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Old 09-11-2015, 02:22 AM   #1
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Default Project - Creating A Made-to-Measure RV / Touring Van

Help / Advice / Suggestions Needed....

We have work flexibility where we can be mobile / roaming employees. Having permanent homes on both coasts, we are considering the possibility of buying an RV to 'bridge' the two properties and see more of America at the same time.

A portion of the time would be spent as short-term boon-docking / campground stays with weekly hotel stays occurring at key destination sites for longer periods (5-7 days). With 15 years till retirement, we thought it may be a great opportunity to test the RV lifestyle and determine if full-timer RVing is in our future.

I've started a conversation with my local RV dealer about the process of configuring a new Class B RV (ERA 70A 4x4 preferred) to meet our needs. Test drove the top Sprinter products and hope to customize an RV with more functionality, less glitz, and greater mobile office capability. After evaluating the top tier Class-Bs (Advanced RV-$$$$, Airstream-$$$, etc.) we believe we can create more value for money by choosing a solid Class B and have it custom upfitted with features we want and omit things we don't want. Costs will be amortized over a ten-year period.

We have experience with the MB Sprinter drivetrain and feel it is best suited for our type of travel. Test drove a B+ Sprinter RV and are willing to give up greater space it provides for the improved drive quality, structural rigidity of the van, and new 4x4 option.

I want the 'bones' of the RV upgraded for near 4-season travel and modern technology future-proofing. RV living space is less of a concern because hotels will be used for extended stays while crossing the country.


Crazy? Unrealistic? Short Sighted?


Our RV Custom Configuration

MB SPRINTER BONES
  • 2016 Sprinter 3500
  • MB Safety Pack (lane departure, pre collision, blindspot, parking sensors)
  • HID Headlights with Washers

WGO BONES
  • ERA 70a Trim - (4x4 upgrade = $11K)
  • Graphics Delete
  • Solar / HDMI/ Cat5 Heavy Gauge Prewire
  • Upgraded Insulation / Dynamat
  • Dual Pane Windows Where Possible
  • Alde / Trumi Hydronic Heat / Water
  • Heated Drainage Option
  • Michelin Spec Tire Package
  • Heat Pads on Tanks
  • LPG Generator

WGO HOUSE OPTIONS
  • Remove TV from Kitchen Counter
  • Drawer Convection Microwave Upgrade
  • MCD Day / Night Shades
  • AGM Battery Upgrade

CUSTOM UPFITTING
  • High Spec Solar / 1000 watt Inverter Package
  • Custom Folding Travel Computer Desk
  • Passenger Co-Pilot Laptop Mount
  • Mobile Custom Secure 4G Computer Network
  • Drawer Convection Microwave Upgrade
  • Portable induction Burner
  • High Spec Solar / Inverter Package
  • FROLI Box-Spring System
  • RV Custom Bedding - RVSuperbag
  • Sumo Springs - Suspension Upgrade
  • PressurePro TPMS
  • Blue Ox Toad Setup

After all the customization is done we believe (based on actual quotes) we can keep the costs below or at what is on offer from Advanced RV and Airstream for like product.

Any comments would be appreciated. We are in the project planning stage and know there are many seasoned travelers on this site with major road miles under their belt.
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Old 09-11-2015, 04:48 AM   #2
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WGO is not the company for you. Sportsmobile is who you should be talking to.
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Old 09-11-2015, 02:40 PM   #3
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How likely is the 10 year ownership plan? Do you love to drive great distances? Do you keep vehicles that long?

If money matters then I'd caution against spending too much on customizations unless you think you're pretty sure the unit a long time because it's unlikely that you'll recoup those expenditures if you sell the unit after a year or two of ownership.

You might find a buyer that understands what the upgrades are and wants them but it's more likely that potential buyers will compare your ERA to other ERA's based on asking price first and mileage second.

Just had to mention all that ......

Re: the upgrades

I'd up the inverter size to make it more useful. 1800 to 2400 watts would give you greater choice in using things like blow dryers or coffee makers or even your induction cooktop if your battery capacity is sufficient.

It looks like you're planning to tow a car. Why not upgrade the RV to a comfortable 30 footer and get a walk around queen bed and a big bathroom and good size kitchen etc.?
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Old 09-11-2015, 06:05 PM   #4
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If money matters then I'd caution against spending too much on customizations unless you think you're pretty sure the unit a long time because it's unlikely that you'll recoup those expenditures if you sell the unit after a year or two of ownership.

Thank you for the suggestions and thoughts. With over a decade till retirement, we are not ready for a larger RV (Class A, Super C, etc.).

Value for money matters a lot. After driving the Winnebago ERA 70A, we felt the RV met most of our needs but like many RVs is not setup for use in colder temperatures. The base foundation of the 70A feels like a great starting point to build upon and having a nationwide Winnebago network to draw upon is an added plus.

As a custom order, some of the items Winnebago is willing to do. An outfitter can handle the rest.

For comparison...
Advanced RV (avg) $155-160, Airstream Interstate (avg) $155, Stock WGO ERA 70A 4x4 with WGO factory customizations (avg) $135 - using WGO retail price list.

The almost 20K difference can be attributed to higher trim finishes (Airstream) and the 100% custom built nature of the Advanced RV. My outfitter upgrades can be covered within the 20K difference and adds off-grid / boon docking capability for those who value functionality / safety over other options.
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Old 09-11-2015, 06:25 PM   #5
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I left out "you'll keep" in that sentence

I also think Winnebago offers value for your $$$.

We all have different definitions of "off-grid / boon docking capability". If you want any advice in that regard just give us some specifics of what items/appliance you'll want to run when the generator is not running and the RV is not plugged into grid power and members here should be able to offer suggestions re: battery bank size, inverter size, wire gauge size etc.
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Old 09-11-2015, 06:26 PM   #6
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We considered Sportsmobile but was not what we are looking for. The parts-bin approach for the interior seems space inefficient. Our 1st RV was an Airstream Sprinter Westfalia and we loved the fit, materials, and space utilization.

The Westfalia group specializes in Class B RV upfit and the current WGO products take styling cues from them.

Westfalia Sprinter James Cook

Mercedes Sprinter James Cook Westfalia Video

RV Show Westfalia Detailed Demonstration Video
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Old 09-11-2015, 06:41 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by markopolo View Post
I left out "you'll keep" in that sentence

I also think Winnebago offers value for your $$$.

We all have different definitions of "off-grid / boon docking capability". If you want any advice in that regard just give us some specifics of what items/appliance you'll want to run when the generator is not running and the RV is not plugged into grid power and members here should be able to offer suggestions re: battery bank size, inverter size, wire gauge size etc.
We wanted the capability Roadtrek claimed with the ETrek model but were concerned when owners expressed difficulties maintaining a charged state or felt the promises from Roadtrek were too generous.

1 day off-grid with no airconditiong use would meet our needs. Power for laptop and occasional appliance use.
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Old 09-11-2015, 07:24 PM   #8
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Excluding running the air conditioner on batteries makes it easier.

A second group 31 AGM battery is an option on the 70A so definitely get that.

Will you have a compressor fridge or one that can run on propane? You should be able to easily meet your power requirement if the fridge has a propane option. The induction cooktop might be problematic with only two batteries.

Were you thinking of adding more batteries? 4 group 31 AGM's would be great. Couple that with 200 to 400 watts solar and it'll be an awesome rig.

I'd up the size of the inverter to be able to run any appliance (on it's own). So 2000 watts should do it. A 2400 watt inverter would allow for full 20 amps at 120 volts so that would be a good choice.
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Old 09-11-2015, 07:36 PM   #9
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This is coming from someone without a Class B (yet), but some 5th wheel and TT experience.

I think you'd be better off buying a used B, using it for a year or two to get the feel for your likes/dislikes, etc and then have Advanced RV build exactly what you want. You'll end up paying a little more but be much more likely to end up with a B that works the way you envision in your head.

Another option would be renting a B for at least a few weeks before taking the plunge with a brand new WGO which will still require further modding.

A lot of RVers quickly go through several trailers and MHs before they finally figure out what works best for them...
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Old 09-11-2015, 08:10 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Transit View Post
This is coming from someone without a Class B (yet), but some 5th wheel and TT experience.

I think you'd be better off buying a used B, using it for a year or two to get the feel for your likes/dislikes, etc and then have Advanced RV build exactly what you want. You'll end up paying a little more but be much more likely to end up with a B that works the way you envision in your head.

Another option would be renting a B for at least a few weeks before taking the plunge with a brand new WGO which will still require further modding.

A lot of RVers quickly go through several trailers and MHs before they finally figure out what works best for them...
We are a buy and hold household and rarely have buyers remorse. Always 1st owners in what we purchase and try to buy smart but new.

Our 1st RV was a Airstream Sprinter Westfalia camping van and loved it. Used it primarily for extended weekends and vacations. Although we are not full-timers, we have made several cross country trips by vehicle.

Maybe I can shed more light on how we plan to use the RV.
  • San Francisco to Los Angeles
  • San Francisco to Seattle
  • San Francisco to Lake Tahoe
  • Lake Tahoe to Las Vegas
  • Seattle to Vancouver
  • NYC to Montreal
  • NYC to Chicago
  • Washington DC to Charlotte
  • Charlotte to Hilton Head
  • Charlotte to Tampa Bay

Late night destination arrival boon docking followed by week-long stay in the area (hotel, resort, air bnb). Once / twice a year coast-to-coast drive-cation in the RV.

There are very few places you cannot take a Class B van and it makes it easier to go of the beaten path and discover.
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Old 09-11-2015, 08:18 PM   #11
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Wow... Thanks for sharing your knowledge of the power aspects of the coach markopolo.
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Old 09-11-2015, 08:18 PM   #12
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Sounds like you've got it figured out. Enjoy and keep us posted.
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Old 09-11-2015, 10:39 PM   #13
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I just have to point out that even with the upgrades the ERA won't be the same as an Advanced RV unit like the one Davydd owns.

It has high quality components with top of the line integration and monitoring. If your build estimates get near (like $10k or even $15k or so) the price of an Advanced RV unit like Davydd's then I'd say go with the Advanced RV unit.
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Old 09-11-2015, 10:55 PM   #14
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If you plan on modifying furniture in an Era then buy a cheap used one. If you buy new then you are already taking a depreciation hit once you sign the paperwork. Furniture modifications will further drive the value down. Find a model that does not require major modifications or go with Advanced RV (just be prepared to wait ~6 months before your build starts).
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Old 09-12-2015, 12:20 AM   #15
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Plan on keeping the interior intact - we like it. Found a local design studio that will help us make a portable travel desk / table when we need more space to work on the computers. Hopefully it will fit under the rear bed when not in use.
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Old 09-12-2015, 12:30 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by markopolo View Post
I just have to point out that even with the upgrades the ERA won't be the same as an Advanced RV unit like the one Davydd owns.

It has high quality components with top of the line integration and monitoring. If your build estimates get near (like $10k or even $15k or so) the price of an Advanced RV unit like Davydd's then I'd say go with the Advanced RV unit.
His (Davydd) RV is top notch and his customizations speak to his experience in traveling / RVing.

We hope to spend a fair percentage of our time in colder climates and will 'trade' certain options / features we like for the Sprinter 4x4 system, tank heaters, solar upgrades, and drainage system heating. We think these modest upgrades will be appreciated by buyers when we choose to sell /trade in the distant future.

After talking to many RVers who use their rigs all 4 seasons, all have said they would have purchased upgrades at the build stage to keep their rig cooler / warmer / protected from the extreme elements had they known what they know now.
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Old 09-12-2015, 02:15 AM   #17
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I am currently in the middle of a project to convert our 3-season GWV Legend to 4-season use. We have the same Espar hydronic system that ARV uses, so I am stealing their idea of extending the Espar coolant return lines so as to use the residual heat to warm the tanks, pipes, and fixtures. It is coming out pretty well (as best I can tell in the summertime). I love the Espar/Rixens system. If you could arrange to have such a system, I would recommend it.
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Old 09-12-2015, 03:03 AM   #18
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I would rent one outfitted close to what you currently want. You may not be able to stand the confinement, small beds or the lethal capability of mexican food night emissions in a small confined space. Experience one before investing in one. You may be happier with a small class A at a lower cost or something else. We traveled around the states for a year, full time in a 34' class A and were quite comfortable and maneuvering and parking wasn't a problem at that length.
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Old 09-12-2015, 03:57 AM   #19
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I would rent one outfitted close to what you currently want. You may not be able to stand the confinement, small beds or the lethal capability of mexican food night emissions in a small confined space. Experience one before investing in one. You may be happier with a small class A at a lower cost or something else. We traveled around the states for a year, full time in a 34' class A and were quite comfortable and maneuvering and parking wasn't a problem at that length.
Totally agree with this. I am actually currently renting a new 2015 Winnebago Brave 27B. It's awesome.
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Old 09-12-2015, 04:00 AM   #20
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Almost all Class Bs can boondock a day or two or more with proper energy management and especially if driving most days. What I wanted was full electrical use of all systems, appliances and outlets whether plugged in to shore power or not and not needing to run a generator. In other words total no-brainer electrical transparency. It seems to be a concept RVers don't understand since the RV world seems to accept the idea you use half your capability when unplugged. That's history to me. Right now only Roadtrek and Advanced RV are delivering that concept. Others are doing after market upgrades to achieve some semblance of theoretically throwing away your power cord.

I am not sure you could easily modify an ERA to all-weather four season use. I would think you would have to gut it and start over. Other than James and Stef's Travato I've never heard of Winnebago doing any customization. You would get that second TV on the kitchen counter for instance and would have to remove or modify it yourself.
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