First, let me say that Niki and I enjoy your articles. We always find them informative and useful. We had ten particular requirements when we were looking to buy our new 5th Wheel last Spring:
1. Headroom in the bedroom, so that I wouldn't have to continually stoop. Also, wanted some space around the bed so that we didn't have to be contortionists to make the bed.
2. We wanted a sturdy shower enclosure, again with enough headroom going through the door.
3. We wanted an "L" or "J" shaped kitchen layout so we could double-team the food prep more easily.
4. Plenty of windows so that we could get a good look at the scenery when we stopped for the night.
5. We wanted a dining table rather than a booth.
6. Plenty of closet storage.
7. Plumbed for a washer & dryer.
8. At least generator ready for the future.
9. All built into a maximum length of 35'.
10. It had to be a good price after our trade-in.
We weren't so sure it could be done. Fortunately, we had a crackerjack saleslady, with a can-do attitude. The one thing she could not manage was the length! We ended up with a 39' Brookstone 5th Wheel by Coachmen. It has all of the other things we wanted, and I have to say it pulls as easily as our 27' trade-in had in the past. It has 4 slides, and a plethora of windows surrounding the rear living room. It also had some extras that we hadn't asked for, but enjoy, like the built-in fireplace, desk area, 42' living room TV, plus the bedroom and basement TV's. We have had it on the road, covering around 5,000 miles so far, with no complaints, but with a whole lot of enjoyment.
As far as what we like least? Niki, when pressed for a dislike, says she would have liked to have inside storage for the central vac hose and attachments, but really not a big deal. As for me, I would have liked an outdoor radio antenna. We also had to buy a larger truck to pull it, but we have come to love it as well. Keep up the good work.
From Peter “Peteski” Karcmarczyk:
This is response to your asking why the wife and I bought our particular RV. We looked at several different brands of travel trailers both by using the Internet and going and seeing them. We didn't want a big one. We looked mainly for storage capability. We settled on getting a R-Vision MS 23. We liked it very much. I did, however, a few embellishments to our unit. It is not on the high-end scale of finished RVs.
1. The first thing we did was caulk and painted all the seams (most of the joints were stapled rather than screwed.) We wanted more of a finished look.
2. The placement of electrical outlets needed a lot to be desired. On either side of the bed, were outlets just at the height of where a person would could possibly knock out anything plugged in while sleeping. I relocated them to below the bed.
3. The designers had placed an outlet almost on the floor at right side of the table. I left it there, however I added one directly above on the storage cabinet that was more readily accessible.
4. I added another outlet opposite the one on the storage cabinet to the bed side for a shelf that I installed for our clock radio.
5. I installed another cable outlet to the side of our RV for when we were at campgrounds that had cable TV. I used it instead of going through the existing regular antenna outlet.
6. Since I read, in one of your earlier messages to all of us RVers, that on real hot days, the refrigerator would hard pressed to keep cool without some additional help. I hard wired a switch to a small fan at the back of the frig so I could turn it on or off when needed.
7. For the outside storage areas, I added hangers to get most things off the floor of them. I have, in fact, eliminated a lot of stuff I thought we had to take along. I know that most of your readers have Class As and 5th Wheelers, but I thought that this could give a few of us TTers some ideas. Thanks a bunch for your great articles.
We did some research on RV's and discussed the pros and cons of first the 5th Wheel vs Motorhome. We wanted to full time in the RV and we picked the Motorhome. Many full timers we had talked to told us how many coaches they bought to find the right one and we didn't want to do that. So the prevailing suggestion was get a well-manufactured diesel pusher.
So then we moved on to what floor plans we liked in the coaches. We visited a large RV show in Dallas and went through many companies’ coaches trying to determine livability for us. We also looked at construction. What manufacturers were using what construction methods, materials, and what did fit and finish look like, and sound like at the show. After we had a good idea of what we liked in the floor plan and what New coach price range would give us what we were looking for, we started looking online for used coaches between 2-5 years, old to put this all together. We then narrowed the selection down to certain companies and the series of coach they made which fit into what we wanted and liked. Mainly the companies we decided we liked were Newmar, Monaco and Tiffen. I also found the web forum IRV2.com <http://IRV2.com> and read many forums here and asked a few questions.
In 2010 we found a 2005 Monaco Diplomat 40PDQ that we liked and was in our price range At PPLMotorHomes.com. We sold the house, moved into the coach and have lived in it since. We live and work in East Texas during the school year and travel all summer. We have racked up 11,900 miles since and had very little in the way of problems with our home.
From Tony Jenzer in Sutherland, VA:
In response to your question of why I chose the RV that I did: Price, was my first issue, being as this is my first RV purchase. I also researched different models based on price, features and availability (Close to home) so I could visually inspect them. I ended up purchasing a '99 National Tradewinds, with 39 K miles. Excellent condition, good quality features and benefits and Freightliner chassis with Cat engine. Still working on it mostly mods, intend to add a fire suppression system next before I head out on the road. I am somewhat surprised that the fire suppression does come stock or as a option? Thanks for all you do , enjoy the newsletters and videos learning all I can.
From Richard Brandt:
I wanted an aluminum frame first of all. Then went to The RV Consumer Group to get their ratings of the TT in the size I wanted. Then I visited local campgrounds to talk to owners and found a Sunny Brook group that was very helpful AND there was a SB dealer within an hour or so from my house. Never regretted the choice in our 8 seasons thus far.
From Judy Brown in Lebanon, MO:
We had friends recommend Jayco and while shopping around we stopped at an RV dealership here in MO that has been in business for over 40 years and the majority of their RV's were Jayco. We asked why and they said that through the years they had come to realize that this company manufactured the strongest, best quality product on the market. Then they made the decision to stock at least 75% of their offerings from Jayco. We purchased a 2010 27' travel trailer from them and have been very pleased with our decision.
From Duane Albrecht in Pawnee, Illinois:
I chose Jayco because of past experiences owning Jayco, the support from the factory, and the absolutely fantastic dealership from whom I purchased it; Kuhl's Trailer Sales, Ingraham, Illinois.
If I have ever had any problems (which have been very few), Kuhl's and the Jayco factory have taken care of them without question (warranty work) and promptly, with little down time for me.
From Steven Smith in North Grafton, MA:
You asked in Newsletter why we chose the coach we now own. Here are the main reasons we picked ours:
1. We could only afford a used coach.
2. We liked the floor plan and 2 slides.
3. The coach has low miles (28,000) and was in good shape.
4. The price was right. Our Coach is a 2002 Winnebago Adventurer 32 ft built on a Ford F53.
From Art Darling, full time RVer:
How we came to choose our current coach was not a hunt, but a chance encounter. We had a 35' FRED we were pretty much satisfied with except the power (we thought). While picking up some supplies at an RV store in Portland, OR, we went out on the lot to look at their inventory of new and used coaches. This was the last one we looked at. It is a used (15K miles) 2010 Thor 41' 4 slide on a Freightliner Chassis with a 400 Cummins. So the chassis, engine and surprisingly low price were the main things.
From Sue Tsuda in Yucca Valley, CA:
I bought my 35 foot 1995 Thor Residency because I didn't want slides - more weight and one more thing to go wrong - and I liked the big windows and the layout. I don't like that the inside is put together with staples and had too much carpeting. (I have taken most of it out and replaced it with bamboo flooring. I also have put in a larger radiator and insulated the gas line running the full length of the coach to the engine. Also a rebuilt engine, replaced water pump, fan clutch, brakes, and fuel pump. But those items, I suppose, resulted from poor maintenance on the part of the previous owner.
From Myron Bird:
I purchased a 2005 Winnebago Adventurer 33' motorhome in September 2011. It's my second RV, the first being a 2008 KZ Coyote travel trailer.
I chose the Winnebago over many other used models on the lot for the reason that it was in better condition than the newer models of other makes simply because it appeared to be better made, all the way from its frame to the finishing touches in it. I could see in the other makes that they had had inherent design problems that had become worse as the units aged. I paid a little more for the "Winnie", but I think I got a better unit. So far, I've been right. One example of the difference: Winnebago paints their exterior designs; others use decals that can and do eventually tend to peel.
From Carl Fuller in Portsmouth, VA:
Your topic of "why I chose the RV I did" is very intriguing. Being somewhat anal about my choices for almost everything I might be wanting to purchase, I was really in a fix trying to figure out what I wanted next when I was ready to move up a little. I went to an RV show and made that mistake when I wasn't quite ready both financially and "mentally" to make a purchase. It was going to be a 5th wheel because of some of our personal list of reasons.
We bought our rig solely because of the floor plan. It is one of few with a full side slide (which was our #1 requirement) and is a manageable length (38'), was reasonably priced & was built by a quality manufacturer - all of which were factors in the choice.
From Debbie Ashby in Bonham, TX:
The main things that drew us to buying our current 5th wheel was the large back window w/recliners & slide layout. Our first 5ver had no slides so we learned from that experience that they were a must have and I wanted the large back window. When both living/kitchen slides are open it makes a huge living space, which is great especially when we have our kids with us. I had also decided that while we were upgrading because we keep our units for many years that a BR slide was necessary too.
A couple of other things that we decided were good when we saw them (not even on our short list) was the amount of counter space we have (although DH did not want a kitchen in the slide but after examining it decided it would be ok) and the W/D closet space can be used to carry/store his music equipment.
From Gale Wilson:
From John Pereira:
When we decided to purchase an RV, we found a program on how to evaluate an RV. It was a series of manuals and CDs on what to look for. One criteria we gave great weight to was stability on the road -- we live in OK, and travel in the West where it is always windy. The other criteria we gave emphasis to was reliability. One factor not in the program was the financial stability of the manufacturer (this was in 2007 and builders of coaches were crashing). We even went to 3 RV shows to look around. Your article was right - some RVs were really flashy - but the quality was not there. Looking "under the hood" you could see that the RV was put together either on a Friday afternoon or a Monday morning! We finally decided on a Tiffin. We initially chose an Allegro Bay, and then after discovering we loved the coach but wanted something bigger with a better ride, we traded it in on our 40' Tiffin Phaeton. The Phaeton is, other than the accessories and finish, exactly the same as the more expensive Allegro Bus. We studied Tiffin as a company. It appeared well managed and very financially stable. We got on the web and talked to actual owners and found that all said they would buy another Tiffin. Most owners almost bragged about the service. Then we looked at some Tiffin coaches and found that they were well built. (You can even go to the factory in Red Bay Alabama and watch the coaches being built on the factory floor - and ask the workers questions about the mechanics of putting it together!) Many people told us that if you have a complaint, go see Bob (as in Bob Tiffin, the founder) (He has no door on his office). As for the reliability criteria, we have been very pleased - and they stand behind their product even after the warranty is over. The service you get at the service center in Red Bay is great. As for the less than important "flash" of the coach, the floor plans are well thought out. The company encourages owners to give suggestions. The interior is attractive, and the outside too (with full body paint on all coaches). As you can tell, we would buy another Tiffin when (if) we wear this one out.
From Ira and Mary Jean House:
A few reasons I chose the RV/Trailer I now own are; it has an aluminum superstructure, the holding tanks are located over the axles which keeps the balance the same either empty or full, the underbelly is enclosed and most of the cabinetry is good quality, I also like a walk around dedicated bed.
Now what I don't like about my Class A: There is way too much furniture for such a small unit. I have two removable upholstered "barrel" chairs and two "parson like" dining chairs. I removed all four pieces and added two large sized upholstered storage cubes for additional seating. The front seats turn around so with the sofa there is plenty of seating. I don't like the battery compartment. I have four batteries, which require maintenance. The back two batteries are almost impossible to reach. A rolling tray would have made my job a lot easier. I don't like the fact my unit didn't come with a side camera. I have a great rear camera but they tell me I can't add on a side camera for changing lanes. I know I would have liked the added safety. The unit has wood laminate and light beige carpets. The light beige carpet isn't practical when you are camping. Hope the above info helps with your survey. Really enjoy your newsletter. Keep up the good work.
I was looking for a Revcon at first. I liked the concept of front wheel drive but parts could be an issue. Most of the units I looked at were more restoration projects and I wasn't interested in that. Then I came across my 1989 Barth Regal. It is on a P-32 chassis with a 454. Parts are easy to find. Barth built motorhomes like tanks. I'm the second owner and the previous owner did a great job taking care of the unit. I paid $5000 for it and put another $4000 in tires and updates/upgrades. I'm still not done and doubt I ever will be done. An RV is just like a boat on wheels, a money sink, but I love it!
The reasons I chose my Barth:
1) It is built on a common chassis so parts are not a problem.
2) One piece aluminum roof, only perimeter seams and vents to keep sealed.
3) Buck riveted, aluminum frame and body, not stick and staple. No fiberglass delamination.
4) No particleboard inside. Solid cherry cabinets. (Nice to look at, heavy to haul around)
5) Unit is 25 feet so no problem parking it with a 15' cargo trailer for my motorcycle.
6) Being from Arizona, it is totally rust free. Sikkens paint held up great with no fading.
7) GREAT community at barthmobile.com <http://barthmobile.com> to help with support.
We started full timing last December. We missed the winter in Illinois, or should I say DIDN'T miss it. We will start our first workamping job on May 1st and couldn't be more excited. Life is good. Thank you for your contributions to the RV community.
1) CRITICAL: The Bathroom -- I'm 6'2" and bulky athletic, my wife is "generously hipped"... so 95% of the trailers we looked at literally couldn't take her on the throne (wedged between cabinets or into a "broom closet with plumbing") or me in the shower.(If I have to stoop in the shower, I'm showering outside... and not all the neighbors like me au naturale). Our camper devotes about 1/4 of the total length and full width to the bathroom -- still a camper bathroom, but at least adult size.
2) NO slides -- this may seem "retro" but all the slides we saw moved like they were about to fall out of the mount, or moved herky-jerky inchworm style, or otherwise just didn't inspire confidence that they wouldn't break down or jam at the worst moment. So, we wanted a floor plan that didn't NEED a slide to still be usable. The notion of needing to operate the slide to get into the bathroom on a long drive seemed absurd.
3) NO dedicated bunks -- this was surprisingly hard to find! Being only a young couple at the time, we didn't want to drag wasted space. We figured we'd outgrow the trailer by the time any future kids grew too big for the couch/table beds, so dedicated berths weren't going to be relevant in this trailer. Now we've fostered 4 teenagers, so... OOPS in planning there -- we just carry a giant tent when they come with us.
4) Washable floors... yes, we CAMP. People come in muddy. Similarly, the cushions all really do flip to waterproof versions.
5) Carpeted bedroom... we use the trailer 3 seasons, and it can get COLD at night. Surprising how many had washable bedrooms and carpet in the main area -- backwards of what makes sense to us!
6) Big tanks... we have 60 gallons in each of fresh/gray/black, so we don't need to hitch and dump more than a typical campsite visit.
Now, with experience, what we like:
So far, this has worked really well for us in all the areas we planned, besides unexpected family expansion.
What we don't like:
It would be nice if the "optional" beds were more adult sized. There's no reason the couch couldn't be longer instead of a 7th vertical cabinet. With 12 overhead cabinets, there's actually TOO MUCH storage. The table-bed, I don't really see making much bigger without turning it lengthwise as some trailers do (again, we didn't need more than a 4 person table originally).
We added a generator to this rig after far too many brownout campsites and a little boon docking. There really isn't room to put it on the tongue, nor does a 4KW (AC capable) genny fit through any of the external bay doors (where there IS available volume, but not entry). It would be nice if the genny could stay reasonably stored or installed, rather than lugging it from the tow vehicle or inside the trailer.
In six years the only Thor build problem was a small water leak when they did seal a half-inch under a bracket.
I bought your Maintenance book at the Renton Votech RV classes and love it and have it here in Tucson, AZ.
My husband’s only complaint is with the fresh water tank/fill. If filled to capacity, we can lose 1/4-1/2 tank driving down the road. And when boon docking, as we do 90% of the time, we need to carry an electric pump along to re-fill when needed. The coach could use a "direct" input system! You know, put the hose or water jug spout in and fill! As it is we need to "hook-up" to a water spigot with the hose or use the pump and a five-gallon container.
From Beth Arnett:
What I don't like is the small trunk space, and the shower is so small that even for me, a small person, it is tight. Having a small on board propane tank limits my extended boon-docking trips. Also, the electrical cord is cumbersome to get to for plugging into electrical hookups.
The pros out weight the cons for me by a huge amount and I can't imagine trading this in on anything else. The ease of movement both in driving and living inside is well worth the few minor shortfalls.
of 2003 (Ford V-10). I wanted the 36M floor plan, as I had seen one at an RV
show about a year prior. It has a hallway down the driver's sidewall, with
a large bathroom. At the time, my mother traveled with me occasionally, and
needed a wheel chair. I found that this floor plan allowed her access to the
bathroom without the problems other floor plans presented. I enjoy the large
corner shower and space around the toilet. I looked for a floor plan that
would also allow me full use of the motorhome, without putting the slides
(2) out, which this one does. Of course there are many other features I
enjoy about this RV, but the hallway and bathroom, plus access to everything
without the slides blocking it, were the major reasons I bought this model.
I had owned, and traded in, a Class C 24 foot Itasca Spirit (Ford V-10), so
knew and appreciated the quality of Itasca. I was a full-time RVer at the
time, but have since purchased a cabin in the woods of Montana and travel
south when the snow flies.
I love this motorhome and it has all of the features and comforts I want. I
did replace the fixed captains chair for a comfortable recliner, that allows
me to position it as needed. I now have just over 34,000 miles on it and
during some routine maintenance; the mechanic noticed that my brakes in the
rear were metal on metal. I don't ride the brakes and do little mountain
driving, although I do tow a Jeep Cherokee as my toad. I thought that the
brakes should last longer than the 33,000 miles I currently had on the
coach, but I've had no other problems with the motorhome and will continue
to enjoy it.
From Bob Beard in Apple Valley, CA:
You ask why we picked our RV.
1. Price / used.
2. Floor plan with table across from couch for several people to sit and talk.
From Elaine Runkle:
My husband of 38 years passed away 9 years ago. We owned several RV's (for
about 27 years) so I was familiar with the routines and exercises involved with RVing. I had never driven our coaches but was quite familiar with the operation of all the features. When he passed, I was faced with the dilemma of selling the RV and giving up one of my favorite past times or keeping it and following through with our retirement dream to buy a new diesel pusher. I decided to "go for it". I learned how to drive our 34' Winnebago Itasca gas model and when I could successfully maneuver a U turn on a city street without any help, I decided I was ready to "take the plunge". I researched and looked for about 4 months and finally decided on a new 40' Newmar Dutch Star (diesel). I decided to get front wheel independent suspension since I am a small woman and had experienced a blowout on a front tire while my husband was driving. I felt this would help me maintain control in a similar situation. I looked for top of the line features and craftsmanship, Spartan suspension, Cummins 350 engine, Allison 6 speed transmission, exhaust brake, and everything else that came standard with this model. I added quite a few "perks" to this and wound up with the perfect coach for me; that was 7 years ago. Since then, I have solo driven (with friends and family for company only) over 62,000 miles throughout the US (all but 2 states) including 2 months in Alaska, both western and eastern Canada including the Maritimes, and spent 2 months with a caravan through Mexico including the Copper Canyon. It has been a phenomenal journey and I am still going strong at 67! I love my coach and it still looks and performs as it did the day I purchased it.
From Alan Fisher:
We own a 2011 Airstream 30' Classic trailer. We tow with a 2010 Dodge 3500
Ram Dually, which we purchased as a TV for our 32' Cameo FWS fiver, which
weighed nearly 15k#! The AS purchase resulted from several negatives
with the Cameo.
1) Best fiver on the market (at that time) (we won't discuss the subversion resulting in their closure).
2) Spacious, roomy, well appointed.
3) Easily deployed with the automatic leveling system. (Big Foot)
4) Interior storage abundant.
5) Exterior storage reasonably adequate.
6) Fireplace...nice ambiance.
7) 32" TV.
8) Satellite dish.
9) Protected / lockable outside water connections.
10) Outdoor shower facility.
11) Central vacuum.
12) 2KW inverter.
13) Disc brakes.
14) Independent suspension.
15) Upgraded tires to "H" rating.
16) Onan generator 5K.
17) AC ducted to BR.
2) Substantial wind resistance when towing--lower fuel economy.
3) Five steps to enter unit. (risk of falling and injury) (we are only 68 y/o).
4) Weight of loaded unit 15,000#!!!
5) Tongue wt: 3400#.
6) Length 34'5".
7) Hard to boon dock b/c of size, ht, and wt. Even with additional batteries.
8) Fire escape routes dangerous (from bedroom to ground > 8' ).
9) Awkward entry into Lav, which exited onto interior steps.
10) Limited mobility in CG's. Limited CG choices.
11) High ceilings, hard to heat in colder temps, insulation not really adequate (even had larger LP tanks).
2) Length: 31'.
3) Ht: 9'6".
4) Wt: GVW, 10,000 ( actual= 8400).
5) Sleeps 6 (grandkids) (dinette is a plus).
6) Less wind resistance; easier towing (obviously better economy).
7) Safer, faster, easier fire escape-egress.
8) Much easier to dry camp; solar panel (will add another).
9) Access to more CG's b/c of smaller silhouette.
10) Easier main entry and exit.
11) Better construction /materials /insulation.
12) Incredible interior storage (most of items in the Cameo were easily stored in the AS).
13) Easy to heat with LP- < 4 min. "warm-up time"!!
14) Cozy interior.
15) Satellite dish.
16) Easy to maneuver in CG's, parking lots, and gas stations.
17) Larger refer in AS !
18) Spacious open type floor plan.
19) Very stable footprint-- no "shaking" with interior movement.
20) Iconic Image of AS.
21) The AS just seems to "fit" us and our lifestyle. (cozy, convenient, comfy, mobile, maneuverable, and easy to wash! ) :-)
2) Smaller tanks; these do not really present a problem.
3) Minimal ext. storage; compensation with the covered truck bed.
4) A little more hassle in leveling, but a very shallow learning curve!
5) Smaller inverter...we will eventually change this when we upgrade to additional batteries and another solar panel.
6) Lots of windows for natural cooling (vis-à-vis the Cameo; which had very, very small window openings).
7) Manual awning -but not a significant problem, as the awning is rarely used. (We devour your columns regularly --and have learned accordingly).
In sum: We believe we now have a better quality RV that more appropriately
fits our mobile RV lifestyle and creature comforts. We spent 115 days in our
AS last year. We remained in one park for 5 weeks. The newly opened local
AS dealership in Portland rendered us a terrific deal for our Cameo, which
they quickly sold.
Again, my wife and I really appreciate you and Chuck for all that you so significantly contribute to the RV population's enjoyment and quality of life. Thank you!
From David Stewart in Buffalo, NY:
The reason I chose our current Class C RV, first of all I prefer the Class C over a Class A due to drive ability and once you are out of the cockpit and into the coach they are very similar. Another reason I chose this particular Class C had very little to do with the brand and more with the mechanics of the coach and the floor plan. This model, a Coachman Santara, compartment to house the hose outside access to such items as the LP, slide out pump and drain for dumping the tanks. Everything is in a compartment similar to a Class A and not under the unit like my previous motorhome, which makes them exposed to potential damage. We looked at many units and they either had a small or poor layout of the galley or the floor plan was not good for our use. It is interesting how when the right one comes along you just know it. The owner’s manual for this unit is very thorough. It does lack a complete 12-volt wiring diagram though, but it does explain the use and maintenance of all the features and items in the coach. We bought it used and with the regular routine maintenance this unit is in very good shape.
From Chuck Custer:
First, thanks for all your really informative tips and lessons. About why I chose my RV: I have a Lazy Daze that I bought used. The reason I bought it was because from all the reading I'd done it appeared to be one of only two or three that seemed to be really well made. I've now owned it for 6 years and I can attest to that. Mine is a 22', and I bought a small one because I wanted to boon-dock and dry camp, which I do nearly all the time. I can't say enough about the quality of workmanship in this RV.
From Lloyd Haskins in Sallisaw, OK:
Why did I buy my Monaco 2005 HR Endeavor? At the time I was impressed with the support and service of Monaco Coach. I liked the extra's that were added and my wife liked the floor plan since she wanted four slides for room.
Today I might consider other coaches such as Tiffin due to their support of their owners. Due to all the changes in Monaco I am not sure I would want to be one to check out too many improvements at once.
From Gaetan and Helene Lavoie in Orleans, ON:
I have a Newmar Dutchstar 2006 with Spartan IFS/ISL 400 Cummings. I chose Newmar because of their reputation and service and also the location of the factory if I need work done. I do not trust the work performed by dealers. I also chose the Spartan Chassis because it is robust and the service at Charlotte, Michigan is outstanding.
I spend my winters in the south of Texas or Arizona and it is easy for me to travel through Michigan and Indiana and make an appointment at any of these two locations if I need any work done.
From Penny Heist:
Fiver of choice: 2002 Glendale Titanium 32/37DS
#1 - Reasonably lightweight for the length.
#2 - Towing less behind the truck than a regular fiver of same length.
#3 - Aerodynamics
#4 - Kudos for brand from another owner.
#5 - Liked the floor plan with a door between bathroom and bedroom and bath and house.
#6 - The fact that you can get to the fridge, the sink, bathroom and bedroom while closed up.
Glendale is no longer in business (poor management) but Heartland has bought the design rights and stuff and is now making the same RV.
Unfortunately, with all the solid surface counter-tops and other new stuff, the fiver weighs a bit more than mine. Even though the new ones are shinier and have bigger pantries, I still like mine, thankfully because I think it is going to be my "forever" home.
From James Parsons:
The first thing that attracted us to our 2004 Bounder 35E was the size of the shower. We had been full timing for 5 years in a 5th wheel, and although we loved it, the size of the shower was too small to be comfortable. The Bounder had what seemed to be a huge shower, and after looking at other RV's, we kept coming back to the Bounder. We have had it for eight years now and still love the shower, and it is a fine full timers coach. It is on a Workhorse chassis, and the 8.1 litre engine and Allison transmission are a great combination. Other than fixing the sloppy work done at the factory, it has been an easy coach to maintain for the past 53,000 miles.
From Ron Lowry:
My wife and I have owned several RVs over the years. We started with a 16' bumper trailer in 1972 and progressed to a 26' fifth wheel in 1979; this is during the period our three children were growing up. In both of these cases we weren't well educated regarding RVs as simply purchased units that matched our budget; in both cases, the RV industry was suffering through hard times and prices were favorable.
After our children went on their own in 1992, we purchased a 10' Lance camper. This purchase was based upon the recommended quality of the manufacturer; price was less of a consideration. We used this unit for many trips including one to Panama and several to Mexico but discovered, early on, our camper didn't offer enough storage so we purchased an 8' enclosed cargo trailer and dragged it alone as a supplement, this worked well. While the quality of the unit was adequate, the lack of moving around space within the unit caused us to decide to go back to a fifth wheel.
During 2001 we located a 26' Nomad fifth wheel that had been previously purchased but never used and purchased it. In this case our selection criteria was the floor layout, the flat skinned exterior, and the price. What we didn't think about at the time was the coupling between the RV and our tow vehicle, first a 4WD Dodge diesel and later a 4WD Ford diesel, both with very elevated beds. Fortunately, the trailer's axles could be elevated without flipping to make the ride semi-horizontal. As it has turned out this trailer has met our needs totally. As it has gotten older we've look around occasionally for a replacement but haven't found anything, including motorhomes, which would do the job as well, at a reasonable cost. That's our story and I'm sticking with it!
From Steve Yother in Lawrenceville, GA:
I chose the Sportsmobile because it met my criteria. I needed a class B that is short and can go just about anywhere. Sportsmobile was a little less expensive than other name brand vehicles, with a diesel engine and 20+ MPG.
Mostly it was because I could get it the way I wanted it, i.e. custom layout. It is "all electric" with a port-a-potty instead of a wet bath. With the microwave and refrigerator we don't miss having a stove. It has worked well for us including two trips from Georgia to Alaska. I would recommend it to anyone.
From Jane Nowlin:
Why we chose a Phoenix Cruiser:
1. We were allowed to tour the factory while it was being made.
2. We talked to many of the technicians and most had been working there over 10 years.
3. We watched the video explaining why they did things they way they do. For instance putting dampers between the coach and the chassis to help prevent a hard ride and they never cut any of the electrical cords during the install unless it is at the place where they put a outlet or fixture.
4. They thoroughly answered all our dumb questions patiently. When we found that the generator wouldn't start a day later we went back to the factory and the owner himself came out and fixed it.
5. They were willing to add any features we asked them to put in like over bed reading lights.
6. We enjoyed working with Stuart and Kermit during the purchase. Both had an obvious love for the products they make.
7. It was priced competitively.
From Andy Brown:
We have a 34ft 5th Holiday Rambler Presidential (2002). Why, at the time only RV dealer nearby and had several brands fancy levels etc. Several things appealed, mostly a bunch of little like lights in closets, useful storage in usually unusable areas, etc. Also appeared better fit and finish than many.
Why not like, frame defective; rt rear wheel attach folded up and rt wheels locked. So-called "I" beam not really. Vertical with top and bottom horizontal webs spot-welded every foot or so to the vertical. To me this is not an I beam. Could have been serious. Monaco did not even want to stand by, as it was not on the list of PIN numbers on their recall list.
At any rate we have had ten years of mostly good experiences. Have never had it weighed, have same stuff as old unit on board and calculate (it was weighed) at 12,600 or so. Within its limits, except of course we have had two left tire failures, side with slide-outs, heavier. One caused about $600 damage. Also rear bearings failed one year ago; other just now. Dexter Nevr-lube. Wonder how to know if early damage, Each destroyed hub so needed all replaced, not known until got bearing and it was loose in hub. Returned, at cost and restock fee and just got new hub with bearing instilled, $485. Plus labor, not yet known. Still enjoy RVing, but getting toward 'hang up the keys' time one day soon. Next Birthday 86, Hassles getting a little bigger. Thanks for listening, so to speak, a long time fan.
From Rick Bourne:
I'm intrigued by your research into why people chose the RV that they do. And, I'm looking forward to the reading about the revelations you acquire. So, along that vein, I'm prepared to contribute my thought process.
My wife and I retired six years ago. While working, I had always held on to a dream of touring America. We live in the Boston area, so touring for me meant "in the winter months". New England is too nice a place to stay away from in the summer.
A Class A was what I wanted. I craved the comfort and control of carrying my "stuff" on my back. After that, a diesel pusher was what I desired. Being a bit of a motor head, I needed to have the engine that the big boys have. Nothing like a big Cat or Cummins mill to fill the need for power.
After that, I wanted a high level of quality, with a large dealer network for support. After going to my first RV Supershow in Tampa to do my homework, I settled on the size range of 34-40 feet. Not too big, and not too small.
As my search started for real, I was referred to a 36' Winnebago Journey at a local RV dealer, Hill's RVs, in Conway, NH. In meeting Craig Hill, the dealer, I knew that I had found my partner in RVing. The rest is history. So, bottom line, Gary, is that I figured out the style of RV that I wanted and then selected the brand and dealer based on quality. That's how the decision got made. I'm now on my second Winnebago Journey for those same reasons.
From Jim Sinclair in Valencia, CA:
Love your articles and even the TV shows you've done. I recently bought a 2009 Bounder 35E Fleetwood coach. My previous coach was a 1998 36S model Bounder. We liked our old RV a lot which kind of led us toward another Bounder. The floor plan was really important to us. Storage was another big consideration. Although my new Bounder was about a foot shorter than my old one, there was a lot more storage inside and out. We also wanted a number of upgrades and it didn't make sense to put a lot of money into our old 1998, although it was in great shape.
We really like the size of our new unit. Not overly big so we can get into a lot places easily. We love the big bathroom area in the back and particularly the HUGE shower. It has an inverter, satellite dish, automatic awning, and a few other niceties that we appreciate.
What I don't like is the furnace. There is only one compared to the two we had in our old coach. The temperature sensor for the furnace is placed up front near the door and it controls the temperature for the whole coach, which does not work well, especially keeping things at a good temperature in the back. There is also a furnace vent in the back under the back sink and when the furnace is on, it blows lukewarm air. I've contacted Fleetwood several times and they have concluded that this was an "engineering flaw" and that the hose run to that vent is too small and turns to many times which diminishes it's effectiveness, but they say there is nothing that can be done. Having the two furnaces in my old rig gave us the option of controlling both front and back separately, which worked great. The hot water heater and furnace are both located mid coach and located on the passenger side "within the area we sit in while outside" which doesn't make any sense to me because all of the hot exhaust goes straight into your camping area.
The RV also has a HUGE front windshield on the coach, which reaches almost to the top. I'm 6' tall and can't easily get to the top of it even with a squeegee. The regular ones at the gas stations are way too short to reach to the top. Being that large doesn't make sense to me. I can't see out of the top of the front because the cabinets are in the way anyway, so why have it that large?
I also don't like the way the toilet is set up, although I didn't like the way the one in my other Bounder was set up either. Why don't manufacturers make toilets that drop their contents directly into the black tank (like my old class C did)? I never had a problem with the class C toilet. Now toilets are built with pipes and angles that waste has to travel through and is easily clogged. I don't know how many times I've had to unclog both of them. Why the sewage doesn't drop straight down into the tank is a mystery to me. My new rig also has a flat spot at the top of the tank where the sewage enters and then the tank slopes but even the debris that enters the tank without clogging can accumulate on the short ledge instead of running all of the way down into the tank.
Light and fan switches are also confusing. The water switch and some light switches, along with the switches for the hot water heater, are located behind the cabinet doors under the sink. If the water heater fails to light, a light comes on, but unless the cabinet door is open you can't see it. The water pump switch is also there and has a light on it, but you have the same problem of not being able to see it with the doors closed. There is a fan in the kitchen area, but it is not switched and has to be turned on at the fan. The middle toilet room has switches and one is a switch that turns on the fan. Then in the very back there is another set of switches, but these control the lights and one for the water. There is no fan switch there either, but you have to have one of the light switches on to energize the fan above.
I probably sound like I'm really a complainer, but we actually really like our rig. It's big and spacious inside and the two slides, one in front and one in back provides a ton of room. It just seems odd to me that these days the RV industry does things that don't make any sense. Even years ago there were odd things that they would do. In my 1998 Bounder my black tank capacity was larger than my gray tank capacity. Now does that make sense?
Anyway, these are some of the issues that I have with the way things are built. We've looked at many brands of RVs and travel with a lot of other RVers. I don't think it matters what brand of RV you have, none of them seem to have everything you want and are configured or made in strange ways in my opinion. Thanks for the opportunity to fill you in on those that are like the most and the least on our RV.
The final decision came down to floor plan. The Mobile Suites had the floor plan and lots of light coming in through the windows. Yes, Excel had a similar floor plan and yes, the smaller windows would save on heating and cooling costs, but we opted for light.
We have had issues (appliance problems, wheel problems, and manufacturing errors), but then a friend with an Excel has had problems, too (slide mechanism, appliance problems, holding tank puncture during manufacture).
We have six months to go on finishing three years. We are satisfied with our choice for a full-timing rig, but that does not mean that we are not keeping our eye out for the "next" one.
I feel it's impossible today to buy something as complicated as a large RV and not expect a few minor glitches or warranty issues. We had a few but I was able to fix most of them myself. Another feature we liked was their warranty program. We can take the RV to any dealer in the country and New Horizons will cover the warranty work. Their warranty at the time we bought was one of the best in the industry. We've now traveled and lived in the RV for 3 1/2 years, as this is our only home, and we still feel we made the best choice.
I know that everyone said do not buy the big coach first but I had looked for so long we were ready. We have had a blast with this rig. We have crossed the US twice since we got it and both of us just can't wait for our next trip. We have had our experiences in traveling but nothing any worse that you have owning a house that needs work all the time.
1. Size does matter, we had 33 feet [length] in our backyard to store it, the Bounder is 32' 11".
2. I wanted the side to side, through compartments.
3. We do a lot of boon docking. We liked the 100-gallon water and the 50-gallon gray and black tanks.
4. I liked the 2 6-volt batteries much better than competitors 1 or 2, 12-volt RV/Marine batteries.
5. My wife loved the floor to ceiling, four-door pantry this model has.
6. This model had a full Queen bed. I am 6' 4" tall; those short queens just don't get it!
We have looked at newer motorhomes but have never found one we would trade this one for. Once in a great while a slide would be nice, when we have our whole family with us, but we rarely need one.
This is on the Chevy P3 chassis and I have done all the upgrades on the chassis [Henderson's, IPD, Koni's, etc.], and now have 136,000 miles on it. It is on its third fuel pump, second distributor; transmission was rebuilt at 80,000 miles.
We park it in a seasonal site in North Georgia, and plan on leaving it there
as we are just starting to look at a small A-class, or C-class to do some traveling as soon as wife adjusts to retirement. It can be smaller due to Grandkids won't be with us most of the time, but it will have some space for an unexpected sleep over if necessary. I will be researching for ease of care more than the last one for sure. Lot's of looking to go yet. We always attend as many RV shows as possible and near to get a review of many models all at once. We have even discussed a smaller 5th wheel since the other one is 38' with the back bedroom and half bath.
We bought our Heartland MPG 184 for the following reasons:
1. Size and weight.
2. Floor plan.
3. Reputation of company.
4. It's just right for the two of us!
Why a Monaco? I believe the coach and chassis combination of the Monaco products are among the best-engineered designs available in an RV, before moving up to a bus. The air bag suspension, ride stability, excellent handling and features like the smart steering wheel, all make the coach a pleasure to travel in. Installed equipment like multiple cameras and night docking lights ensure I can maneuver the coach in all conditions and without assistance. One-piece fiberglass roof ensures the most reliable protection from the elements. The electrical shore power/inverter/generator integrated features ensures smooth steady delivery of power in all conditions. I was aware of all the features while I searched for our coach.
Why a Signature? It simply has the best of everything that Monaco has to offer. Interior finishes, lighting, zoned heating/cooling, large capacity tanks all make this the perfect home away from home.
Why a 2003? Now, this is the key point. '03 was the first year for the Cummins ISX (high pressure common rail injection system). This was the first year Monaco introduced 3 slides and added big screen TV drop down from the ceiling. So, with a 2003 Monaco Signature, we could get all the features we wanted and stay within our budget limit of $200K. We found our coach at $175K through RV Online as a private sale from an 83 yr old gentleman from North Carolina. We completed the sale at Lazy Daze facilities in Tampa. We did the PDI and all deficiencies were resolved before we completed the sale. The AC Pump and Water Pump had both seized, which the previous owner replaced before turnover; he even paid for a full detailing by Lazy Daze before the turnover. Great coach, great purchasing experience. I believe we set our goals clearly and realistically when we started.
I’m retiring next spring when we plan to full time for the next what-ever years. I’m presently an Electrical, Instrumentation and Control System Maintenance Manager in a large industrial processing facility. I really enjoy performing diagnostics and added improvements (detailed maintenance) on our RV. My technical background and complexity of the systems on the RV make the perfect match. Gary the articles that you write and videos you make available to help people like myself apply my technical knowledge in areas where I don’t have familiarity, but with the right outline, I’m easily able to manage complex issues.
I often tell my wife, I fully expect at least one issue or item that requires attention everyday. When we don’t have one, that’s a bonus. I believe a lot of people buy these highly complex, sophisticated machines and fully expect them to look after themselves. Well, I’m a realist.
I found a 5-year-old one near Austin with only 5,550 miles on it and the owner was wonderful to work with. She went through a long list of things that she would do if I decided to buy it. I didn't have to ask her for anything! And, best of all, the price was right.
So, how did I do it? Well, we looked at dealers and saw flashy materials, but I knew there had to be some criteria that set one apart from another. One of my pet peeves in reading your article was when you said "some manufacturers" take time to put in good materials and tend to details with how they secure wiring etc. Well, how does a beginner RVer begin to know that? Which manufacturers do that? There's not a Consumer Reports for RVing that I can go to and find how reliability or safety ratings for different RV's. I scoured books and websites and found out that there are no safety regulations for RVs regarding how much stuff one can put in them and that Cargo Carrying Capacity is a big deal. That was a number I could use! I found a set of CDs put out by a guy who was concerned with safety and compared different manufacturers and CCC, and came up with a list of manufacturers that seems to pay attention to details about safety and had a measure of quality in their coaches. (I don't recall his name right now, but the product was great.) We decided we would be using it a lot, and wanted quality, but also had a budget of not wanting to pay more than 60k for it. So we narrowed it down to a Class A, diesel motorhome, with a short list of perceived manufacturers who produced quality coaches.
From that I started looking for used coaches by those manufacturers, and we found our RV, a 2000 Allegro Bus that only had 28,000 miles on it. Luckily I had read a bunch of stuff from you and Chuck Woodbury, so we checked all the tires and they were old so we replaced all of them at once. I had my husband go up on the roof to check the seals and the condition.
We had a "walk through" of the coach by the dealer, which by the way was a small dealer that dealt in various manufacturers' models and coaches that had gone to auction. We went there because the coach I wanted to look at was there. We've been to those dealers who just want you to buy the high-end flashy model with the cheap materials. We even videotaped the walkthrough, but when you are really green at this stuff, that was a bunch of information in too short a period of time that didn't even cover the important things in the coach like you mention.
No matter how much you know (or don't know) in the beginning, it doesn't prepare one for the amazing number of systems and details involved in owning
an RV. Most people won't take the time or effort to make sure their tires are good, or their batteries are maintained, or how much the coach weighs and how much stuff they can put it in safely. Thank goodness there are guys like you and Chuck and others to help us out!
First, I selected a trailer because I could unhitch from it and take the car on a day trip with no serious problems or repercussions.
Second, having experienced the terrible feeling of a vehicle breaking down along the trail, we decided to sell that vehicle and never buy a motorized home again. Its just too tough on a guy's wallet when you know the mechanic is drooling and the repair will be costly.
Third, our trailer is smallish; 20' and easy for our modified Mercury Marquis to tow. No big truck needed.
Fourth, the trailer was selected because we didn't desire to wait and watch as depreciation picked our financial bones dry. We bought a classic old used Dutchmen 20' 1982. We replaced all the foam to get the "new" smell my wife was wanting. This saved us $$ in the long run.
Fifth, without guilt, without concern for depreciation, without fear of the local tax assessor, and as all my other RV's have done, it now sits mostly in the backyard and each spring I talk a lot about going here and there.
Meanwhile, it makes a great hideout when she is on the warpath or seeking yet another "Honey Do" bird. We actually take the RV and go maybe three times per year.
After a few years we knew we needed something new. At a show we looked at travel trailers and thought 'This is nice' and almost bought one. I really liked the 5th wheels but didn't have the money to get a tow vehicle.
Then my wife said, "You know, the boys are getting to the point that they're not going to want to go with us any more. Why don't we just get a new pop-up for now and save our money for something larger later." I was bummed, but it made good sense and that's what we did.
Eight years later at the show in Hershey, PA we were looking at 5th wheels (again) and thought we would go in a motorhome. While having been in many before, we really looked at it. Back at the motel we started going over the pros and cons of both types of RV's. Motorhome? Fifth wheel? With the 5th wheel we would have to get a new tow vehicle. I already had a Chevy Colorado Z71,4 X 4 perfect for towing four wheels down! So we spent day two looking at motorhomes. While not prepared to buy at the show, we started looking.
Now as I sit in our motorhome (a 2005 Damon Challenger 327W) after a full day of golf or sightseeing I understand those people I sneered at 40 years ago. Those people were not there for the "camping experience", they were there to explore the area or on their way to somewhere else. I just like having my own place to stay. My own shower, toilet (especially on a rainy night), the galley, and you got to love the bed. It also sets up faster than most tents or pop-ups.
The reasons we chose the coach we have are:
* We bought this unit NEW in January 2008.
* Thor had to unload coaches off their factory lot so the price was right after negotiations.
* The floor plan is perfect for our needs.
* The quality for the money is very high.
* The 33' length is large enough to be comfortable and short enough to be easy to park. Also at this length and weight, the 8.1 Vortec has the power needed to pull my toad up grades at a decent pace. As this was an unsold special order unit it has most option upgrades. When it is time to replace her I will definitely look at Thor products again.
Weight (we are trying to avoid purchasing a different truck) and finding a floor plan we can live with. We have purchased new and used and frankly would prefer used because of being more comfortable looking the owner in the eye and getting an honest answer. Also, avoiding Sales Tax is nice, too. Actually, the make and model are quite a ways down our list, because service and repairs are dependent upon the local RV dealer, who services all makes and models. I think it is especially frustrating when the owner must contact any number of manufacturers for warranty or other repairs. So we rely on our local dealer to take care of our needs. Automobile and truck dealers handle nearly all warranty problems so why shouldn't an RV dealer do the same? In fact, we are looking for a different unit right now and have mixed emotions about it. It should be enjoyable, shouldn't it?
We have been shopping for this rig for 5 to 6 years.... yeah, that's right. We have been collecting paper brochures and downloading pdf files from manufacturers sites since 2006. We had the older brochures in PDF only. We have been making lists of "like to haves" and "must haves" and it really came down to one main thing that made us decide and that was the TV. I know I know, that seems frivolous but we saw where TV's were mounted and hated almost all of them. Over the drivers seat forces you to turn your head to the side, TV in the end of the slide means if watching with slide in you cannot see the TV completely. The 2004 Vectra 40AD has the TV on the side and the sofa and recliner both across from it. We took the old TV out and installed a flat screen. We discovered only about a dozen models with this set up, most were Winnebago and only the 2004, 2005 and 2006 Vectra and sister rigs Itasca Meridians. We were also happy that it was Winnebago because we consider it a great company and RV line.
We attended your class at the 2011 Hershey RV show and talked to you. We enjoyed it a lot and took many notes. So to summarize, the floor plan was main consideration and brand was second. It had to be diesel too. Full-timing will take a toll on any rig and we wanted a strong one.
We are full-timers and our Road Warrior is perfect. Kinda feels like a mini apartment. My husband has "his" room, the garage when all the toys are unloaded, and I have "my" room, the galley. Both of us have our own TV's and computers. Having two rooms we don't feel confined. We are happy campers for now with our Road Warrior.
1. Floor plan
3. Conversation Area
5. Efficient use of space eg No Rear Bath
We have a 2008 Fleetwood Providence 39R and have not found anything I would trade for at any price.
The Primary items on our checklist were based on our experiences with two previous RVs; 1) the roof needed to be fiberglass (preferred) or aluminum -- NOT rubber. 2) The wheel-wells needed to be enclosed such that damage caused by any failure of a tire would be contained -- I could not believe how many coaches I saw that had wiring harnesses and propane tubing routed across the top of a wheel-well, or tanks/plumbing within easy reach of a flailing tire tread.
If a coach passed those primary criteria, then we went on to consider floor plans, fit & finish, and whether we thought the designers had ever actually gone RVing. Having lived, and traveled extensively, in our unit full-time since we bought it, all the deficiencies we've uncovered in that time we attribute to what we believe the builders' design philosophy was: "It's a weekender, it wasn't designed to be lived in." Our next unit will have "designed to be lived in" added to the primary criteria.
1990: VW Westfalia, purchased and shipped to England for picnicking in the countryside. Ended up RV for a month in Norway. I guess we took to it.
1993: Returned to US, made a few, un-toileted trips.
1995: Dear wife decided she wanted a toilet. For the right price we purchased a very nice 1993 Prowler, 19 ft. Toilet, oven, microwave, shower. Wonderful.
2001: Decided we wanted a real bed. Found Arctic Fox with twin beds, factory tour, and right price.
2010: Wanted to modernize, loved Northwood products and support. Never consider SOBs (Some other brands). Bought 2011 Arctic Fox 25R. Love it.
Bottom line, we buy Northwood products for quality, support, location (factory is 200 miles from our home), and finally, a terrific forum on the web.
* Metal frame and exterior
* Wonderful solid wood cabinetry with great fit and finish
* Highly usable with the single slide in
* Dual-pane windows
* ITR Hurricane hydronic heating and hot water system (not Aqua Hot)
* Low profile (11'10" vs 12'-13' for many rigs this size)
* Adequate basement storage but not so much it would be easy to overload
* Mid-entry! Easy ingress/egress and don’t have to carry everything thru whole coach!
* Dining on PS, not DS! The view is always on the PS at pullouts and vista points so why put the dining table on the roadside?
* Good to excellent support from Monaco tech staff (they've saved my bacon many times!)
For my wife and I, we absolutely wanted a “real” queen sized bed (tired of the tiny full size in our old Coleman). We also wanted large beds for the kids so they wouldn’t outgrow them instantly. There was exactly three hybrids on the market in 2007 with three beds and only one, the Kodiak 23TT, with 60 x 80 mattresses. I suppose you could file this under “floor plan,” but it was more “bed plan” that led us to this particular trailer.
Until this point we had owned travel trailers and had subscribed to Trailer Life for several years and had read the tech articles and product reviews from the magazine. Basically, we didn't know much. We had visited RV shows and had pretty much decided on either a Montana with a similar floor plan and also liked a Sunnybrook but no dealers were close. My wife found a used Montana like we were considering at a non-Montana dealership and I told the salesperson that we were just looking at the floor plan to see if it was what we wanted. He was very comfortable to be with, never trying to sell us anything but did allow us to look thru some units on the lot. I casually mentioned that I had always heard good things about Holiday Rambler but didn't feel we could afford one.
He asked me if I would buy one if he could get the price within $2K of the Montana. I said yes. We sat down with an order form and added all the options and Presidential upgrades (except dual pane windows) and added a Pull-Rite Slider hitch. We did the deal and I still have both the truck and 5th wheel today. We have traveled from NC to CA on three different occasions, work camping four different time periods, and many other trips of one to three weeks in state parks, national parks, and private campground/resorts.
The point I would like to make to you is that I am thankful that I did not get the Montana. I have read the horror stories in blogs and forums and personally acquainted with people who have had multiple problems with the Montana axles, spring shackles, water system, slide out, and other problems. My Holiday Rambler has never been back into a dealership for any service and my truck with 140K miles just had to have the left front wheel bearing replaced last week. Of course, the truck has had to have regular maintenance performed and tires have been replaced twice on the trailer.
Since, my RV purchase, I have taken an early retirement and I have done RV sales so I am aware of the many improvements and amenities on the newer generation of 5th Wheels as well as other types of RV's. What I try to impress on people is that it is best to see how much quality you can get for your anticipated expenditure and not how cheap you can get something.
Trying to keep this short but wanting you to know that I did not start out understanding quality but I have come to appreciate quality more as I have learned lessons.
But overall we like our unit and are glad that some coaches are available at a reasonable price for the working class folks. Thanks for providing an opportunity to share our thoughts and concerns, should you get an opportunity to share this with those who design MH please do. It would be nice if manufactures would talk to the using public about ideas for improvements and then incorporate them into future models.
We had a short list of must have: shower, queen bed, Chevy chassis. Short list of must not: Ford (as the foot well on the Ford is much smaller for the co pilot than the Chevy). Something I have never seen anyone doing a review mention.
Initially we looked at used units to keep the price down but we got such a good deal, $48k out the door including tax etc. for a new Coachmen Freelander 2130QB we could not pass it up.
They have a few real good things such as gigantic storage space and a power suction water inlet that makes winterizing very easy. What I did not know at the time was the abysmal quality of Coachmen product. You have seen the bad holding tank valve. The awning failed at 2 years, the vinyl graphics failed at 3 years, exposed electrical wire ends, bad water drain location (on top of propane electrical connections) and the list goes on. We now know that this is not unique to Coachmen but endemic to the current RV industry where they just build it good enough to not fall apart the first summer then they don't care.
We were in the market for a newer 5th wheel. This to be our third one. Also this was way back in 2002. We shopped every manufacturer and model in a 75-mile radius of our home. We looked at fit and finish as well as floor plan, storage capacity, weight, length and style. We had in mind a basic floor plan that we were looking for. Had to have two slides and the capability to reach the refrigerator, sink, stove and toilet without opening either slide. We were planning to travel the US, shore to shore. My wife wanted plenty cabinetry and closet space. I wanted lots of under storage and room for a built in generator.
After several weekends of looking and making notes about various models and styles we chose a 30-foot Cardinal by Forrest River. We now have over 49,000 miles on it. (I have a hubometer on it). We are preparing to leave again May 1st for the east coast from California.
Other than a blown tire, which caused some damage, we have only had one problem, which is the hydraulic pump for the slides started leaking a few months ago. Had that replaced and we are ready to hit the road. Really happy with our 5th wheel. The main point in keeping an RV running for this many miles is preventative maintenance. I keep the brakes adjusted, wheel bearing cleaned and packed, tires rotated and inspected, unit washed and waxed, roof cleaned and maintained, vent covers and other plastics coated with a UV protection. My wife keeps the interior immaculate, still looking like new.
Likes: I love the size, not "big rig" size so fits almost anywhere, but room in the interior for some comfort. We "camp" on our trips so we spend most of the daylight hours outside, hiking or by the fire, but when it rains (which it tends to do rather often here in Oregon) we have comfortable refuge. We don't enjoy sleeping on the ground anymore (old age does that) so we have a bed that even with the small dog trying to hog the space has room for us both to sleep comfortably. The television in the living area is in a reasonable place (a lot of units we looked at just put it where it would fit, not be reasonably watched) and we had them add a small one in the bedroom (we like to watch movies in the evening).
Dislikes: I would have liked slightly larger holding tanks for black and gray water. Also I looked at a newer model and they moved the water and sewage connections to different compartments (a configuration I like better), where mine are in the same one. It would have been nice if they had tied the TV sound system and the cd/radio/cassette stereo systems together, but I can live without it.