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North-East Illinois

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Posted: 07/24/16 12:41pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Time to post this once again for those shopping for a motor home.

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 what I call "Eye Candy" or "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.

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 series of extended continuous 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. It is common for seams to split there, most troublesome with age & exposure to the elements. HERE is a more recent example, one of many I have read. 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.

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 E-Series 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 chassis is not popular, but is a very good choice for the right application. Any of these chassis 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 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 or you are dangerously low on propane, or you have a mechanical failure with the generator or roof a/c. The Ford 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 Via, View and View Profile. 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 ideal for the straight "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)

* This post was last edited 08/16/16 05:48am by ron.dittmer *   View edit history

2007 Phoenix Cruiser model 2350, with 2006 Jeep Liberty in-tow


SE Michigan


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Posted: 07/24/16 01:31pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Added a link to this thread in FAQ About Class C's.


South of Atlanta, Georgia

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Posted: 07/24/16 09:53pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Ron, good write up, and rather unbiased. Lots of info. Now, if I can just find the money to get a Phoenix Cruiser with a diesel in it (if they make that).

Just need to get out and use what I have, too much dreaming........ I actually have made a overnight trip in it, more planned.


'03 Ram 2500 CTD, 5.9HO six speed std cab long bed Leer top and 2008 Bigfoot 25B21RB.. previously 2008 Thor/Dutchman Freedom Spirit 180. SOLD - 2007 Winnebago View 23H Motorhome.


North-East Illinois

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Posted: 07/28/16 09:01pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

CharlesinGA wrote:

Now, if I can just find the money to get a Phoenix Cruiser with a diesel in it (if they make that).
Phoenix has offered a diesel via the Sprinter chassis since 2009, but you will be limited to model 2350 and 2400.

Regarding class Cs, any brand new motor home made by anyone offering a diesel, that engine will be found only inside a Sprinter, a Transit, and the "F" series chassis. The Ford E350 & E450 and the GM-Chevy 3500 & 4500 are going to be a "used market" alone. I recall Ford dropped the diesel in the E-Series around the time the emission standards for diesels tightened-up around 2007.


North-East Illinois

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Posted: 07/30/16 09:48pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator


HERE ON CRAIGSLIST in Mokena, IL is a 2005 Phoenix Cruiser 2551, 16,000 miles, $34,900 with a NO-Slide dinette, twin beds.........

As Quoted On CL:
Gorgeous 2005 Phoenix Cruiser, model 2550. 26.5 feet long. Only 16,000 miles! Diesel engine, no slide, SUPER easy handling, and GREAT on hills! Bought for my father and his granddaughter to go on trips together, but his health has deteriorated since, and now we need to sell it asap. We bought it used from a dealership, and have only taken it out once since then. Two twin beds and convertible table-to-bed. Ideal for families, friends, or even solo missions! Shoot me and email or a text to set up a showing! Price is preferred, but negotiable. Call (630) 267-3510





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Posted: 08/01/16 01:38pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Thanks very much for that great post, Ron. It would have been a great help when we were buying. We were just lucky and got a former rental from a good dealer that seems to be lasting, 8 years so far.

On the length issue, I frequently see comments that a few more feet makes little difference but we were uncomfortable test driving a 26 foot class C and it would have been inconvenient in our driveway. The sheer weight of our 20 footer at 4 tonnes concerns me and I wonder how a 1 ton van chassis has been modified to handle the weight of the house. Ours has the original van power train with two u joints and no hangers but units an extra ten feet or more longer must have a considerably modified drive shaft. When we find ourselves on rough roads I am glad we chose the short one. Do the MH makers upgrade the brakes on an E350 or 450 to handle the overload?

2004 E350 Adventurer (Canadian) 20 footer - Alberta, Canada
No TV + 100W solar = no generator needed


North-East Illinois

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Posted: 08/01/16 04:30pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Harvey51 wrote:

Do the MH makers upgrade the brakes on an E350 or 450 to handle the overload?
The brakes and all the rest, Ford "supposedly" engineered under NTSB approval with consideration to the chassis max load limit. But some motor home owners like myself question the approval process.

I have no complaints about the 4-wheel-disk brakes on our 2007 E350 cut-away chassis. People unhappy with braking performance seem to be owners with an older chassis having rear drum brakes. There is no official report out on the matter, but it seems the rear brake shoes do not self adjust effectively which causes them to become less effective as they get used. For those people, I recommend they adjust their brakes manually. How to do it is another subject.

Before 2008, there were other significant deficiencies with 4 different suspension components, front and rear stabilizer bars, shock absorbers, and the steering damper. The 2008 through to a current-day 2016 are improved but still could have been much better.

Our rig is built on a 2007 E350 chassis. We bought the motor home brand new in June 2007. The chassis was built a few months prior. The front stabilizer bar and shock absorbers on the 2007 E350 & E450 cut-away motor home chassis direct from Ford were the same ones installed on a 2007 E250 cargo van. Our 2007 motor home handled like a drunken sailor until I replaced the 4 aforementioned components with aftermarket heavy duty versions along with adding a rear trac bar. Before 2008, Ford did not install a rear stabilizer bar of any kind on the E350 cut-away. The E450 did get one but it was weak and less effective than an aftermarket heavy duty version.

Ford missed the mark badly over that decision. I consider those deficiencies a "Ford" matter, not a motor home manufacture deficiency. Ford should be installing such heavy duty components on their "motor home application" chassis to begin with. The NTSB has always closed their eyes over this. Given the situation, it would be nice if motor home manufactures addressed the situation, but most consumers don't understand this stuff and therefore don't want to spend an extra $4000 to get the 4 systems upgraded. The real shame here is that if Ford installed them to begin with, the cost would be 10% of that or $400, maybe even less.

If you own a motor home, every brand of chassis can benefit the same, not just the Ford E-Series. We talk "Ford" because of it's popularity, but the deficiency exists to one degree or another across the board of all brands.

To those of you who own a 2007 or older Ford E350, look underneath by the rear axle and see if you have a rear stabilizer bar. If you bought the rig used, maybe a previous owner or RV dealership installed a rear stabilizer bar. But if not, you will surely benefit much from adding a heavy duty one.

Right behind that, for all pre-2008 E350/E450 would be replacing the front stabilizer bar with a heavy duty version. The stock front stabilizer bar is not only weak, but it's design is flawed. The end links use simple round rubber grommets that quickly wear "oval" which render the bar ineffective until the rig is already in a significant lean. A heavy duty front stabilizer bar has a different design to eliminate that condition.

Heavy duty front & rear stabilizer bars compliment each other. Driving down mountains and canyons will keep the rig firmly planted in the curves so your braking is much more effective and your steering more responsive, improving control for safety and comfort. Wherever you are driving, driver fatigue is much less and passenger comfort is greatly improved. Even while parked, the rig is much more stable, often eliminating the need for stabilizer jacks at the camp site. There is much to gain in many different ways having heavy duty front and rear stabilizer bars.

If you are a do-it-yourself person, you can purchase and install heavy duty front and rear stabilizer bars yourself, made by Helwig at a cost of around $600 for the pair. No special tools required. It helps to have a second person to hold the bar up while you assemble. I know because I installed a rear Helwig H.D. stabilizer bar on my brother's 1998 E350 based motor home, done on my driveway. I could not convince him to buy a front bar to replace his weak & worn-grommet one.

Replacing your shocks and steering damper with heavy duty versions, further improves the handling. Doing everything mentioned makes driving a real joy instead of a dread.

* This post was last edited 08/02/16 08:19am by ron.dittmer *   View edit history

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