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Old 03-16-2013, 11:26 PM   #1
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Seneca, Berkshire, Georgetown, or Palazzo, or Tiffin, or ?

Hello All,

I'm new to this forum, but hoping for some advice for a unique selection criteria for a motorhome for our family. Sorry the post got long - for the cliff notes, scroll down to the list of options I'm considering.

I travel a lot for work. Until recently, that has meant flying and being away from my wife, and 3 kids, 7, 5, & 2. We bought a very cheap 1998 Prowler TT last year basically on a whim, and enjoyed it so much we ended up spending a month in it on a meandering 2000 mile round trip. That got us thinking, maybe we can hit the road together? ( We homeschool anyway, so that's not a problem.)

Anyway, as another "test run", we've spent the last 4 weeks in the in law's 1998 Minnie Winnie 31W. When parked, it's been decent for size, but doesn't stay warm very well with outside temps in 30's. The real problem is running down the road a few hundred miles is noisy, stressful, and exhausting - not very compatible with being able to work during or on arrival. I travel throughout the west, so we'd constantly being going over one set of mountains or another. Oh, and cross-windy deserts - that was an experience!

So, with the benefit of some experience, a few of our top priorities:

-Safety
-Good handling
-Reliable - when you are traveling for work, you really don't want to break down or get delayed
-Quiet cab
-Power and braking for the mountains while pulling a toad
-Kids can eat, go potty, etc to keep us rolling and making time (ie motorhome vs TT or 5th)
-Sizable tanks as we like to boondock in state parks over the weekends
-Good cold weather capability, ideally able to handle temps down to the low teens for overnight lows without too much trouble (ie, winterizing water system)
-Beds that we don't have to break down so we can put the kids to bed and still have a place to sit and talk for the evening
-Opposed seating close to the cab so we can converse with the kids going down the road
-And, last but not least, affordable, which to me has less to do with the initial price as the overall cost assuming you want to sell or trade out in 3 years

Given those goals, we had been thinking and looking at Jayco Seneca's online, liking the C for the beds (especially the bunk model), and the diesel for the power, handling, etc. I had a chance to drive a new one down in Mesa, AZ, and it pretty much had everything except the quiet cab, and perhaps the total cost of ownership - hard to tell on the depreciation because the new Freightliner chassis based model has only been around since 2012. So, we looked at a 2008 on the Kodiak - well, so much for the handling, it wallowed, rocked and wandered just like the Minnie Winnie. No thanks.

Back to the drawing board. We're in SoCal, so I dropped by Mike Thompson RV Super Center (any opinions - they seemed to be fairly professional so far, ie no huge pressure tactics), and ended up being pretty impressed by the new Georgetown 351ds (V10 with bunks), especially at the 95k price point it looks like I should be able to negotiate. But, the noise/handling on long days still concerns me. So, I did some searching on diesel bunk models, and found a 2011 Berkshire 390 bunk with the upgraded Cummins 360 listed for $139k, which seems like a good option for being late model, but with some of the depreciation and the "first year fixes" I've read so much about already dealt with. But then the sales rep at Mike Thompson, despite having one in inventory to sell me, says to stay away from the Berkshire, that they are notorious for having lots of little problems.

Ok, so I'm considering roughly the following options, with some obvious variety despite my fairly intense criteria

-2013 Seneca from RV Direct, $149k
-2013 Georgetown 351ds, $95k
-2011 Berkshire 390, 139k
-Try to find a comparably price Tiffin Allegro RED
-Thor Palazzo
-Clean 1999 American Dream available locally or similar vintage rig & remodel to add bunks, etc as necessary, $50-70k

I'd love to hear from anyone that has owned any of these rigs or any others I should be considering.

Thanks in advance and look forward to contributing in the future.

CanWeGoDad
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Old 03-17-2013, 03:09 AM   #2
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Hello and We are glad to have you join us here and we look forward to reading of your adventures and experiences. I am sure you will enjoy the website and forums. Good luck, stay safe and keep us posted.
I am glad to see someone doing their homework at finding the right coach. I am not sure if you are aware as to how fast and how much these things can and do depreciate. Example: Dad bought a 3 year old Country Coach and in 10 years, it's book value dropped over $200K. Of coarse the economy did not help the situation. If it were me I would stick with a well built diesel push, just for the quiet ride, stability, and power you will need to climb the mountains. There are many thousands of good used coaches on the market; you just have to find them that may fit your needs. Enjoy the hunt!
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Old 03-17-2013, 11:10 AM   #3
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I bought a new Berkshire about 2 years ago. We loved it and felt that it was a quality coach. You probably heard that it is a Warren Buffet company. I had some minor issues with appliances.... Nothing to do with the coach itself. The manager of the plant contacted me and made everything right without any delay. I also was disappointed in one of the couches in the coach. We felt it was too narrow. The factory replaced it with one that was much deeper, FREE of charge! I traded it in because we wanted to save some money...... But now we feel we should have kept it..(Big mistake).....We were not getting much use out if it in the winter seasons and thought that it would be better to save the extra money...... If it means anything, we actually tried going to the dealer to buy it back! But we were too late, it sold quickly. :( I would have no problem buying another Berkshire.
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Old 03-17-2013, 02:49 PM   #4
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I have a Palazzo 33.1, not the bunk bed model. Go to the Thor Owners forums and post a question on one of the Palazzo threads as well as getting lots of information.
Since you re traveling for business is there a tax advantage to buying new vs used.?
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Old 03-17-2013, 03:01 PM   #5
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I have a 2011 Berkshire 390bh which differs from the one you saw at Thomson's only on the engine. I have a 340 rather than the 360. We have had very few problems with ours and it has been a quality rig. We also travel with children, in our case 16 year twin girls. We have had our unit for three years and have made a number of major trips with it and no problems to report.

I think if you visit the Forest River Forums and read some of the Berkshire threads you'll be able to see what problems people have encountered and the speed at which those problems have been resolved. We went to the Berk from an Itasca gasser, Sunova 35j, and the difference in the sound level is huge. The Berkshire is quiet compared to a front engine gasser. My only complaint about the unit is that we didn't get one sooner. The price of $139k is a very good price on a 2011. You need to check the tires and see if there is anything major that should be done, but overall I'd say that is a good price if the rig is in good shape.

I see you are also considering a Tiffin. We found the Tiffin to be almost impassible to get to the bathroom with the slides in. We also found that the had sided doors on the bunks gave the bunks a coffin-like feel which is not comfortable for a kid or an adult. Also check out the Tiffin forum for the many quality issues that Tiffin is having. It seems that Tiffin ownership requires a pilgrimage to Red Bay, Alabama for repairs on a regular basis.

Again, check out both forums and decide for yourself which unit may suit your needs the best. Feel free to PM me with any questions you may have.
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Old 03-17-2013, 07:54 PM   #6
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I am not aware of any motorhome being well insulated. It just does not seem to be a high priority. The large front windshield will transfer a lot of cold into the coach. So maybe that is why they don't bother.

The Jayco Seneca just might be the best all around unit for how you will be using it. I think it will be easier to keep it warm. It has the power and structure to go over the mountains. Jayco also builds better than average products.

Also check out a 2009 or 2010 Jayco Embark. They do not build the Embark any longer but it is a step up from the Seneca. It is a unit I would want to boondock in. 105 gallon fresh water, 52 gray, 52 black. It is a Seneca on steroids. It has an 8.3 litre engine. The model TB390 has the bunk beds.

Plus the kids would love the way it looks. It looks cool.

Good luck
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Old 03-17-2013, 08:59 PM   #7
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Jayco's Entegra line is well insulated but they are a more expensive rig than what you are seeking. If the Seneca is as well insulated as the Entegras then it may suit your needs better.
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Old 03-17-2013, 11:34 PM   #8
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We have a 2012 Berkshire and have been very satisfied with it. Quiet going down the road. Plenty of power. If I was buying again I would buy another Berkshire. Good solid coach and a great value for what you get.

We had a few issues as well, and Forest River fixed them no questions asked. We had a A/C issue and after being fixed the Forest River warranty department called to make sure I was happy with the repair. (Who does that anymore? Forest River did).

We have put 7,000 miles on it in 1 year of ownership and average 10.5 MPG hauling our toad.

Ours has insulated windows, basement heat and tank heaters so no issues camping in freezing weather as long as you use your on-board fresh water supply. We spent 4 nights with night time temps in the mid 20's and our basement and water supply compartment never went below 55, at it's coldest.

If you're hooked to camp water your hose will freeze!
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Old 03-17-2013, 11:41 PM   #9
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Thanks all for the replies! We didn't know we were quite ready, but after test driving a Berkshire - we were absolutely sold on the diesel pusher, then this afternoon, we found a 2011 with every upgrade, including the 360 in immaculate condition and were able to negotiate for significantly under base wholesale book, so we decided it was time! Turns out that passing through town on your way to look at several similar rigs 5 hours down the road is an effective negotiating strategy!

The unit has less than 5k miles - we were told an older couple bought to take the grandkids along, but when they didn't, they decided to upgrade to a 42' something or other. Anyway, we are absolutely thrilled with it and can't wait to try it out on the way home!

For you fellow Berkshire owners, I'm sure I'll have lots of questions! For now, any feedback on the XtraRide warranties - right now the deal is setup with a 4 year Platinum program for 7k with a $200 deductible - does that seem about right?
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Old 03-17-2013, 11:45 PM   #10
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It sounds like you were on a similar journey that I had followed. Here is my take on a few of the models you mentioned. We have a class C gasser (Itasca 31JP) and know what you mean about road noise. Nothing like sitting beside a V10 when it is wailing up a hill. The drive is fine and when you need to go over 70 MPH, you can, without feeling like it is wallowing. But, it is definitely not on par with a diesel pusher. Here is where we looked.

Berkshire 390BH (40 or 60) - I was really impressed by this coach when you consider the chassis, powertrain and storage. They got it right on that front. The generator is on a slide in the front which makes it easy to service, the raised rail chassis makes for huge space and the centralized water manifold makes management easy. Dual pane glass, rear diesel with air ride makes it drive like a big SUV. You want to see what a nice ride is about, I recommend anyone to try out one of these.

On the negative front, the bunk house doors, when open, really get in the way. Even with the slides out, the back area is very tight considering the size. The bunks are really not usable unless the slide is out so it makes stops along the way to a longer destination a bit of a challenge. They have increased the living area and really skimped on the back space. We brought my kids along (9 and 11) and they did not like it at all. They did not like the pull down TV's, the almost transparent window coverings which seemed like an afterthought and how "squishy" the space felt. If I had bought this rig, I would have simply removed the doors as the first change to address this, replaced the TVs and put some different window covers in place.

Georgetown 351DS (and XL) - we looked at this option for a few minutes based on the price (attractive), but, the build fit and finish was not there. It had some interesting options, but, front engine, gas and build had us continue our search.

Seneca - looked at those, as well, but, it did not feel right for us. A nice Class C, but, after looking a the Class A's, we really wanted to stay the path.

Thor Palazzo 33.3 - This is where we landed (placed an order). The layout is great, the overhead bunk up front (drop down) means you are not converting the couch or dinette to a sleeping mode every night if you have more than two kids. The bunks have a magnet doors that lay flat, open or closed and do not encumber space. The bunks are completely accessible with slides in. The kids loved the setup with the "real TVs" and how the top one would move over to the wall when you converted the bunk to a couch. The back bedroom is very spacious and accessible, slides in or out with lots of cabinet storage. It drives very nicely, like the Berkshire, with air ride, good chassis and powertrain. The compact size also lends itself to the drivable nature- 34 feet versus 39 feet. it was definitely less imposing for my wife to drive.

Where you do compromise is on underneath storage. It does not use a raised rail chassis so the storage is a less generous than the Berkshire. The plus on that side, however, is the 11 and one half foot height of the rig. It has a similar, clean layout for water service management and electrical. The mid-entry is a personal choice, but, we preferred it when compared to the front entry as that compromises the position of the passenger up front. We really like the workstation area on the passenger side. And, the Thor gives you lots of drink holders up front.

On the nit picky side, and completely personal preference, the Thor had hidden hinges on the cabinet doors. The Berkshire had the exposed hinges which gave the place a more traditional look but we really liked the more modern feel of the Palazzo. And, not that we bought the Thor for a towel rack, but, there is a nicely integrated spot on the back of the bathroom door. We were really impressed by these small items that used space efficiently. Storage under the master bed, the mud room by the stairs, more counter space in the bathroom that the Berkshire, and even some storage under the bunks.

I am sure you will enjoy the Berkshire. The 390BH and Palazzo 33.3 were the two I had to choose between. I would like to see feedback on the Berkshire bunkhouse with respect to the bunk area.
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Old 03-17-2013, 11:49 PM   #11
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Here is some info on the 2009 Embark:

Embark - YouTube

Also if you want there is a Jayco Express Web site. I was pricing the 2009 Embark in late 2008 and Jayco Express was a few G's less that RV Direct. The price I got on a new 2009 Embark was 189K. I would guess it would now sell for less than a new Seneca.

Jayco Travel Trailers, Motorhomes, RV's.
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Old 03-18-2013, 12:17 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 62_inrightlane View Post
We have a 2012 Berkshire and have been very satisfied with it. Quiet going down the road. Plenty of power. If I was buying again I would buy another Berkshire. Good solid coach and a great value for what you get.

We had a few issues as well, and Forest River fixed them no questions asked. We had a A/C issue and after being fixed the Forest River warranty department called to make sure I was happy with the repair. (Who does that anymore? Forest River did).

We have put 7,000 miles on it in 1 year of ownership and average 10.5 MPG hauling our toad.

Ours has insulated windows, basement heat and tank heaters so no issues camping in freezing weather as long as you use your on-board fresh water supply. We spent 4 nights with night time temps in the mid 20's and our basement and water supply compartment never went below 55, at it's coldest.

If you're hooked to camp water your hose will freeze!
Thanks for the solid info on some of our key questions - certainly confirms our decision. I'm very impressed, especially with the mileage - I imagine you must drive with a fairly light foot?
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Old 03-18-2013, 12:29 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HeavyH2O View Post
It sounds like you were on a similar journey that I had followed. Here is my take on a few of the models you mentioned. We have a class C gasser (Itasca 31JP) and know what you mean about road noise. Nothing like sitting beside a V10 when it is wailing up a hill. The drive is fine and when you need to go over 70 MPH, you can, without feeling like it is wallowing. But, it is definitely not on par with a diesel pusher. Here is where we looked.

Berkshire 390BH (40 or 60) - I was really impressed by this coach when you consider the chassis, powertrain and storage. They got it right on that front. The generator is on a slide in the front which makes it easy to service, the raised rail chassis makes for huge space and the centralized water manifold makes management easy. Dual pane glass, rear diesel with air ride makes it drive like a big SUV. You want to see what a nice ride is about, I recommend anyone to try out one of these.

On the negative front, the bunk house doors, when open, really get in the way. Even with the slides out, the back area is very tight considering the size. The bunks are really not usable unless the slide is out so it makes stops along the way to a longer destination a bit of a challenge. They have increased the living area and really skimped on the back space. We brought my kids along (9 and 11) and they did not like it at all. They did not like the pull down TV's, the almost transparent window coverings which seemed like an afterthought and how "squishy" the space felt. If I had bought this rig, I would have simply removed the doors as the first change to address this, replaced the TVs and put some different window covers in place.

I am sure you will enjoy the Berkshire. The 390BH and Palazzo 33.3 were the two I had to choose between. I would like to see feedback on the Berkshire bunkhouse with respect to the bunk area.
Good points on the Thor, the passenger chair with the mid entry is something we discussed, but the powered footrest was a counterpoint, and the couch conversion on the bottom bunk would be cool....sounds though like the bunk doors is something they "upgraded" from 2011 to 2013 (which I'm assuming is what you looked at?), ours just has curtains, and I can't recall at the moment on the window treatments.

Funny how with similar requirements, you end up looking at a lot of the same models! I'm curious to hear how the Thor works out for you going forward. When do you take delivery? Also, BTW, curious your travel intentions - do you travel for work as well?
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Old 03-18-2013, 01:26 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by CanWeGoDad View Post
Good points on the Thor, the passenger chair with the mid entry is something we discussed, but the powered footrest was a counterpoint, and the couch conversion on the bottom bunk would be cool....sounds though like the bunk doors is something they "upgraded" from 2011 to 2013 (which I'm assuming is what you looked at?), ours just has curtains, and I can't recall at the moment on the window treatments.

Funny how with similar requirements, you end up looking at a lot of the same models! I'm curious to hear how the Thor works out for you going forward. When do you take delivery? Also, BTW, curious your travel intentions - do you travel for work as well?
Yes, the new 2013 Berkshire has the doors and curtains, as well. I think the goal was to allow this bunk space to be used as a wardrobe if the bunks were not in use. A good option for those who may have guests (grandkids, etc).

I do not travel for work but I drag race on weekends and bring the family along. We also use it for vacationing and "going on adventures", as the kids like to say. We use it when we go Florida in the winters for vacation and north in the summers to Canada. How it traveled buttoned up was a big consideration and the Thor really shined in that department. I just wish they had an option for tile floors or like in the Thor.

I think, on the DP front, for a family, the Berkshire 390BH and Palazzo 33.3 are very good choices. The big thing I will miss with the 33.3 is the option for a washer and dryer available on the 390BH. But, with each choice, there is a compromise
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