Considering buying our first 5th wheel! - Dutchmen Owners

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Old 12-28-2015, 11:53 PM   #1
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Cool Considering buying our first 5th wheel!

Hello everybody,My wife and I are considering a purchase but I'm just doing some research.


We are currently looking at a:
1996 DUTCHMEN Classic Ameristar



We haven't looked at it in person yet but it looks solid. No slide out, the door is towards the back.


I was going to ask if anyone has had any experience with this model.


Thanks and Happy Camping!!
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Old 12-29-2015, 03:32 PM   #2
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I have no experience with that particular rig but beware of any 16 year-old camper. Make sure you check carefully for leaks. You should negotiate down to a very low price because of it's age and lack of a slide. And yes, there are lots of 16 year-old rigs out there that are in very good condition. Just be cautious.
Good luck and welcome to the forum. Make sure you post pictures of your rig when it is purchased.
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Old 12-29-2015, 04:58 PM   #3
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Like Handyman said "I have no experience with that particular rig". I do have experience with buying rv's that are that old. I helped my son buy a 5th wheel Wilderness that had a slide that was that age. It needed all the tires & had roof & water damage. We got it at a good price & with some work he has a very nice 30' 5th wheel.

Is this your first RV?
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Old 12-29-2015, 05:25 PM   #4
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Welcome, I have been working on repairing older RV's and I can say, like the guys above, I have found water damage behind walls, that didn't ever show, check the roof area, and around windows and vents, then check all the equipment, The main thing is, was it kept inside, outside, when was the last time it was used, even if its in good shape, replacement parts will be hard to find, and changing some items to new, wiring etc. is another story....Good luck, do your homework
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Old 12-29-2015, 05:40 PM   #5
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I'll just say this... you've got more guts than I'd have. Knowing what I know now about RV's, I'd be leery of even buying a 3 year old unit.

These things aren't like used cars... where, if you need a part, you can tell someone the year/make/model and get a new one. They're more like jigsaw puzzles, in that... yeah, you can get all of the pieces to fit together as they should, but it'll be a challenge doing it.

Good luck in your decision...
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Old 12-29-2015, 10:04 PM   #6
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Welcome.

When you look at it, have a very critical eye. Don't talk yourself into something that could take a hockey sock full of cash to get into useable condition.

Invest in a moisture meter and check along the top of the outside walls, also check around everything that penetrates the walls or roof (windows, vents, etc.) Don't forget to check under the sinks and around the shower.

RVs use lots of material that make for great mould and mildew incubators. Mould and mildew are not something that you want to risk your health with. If you find evidence of water penetration, run as fast as you can away from the deal.
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Old 12-30-2015, 12:15 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ATCguy View Post
I'll just say this... you've got more guts than I'd have. Knowing what I know now about RV's, I'd be leery of even buying a 3 year old unit.

Good luck in your decision...
😳 😳
From this point I am leery of anything that has a Thor brand on it even if it brand new!
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Old 01-03-2016, 05:08 PM   #8
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😳 😳
From this point I am leery of anything that has a Thor brand on it even if it brand new!
What is the Thor brand?
I should specify the my wife and I are just beginning our 5th wheel life and can't a afford much at this time.


But at the same time, I am not going to purchase anything that guarantees headaches and regret. I truly appreciate this honest feedback


-Matt
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Old 01-03-2016, 09:05 PM   #9
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The best way to think of Thor is... they're the General Motors of the RV universe.

Keystone, Dutchmen, Forest River, etc... they all used to be their own companies, with their own facilities, corporate knowledge & operating procedures. One by one, Thor has been buying them up... so that they now own over 90% of the market. There are only a few RV builders now who don't fall under their umbrella, and most of them are in the high-market category.

The downside of all of this is that quality control gives way to production volume. The phrase "Friday afternoon build" has been used by many of us to explain the haphazardly way some parts of our units appear to have been built.

Not trying to scare you off, but one think to know about RV quality control is this. The only parts of your RV that have regulated standards are the portions required by the federal Dept of Transportation. In other words... Tailights, clearance lights, brakes, and tires.

The interior electrical is not regulated like household electrical code. Neither is the plumbing... flooring... insulation... etc. The manufacturer is free to build it as well (or not) as they want. Sometimes they do good... other times, not so much.
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Old 01-03-2016, 09:20 PM   #10
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The best way to think of Thor is... they're the General Motors of the RV universe.

Keystone, Dutchmen, Forest River, etc... they all used to be their own companies, with their own facilities, corporate knowledge & operating procedures. One by one, Thor has been buying them up... so that they now own over 90% of the market. There are only a few RV builders now who don't fall under their umbrella, and most of them are in the high-market category.

The downside of all of this is that quality control gives way to production volume. The phrase "Friday afternoon build" has been used by many of us to explain the haphazardly way some parts of our units appear to have been built.

Not trying to scare you off, but one think to know about RV quality control is this. The only parts of your RV that have regulated standards are the portions required by the federal Dept of Transportation. In other words... Tailights, clearance lights, brakes, and tires.

The interior electrical is not regulated like household electrical code. Neither is the plumbing... flooring... insulation... etc. The manufacturer is free to build it as well (or not) as they want. Sometimes they do good... other times, not so much.


Ok that makes sense.. I had no idea some were under one flag..
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Old 01-04-2016, 09:21 AM   #11
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Welcome to the forums and the wonderful world of RV ownership.

Look up Thor Industries, that will give you a list of the companies that fall under that umbrella. Also look up Forest River Industries, they are another large conglomerate. There are a few brands under the umbrellas that do a bit better job than the others. Dutchmen used to be okay, but they got in over their heads and their management team was removed and they were put under Keystone management. There is no perfect RV out there, you just have to find the one with the least flaws that will work for you.
  1. Find the floor plan and unit that will work for you
  2. Find a dealer that you can work with, a good dealer will go a long ways in helping you. Unlike cars you can't always take the RV to the closest dealer, they prefer to deal with what they sold not what was purchased from another dealer.
  3. Do a THOROUGH Pre-Deliver Inspection BEFORE signing on the dotted line, that way the dealer has incentive to fix things
  4. Be prepared to repair minor things, save the warranty for big things
  5. Go camping!
Just a heads up most manufacturers use the same appliances and general components aka the cheapest they can buy. So expect issues with them. FWIW a $100,000 Airstream has a cheaper power converter than my $12,000 Dutchmen/Keystone built Coleman camper. which by the way crapped out during the warranty period. Rather than mess with the warranty I went ahead and spent the $175 to upgrade to a better unit and did the work myself.

Aaron
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Old 01-04-2016, 03:21 PM   #12
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Mopar dewd.......... most all of the posts above don't refer to what you are looking at. (sorry folks). A 1996 Dutchman wasn't under Thor Industries. Any problems you read about now don't really pertain to Dutchman 20 years ago. RV's of twenty years ago mostly didn't have slides at that time like the one you are looking at. In your area water damage and rust would be the biggest concern I would look for.
Rust would be a concern to check on the running gear.
Last summer my son bought a 5th wheel of that age. It needed tires which we saw. Showed signs of water damage on the slide & L/F corner of the roof. He got it for $2500 and with some roof repair, new tires, new converter & toilet he has a very nice 30' Wilderness with a super slide.
I've had quite a few RV's so helping him by a used one we knew what to look for.
Most folks are looking for units with slides so none slide ones should be very cheap!
There were quite a few very good brands of 5th wheel RV's that were made 15- 20 years ago.
Nomad, Wilderness, Teton, Alfa, Carriage, Montana, Dutchman are a few that come to mind. So look around & don't jump at the first thing you see.
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Old 01-05-2016, 12:59 AM   #13
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Thanks for the info Wahoonc and Mike. I'm happy to say my father in law is on his fifth 5th wheel camper, so I'll probably have him look at this or any camper before I buy..Mike you've made some good points here.

With that in mind I'm going to start looking at brake controllers and fifth wheel hitches. You all can give advice if you'd like but I'm guessing the moderators would prefer I check out the forums.


Thanks again All!!
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Old 01-05-2016, 09:31 AM   #14
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Okay... I missed the fact he was looking at 20 year old unit. That is a whole 'nother ball game. However Thor picked up Dutchmen back in 1991. That was their second acquisition after Airstream. I would guess that any thing built by Dutchmen between 1991 and 1996-98 was probably still okay within the Dutchmen realm. Dutchmen products at that time were solid units, kind of middle of the pack. Is the one you are looking at wood frame or aluminum frame? Aluminum frames usually fare better if there have been any leaks.

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Old 01-05-2016, 10:37 AM   #15
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Dutchmen products at that time were solid units, kind of middle of the pack. Is the one you are looking at wood frame or aluminum frame? Aluminum frames usually fare better if there have been any leaks.

Aaron
Good question Aaron, I was focused more on weight. I will check into that!
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Old 01-05-2016, 04:38 PM   #16
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Take advantage of your father in laws knowledge. If he is had 5 5th wheels he will know what to look for. As far as weight & hitches what year & model of truck are you going to be towing with? Gas or diesel? SRW or dully?
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Old 01-05-2016, 10:09 PM   #17
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Take advantage of your father in laws knowledge. If he is had 5 5th wheels he will know what to look for. As far as weight & hitches what year & model of truck are you going to be towing with? Gas or diesel? SRW or dully?
Sounds good.
2003 Dodge Ram 2500 with the Hemi.. Some day I'll get my Cummins but just not yet. I'm doing my best to find a light camper. I'd even consider a 1/2 ton towable if I can find one at a good price.
My company has a fifth wheel hitch sitting in a garage. I looked it over today but the labels are worn out. Would there be an easy way to tell what it is?
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Old 01-05-2016, 10:54 PM   #18
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I took a wild guess of what model your truck is & came up with this tow rating.
http://www.dodge.com/towing/D/vehicl...T%255ERAM_2500

To give you a idea my sons 1996 5th wheel 30' Wilderness with the super slide has a GVWR of 9800 lbs. He tows with a 2002 F-250 7.3 diesel.
So if I guessed right look for a 5th wheel max at 9000 GVW
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Old 01-06-2016, 06:08 PM   #19
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If it were me, and it was 4 years ago, I'd buy a newer, slightly used 5th wheel and use it as a learning tool. In our case it was a Keystone Everest that was 5 years old. We used it for two seasons, learned all we could about these trailers, and then traded it off for our new Voltage.

There's a lot of used junk out there so be very cautious in whatever you buy. And if you're not a handyman you might want to become one or rethink owning a trailer. That's one thing I've had to be with both of my trailers.
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