So many confusing choices for newbies - Fiberglass RV


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Old 03-13-2007, 02:33 PM   #1
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Folks like you and the RV consumer guide are very helpful when you've had no previous experience with RVs an look forward to getting into it.

Based on what I've read to datebut lacking the insights that only first-hand experience can offer, here are things we're mulling over now and some of the thinking behind it.

RVs: Sprinter-based Class B (new)? Small fiberglass model (new) OR small, conventional trailer (used)? Trailer OR 5th wheel.

TOW VEHICLE: How much? What kind? New or used??


CLASS B: I'd never have considered any motorhome until I read what the RV consumer sites had to say about these vehicles being ideal for retired folks. The photos I viewed online looked small and cramped though until I came accross Mercedes diesel-powered models spaced on the Sprinter chassis.

Advantages: They offer good milage (25 to 27 mpg), a highly durable engine, decent power, nice to luxurious amenities, easy set up and in-town parking and they are far less cramped than most class B's. The space looks good to folks like us moving up from car/tent/motel travel. I've also noticed some folks who moved down from big class A's seem highly pleased with them.

Disadvantages: 1. Expensive: They list around 95K new but I'd imagine they' run about 80K's new. However, a diesel pickup and moderate size quality 5th wheel would run about that. 2. You better like it or else!: Used B class RVs are hard to find and that goes double for diesels so selling would be easy if we change our minds. Even so, I'd guess depreciation losses would be substantial.

SMALL FIBERGLASS TRAILERS: Since depreciation seems minimal, buying new seems best under this option no matter what RV needs we discover as a result of later experience. The 16 to 17 foot ones seem to offer so much more for so much less than compared to regular class Bs (I can only see the latter if used and low-mileage). On the other hand, there's no question these trailers, despite high quality, involves some loss of luxury, convenience and space compared to the Sprinter diesel-based Class B's. So what it comes down to in that choice is mostly money or is the difference worth the cost?

REGULAR TRAILERS AND RV's (Buy used?): If purchased used (under 20K) and small enough, this offers much the same advantages as the small fiberglass trailers. Main advantage: a bit more room but not so much to tow as to intimidate older newbies.

TOW VEHICLE: If we could guarantee we'd be happy with "small," either a 150/1500-level pickup or mid-size SUV might do, though I'd find that option more attractive if the new smaller diesels were available (Expect one in some of the Dodge vehicles in a year or so) Right now I lean toward buying a big, used 350 with diesel engiine. In two years, if small satisfies we can keep it or switch to a smaller pickup or SUV, especially if some diesel hybrids are available.
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Old 03-13-2007, 03:46 PM   #2
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I always thought that the Chevy Astro/GMC Safari was the ideal Tow.
lots of room, sit nice and high, felt the same as my Suburban in comfort and handling.
22 mpg on highway 17 towing 13' Burro 5000 lbs max ability.
Not much change since 1979, able to last 300,000 miles or more.
(A guy at work has had 2 that went over 300,000 and is working on his third one now.
My 2002 cost about 19,000 bucks with a discount.
I would buy another one in a heartbeat.

BUT GM in its wisdom stopped making them in 2005 and didn't replace them with anything!!

Really nuts!
Colorado? 3500 lbs towing, 5 cyl inline with the same mileage as the Astro????

I'm leaning toward Toyota something for my next tow.
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Old 03-13-2007, 03:53 PM   #3
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A couple of other considerations -

With the separate trailer, there is a learning curve for maneuvering - backing up and parking. This is not insurmountable - but definitely humbling and takes practice. Also, you have a bit less flexibility in finding parking lots with extended parking to accomodate your 'rig'.

One of my considerations was having pets - and not wanting to leave them in a hot car (or conversion van) while I go touristing. The fiberglass Escape (even in a sunny RV park) keeps my dogs cool with the fan on. Perhaps you can do something similar with a parked RV, I don't know - I couldn't with my Van.

Also, with the trailer, you not only have less cost to purchase, but you don't have the extra maintenance of another driving vehicle (engine, drive train, transmission, etc). Exclude the camping amenities that you'd be maintaining in either case and basically you're maintaining tires and an axle!

Good luck in deciding!
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Old 03-13-2007, 04:01 PM   #4
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Quote:
The photos I viewed online looked small and cramped though until I came accross Mercedes diesel-powered models spaced on the Sprinter chassis.
I have looked at, and been in several of the Class B motorhomes based on the Sprinter. They are spacious, well built, and have everything you need. They are very nice, and vey expensive, but what it came down to when we chose our fiberglass trailer is "how" we travel/camp.

We like to travel to a spot, stay a night or two and explore the area, with a trailer we can leave it at the camp site and go where we need to. We didn't want to have to take our RV along everytime we headed into town, or go exploring. Even though the gas mileage was good with the Mercedes diesel, it is better without hauling the trailer everywhere.
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Old 03-13-2007, 06:11 PM   #5
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re: We didn't want to have to take our RV along everytime we headed into town.

If your tow vehicle were a big pick up--like a 350 or 3500-- would it make that big a difference which one you drove into town?

The ads say the Sprinter Class B's can tow 5,000 pounds, so perhaps it could tow my MX-5 Miata (2500 pounds)--not that I'd do that. No matter what we end up with, unless we sell it to finance the purchase one of us would probably drive the Miata along on any trip lasting for several weeks and not too distant. It loves curvy, two-lane roads.

Re: the other alternatives, the idea of possibly making a change every few years (three years is average I'm told) is both attractive and unattractive. Anne's point about pets is one I hadn't thought of in favor of these choices. Thanks.
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Old 03-13-2007, 06:34 PM   #6
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Re: the Astro Van

Yes, GM stopped making these... because too few people want them now. Not much change since 1979? I didn't think it was that early, but this is a significant thing to say about a vehicle - the rest of the world has advanced since then.

I'm not criticizing those who have chosen the Astro (or Safari) and I'm sure it does well when properly equipped. I even like the way the updated body style looks. I just doubt anyone seriously considering US$80K Class B's would be happy with one.

I do think that the Astro is a good size of tug for the typical 16' to 17' moulded fiberglass travel trailer, and I think the van format works well. Although the front-wheel-drive layout is not ideal for heavy towing, I find my similarly sized Sienna works well with my 17' Boler.
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Old 03-13-2007, 06:45 PM   #7
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re: We didn't want to have to take our RV along everytime we headed into town.

If your tow vehicle were a big pick up--like a 350 or 3500-- would it make that big a difference which one you drove into town?
Yes, because the RV needs to be disconnected from services to leave, and re-connected and re-leveled upon return... and then there's awnings, etc.

I do agree that a "one-ton" is not a good runaround vehicle, which is why I think for a large enough RV rig, a motorhome pulling a "toad" (car) makes sense; however, for the more reasonable rigs which seem to be the focus of this discussion, the tug (one to pull a 3000 lb trailer) makes a great local transport vehicle. Many people tow their "egg" with the same vehicle they drive to work daily.
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Old 03-13-2007, 06:52 PM   #8
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Okay, one last comment...

I like the Sprinter design. I can't afford a premium new Class B, and the Sprinter doesn't fit the role of just a tug very well, so we're not about to get one. There are a few things I would want to consider about this option:
  • there is a new generation Sprinter about to appear, with more power and more body options - if waiting a year is okay, that might be beneficial
  • if the Sprinter's appeal is largely the engine, then note that the same engine to be used in the coming Sprinter (3.0 CRD) will be in several Daimler-Chrylser vehicles, and is already in the Grand Cherokee (which could tow an egg)
  • while the Sprinter is a capable tow vehicle, I don't think you could load one up as a Class B RV and still have capacity to tow a car well
  • 25 to 27 mpg sounds pretty optimistic even for a Sprinter - maybe that's at constant moderate-speed highway cruise, and that's not the real world
In looking at the buyer's guides, keep in mind that they are far from complete. Often, only one or two models of a range are represented, so good options are easily missed. Whole manufacturers are missing if they didn't pay to get in.
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Old 03-13-2007, 07:49 PM   #9
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Frank G,

Don't buy an RV! It doesn't make sense economically. Fuel costs are going up all the time. No way an RV will be a cheaper alternative for your travels.
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Old 03-13-2007, 07:50 PM   #10
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Taking a look at the Sprinter kind of takes me back to my custom panel van days in college, only the Sprinter is much more luxurious than my custom Dodge Van was. I think the bottom line is you have to know what makes you happy.

Being new to the "eggs" myself with an 81 13' Scamp I'm redoing, I know I wouldn't be a Sprinter type person. I think having an "egg" now myself, and reading all these wonderful posts for months up here, I can safely say we are "tinkerers." Much of the fun comes in modifying and restoring these wonderful, easy to work on, little trailers. It seems many of us, myself as well, come from backpacking-tent camping and these FG trailers are kind of a move up, but not terribly far away from our camping roots. The Sprinter seems to fit more into the luxury RV camp to me which the price would confirm as well.

Since the fiberglass trailers and the Sprinter appear to appeal to two different groups it would seem to me you just have to decide which you personally would be happier with.
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Old 03-13-2007, 08:58 PM   #11
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I'm recycling a posting I made over on a completely different forum...not one for molded lightweight fiberglass rvs:

A brand-new Scamp 5th wheel runs less than $20,000 and weighs less than 2800 lbs. Easily pulled by a V6 too. The difference between small trailers and the larger ones, is how one "camps." Typically a small trailer owner spends significant time outdoors, because that's where we want to be. But sleeps in comfort, perhaps has a fully functioning bathroom (not a dance hall!), propane stove (perhaps NOT an "oven" tho). The Scamp 5th wheel has an option for a 6 cuft refrigerator with top door freezer, the same as much larger RVs. And probably the biggest advantage is a lightweight molded fiberglass trailer doesn't suffer seam leaks and wood dry rot problems. They are a maintenance breeze in comparison. They use the same windows and appliances as all trailer manufacturers... names like Dometic, Suburban, etc. The thing we hear the most is "you have everything you need, and nothing you don't." and "it's so much bigger inside than it looks outside." However, if there's a need for a reclining chair in the livingroom and you need a 32" TV to go spend time in the woods and these things are what you absolutely must have, then these small trailers are not for you.

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Old 03-13-2007, 09:40 PM   #12
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SMALL FIBERGLASS TRAILERS: On the other hand, there's no question these trailers, despite high quality, involves some loss of luxury, convenience and space compared to the Sprinter diesel-based Class B's.
I'd beg to differ. There are lots of choices out there in FGRVs from stock strippers to full dressers. Having had Airstreams for years, and one Airstream 325 Class A Moho for three years, I'll take my fiberglass trailer now, thank you very much. Honestly, I just sold an Airstream 34' tri-axle and replaced it with a Bigfoot 25' trailer.

Motorhomes in general are not a sound way to spend your money. You will lose 20% of your investment annually for the first three years you own it. As it approaches 100k miles, it will have essentially no value, and the maintenance on them becomes overwhelming.

With a trailer and tow vehicle at least if the tow vehicle breaks, you can trade it off, hook up your new one and you're back on the road. If your moho breaks, you're stuck living in some garage somewhere until the parts arrive. Been there done that, thanks...

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Old 03-13-2007, 09:54 PM   #13
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I "downsized" from a Safari van to a mid sized Dakota. With the 4 wheel drive, small 8, and extended cab I can pull almost all the trailers from this site. My mileage is as good or even better than with the van and I can cary almost as much gear albeit it's out under the tonneau. It's sportier and parks easier, and doesn't act like a sail in a cross wind. My 13 ft Boler actually tracks better now. I guess it's truck axle to hitch ratio.Also better all round vision when parking or backing.
I've found that the bigger the tow vehicle then the more gear you try to stuff into it. Used to even had made blackout curtians for the van so could have the porta-potti in there at night and not inside the trailer.
If you're considering a moter home remember that if you need one loaf of bread from the store, you have to pack everything and take it ALL with you.While the trailer sits comfortably waiting in the shade.
In the end you'll get what you want for your personal needs or wishes and for you it will be the best thing out there.
Go for it and give us the pictures.
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Old 03-14-2007, 05:41 AM   #14
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Hi: FrankG. We started with a Luxury packaged Ford Taurus Wgn.$28,000. C.D. and a '77 Boler 13' Trailer $3,000. Visitors comments "Its all you really need" My dream package is an Escape fifth wheel trailer $25.000. and a Toyota V6 pickup to tow with$29.000. My neighbour has over$60,000. tied up in his diesel dually G.M.C. pickup and a stickie built fifth wheel of unknown value and for various reasons his fifth is confined to his drive shed most of the time It all boils down to needs and perspective!!!
Alf S. North shore of Lake Erie
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