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Old 06-07-2012, 08:21 PM   #1
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OK - call me Noob ... Freightliner vs Spartan?

OK - you can call me a Noob ... but what is the big difference between Freightliner and Spartan? Reading many of these posts, just that one feature apparently can be the make or break factor in the selection process, so please educate me (and others, I'm sure).
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Old 06-07-2012, 08:28 PM   #2
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Ford vs Chevy. Toyota vs Honda. Some people have a favorite.

joe
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Old 06-08-2012, 02:30 AM   #3
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Ford vs Chevy. Toyota vs Honda. Some people have a favorite.

joe
Naaah - there's more than that. I have REASONS why I think Ford is better. CRUZER where are you when we need you?
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Old 06-08-2012, 06:31 AM   #4
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Kathryn, the main difference IMHO goes back to when Spartan offered an independent front suspension (Spartan Mountain Master Chassis) prior to FL offering an IFS.

IFS chassis are known for stability in cross winds, passing semi's and OTR buses. I would think that FL with IFS would have the same handling characteristics.

More important than the manufacturer is the value of the features/benefits to the owner. Generically a side radiator with IFS has some benefits to the owner/driver.

Side radiators allow easy access to the engine for servicing. IFS makes the driving experience a pleasure. Spartan and FL make rear and side radiator models.

Both Spartan and FL are renowned for excellent customer service. Both offer factory seminars on care and maintenance of their units.

Hope this helps!

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Old 06-08-2012, 09:50 AM   #5
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Sure, drag me into this.

Everyone has their opinions on this and I don't want to start another Ford versus Chevy war. I will give you my opinion, based on my experience owning both but feel free to disregard it. After all, it doesn't cost you anything.

First of all, things change from year to year. Back when I had a 2004 Allegro Bus with a Freightliner it had a smaller cooling system that gave me issues with overheating. FL used a 1,050 sq in radiator that was set in series with the CAC, oil cooler, etc while Spartan used a 1,326 sq in radiator that was vertically stacked so that the CAC, radiator etc all received cool air. FL corrected their undersized radiators when the EPA 2007 spec engines came out and went to about 1,200 sq in which eliminated the problem. So, that no longer exists.

They do offer IFS and I really found no serious difference in the ride between a FL IFS tag axle chassis and a Spartan IFS tag axle chassis. Although, that was on the Allegro Bus and others seem to have varying opinions in either direction so it appears that the real variable in ride quality is in how the coach builder distributes the weight on the chassis. I do find that the Spartan handles crisper than the FL though, without sacrificing any ride quality. Again, varying opinions can be found there so be sure to test whichever coach you are looking at to see if it meets your expectations. Basically, I see no reason to choose one chassis over the other based on ride or handling. I would make that decision based on the complete package of coach and chassis.

I have a nuts and bolts techie background and strive for quality in everything I buy, rather than lowest price. I find that the Spartan beats Freightliner in that regard. Spartan as a company is driven more towards quality rather than low price. Undoubtedly that is based on their military and fire truck sales where quality and reliability is most importmant. Freightliner is a division of Daimler and they are driven by financial goals that emphasis volume and low cost of manufacturing. If you look at a bare Spartan chassis next to a bare FL chasis you can see the difference. They both use decent major components, such as Cumins engines, Allison transmissions, axles, etc. But it's the small things that can cause breakdowns. Look at the coolant surge tanks on the FL. They are plastic. I went through three of them on our Bus before I sold it after 3 years. My current Bus has a Spartan and steel tank which won't crack and leak.

Many of the FL accessory mounting brackets are flimsy and a number of them broke and needed to be rewelder or replaced. Spartan uses heavier gauge steel and gussets them so that they won't cause a failure. It's those little details where Spartan strives to over-engineer them so that they don't fail while FL tries to make them as minimal as possible to keeop the cost down. Sometimes they go too far and things break.

My lastest experience was at American Coach while doing road tests and reviews on two different units for RV Magazine and FMCA magazine. After the economic collapse Fleetwood went bankrupt. Fortunately, a new conglomerate picked up those assets and Fleetwoods and American Coaches are now being made once again. A-C is in the process of moving from Spartan to FL as their exclusive chassis supplier. This will save them some money as FL is capable of dealing deep to get that business. During my tests one coach was fitted with the new FL chassis with a 450 ISL while the other still had the Spartan MM-GT chassis with the same 450 ISL engine. I found the Spartan to handle much better than the FL plus it had less engine noise coming from the back. Looking at the 4 wheel (6 actually - tag axles) weight results showed that the Spartan was evenly balanaced from left to right while the FL was heavy on one side at the front. At the rear axle the weight was heavy on the opposite side. Furthermore the difference between the rear and tag axle was off kilter from one side to the other so it would appear the the FL chassis tag axle proportioning valves were not functioning as they should. With the two diagonal corners of the coach being heavy it would appear that the ride height valves also need adjusting. This is what I mean about the small stuff affecting the big stuff. I personally think that this chassis switch is going to hurt A-C. Ask most people who have had a Spartan if they would like to change and I think the majority of those answers will be "no way".

Again, many FL owners love their coach and have great success with their FL chassis so you really need to look at each coach's merits rather than lump everything together by chassis. As for me, I'll stick with Spartan.
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Old 06-08-2012, 10:28 AM   #6
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I wonder how many Spartan dealerships there is vs the number of Freightliner dealerships. Take a look as you travel. I guess we favor FL because a two hour drive will put us at their factory shop.

We've had both and it seems there was little difference in the ride, but that probably had to do with the make/model of the coach rather than the chassis. There seems to have been more sway or drift when passed by a semi (spartan chassis) but it was also the smallest and lightest coach.
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Old 06-08-2012, 11:37 AM   #7
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Freightliner makes a much wider variety of chassis than Spartan, including some very low end ones that do not compare well to Spartans more upscale chassis. Spartan offerings are all mid-to-high end chassis, while Freightliner will sell the RV manufacturer a really basic model if he wants to offer a cheap diesel motorhome, including the lighter duty MCL front engine chassis or the XC-S straight rail chassis. If you compared one of those to a Spartan Mountain Master, it is not at all surprising that Spartan looks "better". But if you compared a similarly spec'ed chassis from Spartan and Freightliner, in my opinion you will find very little difference in quality or capability.

The most important components are going to be the same anyway, e.g. engines and the Allison transmission.
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Old 06-08-2012, 12:47 PM   #8
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...I wonder how many Spartan dealerships there is vs the number of Freightliner dealerships. Take a look as you travel....
I don't know about dealerships, but it's very hard to determine what is a Spartan service center. I needed some work done and called Spartan. The tech referred me to a chain of Cummins dealers, who are authorized Spartan service centers.
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Old 06-08-2012, 12:52 PM   #9
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Spartan has a large number of Cummins service centers as well as independants on line as authorized warranty centers. In cases where there is nothing nearby they have been known to authorize service work at non-affiliated service centers as well.
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Old 06-08-2012, 04:32 PM   #10
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I don't know about dealerships, but it's very hard to determine what is a Spartan service center. I needed some work done and called Spartan. The tech referred me to a chain of Cummins dealers, who are authorized Spartan service centers.
Not that hard. They have a service center location tool online: Spartan Chassis | Everything's Riding On It.

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Old 06-08-2012, 07:49 PM   #11
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Not that hard. They have a service center location tool online: Spartan Chassis | Everything's Riding On It.

joe
I tried that first...it is WAY out of date. The shop I was going to use had moved three years earlier. Had I not called to confirm everything I would still be looking for them.
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Old 06-08-2012, 08:06 PM   #12
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I tried that first...it is WAY out of date. The shop I was going to use had moved three years earlier. Had I not called to confirm everything I would still be looking for them.
Interesting. Only times I've needed it, it was accurate. But I think that was only once.

joe
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Old 06-08-2012, 11:23 PM   #13
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Freightliner support on the hotline has been outstanding. I was able to get the wiring diagram for my chassis and even the corrections to it (it was a mid-model year change). It took a year but they helped me fix an highly intermittent speedometer problem that the dealer could not fix. It is my understanding that you cannot get the hardcopy diagrams from Spartan. Without those, I never would have fixed my problem because it took point to point wiring diagram analysis.

I cannot say enough good things about the support staff. Even though our RV is now 12 years old, I always get prompt and accurate information when I call. For DIY, that is like gold.
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Old 06-09-2012, 06:04 AM   #14
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...Freightliner support on the hotline has been outstanding . . . I always get prompt and accurate information when I call. For DIY, that is like gold.
Wow! Great info from all. Exactly the type of stuff I needed to hear. Hard to pick out just a couple of things, but I'll start with the above...

While it is GREAT to hear about outstanding customer service, my problem is I am NOT a DIY. While I am fairly handy, and can handle things like belts and hoses and clamps and such, I will be heavily dependent on my "roadside" service plan and dealer repairs as I travel. Possible long waits and certainly higher expenses, but if that is what it will take to get me traveling, then that is just part of my maintenance cost.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Gary RVRoamer View Post
Freightliner makes a much wider variety of chassis than Spartan, including some very low end ones that do not compare well to Spartans more upscale chassis. Spartan offerings are all mid-to-high end chassis, while Freightliner will sell the RV manufacturer a really basic model if he wants to offer a cheap diesel motorhome, including the lighter duty MCL front engine chassis or the XC-S straight rail chassis. If you compared one of those to a Spartan Mountain Master, it is not at all surprising that Spartan looks "better". But if you compared a similarly spec'ed chassis from Spartan and Freightliner, in my opinion you will find very little difference in quality or capability...
mmmmmmm ... comparing a low-end against a hi-end might not be "fair", but I want to START with the "better" chassis, not be wondering which "version" the dealer used that day on the production line.

Quote:
...The most important components are going to be the same anyway, e.g. engines and the Allison transmission.
I would think the Cummins and the Alison would be covered by, and repaired by, their OWN people, not the chassis people, would they not?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cruzer View Post
...But it's the small things that can cause breakdowns. Look at the coolant surge tanks on the FL. They are plastic. I went through three of them on our Bus before I sold it after 3 years. My current Bus has a Spartan and steel tank which won't crack and leak.

Many of the FL accessory mounting brackets are flimsy and a number of them broke and needed to be rewelder or replaced. Spartan uses heavier gauge steel and gussets them so that they won't cause a failure. It's those little details where Spartan strives to over-engineer them so that they don't fail while FL tries to make them as minimal as possible to keeop the cost down. Sometimes they go too far and things break...
... and I guess that pretty much sums it up. For big stuff , we all need the dealer network for the fixes. It is the little stuff that you end up DIY on the side of the road or in camp. I am not trying to make an "official" declaration "...this one is GOOD, that one is BAD...", I am trying to determine from historical data and real life experience which one has the MOST likelihood of giving me the LEAST down time on all the little stuff.

That said ... while I may not have a lot of control over the COST of being dependent on repair shops, I can minimize my down time by making sure I keep and carry a full supply of all the easily broken or commonly needed replacements so I am not sitting somewhere for 10 days waiting for a simple clamp or belt.

Then again, if I find and fall in love with a certain floorplan, on a hi-end FL, the chassis would be less important.

Thank you all so very much. This is where IRV2 really SHINES - with the knowledge and helpfulness of the members.
Kathryn
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