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Old 05-19-2020, 03:20 AM   #1
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Default Newbie Refining Search Criteria for Small Class B

Hi all,
I'm newly retired, new to "real" motorhomes, and will be in the market very soon for a used, small, self-contained diesel motorhome in clean, great condition. I'm trying to figure out what features I need, and am hoping you all can help refine my search. I plan to drive on both long cross-country trips and shorter weekend-type trips to the coast. I do not intend to spend a lot of non-sleeping time in the RV once I reach a destination, but primarily use it as a base camp. The essential characteristics I've identified are below; I'd welcome feedback, additions, subtractions, etc. I hope I can come up with a handful of models to look for.

-mid-2000's or newer
-streamlined; good gas mileage 23+
-ideal length 21' (17 seems too short, 24 seems too long)
-price less than 42K
-Diesel engine, Sprinter frame
-Self contained
-Sleeps two or three comfortably
-Easy to level
-Brand & model reputation for reliability and durability
-Likely to hold value

Preferably, but not essential:
-Built to be powerful enough to tow a Prius
-Solar panel(s)
-Sleeps 4 mostly comfortably somehow

Years ago I had a full-size school bus that I started converting to a motorhome but gave up; that's my closest actual experience with a motorhome. Anyway, I'd welcome any feedback! Thanks for your time.

Char
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Old 05-19-2020, 12:44 PM   #2
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I'm 13 years retired now with 220,000 miles under my belt with three Sprinter Class Bs and a fourth planned. You are describing a Mercedes Benz Sprinter for the most part of 21'-9" of the mid 2000's. I started out with that in a Great West Van (no longer in business) and have progressed up to 24 ft. and moving back down to 19'-5". I took the route of trying to update a 1971 vintage Airstream trailer first but then realized I didn't want to tow anything. Your instincts are solid so far. Don't worry, you might change your wants and needs with experience.

Sleeping 3 and 4 can be difficult but can be done. The Roadtreks of that vintage had the solutions of making beds out of the cab seats and the second row passenger seats. Roadtrek until 2011 was a solid company. You could put the Chevy chassis in that era from Roadtrek as another consideration because 23 miles per gallon is a dream coming out of Colorado going east. I would not make that a criteria as all Class Bs will get you satisfactory mileage compared to other types of RVs.

Solar was not all that common then but many have DIY conversions but I would not make that a criteria. Look for the best van, period that satisfies you.
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Old 05-19-2020, 01:47 PM   #3
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How will you tow the Prius? My quick research says flat-towing is out and a dolly should only be used for limited emergency towing. What does Toyota say in your manual? Towing will cut into fuel mileage pretty significantly.

Beds for three or four is the kicker. It's not hard to throw a cot across the two front seats for one extra person, but it will necessarily be both narrow and short (figure about 22"x68", give or take). The main bed in some is large enough for a smaller child between two adults (mine is about 68"x76").

A few models have a pop-up loft similar to the old VW's, but none on the Sprinter chassis. Most are newer units on the Promaster chassis, which has limited towing capacity.

Don't forget to check for belted seating positions for all travelers. Some have as few as two.

Buying used in the age and price range you mentioned, maintenance is everything. I'd want good records and a pre-purchase inspection of both the van and the camper (two separate inspections).
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Old 05-19-2020, 02:50 PM   #4
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With a nimble Class B, you don’t need a toad.
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Old 05-19-2020, 03:42 PM   #5
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as above my prius can only be towed on a flat-bed


solar panels cut down on MPG, require parking in the sun ( hot van)


I didn't buy the sprinter because of parts availability and being "stuck" within an expensive dealer network.

My gas chev can be fixed anywhere, by anyone, with parts from the auto parts store
( I have chevs and manuals,layout and tools are common, so easier for me)
The chev has a 6.0 ( 15ish MPG) and a tow cap of 5000#, the van weighs 9000# wet



leveling is done driving up on blocks and iphone app






my criteria were size of bed/layout ( we only have the 2 front swivel seats, allows for less "crowded" cabinetry)


coach build quality


vehicle type ease of parking and driving.
My better half has done solo trips to see family- so had to suit her as well.







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Old 05-19-2020, 08:15 PM   #6
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Davydd -- thanks. Regarding the Roadtrek, you mentioned it was a solid company until 2011; was there a major drop-off in quality after 2011? Durability & reliability are musts for my search, which is focusing on older motorhomes. Other than the engine, is the Chevy chassis as solid as the Roadtrek?
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Old 05-19-2020, 08:26 PM   #7
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Thanks, Jon. Regarding maintenance inspections, any idea of how I would find someone who could do a camper inspection, especially if the vehicle is far from a city? Good point about the seat belts.
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Old 05-19-2020, 08:40 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Cylindrical View Post
Davydd -- thanks. Regarding the Roadtrek, you mentioned it was a solid company until 2011; was there a major drop-off in quality after 2011? Durability & reliability are musts for my search, which is focusing on older motorhomes. Other than the engine, is the Chevy chassis as solid as the Roadtrek?

There are lots of Chevy Roadtreks out there in the 2003 and up vintage, mostly with the six liter gasser engine which has proven to be very reliable and much easier to get worked on if do have an issue when compared to the far between Sprinter dealers. You will also find Plearure-ways in Chevies and some Airstreams and others in lesser numbers.
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Old 05-19-2020, 09:14 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cylindrical View Post
Davydd -- thanks. Regarding the Roadtrek, you mentioned it was a solid company until 2011; was there a major drop-off in quality after 2011? Durability & reliability are musts for my search, which is focusing on older motorhomes. Other than the engine, is the Chevy chassis as solid as the Roadtrek?
The original owner and founder sold the company and the new ownership hadn't kept up the quality and did some other shenanigans. Several threads here discuss it. Your criteria considered nothing since 2011 anyway. As you can see in my signature I never owned a Roadtrek because I never liked their floor layouts. When I first got into looking Class Bs in 2005 I was only considering new and the Leisure Travel Van, Pleasure-way and the Great West Van Sprinters were my top choices. I was enamored with the Airstream Westfalia Sprinter too. They only sold a tad over 200 of them and I consider them a classic. The Westfalia was a short van and could sleep four. It lives on in Europe as the James Cook.
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Old 05-19-2020, 09:22 PM   #10
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Good point about the seat belts.

yes in my pleasure way only the 2 front ( chevy) seats are legal


The rear seats are labelled not for occupancy while vehicle is in motion, on a used vehicle these stickers may have been removed


while we are thinking safety- I "think" RoadTrek ( in the good times) was the only builder crash testing


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Old 05-24-2020, 03:59 PM   #11
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We love our ‘15 RoadTrek Agile for its short length that allows to park in cities(19.5’), its MPG, and its good handling. It’s comfortable for two if you like each other and spend most of your time outdoors. I wouldn’t tow a car on a regular basis, but we don’t need to. The max towing weight (trailer +load) is 5000 lbs., I think.
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Old 05-24-2020, 04:05 PM   #12
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For a MB diesel rig in that price range, initial quality not a big issue since you'll be buying one with enough use that the bugs have been worked out long ago.

With a Class B you'll not likely feel the need to tow a second vehicle.
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Old 05-24-2020, 05:56 PM   #13
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I have a 2008 MB diesel E320 with 250,000 miles on it, a 2014 MB chassis Roadtrek ETrek with 60,000 miles on it, and my wife drives a diesel 2014 GLK with 60,000 miles on it. I am a diesel fan. Diesels are wonderful put you need to respect what you are getting into. These are not your grandfathers diesels.

All of them are turbos and high pressure injection so they need religious maintenance. Around 2010 the emissions regulations required aftertreatment of the exhaust. The exhaust systems since are actually more expensive than the main diesel engine, and require maintenance. If I were looking for a lower cost diesel I would look for one before the emissions change.

People still buy sprinters because of the space and diesel performance which is fantastic. Your fuel expectations might be a little bit of a stretch. My sprinter is a 3500 with duals in the back so it has towing capacity of 7,500. I set the cruise at 72mph and get around 16mpg. I pulled a trailer from Phoenix to Cleveland one time and got 14.5mg average. This includes up and over the Rockies.

If you go with gas you are also likely looking at a gas / propane / generator configuration. If you go with diesel you may be able to live with a diesel / battery configuration. I say may, because it greatly depends on how you plan to use your camper.

Roadtrek got out over the tips of their skis going to the diesel / battery configuration with some sketch engineering, setting some inflated expectations, and making some bold warranty claims they could not live up to. The engineering issues can be fixed. Their basic cabinetry build quality stayed roughly the same. Better than some, not as good as others. The most expensive issues relate to the newer Sprinters requiring much more maintenance than the older ones due to the emissions systems.

We have the bench seat in back and four captains chairs up front. We use all of the 7 seats multiple times of year so that is important to us. If that is important to you, not sure where you will find it outside of the Sprinter. Soon we will be configuring the two front rows so that our grands can camp with us.

If I were shopping for a used, moderately priced, reliable Sprinter based RV I would look for one pre the Ad Blue changes but after the body style change in, I believe 2006. My 2008 E320 after 250,000 miles runs as good as the day I purchased it new. Even after my son-in-law filled it with gasoline by mistake!

Happy hunting!
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Old 05-24-2020, 06:36 PM   #14
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Forgot to say that we sought out 4-cylinder turbo diesel for our short sprinter Roadtrek Agile. We get about 23 MPG.
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Old 05-24-2020, 06:56 PM   #15
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We have a 2006 RT as you describe, 22', diesel, but as discussed, sleeping more than 2 is a challenge. We also flat tow a Subaru Forester. But the mileage is superb with the 2.7L turbo diesel. 18+ with the toad, 22+ without. Agree with Davydd. This vintage should also be in the price range you seek. Realize too that other non diesel, non sprinter platforms could be half that price or less, but diesel sprinters are solid. We love ours. Good luck in your search. We found ours on Craigslist.
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Old 05-24-2020, 07:14 PM   #16
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Having owned two Class C and two Class B RVs (both Roadtreks), please allow me to advise on a couple of things.

My two Roadtreks included one built in the "good" RT days and one in the "bad." The first ("good") was a 210 built on a Chevy chassis with gas (Chevy) engine. The second is a Sprinter built on a MB chassis with the 3-liter diesel engine. I present this as a key point of consideration. If you EVER have an engine or transmission-related issue or breakdown, you will HAVE TO have it repaired or replaced by a qualified MB Sprinter facility. Please do a web search on the number and location of qualified MB Sprinter repair facilities in the country and you may see the dilemma. When those engines run great they are great and can easily tow your Prius. However when they break or require maintenance (which is inevitable) you WILL be visiting a qualified MB facility. And note the repeated term "qualified" because not all MB dealerships are authorized/qualified Sprinter repair facilities.

As for sleeping arrangements, I concur with others' comments that you CAN sleep three in a small Class B and perhaps even four, but you can't do either very comfortably. Put four people in any Class B and sit inside due to heavy rain for a day. Not fun.

Good luck with your search and have fun when you set out. RVing is a great life!
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Old 05-24-2020, 07:38 PM   #17
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Default Class B types and maybe a B+

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cylindrical View Post
Hi all,
I'm newly retired, new to "real" motorhomes, and will be in the market very soon for a used, small, self-contained diesel motorhome in clean, great condition. I'm trying to figure out what features I need, and am hoping you all can help refine my search. I plan to drive on both long cross-country trips and shorter weekend-type trips to the coast. I do not intend to spend a lot of non-sleeping time in the RV once I reach a destination, but primarily use it as a base camp. The essential characteristics I've identified are below; I'd welcome feedback, additions, subtractions, etc. I hope I can come up with a handful of models to look for.

-mid-2000's or newer
-streamlined; good gas mileage 23+
-ideal length 21' (17 seems too short, 24 seems too long)
-price less than 42K
-Diesel engine, Sprinter frame
-Self contained
-Sleeps two or three comfortably
-Easy to level
-Brand & model reputation for reliability and durability
-Likely to hold value

Preferably, but not essential:
-Built to be powerful enough to tow a Prius
-Solar panel(s)
-Sleeps 4 mostly comfortably somehow

Years ago I had a full-size school bus that I started converting to a motorhome but gave up; that's my closest actual experience with a motorhome. Anyway, I'd welcome any feedback! Thanks for your time.

Char
Gas vs. Diesel was hard, but gas won out.

Hello, we just bought a new Travato 59K 21' (did not need the Lithium system) in the fall, and we just saw a person with a Crossfit by Ford that is longer 23' may fit your bill. The Travato came with 300W solar and I may add another 100W. If you live in a warm part of country like we do in Florida, then a generator is important (2800W or better) but Onan is a bit noisy however does run the AC while in parking lots. The Travato is 21' and we like the twin beds making it easier to pass back and forth especially to the rear toilet. LOL The Crosssift has a front bath (wet) but is longer and comes in either gas or diesel. I liked the rear dual tires. Another thing is the refridge which in our case is 12V and is on all the time. You don't have to worry about being perfectly level in our RV unlike with other RV and ref ridge units. The AC is a concern with noise, and the newer models have the Coleman NDQ which has a remote and thermo being a bit quieter. I understand they can swap out certain model class B's with the newer AC model. All this (AC/Sumo/ etc.) comes standard on the newer models. Dodge is now putting these new Sumo bump stops on all their vans. Better handling. I had to upgrade, but well worth it.

So another unit we love is a Wonder (Ford) which also comes gas or diesel. This is called a Class B+ which is a made up name by the industry. It is to us the next RV we may consider once we have paced the Travato out in a couple of years, which now has 8000 miles, and works well for two people and one animal. Any more occupancy is two much. Best of luck finding a late model Class B, and the Winnie B's have a WIT club that provides so much info. I also agree that anything made after 2017 is better with new electronics (Trumo heaters) and LED's. Travel safe. We have been out on what is called mobilized sequestering a lot in Florida recently with the parks almost empty. Things are reopening soon and it will be crowded out and about for summer. Darn LOL
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Old 05-24-2020, 10:03 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by MarCorpsMustang View Post
Having owned two Class C and two Class B RVs (both Roadtreks), please allow me to advise on a couple of things.

My two Roadtreks included one built in the "good" RT days and one in the "bad." The first ("good") was a 210 built on a Chevy chassis with gas (Chevy) engine. The second is a Sprinter built on a MB chassis with the 3-liter diesel engine. I present this as a key point of consideration. If you EVER have an engine or transmission-related issue or breakdown, you will HAVE TO have it repaired or replaced by a qualified MB Sprinter facility. Please do a web search on the number and location of qualified MB Sprinter repair facilities in the country and you may see the dilemma. When those engines run great they are great and can easily tow your Prius. However when they break or require maintenance (which is inevitable) you WILL be visiting a qualified MB facility. And note the repeated term "qualified" because not all MB dealerships are authorized/qualified Sprinter repair facilities.

As for sleeping arrangements, I concur with others' comments that you CAN sleep three in a small Class B and perhaps even four, but you can't do either very comfortably. Put four people in any Class B and sit inside due to heavy rain for a day. Not fun.

Good luck with your search and have fun when you set out. RVing is a great life!
Totally agree that if you go with the MB diesel you should use qualified service locations. I suspect there would be one near any city where you could get your Prius serviced. Also suspect that you would not be towing that Prius into the back country. It is a safe argument that domestic models will be less expensive. There is no perfect choice for everyone. You know your desired use cases. Great that you are gathering information ahead of time so that you can have reasonable expectations.
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Old 05-25-2020, 12:29 AM   #19
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I wanted to add a take on solar. Usually that translates to extending off-grid/boondocking time. I too thought of adding it but took a close look at all the different capacities. With two people on board we find the black water tank to be the critical driver of how long we can be disconnected, which is normally 4-6 days. I did upgrade batteries to provide as much as 10 days (235ah), and got a better inverter. Having a generator, we have that as backup, and we have a 3-way fridge that would stay on propane when boondocking. If you want solar to be able to run A/C you need a lot of battery space and probably more panels than can fit on most class B's. My batteries are no problem in current usage. Can recharge on runs to dump station or by generator. Only problem was a time my fridge had to run on 12v due to a propane problem and I only had a 90ah battery, and that about killed it.
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Old 05-25-2020, 01:48 PM   #20
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I must be one of the few that would never consider another diesel Sprinter. Ride is great and mileage is good; BUT, if you have problems on a trip you run into 2 issues. Location of Sprinter service centers and a long wait time just to get it into the shop. My 2013 had issues with the emissions and I lost count of the number of NOx sensors that were replaced. When your system goes belly up, you get a certain number of starts left and then you have to have it towed to a dealer. Only an official MB computer can reset your system. Go to the UP of Michigan near Macinac Island, get 10 starts left when you arrive at a campground and search where your closest MB dealer is located. BTW: The closest in WI had a 2 week wait. Had to go to Minneapolis and wait 3 days. If this was a one time deal, it would not be a problem. However, I have been to 9 different dealers for the same problem on 2 extended cross country trips of 15k miles each. I have owned this since new, only had it serviced at MB dealers and the problems started at 700 miles on the odometer. I have 12k miles on the last set of sensors and this is the longest that I have gone without an unscheduled trip to the repair center. Only have 55k on it; mainly because my wife and I are afraid to drive it anywhere. If you are only going to camp near major cities, then you should be OK. The dealer in Birmingham was great and they even had a mouthwash dispenser in their bathroom. So first, if you haven't already, search for "the dreaded 10 starts left" on the sprinter forums, look at a US map of Sprinter dealers in the areas that you want to visit, look at maintenance costs for sprinters, and then you can decide if you want to keep your specs. If you are dead set on a sprinter, I would consider gas. Diesel costs (fuel and maintenance) are higher, the NOx sensor problem is eliminated and there were a few areas on our travels that auto-diesel was hard to find (and don't forget the DEF fluid). Now, maybe MB has resolved this issue with the emissions; but, for us, our dream vehicle turned into nightmare.
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