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Old 10-05-2015, 06:56 PM   #1
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Hi, I am a new forum registrant.

My husband and I plan to purchase a class B in the near future and are actively researching, test driving, etc. We have so many questions! I don't want to overwhelm in this first post so I will hit the top 3.

First, a brief description of our intended use and critical needs. By the time we purchase, we will be living in Lake Tahoe. We will be semi-retired and using the camper for extended trips to visit friends/family across the US, Canada and Mexico. My husband is an avid skier and he will take the camper to distant ski resorts. I am an avid tennis player and will take the camper to tennis tournaments within California (some in busy cities). We will be mostly traveling as two adults and two dogs. We belt our dogs in. We want to have at least 4 seat belts.

We have never owned an RV. We want the size/flexibility of the B. Class A is too big ...way beyond our needs. We prefer the subtlety of the B over the C. I prefer short (22 feet or less) but am okay at under 25 feet.

We will not garage the camper. It will be covered when not in use (hopefully short intervals only) and in our driveway. For winter use, we can dry camp but safety while driving on snow and ground clearance are concerns.

We will not buy new, probably a few years old, and since we are looking to purchase next year or the following, we are paying attention to the 2012-2015 models.

This is our shortlist (but we have no brand preference ...mostly this is based on size, layout and price):

Winnebago Era 70A or Travato 59K
Roadtrek SS Agile, RS Adventurous or Zion
Roadtrek 190 Popular (least favorite)

Question #1. This past weekend we looked at the Roadtrek Zion and Winnebago Travato 59K and liked them both. However, I read that the Promaster chassis is FWD and this cannot be converted to a 4WD/4x4...is this true? We are not 100% certain that we need 4x4 but want the flexibility to convert after market if it turns out we really do need it.

Question #2. We loved the Roadtrek SS Agile. However, we heard two very different things from two dealers. One dealer told us that the short wheelbase (144") and height made the driving very squirrely in any kind of wind/bad weather. In fact, this dealer told us that he has had two returned at a $30K loss and those clients bought the Zion or Travato. Another dealer told us that the Agile is their #1 seller, folks love it, he has never heard of any issues and that Dealer #1 is wrong. So ....

Question #3. I like the floorplan of some of the older Winnebago Eras (especially the 2012 170X). I've read that the Eras made prior to 2011 (when they took a year off) had engine issues (before they switched platforms). Any validity?

I would very much appreciate any information, advice, etc. We have no brand loyalty and would consider Pleasure Way, etc. We have focused on Winnebago and Roadtrek because that is what we've seen on the lot for class Bs in our price range (which seems to change daily, but for sure is <$80K used).

Best,
Leigh
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Old 10-05-2015, 08:10 PM   #2
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many PW's only have 2 belts seats up front ( our 2006 Lexor TD- $35K last year- our budget was $70K).

you could install belts in the rear for the dogs, we have 1 at 85 pounds ...we don;t belt and she has a bed between the seats...and often lolls in the back bed looking out the side window.

we do have neighbors who show dogs, they removed the armoire behind the drivers seat and bolted in a couple of crates, stacked vertically.

before buying the PW I was hot on a 2009 Era- the chassis was wonderful, it drove great I LOVED it!...however the quality of the coach build was shockingly bad. poor choice of material and really poor craftsmanship ( none). crude cuts & blind screws

so lesson is: pull the cushions and look underneath on any build. look that all electrical and plumbing is well laid out - it should look orderly...no spagetti.


owners of more recent ERAS say they are much better now...but look

in general I'd stay away from any mdf or fiberboard builds. my cabinetry is partly maple and it makes a difference. the screws can all be tightened to fight squeaks and rattles

ours has ok storage..we have been out for as long as 30 days. some builds have cabinetry which can make it claustrophobic.


many dealers post great youtube videos demoing the interiors and features- easy to guess if the layout works for you. watch for how easily the often 'large" sales guys move around the coach

a big determiner for me was the chev chassis- i own chevs, so easy to work on and understand


4WD- if you need it you need it. I never needed it the whole time I lived in Canada ( 1/2 my life). it adds height and weight ( 900#) and a less agile front end.



we are at 20' easy to park and drive, my Spouse has done solo trips to the CA beaches when I've been tied up with work. No problems at all.
A little learning curve for both of us with the "systems".


my tire kicking left me thinking that the quality of the PW build is slightly better than the RT $ for $.
The RT may have a dropped floor, which to me was a trip hazard.
the 4 seat versatile is a sideways sleeper with a bed about 5' 10" long.
and a climb over to use the can.
the popular model is a 3 seater

the more you look, the better you will figure out what you'd like.


skis- look into how you are going to carry these.

I am in the process of making a vertical kayak rack....revision 3


good luck, Mike
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Old 10-05-2015, 08:18 PM   #3
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The ERAs built before their year hiatus were 2500s with 4 wheels not 6. Decide for yourself if it is worth and wonder why they took the year off.
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Old 10-06-2015, 12:32 AM   #4
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If you want a used (2012-2015) 4x4 B-van your choice is mostly limited to a Ford E van conversion by Sportsmobile.
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Old 10-06-2015, 04:15 AM   #5
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Q2: we looked for small Bs and were also concerned with stability. Our 2015 Agile has the new MB safety features that seem to have eliminated the problems, at least nothing bad so far. We really like it so sales person 2 was correct.
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Old 10-06-2015, 04:17 AM   #6
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Q2: we looked for small Bs and were also concerned with stability. Our 2015 Agile has the new MB safety features that seem to have eliminated the problems, at least nothing bad so far. We really like it so sales person 2 was correct.

Thanks! What are the MB safety features? Can they be retro'd to a 2006 model?
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Old 10-06-2015, 05:06 AM   #7
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I read that the Promaster chassis is FWD and this cannot be converted to a 4WD/4x4...is this true? We are not 100% certain that we need 4x4 but want the flexibility to convert after market if it turns out we really do need it.
Converting an existing unit to 4wd is probably not realistic. Aftermarket conversion of a Sprinter cargo van runs about $20k. Removing the RV tanks, plumbing, cabling and battery packs for conversion then custom refitting them might add another $10k. That's $30k for an aftermarket 4wd conversion with no Mercedes factory warranty or support, and limited resale value.

By comparison the Mercedes 4wd factory option adds only $6,800 to a new Sprinter. So if you end up needing 4wd just sell the existing unit for market value and buy a new 4wd Sprinter Class B like the ERA or something similar.

Or just buy a Promaster or Sprinter based unit and budget for a full set of winter wheels and snow tires. Buying a nice set of winter snows every few years would still be less expensive than 4wd.

The folks over at FitRV.com live in ski country (Utah) and just got a Winnebago Travato (Promaster) outfitted with inside water tanks and composting dry toilet for winter use. They'll likely have some useful winter snow / tire experience to report in the coming months.
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Old 10-06-2015, 05:10 AM   #8
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The first two under safety

Sprinter Cargo Van Features | Mercedes-Benz Vans

I think you can modify anything with enough money, but probably cheaper the get one with the features already installed.
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Old 10-06-2015, 06:46 AM   #9
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Converting an existing unit to 4wd is probably not realistic. Aftermarket conversion of a Sprinter cargo van runs about $20k. Removing the RV tanks, plumbing, cabling and battery packs for conversion then custom refitting them might add another $10k. That's $30k for an aftermarket 4wd conversion with no Mercedes factory warranty or support, and limited resale value.

By comparison the Mercedes 4wd factory option adds only $6,800 to a new Sprinter. So if you end up needing 4wd just sell the existing unit for market value and buy a new 4wd Sprinter Class B like the ERA or something similar.

Or just buy a Promaster or Sprinter based unit and budget for a full set of winter wheels and snow tires. Buying a nice set of winter snows every few years would still be less expensive than 4wd.

The folks over at FitRV.com live in ski country (Utah) and just got a Winnebago Travato (Promaster) outfitted with inside water tanks and composting dry toilet for winter use. They'll likely have some useful winter snow / tire experience to report in the coming months.

Good points. $30K for an aftermarket conversion is much higher than I expected. I thought the conversion would be comparable in price to a 4x4 conversion of a 190 popular, which is less than $15K.
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Old 10-06-2015, 03:45 PM   #10
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I think for occasional trips to snow country, the front wheel drive Promaster would be the way to go. Plus, for your budget, you can buy a brand new one.

The K also has all the fresh water tankage and the water lines are inside the van, so it can be used in fairly cold weather if you have the heating system running. The G may be a better fit if you need the belted positions for dog security or mounting crates in the back. The G would need a few things modified for winter weather service - mostly just insulating a couple of the pipes under the van.

The Era is also getting the Truma heating system, but it would be on a brand new build as they just announced this upgrade. You can get an Era A in 2wd for somewhere in the low to mid 90's, so you might want to consider stretching your budget a bit and get a brand new van.
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Old 10-06-2015, 03:57 PM   #11
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I think for occasional trips to snow country, the front wheel drive Promaster would be the way to go. Plus, for your budget, you can buy a brand new one.

The K also has all the fresh water tankage and the water lines are inside the van, so it can be used in fairly cold weather if you have the heating system running. The G may be a better fit if you need the belted positions for dog security or mounting crates in the back. The G would need a few things modified for winter weather service - mostly just insulating a couple of the pipes under the van.

The Era is also getting the Truma heating system, but it would be on a brand new build as they just announced this upgrade. You can get an Era A in 2wd for somewhere in the low to mid 90's, so you might want to consider stretching your budget a bit and get a brand new van.
Thanks. We will be living in snow country, in Lake Tahoe, and traveling between snowy destinations. That said, in the past few years we've only had a handful of days where chains were required and with the class B we'd have the flexibility to just stay put on those days or head to lower elevations.

We had considered buying new, but with the significant yr 1-3 depreciation buying used seems prudent.

There is another reason I don't want to buy new. We will be traveling with dogs, dirty ski boots, etc. and I don't want to fret and fuss over each scratch, spill and stain. Buying used will relieve that stress ...as in "Oh, did I just do that or was it already there?".

In discussions last night, we have now lowered our budget to $<60K including tax, reg, etc. We are focusing on Bs on the older Sprinter T1N chassis - mostly because we heard that the NCV3 cannot take the sulfur content of diesel in Mexico. Does anyone have experience with this?
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Old 10-06-2015, 04:27 PM   #12
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What depreciation? is what you'll be asking yourself when you look at many of the used models 1-3 years old. They just don't drop like other classes of RV's and cars.

It's not unheard of to find a 15 year old van still priced above $30K!
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Old 10-06-2015, 06:45 PM   #13
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What depreciation? is what you'll be asking yourself when you look at many of the used models 1-3 years old. They just don't drop like other classes of RV's and cars.
Agreed! The staying power of price in yrs 1-3 is impressive. That said, no class B is immune to depreciation.

You have probably already seen this great piece by Bob Gummersal: Should I buy a new or used RV?

This may be a difficult question to answer, since models produced now are so different than models produced 10 years ago, but what is the average lifespan of a class B RV?

A NYT article states that "The lifespan of most RVs is 10 years. According to Mr. Gallant, 75 percent of RVs over 10 years old are unacceptable, and by the time they are 20 years old 90 percent are falling apart."

Would you agree with that for class Bs?

Thanks,
Leigh
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Old 10-06-2015, 08:50 PM   #14
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This is just my take, after 40 years of rv ownership of one form or the other.
1. We just looked at almost every B out there and Pleasure Way was our #1 quality choice.
2. We bought used-someone else got to work out the warranty issues-and the price difference made it affordable.
3. I disagree that a gas engine (Bob G) needs rebuilt at 50-70K, although our used only has 23k on it.
4. We like gas-our ford can be repaired in any little burgh, and our initial cost is so much lower.
5. Downside-we worried that our used b could turn out to be a lemon, negating the cost savings. We have found a couple little things that took simple fixes, but our vehicle inspectors looked in every nook and cranny and declared vehicle excellent. Yes, time will tell, but in the meantime $50-60k is sitting in our investment account and not at a dealership. Good luck on your decisions-you are asking good questions!
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Old 10-06-2015, 09:27 PM   #15
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I see no reason not to expect 20 years and 200K miles out of any B. Some of the deisels may go much longer. Although, if you found one you really liked, and didn't really care what you spent, I'm sure with periodic refurbishment, you could keep one on the road forever.

It's not unusual to find vans out of commercial service with 300k - 400k miles on them.

I think what aids their longevity is the metal van body. The fiberglass RV's built on a rolling chassis just start falling apart if not meticulously maintained. Being bigger, they also are subject to greater stresses than our little vans.

The appliances, however, are the same. You can expect 10 to 15 years out of most of them before you need repairs, depending on use of course.
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Old 10-06-2015, 09:55 PM   #16
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If you aspire to keeping a B-van for the long term, keep an eye on all body penetrations for rust. More often than not, they are not properly treated when cut, which tends to become evident after about a decade.
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Old 10-06-2015, 10:02 PM   #17
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I see no reason not to expect 20 years and 200K miles out of any B.....
Jeez the modern drivetrain is awesome
my GMC P/U 4.8L has 170,000 miles and has required a water pump and a fuel pump, that's it. the MPG is slightly down from new.

the B has the 6.0 and at 95,000 is great. I anticipate no problems. & 15 MPG

Neither the ford 460 or chev 454 have been made for years..."Bob" is referring to 70's motors...and I had a 460 in a taxi- 170K when I sold it.

that makes me question his entire article

the key to a great motor is oil and filters, oil and filters...use quality stuff-not the lube shop with the "tech" waving a sign out front


diesel vs gas...I can work on gas motors, get fuel of quality anywhere and the cost advantage of diesel is not what it was 5 or 10 years ago. ( a diesel can cost many thousands more on a new vehicle)

our B is closing on 10 years- the quality of the build makes a diff. and people take care of nice things- it is easy to tell how the vehicle is maintained by service records and the general demeanor of the seller and condition of his home and stuff ( which is why I prefer private partys)

I think my 06 sold for about 80K new- we paid less than 35K w/ 80000 miles.

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Old 10-06-2015, 10:40 PM   #18
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I want to second wincrashers post. You can expect the same mileage out of a class B as you would a Van.. They ARE after all, just Vans. My Sportsmobile (Ford E-350) had 220,000 miles on it when I traded it off. ALL of the RV parts still worked fine (It was burning up its second transmission). Many people lump all "RV's" together. Class B's are a different breed. They are STEEL.
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Old 10-07-2015, 09:09 PM   #19
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The first two under safety

Sprinter Cargo Van Features | Mercedes-Benz Vans

I think you can modify anything with enough money, but probably cheaper the get one with the features already installed.
Those two are the cross wind assist and the load adaptive electronic stability program. They sound important

Thanks!
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Old 10-07-2015, 10:52 PM   #20
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Quote:
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A NYT article states that "The lifespan of most RVs is 10 years. According to Mr. Gallant, 75 percent of RVs over 10 years old are unacceptable, and by the time they are 20 years old 90 percent are falling apart."

Would you agree with that for class Bs?

Thanks,
Leigh
Many might be falling apart after 20 years, but that is due to neglect by the owner and not the fault of the unit. People buy them and they sit for long periods of time going unused and unmaintained.

I bought my 1992 Pleasure Way from the original owner. The interior was fantastic, it was well taken care of. Mechanically it was a mess. I replaced everything underneath the body. Steering, suspension, complete brakes, tires etc. All of it done and mostly by myself or a mechanic friend. The cost was considerably less than if I took it to a garage.

$1000 in tires, $2200 in parts and $800 in labour and I have a brand new motor home.

You can find good older units, but you have to look hard. And if you can do work on them yourself then you can save a bundle.

Engines and transmissions can last a long long time provided they are taken care of. And if you buy the right vehicle they can also be cheap to fix/repair. That's another consideration of course. As an example a transmission in a new Dodge ram can cost $5000 to rebuilt, I can buy a whole new one for my van for $800. This was also a consideration when I was looking.
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