Beauty is only skin deep. Faded paint will not ruin a trip, but a blown head gasket, faulty electrical system, or crowded sleeping arrangements certainly can. For anyone in the market for a used motorhome, outward appearance must be secondary to the unit’s structural integrity, the dependability of its systems and the livability of its layout. That was the mindset of first-time buyers Dave and Jackie Gilbert in 2011 when they set out hoping to find a big rig with strong mechanical performance and all of the comforts of home, but without the big price tag of a new motorhome.

The 2003 40-foot Beaver Santiam they found at a repo sale fit the bill perfectly. With a scant 17,000 miles on the 330-horsepower Cummins turbodiesel engine and an asking price of $70,000, the Santiam seemed like a good deal. A product of the former Monaco Coach Corp. of Coburn, Oregon, the Beaver line was recognized industrywide for its durability, starting with the proprietary Roadmaster raised-rail chassis and Alumaframe superstructure, which featured steel-cage support and a steel-frame floor. The Santiam series also came well-outfitted with Thermopane windows, a 7.5-kW Onan generator, Pacbrake braking system, hydraulic leveling jacks, and a 10,000-pound hitch receiver. But it was what the Gilberts found inside the motorhome that impressed them the most…

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