used trailer, the learning starts day one without the same shine of a new unit. Stuff breaking on a $9k trailer would tweak me less than on a $29k trailer. That may not make sense but IF we enjoy using a used RV that we can pick up at a good price, we will LOVE that bright shiny new RV down the road that is built exactly to our specs.

As for the TV, the truck's rating is actually what is driving my RV shopping. It is rated for 9,600 trailer weight, 15k GCWR and the max tongue weight 1,100 with the weight distributing hitch; all of which is driving my trailer criteria to generally stay at a 28' or less lightweight RV. With the Flagstaff in question, I am estimating 1k worth of stuff in the trailer (which checks roughly with the suggestions above) giving me a workable cushion and an additional 1k in the TV, keeping the total well under the 15k gross. Funny that you mention the Prodigy P2 controller- it is the exact one I am ordering!

Thanks for the comments so far- it is GREATLY appreciated!

/r

Allen
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Old 03-12-2013, 10:48 PM   #5
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The main area to inspect on a used trailer is the roof, looking for places where the caulking is cracked, or tears and holes in the roof. You will probably be looking at replacing the tires if they are 5-6 years old, (look for manufacture date). Tires deteriorate more from age then mileage. Water leaks and water damage are the primary deal breakers.
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Old 03-12-2013, 11:11 PM   #6
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Are those numbers from a website or your drivers door panel for payload? The numbers from the manufacturers website will be significantly higher than the actual truck due to options. Also the weight of all occupants, pets and gear need to further be subtracted from those numbers. (I learned all of this the hard way myself). If you can't get to a scale you can look inside the drivers door t the tire loading stickers. It should say occupants and cargo not to exceed x lbs. that is your payload. Subtract the weight of your family and gear etc from that number. Your tongue weight will need to be subtracted from what is leftover. I'm betting that flagstaff is going to be at the top end of what you can tow.

A good way to figure out what you want in a TT is to go to an rv show and sit in the different units. Think about how you will use them. Will your camping be primarily at rv resorts with full hook ups, state parks w/ partial hook ups, or boondocking with no hook ups. This will help you decide the size of tanks you need and size trailer you need. The more remote you plan to go you will probably need a smaller trailer. Next think about inside usage and if your style of camping will be more inside than out, outside than inside or a balance of both. More outside can lead to needing less inside space, more inside time will lead to wanting more inside space, thus a longer trailer with deeper slides. Then think about sleeping arrangements... Do you need bunks for kids or are you happy making up a bed every night out of a jack knife or pullout sofa? Is the DW ok with a tiny kitchen for these trips or does she need a larger kitchen? (Hint food prep can be done at home for shorter trips). Then look at storage space. Where will you put things (ie moms clothes in this cabinet, dishes in that cabinet, kids toys in that drawer, outside chairs in that compartment etc). Make a list of likes, dislikes and must haves. This will help you to narrow your search. Take what you learn from the rv show and go look at used TT that fit those needs.

Thank you for your service. As a proud Army brat I get the whole moving around thing. My dad bought a 28 ft coachmen when I was a kid for much the same reason. He kept it on military storage lots realitively cheap. Also look into the military campgrounds, forget exactly what they call them but I hear they can be pretty nice and be cheap for you.
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Old 03-12-2013, 11:13 PM   #7
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As joenic said, look carefully for signs of water intrusion in cabinets, corners, near caulking. Bubbling in the walls is a sign of delamination. Crawl up on the roof and check it out. Get a general idea of how well maintained and clean the rig is. Happy hunting!
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Old 03-12-2013, 11:20 PM   #8
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Used Trailer Crash Landings:

ANY of these are "No Go" even if the camper is FREE.

1) Dry, hard, cracked roof caulk with gaps at seams
2) ANY mold or discolorations on the walls (even if the owner SWEARS the old leak was fixed).
3) Bulges or ripples in the siding (especially around windows)
4) Soft spots in the floor (especially in the bathroom)
5) Odd wear on the tires (possible axle damage)
6) Cracks in the gel coat siding (if equipped)
7) Frame cracks anywhere
8) Cracked welds

RUN do not walk away from any of these signs even if the owner swears the underlying cause was repaired. Even if the camper is otherwise perfect, the presence of any of these means the next stop for it is the junk yard.

NEVER EVER buy a used camper without going up on the roof and examining the seam sealant. While the presence of "Eternabond" tape on the seams MAY be a "plus", it is only if the tape was applied to a NEW camper.

Eternabond tape is a poor man's way to try and repair roof leaks. The problem is that by the time the owner discovers there is a leak, the damage to the camper's structure is almost always done. Next stop junk yard or stick in the woods with a green tarp over it as a deer blind.

Or sell to a "Noob" who does not know any better. Don't let it be YOU.
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Old 03-12-2013, 11:22 PM   #9
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Herk's advice is good. I started with a used pop up from friends of ours just to see how my family would take camping and "RV"ing. When we decided on a fifth wheel, I knew we'd be way too picky for a used camper - heck, we were even too picky to buy one off a lot and ordered it from the factory.

Otherwise, using a camper isn't hard. You need to get setup for towing. With a fifth wheel, you need to pick a good hitch. It's pretty much hookup and go. With a travel trailer, you usually need a good weight distributing hitch and need to dial it in for your truck/camper combo.

You then have basic systems - electric, water, waste and HVAC.

Electric comes from either battery(ies) or plugging into "shore power". Shore power is generally a feature of campgrounds and RV parks. More often then not, it's plug in and go. That enables your 120v system in the camper and then it functions much like a house. Without shore power, you're generally limited to 12v power unless you get into inverters and generators and whatnot. 12v power will power your basic systems - water pump, water heater, furnace, etc. Charging and maintaining your battery(ies) is a little more work.

Water comes in 2 forms, too- either hooking up to "city water" (i.e. a hose to a fresh drinking water source) or by filling your onboard freshwater tank. Again, this is commonly campground/RV park vs. not. When you are connected to city water, you essentially have an unlimited supply. With your water tank, you're limited to its capacity (usually 30-90 gallons depending on the RV) until you have to fill it again (may or may not be convenient depending on where you are). With the city water connection, it supplies the water pressure- sometimes higher than your RV can support and there you need a water pressure regulator. With your tank, there is a water pump that runs off of the 12v system that supplies the water pressure.

All of the water that you use is your waste water and has to be handle appropriately. I joke about the nicest thing when coming home from trips is that I don't care where the drain goes anymore. In the RV, all of your waste water goes to tanks. Shower and sinks generally go to gray water tanks; toilets go to black water tanks. Like the fresh water tanks, these have limited capacity. Where you camp decides how you handle the water in these tanks. Many RV parks have sewer connections at each site. If that's the case, you connect your sewer hose to the sewer outlet(s) on your camper to the sewer connection at the campsite. When the tanks get full (or close to it), you use handles /valves on the side of the camper to empty them. Black first and then gray to clean out the "stuff" in the sewer hoses. Many people run fresh water into the black tanks after dumping a few times to get a better flushing of the system. In fact, there are sprayers with hose attachments that you can get (or it may come with your camper already installed) that spray water directly into the tank. This gives you a better cleaning of the tank than a single flush alone. The thing to remember with the black tank- more water is good because it carries the solids down the hose. After emptying black tanks, most people put a couple of gallons of water back into it, just to keep it all wet and yummy. Some people will say you can keep your gray tanks open to the sewer all of the time, which is true- just make sure you have some left over to flush out your sewer hoses after black.

Now, if you don't have sewer on your site - things get more interesting. Some campgrounds offer "honey pot" services where they have come around and suck out the contents of your black and gray tanks either for free or for a fee. Or, you can get totes to empty the tanks into the tote and then take it to the dump station (a dedicated dumping spot for sewer - usually at the campground). Or, you can take your whole camper there. Many people can go a whole weekend (or longer) with careful use of water and just hit the dump station on their way out of the park/campground. All told- please don't listen to those who say you can just dump your gray water on the ground, this is largely illegal in many places and against the rules in most parks.

For HVAC- campers have heating systems that are generally propane furnaces this runs off of 120v and 12v. A cold night on 12v with the fan blowing can wear on a single battery if you're only on 12v. If you're on shore power, you may opt to run electric heaters to save on propane. You may or may not pay for metered. The longer you stay at a campground (monthly or seasonly), the more likely this is. For cooling, most RVs have air conditioners. This is generally only available if you have shore power (or a generator). There are 12v fans and whatnot if you're running off of batteries. The furnace and air conditioner are likely ran off of a simple thermostat, much like your house. The catch to RVs is that they're generally poor insulated and the windows are giant heat sinks/transfers. RVs can be hard to keep warm in cold climates and occasionally hard to cool in very hot climates. There are RVs that are considered "4 seasons", but when you're camping/living in very cold- water lines and tanks want to freeze, propane wants to be a challenge and things are just harder in general.

Your water heater will likely work off of propane and/or electricity. There are little tips and gotchas all over- for instance, never turn a water heater on without it first being full of water; it can short out the heating element (quick if on electric). The fridge is a neat contraption that either works off of 120v electricity or propane and 12v.

Remember that it's a house on wheels. Tires need replaced usually based on age vs. mileage. Wheels need maintenance and so do the axles and whatnot.
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Old 03-12-2013, 11:35 PM   #10
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Another checklist IF the Crash Landings are OK
Attached Files
File Type: pdf USED RV INSPECTION.pdf (3.06 MB, 56 views)
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2010 Flagstaff 8526RLWS - Superglide 3300
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