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Ron's Tips For Class C /B+ Shoppers

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Ron Dittmer

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Ron's Tips For Class C /B+ Shoppers
« on: September 07, 2014, 10:56:35 pm »
I post this on occasion as a reply to people shopping for a class C on www.rv.net, and thought it would be of interest to people browsing this PC forum.  It morph'd into more of an article rather than a reply.  It is an objective opinion (or so I tried), not a sales pitch for a PC, though I use my own 2007 PC-2350 as a given "positive" example.  

Ron
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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 have a limited selection of sizes.

#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 most 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. Born Free offers a seamless bucket design as seen in  This Model.  The Itasca Navion Here is another 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 $13,000 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 & View. Others like Phoenix USA build their model 2350 and 2400 on both the Sprinter and Ford E350. They will even build it on the heaviest duty E450 upon request for a nominal fee. People who request an E450 for a small motor home, tow heavier things like for example, a multi-horse trailer.  You can even special order a E350 & E450 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.

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)
« Last Edit: June 14, 2017, 05:50:38 am by ron.dittmer »
Ron (& Irene) Dittmer

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bobojay

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Re: Ron's Tips For Class C /B+ Shoppers
« Reply #1 on: September 08, 2014, 02:49:40 pm »
Ron, the biggest single reason the Chevy/GMC 35-4500 cutaway chassis is not as popular as the Ford E series is because Ford is EXTREMELY aggressive in their fleet marketing and pricing. Same as they are in construction with the F series and the public safety market now with the Taurus & Explorer.

Just because they sell a lot of units to these markets doesn't mean they are any better......
Bob & Sharon
Current: 2013 Winnebago ERA Class B Sprinter Van
Future: 2100 special, 2350, ?? on a hopefully Ford Transit 350 or 450

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bentgypsy

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Re: Ron's Tips For Class C /B+ Shoppers
« Reply #2 on: September 08, 2014, 04:29:54 pm »
Right on Ron:  prior to buying  my Ford PC 2350 last fall, I owned an 06' sprinter RV. I like to do small town and wilderness camping. But try finding a sprinter certified mechanic in even a good size town can be challenging! I didn't mind so much replacing the resonator a couple of times, but when I had to buy a reconditioned transmission, It was the last straw!  Other problems I had: tendency to overheat on mountain passes and using precious propane for the generator. It wasn't worth the better mileage and maneuverability.
So Ron, what's debatable about what you said above? Idling the Ford E350?

Since I'm selling my PC 2350, it doesn't mean I'm unhappy with it.  I just need to get off the road--my aging and problematic bod gets priority.
Steve

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bobojay

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Re: Ron's Tips For Class C /B+ Shoppers
« Reply #3 on: September 08, 2014, 10:35:29 pm »
Here's the webpage for the new Ford Transit cutaway that all the RV makers will be switching to sooner than later. http://www.ford.com/commercial-trucks/transitchassis/

I have driven 5 different of the van version of the Transit with all 3 of the engines. I was very impressed with this new vehicle's comfort and ease of driving, not to mention the diesel and EcoBoost versions
Bob & Sharon
Current: 2013 Winnebago ERA Class B Sprinter Van
Future: 2100 special, 2350, ?? on a hopefully Ford Transit 350 or 450

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Ron Dittmer

  • *******
  • 3846
  • Ron and Irene
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    • My 2007 2350 Phoenix Cruiser
  • OwnPC: Yes
  • NewUsed: New
  • PurchDate: June 2007
  • Model: 2350 Ford
  • ModelYear: 2007
  • Slide: No
  • IntColor: Cherry Green&Gray
  • ExtColor: Full Body Gray
  • Location: Illinois
Re: Ron's Tips For Class C /B+ Shoppers
« Reply #4 on: June 14, 2017, 05:54:48 am »
I updated my post to reflect current day information, and figured it doesn't hurt to bump it up for shoppers to stumble on it easier.
Ron (& Irene) Dittmer