Not an easy choice to make, for sure. We looked and looked and looked at both
Ventana and Phaeton. Our choice, for plenty of good reasons, ended up being between a Ventana 34 or a Phaeton 36 -- both very close in size, weight, layout, cost, overall dimensions and features.
We debated, we checked TRVN and iRV2 discussions, we got brochures and talked by telephone with reps at Tiffin and Newmar. We visited both Newmar and Tiffin dealers and got to see both units side by side. We drove them, we measured and poked and prodded to see what we liked best and what we didn't like. We conversed with others we met, and trusted, on the TRVN and iRV2 web sites. We kept open minds.
We concluded that there is not
a right or wrong choice between Tiffin and Newmar and Phaeton and Ventana -- only a choice that fits best for you and your partner. With another couple we really like and admire, and whose judgment we truly trust, we ended up deciding on the Ventana -- and they ended up favoring the Phaeton. I think neither
of us is off base.
Our friends wanted more "wow" factor; we wanted more practicality and designed-in livability. They wanted more power; we wanted more fuel savings as much as possible. We wanted ease and simplicity of systems; they wanted more glitz regardless of complexity of operation of systems. Again, neither of us was wrong -- we each headed in the direction we wanted to and were happiest with. I am certain that we could have opted for the Phaeton and I am sure they could have been happy with our Ventana.
This being a hugely personal decision, here are some of the considerations that led us to the Ventana:
First and foremost, build quality -- as evidenced by what we directly observed, by what we have seen in the postings of problems after delivery from other owners, the volume of their comments about things that ended up being badly designed engineering and the things that turned out to be good and well engineered.
In this category, we were very much impressed with the quiet and solid ride of the Ventana over the Phaeton, and the ease of driving -- even by the DW whom I believe has
to be comfortable and confident enough to be able to drive the MH -- for all of the safety, comfort and emergency reasons we all know about.
Second, the Comfort Steering (just a huge
plus IMO), the Smart Wheel (with all important controls right on the steering wheel where you want them to be), the layout of the Ventana -- which are all unique to Newmar in a coach with this price point (Ventana and Phaeton ended up being remarkably similar in the size we ended up buying). These things to us are big and definitely factored highly in our decision -- they make the driving and operating experience decidedly better to us than any other coach in the same price range we considered. Regrettably, none of these things (Comfort Steering, Smart Wheel, layout we decided on) were available from Tiffin.
Third, and this to us was really
critical -- in our Ventana we were able to get an All Electric coach with all the ease of operation, safety and comfort we were most interested in -- and we were able to get in our 34 foot model many of the very same things that Newmar puts into its top end 43 foot tandem axle coaches -- e.g., high quality GE Profile residential reefer and convection microwave, diesel / electric hydronic heat, electric cooktop, one-switch locking of all storage doors, Amish-built full wood cabinets. This stuff was not available from Tiffin in any coach of similar size and price.
Finally, we were able to visit the plant to see how they do things at Newmar. Very impressive -- quiet Amish workers just doing the job day in and day out, making sure the fit and finish are right before the coach goes out the door. Though we did not physically get to go through the plant at Red Bay, we looked at several inside-taken pictures of the manufacturing and finishing facilities there and we feel we got a pretty good idea of how they do things at Tiffin.
Certainly and undeniably, Tiffin is outstanding -- otherwise how in the world would they be selling as many new units as they do? Like our dealer -- who sells both Tiffin and Newmar says -- the Tiffin coaches they get in don't really require "selling" as other coaches do -- Tiffin buyers come to them and Tiffin products leave their inventory as soon as they hit the dealership.
But overall, we just ended up being a bit more impressed by Newmar -- again, very admittedly only
a personal, intuition-based sense of things, not anything scientific or objective about it. If you told me in response to this posting that, "Hey, Deek, I think you could have been happy with the Phaeton 36 -- and that your friends could have been happy with the Ventana 3433" -- you would be absolutely correct, on both counts. Again, simply personal preference here with no right or wrong involved.
Last thing we considered before we pulled the trigger -- we felt that with the excellent track record of both manufacturers, the future should definitely be considered -- where will these guys be in 10 years, especially given all the uncertainty in the RV industry, the very real ups and downs of the American economy and the past history of so many RV manufacturers going belly up in the past same 10 year period?
On this score, there appears to be a solid plan for transition at Newmar that perhaps will not be the same at Tiffin once Bob Tiffin decides to give up the reins -- and now, how far into the future can and will that be? Many prospective and current Tiffin owners appear to have this concern, and correctly so, I believe.
We haven't seen much at Tiffin which shows that any significant heir apparent is being moved out front to take over when Bob goes off into the sunset. Perhaps they do have that person waiting in the wings, but if they do, he (or she) has not yet been put out front by Tiffin in any apparent and visible way. I do not hear posters on TRVN or iRV2 telling us they get a warm and fuzzy feeling about anyone at Tiffin other than Bob himself. On the other hand, the Millers have in fact made this transition and in the Miller son and daughter in law I see a lot of the Miller tradition and values continuing in Newmar's day to day operations. That frankly means a lot to us and we like the percentages of how that bodes for the future.
Hope some of this helps in your review process. My opinions are only my opinions so take them with whatever grain of salt is needed and use them as you find helpful. Truth is, this is all
great stuff, no matter which way you end up heading.