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Old 11-26-2020, 12:57 AM   #1
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Default Manufactured RV or Converted Van?

I am wondering what the pros and cons are of buying a brand name Class B RV (Roadtrek, Pleasure Way, Coachmen, Winnebago Travato, etc....) vs. a van that has been converted by an individual or small company? Thanks in advance for your thoughts.
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Old 11-26-2020, 01:21 AM   #2
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I would categorize Bs in 3 groups:

1. Large commercial companies like for example Winnebago: easy to get info on quality, issues or troubleshooting, good resale. Very limited factory customization.

2. Small shops like Outside Van or Van Specialties: customizable, expensive, reliability all over the map, reasonable resale, very limited information.

3. DIY: usually not finished, very custom corner case designs, reliability unknown, resale questionable often at chassis level.
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Old 11-26-2020, 02:11 AM   #3
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Good summary. One distinction to be aware of is RVIA certification. It doesn’t guarantee quality, but it does mean the manufacturer complies with relevant codes (electrical and propane, for example).

All the mass market units and some of the small volume custom and semi-custom units carry the badge. Reputable companies will follow code even if they don’t belong to the RVIA. No such certainty with DIY. A few private parks require it.

Many DIY units and some small shop conversions are built from standard cargo vans that lack swivel front seats. I consider that feature indispensable.
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Old 11-26-2020, 02:38 AM   #4
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A pro for the RV manufacturer is warranty.

In addition to the manufacturer warranty on their own workmanship (typically in 2-5 year range), the warranty on the van chassis starts on the day you take ownership of the RV rather than on the day the upfitter received it. I know for Mercedes, the manufacturer must be designated as a “master upfitter” in order for the van warranty to work that way.

Here you can find a listing of Mercedes master upfitters:

https://www.upfitterportal.com/en-us...&t-33=0&t-33=1
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Old 11-26-2020, 02:50 AM   #5
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This is a good example of how variable are DIY designs, I am watching with pleasure write-up of building a new Sprinter van, well-engineered from ground up. He is using light weight (1" 80/20) aluminum framing with HDPE for cabinetry. As far as I know his van will be the second B in NA using this state of the art floor – Thermo-Lite from SpaceAge Synthetics, fiber reinforced polyurethane foam wood substitute- https://sprinter-source.com/forums/i...ost-962308from.

This material is gaining popularity in marine world and A class - Thermo-Lite
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Old 11-26-2020, 02:12 PM   #6
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I'm having a Class B built from an RViA certified, MB Master Up-fitter small company exactly to my custom design. Their B's have never seen a dealer showroom or lot. Though they are exactly 800 miles from my home in these COVID times, I get weekly photographs and videos of their progress. I was wondering, though, why I hadn't gotten any of their drawings to review. Turns out they are building it from my 2D and 3D drawings so far that I gave them. I hope I drew them accurately. There are over 30 people involved at some phase in building my B with experience and expertise I don't have. I know most of those people and have confidence in the final result. If I don't like the results I don't have anyone to blame but myself. I can't even blame my wife. She's given me carte blanche. I only had to convince her of one thing.

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Old 11-26-2020, 02:36 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GeorgeRa View Post
This is a good example of how variable are DIY designs, I am watching with pleasure write-up of building a new Sprinter van, well-engineered from ground up. He is using light weight (1" 80/20) aluminum framing with HDPE for cabinetry. As far as I know his van will be the second B in NA using this state of the art floor – Thermo-Lite from SpaceAge Synthetics, fiber reinforced polyurethane foam wood substitute- https://sprinter-source.com/forums/i...ost-962308from.

This material is gaining popularity in marine world and A class - Thermo-Lite
Corrected URL, interesting thermal calculation to see if Espar D2 will suffice.
https://sprinter-source.com/forums/i...60/post-962308

Airtime build thread
https://sprinter-source.com/forums/i...threads/83817/
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Old 11-26-2020, 04:06 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gaucho View Post
the warranty on the van chassis starts on the day you take ownership of the RV rather than on the day the upfitter received it. I know for Mercedes, the manufacturer must be designated as a “master upfitter” in order for the van warranty to work that way.
Not exactly.
The warranty starts on the day that the first retail owner takes possession of the vehicle. This is the party to whom the vehicle is first registered. If the upfitter retains the Certificate of Origin and delivers it to the end user (or their state's DMV) when delivering the van, the MB will reset the warranty to the date of delivery. Requesting this reset is the responsibility of the upfitter, and is often overlooked. This can be corrected, but can be a hassle. You should always confirm that this has happened as part of your acceptance regimen.

As far as I know, being a Master Upfitter doesn't have anything to do with it, although it may grease the skids administratively.
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Old 11-26-2020, 04:25 PM   #9
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Their B's have never seen a dealer showroom or lot.
Last I heard, ARV bought their vans through Mercedes-Benz Nissan of State College, PA. Has that changed?

By some amazing coincidence, that is the same dealer through which Great West Vans procured their vans.
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Old 11-27-2020, 06:45 PM   #10
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Thanks everyone for your replies. Perhaps I should have asked which type is best for a newbie? I am thinking, from what you all said, that the brand name manufactured Class B's are probably the way to go.
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Old 11-27-2020, 07:07 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Vee and Zeekie View Post
Thanks everyone for your replies. Perhaps I should have asked which type is best for a newbie? I am thinking, from what you all said, that the brand name manufactured Class B's are probably the way to go.
The big manufacturers will have full features like roof ac's, generator, holding tanks, and wet bath. Even though we use some of these features rarely, they are musts for us and have all been essential at various times. Some (most) DIY's do not have many of these features.
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Old 11-27-2020, 10:15 PM   #12
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I looked at both custom houses and stock manufacturers when I was shopping in July. In retrospect, I think I made the right choice with stock (Pleasureway Ascent), for several reasons:

1. You should do custom when you know what you want. As a newbie, you don't know what you don't know. Things you think are must-haves may turn out not be all that important, and vice versa.

2. Not directly asked, but as a newbie, I would recommend buying from a dealer physically close to you, since most of the dealers are prioritizing service requests for their current customers, and if something breaks, and you're not up to the task of fixing it yourself, you'll not want to have to wait four months to get service. If your dealer is far away, you'll be faced with the unpleasant choice of travelling a long way for service or waiting too long for service. Buying from a dealer pretty much means buying stock manufacturer.

3. Even with the lengthening lead times for ordering from a stock manufacturer, the lead times for most custom upfitters are getting near ridiculous (Sportsmobile was quoting 14 months back in July; god knows what they're up to by now).
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Old 11-27-2020, 11:04 PM   #13
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Pleasanton Mac,

I was hoping to buy used vs. new. I'm in South Lake Tahoe. I haven't seen many used Class Bs from dealers in Reno or Carson City, NV. Next closest is Sacramento and vicinity. I have seen used Class B's there. Is it still important to buy from a local dealer if I want a used one? Do they service used ones? Thx.
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Old 11-27-2020, 11:09 PM   #14
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Depends on what you want and think you need. If you want all the bells and whistles and are willing to accept the standard fare, go with a brand name. If you want the essentials in a package you can thoroughly understand and care for yourself, made the way you want, go with a small company or individual. Better yet, do it yourself.

And those swivels take about an hour to install.
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Old 11-27-2020, 11:23 PM   #15
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And those swivels take about an hour to install.
That’s good to know. I figured the swivel base came from somewhere and could be retrofitted. But with all the sensors on modern seats, I thought it might be complicated. Nice to know it’s fairly simple.
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Old 11-28-2020, 12:21 AM   #16
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Some caution is necessary to get swivel seats which are at least road use approved in EU, in US the only swivels approved by DOT are factory swivels as far as I know. Flying though a windshield in case of a head-on accident wouldn’t be good.
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Old 11-28-2020, 12:51 AM   #17
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Some caution is necessary to get swivel seats which are at least road use approved in EU, in US the only swivels approved by DOT are factory swivels as far as I know. Flying though a windshield in case of a head-on accident wouldn’t be good.
My understanding is that EU is stricter than US. Mine came from Britain with EU testing.
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Old 11-28-2020, 07:01 PM   #18
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Quote:
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My understanding is that EU is stricter than US. Mine came from Britain with EU testing.
I have Sportscraft swivel seats made and approved for road use in EU.
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Old 11-30-2020, 11:30 PM   #19
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Default Insurance!

Don't forget with some companies it is harder to get full coverage insurance for a DIY or possibly even an up-fitter conversion than a factory RV. Might be wise to check first with your insurance company.
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Old 12-03-2020, 06:03 PM   #20
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No one has mentioned price. My DIY conversion at about $40,000, is about $100,000 less than a Pleasureway Ascent!

As Ms. Nomer states, it has every item I wanted, and features that the big companies don't. I have a full basement on my Promaster 159. That means I have a storage area that's 4' x 8' x 4.5" high. You can store a lot in that space... plus an area big enough to store and easily access (2) full size Harbor Freight folding chairs with side table.

I don't have any propane system... 2 butane stoves, a Blackstone grill, and a Coleman BBQ, or a portable induction cooktop, microwave and toaster are all in there. I prefer outside cooking while camping, on a picnic table or using an also-stored 2' x 4' folding table.

There's storage space under both couches that would otherwise be taken up by many of the "systems" I don't have.

I also store and easily access an 8' Gazelle screen house - once it's set up (literally 3 minutes) there's no awning in and out stuff, just a nice bug free place to relax! And I like to share my model railroad hobby with others, so there's a 4' x 6' O gauge train layout in the basement!

We prefer campgrounds so with electricity, we have heat for 3 season camping if needed. 2 AGM batteries provide what we need for TV, lighting, microwave, Keurig, if we want to dry camp.

And, as also stated, I can troubleshoot and fix anything in the van - still room for mods and additions. And no RV dealer labor charges!

I have a Thetford Curve portapotti - so no dump stations, just a visit to a standard toilet to dump.

Big consideration: I park at home under our carport (about 2" clearance)... nothing on the roof but a Maxxaire low profile vent. Couldn't do that with any brand-name RV.

Best way to sum it up? Different strokes for different folks!
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