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Old 08-01-2016, 12:58 AM   #1
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Well I went and did it.....new RV owner

Well, this has been quite a journey. I started "thinkin'" about getting an RV about 2 years ago, then got to "thinkin'" a little harder about it last year, then got to "thinkin'" about it real hard this year. Trouble with all that "thinkin'" was it was running me in circles and I wasn't getting any closer to buying anything! Meanwhile my daughter kept getting older and we were missing out on some epic memory-building adventures.

As I went through this journey, I started with Class A's because I was sure we wanted 1) diesel (for the power) and 2) enough room for 3 two-legged people and 2 large four-legged people (YOU tell them they're not people....I've tried and they weren't buying it). Trouble was, we like to camp in places where a 30'+ coach is either restricted to just a few spots or flat out can't go. Hmph. Gas Class A's are just as long, so they have the same problem. Double Hmph.

I started to come to the conclusion that our "perfect for us" rig was a class C, narrowing it down to the Winnebago View/Itasca Navion. Trouble was, I spent some time in them at RV shows and I just had a really hard time justifying in my mind THAT much money for something that IMO wasn't built very well. Other brands were even worse! I don't mean to offend anyone, but I just struggled with things like cabinets made of vinly-wrapped particle board that didn't fit together very well, doors that didn't shut right or stay open, seemingly EVERYTHING I pressed on made a scraping or squeaking noise (these things must make a racket going down the road), and the list goes on. They looked very nice, and would certainly work for our needs, but I just wasn't comfortable with the cost/value equation. I was willing to pay more to get the Sprinter chassis because based on all reports it's very good and has very few problems, but the "house" was a bit lacking in the quality department.

So, where to find a really well-made C? This question brought me to a class that I hadn't been aware of which was the B+/C-, aka the Leisure Travel vans and that bunch. After a lot of reading and then more reading, I was convinced that these were what I was after. Large enough for all of us (we don't live in them, we just ride/sleep in them), will fit in the small parks we like, and are reputed to be well built. Huzzah!!!

Then life threw us a nasty curve and we lost one of our four-legged humans to cancer. She was 14 and had lived a good life, but it's still mighty hard to say goodbye. Really big HMPH!!! :(

This got me thinking that maybe we didn't need quite as much room, and since I was already down to a B+, why not look at a B? The BIG advantage to these is they are no wider than a regular van, which completely changes the equation. IMO this takes a "few weeks a year" vehicle to a 52 weeks a year vehicle. Now the investment makes a LOT more sense! Drag my daughter and her little dancer friends to competitions? Check! Haul school kids to/from field trips (we don't have school busing in our town)? Check! Christmas tree pickup? Yep! And so on.

So....who makes a good quality Class B with plenty of seating for "day to day use", Sprinter chassis for good economy, good reputation, easy to drive, with sleeping for 3? Um, basically nobody. I looked at Winnebago's Era (too small!), various Road Treks, and Airstream. Of those, the Road Trek was the most innovative IMO with their Etrek package and fold-up beds over the front seats, but when I looked at them and compared the quality to the Airstream, again, not to offend anyone, but there really wasn't much to compare. The Road Treks had missing bits of trim, fiddly window shades, mismatched cabinet hardware that either didn't close or wouldn't stay open, wrinkled vinyl covering the woodwork, doors already broken, and so on. Of course the price difference between the Road Trek and Airstream reflected that, but in the cost/value equation, I just couldn't bring myself to cut costs for something that wasn't built well. While not the best made (again, IMO), the Road Trek did provide some incentive: It gave me the idea that the "missing" 3rd bed could be DIY'd. So, I did some measuring, and it looks like a twin-size inflatable mattress will just fit across the front seats of pretty much any of the B's, and one of the included table tops can span the gap between seats to support the mattress. Viola! Instant "nest" for the kiddo.

With that, the decision was made. I give you my new RV:

2017 Airstream Interstate Lounge EXT

So, why the long lead-up? In my journey, I found, both online and on dealer lots/show floors, that there were a LOT of people out there just like me who were struggling with the exact same issues. The big RVs were too big (fill in the reasons why....everything from hard to drive to being too big to get into certain parks), the small RV's couldn't sleep enough people (these guys need to get creative and come up with a quality, factory-made solution), and most of the mid-sized RVs weren't built very well (LTV being the exception to this IMO). In the end, my compromise was a DIY bed arrangement for the kiddo, but for that I gain a utility vehicle that I can use 52 weeks a year. Time will tell if this works out in the real world as well as it does in my head. I pick it up next week.

Hopefully some of this helps someone else out there that is in the same boat.

Safe travels everyone.
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Old 08-01-2016, 08:06 AM   #2
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Old 08-01-2016, 04:59 PM   #3
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I am in the "thinking" stage also very helpful Thanks
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Old 08-01-2016, 06:19 PM   #4
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I am in the "thinking" stage also very helpful Thanks
You're very welcome.

If you have any questions please feel free to ask.
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Old 08-06-2016, 06:15 AM   #5
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Please post some pics of your front seat bed conversion I'm sure it can be done just trying to find the best possible solution, thanks.
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Old 08-06-2016, 06:57 PM   #6
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congratulations. i'm like you. i can't stomach paying good money for the absolute garbage these manufacturers and dealers want to pawn off on us consumers. class a, class c, class b....lousy built quality, cheapest materials and parts they can get away with, horrendous customer service. you think they would be embarrassed selling what they sell, but dealer and manufacturer will smile, shake your hand while burying a knife in your back and holding their breath that the clap trap will make it off the lot and to you drive way so it becomes your problem and not theirs. it is what is responsible for the exodus of experienced rv'ers from the lifestyle only to be replaced, due to slick marketing of the lifestyle, from unsuspecting, hopeful newbies who they take to the cleaners.it is truly disgraceful. they even know they are turning out garbage trucks which is why they fight so vehemently to prevent lemon laws from applying to rv's. google "rv industry death spiral" and "rv lemon law lawyer" and that will explain it all better than my lame attempt here.

like you discovered, there may only be a couple of reputable manufacturers that turn out a half decent product and i believe air stream is one of them. pleasure ways is supposed to be decent as well. road trek used to be good from what i understand, but like you experience they have sunk to crap now too, again as i have gleaned from my research.

so you entered the rv minefield and make it through with a good purchase.
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Old 08-06-2016, 09:33 PM   #7
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We just went looking again today at the 2017 leisure travel unity. Which appears to be of better quality than others we've seen. I asked the salesmen what the available cargo weight was and didn't get an answer. It doesn't appear in any literature either. I've been reading forum discussions about this topic and how salesmen don't tell any of us the answer. My husband and I are not that big, but what I'm reading from veteran RVers is that there is not a lot of available cargo weight in the smaller RVs...

Any experience to offer? Especially when carrying full fuel and fresh water tanks, since we plan on mostly boondocking.
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Old 08-06-2016, 09:45 PM   #8
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congratulations. i'm like you. i can't stomach paying good money for the absolute garbage these manufacturers and dealers want to pawn off on us consumers.
.
.
so you entered the rv minefield and make it through with a good purchase.
Thanks Mark.

As I looked around, I found something interesting and maybe others have seen this too. Maybe 10'ish years ago, prior to the recession, there were a lot more RV manufacturers out there and many didn't make it. In some cases, that's a good thing, in others, not so much. For example, I read a lot about the B+ Chinook vans, circa 2002/3/4, and it looked like their build quality was outstanding. Solid wood used everywhere (and by solid wood I don't mean plywood, I'm talking solid oak doors, door frames, everything), actual leather seats, high end materials and equipment throughout....really well built units. Same story for Country Coach in the class A's. Then the recession hit and these guys didn't make it. Now that the economy is picking up again (I can always tell how healthy the economy is by the traffic to/from work, and it's been getting unbearable, so the economy must be thriving, LOL), most of what I see is cheap stuff. It's as if the majority of the RV manufacturers all went out and sourced the cheapest materials they could find, and they are building as fast as possible to make as much profit as they can before the next economic slowdown. Sure, there are still a few guys making good quality stuff out there, but holy cow most of it is just horrible. It's my understanding the travel trailer segment is even worse!

I think what irks me the most is the huge price gap. You can get a Dodge Promaster-based rig for under $80k, a Winnie on the Sprinter for $100k, or a PWay, LTV, or Airstream for $130k+. So you can get really iffy quality, pay $20k more for marginally better quality, but if you really want something well built, bring another $50k. If someone can build a RV on a van chassis for $80k and make money, why can't they build a really high quality unit for $100k? There seems to be this odd gap and I can't for the life of me figure out why it exists.

And yeah, don't get me started on Road Trek. I was super disappointed with their units (and I really wanted to like them!). They are a shining example of cheap materials, built fast (so fast that they forget to put all the bits on, don't align the cabinet hardware, etc), and sell 'em quick (every RT unit on the lot was marked down at least $30k from MSRP). It's really too bad because based on reviews and feedback from owners, it appears they used to be really well built.
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Old 08-06-2016, 09:56 PM   #9
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Congrats, have many safe and happy travels.
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Old 08-06-2016, 10:07 PM   #10
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We just went looking again today at the 2017 leisure travel unity. Which appears to be of better quality than others we've seen. I asked the salesmen what the available cargo weight was and didn't get an answer. It doesn't appear in any literature either. I've been reading forum discussions about this topic and how salesmen don't tell any of us the answer. My husband and I are not that big, but what I'm reading from veteran RVers is that there is not a lot of available cargo weight in the smaller RVs...

Any experience to offer? Especially when carrying full fuel and fresh water tanks, since we plan on mostly boondocking.
I was looking at the Unity's as well (specifically the Twin Bed). They are very nice, very well built, but you asked THE question that is the fly in the chardonnay with LTVs. Their CCC is very low, with some configs being as low as 500lbs! I couldn't legally have myself, my wife, my daughter, and our two dogs in the RV, let alone any cargo, food, water, etc. (and we're not big people...our dogs are big though at 120lbs and 80lbs). I was shocked, and the sales guys know that is their weak spot.

The Class C's built on the same Sprinter 3500 chassis are a bit better off (Winnebago has something like 1000lbs of CC depending on floor plan), but they have to cut corners on materials in order to keep the house as light as possible.

The B's built on the Sprinter have the least issue (my Airstream has 1900lbs of CCC), but they also have the least space (and storage). I plan on mainly boondocking with mine, so CCC was a big concern for me as I always want to be rolling with full propane, full fuel, and to save some weight fill the water as close to the destination as possible. The various storage tanks aren't very large, so they need to be full to get a few days of "living" out of them with a family of 3.

Sorry, I know that's not what you wanted to hear because like you, I REALLY liked the LTVs, but it is what it is......
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Old 08-06-2016, 10:11 PM   #11
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Congrats, have many safe and happy travels.
Thank you!

I see you have a Canyon Star. Are you looking to downsize?
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Old 08-07-2016, 03:57 PM   #12
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Congrats on the new AS. This is a good discussion and one that I wish more motor home builders would read. Like many here, we wanted a motor home that was well built and we thought out. Our first RV was a 2005 Chinook Glacier. We loved the RV but sold it after 6 years because we wanted a full-time bed and I want a vehicle that rode better and handled better in windy conditions. The Chinook on the F450 classis would rattle your teeth on average roads. It was expensive but well built and equipped. It had a CCC with full tanks of something like 1400 lbs. Our current coach is a 2008 Dynamax 34 XL. It has a ccc of about 8,000 lbs, capacity that we will never approach. It is pretty well made and comfortable. It is diesel and gets better milage than our Chinook. It has air bags on the rear and standard Frieghtliner M2 suspension up front. However, it does has air ride seats that are pretty nice. It rides pretty we'll and has virtually no problems in winds which the Chinook had real problems with even after $4,000 in suspension work. However, the Dynamax is 35 feet long. So there are places and campgrounds that we can't go to or use. My wife really wants a smaller unit, but insists on a dry bath and will not sleep in most C's that have the main bed over the cab. Therefore, if we want a unit that is well made, real wood cabinets, good workmanship, well thought out, a full-time bed ( or least one that is easy to setup and take down), has a dry bath, adequate storage, reasonable CCC, and drives well, the field is limited. We have looked at Coach House, Born Free, Leisure, Pleasure Way, Air Stream, and Roadtrek. All have their pluses and minuses including some not having all are requirements, especially the wet bath. I plan to drag my wife to the Pomona , Ca. RV show in October and have her look at as many RV's as possible to see if we can find a match.

One more item. It is pretty easy to find really made well Class A coaches 36 feet and up as well as a few Super C's. However, I am aware of no one who makes a 30 footer with a great chassis and well made interior. Last year I asked the Winnebego rep at the Fair about that and he flatly stated that their was no market for it. When I asked how Leisure, Pleasure Way, Roadtrek, Air Stream could sell coaches for far more that his small class A's he had no answer. The other problem is that Ford has little to no competition in the small Class A chassis market. Their F53 chassis has made few changes in the past 10 years and is built for the low end of the market. This is certainly another reason that shorter gas Class A's are not the Rv that they could be.

Our search will continue and if we can't find a suitable alternative, then our current RV will look better and better. By the way, if some wants a vehicle that can go almost anywhere, is well made, and can boondocks with no problems check out Earth Roamer. However, they may be a bit more pricey than some of us might be willing to cape with. However, we can all dream.
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Old 08-07-2016, 05:46 PM   #13
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We just went looking again today at the 2017 leisure travel unity. Which appears to be of better quality than others we've seen. I asked the salesmen what the available cargo weight was and didn't get an answer. It doesn't appear in any literature either. I've been reading forum discussions about this topic and how salesmen don't tell any of us the answer. My husband and I are not that big, but what I'm reading from veteran RVers is that there is not a lot of available cargo weight in the smaller RVs...

Any experience to offer? Especially when carrying full fuel and fresh water tanks, since we plan on mostly boondocking.
Many salesmen are not informed. The Unity's are weighed before they leave the factory. The Unity TB weighs about 9331 lbs ( 1/2 tank of diesel fuel and full propane)-- All other tanks empty. To obtain further information you could contact LTV direct @ 1-877-992-9906 or via email @ info@tripleerv.com
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Old 08-08-2016, 07:10 AM   #14
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Congrats on the new AS. This is a good discussion and one that I wish more motor home builders would read. Like many here, we wanted a motor home that was well built and we thought out. Our first RV was a 2005 Chinook Glacier. We loved the RV but sold it after 6 years because we wanted a full-time bed and I want a vehicle that rode better and handled better in windy conditions. The Chinook on the F450 classis would rattle your teeth on average roads. It was expensive but well built and equipped. It had a CCC with full tanks of something like 1400 lbs. Our current coach is a 2008 Dynamax 34 XL. It has a ccc of about 8,000 lbs, capacity that we will never approach. It is pretty well made and comfortable. It is diesel and gets better milage than our Chinook. It has air bags on the rear and standard Frieghtliner M2 suspension up front. However, it does has air ride seats that are pretty nice. It rides pretty we'll and has virtually no problems in winds which the Chinook had real problems with even after $4,000 in suspension work. However, the Dynamax is 35 feet long. So there are places and campgrounds that we can't go to or use. My wife really wants a smaller unit, but insists on a dry bath and will not sleep in most C's that have the main bed over the cab. Therefore, if we want a unit that is well made, real wood cabinets, good workmanship, well thought out, a full-time bed ( or least one that is easy to setup and take down), has a dry bath, adequate storage, reasonable CCC, and drives well, the field is limited. We have looked at Coach House, Born Free, Leisure, Pleasure Way, Air Stream, and Roadtrek. All have their pluses and minuses including some not having all are requirements, especially the wet bath. I plan to drag my wife to the Pomona , Ca. RV show in October and have her look at as many RV's as possible to see if we can find a match.

One more item. It is pretty easy to find really made well Class A coaches 36 feet and up as well as a few Super C's. However, I am aware of no one who makes a 30 footer with a great chassis and well made interior. Last year I asked the Winnebego rep at the Fair about that and he flatly stated that their was no market for it. When I asked how Leisure, Pleasure Way, Roadtrek, Air Stream could sell coaches for far more that his small class A's he had no answer. The other problem is that Ford has little to no competition in the small Class A chassis market. Their F53 chassis has made few changes in the past 10 years and is built for the low end of the market. This is certainly another reason that shorter gas Class A's are not the Rv that they could be.

Our search will continue and if we can't find a suitable alternative, then our current RV will look better and better. By the way, if some wants a vehicle that can go almost anywhere, is well made, and can boondocks with no problems check out Earth Roamer. However, they may be a bit more pricey than some of us might be willing to cape with. However, we can all dream.
thanks for the info, very interesting on the chinook, that is exactly one of the coaches i have seriously thought i would go with. i am surprised to hear about the handling in the wind even after the 4k upgrade, and the chattering. good info.
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