Class B Warned

Well, This Hasn't Gone Well

Month: January 2018

Part Twenty Three – Let’s Go Shopping!

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.

CHINOOK RV

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.

COACH HOUSE

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.

COACHMEN

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.

HYMER

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!

MIDWEST AUTOMOTIVE

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.

PLEASURE-WAY

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.

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.

WINNEBAGO

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.


Class B Comparison Chart


 

Part Twenty Two – ← It’s Their Fault →

It’s been quite some time since we’ve posted an update to our toilet troubles, and I’m sorry to report that not much has happened since our last chapter. Freezing temperatures finally arrived and we were forced to winterize without getting the toilet repaired.

We actually held out from winterizing a bit longer than we should have. It seems like winter in the Northeast hit quickly this year. One unexpected cold snap took us from comfortable temperatures to frigid within hours. The RV can handle a few hours below freezing, but with 20 degree temperatures predicted over a long period of time, we had to take drastic measures.

I had a couple rolls of batt insulation left over from a home improvement project. I also happened to have an old 8 foot long electric baseboard heater that was no longer being used. I slid the baseboard heater under the van in line with the holding tanks, then carefully wrapped the perimeter of the van with the batt insulation. It wasn’t pretty, but I managed to encapsulate most of the undercarriage. I didn’t sleep well that night, but come morning I was pleasantly surprised by the performance. It was 20 degrees outside, and the ground under the van was reading in the 40’s with a non-contact thermometer. I don’t recommend this method to anyone, but in an emergency it works!

Our Roadtrek weathering the cold snap!

We finally were able to winterize once the temperatures rose slightly. Several emails to the dealership went unanswered, so after nearly 2 months of back and forth I finally contacted Roadtrek directly. My email was answered by the person I had been dealing with previously, and they remembered me from 2 months earlier. I was informed that Roadtrek never rejected the warranty claim for the toilet replacement. They claim that the dealership never submitted a warranty request before, during, or after the toilet replacement. So I’ve been waiting for MONTHS for the dealership to have it out with Roadtrek over the warranty claim, and no claim was ever submitted? This is beyond frustrating, and confusing. Maybe the service center is to blame for this after all! Fingers were being pointed in all directions, with me and my stinky van stuck sadly in the middle. (Though at this point it just smells like antifreeze which could be considered an improvement, really.)

After some back and forth with Roadtrek, I was told to make an appointment with another service center, something I could and should have done months ago. Maybe another set of eyes could have, and now maybe soon will, be able to diagnose and repair whatever is going wrong. I now have an open appointment to get this repaired once the freezing temperatures break.

So what happened to my original service center? Did they have enough of me and/or Roadtrek and just decide to ignore me? Finally out of the blue, I received the answer I was waiting for. The service manager apologized and said that my emails were being sent to the wrong inbox and he wasn’t receiving them. He was very nice on the phone, and said that they still want to service the van and get everything working correctly. That’s great news for me since that’s all I’ve wanted for the last 2 years!

I now have to decide where to take the van for it’s next attempt at repair. I think I may keep the appointment at that new service center. I think a fresh pair of eyes may be a good thing for everyone involved.

One funny quote from my phone call with the service manager – he had been  doing some googling to troubleshoot my toilet problem, and while speaking with him he asked, “Hey, you don’t happen to be the author of classbwarned.com”? Yes, and hi!

We’ve still decided to explore the other options out there while we pursue getting the van repaired. Work will prevent us from heading south for the big Tampa RV show, but we’ll try to hit a couple of the local ones in the coming months.

Luckily it’s winter, so the windows will be closed.

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