I am publishing this blog to share my experience with Roadtrek when purchasing a new CS Adventurous. Read my story before you decide a Roadtrek is right for you.
I am publishing this blog to share my experience with Roadtrek when purchasing a new CS Adventurous. Read my story before you decide a Roadtrek is right for you.
Those who know anything above the RV industry probably know everything they want to know about this news. As of February 15, 2019 – Roadtrek / Erwin Hymer Group NA no longer exists. Very shortly after this announcement, the roadtrek.com website is gone, all of their nearly 1,000 employees have been laid off, and the gates to all of their Kitchener plants have been padlocked.
It’s was a stunning development that has taken us as well as the thousands of owners by surprise, who are now left high and dry without any answers. The events that led up to the meltdown on the surface spanned only a few weeks, but what was happening within the company was something that was likely stewing for years.
Let me first be up front and say that I know very little about the Erwin Hymer / Roadtrek company. I’ve compiled my information from news articles and Canadian news outlets. We were just trying to understand what could have happened to such a promising company. I do know that right around the time that Roadtrek agreed to replace our van in early 2016 they were also in the process of being purchases by a German based recreational vehicle manufacturer called Erwin Hymer Group. They were a very large and well respected company in Europe, so at the time it was promising news to think that a well established company was here to make positive improvements to the Roadtrek Brand.
The newly established Erwin Hymer Group North America had big plans for the American market. They first began to build the Hymer branded motorhomes out of the Roadtrek facilities. Other brand names were launched from this new company, including Carado and Sunlight. Between 2016 and 2019 the company expanded quickly, leasing additional warehouse space and hiring hundreds of new employees. According to news reports they had nearly 1,000 employees as of early 2019.
In recent months rumors began swirling about Thor Industries looking to purchase Roadtrek / Erwin Hymer Group NA. It was apparently during this purchase process that things began to unravel. You can find many articles that better describe in detail the events that unfolded. I’ll provide a summary, but I’ll also provide links to the articles and news reports that kept us informed throughout the ordeal.
The meltdown began coincidentally the same week as the huge RV show in Tampa Florida. From the outside everything looked great for the Roadtrek / Erwin Hymer. Roadtrek debuted a brand new model called the Haven, which is the first Roadtrek to be built on the Ford Transit Chassis. It was day two of the Tampa show that we got our first news of problems for the company:
January 16, 2019
Canadian CTV News reports that nearly 100 employees were being laid off from the company effective immediately. A letter given to employees cited that an economic downturn was not anticipated and resulted in a drop in sales. Most if not all of these employees were just hired within the last three months.
January 17, 2019
Reports began coming out that several top executives from Roadtrek / Erwin Hymer Group NA were escorted from the building and suspended, including company president and CEO Jim Hammill, who was reportedly on sick leave at the time.
January 18, 2019
Canadian news began reporting that “financial irregularities” were discovered during an audit that Thor Industries and / or Hymer was conducting in preparation for the purchase of the company. It was reported that 1,700 invoices may have been fabricated, and those fraudulent invoices could account for as much as $100 million in value. It was also reported that family members of high level executives were on the payroll, but didn’t officially work for either Roadtrek or Hymer.
From a press release issued by Erwin Hymer Group:
We wish to inform you about recent developments in our company. Erwin Hymer Group (EHG) is currently reviewing the business of Erwin Hymer Group North America (EHG NA). An initial investigation has shown irregularities in the company’s reporting. We have initiated a detailed audit procedure involving external auditors. Erwin Hymer Group is acting in accordance with its zero tolerance policy and is committed to a full and complete investigation. While the matter is investigated, several managers have been suspended pending the outcome of the investigation.
As an immediate measure we assigned Robert Quine and Thomas Martin to support the ongoing operations of EHG NA and the external investigation.Thor Industries has announced that it expects that the purchase of Erwin Hymer Group will be completed within the company’s fiscal third quarter ending April 30, 2019. Due to the ongoing investigation, Thor Industries and EHG’s selling shareholders are finalizing discussions to exclude EHG’s North American operations from Thor’s purchase of EHG.
We are fully aware that this news generates unease and raises concerns. It is our objective to keep uncertainty as low as possible and we expect to have a full assessment of the situation in the coming weeks. We will inform you on further developments. Please be assured that we are doing everything we can to minimize any potential impact of this situation on our customers, business partners and employees in North America.
January 21, 2019
Thor Industries announced that it would exclude the North American portion of the Erwin Hymer company from the purchase agreement.
From a press release issued by Thor Industries, Inc.:
ELKHART, Ind., Jan. 21, 2019 – Thor Industries, Inc. (NYSE: THO) today provided an update on its pending acquisition of the Erwin Hymer Group (EHG). The Company announced that Thor and the sellers are finalizing discussions to exclude EHG’s North American operations from Thor’s purchase of EHG. Thor and EHG are currently negotiating appropriate revisions to the terms of the stock purchase agreement including adjustments to the purchase price and assumed liabilities as a consequence of the exclusion of EHG’s North American operations.
February 1, 2019
Thor Industries announces the closing of Erwin Hymer Group acquisition.
From a press release issued by Thor Industries, Inc.:
ELKHART, Ind., Feb. 1, 2019- Thor Industries, Inc. (NYSE: THO) today announced it has completed its acquisition of Erwin Hymer Group (EHG), one of Europe’s largest makers of recreational vehicles (RVs), effective February 1, 2019. The combination of Thor and EHG creates the world’s largest RV manufacturer, with leading positions in both North America and Europe. The acquisition excludes EHG’s North American businesses, and reflects a €170 million (approximately $194 million) purchase price reduction and a €180 million (approximately $205 million) reduction in the obligations the Company would have otherwise assumed under the terms of the original stock purchase agreement.
February 15, 2019
Erwin Hymer Group North America filed for receivership, which is essentially another term for bankruptcy. They terminated the remainder of it’s workforce, catching both employees and RV owners by surprise. Not only did it upset the entire economy in the Kitchener area, it left us RV owns in a panic, with no one there to answer questions like; will anyone be able to service my RV? What happens when a proprietary part breaks and we can’t source a replacement?
Below is a link to the law firm handling the receivership matter. You can read up on all of the court filings, as well as a complete list of the creditors which to date is almost $300,000,000.
It’s a tragic ending to a brand that promised so much to so many people, and it wasn’t even the poor quality control that killed the company. We feel extremely sympathetic to the employees and vendors that worked so hard, only to be left high and dry. There were also hundreds of vendors that were stiffed for millions of dollars. When a company goes into bankruptcy no one comes out a winner, and from what I’ve read so far in the court filings – this was a painful blow to many.
Let’s not forget that 6 Year Piece of Mind Warranty that has been a top selling point for the Roadtrek and Hymer brand – not a single Roadtrek buyer received the full term of that warranty. We were afraid to make any repairs on our own in fear of voiding our warranty, and in the end it didn’t even matter.
While things didn’t sound promising, there was a glimmer of hope for the Roadtrek brand. The company remained in receivership status through the end of March 2019. During this time someone could provide a proposal to purchase the company and revive the brand at some point in the future. If a buyer was not secured within the period of receivership, the remaining assets of the company would be liquidated.
June 17, 2019
The Canadian courts formally approved the sale of Roadtrek to the France-based manufacturer Rapido, which also owns the Westfalia brand. You may remember the name which was popular back in the 60’s and 70’s. It’s still not announced if the Westfalia will be reborn in North America.
As of this writing the “new” Roadtrek is still in the rebuilding process. The Roadtrek owners have been promised parts availability in the near future which is great news. What isn’t great news is the thousands of customers that lost their warranty when the company folded.
In a surprising gesture, the new owner agreed to offer a 2 year warranty for up to $1,500 in repairs for those who purchased their Roadtrek prior to the announcement of the receivership. This warranty was not offered for any of the other Hymer brands including the Carado and Sunlight.
In July of 2019, Rapido announced that they were excluding the warranty on all CS Adventurous, TS Adventurous, RS Adventurous and E-Trek models with second row seating built on the Sprinter chassis. This was an issue with models built betwwen 2013 to 2019. Roadtrek installed safety restraints on the second row seating that did not meet the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. Owners were notified and advised not to transport people in the second row sets until the problem is corrected. As of this writing there is still no fix for this issue.
We may never know what really happened behind the scenes at Roadtrek that led to its demise. We’re excited to see what Rapido brings to the Roadtrek brand. It may take a year or two but Roadtrek will come back. With better leadership and a focus on quality control, there is no doubt that they will find their niche in the Class B market once again.
We’ve come to the conclusion that something will always be broken with our RV. Maybe this is normal for any house on wheels. As time goes on I think that angry energy has turned to positive – and for the first time I really think we’re OK with it! No matter what our Roadtrek decides to throw at us we will make the best of it, and maybe even fix it ourselves. But I would love to some day have the confidence to hit the road without worrying about what could possibly go wrong next.
Thankfully our new problem didn’t spoil our travel plans this season, but it did spoil all of our food and even worse – our stash of ice cream. The refrigerator had been on the fritz for a while, but it did seem to return to normal working order for a very short period of time… then it just died. Like all warranty repairs this was going to require at least 2 trips to the dealer – one to diagnose and the second to repair or replace.
Dealers always seem to be booked up for appointments, and it took over a month to finally get in to have the refrigerator diagnosed. It was obvious to us that it was dead and the service center confirmed this. We now had to wait another several weeks for the warranty approval and replacement. When the replacement refrigerator finally came in we had a new problem – the service center was booked for weeks and couldn’t accommodate us. We didn’t purchase our RV from this dealership so I wasn’t upset with them, just once again frustrated with the whole industry.
I then decided to take matters into my own hands. I notified the service center that I would be picking up the new refrigerator and installing it myself. At this point I didn’t care about voiding a warranty – I just needed it to be done. I drove up the next day and removed the dead refrigerator in their parking lot. It was a very easy installation with just some basic wiring and a few dozen screws. Thankfully the new refrigerator has worked perfectly ever since.
We’ve had relatively good luck with the Alde heating system since it was upgraded earlier in the year with the rear bench fans and modified floor loop fittings. That being said we’ve never really been able to explain why on rare occasions the Alde control panel would go black and the system would reboot itself. It only happened a few times that we actually witnessed, so this was one of those impossible things to have the dealer diagnose. There was also a cold February morning that I awoke at 3AM freezing cold only to learn that the Alde system had shut itself off. I thought maybe we were having power issues again since our van has had issues in the past, and back to the refrigerator failure – maybe it was indirectly related to a power issue.
Fast forward to September 2018 – time for our annual pilgrimage to the Hershey RV show. We headed to Hershey, PA and stayed at a nearby Walmart. Temperatures were cool but not freezing. The Alde system quickly heated the cabin and we went to sleep warm and toasty, only to wake up with a chill in the air. If you were guessing that the Alde heating system was broken again you are correct! Unfortunately this time the Alde did not recover – it was completely dead.
Taking a VERY cold shower on a chilly September morning actually felt quite refreshing – I laughed and screamed my way through it. How could we have such terrible luck with this van?
Fortunately we were once again at the right place to get the answers we needed. As soon as we got into the show we headed to the Alde display where for the first time we met Spencer, who is a service technician for Alde and happened to be the person that helped coordinate some of our earlier repairs.
They had an Alde 3010 unit on display, and Spencer went through some of the possible causes of our system failure and how to test them using the example unit. At this point we weren’t sure if it was a power problem on the Roadtrek side or an Alde system problem. Before we went into the show we checked both the 12v and 120v fuses on the Roadtrek side and they were all fine. Spencer pointed us to two locations on the Alde boiler that also had fuses that could fail. Once Spencer realized that we had our van in the parking lot he insisted on coming out to help diagnose the problem. Within a few minutes we had our answer – the control board was fried.
Since Alde only warranties the components for 2 years, we would need to go through Roadtrek to get the part ordered. Roadtrek has a warranty process, and since we already had the problem diagnosed by a professional, we felt like it wasn’t necessary to take it to the dealer to also be diagnosed.
We headed over to the Roadtrek display and ran into a familiar face – Leo Haire. We had met him 2 years before when we were having our first round of Alde issues. He got right on the phone with the warranty department and said he would attempt to source the parts from the factory and ship them directly to me. The warranty department was closing for the weekend so I was supposed to get a confirmation call on Monday as to when to expect the part.
We made the best of the remainder of our time in Hershey. As always we enjoyed the show. With a few exceptions it wasn’t really a year of new releases. The new Mercedes chassis is expected in February of 2019, so I think RV manufacturers are holding back on releasing anything revolutionary.
We had planned a week long trip after the Hershey show, but because of the lack of heat we were once again forced to cancel our plans and we headed home. That return call from Roadtrek that we were expecting the following Monday never happened. We should have received the part in a few days, but it took several phone calls to finally get the control board shipped – 2 weeks later.
With the confidence of replacing a refrigerator under our belt, we thought hey let’s just replace the control board ourselves. It was really just a few screws and a whole lot of wire connections to swap out, but what made the project the most challenging was space. The Alde is tucked into the bottom of the pantry cabinet, and there’s very little room to maneuver. The connections to the Alde control board were simple to get to, but there was one connection in particular that took a lot of force to pull out, and I thought for sure I was going to break something. It took some time and a couple bloody knuckles but we were able to get the part replaced, and it worked! I would not consider this to be a do it yourself project. Access to the screws was very tight because of the Roadtrek cabinetry. I can’t thank Spencer enough for going the extra mile to get us up and running again. If you have a problem with your Roadtrek heating system he is definitely the guy to track down. Leo Haire was also very helpful as usual, but again Roadtrek didn’t follow through on their end to send us the parts which was disappointing.
So what did we learn from our latest experience? Don’t be afraid to tackle some problems on your own. I’ve always been afraid of doing something that would compromise my 6 year warranty, but in the end we must also look at the bigger picture. Before we replaced that control board we did call the service center to get an idea of how long it would take to get an appointment – how about 2 months!! At this point I don’t care about my 6 year “Peace of Mind Warranty”. We just want a van that we can use when we want to use it, and for us that means a little self help.
I promise that this will be the last I write about RV toilets for a very long time. I don’t think I could even tally up the amount of hours I’ve spent trying to solve the odor problem in our Roadtrek. We’ve been to the Roadtrek factory in Canada and 2 Roadtrek service centers multiple times but they could not solve the problem. It’s exhausting listening to the same questions over and over again from the service center, like:
Do you make sure that there is water in the bowl of the toilet at all times?
Do you make sure that there is water in all of your P-traps?
Are you sure the odor isn’t coming from your grey tank?
Do you clean the black tank after every use?
Did you forget to use a tank deodorizer?
These are all great questions to ask when troubleshooting an odor problem – but we knew what the problem was – we reported to the dealer and Roadtrek what the problem was – and finally after 4+ attempts we fixed it ourselves. Just as others have reported – the Thetford toilet was the problem and replacing it immediately fixed our odor issue.
In our opinion the Thetford toilet has a critical design flaw. When the waste drops from the Thetford bowl into the black tank, it drops past a section of the toilet that is open to the inside body of the toilet. It’s not a problem if the toilet is properly sealed to the flange and all seams are property bonded together during manufacturing. It IS a problem if they are not, and I can’t imagine how we could have been lucky enough to get 2 toilets that had the same problem.
We searched long and far for a toilet that would fit in the same space as the Thetford Aqua Magic V. Not only does the toilet flange have to fit with an offset of about 7 1/2 inches off of the back wall, it also sits on a shelf in the Roadtrek wet bath so it must be the low profile model. The only close match that we were able to find was the Dometic 300 Series. Since it’s a special order item we had no way to measure to be sure it would fit. It was a risk worth taking since we felt that there was nowhere else to turn.
When you put the Thetford and Dometic side by side the difference in size is noticeable. The Dometic is larger and is just slightly higher than the Aqua Magic V. What I didn’t like about either of them was how inexpensive they look and feel. If I had a choice I would have replaced it with a China bowl toilet – I can’t believe no one makes one that would fit.
Despite the larger footprint I was relieved to learn that the Dometic actually fit in the Roadtrek wet bath. I got everything temporarily fit into place then I realized that it wasn’t quite a perfect fit after all. When I lifted the seat I realized that the right side was rubbing against the corner of the shower surround. The Roadtrek has a slight bump in the back corner to allow room for the vent pipe. At this point we were willing to do anything to get this to fit. So out comes the Dremel to shave down the toilet seat. A warning to others – plastic gets molten when you’re cutting it with a Dremel, and boy does it burn! The actual lid needed no modifications, but I had to slice about a 1/2 inch of the seat off. It really isn’t a big deal and doesn’t affect performance at all. The water line also needed some modifications to work with the Dometic, but these parts were readily available at our local hardware store.
I’m relieved to report that the toilet problem is finally solved! We’ve taken several road trips since installation and haven’t had any odor issues. Is it a perfect solution – absolutely not. Does the toilet look a little strange with a slice taken out of the toilet seat – maybe a little. Does the cheap plastic toilet creak when you sit on it as others have reported – yep.
Now that we have a working solution, we wanted to get to the bottom of the waste issues with the Thetford. We flipped the toilet upside down and filled the inside of the toilet cavity with water. When installed, this chamber would be open to the black tank, so if water leaked anywhere this could be the source of the odor. Sure enough the toilet immediately began to leak out of the seam at the rear of the toilet. How could something so obvious be overlooked so many times.
Since the toilet had already been replaced about 6 months before, I decided to reach out to Thetford directly to see if this really could be the source of the odor. The technician that assisted me seemed eager to assist. We emailed back and forth, and I even sent a video of the leaking seam. Thetford immediately determined that the toilet was defective and sent me a new one.
I have a working toilet so for now the Dometic will stay. But maybe some day I’ll run a bead of caulking around the defective seam and reinstall the old one just to see if that was actually the source of the problem. Or maybe I’ll install the new one that was just sent to me. What are the chances that 3 toilets in a row would have the same problem? Then again with our luck…
If you’re having waste issues in your RV with the Thetford toilet don’t just accept it – something is wrong! We don’t use tank treatments (that really just mask odors and sometimes smell just as off-putting as anything else in the tank), and with our now properly sealed system, we still have no odors at all. To properly diagnose the problem I offer up the following steps that ultimately led us to a solution. Again we are not professionals so you should always verify that any work you do won’t void your warranty.
1. You first want to make sure that the odor isn’t actually coming from the grey water tank. In our RV the vent pipe for the grey and black are connected together so there’s a chance that odor could backwash down the vent pipe and up through the sinks. Run water through all of your sink and shower drains. You can even plug the drain and add a little water to the sink to be sure that everything is sealed. Take a drive to verify that the odor is still present.
2. If the smell is still present, then the odor isn’t in the grey tank. You can then mask off the toilet as we did in Chapter 21. This was a pain to do, but it proved to us without a doubt that the odor was at the toilet and nowhere else.
3. Inspect the 2 bolts that hold the toilet to the floor. Verify that these bolts are tightened.
4. Remove the toilet and inspect the flange. Many toilet problems can be solved by replacing the seal between the toilet and floor flange.
5. Flip the toilet over and fill the body with water. If water leaks through any of the seams then so can waste odor. Replace the toilet and get RVing!
I would like to thank the fine folks at both The Interstate Blog (interstateblog.blogspot.com) and Roadtrek Life (roadtreklife.blogspot.com) for having the same stinky model of toilet and for both braving the smelly ordeal of replacing it so that others could see that sometimes (most times?) you can rely more on fellow owners than the service centers or even manufacturers for tracking down a problem and finding the solution.
So this marks the end of our toilet talk, but it isn’t, however, the end of our problems. We’ll get to that in another Chapter, and maybe even dive into some modifications that we did to improve the functionality of the wet bath sink and shower. Until then we count down the days ’till the next Hershey RV Show!
I understand and accept the fact that things will go wrong with any RV – I know I’ve probably written this in previous posts. I just can’t comprehend why it’s happening so often, and multiple times to the same parts. I’m sure you can understand my shock and frustration that my Alde system was leaking again. Of course the system was nearly drained before we realized it. This time I knew that with a clamp I could in a “pinch” off the hose that runs to the auto bleeder valve and stop the leak temporarily.
I took a trip to the dealer to stock up on Alde propylene glycol, which as I’ve mentioned before is extremely difficult to find. Once I had replenished the system I decided to try to bypass the bleeder valve to see if it’s pressure or gravity causing the problem. I purchased some clear tubing and connected it to the side of the bleeder valve. Once the Alde system was running, fluid began filling the tube. It seemed like the warmer the fluid the faster the fluid would build up in the tube. This made me suspect that pressure in the system was pushing the glycol right through the valve, and the valve is designed to relieve pressure, not release fluid. I was also continuing to get air pockets in the floor which prevents the floor heat from working.
I know I’ve been critical of Roadtrek, but I will say that this round of repairs has been considerably better than the MANY interactions that involved them in the past. I began a dialog with a Roadtrek representative who was responsive with returning my phone calls and answering emails. I also reached out to Alde USA, who put me in touch with a technician that not only called me several times to diagnose the problem over the phone, but also kept in touch via text throughout the repair process. In my discussions with the technician from Alde, it was determined that something, maybe metal or plastic shavings from installation, could have entered the piping and collected in the bleeder valve. He also recommended replacing the ’T’ on each side of the floor loop. It was redesigned with a slight curve to better direct the flow through the floor and cut back on turbulence which could also lead to the air pockets.
A special bleeder pump was also required for this repair. This pump would not only be used to purge air from the system once repaired, it would be used to force fluid through all of the lines to dislodge any particles that may still be lingering. Alde was to ship out the parts for the auto bleeder, replacement glycol and bleeder pump. I had to contact Roadtrek and request what they call the Alde Upgrade Kit, which has the parts needed for the modified floor loop fittings.
The plan was to make this my final trip to the dealer to address all of the lingering issues and have a 100% working van. I wanted to have all of the parts on hand waiting for me, and everyone on board with the required repairs. At the same time I decided to try my luck with another service center, since the dealership I purchased from didn’t seem interested in making the appointment for the repairs.
Since I had pre-planned everything in advance I thought that this would be at most a 2 to 3 day repair. I stepped into the service department and met the service advisor in person for the first time, after speaking to him on the phone several times. The first thing he said was “can you remind me what you’re having serviced – it was a Travato correct?” As you can imagine the confidence that I was feeling for this new service center was immediately gone. I’ve developed a pretty high tolerance for incompetence when it comes to RV repairs and just played along. My experience other than that was just fine. But all of the pre-planning that I did was a complete waste because Alde forgot to ship the parts to the dealership. So my 2 to 3 day repair once again became another 2 week repair.
I can happily report that everything went relatively well once the parts arrived – in fact almost too well. What I didn’t know is that the Alde Upgrade Kit not only includes modified floor loop fittings, but also a newly configured convector with powered fans located under the rear bench. It was actually a pleasant surprise, since heat circulation from under the sofa when converted to a bed was poor, and now with the powered fans the hot air gets circulated throughout the coach. If you’re having problems with heat in your van give Roadtrek a call and mention the Alde Upgrade Kit – it may save you a lot of cold nights, and it may be covered under warranty! The system hasn’t leaked glycol since the repairs, and we’ve had several cold adventures so far to test the system.
Next up was the toilet. Despite my emails with Roadtrek, they either dismissed or ignored the links I shared describing our exact problem that others were also having with waste odors. There are are least two other people that have had so many issues with their Thetford toilets that they published a step by step process on how to diagnose and replace it. Here’s a link to both blogs if you missed our earlier chapters:
I put my trust in this new service center to give it their best shot despite my doubts. They removed the toilet and installed a new gasket. They also sealed the gap around the floor flange with silicone caulking. They then test drove and didn’t smell any odors. Did they finally fix the problem? Could this be the end of repairs? Nope!
As soon as we began using the toilet the problem was back once again. I’m now confident that the odor problem is worse during warmer temperatures, which is maybe why the new service center wasn’t able to easily duplicate the problem. When it’s cold it seems like you have to drive longer for the odor to take over. In warmer temperatures I can drive a few minutes and immediately smell the funk.
It’s clear in my opinion that Roadtrek, and their authorized service centers are unable to repair this toilet, and they will not cover under warranty the installation of an alternative brand. So I will take the advice of the other used-to-own-a-Thetford-until-the-smell-became-unbearable owners who were kind enough to share their own smelly war stories and I will replace it myself. We placed the order today and will hopefully be able to install it within a few days.
But will that prevent us from visiting the service center again? Unfortunately the answer once again is no. If you’re wondering about the second ‘step back’ in this post’s title, I would introduce you to my Norcold refrigerator, which is now doing it’s best impression of a warm pantry cabinet. A few weeks ago the refrigerator stopped cooling, and at the highest setting the freezer temperature gets down to around 40 degrees. Now I’m beginning to wonder if our lackluster solar performance was because the refrigerator compressor was constantly running. I’ll have more to report in another month as that’s the wait time for an appointment to get the problem diagnosed, with likely a week or more before it’s repaired. That’s life with our Roadtrek.
Despite all of the problems, we do continue to use our van and love the freedom that it gives us. We’ve been able to see things and go places that we’d never be able to go in a big Class ‘A’. That’s what makes this situation so difficult. We want to love this thing, and if we could get everything working just for a day we’d be thrilled.
Our Roadtrek is still for sale. Who knows if and when it will sell, which puts us in a tough situation. We have considered pre-ordering another brand, but the demand is extremely high and wait times are now ranging from 6 months to a year. If I do sell soon we’ll at least be free to purchase something used and see how it goes for a few years. Maybe buying used is the way to go as that first owner may just have all of the bugs worked out.
I think this gif sums up all I want to say in this Chapter. The Alde heating system is once again leaking glycol and is unusable. Two years of ownership and still dealing with the same problems…
…and the toilet still smells…
In honor of RV shopping season, I thought it would be a great time to bore you with some thoughts about the Class B and B+ offerings currently available and a hopefully helpful spreadsheet of their specifications, like tank capacities and electrical capabilities.
Class B ownership will always be a compromise. Everyone has their own needs when it comes to traveling. I will share my opinions, but that is really just based on our needs and how we travel in our RV. We almost always dry camp (and usually at a Walmart, because if you haven’t woken up to the sound of the street sweeper cleaning a Walmart parking lot as the sun rises, you really haven’t lived), and our average trip is 2 to 3 days, with the longest so far being just under 2 weeks. I hope to spend more days out on the road as I get older, so something slightly larger isn’t out of the question.
We did spend 2 days at the Hershey RV show in September, and I took a close look at what is available. Below I offer my thoughts on each of the Class B and B+ players that we saw at the show.
AIRSTREAM INTERSTATE / GRAND TOUR
I’ve always been impressed with the fit and finish of the Airstream. The newest Tommy Bahama-inspired finishes are very sleek, and the whole package feels high end. That being said, the price is high end as well. They use the extended chassis for all of their Class B’s, so if length is a concern this is over 24 feet long. Our current CS Adventurous sits at 22 feet long.
The Airstream offers heated water tanks, which to me is a huge bonus since we travel a lot in the colder months. What I didn’t like is that the coach is powered by 2 AGM batteries, so you won’t be able to heat your tanks for very long without plugging in. I did speak to an Airstream representative, who says that they are experimenting with the Lithium technology, and hope to be offering this in the next year or two.
The interior also feels very cramped, especially in the aisle area. I wasn’t carrying my measuring tape, but I think this was the tightest aisle width of all of the Class B’s that we walked through.
Airstream was also showing off their newest creation, the Atlas. It’s a cutaway chassis with a slide, and looks to be competing for the Leisure Travel customer. They were taking orders for the new units, even though they only had the prototype to show. It’s beautiful inside and out, but at over $200,000 it will remain way out of our budget.
I didn’t spend much time considering this brand. The floor plans are very similar to the other players. The interior finishes feel high end, but in my opinion look more limo-like than I prefer. They also use the extended Sprinter chassis for all of their models.
What sets the Coach House Arriva apart from it’s Class B competitors is the floor plan. By placing the bed in the middle of the coach, they are able to squeeze a very nice bath with separate shower into the rear area. The front of the van takes full advantage of the front seats. The area behind the driver’s seat can be utilized as a small office, and a table folds out to provide an eating area for both front seats.
I’m just not sure about the aforementioned center sleeping area. You can fold the beds down to make a king bed, but then you’re forced to tidy up the bed every morning to get to the bathroom. I also think that while the cabinets look well-made, the fabric options make the interior look a little dated.
We also walked through the Platinum II which is built on the Mercedes cutaway chassis. The entire motorhome is molded as a one piece shell, which is impressive. There are also quite a few floor plans to chose from in this model.
With all of the Coach House offerings, you deal directly with the factory, which is located in Florida. Without flying to Florida the only place to see them may be at one of the big RV shows. They are definitely worth a look in my opinion.
We first noticed the Coachmen Galleria at the Hershey RV show a few years ago. They borrow from the designs of their competitors, even using the same components as other manufacturers. The Galleria has a few floor plans, and uses the same exact refrigerator model as in my Roadtrek CS. The interior finishes are nice and the cabinets are much higher end than the Roadtrek, very close to the quality in a Pleasure-Way.
The only thing that’s lacking in the Coachmen is the technology, but that is rapidly changing. I haven’t seen it in person, but I’ve read of recent improvements that include lithium batteries and their version of Voltstart.
What has always been appealing about the Coachmen is the price. It seems like at least with the Sprinter model, you get the most for your dollar compared to all of the other Class B manufacturers. I’m curious to see how the newer technology impacts the price point.
Coachmen also has the Crossfit, which is built on the Ford Transit chassis. If you want to go slightly larger be sure to look closely at the Orion and Prism models.
Considering my past history with Roadtrek, I didn’t consider the Hymer brand for that reason alone. They also currently only offer a model built on the Ram ProMaster chassis. I’ve always liked the European approach to the interior layout of the smaller RV’s, and the Hymer does seem to offer some very unique interior features. The cabinets have an IKEA look to them which I’m not a fan of. I’m sure there are many people that will like the Hymer, but I don’t think I’ll ever purchase another Roadtrek/Hymer product unless I can trust that steps have been made to improve quality control.
LEISURE TRAVEL VANS
Before I purchased my Roadtrek CS, I strongly considered the Leisure Travel brand. At the time they offered the Free Spirit model, which was the same chassis and length as the Roadtrek. I was very torn between the technology offered by Roadtrek and the modern styling offered by Leisure Travel. To this day that hasn’t changed.
Sometime in 2015 Leisure Travel suspended production of the Free Spirit because they couldn’t keep up with the demand of the popular Unity model. That high demand continues to this day. I’m hearing estimated leads times between 6 and 10 months on average if you want to custom order one to your specifications.
I’ve looked carefully at all 3 models offered by Leisure Travel, and would have a hard time deciding on the model or floor plan. If I did purchase soon I would try to find a used model since the new ones take so long to order, and only minor changes have been made in the last few model years.
With all the good things I have to say about the Leisure Travel brand, I have a major complaint. Why not offer lithium batteries, or take steps towards improving things on the electrical side? I want to be able to use the microwave for a couple minutes here and there, and to do so you’ll need to turn on the generator when not plugged in. Reheating leftovers can be done quietly in our Roadtrek, and I don’t want to have to run a generator if I can avoid it, especially in the Walmart parking lots we typically call our home for the evening.
I’ve read about a few owners that have resorted to self-help, and have retrofitted lithium batteries themselves. It can be done, but is very expensive. I’m hoping that very soon they will make the move to lithium, even though I can appreciate the reluctance to change anything when they can’t make enough of them in their current configuration!
Like the Chinook brand, I didn’t spend much time considering them since the interiors, while high end, crossed the line to looking more limo-like. It’s a very nice looking product, just not my taste.
This is another brand I seriously considered before I purchased my Roadtrek, but at the time they didn’t offer the technology promised by Roadtrek. That has since changed with the introduction of lithium batteries as a standard feature. You CAN run your microwave with the batteries and inverter, and with the wide body chassis you can order as an option almost 500 watts of solar.
The newest offering for 2018 is a touch screen control panel that allows you to monitor tank levels, control lighting, fans, and sofa all from one panel. Each coach has a panel in the front and rear for easy control of all of the systems, and this feature is standard in all models.
The icing on the cake is the new auto generator start feature. It’s the closest thing out there to the Roadtrek Voltstart system, but may be even better since you’ll be turning on the generator, as opposed to a Roadtrek which fires up the engine and second alternator. I’ve read many comments in other forums about the controversy of idling a diesel engine for long periods of time. With the Pleasure-Way system, you can have the generator automatically start if the batteries are depleted below a set level, or if the temperature in the coach hits a preset temperature.
I’ve also been impressed with the quality of the cabinetry in the Pleasure-Way. I think they get the top score in my book when comparing all of the Class B and B+ offerings. That being said, I’m not a huge fan of the new laminate cabinet faces and prefer the look of the solid maple.
They offer 3 different models. The Plateau TS and FL are on a Mercedes Sprinter standard length chassis (just over 22 feet). The Plateau XL is the same length, but the cutaway chassis allows much more usable interior volume. A few inches in width makes a huge difference. The bath in all XL models is amazing compared to a regular Class B. The Lexor is on a Ram ProMaster chassis and is their most affordable model.
I only have a few minor complaints. On the Plateau XL I’m not a fan of the tufting on the murphy bed sofa with the Ultraleather upholstery. The laminate floor finish looks a little dated to me. I’m also not sure about the plush carpeting used in some areas and wonder how that wears in an RV. I love the large windows in the Plateau TS and FL, but the plastic trim around those windows feels cheap in my opinion. That being said I think Pleasure-Way has changed quite a bit since I purchased my first Roadtrek, and is on the top of my list once/if I sell my Roadtrek.
I think it’s obvious how I feel about the Roadtrek brand. I won’t be spending time to write about all of their offerings. I did, however, include them in my specification spreadsheet below.
This is another brand that I haven’t considered much, only because the finishes aren’t really to my preference. They offer 4 options in the Class B category. Since I prefer the Sprinter chassis, I focused mainly on the Era and the newly released Revel 4×4.
The Era is built on the extended length Sprinter chassis, and is priced well below some of the other Class B offerings. There are a few floor plans available, including one with a slide-out. I’m just not a fan of the laminate finishes in the Era. Otherwise, it feels well made and you get a lot for your money.
I did like the interior finishes of the Paseo, which is built on the Ford Transit chassis. The Travato, built on the ProMaster chassis, now offers 2 floor plan options. It’s not my preference, but they do manage to cram a lot of features into a very small package. If you are considering something a little larger, they have quite a few options in the B+ or C categories.
There may be a few more brands that I’ve missed, but these are the ones that I’ve considered. Taste is subjective, and these of course are my opinions. I hope this helps narrow your search if you’re considering purchasing. Don’t let my story discourage you from pursuing the lifestyle. I’m sure there are unhappy customers with any brand on my list, and somewhere, even happy Roadtrek owners.
I now present my comparison spreadsheet of many of the manufacturers and models. Specifications can change at any time, so I recommend you confirm with the manufacturer or dealership for exact model information. Let my obsessive researching and collating of information help you in your search for your new RV – hopefully I’ll see you at a Walmart someday! And hopefully you won’t know it’s me because of the smell or an errant puddle under my van.