RV Research – Augusta RV’s Ambition Fifth Wheel

(update 12/4/16 – Here is a link to our factory tour)

I’ve been doing some research within the 19,000 pound class of fifth wheels to see what’s available compared to the 16,000 pound class.  We are planning to pull our rig with a one ton dually pickup. It seems like staying below 20,000 pounds is recommended for these trucks.  Others say the “better built” trailers are going to be the heavier ones. I’d been watching Augusta RV for some time now and first noticed the company with the introduction of their Luxe fifth wheel. They advertise their trailers as fulltime rigs.  The Ambition caught my eye and someday I hope to tour it. For now, I’ve just been looking at what is published on the web along with photos. For our purposes I rated the Ambition high on my sheet.

 

Karen is in Michigan visiting her family. The next time I’m able to go with her I’d like to take a slight detour and visit the Augusta RV factory. They only sell factory direct and there are no used units in our area. I’d appreciate knowing what you think about buying from a company with no dealerships? To include your opinion concerning if it would be harder to find someone to repair it other than the factory?

I found a great two-part video with details about the 2017 Ambition 38RL construction and amenities.  After spending months studying construction methods I’m feeling more confident about what I’m looking at when comparing rigs. Four pages of notes later I came up with a few of the Ambitions features that were impressive, especially compared to trailers in the 16,000 pound class:

  • Basement is fully finished with no exposed pipes and wires.
  • 40 pound propane tanks compared to the usual 30.
  • The Equalizer six point auto leveling jacks which are found in motor homes.
  • Outside stereo controls with Bluetooth connectivity so you don’t have to go inside to change the channel.
  • 8,000 pound axles.
  • Standard Dexter disc brakes (although the Kodiak brand is higher rated by some).
  • Standard 17.5” wheels with Goodyear H rated tires.
  • MORryde SRE 4000 suspension. (Their Luxe trailer comes standard with the MORryde independent suspension.) As of 2016 many of the trusted sources in the forums say they would not own a trailer without the MORryde independent suspension.
  • Nice separation of bedroom/bathroom space from the living area by a hallway with storage.
  • Nice entryway closet with a seat.
  • Hand laid tile back splashes.
  • Very modern interior design/colors.
  • Standard soft close drawers which are dovetailed. They place the hardware on the bottom of the drawers to allow for a slightly wider drawer space.
  • Real residential four burner stove and oven compared to the smaller RV style.
  • Lights are dimmable and zoned.
  • Heating and cooling temperature sensors spread around the trailer.
  • Thoughtful consideration of which way cabinets open such as easier access above the bed. Outstanding storage in bedroom!
  • Water shut off valves below the sinks.
  • Built-in wireless cell phone charging.
  • 85” sofa and upgradable furniture. The upgrade is Lambright which Augusta claims to be exclusive to them.
  • Colored ceiling.
  • Molded sink in bathroom.
  • Standard king size bed with option for a queen. You can even upgrade to the Sleep Number bed.
  • Heavy closet rods.
  • Up to 4,000 pound cargo capacity.
  • 2.25” exterior walls compared to others with 2”. The trailer is also wrapped with a thermal barrier.
  • Electric rack and pinion for the larger slides.
  • They publish how-to videos on Youtube.
  • 16 gallon hot water tank.
  • Slam latch doors are 1.25” rather than 1”.
  • Full prep for generator to include a button inside the trailer.
  • Setup for Direct TV standard with option for Dish TV
  • True high gloss gel coat exterior.
  • 12” I beam frame with slightly thicker steel. Slide out-rigors are also well designed.

I had a few concerns and have not had the chance to call Augusta RV for comment:

  • Because they have no dealerships I wonder if service work will be harder to get.
  • Not sure there is room for more than two batteries without some changes in the compartment.
  • They advertise as coming standard with a residential fridge running off an 1800 watt inverter. Right now we would prefer an RV type fridge. Again, I’ve not been able to call them to see if that’s an option. (Update – I sent Augusta RV an email asking about a option for a gas/electric fridge. I received a call back and there is an option for this but it is not advertised as an option). I also received an email from the president of Augusta as well as a timely call from one of his staff.
  • I could not find their warranty listed on their web page.
  • I’m still not sure about hung wall construction vs laminated. Although the successful Cedar Creek has hung walls as does the DRV. (update 8/16/16 – There has been a lot of comparison by trusted sources who say their laminated walls were quieter and heating/cooling was easier. However they were comparing hung walls with their laminated walls that had the Blue Dow Foam insulation which is the best of the best.)

In the Ambitions price range we would most likely have to buy a used trailer to meet our budget.  For those that missed it, Howard at RV Dreams posted his article on what trailer he would buy today. This is a well done article using several examples.  In the end, not that he is looking for a new trailer, but he would buy used and spend money hauling it around and getting upgrades.  In one example he suggested he would buy a used quality unit for between $30,000 to $40,000. Then upgrade to a few essentials costing about $8,000 to $10,000. Then spend another $25,000 to $30,000 to remodel it.  That would total $63,000 to $80,000 but includes full body paint. Several others have also suggested that we buy a quality used heavy unit and upgrade it as needed. I’d want to make sure whatever used unit we bought had a frame capable of handling the weight for the upgrades.

I’ve also been spending some time looking at a few trailers which are less costly such as the Jayco Eagle, Grand Design Reflection (my favorite in the class at the show), Montana High Country and Keystone Laredo to name a few.  Some of these trailers are approaching the price range of the 16,000 pound luxury models but would not require a dually truck.

For now, Karen and I are sticking with our goal to “buy our third trailer first.” I suppose this is making our selection more difficult.  The practical side of me says buy something in the middle of the price range. It’s nice to see folks traveling, and having a good time, in rigs within a wide selection of price ranges. I’m sure our budget will dictate what we end up buying.

Below is a good post about a factory tour – where they learned Augusta pays employees by the hour rather than by the piece. Others say only two other custom builders pay by the hour which include New Horizons:

“We just returned from touring many RV manufacturers in Elkhart, IN.  By far the wife and I favorite was the Luxe 39-FB.  We also toured DRV, which isn’t a bad 5th either.  Honestly, it comes down to taste.  I would absolutely chose a Luxe over a DRV.  Mainly because of the color schemes offered and the placement of the vents.  Another thing that really bothered me was the complete chaos at DRV manufacturing.  It left room for error for sure.  They were producing 11 a week compared to the 2 a week at Augusta.  Yes Augusta is new and not well known but they are also hourly employeed and not set to a production number.  I am a commercial aircraft technician by trade and for me its about the little details.  An example would be the insulation being laid in the belly.  Augusta’s was flawless no gaps and went up the side of the frame as well.  DRV not so much, gaps in a lot of places and none on the side of frame.  DRV used screws to hold their side wall structure together.  Augusta welded.  Wall insulation is glued on by both.  Augusta went over the top with the glue using ample, DRV not so much.  They both are custom and say they can make alterations sometimes for the customer.  DRV offers only dark wood.  I asked if a lighter wood could be used as a custom wood.  Nope????  THe icing on the cake for my was usb ports.  Usb ports are becoming a norm in all hotels and you can now get them for your home.  They are standard on a Luxe.  I asked DRV if they could install and the guy laughed and said that was just bling and who really uses them? I wouldn’t worry yourself too much with warranties and all that stuff because anyone whos been doing it for a minute will honestly tell you they are all the same.  About 1 year and after that its like pulling teeth.”

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27 thoughts on “RV Research – Augusta RV’s Ambition Fifth Wheel

  1. A friend of mine is also looking at 5th wheels. Just found one with the kitchen over the hitch, then the living room, finally the bedroom in the back. I like the ones with the living room above the hitch myself! But Mariel and I are still getting a motorhome 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I toured a front kitchen fifth wheel at the last show. It was a Keystone Montana with a window on the front cap as well. Nice floor plan with the same separation of spaces like the front living room. Same problem though which was a smaller basement space.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I like this article. I figured Augusta was direct sales only since there is no “Find Dealer” link on their website. I think it’s more cost effective for customer if they cut out the middle man. More bang for your buck. They must have confidence in their product to avert dealerships who could use questionable sales techniques or possibly give out erroneous info. As for who can repair it, if and when? Good question to ask Augusta.

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    • A guy who had been fulltime for awhile and recently came off the road gave me a call. He had owned a DRV Elite Suites, did all the research like you and I, and even changed out to a motor home. His advise was among all other things buy from a company who stands behind their products. Service after the sale is what he was pushing as the most important consideration. He went on to suggest before we buy call the president of the company and ask him/her if they stand behind their product. If they say yes then have them send me this in writing so I can flash it at a dealership or the factory later. He believed if the president of the company did not call back or send the letter than skip them as a selection. This might be on the extreme side of ideas but I got the point.

      I read a recent blog post where they take their rig back to Indiana every now and then and visit all the various vendors and have things fixed. In this particular case the company that built the trailer went out of business a long time ago. Perhaps that was why they had to go to the various vendors (because the original company was out of business) or maybe they hit on a good thing. Rather than waiting for parts and arguing over who should pay for what or just getting something fixed the first time, go to Indiana and get with whomever built that particular part.

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  3. Buying an Ambition, after much research it was a no brainier for us. Augusta has contracts with RV repair shops throughout the USA . if you want to do some custom work they will do their best to oblige, it will cost you but of course that would be expected.

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  4. We visited several 5th wheel factories and after lots of internet research and talking with lots of people and touring lots of 5th wheels – we have an Ambition AB38RLS on order. Yes we follow RV Dreams – Howard. Problem is by the time you buy a used unit with no warranty and fix it up you have a used unit with a new unit cost. (Water damage not visible by inspection can be very very costly). Some things we considered. 1. There are only a few makers that provide a warranty for full timers, most manufacturers will NOT warranty a full timer – why? My guess is they are not built that well. Luxe/Ambition are warrantied for the full timer – which we hope to be a full timer Summer 2017. 2. Has a very good floor plan at a very good price. 3. Warranty work is available through out the USA. 4. Talked with Chris the President and Debra the sales rep. They stand 100% behind their product and are very very proud of their product. 5. Built by hourly employees, not employees paid by the piece so they want to put out a high quality product. 6. DRV – closest full time product to the Ambition is more $$$ and when you visit the factory they have lots of do overs for quality before it gets out the door. DRV 38PS3 was my 2nd choice. 7. Met and talked with many of the employees at Augusta RV and they are very very proud of the quality of 5th wheel they produce and each employee is focused on putting out the most trouble free product possible. 8. We are important to Ambition, and Ambition is important to us so it is a win/win. Delivery early 2017 by our choice (yes they worked with us on that too – 2016 pricing for 2017 unit).

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lew, thank you very much for sharing your comments. Really appreciate it! A few other points I had been considering about the Ambition was their decision not to install the Morryde independent suspension. I’m not sure if they offer it as an option. I’m sure they considered that decision after much thought. For us, if we stay on the road long-term I could see upgrading later.

      I was also wondering about Augusta’s financial backing. I had noticed they build horse trailers and someone commented they are considered high-end horse trailers. If a vendor goes out of business there is little chance they will be able to backup their warranty, although the factory warranty is only an issue for the year they provide it. And I assume the trailer parts are fairly typical of others in many cases. I’ve made a note for myself to try and research the company from a financial standpoint. But as I’ve not yet come up with a final list of trailers I may wait on that research. We like the floor plan you purchased so Augusta may make our final list.

      The trailer weight is heavy. Others that know more about trucks than me suggest the one ton dually can handle it. I have come to the conclusion that if we want a trailer with the construction of the Ambition, with good cargo capacity, then it’s going to be heavier. What’s your opinion on this?

      The price point for what your getting with the Ambition is good. It’s maybe $20,000 or so higher than going with something in the 16,500 GVWR such as the Montana, Cedar Creek and others without full body paint. But then again if we are wanting to buy just one trailer to avoid loosing money through depreciation, it might be worth the risk of spending the extra money up front. The risk being if we decide we don’t like the full time RV lifestyle and don’t stay on the road.

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      • Hi Mark, I might be able to answer a few more questions. I don’t think Augusta-RV builds horse trailers. Yes the high end mor ryde suspension is a $6,000 option. Warranty – yes they use standard off the shelf parts other than the frame, walls, and general structure. I believe they are a privately held company so there is not much financial info available. But…does not matter the size of the company, any of them can and do go out of business or stay in business a very long time. I have a 2016 Ford F350 dually good for 25,000 lbs so I believe I am good to tow this beast. I do plan on installing air bags on the rear axle so I can tow level. I went to a New Horizons user group and toured 15 5th wheels. Most were being towed with either a f550 or a semi cab – not something I want (Don’t want to drive a semi and don’t have that kind of $$$). The Ambition comes with decals. For $3,000 you can get it clear coated, for $10,000 you can get custom paint. Hope I answered some of your questions. I am far from an expert, but like you have done lots and lots of research.

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      • Hi Sherba I hope this goes directly to you. I would love to email with you and learn more and provide you with info about us and where we are at. Please email me at lewmary@hotmail.com And yes we too are counting down the days too!

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  5. One more thing – August-RV – if you want the morryde independent suspension then you are probably going to move up to the Luxe because you will probably want the full body paint and all the other bells and whistles, and can afford it. All the high end stuff comes standard on the Luxe, a very very nice unit.

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  8. Just remember that weights are weights and you are equally concerned with GROSS WEIGHT — after you’ve fully loaded as well as whatever sticker weights you see. Most RV’ers underestimate how much weight they have put onboard…. Just saying…..

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  9. OK, I have been quiet long enough. Weight – I fully agree that you have to be concerned about both towing weight of the unit AND GROSS weight. But….I see on the WWW people discussing trailer weight all the time and putting out disinformation. I have seen posts that say if you are over weight and have an accident your insurance may not pay – totally false! The same as if you have an accident while speeding will your insurance not pay???? Yes it will pay! Read the exclusions in your policy, their are none for over weight, speeding, stupidity…….. Weight is weight – not totally true. For me being able to stop safely is what weight is all about. On level ground my mini cooper could probably pull 15,000 pounds, but it sure as heck won’t stop it. For me it is all about stopping. So…….which is going to have better stopping power (safety) – An F350 with 4 tires on the ground towing an out of tune electric drum brake 18,000 pound 5th wheel, OR An F350 with 6 really good tires (proper tires for weight and rain) on the road (dually) with engine brake towing an electric over hydraulic disk brake 18,000 pound 5th wheel????? Weight is not weight! Again, for ME It is much much much more important how well you are setup to stop that weight……Just saying……..

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    • At 18,000 pounds I have to agree with others and you that having disc brakes on the trailer (electric over hydraulic) and at least a dually truck is a must. One of the criteria I’m looking at when considering any given trailer, in the 16,0000 to 19,0000 range, is the availability of disc brakes and H rated tires. Seems to be the safest long-term option. All the newer trucks I’ve looked at have the built-in brake controller and engine braking.

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  10. Hi Mark – just for the record – and yes I freely admit I am biased – the Ambitions all come with disc brakes and H rated tires stock – not an upgrade option! Here is another weird thing for consideration. Same identical truck – pick your brand, pick your size. The pickup truck manufacturers all rate a dually as having less towing ability than a truck with 4 tires!!!! The reason is some engineer in his cubical looks only at weight and NOT at all the other things involved in stopping and controlling that weight. All things being identical (and they rarely are) – for stopping power I will take the dually everytime ……. but the pickup truck manufacturers say the 4 tire truck can tow more weight????? Kind of silly by the pickup truck manufacturers.

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    • Lew, I think the rating for what they tow has something to also do with their max cargo capacity. For example the Ford F450 weighs 1,000 pound more than the F350 because of larger tires, suspension, brakes and such. So the F350 is actually rated for a higher Pin weight because the truck weighs less than the F450.

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  13. What kind of plastic plumbing is used in the ambition RV ? I am especially worried about fresh water piping and toxins in the chemicals used to make the pipe.

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    • Hi Cheryl,

      Augusta uses Pex plumbing lines. They use a standard RV hot water tank and offer an on-demand tank by Truma. I’m not sure what materials are used in the plastic storage tanks.

      We live in Excelsior Springs Missouri which is famous for its water so am equally concerned about the water quality on the road. We will be getting a water filter system built into the trailer or at least one that attaches outside. At a campsite once a guy showed me all the rust that his filter had blocked. More than likely our drinking water will be filtered again at the sink or other system. I’m not a big fan of bottled water.

      I built several homes in the past and have copper water lines in my own home because Pex was not as popular at the time. Personally, I’m not worried about Pex but am avoiding all the other plastic types other trailers might have. At our price point they are mostly using Pex.

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      • Thanks Mark, That answered my question. I tend to over think and over research, but also enjoy learning. My husband and I are seriously considering being full timers in the future when he retires and I want something with structural integrity. That is my first priority. I am looking at Augusta Ambition, New Horizon and Air Stream < 35' for greater campground accessibility. Hard to find newer, used smaller ones in the Fifth Wheel in these top end brands. Wonder if it is less expensive to buy an older one and have it gutted and upgraded at the factory? Hmmmm.Might have to order a new one… Love the Airstream Clasic 30', but the fifth wheel seems more comfortable with larger tanks, etc.Any thoughts?
        Best,
        Cheryl

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      • DRV also has a good frame to start from. My favorite so far however, for the price point, is Augusta Ambition. New Horizons is in the same price point as Space Craft. http://spacecraftmfg.com/about-us/

        Buying an older one and fixing it up is what Howard at RV Dreams recommends. I’d think the cost of that would be based on what upgrades were needed. For example an upgrade to an independent suspension system with disc brakes could be around $5,500. A full body paint might be $10,000.

        Here is a link to what Howard suggests.
        http://rv-dreams.typepad.com/rvdreams_journal//2016/04/what-fifth-wheel-would-we-buy-today.html

        Personally, when you add up the cost to upgrade a decent trailer that already has a good frame then the cost up upgrade can be close to new.

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      • Your welcome Cheryl,

        The search for a new home has been a difficult one. More involved, frankly, than when I built my current home. I think what helped the most to narrow the list a bit was deciding about how long we might stay on the road, which for us is 6 years. We decided not to go overboard and not have money to buy another stick built home later. If we decide to stay on the road long term then maybe we could spend some of our “house money” to get a new trailer when it was time to trade out. I’ve seen a few people stay on the road for 10 years and they started with a good unit at first. They upgraded it when it was time.

        Coming up with a budget, to include inflation at maybe 2-3 percent a year, to be spent in the year we buy a trailer was also helpful. Unfortunately you have to do a bunch of research to find out what price point of trailer you would be wanting. Then factor that into the budget. If that makes since. For example, it took a couple trips to the RV show to figure out we needed to budget for a full profile fifth wheel. And certainly coming up with a preferred trailer length helps narrow the list of trailers. For use, as future fulltimers, the rules change a little compared to those that use RVs for vacation. The length of the trailer might have to be longer than we would prefer to get the amenities that makes the floor plan livable for years. Granted, there are those that do just fine with 32′ and below length floor plans but I suspect they wish that had something a bit longer. They compromise on the length because travel is more important than the floor plan. The ability to get the trailer in places bigger ones would not fit is more important to them. Then some already owned a truck and decided to buy a trailer it could handle. You already know folks fulltime in about anything.

        I enjoy your comments and bouncing ideas between us.

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