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Old 09-07-2014, 11:33 PM   #1
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Class C vs. Class A

Hi All,

I'm looking at pulling the trigger and buying something in the next few months. With my budget, it will probably be around 10-20 years old. Regardless of which extreme it is, I tend to be a keeper and will likely favor investing in a rig, customizing it and keeping it rather than running it for a few years and trading it in.

My main objective is to full-time for a year and see as many national parks as I can cram in. My current dd is not a viable toad, so I'm thinking of getting a light 4WD type vehicle like a Jeep that could double as a fun off-road vehicle.

Previously, I had a 36-foot Class A with a 454 engine. Although the engine was very strong, my opinion is that it was being worked a bit hard with 36-feet. I've looked into Toyota Dolphins which are still rather impressive for what they do, but too small for my current needs. I also got sidetracked for a while on the 3.9L Isusu diesel, which also looks really great but I'm not willing to concede that much speed on hills. I also spent a brief time looking at bus coversions and class A's with Cummins 5.9L engines.

I'm thinking about getting something 28-30 feet. I would expect to be towing about 50% of the time (probably not when visiting national parks). A bunch of the parks I have visited have limits of 28' on campgrounds, so it is important for me to be able to get into those. It would be nice to have some extra oomph on high grades and I think a Ford 460 will provide that on a Class C. I looked into the Ford V10s and don't want to go that route due to the perceived reliability issues. I also don't want any slides.

Before I bought my last Class A, I rationalized that it was really just a Chevy truck and that I could work on it myself and that parts were easy to get to and mechanics were readily available. In practice, I found that to be a half-truth. First of all, hardly anyone wanted to touch it due to the size. A bunch of mechanics didn't want it taking up their whole parking lot. One of them did work on the front brakes and decided they didn't want anything to do with the dualies and extra weight in the back. It took a few weeks to find another person to work on the back brakes. Smogging was a nightmare. I would call up places and explain how large it was and they would say they understood the situation. I would then proceed to take a day off work, pull the thing out of storage and when I showed up the smog people didn't want to deal with it. The blower motor broke and I tried to replace it myself, but it was a nightmare to locate due to variations on the chassis build and lack of standardization. It was also difficult to determine parts compatibility, since there were so many different version of parts and much was dependent on the specific options for the chassis. There were also many different versions of finger-pointing among repair people -- RV techs weren't mechanics, mechanics didn't deal with chassis issues, etc. And the size was an issue on driving through windy roads, tight campgrounds, roadwork situations, etc.

On a mechanical level, I would say I have high intermediate skills. I'm unlikely to R&R an engine or transmission myself, but given the time and equipment could probably do it myself. I like the idea of being able to know how the systems work and do the work myself if needed. If I end up hiring out the work, I can at least follow along and understand what is happening.

I really like diesel vehicles but it just seems like getting a Cummins 5.9L is going to be more of a pain than it's worth as I don't feel like I would be comfortable doing more than an oil change and maybe replacing some glow plugs and it seems like the parts cost and heavy duty mechanics will cost a good deal more. I remember on the Class A, I had the radiator replaced and the new one cost $700. The mechanic told me if I had a diesel, it could cost $2500+ for the radiator and the labor would be a good deal more substantial. I just don't think I want to deal with that.

For a while, I was looking at some smaller Fleetwood Flairs or 30' Class As. I've heard that they are more limited on towing and storage space and there are handling issues since the weight isn't as well distributed. Can someone give me a rundown of the pros and cons of buying a 30' Class C vs a 28-30' Class A? It seems like many of the benefits of a Class A like extra storage are negated when going with a smaller model.

Also, it seems like the Class Cs are more straightfoward and really can be worked on by more mechanics. Have you guys found that to be the case? IMO, the doghouse idea was just stupid WRT to cooling and replacing the exhaust manifold every 30K miles. Is that an issue with Ford 460s and Class Cs?

Any advise would be much appreciated.

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Old 09-08-2014, 04:57 AM   #2
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I would do a search on this site as there are lots of class C versus class A threads. I'm looking to upgrade myself and will probably go with a 28-30 foot class C some day. The two things I like about class C's are 3 doors for safety/escape purposes and yes, most Ford dealers that deal in heavy duty trucks will work on the engine and chassis part of the RV. Good luck in your quest.
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Old 09-09-2014, 12:33 PM   #3
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I have a 2005 30' Class C with a Ford V10. I am not sure what you are referring to on reliability issues. Perhaps you can be more specific? Or are you referring to the older V10's?

As far as mechanics go you are going to have to find one that actually services RV's just because even my 30' RV weight just over 14K lbs and they have to have lifts and high bays big enough to get them off the ground. That's why most mechanics won't service RV's for the work you aren't willing to do yourself. And most RV shops here will also do emissions as well so you might investigate that as a possibility to kill 2 birds with one stone so to speak.

Diesel engines are great but unless you are willing to do a lot of the work yourself then they cost a lot more in maintenance. And repairs are even more expensive. This is based on first hand experience where the repairs cost almost as much as I paid for the truck and would have cost more if I hadn't got fed up and just traded it in. But when it worked that diesel was great on mileage (compared to a gasser) and boy could it move.

How many people are full timing it with you? Just you and a significant other? Then find a floor plan that works for you in either class and you will be fine? Plan on bringing some kids or occasionally brings some friends? Look to the class C with an over head. More private sleeping quarters or storage space if you need it.

As far as towing is concerned I think the general rule is about 5000 lbs/ 500 lbs tongue weight is the rule on most rigs. Diesels pull better than gassers but if you aren't in a hurry then even gassers will pull you up the hill.

Class A or class C will be completely up to you. I like being able to pop out the cockpit doors and the over head keeps you mostly in the shade except early morning or late afternoon. I can get to the engine by just popping the hood and only have to deal with one axle and tires on 16" rims. Easier to replace and work with compared to the larger ones.

There are advantages and disadvantages either way you go. You are just going to have to look at several models until one catches your fancy and then go from there.
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Old 09-09-2014, 03:49 PM   #4
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The Ford V10 is one if not the most reliable of engines. 10 years old would put you in a 2004 which does not have a reliability problem. There were some issues before 2002. Diesel is great for towing in the mountains and also reliable but unless you have money in the bank, a repair especially on an older diesel could set you back thousands. They are more costly to maintain. If you are on a tight budget I would recommend you stick with gas.

You are also correct that many campsites have length limits. In the smaller sites height could also be an issue especially here in the Northeast. We stayed under 30' for that reason. If you will be out west or sticking to RV parks height/length will not be as much of a problem.
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Old 09-09-2014, 10:41 PM   #5
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The class c will ride much better than the A because you have coil springs up front not leaf springs.

The smaller you go the more power you will have just because of weight.
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Old 09-10-2014, 06:50 PM   #6
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I also was back and forth on class A vs. class C. I looked pretty hard at diesel pushers as a friend had just purchased one before retiring. He was very impressed by the amount of pull that it had with a toad.

Anyway after much going back and forth on cost of first MH purchase, I opted for a C , 29', 2 slides. Plan on pulling a crv with it most of the time. It has the V10 Triton engine with under 10k miles. Not used to much over 11 years. I know that an upgrade will probably be in the future, from what I have read. Thought I would give this a try and see how we like and don't like certain things about it.

Best to you in your decision.
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Old 09-11-2014, 10:45 PM   #7
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Sorry for the late reply.

Regarding the Ford V10, I've heard of several cases where the engine has been replaced several times at low mileage. I've also seen ads where the engine has been replaced at under 40K as well as people complaining about the hassle of a warranty repair. I'm not sure what the details are there, but I don't want to be doing that on an older RV with money out of my own pocket.

I think if I had a long time, I could find the perfect one but for right now my strategy is to find the absolutely best one for me in terms of condition, floorplan and cost, regardless of whether that happens to be a Class A or Class C.

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Old 09-12-2014, 04:40 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by bb32 View Post
Regarding the Ford V10, I've heard of several cases where the engine has been replaced several times at low mileage. I've also seen ads where the engine has been replaced at under 40K as well as people complaining about the hassle of a warranty repair. I'm not sure what the details are there, but I don't want to be doing that on an older RV with money out of my own pocket.

I really don't think you will find a problem with a properly maintained V10 built after 2002. I'm sure a few of any engine has had a problem due to poor maintenance. The V10 is the most common engine in RVs today and has been for several years. I would be more worried about an older diesel engine. Repairs as you know can easily run into the thousands.
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