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Tom_Spangler (Forum Supporter)
Tom_Spangler (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
6/29/22 4:56 p.m.

FWIW, my wife's aunt and uncle have been full-timing in a 2015-ish fifth wheel and a diesel F-350 for about 7 years now. They are not mechanically inclined at all, in fact her uncle has a lot of health issues. I think they do it by getting campsite assistance through Good Sam. One thing they do, though, is they don't travel around all that much. They pick a place and stay there for 3-6 months at a time.

Jay_W SuperDork
6/29/22 8:05 p.m.

In reply to Tom_Spangler (Forum Supporter) :

That's a good way do do it rly...if you're in the same spot for that long and all hooked up, who cares about how much tankage you have and such.

RaabTheSaab New Reader
6/29/22 8:12 p.m.
Driven5 said:
Jay_W said:

If you're looking to fullltime you want a class A diesel prettymuch by definition.

For some types of people, yes. For other types of people, no.

My parents have been full timers for the last 15+ years. They started out in a Class A diesel-pusher for a few years, then downsized to a pop-up truck camper for a few years, then a 4x4 Sprinter conversion for a few years, and most recently a small travel trailer for the last few years. All were extensively researched, and subsequently were respectably reliable.

Like most people, they started out with the philosophy of starting with the comfort of a house and removing as little as possible to make it reasonably mobile. Over time, as a result of reflecting on both their (and others') experiences, their philosophy evolved to starting with the mobility of a tent and adding as little as possible to make it reasonably comfortable... And they couldn't be happier.

My parents are about to transition to full timers as well. They've made the choice to go with a TAB teardrop. They like the outdoor kitchen, but still having a bathroom and king size bed. My dads an engineer and journeyman carpenter and is reasonably confident that he can fix most of what's likely to break. Now they're on the hunt for a compatible tow vehicle. 

Tom1200 UltraDork
6/29/22 9:50 p.m.
frenchyd said:
Tom1200 said:

My 1990 E250 Coachman camper van has been pretty good in the 15 years we've owned it.

I bet it doesn't go to the dealer to have a fuse replaced?   Plus living in something that small for a long term would be, well not something I would do at my age.  

The lady we bought it from was a travel nurse; she lived in it for several years before she retired.

Fueled by Caffeine
Fueled by Caffeine MegaDork
6/30/22 12:18 a.m.

I just rented one. Supposedly $100k agreed insured value.  Jesus. It's so poorly screwed together. I don't think I could ever own one thst wasnt on a commercial truck chassis and buil austerely but solidly. 


Curtis73 (Forum Supporter)
Curtis73 (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
6/30/22 12:36 p.m.

This is going to sound apocalyptic, but I wouldn't buy an RV manufactured after about 1999.  Starting in about 1996 there was a big mix n match of RV manufacturers.  It was like their internal stock market crashed.  This was also around the time that RVs started becoming lighter in response to the overwhelming number of CUVs and small SUVs that people were favoring.  Prior to that era, full size, RWD vehicles were ubiquitous and easily found, gas was relatively cheap, and RVs didn't need to be light.  Beginning with OBD2, cars started being folded tin foil (unibody) construction almost exclusively FWD unless you bought a big American truck or SUV.  Transmissions went from beefy 3 and 4 speed autos that held together at the expense of sapping fuel to super-complex 10-speed autos with more computer power than the laptop I'm typing on now.

I began my full-time RVing in a 1978 Road Cruiser Land Yacht 5th wheel.  It was heavy, but it was a steel I-beam frame with steel studs.  It probably logged 4 years of 100k miles and daily use.  I finally sold it to a guy to use as a hunting camp because the water system needed multiple repairs with parts that were obsolete.  I then had a 1993 Fleetwood Wilderness TT.  Rock solid.  I traded that for a 2000 Fleetwood Wilderness that didn't stand a chance.  The walls on either side of the slide room were buckling and the paneling was breaking, the slide would never go in/out correctly, the roof leaked, and the siding delaminated.  Within one year, the carpet had worn through to the backing in front of the door, most of the hinges had failed on the cabinets, and the structure of the whole thing settled bad enough that the doors wouldn't close (or latch depending on the settling).

I sold that one and bought a 1992 Holiday Rambler TT in 2003.  That was my full time residence for three months a year up until 2019.  16 years and never had a single failure except one small leak where the bolt holds on the lower awning bracket on the side, so it just leaked into the belly.  Fixed it with 30 cents of silicone and 2.318 minutes.

Mom and dad's current Forrest River TT is a 2018.  The cabinets are a joke.  The hinges are the thinnest stamped steel and they have all failed.  The vinyl on the couch is so thin it feels like a trash bag.  The tires are the cheapest junk and he had three (yes three) tires blow on a 250 mile trip.  When the one tire blew, we discovered that the wheel wells were made of luan, because tire shrapnel blew through the luan, through the padding of the couch, and blasted a hole in the vinyl like you had shot it with a shotgun.  The repair required 4 months and a complete stripping of the interior... and they still have a cardboard camper.

Sometime go to an RV show on the last day.  I have seen brand new RVs with sagging cabinet hinges, separated laminate on cabinets, and wallpaper peeling off the paneling after three days of some visitors walking through.  Heck, I have seen them on the first day with cabinet doors that fell off on the way from the dealer to the show.  The level of cardboardness in RVs today is just insane.

1930s - 1995, RVs were made to last with obvious decline toward the end
1996 - 2003, RVs were made for the modern camper - three weekends a year until they lose interest after two years
2003 - today, most RVs are a cardboard box that won't last the first weekend without a massive failure.

My current RV is a Sportsmen 5th wheel from 1992.  It has lived a full life, visited at least 20 states and probably has 50k miles on the chassis.  Mom and dad bought it used and abused it for 25 years for at least two months a year, it looks practically new, everything works, and I expect another 10-15 years from it.  It has been parked on my lot in Canada without my being able to access it for three years, but my buddy has been keeping an eye on it and he says it's ship-shape.  Edit... I will say that the fridge died.  It had a leak which could have easily been fixed for a couple hundred dollars, but I opted to buy a residential 120v fridge instead since this is now permanently parked.

I'm in the market for another small TT, and I would rather have a TT from the 70s than anything from the 00s-up

Curtis73 (Forum Supporter)
Curtis73 (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
6/30/22 12:42 p.m.

I will also add, if you do a search for something like "RV problems manufacturing" you'll get dozens of articles about how manufacturers can't retain employees, untrained employees trying to do things without training, no management, etc.

I'm trying to find a story I read last year about one of the big manufacturers where the entirety of plant management walked out, leaving about 6 employees there who kept assembling RVs without any idea how to do it.  Some left and a few more were hired for a while but there was no flow or management and no training, so they sat around and collected a paycheck until the paychecks stopped because there was no production.

Elkhart's RV plants are being described as ghost towns.

jwagner (Forum Supporter)
jwagner (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand Reader
6/30/22 1:20 p.m.
bearmtnmartin (Forum Supporter)
bearmtnmartin (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UltraDork
6/30/22 1:22 p.m.

This is a local trailer manufacturer with a very good reputation.  They are not all bad. 

Home - Escape Trailer

RaabTheSaab New Reader
6/30/22 1:32 p.m.

In reply to Curtis73 (Forum Supporter) :

So...in others words, you should roll your own 


californiamilleghia UltraDork
6/30/22 2:08 p.m.

Is there any roll over engineering on any of the newer motor homes .

many years ago my friend rolled his motor home down in Baja  and was hurt pretty bad , 

the motor home was pretty much built with 2x4 wood with aluminum sheeting on the outside , 

no thoughts of a steel roll cage etc...

bearmtnmartin (Forum Supporter)
bearmtnmartin (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UltraDork
6/30/22 2:31 p.m.

In reply to RaabTheSaab :

Is that a hydroponic farm hanging down? More in the bedroom too.

Driven5 UberDork
6/30/22 2:37 p.m.
bearmtnmartin (Forum Supporter) said:

This is a local trailer manufacturer with a very good reputation.  They are not all bad. 

Home - Escape Trailer

This is what I was talking about when I mentioned my parents' extensive research resulting in good reliability... Their current travel trailer is an Escape 19.

Purple Frog (Forum Supporter)
Purple Frog (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand HalfDork
6/30/22 2:43 p.m.

If you are not handy with tools then you better have a thick wallet.

We've had three motorhomes in the past 25 years.  We love traveling in them.  The wife really loves them in race track paddocks.  Many years we have done 15 to 20,000 miles.   That said I can not think of a trip that I didn't have to work on it.  For the most part the truck chassis is no problem, its the house on top and its mechanicals that require work. I have always owned gas powered units because I can work on them. I don't think there is not a functioning device in or on the the coach I'm not now qualified to work on.  None of my units have ever been back in a shop.  With one exception.  Climbing the bridge out of Alex Bay going into Canada in 2019 a clip on the side of the chassis failed causing an oil line failure.  (the often told story of a "nickel part".)  As we got to the top of the bridge the alarm came on, but it was too late.  I got another 8.6 liter shipped in from a RV junk yard in Kentucky.   An amazing shop in Gananoque changed it out in 3 days.

To answer California's question... there really is no crash safety in a class A rig.  One must drive it with that always on their mind.  Think of it as a 30,000 lb. motorcycle.

Jay_W SuperDork
6/30/22 9:15 p.m.

In reply to californiamilleghia :

Blue birds were built to school bus standards and have survived rollovers. But there arent in production. So for a newer class A than has a shot at staying mostly intact, without going into the millions for a Newell or any of the commercial bus conversions like Marathon or Featherlite (lol irony), then you're looking for a Foretravel and I don't know for sure that their newer stuff is as built as they were in the 80's and 90's (cuz way, way outta my price range). Semi monocoque chassis, walls and roof part of the structure. There are pix out there of a twin to our '89. The owner got an offramp wrong and went wide and down an embankment. It rolled four times, landed on its wheels, and the occupants walked away from it. When the cleanup crew arrived and started wondering how to get the wreck outta there, someone looked it over and figured "sure give it a shot" and drove it out. In contrast there was a late model... something. I think it was a Tiffin. Got a blowout and it went over on its side, not a roll. Well the occupants went to the hospital and the cleanup crew had to use brooms and dustpans.. srsly one of the pix showed a guy holding a 2 ft section of exterior wall in one hand and a broom in the other. Damn thing just came apart. And I was follwing a winnebago guessin 30 footer, nice and new on a 25 mph city street and geez I could see the back of the rig swaying side to side in relation to the front of it...like the driverside mirror kept getting shrouded by the back of the rig and then magically exposed again. We're talkin a good 6 inches o'chassis flex!

Curtis73 (Forum Supporter)
Curtis73 (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
6/30/22 9:28 p.m.
RaabTheSaab said:

In reply to Curtis73 (Forum Supporter) :

So...in others words, you should roll your own 


When I said I'm in the market for another one.... this is EXACTLY what I was talking about.

Curtis73 (Forum Supporter)
Curtis73 (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
6/30/22 9:32 p.m.
Purple Frog (Forum Supporter) said:

To answer California's question... there really is no crash safety in a class A rig.  One must drive it with that always on their mind.  Think of it as a 30,000 lb. motorcycle.

This.  With obvious exceptions, it's an overloaded van built out of pine and hope.  You're driving a Home Depot shed with an airbag.

bearmtnmartin (Forum Supporter)
bearmtnmartin (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UltraDork
6/30/22 9:33 p.m.

In reply to Jay_W :

I always look at the axles and the extreme camber they run. Overloaded right off the lot. One of my neighbors bought a new camper and he took it to the DOT truck scale and was substantially overweight with no water or supplies loaded. The dealer refused to take it back until he had the DOT (CVSE in BC) pay them a visit and suggest they stop selling illegal equipment. 

Jay_W SuperDork
6/30/22 9:45 p.m.

In reply to bearmtnmartin (Forum Supporter) :

Oh yeah.. we used to have a chevy P30 chassis class A that was very over max gross weight when it was dead empty and gollygee why is it blowing tires out so often? I mean, twice in one 200 mile trip seems kindalike a bit much, don't it? Moby the Road Condo weighs 22k empty and is rated to carry 30. That's more like it. 

Tom_Spangler (Forum Supporter)
Tom_Spangler (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
6/30/22 10:46 p.m.
Purple Frog (Forum Supporter) said:

Think of it as a 30,000 lb. motorcycle.

The only way this analogy fails is that you need a special license to operate a motorcycle. Any idiot with a regular driver's license can drive 30k pounds of rolling death down the freeway among all of us.

Rodan SuperDork
7/1/22 11:32 a.m.

Anyone have any experience with the class 8 conversions like Renegade and Showhauler?

Newer ones are mid- 6 figures, but older ones are something we're considering when we retire next year.  We're seriously considering full-timing for a while, but if we're going to do that we want to be able to tow a stacker to take our race car and street car.   The ones we've looked at so far seem to be way better built than the typical RV.

FWIW, our 2007 Lance truck camper has been pretty darn good for the 6 years we've owned it.  I'm not very impressed with the build quality, but *knock wood* it's been very reliable, with only a few minor issues.  But then again, there's no drivetrain/suspension to complicate things.

porschenut HalfDork
7/1/22 11:43 a.m.

The Bs can be better but still subject to the driving your house down the road thing.  My answer was a pickup and a trailer.  Good quality trailer, aluminum frame, azdel siding, no plywood or laminated wood products anywhere.  Only failures in 10 years was a shower water pump and sunlight over the shower cracked.

If you want trouble free bu a truck with a warranty and a new airstream.  They make a solid trailer.  That will be about 200K.

californiamilleghia UltraDork
7/1/22 1:46 p.m.

In Germany you are limited to 80km/50mph  pulling a trailer ,  which makes for a long boring drive ,  And they have lots of speed cameras , 

But I wonder how much more stress is on a camper or trailer when you are going 70-75mph on potholed roads?

California is 55mph when you are pulling a trailer ,  but no one drives at 55 , more likely 65-70.

Are 5th wheeler trailers a better answer ?


Don49 (Forum Supporter)
Don49 (Forum Supporter) Dork
7/1/22 1:51 p.m.

Having had several motor homes and several toter homes ( class 8), I can say there is no comparison to the sturdiness. The motor homes were flimsy at best and definitely not built for longevity.

frenchyd MegaDork
7/2/22 8:50 a.m.

In reply to Don49 (Forum Supporter) :

Do you need a CDL for a Class 8 if it's a private coach?     I know in Minnesota you need to pass the air brake test for anything with air brakes.   Not hard if you read before.    And it's a separate  test. 
     Interesting thing is you don't get a air brake endorsement on your license. Instead you don't have a restriction.  

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