After this adventure-loving couple bought a used Class A motorhome in great condition for only $66,000, they said it was one of the best things they’d ever done.
The true value of a motorhome isn’t measured by the places it can take you, but rather by the time spent in those places with the ones you love. In an era of complicated lives and schedules, camping gives us a chance to seek out adventure and explore new places while also reconnecting as couples and families. As Brad and Susan Allen can tell you, the best adventures are the ones we share.
The New England couple, married for more than three decades, had worked their jobs and raised their children, and along the way each had picked up hobbies of their own. Brad raced go-karts, and Susan loved hiking, but two years ago they realized they wanted a pastime they could enjoy together. The Allens had traveled extensively overseas, but “we’d never really seen our own country,” Brad notes. Though the couple had never owned an RV — in fact, they’d never even had a tent — they decided buying a motorhome was the perfect solution. Brad, a college professor, had much of his summer free, and Susan was recently retired, so they wanted a well-equipped unit suitable for extended trips.
They began the process of researching, turning to friends with camping experience for advice. The Allens didn’t feel they could justify the cost of a new unit, but conversations with a colleague who owned a 1999 Prevost convinced them that it made sense to look for a high-quality used unit. They started out thinking small: Susan’s first choice was a Class C Sprinter. A Class A motorhome wasn’t even a consideration.
“I said ‘Oh, no, those are way too big,’” she laughs.
But traveling with the couple’s dogs, Mattie and Bo, was going to get crowded. The couple looked at Class C’s but didn’t like the layouts. That brought them back to Class A’s, and they focused on units built prior to 2007. Since the preowned inventory of coaches in New Hampshire was limited, the Allens looked online. There were several possibilities in Texas, so Brad took a trip down to check them out. He was unimpressed.
“Most of the units were at dealerships, and they were worn-looking and had no maintenance records,” he explains.
The last unit he went to see was being sold by a private owner. Brad knew at first sight that “this was the one.” Owned by a semi-professional drag racer out of Houston, the 2003 40-foot Tiffin Allegro Bus had been driven short distances for race events and had only 20,000 miles on the Cummins ISL 9.0 diesel engine. Even better, the coach had been stored in a garage for all of its life, so the exterior paint was in perfect condition, and the owner had been meticulous with maintenance. And at $66,000, the price was right.
“It looked great, and it had an interesting story,” Brad says. He called his wife, and a month later, they bought one-way tickets to Houston to take the coach home.
That’s where the adventure truly began.
They spent their first night with their new coach inside the seller’s garage with the plans to begin the 1,600-mile trip back to New Hampshire the next day. Their total time behind the wheel of any RV at that point was less than 10 hours.
“We heard a lot of rumble strips,” Brad laughs, “but every day got a little bit better.”
They took it slow and did their best to stick to major roads, though there was one memorable wrong turn that led to a three-point turnaround in a gravel pit in the dark of night. But that is how wisdom is earned, and both Brad and Susan agree that the trip was the start of something amazing.
“We have been all over the world, had blessed lives and yet the experience we shared driving this huge bus back to our home turned out to be one of the best things we have ever done.”
In the two years they have owned their Tiffin, the couple has taken what Brad calls a “resto-mod” approach: maintain and restore the foundational elements, but upgrade systems where useful and practical. Fortunately, restoration has been minimal, since their unit’s foundation was rock-solid. On a trip to Camp Freightliner in Gaffney, South Carolina, where Brad took a two-day class, the couple had the coach serviced and inspected. About two hours in, the technicians asked Brad to join them in the garage. He went with some trepidation, expecting a major problem, but instead they congratulated Brad on the cleanest older coach they had ever worked on.
With maintenance taken care of, the Allens focused on modernization. While the unit came with the original black and white back-up camera, Brad was a rookie driver, and he wanted greater visibility.
“I knew I needed as much help as I could get,” he jokes.
The couple had a professional 360-degree bird’s-eye camera system installed, with six cameras total that allowed visibility on all sides of the coach at all times while driving as well as a good view of their Jeep dinghy vehicle. They also added a new Safe-T-Plus steering module at an RV rally, new tires, a TPMS system and new headlights.
Inside, the couple upgraded the coach’s two TVs to flatscreens, and added an Apple TV unit, a new Kenwood GPS system designed for RVs and eight upgraded speakers. On a trip to Florida they had new Auto-Motion shades installed, to replace the old blinds, as well as a larger curtain to block the front windshield. Having heard some negatives about the unit’s 16-year-old RV fridge, they replaced the factory cooling unit with JC Refrigeration’s Dutch Aire helium system.
As for aesthetics, the couple had the dinette reupholstered, then did the work for new interior valances and interior fabric trim themselves to give the interior a New England feel. In addition, they replaced the old backsplashes with new tile in the kitchen, shower and bathroom, and added new LED lights inside and out.
To give their coach’s exterior an updated appearance, the Allens also had all-new custom canvas installed on the slide toppers and other awnings from Stone Vos, “a wonderful family business” in Florida. The end result is a coach that not only looks fabulous but also has the safety features and technical bells and whistles of a newer unit. Though they have gone to plenty of rallies and shows and looked at current-model coaches, they haven’t even been tempted. They are satisfied with the quality of their Tiffin, and if something does go wrong, both feel it is better to renovate than to trade
“Our first motorhome is our last motorhome,” they agree.
For anyone considering taking the leap into coach ownership for the first time, Brad has some advice.
“Be patient and enjoy the process of exploring … you will find one that just feels right.”
He notes that the right seller will be someone with integrity who showed a commitment to the care of the coach while they owned it and has detailed maintenance records. Ideally, Brad recommends looking for a coach that was stored indoors or at least out of the weather as much as possible. Last, and perhaps most important, Brad suggests budgeting 20% of your money up front to fix things you find during the inspection process, or just to make it your own coach.
“If you need it, you won’t feel stressed, and if you don’t use it, then you have the budget to travel to even more destinations.”
And the Allens know travel. Last year, during Brad’s sabbatical, they started out on a vacation meant to last three-and-a-half weeks. After visiting a rally and some East Coast sights, including Savannah and the Florida Panhandle, it was suddenly a hundred days later, and the couple had no desire to head home.
“But I had to teach at Harvard for the summer,” Brad says. “Otherwise, we would have taken a left and gone on to California.”
Fortunately, there are plenty of vacations ahead. For the Allens, RVing together has been “one of the most wonderful adventures we’ve ever had.” Their 2003 Tiffin Allegro Bus has given them the ability to share those adventures worry-free, making it a true classic ride.
Tiffin Motorhomes, located in Red Bay, Alabama, has a reputation for quality and customer service. A new 2020 40-foot Tiffin Allegro Bus lists for more than $450,000, but that same workmanship can be seen in older models. Allegro Buses from 2003–2006 with two slides average between $56,000 and $75,000 on the used market.