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Old 01-21-2021, 01:31 PM   #1
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Why aren't Ford Transit Motorhomes more Popular?

Been researching small Class C motorhomes (24ft) and noticed that the Ford Transit chassis is not very popular. By far the Sprinter and E350 are much more common.

Are there limitations of the standard V6 Transit chassis (as opposed to EcoBoost or I5 turbo diesel) that make it less appealing to buyers? I realize the V6 has less torque, but beyond being a little slower and less capable of pulling are there are other issues?

Is the main issue that the Transit is new to the market?

Should we count our losses and purchase a Winnebago View/Navion on the Sprinter chassis despite the increased complexity and cost of the MB turbo diesel over the NA Ford V6 that gets only slightly less MPG? It also looks like the Sprinter has an expansive aftermarket parts bin to select from for upgrades that the Ford may lack.

Thanks!
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Old 01-21-2021, 02:01 PM   #2
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Cost is a big factor and I think that you will see far more E350/E450s on the road vs the Sprinter or Transit option.
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Old 01-21-2021, 02:04 PM   #3
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when I looked it was towing capacity and GVWR that sent me down the road
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Old 01-21-2021, 02:12 PM   #4
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My understanding of cost is that E350 < Transit < Sprinter. I thought that Sprinters were ~$20k more than a similar E350 gas motorhome.

It seems like the Transit is a nice compromise for small Class C motorhomes because it provides a cheaper initial purchase price, reasonable MPG, SUV-like handling (similar to Sprinter), ease of repair, and lower cost of parts.

Given that, what is the catch?
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Old 01-21-2021, 02:16 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gatorb8 View Post
when I looked it was towing capacity and GVWR that sent me down the road
Understood! I have seen towing numbers in the 2k pounds range for the Transit, which isn't great. Honda Fit seems to be a popular choice and even that is 2.5k pounds.

We are *not* planning to do too much towing so that is less of an issue. GVWR still is not great though.
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Old 01-21-2021, 07:00 PM   #6
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Hope to see more Transit based class C

Quote:
Originally Posted by Albatross View Post
Understood! I have seen towing numbers in the 2k pounds range for the Transit, which isn't great. Honda Fit seems to be a popular choice and even that is 2.5k pounds.

We are *not* planning to do too much towing so that is less of an issue. GVWR still is not great though.
I just purchased a Transit based Class C: Coachmen Leprechaun 200CBT (ex rental)

I like Transit because:
1. Better ride&handling than E350
2. Better MPG 12-13 compares to E350's 9-10
3. Modern cabin features
4. Quieter engine (3.7L)

Disadvantages compares to E350:
1. Lower GVWR, limited towing capability
2. Lower GVWR, Cannot build Class C over 25ft

It is true that quite hard to find a Transit based class C/B+ on the market.
Only a few options:
1. ex rental Coachmen 200CBT
2. Used Coachmen Orion
3. New Coachmen Cross Trek (85-90K before tax)
4. New Thor Compass/Gemini (85-90K before tax)
5. Leisure travel vans Wonder (140K+, 12 months waiting)
6. 2022 Winnebago EKKO (130K+)
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Old 01-21-2021, 07:47 PM   #7
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That makes sense for the Transit versus the E350 chassis.

Any idea why more manufacturers aren't offering Transit options? The list is currently pretty short. Winnebago small Class C had the Fuse (Transit) and Trend (Profmaster) for a few years and then went back to all MB minus the Ekko with the AWD Ford EcoBoost (nice, but expensive).

Also, how would you compare the NA Transit to the Sprinter? I know the Sprinter has more weight capacity, climbs better especially at altitude with the turbo, and gets better mpg. I am however concerned about the maintenance costs on the Sprinter especially for the models with DEF (2010 and onward).
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Old 01-21-2021, 08:04 PM   #8
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Overall, I am trying to get my head around if it is better to purchase a late model used Transit such as the Coachmen 200CBT (like you mentioned) or a 2008 or 2009 (pre DEF) Winnebago View/Navion with reasonable miles on it.

The newer Transit (say 2016 - 2019) and the older View are about the same price in the *current* crazy used market.
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Old 01-21-2021, 08:07 PM   #9
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When the Transit first came out for RV applications, it could not handle as much weight as the Sprinter and E350. As a result, Transit-based motor homes were built quite small.

BUT....Recently Ford has been making changes to the Transit to increase it weight and towing capability. So you should see an increase in their popularity. I believe some of the changes involve a stronger frame.

Concerning the Transit engine, I noticed the diesel is becoming less popular, and a gasoline engine increasing in popularity, but I might be wrong about that. If so, someone please correct me.

Concerning a Sprinter of any model year since DEF was introduced, some owners are finding that they spend more on scheduled maintenance and repairs, than in the fuel they save. Over-all cost to operate is significantly more than an E350. If seriously considering a Sprinter, you need to research that. Don't take my word alone.

Comparing a new Transit to a new 2021 E350 for an otherwise identical motor home, you may find your fuel economy to be less of an improvement than expected....especially with a gasoline engine.
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Old 01-21-2021, 08:42 PM   #10
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I have wondered the same. Ignoring prior year Transits, cutaway chassis specifically for the Class C, for 2020 Ford stepped up their game where it potentially could be a Mercedes killer, yet manufacturers are not only not taking advantage of it, Coachmen discontinued the Orion and Winnebago discontinued the Fuse, both of which could have been re-engineered for conservative floor plans. Nothing against them, but the replacement are rough and tumble MOAB ready boondocking RV with living space dedicated to accommodate adventure support equipment. Floorplans are designed around that...abd the best selling Sprinter floorplan - Murphy bed slide - is not available which would translate into an opportunity for re-introduced Orion/Fuze. Great for the niche they serve, but many don't require MOAB ready for 99% of use, and boondocking is Harvest Host.

While the diesel was dropped, not available in, unfortunately two gas engines with the same 3.5L displacement which creates confusion, The regular 3.5L 275HP/262lb ft torque should be avoided. Rather the 3.5L Ecoboost Turbo (with AWD) should be the only one considered by RV manufacturers. This engine is 310HP 400 lb ft torque vs Mercedes 188/325. Significantly increased GVWR/GCWR from the prior model where now 11000/15000 vs Mercedes 11,030/15250. Two dually wheelbases 156 and 178 vs Mercedes 170. Ford rated the towing on their towing guide at 7500lb for both wheelbases, but those are not built out and indicated that has capability. As with all RV's your are limited by the build of the house and the GCWR. Roughly consider the GCWR minus all other weights hitting GVWR, or 4000 lbs, roughly equal to the 4200 for Mercedes. Most LTV Wonders do have the 4000 lb limit with the exception of the rear twin bed floorplan and it's huge rear storage (chassis stretch???) apparently impacted the hitch limiting it to a Class 2 (2000lb) where other models are Class 3 or 4 (5000b)

At least LTV, and one floorplan of the Ekko, use the 178" wheelbase, making them most competitive with the Sprinter. The Crosstrek, Compass/Gemini, and most reviewed floorplan of the Ekko use the shorter 156" wheelbase.

The manufacturers need to step up with both the Transit and the E350/450 chassis. The reason the E350/E450 are less expensive is like comparing apples to oranges. While Ford made upgrades, such as the 7.3L engine and dash systems, The house is the neglected stepchild with none of the upgrades or options of the Sprinter and potentially Transit. No instant hot water, forget solar other than "solar ready" without offering a solar package for that "solar ready". Lithium upgrade...don't make me laugh.
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Old 01-21-2021, 10:06 PM   #11
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PCH, where did you buy your Coachmen Leprechaun 200CBT?
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Old 01-21-2021, 11:57 PM   #12
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Why aren't Ford Transit Motorhomes more Popular?

Several good answers here on why the transit thus far is less popular. Another reason vs the Ford E-series is that E series can also be a wider house than the transit or sprinter. That allows for more floor plan options. I owned a 2008 Winnebago View. To add to the possible controversy, my View was a (gasp!) gasoline engine and not diesel! Power was fine. I towed a 2003 Chevy Tracker when I wanted a toad along for the ride. MPG was 12-14. I enjoyed the View after I added Sumo Springs. Before that it was a tip and sway nightmare. I agree that the sweet spot with the View/Navion is the pre-DEF years of going with diesel.

I wanted to lower some bills, so I sold it a couple of years ago and rented RVs for awhile. Got back in late 2019 with a 2004 Coachmen Concord on the E450 chassis for $20k and one owner. Sure glad I did with Covid making this a perfect option for vacations. MPG is 8-10, tows anything I want, a lot of carrying capacity, and a zillion places to find parts and get repairs (if ever needed) - even in the sticks - that was more of a challenge with the View on the sprinter chassis.
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Old 01-22-2021, 02:36 AM   #13
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Really useful information. Thanks everyone for filling in some of the back story.

It sounds like historically the Transit and potentially even more so the Promaster have had too low of a weight capability to really be contenders in the 24ft Class C category. The Sprinter remained mostly unchallenged for smaller Class C applications besides indirectly by the E350 with half the MPG until the AWD Transit came out with the EcoBoost. The 400 ft-lbs of torque is definitely a game changer. I noticed that Winnebago has not let this opportunity pass with the introduction of the Ekko in two wheelbases.

It makes sense that in the midterm for small Class C coaches that they would move to gas. Direct injection turbo gas engines now can deliver respectable performance while getting reasonable mpg. Mpg is not quite as good as a diesel, but getting closer. These engines are cheaper to manufacture, gas is easier to come by, easier/cheaper to maintain, and the ever-tightening emissions issues with diesel is sidestepped.

I spoke to a veteran Mercedes mechanic about the details of the different years of the Sprinter. He basically said it is a luxury vehicle that can get expensive to maintain and to avoid DEF Sprinters at nearly all costs. It sounded like the newer ones were getting a little better and would have a warranty that *usually* covers DEF issues. As touched on the fuel savings is not significant enough to cover the potential repair costs when compared to an E350 workhorse.

For that price point, I believe that leaves me with pre-DEF Sprinters, pre-EcoBoost Transits (hard to find), and the E350 (dated house layout). I have not been considering the Promaster Class C too much given that it is FWD, has a lower weight capacity than the NA Transist, and is also very difficult to find.

Understanding the landscape is helpful. It sounds like there is no silver bullet, but it is helpful to move forward with eyes wide open.
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Old 01-22-2021, 07:50 AM   #14
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Albatross,

We bought our E350-based rig new in 2007 with the intent on it being our last RV purchase. We hope it lasts another 25 years with continued indoor storage being key to that goal.

If I had to make that same decision today with the various chassis choices, I would still select the E350 chassis. Yes it is a "dated truck" but it's popularity is so for very good reasons. The frame, the transmission, and the engine are all extremely robust. Adding in that last year, Ford increased drivability and fuel efficiency through additional gears in the transmission, and the new engine that runs more quietly, makes it better than when we bought ours. The lack of creature comforts is easy to get used to.

Driving our E350 is not like driving a truck. It is still quite comfortable. The engine makes noise only under high-torque conditions. It is quiet when cruising along. Our particular aerodynamics has minimal wind noise. Neither my wife or I have issues with our driving experience. We can hold a conversation without raising our voices. My wife is very comfortable driving our rig with tow vehicle on the open road which says a lot about our particular E350 motor home.

I did replace some suspension items with heavy duty versions to make it handle extremely well. The E350 suspension benefits from aftermarket heavy duty stabilizer bars and shocks and steering stabilizer. Unlike the Transit and Sprinter, you "can" improve handling. Our particular E350 rig with it's weight distribution, has allowed me to install softer front coil springs. Doing so has further improved our driving comfort as well as leveling the rig better. If curious, you can read about it by CLICKING HERE. I included pictures and measurements.

I look at it this way. The Transit and Sprinter are more car-like. With that comes increased car-like comforts, but also car-like limitations and car-like longevity. A motor home and it's contents max's out the chassis, Transit, Sprinter, or E350. So which max'd-out chassis would be best? The most robust one, especially if your plan is to keep it a very long time or when buying an old one, of coarse assuming vehicle conditions are identical. A small gasoline engine with a turbo and mating transmission will be less robust than a normally aspirated large engine with a serious transmission. The ~2-3 mpg difference in fuel economy isn't a world apart either.
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