Small House Big World


Getting closer to finding The One

Kelly Reid • December 2, 2014

After what feels like an eternity scouring the Internet, I’ve managed to cull the list of candidate Class A motor homes down to a modest 15 units.  Our search criteria was as follows:

  • Within about 3 hours of either Chicago or Detroit
  • Sticker price under $25k, although I am using NADA Low prices to consider what we’ll actually pay.  I separated our candidates into 4 tiers: < 10k, 10-15k, 15-20, 20+.
  • Class A Gas Motorhome, with a Diesel exception for an older bus conversion.
  • 30-37′ in Length
  • Few obstructions in the bedroom for a King bed upgrade



After the final purge, there were 10 remaining candidates within a few hour radius of Detroit.   A tremendous number of them were in the <10k price bracket.   Check out all our candidates in the Detroit Area

One vintage bus conversion really caught my eye, as a coat of paint and some updated fixtures could turn it into a sleek aviation / nautical themed interior.

The 1981 Thomas Coach

The 1981 Thomas Coach

the main area of the Thomas motorhome conversion

Please make sure your overhead bins are closed and locked when preparing for take-off.


I also found a 1996 Mountain Aire that looks to be in great condition for its age, and the price is very reasonable –  Asking price is $18k and NADA Low is around $12k.  Washer-Dryer combo included!

The 1996 Mountain Aire

The 1996 Mountain Aire


Interior of the Mountain Aire



This 1994 Coachman Catalina was a great budget find, coming in well under 10k.   The interior has been remodeled, which will save us a lot of time and money.  There were plenty of “just fine” coaches as well, but nothing that blew my mind. See all our candidates in the Chicago Area.

1994 Coachman Catalina

1994 Coachman Catalina

1994 Catalina Interior

1994 Catalina Interior

What I Learned

  • For Class A rigs over about 20 years old, the NADA Low value is $8,550.  This was a constant across my research, though I am certain that there are exceptions to the rule that I didn’t see.
  • I had a hypothesis that prices would be lower in the Detroit area, and that seems to be true.
  • Elkhart is the RV capital of the world, but we found zero used Class A candidates in the area.  We still intend to stop there on the first leg of our trip, but more for fun than to make a purchase.
  • I hate the “stock” look of almost every pre-2000s motor home I’ve seen, but DIY renovations can be inexpensive if you’re willing to put in the time and effort.  I welcome the challenge, but renovations could add another 1k or more to our startup costs.  Expect a post on DIY renovation instructions in the near future.
  • Pinterest is ridiculously good for organizing information that’s primarily visual.  The browser plugin is a godsend.

Browsing and saving listings, researching NADA values, and organizing information probably took at least a dozen hours, if not more, but I now feel very confident that I understand the range of options.  Though we might not make a purchase in December, we think there are financial benefits to doing so.  It might be crazy to full-commit four months before our departure date, but there’s nothing that says we have to stay in our apartment full-time until the end of our lease!

Kelly Reid • December 2, 2014

Previous Post

Next Post


  1. Dwayne May 2, 2016 - 10:54 pm Reply

    Just started to follow you and your adventures. You have a great site, one of the best I seen. I meet Wonderwasi team last year at the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta. Great team. That is a great event if you can make it. Happens in October. Good luck with your travels. BTW, what camera do you use for your pictures??

    • Anna Edgren May 3, 2016 - 11:49 am Reply

      Thank you! I appreciate the kind words 🙂

      I would LOVE to go to Albuquerque Balloon Fest… have never been up in a balloon!

      I take my photos on my iphone 6. It’s just so much easier to carry around than a big camera and I think it does a pretty good job.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published / Required fields are marked *