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So You Are Thinking Of Buying A Motor Home

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Ron Dittmer

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So You Are Thinking Of Buying A Motor Home
« on: February 17, 2019, 09:17:42 pm »
So You Are Thinking Of Buying A Motor Home

Let us first review the various "Classes" of motor homes.  How is the class defined?

Class-A Diesel Pusher

The "Class" is determined by what the RV manufacture (ex: Winnebago) starts with.

A "Class-A" begins at the RV manufacture with a stripped chassis like this.  The engine & transmission is up front, the drive wheels are in back, and a drive shaft in-between connects them.  Manufactures of stripped chassis are companies like Ford, Chevrolet/GMC, International, and Freightliner.  These come in either a gasoline or diesel engine.

A "Class-A Diesel Pusher" also starts with a stripped chassis, but the engine and transmission are in the back of the motor home.  These exclusively have diesel engines.

A "Class-B" starts with what looks like a complete van, sometimes purchased with an extended roof as shown.  Popular manufactures for RV applications are the Mercedes Sprinter, Ford Transit, Chevy Express, and Dodge Promaster.

A "Class-B+" and "Class-C" start with what the industry calls a cut-away chassis.  For RV applications, the back wall of the cab area is non-existent.  Manufactures of the cut-away chassis for RV applications are Mercedes Sprinter, Ford Transit, Ford E350/E450, Chevy 3500/4500, and Dodge Promaster

A "Class Super-C" is a heavy duty truck version of a typical class B+/C.  Like a class-A, they handle more weight.  Their sizes also compare to that of class-A motor homes.

For obvious reasons, people who own a class-B have mobility and parking as their highest priority.  People who own a class-A and class-A diesel pusher, living quarters is their highest priority.  The class B+ and C generally falls in-between.

Generally speaking, full-time living in a class-A diesel pusher is most sought because they offer the biggest house and the most outdoor storage from lacking a drive shaft.  They offer under-belly storage similar to that of a tour bus.  But there are people also living year round in class B+ and C motor homes.

Many people who own a motor home that is longer than a typical parking space, will tow another vehicle to increase their mobility when at their destinations.  The cut-off on length is debatable, but my general rule is that a rig exceeding 21.5 feet is too long to park in a normal parking spot.

A class-B rig is the width of a typical van because it is a van.  Class B+ and C rigs vary in width from just a little more than a van, to as wide as a typical class-A motor home. 

Regarding "Weight", the biggest of motor homes can weigh as much as 50,000 pounds.  But a typical class B+/C will weigh between 9,000 and 14,500 pounds depending on it's chassis and size.  You won't need a special licence to drive a motor home until it weighs around 26,000 pounds.


Next up is your plan of use for your motor home.  Each type of travel has it's preferred motor home class.

- Are you planning to use it primarily for road trips to destinations like sporting events and family visits?
- Do you enjoy going "Off Grid" to wilderness places?
- Are your planned destinations primarily focused on national parks, monuments, and forests?
- Do you plan to tow a sizable boat, a horse trailer, or other large trailer?
- Do you love the social aspect of RV parks where you also enjoy full hook-ups with all the electricity and water you desire?
- Do you plan to stay in places for extended periods, say for a season at a time?
- Do you plan to travel in winter cold weather?
- Do you plan to travel alone?  If not, how many other people?  Are there pets to consider?

The mobility of a "Class-B" van gets you around easiest, but it won't do so well in places where resources are few.  You may find yourself dumping waste water and refilling with fresh water on a daily basis.  But what if such facilities are not available?  Also consider the facilities required in traveling with one other person and all the things you both need to bring on a trip.  Storage in a class B requires minimalistic thinking.  One great advantage of a class B van is how well sealed they are from the elements.  Vans don't leak rain water just like any other typical car or SUV.

Living accommodations in a "Class B+ and C" is a huge step up from a class-B.  Waste and fresh water becomes abundant, all features quickly become more practical to use.  You go from an airplane bathroom (or worse) in a class B to something resembling a compact version of your regular home.  You have everything conveniently placed for use all the time as well as storage for all your stuff.  Your bed and dinette are always setup and ready, your sink and stove are of a more useful size, and your fridge will be larger with a separate freezer.  The B+ and C class motor home come in lengths from 21 feet to 32 feet, widths from 90" to 104", and heights over 11 feet.  With so many sizes, these come in a vast array of floor plans and accommodations. A huge "WARNING" with Class B+ & C motor homes is that the house is often constructed with inferior materials, methods, and workmanship.  Add the constant earthquake from driving it and rain water and snow melt enters, destroying your rig.  CLICK HERE to read up on how to shop wisely with that consideration.

As far as a "Class-A" is concerned, this type of motor home varies all over the place in price to quality, just like the B+ and C class.  You can spend $60,000 for a low-end class A to over $1,000,000 for a class A diesel pusher.  It seems the sky is the limit on these.  But on the lower end, affordable part of the spectrum, the same concerns apply as with the class B+ and C's.  Keep in-mind that mechanical service for your class A vehicle portion will be much harder to find.  Many mechanics won't work on class-As because so much is non-standard.  For example, changing a radiator in a class C is the same as changing one in a van.  "Repair shop software" presents a fairly accurate estimate of time of labor for the shop to provide an accurate quote for service.  But a class A, the repair shop has no idea what they are in for.  Amplifying the problem is that the RV-made metal hardware to access the radiator is untreated so it quickly rusts.  Mechanics fear they will break something to access the radiator.  Worse yet will be that the RV manufacture did not consider such things like replacing the radiator rendering the job extremely labor intensive to accomplish.


After reading through all this, if you are still determined to buy a motor home, get out there and buy that perfect one that will meet all your needs.  Just follow my linked guideline (REPEATED HERE) and you'll do fine.

Of coarse you could bypass much of the research and pick one of the 9 Phoenix Cruiser floors plans.  :)  Keep in-mind that all Phoenix models are built on the Ford E450 chassis, but models 2350 and 2400 have the Sprinter chassis as optional.  Though not considered in the pricing tool, the Ford Transit chassis is available for model 2100 with no slide-out.  I would call the factory if interested in that chassis.

The Phoenix pricing tool (CLICK HERE) will give you a good idea what your favorite would cost with consideration to the options you select.  Keep in-mind if selecting the Mercedes Sprinter, MSRP increases by $21,615.  Unlike the default E450 standard, you have to also add the cost of a slide-out if you want one.  So selecting a Sprinter with a slide-out could cause "Sticker Shock".  Going with the standard E450, the price and floor plan includes the slide-outs shown, but you can delete any one or more slide-outs and save yourself some good money.  Irene and I are not lovers of slide-outs, but that is another topic.

Try to enjoy your research.  Don't get frustrated from it.  Keep it fun and interesting.  The more time you invest in research, the better experience you will have with your purchase.

Ron Dittmer
« Last Edit: February 20, 2019, 12:56:58 pm by Ron Dittmer »
Ron (& Irene) Dittmer


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Re: So You Are Thinking Of Buying A Motor Home
« Reply #1 on: February 21, 2019, 09:32:39 am »
Thanks Ron, for compiling all of your research and experience in concise and precise form, and sharing it with all of us!

Some things I would like to add and amplify: Cargo Carrying Capacity (CCC) and weight distribution, and drive-ability, which are commonly linked.

Many mass produced RV's are not built to allow much cargo capacity. Some are dangerously close  even without full essentials and occupants (oh, you wanted water and food along?) There is a sticker on a door jamb stating actual empty weights and capacities. If a good CCC is not listed in the ads and brochures, there is most likely a reason. Too much weight on the rear axle will affect handling and add to driver fatigue. A wandering RV is no fun to drive for more than an hour. There are rigs out there with impractical CCC's, most likely ignored but the driver.

We just did a long trip in our fully loaded 2551 and weighed on our way out of town. We had over 1800 lbs to spare. Very few RV's have that much available at empty. The weight is well distributed and I  have driven, on occasion, all day and still be smiling. Our old 1989 Lazy Daze 22' was a well-built and beautiful coach, just too much driver fatigue and money spent trying to fix the poor handling. They have since gone from the E350 to E450 which I hear t made a huge difference. Our 2014 PleasureWay Plateau TS was about as easy and fun to drive as it gets, but crossing a curb or a dip made the top-heavy narrow wheelbase rig rock and roll so much we named her Rocksie. (Plus it was too small for two people for more than two weeks, for us two anyway.)

Any potential purchase should included a very long road test with as many varying conditions as you find...and especially at highway speeds for more than just a few miles. If you are told something like "it just needs a steering stabilizer," have the seller put one on first and drive it again. Some handling difficulties simply can not be remedied.

Don't let glamour and glitter override reality.

Thanks again for sharing all the info, Ron!

Riding the fine line between bravery and stupidity since 1952.