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Old 09-20-2017, 11:11 AM   #1
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New 36' gasser or used 39' diesel?

Obviously no one can decide what our family needs, but I'd like opinions from those of you and your incredible experience as to what the positives and negatives of each would be. We're still investigating and a decision is yet to come, but I'm considering a number of options.

so far we've looked at new bunkhouses for our family of 6, and one of our favorites at this point (after considering a Thor Windsport I think the risk of a bad unit is too high) is the Holiday Rambler Vacationer XE 36D - gasser on the Ford Chassis. We kept upping our length as the search has gone on.

I've also looked at a 2012 Forest River Berkshire 390BH with around 60,000 miles, which can be purchased for about the same price if I'm willing to travel to pick it up (I am, that's the whole purpose of an RV, isn't it?)

So I've got a few questions from those with experience -
  • How does the age of an RV affect it? How can you tell if it's been well maintained?
  • How does the Berkshire quality compare to Holiday Rambler?
  • Is the benefit of a Cummins diesel and a Freightliner Chassis enough better than the Ford V10 to justify used over new?
  • How long is too long? We plan mostly on hitting bigger parks, and it seems to me that once you pass 30' your list starts to narrow. Is 39 too big for many parks? How about driveability? For shorter trips staying at a park, would being around 5 feet longer make it that much harder for stops along the way (gas, groceries, etc)?
  • What else am I leaving out in consideration of a larger, DP, used rig in comparison to a new gasser?

Thanks for all the fantastic info, as usual.
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Old 09-20-2017, 11:40 AM   #2
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I don't own a MH yet - but I'm researching, so I'll give my opinion anyway.

I would go for the diesel.
Reason: it has air brakes, air suspension, engine-braking, usually a heavier chassis and better transmission (i.e. Allison), and the diesel engine makes more torque than a similar sized gas engine (and moving a MH is all about torque).

Downside: it costs more and maintenance costs are a little higher (not so much an issue if you can do services yourself), and diesel fuel costs a little more and not be as readily available in some places.

Also with a rear engine (DP) the generator is in the front so at night you won't hear it running as much as if it was in the rear (with a front engine diesel or gaser).

As for length - well this is something I'm struggling with now. I think 36ft is the sweet spot.

In my opinion under 33 feet is too small and cramped. 33 feet is nice for maneuverability except the wheel base is too short for a good ride and handling on the highway (from what others have said). However wife really likes the 33aa and I like the ability to maneuver so its still on our list.

The 33ft Tiffin, for example, has a 198" WB. Jump up to the 36 footer and you get a 256" WB. (so the 36ft MH is only 3 feet longer but the WB is almost 4ft longer.
For me a 38 ft would be fine, but at 40 feet its getting pretty big and I think would be harder to drive on smaller rural/mountain roads. I asked in another thread about driving on the Blue Ridge Parkway (TN, GA, NC) and one person with a big rig said they would never do it again. Others with smaller MHs enjoyed the drive.
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Old 09-20-2017, 11:57 AM   #3
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Ten years ago, I drove my B-in-L's 35' Tiffin 05 Workhorse chassis, Class A, several times , prior to road testing my current coach . Within 5 miles on the test drive I knew that the diesel pusher was for me.

JMHO: Drive both , then start shopping for the used diesel , eight years later I don't regret my purchase, and haven't found a park that I can't get a spot in.
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Old 09-20-2017, 11:59 AM   #4
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If you decide on the Berkshire be sure it has:
1) A 360 Cummins
2) Allison 3000 Transmission
3) Tires that are not beyond 3-4 years old or $$$$ off to purchase new tires.
We travel often in our Berkshire and length has never been a problem. We pulled a 24Ft Trailer for about 2 years and never had to unhook for a space. We now tow 4 down.
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Old 09-20-2017, 12:05 PM   #5
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New 36' gasser or used 39' diesel?

We have a 43 MH. It is a base of operations. The Wrangler takes us on wonderful side trips all over the continent.
And we just did 22 miles with MH and toad, with many hair pins and such, to get to the Northern CA camp we are at now! No troubles. Slow and easy. Let folks pass by hitting the turn outs. Quite fun!
The key is in using the amazing tight wheel cut
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Old 09-20-2017, 12:14 PM   #6
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Seems on re-reading the OP's post I didn't answer all the questions .
Service records on any used vehicle , will give you a good indication of how it's been cared for.
On new Class A, no matter how good a deal you get , expect 30% depreciation in the first year.
CCC . Cargo Carrying Capacity , along with more space there is a good chance that any DP you consider will be able to carry ( and tow ) more weight.
Get all the info , CCC, GVWR, GCWR on any unit you consider.
More factors involved than just engine/transmission choice .
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Old 09-20-2017, 12:33 PM   #7
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Good info as usual. More to consider, thanks. I didn't think about tires in particular, I would guess about 5 years is when they need to be changed due to age even if low miles.

What would the six tires on these 22.5 rims run, about $3000 total?
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Old 09-20-2017, 12:45 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by OldBird View Post

What would the six tires on these 22.5 rims run, about $3000 total?
Different manufacturers have , different age limits for their RV tires .
Goodyear, 7 years I believe.
Michelin , 10 with annual inspection after the 5th year.
Size also dictates pricing , if the coach has a size that is used on commercial trucks they're less expensive than sizes that are RV only.
BUT: I'm sure that your should be able to find a set ; of a major brand ;in that price range . Waiting right now on a set of Yokohama tires $3,800 CD , installed with balance beads.
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Old 09-20-2017, 01:08 PM   #9
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The floor plan that fits you and the family the best is the one to go with. Newer gas units are just as good as diesel. The biggest question you need to ask yourself is 'How much traveling long distance are we going to do?' I have driven both types and have had good and bad with each.
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Old 09-20-2017, 01:11 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by OldBird View Post
. . . I'm considering a number of options . . . the Holiday Rambler Vacationer XE 36D - gasser on the Ford Chassis . . . 2012 Forest River Berkshire 390BH with around 60,000 miles
About 12 years ago I downloaded the NHTSA/ODI recall database and checked out recalls in the major RV brands (Tiffin, Newmar, Holiday Rambler, etc).

Holiday Rambler came out the worst. Over the course of several years they seem to have the same serious problems in design and manufacturing.

When I saw your post, I thought let's see if Holiday Rambler is doing any better. So I checked out the the recalls on Vacationer XEs. I found 4 recalls on 2017-18 Vacationer LEs alone. Three of the four recalls had to do with fuel system problems. Serious stuff like:

If the fuel pump or filter detach or become loose, a fuel leak may result, which in the presence of an ignition source, can increase the risk of a fire or explosion.

This was the kind of recall data I found over a decade ago. I thought things might have gotten better for Holiday Rambler. It doesn't look that way.

When I posted my data 12 years ago, I received all kinds of negative comments. Most of the comments were like this -- "We own Brand X and we've never had problems. We love our RV."

Owners or data? Your choice, but if you're spending that much money, give the data a look see. Here's How To Do It.
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Old 09-20-2017, 01:19 PM   #11
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Quote:
In my opinion under 33 feet is too small and cramped. 33 feet is nice for maneuverability except the wheel base is too short for a good ride and handling on the highway (from what others have said). However wife really likes the 33aa and I like the ability to maneuver so its still on our list.
CountryB, if you ever get up to Raleigh let me know and I'll take you out for a spin. Not sure who is opining about theoretical wb issues. We just finished months on the road including two trips out west and back, and have no driveability issues. Wife drives it fine and likes driving.

Highly maneuverable in woodsy state/local/national parks which we like to stay at, and great on the interstate. It's a sweet ride.
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Old 09-20-2017, 01:33 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by Kiawah View Post
CountryB, if you ever get up to Raleigh let me know and I'll take you out for a spin. Not sure who is opining about theoretical wb issues. We just finished months on the road including two trips out west and back, and have no driveability issues. Wife drives it fine and likes driving.

Highly maneuverable in woodsy state/local/national parks which we like to stay at, and great on the interstate. It's a sweet ride.
Thanks for the invite, and glad to hear your happy with the ride.
Tiffin does make a great MH.
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Old 09-20-2017, 03:13 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TechWriter View Post
About 12 years ago I downloaded the NHTSA/ODI recall database and checked out recalls in the major RV brands (Tiffin, Newmar, Holiday Rambler, etc).



Holiday Rambler came out the worst. Over the course of several years they seem to have the same serious problems in design and manufacturing.



When I saw your post, I thought let's see if Holiday Rambler is doing any better. So I checked out the the recalls on Vacationer XEs. I found 4 recalls on 2017-18 Vacationer LEs alone. Three of the four recalls had to do with fuel system problems. Serious stuff like:



If the fuel pump or filter detach or become loose, a fuel leak may result, which in the presence of an ignition source, can increase the risk of a fire or explosion.



This was the kind of recall data I found over a decade ago. I thought things might have gotten better for Holiday Rambler. It doesn't look that way.



When I posted my data 12 years ago, I received all kinds of negative comments. Most of the comments were like this -- "We own Brand X and we've never had problems. We love our RV."



Owners or data? Your choice, but if you're spending that much money, give the data a look see. Here's How To Do It.


Chassis recalls are common to many RV brands, and are not part of the RV mfg process. The Ford F53 is the gasser chassis.
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Old 09-20-2017, 05:00 PM   #14
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I have an older Newmar Dutch Star DP. I bought it as a completely green newbie. And I've made my share of mistakes and bad post-purchase decisions. I'm very familiar with the need for good service records. The seller showed me a library of manuals and service records. But I didn't take time to check them completely. Turns out that the service records ended some four years ago. The seller apparently didn't do any maintenance during his two year time as owner. My biggest mistake was to let the local Cummins/Allison shop change the transmission fluid. They charged me a whopping $1700 for doing this. I was captive to them and had to pay since they had the MH and I had the bill. They also managed to "lose" the engine and transmission oil analysis samples. Some three months later, I got the analysis reports. Both engine and tranny were fine. Correct price for this job should have been around $600. I also did not check the tires age, believing the seller's comment that the tires were fine and "legal" for at least two more years. They were not and I had to replace them with six new tires which cost about $2200. So, do take time to read all service records and and at least skim the manuals. Check the tires by reading the manufacture date codes on the tires. And try to avoid being taken to the cleaners by shops.

My DP is 38 feet long. I really like having a diesel engine and heavy duty tranny. I agree that maintenance costs are higher. I disagree with the poster that warned of diesel fuel availability. Not true. I'm still struggling with the blind spots that are on both sides of the MH. On a 4000 mile trip, I managed to ding both sides while backing up.(On two different incidents, each involving a different side.) I have invested in a three-camera backup system which will shortly be installed. Hopefully this will resolve the blind spot issues. Also, I am using the G.O.A.L. system: Get out and look before backing. I'm mildly mobility-impaired so this is a challenge.

I never seriously looked at gassers. I wanted a more robust chassis. Everything I've heard about gas generators has been negative. A diesel generator is so much better! For example a gas generator is guaranteed to be carbuerated. A diesel is of course, fuel injected. No such thing as a fuel injected gas generator--that I know of. And diesel, to me, whether its the engine or generator is more trouble-free if properly maintained. MY MH had 66k miles on it when I bought it. It performed flawlessly on a 4,000 mile trip this summer. Just my two cents worth here!
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