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Old 08-25-2019, 05:45 AM   #1
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Class C Comparison Spreadsheet

Hi All!!

We are preparing to purchase our 1st RV. Has anyone created a spreadsheet to ease the side by side comparisons of each manufactures pros and cons?
I see many folks use the floor plan as a choice differentiator, which is important to us, but we want to ensure we also put build quality and amenity ease of use at the top of the list.
Iíve read posts that mention manufacturers using cheap glue or staples to build drawers or doors.
Or
Rigs with high maintenance costs
Or
.......
We just want to go into this purchase armed with all the information possible.
Thanks for reading and any help
Tim
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Old 08-25-2019, 06:04 AM   #2
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Don't you know the salesman will tell you everything you need to know? (sarcasm).
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Old 08-25-2019, 07:02 AM   #3
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It's all about the floor plan. If you can't live in the unit the way it's laid out. Then the doors and drawers could be made by a master carpenter out of the finest materials. Taking weeks to build. And it would mean absolutely nothing if you do not like traveling in it and can use it the way you want to.

Also. They all use staples and cheap glue in one way or another in the construction of an RV.... Any RV. So I am not sure what being armed with that info will do. Will it lower the price?

I have a lowest build quality reputation 18 year old unit built with staples and cheap glue. And I have never had an issue with the drawers or doors. Now cabover leaks. That's another story.... lol. But that was a previous owner mistake. Not who built it.

As for maintenance. Those costs are on you and what you want to do. Or not do. If you want to properly maintain an RV. It's going to cost money. Lots of money. Most, if not all, of the major components that function like inverters, converters, fridges, lights, tvs, toilets, generators, and on an on are from common manufacturer's through the industry and each component has it's own maintenance and problems. No matter who built the RV.
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Old 08-25-2019, 07:35 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by JumboJet View Post
Don't you know the salesman will tell you everything you need to know? (sarcasm).
Right!? - they always have your best interest at heart.
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Old 08-25-2019, 07:41 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by Myrons31 View Post
It's all about the floor plan. If you can't live in the unit the way it's laid out. Then the doors and drawers could be made by a master carpenter out of the finest materials. Taking weeks to build. And it would mean absolutely nothing if you do not like traveling in it and can use it the way you want to.

Also. They all use staples and cheap glue in one way or another in the construction of an RV.... Any RV. So I am not sure what being armed with that info will do. Will it lower the price?

I have a lowest build quality reputation 18 year old unit built with staples and cheap glue. And I have never had an issue with the drawers or doors. Now cabover leaks. That's another story.... lol. But that was a previous owner mistake. Not who built it.

As for maintenance. Those costs are on you and what you want to do. Or not do. If you want to properly maintain an RV. It's going to cost money. Lots of money. Most, if not all, of the major components that function like inverters, converters, fridges, lights, tvs, toilets, generators, and on an on are from common manufacturer's through the industry and each component has it's own maintenance and problems. No matter who built the RV.
Myrons31 - Thank you! Yes I agree the floor plan is very important. I guess since there are a few basic floor plans for the class Cís diesels, I would want to compare the differentiators such as quality, OCCC, Drivers compartment comfort.....
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Old 08-25-2019, 10:32 AM   #6
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What you would look for in a spreadsheet depends heavily on what type of use you are going to put an RV to.

Drycamping versus hookup camping completely changes the emphasis one might place on certain spreadsheet criteria.
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Old 08-25-2019, 11:49 AM   #7
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I think they all have issues. It's just a question of which ones you want to deal with. Find the right floor plan, trust me.
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Old 08-26-2019, 07:52 PM   #8
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I tried a spreadsheet once, it was tricky to get it all "down on paper".
Boondocking for more than 3 nights?
Get solar ready if you are and bigger tanks.
Get bunk beds if you have kids/grandkids.
Swivel front seats.
Non-folding mattress.
Functional with all slides in.
TVs well positioned.

We love our Minnie Winnie 31D. Wouldn't change much.

Get out to the upcoming Hershey RV show.
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Old 08-27-2019, 05:23 AM   #9
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I love to spreadsheet things.
Never felt I needed to when looking for an RV.

Primary list:
  • Most important thing is an interior layout that pops and says this is it, this is perfect for us.

My secondary list:
  • No slides. Want simple with less to go wrong and also ease of setup and breakdown of camp.
  • Large water and waste tanks, better for dry camping
  • Large propane tanks
  • 3 way refrigerator, better for dry camping
  • Propane stove, better for dry camping
  • Generator
  • Higher ground clearance if possible
  • Larger bathroom if possible (See most important primary list)
  • RV drivability
  • Solar array
  • Large battery bank
  • Storage
If you don't ever intend to dry camp then the above list would not be applicable to you.

We found the interior layout that was and still is a perfect match for our style of travel.

Had to make some concessions on the secondary list but the important items to us were good to go.

So spread sheeting was not necessary.
We just had a list of preferences.

We settled on a slightly larger class C-/B+
Actually shorter than some class B vans.
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Old 08-27-2019, 07:00 AM   #10
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Hi Tim66,

This is a very long "read" but I think you will find it helpful in finding a decent motor home.

Ron Dittmer
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
New, used, or well used, when shopping for a conventional class B+ or C, the most important consideration is how it is constructed. This post outlines construction methods which are most affordable and methods that cost more, but are built to hold up much better to the elements and also the punishment of the road.

Some motor home manufactures offer different levels of quality through their various model lines. Instead of providing a list of brands to consider, it is best to identify what "Better" is.

When shopping for a motor home, don't get distracted with "Eye Candy" and "Square Footage". You want to pay close attention to how the house is constructed. Water infiltration is the number one killer of motor homes, rotting them away long before anything is worn out. Once water gets inside, it is like termites. By the time you realize there is a problem, a lot of damage has already occurred. Also consider that mold & mildew can grow inside the walls which then you have a health hazard. My advise focuses on identifying a reliably well sealed motor home.

#1 BEST (Very Expensive, Can Be 1.5 times the cost of Second Best)
NO structural seam work. The brand Coach House is a fine example. It is seamless, made from a mold. The only places where water can leak is cutouts for windows, entry door, roof-top vents & a/c unit, storage compartments & maintenance access, all of which are in areas of very low stress. Because they have a seamless shell, these motor homes are not common and have a limited selection of sizes and floor plans.

#2 SECOND BEST
Common, Affordable, & comes in Many Sizes so this is my main focus
I own an example of this type. My Rig Here manufactured by Phoenix USA.
Made in sections, but assembled in a way that greatly reduces the threat of water damage. Here are the good things you want to look for.

a) Structural Seams Away From Corners
When a motor home is driven, the house bounces, resonates, shakes, and leans countless times, representing a endless series of earthquakes. Corner seams see greater stresses than seams located elsewhere. Corner seams are more easily split, especially when the caulk gets brittle with age & exposure to the sun. One extremely bad bump in the road can instantly breach a corner seam. Seams hold up much better when they are brought in from the corners in lesser stressed areas.

b) A Seamless Over-The-Van Front Cap
A huge bed above the van’s roof is the most vulnerable area of a motor home. No matter how well they are made, that long frontal over-hang resonates when the RV is driven making it common for seams to split there, most troublesome with age & exposure to the elements. HERE is an example, one of many water-damage threads I have read. Scroll down in that thread to see pictures of the real damage.

The small front aerodynamic cap of a B+ design HERE eliminates the overhang which eliminates most of the resonation, along with the most vulnerable seam work.

There are a few conventional “C” Designs (big over-van bed) where that area is seamless. If you absolutely must have that huge bed, then look for a seamless bucket-like design. The Itasca Navion Here is a fine example. Some manufactures as of late offer a partial bucket design with fewer seams located in less-stressed areas. Some manufacture models like the Minnie Winnie and the Nexus Phantom utilize a compromising partial bucket design, making it a better choice compared to a fully seamed cab-over bed.

If you plan to accommodate more than 2 people, having that large extra cab-over bed will be extremely useful.

c) A Crowned Roof
Rain and snow melt runs off a crowned roof. A flat roof will sag over time, then water puddles around heavy roof-top items like the a/c unit. Water eventually finds it's way inside after gaskets & caulk have degraded from age, sun, and change in seasons.

d) Rolled-Over-The-Edge seamless Fiberglass Roof Sheathing
A single sheet of fiberglass as shown HERE that rolls over the right & left sides of the roof, down to the wall. The overlapping of fiberglass to the wall provides a good water seal and the fiberglass sheathing holds up better than roofs made of sheet rubber or thin plastic called TPO, which require more attention to keep your RV well protected.

e) A Five Sided Rear Wall Cap
A five sided back wall moves the seams around to the sides to areas of much less stress as seen HERE. The rear wall resembles a shallow rectangular cooking pan standing on it's side. Like the example, some rear wall sections are constructed with an integrated spare tire compartment and rear storage compartment. Not only are they convenience features, but that rear wall/cap offers a solid double-wall for exceptional strength which is more resistant to flexing the adjoining seam work. It helps in keeping the house together.

Don't be fooled. There are a select few manufactures who add rear wall sectional styling pieces over an entry level rear corner seam design which gives the appearance of a 5-sided pan design. You can easily tell by noting the sections & seams between them and the flat back wall that remains exposed.

Bigger Will Be Weaker
The size & floor plan you select MUST FIRST meet your needs before this consideration.
The bigger the house, the weaker the structure will be. Consider two cardboard boxes made from the exact same corrugated material. The smaller box would naturally be stronger. It will be more resistant to bending, twisting, and other types of flexing. So if you are on the fence between models, the smaller one will be your stronger choice.

Potentially Troublesome Construction
Entry level motor homes are made with seams in corners and finished off with trim, including the massive cab-over bed. Their roof is flat and finished with rubber or TPO. They are most affordable, and come in all sizes. HERE is one such example. If considering this construction type, keep in-mind they require more regular care with bi-annual inspections. Plan to use a caulking gun now and then. When buying a used one, consider that you really don't know how well the previous owner maintained it. Buying new or used, that construction method will be counting on you to be a good non-neglectful owner.

There are also the rare exception of the Lazy Daze which has seam work in the corners, but the substructure and sealing method is of the highest quality that it holds up like a seamless body. It's excellent sectional construction methods are not commonly found in other brands. I am no expert on this, but I'd give it a #1.5 Almost Like Best

About The Chassis
The most popular is the Ford E350 and E450 with the V10 engine. The Sprinter diesel is a popular alternative to the E350 in the smaller sizes. Also within this past year is the recent introduction of the Ford Transit. The GM 3500 & 4500 chassis are not popular but are a very good choice for the right application. Any of the chassis mentioned made since 1998 are real good, new or used. If you plan to tow a car or heavy trailer, be aware that the Sprinter & Transit will be least powered. People who tow with them naturally take it slower.

If considering a current-day “small” class B+ or C motor home, here is a comparison between the two current main chassis contenders, the Sprinter with the V6 diesel engine and the Ford E350 with the V10 gasoline engine.

Advantages Of The Mercedes Sprinter With Diesel Engine
- Offers a 35%-50% improvement in fuel economy over the Ford-V10, when both are loaded and driven identically.
- More ergonomic driver compartment with more leg room.
- Comfort continues with a car-like feel & quiet ride.
- A grander view out the windshield
- Made by Mercedes which people are attracted to.

Advantages Of The Ford E350 with V10 Engine
- Given identical motor homes both brand and model, the Ford is around $24,000 MSRP cheaper
- The Ford V10 engine has 50% more horse power and torque
- The Ford E350 chassis handles 1430 pounds more weight.
- The E350 is able to tow a heavier load.
- The E350 rear axle is significantly wider which translates to better stability.
- In most places traveled, gasoline costs less than diesel fuel
- The Sprinter diesel has limited mechanical service shops around North America
- The Sprinter diesel is typically outfitted with a propane generator. Propane is a critical fuel for RV operations, and generally needs to be rationed when dry camping.
- This Next Point Is Debatable But Still Worth Noting....The V6 Sprinter diesel engine is not allowed to idle for extended periods. This limitation is detrimental when you need a/c but there are generator restrictions, you are low on propane, or you have a mechanical failure with the generator or roof a/c. The Ford offers a great backup system. The V10 can safely idle for hours on end, heating, cooling, and battery charging, all valuable if you have a baby, pets, or health/respiratory issues.

You decide what your priorities are, and pick the appropriate chassis. There are some really sweet motor homes being built exclusively on the Sprinter chassis, such as the Winnebago Navion and View. A few manufactures like Phoenix USA offer their model 2350 and 2400 on both the Sprinter and Ford E-Series. You can even special order a Phoenix Cruiser E-Series 4x4.

There is so much cool stuff offered in recent years on the Sprinter and most recently on the new Ford Transit.

The Ford Transit Chassis
This chassis has the potential to dominate the class B+ & C motor home market in the smaller sizes. According to Ford's website, the Transit DRW chassis is offered in the 156", and 178" wheel base, and is rated as high as 10,360 GVWR. Ford offers a motor home package specific for the RV industry. It's diesel engine compares to the Sprinter in power and fuel economy, but is more affordable and is easily serviced at Ford service centers, just like the E350 & E450. The cab has a much lower stance than the Sprinter making it much more friendly to get into and out from for people in their later years. It's more like a mini-van rather than a standard van. The Transit's lower cab also offers roomier over-head bunks that are easier to access.

The Dodge Promaster 3500 Cut-Away Chassis
This front wheel drive chassis is another recent entry in the RV industry. I am concerned over it's lack of load capability as reflected with single free-wheeling rear wheels. I have been reading posts written by new Promaster RV owners stating they are over-weight with just two people, some personal effects and food. They say they can't carry water and never a 3rd person. I would not be comfortable with such a limited load range in a B+ or C. This chassis does seem to be a good option in the "B" motor home market.

The Chevy 3500 & 4500 Chassis
Unfortunately this chassis is not more popular, primarily because GM sort-of gave up on competing with the Ford E350 & E450. It offers more interior comfort than the Ford, but not as much as the Sprinter. It's power & weight ratings are a little less than their Ford counter-parts making them a great chassis for all but the heaviest of class Cs. They are also a little better on fuel consumption. One thing to keep in-mind, if you are counting inches in storing your rig, the Chevy is a little longer than the Ford by a number of inches which was critical for us with our garage as seen HERE with our Ford 2007 E350 rig. That could be the reason why the Chevy has a little more interior driver/passenger leg room.

The Ford E350 & E450
The majority of class B+ and C motor homes are built on one of these two chassis for a number of very good reasons. They have more power and load capability than the others. Ford approves outfitters to modify the chassis to increase or decrease the wheel base which supplies motor home companies a lot of design freedom. Ford has off-the-shelf components that work with the wheel base modification. So if you need a new drive shaft, fuel line, brake line, parking brake cable, wire harness, whatever, Ford has them available. Finally, the E350 and E450 chassis is competitively priced.

Engine Power Ratings of Ford, MB-Sprinter, Chevy, and Dodge
Ford E350 & E450 - 6.8L-V10, 305hp, 420ft
Ford Transit Diesel - 3.2L-I5, 185hp, 350ft
Mercedes Sprinter Diesel - 3.0L-V6, 188hp, 325ft
Chevy 3500 & 4500 - 6.0L-V8, 323hp, 373ft
Dodge Promaster - 3.6L-V6 (GVW only 9,300 pounds)

The video and slide show with narration below drag on, but provide lots of data and also clarify critical things to look for when evaluating a motor home. I am partial to a Phoenix Cruiser, so keep that in-mind.

This video compares a Phoenix Cruiser to what I believe is a Nexus.


I feel this slide show teaches so much, especially about hidden things to consider.


Enjoy!
Ron
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Old 08-27-2019, 08:18 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by Ron Dittmer View Post
There are also the rare exception of the Lazy Daze which has seam work in the corners, but the substructure and sealing method is of the highest quality that it holds up like a seamless body. It's excellent sectional construction methods are not commonly found in other brands. I am no expert on this, but I'd give it a #1.5 Almost Like Best
We owned a Lazy Daze 27-foot mid-bath (link here) for three years before the current motorhome. They are built like tanks. They have one weakness, which is the wood substructure; if not kept sealed (roof and windows), rot can set in. Happily, the factory-built sealing is robust. The factory offers maintenance and repair services (including resealing), although it's a long way to go for us East Coasties.

It's rare to hear an LD owner say he had problems of any kind following a factory pick-up. Of course, most of us current and former LD owners had to buy ours used, and thus subject to age of components and prior-owner care.

The mid-bath, in particular, has spectacular views out the rear windows. Photos of multiple LD models are here. Link to the mid-bath floorplan is here.
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Old 08-30-2019, 10:07 AM   #12
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Very good post by Ron Dittmer that really up my understanding of construction methods and materials used. I'm thinking a used high end might be better than a new entry level for me even if it costs a little more.
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Old 08-30-2019, 11:06 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by Marine Les View Post
I'm thinking a used high end might be better than a new entry level for me even if it costs a little more.
That is what I favor as well, especially if the rig is planned to be stored outdoors without any type of covering. Finding a better quality used one stored indoors is ideal because they don't age (my personal experience) but such is a rare find.
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Old 08-31-2019, 04:21 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by TJFogelberg View Post
I tried a spreadsheet once, it was tricky to get it all "down on paper".
Boondocking for more than 3 nights?
Get solar ready if you are and bigger tanks.
Get bunk beds if you have kids/grandkids.
Swivel front seats.
Non-folding mattress.
Functional with all slides in.
TVs well positioned.

We love our Minnie Winnie 31D. Wouldn't change much.

Get out to the upcoming Hershey RV show.
plan on it - gonna try not to drive away with the first piece of eye candy that catches our eye
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