Big & Beautiful

My wife and I have owned two class A motorhomes: one a new 37 ft. gas coach and a new 40 ft. bath and half diesel pusher.

Since we successfully sued the manufacturers of both of our motorhomes for a complete buy back, we have had more of a “hate” than “love” relationship with this type of motorhome. On the other hand, there is a lot to like about a Class A. But, as the title of this post says be prepared “for a love hate relationship” no matter which type A you buy.

To help you make a better decision about whether to buy one of these, we have summarized what is to like and not to like about these motorhomes.

Class A Motorhomes are your portable home away from home on a truck chassis and motor.

We have gravitated to motor homes because of the need, at our age, to make frequent trips to the potty.  This is no small deal if you are stuck in traffic, far from exits and/or with no place to pull over.  With a quick athletic move (not recommended for the novice), the driver and passenger can change seats if the driver has to make a quick emergency pit stop inside the coach.

They are also self contained so boondocking (no hookups available) is relatively easy.  In bad weather, you just stop at a campground or a pull off. Simply turn on the generator and you have lights, electricity, water, AC, heat, and a dry martini in hand all available without having to get out of the coach.

Class A motorhomes are very convenient, but they are mechanically complex machines and prone to numerous mechanical failures.  They are also very big bucks if purchased new. It’s hard to get into even a small Class A for under a 100K.

Pros

  • Like “Intel Inside” these buggies have about everything you want for creature comfort and convenience.
  • No search for the “pee pee platz”.  It’s right down the aisle.
  • Generator on board. So, if it’s raining no need to go outside.  Drop the stabilizing jacks, start the generator, stir the martinis, microwave a couple of hors d’oeuvres, turn on the heat or AC, switch on the water pump, turn on the New England Patriots and you are a self contained island in the world. Sometimes smugly watching the owners of towable rigs and 5th wheels slopping around in the mud and rain to hook their coaches up to power and water.
  • Bigger size and weight allow for more cool stuff like 4 TVs, electric beds, cavernous storage basements, convenient operation of all systems and panoramic viewing out the huge front windows. Plus bath and half possibilities so that marital bliss is maintained.
  • Boondocking (camping with no external hookups)
  • 5000-10000 lb or more  towing capacity for reasonably big TOADS (nickname for the vehicle you are towing behind a motorhome).
  • The envy of other RVers.  They can be spectacular and serve as a home away from home.  Many full-time RV folks choose Class As and many aspire to own one of these.
  • Access to some high end RV resorts. Many high end resorts like you might find near Palm Springs, CA only allow class A motorhomes to use their facilities.  No trashy towables or pickup truck driven 5th wheels need apply thank you! Some of these resorts are really quite posh and the only ticket to ride is having a Class A.

Cons

  • Red sails in the sunset.  A nice image but a nightmare in Class A coaches.  We have had to upgrade the suspensions on both our Class A coaches so that we would not wind up at the end of a day on the road without taking a xanax to calm the jitters.  High winds in a Class A can make you feel that you are one step closer to Heaven.  Even the highest end Class A motorhomes are big sails in the wind and act accordingly. We have had to add a steering stabilizer as a minimum to our class A’s and usually front and rear body stabilizers to give us a semblance of confidence driving through the usually windy great southwest. Without these suspension upgrades, lane changes can be completely involuntary. Watch out for the big semi tractor trailer barreling by you at 80 mph because the vacuum it can create between you an their rig can feel like a rip tide sucking you into a potentially unplanned and unwanted union.
  • Wonderful when parked, but can be tricky on the road.
  • God help you in a frontal collision. There is not much between you and an oncoming vehicle in case of a head on collision. Unlike Class C’s that have a truck cab, crumple zones are almost non-existent.  So enjoy those beautiful panoramic views out that short front end and pray that you never have a frontal collision. The only saving grace is that you are higher than most normal vehicles but that is still not much of an advantage.
  • Very expensive to own and operate.  If a manufacturer can discount a Class A window sticker by 30% or more then you know the rig is not going to hold its value.  Look on RV trader or any used RV website and note the tremendous depreciation that Class A coaches have.  If they held their value, why  would any manufacturer give 30% off to entice you to buy one?  Most of these coaches are complex and poorly built, so expect to spend your first two years of ownership of a brand new coach fixing things.  Some repairs are minor and some major.

 

My wife would have no trouble driving a pickup truck towing a trailer, but there is something about that Class A front end that really bothers her. She likes to have a hood in front of her for better aiming. The Class A front end is dead flat with wide jutting mirrors which often stick out quite a bit from the sides of the coach. This makes judging side to side distance a challenge. 

My biggest white knuckle time driving our Class A was on a freeway around Los Angeles, which had construction barriers right on the edge of the road and five lanes of highway on my left.  Add a little wind to that scenario and you can have a very hair raising experience. I am always glad when the Jersey barriers disappear from the side of the road. I breathe a big sigh of relief. 

My wife would be absolutely apoplectic if she were driving a Class A in this situation. I still have trouble judging side to side distances from the front end and I have had two class A’s. With our class C’s we never had this problem because the hood in front helps you gauge side to side distance much better.

  • Men, prepare to be the primary driver.  It’s partially your fault because you are the one who probably pushed for buying a motorhome in the first place. We know women can drive them because we see some behind the wheel while we are out on the road.  But 80-90% of the coaches we encounter while driving across country are driven by men.

Class A Gas versus Diesel

Class A Gas Vs Diesel Both are homes away home if you can afford them. There are many blogs on pros and cons of gas over diesel Class A’s and we won’t repeat them.  Our take! Gas Class A’s can be pretty luxurious at a budget price. But they are lighter  weight, less capable, have a rougher ride and have lower quality amenities than diesel pushers.  Some of the new gas ones come close to diesel pushers in the luxury department.

However, Class A gas coaches share one big downside in that most are equipped with Ford’s V10 engine. It’s curious that almost no other engine manufacturers have tried to muscle in on Fords lock on this market.  In its current configuration, we don’t like this engine even though it has an excellent reliability record.   It’s just underpowered for most 28 ft and above Class A’s and it tends to whine.  We feel like we have to get out and push these vehicles to make it up some of the steep grades in California. A lot of people dump their Class A gas coaches if they live in the west because of their poor mountain climbing performance.

There is a fix to this underperformance deficit that we applied to our first 37 foot Class A gas coach.  We drove from our home in Monterey California to the Banks Performance Center in Ventura California.  We refer to this as we “Banks’d” our RV. For $4,000, they installed completely new mufflers and tailpipes and performance tuned the Ford V10 with a tuner chip.  It sounds like a lot of money, but, oh boy did it make a difference.

Our RV came out of the Banks shop like a monster truck. At idle, it sounded like a drag strip racer and in the mountains we blew by diesel pushers at the allowed speed limits all while towing our Jeep Wrangler.  The coach was not only a rocket, it had greater torque, no engine whine, and smoother shift points. The re-tuning also gave us better gas mileage. I would never have any class A gas coach again without “Banksing it”.

When we took that motorhome to a nearby Camping World for scheduled maintenance, we talked to a nice couple from New England who had just bought a new Class A gas rig. They had driven it to their Florida home for the winter. They were at Camping World trying to trade this new motorhome in for a diesel pusher. They were so unhappy with its mountain climbing performance when going through the mountains in Tennessee and North Carolina. With a tow vehicle, they could barely make 40 mph going up a grade.

When I told them our experience with the Banks system they said this was the first time they had ever heard of it. They thanked us, got in their coach and left the dealer lot with the intent of “Banksing” their Class A. Needless to say, a 4K fee for a Banks system looked a lot better than the 20K depreciation hit they were going to take on their trade.

The Camping World salesman heard me tell this story to the couple and we none too happy with us for costing him a sale. But…we were happy we could help the customer. Of course, no sales person would give them this advice and that is one of the reasons we started this web site to share this kind of information with other RVers.

A note of caution. Some RVers are afraid to do this modification because they fear voiding the Ford warranty. Please follow the link at the end of this post regarding the Magnuson-Moss Act which prohibits a manufacturer or dealer from denying warranty work on a modified engine unless they can prove that the engine failure was specifically caused by that modification.

A Ford dealer could try to deny you warranty work but they open themselves up to a serious lawsuit and the onus is on them to prove that the modification caused the engine failure. It’s too bad Ford doesn’t do this modification as part of their manufacturing process. It would make a big difference and they could mass produce this modification probably for less money than Banks….Then their V10 would be a real winner.

The Ford V10 has been around a long time, so we wouldn’t be at all surprised to see Ford bypass upgrades and come up with a great new engine for Class A gas coaches. Why not a twin turbo ecoboost that gets great mileage and can move a ton like in their pickup trucks? Power and economy in the RV industry….what an interesting ideas?

http://www.duramax.bizhosting.com/magnuson-moss-warranty.htm

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