Our Future in an RV

Digital Notebook: Planning for and Living Fulltime in an RV

Larger Luxury Models

 One of These Could be Our Ultimate Trailer

(I will not be updating this page after 2018)

We would like to keep our budget under $80,000 for the fifth wheel trailer,  upgrades and trailer related equipment such as hoses, small generator, taxes/registration and more. We want a rear living room floor plan that’s 40′ or under in length. We are after a cargo capacity of no less than 3,000 pound and water tanks of good size.

Because of our budget, we would have to buy any one of a few high end trailers a couple of years old. I’ve also taken off the list all trailers which do not have a drop frame because of lack of basement storage.

Time after time experienced folks tell me to buy a used unit from the higher end class as they are better constructed. It’s also been recommended to go check out used units to see which has held up the best. Especially compared to less expensive luxury units. What I’m doing is checking the dealership’s website for used models and ages, to get a short list of what to look at before visiting the dealership. Seems like 2010 was a big year for model changes and builders coming and going from the market.

Click Here For My Trailer Ratings

Click Here For Trailers Taken Off Our List


Redwood2016:  These folks come right out and say it.  According to the first page of their website “Redwood was created for the sole purpose of providing the exploding Baby Boomer market with a high-quality, full-time residential Fifth Wheel at an affordable price.” We toured one in 2015/2016/2017 and 2018.  Really beautiful rig. Some say the Crossroads Carriage is very similar to the Redwood. Heard the Rushmore is built in same factory so they share some of the same construction methods. They advertise their Falcon Technology as a single source design for the rigs foundation such as frame and suspensions. Lippert builds this system for them, if there are problems with any of it you just have to go through one company to have it fixed rather than several different vendors. Update from a dealer – in 2017 the Redwood ceiling is changing. It will not be diving down in the back (update – no change yet in the early 2018 models). Toured again in June of 2017. I noticed the Redwood finishes and some of the trim were downscaled. The dealership sales manager said their were changed to move to the Redwood to a lower price point which was done when the ex-Keystone President went to Redwood as Thor Company bought Crossroads/Redwood last year.  I personally like the changes because they may have moved Redwood into our budget range. Still has the 8,000 pound axle, MorRyde 4100 suspension, larger drum brakes. This is why the lessor priced Sequoia model is no longer built in 2017.  As of early 2017 they still offer the 2 year warranty. I may be writing up a review soon.

Here on 9/5/17 the Redwood 340RL at 37′ is among our top six trailers. I’m watching the forum threads in the Redwood Owners group for information. I’ll skip the good points about the Redwood to save space.  The Redwood is in a special price point, just above the stock Montana but below the stock DRV/Augusta. Same place as maybe the Vilano or Heartland Landmark. Not a concern but a point to make. Keystone requires you go through the dealership for everything and I wonder sometimes about their factory support because of it. I wonder if the Redwood will survive. They dropped some of their rigs to a lower price point for competition. I wonder if by lowering a few finish items if that will hurt the brand. In 2017 Keystone did not “buy Redwood”. Thor owns Keystone and Crossroads (Redwood) and simply decided to have Keystone handle Redwood customer service and warranty because of the size of Keystone’s operation they already had in place.

DRV Mobile SuitesDRV Mobile Suites – 2016: Bought out by Thor Industries in 2015. Not many people seem to know this but DRV is a division of Heartland RV within the Thor company. My first impression with little research in 2014 was DRV is a rig to compare others against. They have the thick walls and an awesome plumbing system.  They are heavy but have a well designed 15″ frame to support it.  DRV was founded in 2003. For many, this is the go to rig if you are looking for a luxury model. Personally, I’m more of a fan of the Augusta RV Ambition or Luxe. Some have warned against purchasing the older models – may be back in 2010 (not sure on the actual year).  My favorite floor plan is the 36TKSB3. Gross weight is 19,000 which has a 100 gallon fresh water, washer/dryer in a slide, real living room and only 37′ long!

drv-aire-emblemJust announced in September 2016 is the DRV Aire, coming in the Fall of 2017 with a 38′ and 40′ model. Apparently they are coming up with a Mobile Suites model intended for single rear wheel trucks.  It has many of the Mobile Suite features but in the 14,000 pound dry weight range.  Update – From the Rolling Retreats Facebook. Appears it is going to be a 101″ wide body, 12″ I beam, 100 gallon fresh water, 90 grey, 45 black. Have 2″ walls (R-11), R25 roof and R30 floor. Gross weight at 17K.   I’ll be comparing it against the DRV Tradition which they stopped building about two years ago.  It will be interesting to see how DRV is attempting a remake of a lighter trailer. There are also photos on Rolling Retreats Facebook. Here on 9/5/17 I can’t find a floor plan that meets our needs which notably includes a gross weight no higher than 19,000 pounds. They also stopped building their shorter (under 38′) trailers. I’ve yet to score the Aire but can’t see why they stopped building the Tradition model and then two years later introducing another lighter weight trailer with the Aire.

Luxe by Augusta

Augusta RV2016:  We drove to Indiana and toured the plant. According to them “the Luxe is unlike any Fifth Wheel you have ever seen or experienced. From the structural design to the interior & exterior fashion trends applied, no detail was ignored.  Developed using a new styling direction and advanced towable technologies, the Luxe is leading a Fifth Wheel revolution.   With amenities only found in high end residential housing, the Luxe redefines Luxury.”  —–   I can say one thing for sure about them, they have done a better job of listing their construction methods on their website than most other brands have done.  I have a feeling they are paying attention to construction methods as well as looks of the rig. Here is a forum topic for the Luxe which is their high end model. They are definitely going after the DRV Mobile Suites market. And I’m definitely going to keep an eye on this company! Many are suggesting the Luxe will require an MDT (huge truck) so that might take it off the list, even as a used trailer, as right now I’m firm on a one-ton truck. Appears Augusta started in 2012. In 2016 they were bought by a well known toy hauler brand – The RV Factory. July 2017 read a post by a Luxe owner who has been back to the factor. He wrote “Augusta RV has since been acquired by The RV Factory, headed by Claude Donati (of Nexus RV), a long-time RV business insider.” He says Claude runs a tight ship and the problems he had with poor installation of some items would not be a problem now that the RV Factory owned the company.  If that is true, then the models after late November 2016 would be the ones to own.

Augusta Ambition2015 Augusta added the Ambition to the lineup. Believe they dropped their Flex lineup at the time as it is no longer on their website. 11/25/15 I find myself attracted to Augusta because of construction and modern colors. Believe they are selling factory direct which concerns me there could be issues getting service from any dealerships.  I’d compare the Luxe against the DRV and Ambition against the Heartland Landmark 365. I evaluated the 2017 Ambition. Here is a link to the blog post. A couple people I trust are telling me the hung walls on their previous trailers are not as quite and harder to heat/cool than their laminated wall. But both have blue Dow foam which is not typical either. Here on 9/5/17 this remains perhaps my favorite trailer – all things considered. But the price has been going up dramatically over the past two years and is now out of our budget if bought new. Can’t find any used ones on the market! Augusta stopped building the Ambition in 2018 and replaced it with the Luxe Gold that’s a laminated construction version.  My assumption is they are taking advantage of the Luxe’s brand name recognition. I’m also sure when Augusta merged with the RV Factory they are now able to take advantage of the RV Factory’s laminated wall construction facilities, and perhaps that moved them away from the more expensive hung walls.  As of 2/11/18 the only popular brands that I know to use hung walls remains the Forest River Cedar Creek Hathaway/Champaign Editions and DRV Mobil Suites.   

Landmark by HeartlandHeartland RV  (2016) has three rigs I may look at. The Landmark is heavy with standard 8,000 pound axles. Thor Industries owns Heartland. Here is one of the better “walk-around” videos I’ve seen. I like the Ashland floor plan. The guy in the video claims 2-3 better miles per gallon with Landmarks aero dynamics. I’d have to fact check that. Given the price compared to others in this class I’m going to take a hard look at the Landmark. The Ashland comes in around 18,000 pounds which I’m thinking can be towed with the right F350 dually truck – or similar, but an F450 would be safer. RVs for Less out of Knoxville, TN was a top dealer for Heartland and DRV as of 2014. Landmark is perhaps the most affordable in this class. 2016 marks the 14th year the Landmark has been built. They claim they did big changes in the redesigned 2014 model year. The 365 in Landmark 365 means fulltime all year living. I like the English Slate décor. I think it’s classic and will not go out of style. Not sure yet on exterior color I would prefer. As have most people our age, we have owned a few different colored vehicles. I think back , white, gold, bright red, silver and maybe grey where the easiest to keep clean. Black is too hot in the summer and hard to keep clean as is brown. White reflects the heat in the summer.

  • 11/25/15 I continue to find myself looking at the Landmark. And Heartland customer service is well liked in the forums. Their president is a Jim Beletti and people seem to like him. One 2015 construction detail I’ve found myself curious about is in the Heartland Big Horn and Big Country there appears to be a vent under the AC unit which looks familiar to me as one of the noise makers. The first chance I get I plan to check this out as it would eliminate both from my list. That would be unfortunate because the Big Horn is very popular.
  • 8/31/16 Read in a forum that Heartland uses 3/8″ OSB “continues” sub-flooring rather than 5/8″ tongue and groove. And the 3/8″ is not even marine grade. This could be an issue if the floor becomes wet. I checked their website and could not find the flooring material mentioned. Wonder why?  I’m sure this is done to keep the weight down.
  • RV Business.com report the Landmark added a new floor plan in 2017 and improved 45 items on the brand.
  • In 2016 the Bighorn went to a whisper quite air conditioning system, so no more worries there. Apparently they had issues in earlier 2017 but fixed it.

Here is a post from a GM at Heartland who came from Redwood. He talks about selling points and how, at Redwood, they would pinch rolled laminated construction methods which is why they had no window in the door (to stop theft) when they actually wanted a way to avoid another window blind. Hmm, wonder if the same pitches are used now at Heartland? In 2018 Heartland moved the Big Horn roofs from laminated to having a 5″ truss system like everyone else. The remainder of the trailer, to include the walls and slides, remain laminated.

Here on 9/5/17 the Heartland brand might be my favorite over all when considering they offer so many price points. The owners group is tops in my book. So many rallies and local chapters to joint. Their owners group forum is by far the best out there. As a side not, when Thor bought DRV they moved it under the Heartland brand.  I consider the Landmark to be a direct competitor with the Redwood.

Heartland Big CountryThe  Big Horn is very popular. The Big Country is a step down and the Landmark is their top trailer. All the photos I’ve seen show a vent where the air conditioner is located in 2015 and older units. That is concerning as I will definitely want a system where the air is fully ducted which reduces the noise. In 2015 I’m leaning more towards the Landmark depending on what it takes to pull it.  I recently discovered in 2016 Heartland Landmark comes with a two year warranty. In 2016 the Big Horn and Big Country have a two year bumper to bumper warranty. In 2016 the Big Horn and Big Country exposed AC returns went away and now they are ducted, whisper quiet. I’ve been reading the Big Horn Traveler series is coming in 2017. Not sure yet but believe the Traveler will not have a full back cap, like the Keystone Montana, non-legacy, addition. Reading further, the Big Horn General Manager has also been assigned the Oakmont brand which is going away, being replaced with a new name – Big Horn Traveler which is apparently just an upgraded Oakmont. Here is a link to my 2017 Bighorn post. Here is a link to my 2016 Big Country post.  There were several changes in the 2018 model to include they changed from a fully laminated roof to a truss system.  Here is a link to a forum. There have been issues in the earlier quiet air systems. One is regarding condensation building up in the drain pans which was fixed in June of 2016. By November of 2016 I read where a new buyer said they were not having the air flow issues on their new air conditioner runs. Many say it was a poor design or installers left off a cap at the end of the run. I was reading about this as late as early 2017. Here on 9/5/17 I’m see no complaints on the AC runs in later units.

Regarding the Big Country – here on 9/5/17 I have to say the Big Country is the #1 trailer for us in terms of value which means for the price, it offers the best construction and amenities.

  • From the product general manager, here are some of the Bighorn changes in 2018.

    We have a new dinette light, we have a new island front, we have new decor glass, new entertainment center with larger tv, new USB ports on either side of the sofa, theatre seats are now standard, EL units have taller slides on both sides of the coach in the living room, we now have the upgraded Furrion kitchen appliances, USB ports on both sides of the bed, updated carpet, updated Lino, pull-out trash cans in most if not every island, legless dinette table, new pass-through storage flooring, new graphics & painted front & rear caps, we just changed roof construction as well. We went from a laminated roof to a roof truss system so we could have some additional flexibility to at some point add an additional 3rd A/C At this point we don’t have that option but it’s hopefully coming within the year. We were also able to improve the efficiency of the A/C system and increase the amount of ducts that provide A/C. The new roof is a touch lighter as well which helps with carrying capacity.

Keystone Montana – 2016: Claims to be the top selling luxury brand over 14 consecutive years. I’m having a hard time finding anything about them I don’t like.  The new outside paint in 2015 was a well needed upgrade. Went through one at the 2015 Kansas City RV show.  Love the arched ceilings and ac/heat runs. I need to read more about their vented attic space. Wonder if resale is better because of the popularity? Not all rear caps are wrap around – I’m not sure if that is important or not. Grand Design is competing directly against them. No wonder, because Keystone employees left and formed their own company. In 2018 they came out with a 35′ version, 3120RL that has really caught my eye as a great rear living floor plan. What is unique is that in this shorter trailer, Keystone kept the same frame/suspension construction methods they use in their longer units. That gives the 3120RL and cargo capacity of over 4,000 pounds. Compared to a close competitor, Grand Design, in their 310GK with a 10″ main I beam frame lowering the capacity to 2,900 pounds. Wish Keystone would built the 3120RL in a 36-37′ model with the additional space going into the living room and thereby allowing for “full-size” theater seating. One point to be learned from a typical Montana trailer is from the stairs up to the bathroom and bedroom; many of their floor plans use the same layout in those area.

Keystone builds the Alpine which I toured at a campsite. Here is a series of videos about the Keystone building process.

Forest River -2016: Seems like every company has to build a luxury unit.  Forest River is no different.  They build a couple models that are well known as full time rigs.   The Cedar Creek  – 2015  We took a hard look at the Cedar Creek in 2015 and here is my blog post. I was not impressed with the interior wood work but the price was well within our budget. Cedar Creek announced their new high end rig, called the Champagne Edition in 2016. Cedar Creek uses a hung wall rather than vacuum/pinch rolled laminated. In 2017 I read about the Cedar Creek front cap paint was fading and dozens were going back to the factory for new caps. It’s a 2012 post but some say Cheyenne Camping Center in Iowa has great prices. Here is an awesome forum thread on Cedar Creek options. Here is an awesome video concerning Hebart’s Travels’ issues with their Cedar Creek. The Cardinal – 2015 is a rig from the past that’s still around. I noticed in 2016 they added the Cardinal Estate that appears to be an upgraded version. I noticed 8000 pound axles was one option that you might need because the stock units all have very low cargo capacity. Feb 2018 I went to the Cardinal web page and noticed they have four levels of trim for the Cardinal, so make sure to check them out closely by model. For example their lowest trim level does not have a drop frame so the basement space will be smaller. Their top trim package is very nice and so far looks like a decent price point. Four coats of clear coat on their Sickens automotive paint – way nice, never seen that on any other brands.  New for 2016 is their Riverstone 5th Wheel which is their most expensive lineup. Here on 9/5/17, after three years of evaluating fifth wheels, the Cedar Creek is our #1 choice so far as a new trailer. I’m still concerned about reports of paint fading on front and rear caps but hope they worked that out. Once you starting looking at pricing for one year old units there might be a better brand when I compare it against our list of wants. So for us, the Cedar Creek has more competition from better equipped trailers if considering a used unit. I do like the fact the brand is not owned by Thor if for no other reason to support competition.

Columbus – 2016 by Palomino is a division of Forrest River.  A friend has one and paid $50,000 for it in 2014. He loves it but does not fulltime in it although he spent of 150 nights in it last year. The local dealership has a large selection. The word fulltime does not appear in their brochure.  I like their new 2016 paint and La-Z-Boy furniture, We toured it again in 2016, the furniture was a little stiffer than other La-Z-Boy chairs we sat in.  Weights go from 13,500 GVRW and up so that might be one reason they don’t advertise as being for fulltime. It’s hard to fit heavy duty stuff in the lighter weight trailers. Here is a link to my blog post on the Columbus. Here on 9/5/17 the Columbus is off the list for full-time use. Lots of reasons for that. In 2018 Columbus (Palomino) upped-scaled and now offer three trim packages. Toured it in 2018 and still is not going to make our list – but they are doing better!

Grand Design Solitude

Grand Design Solitude: – 2016 Was started by former Keystone executives (who started Keystone) in 2011. They left after Thor bought out Keystone. They believed the quality of the Montana was declining and asked to be bought out of the company. They built a 400,000 square foot plant and started up Grand Design. This is a company I’m going to keep my eye on as their product goes head to head with the Montana. Winnebago (a Thor company) purchased Grand Design in late 2016.

  • Checked out a floor plan in 2015 at the local dealership. Here is the blog post. Noticed they have no full wrapped back cap. Salesman says there is no reason to spend the money on a wrapped rear cap. I asked about this in a forum thread after hearing wrapped back caps allow for better air flow which leads to better mph. Those that responded said they just look better and have a higher insulation value. I could see having the flat back wall allows for a better layout if the television is on the same wall. Toured at show in 2016.

Grand Design uses wood roof trusses. According to them “residential style wood trusses, spaced 16” on center, provide the foundation for a full walk on roof.  Wood framing provides better screw retention than traditional aluminum trusses, and it eliminates the metal on metal connection to the aluminum framed sidewalls. Personally, in 2017 I concerned about lack of cargo capacity and grey water tank size in most all their trailers if used for full time. But, a lot of people are buying them and bragging about how well they are built.

I was not that impressed with the Grand Design in its early years but they are starting to grow on me. Customer care after the sale is perhaps the most important thing to look for, according to a couple full timers. In 2017 they opened a huge customer care centerAs of 2018 models I wish they had a few more selections in the 35 to 38 foot range.  Also their cargo capacity leaves room for growth. I may call them to see how they figure their cargo capacity because surely they must be considering that as the Solitude is built as their full timers trailer.  Most take the gross weight less the empty weight to figure cargo capacity. They are lagging behind in that area. You also have to watch their grey water tank capacity depending on floor plan (as of 2017 models). Unless you camp for shorter periods of boondocking or only on full hookups of course. The 2018 models increased their tank sizes.

Jayco Pinnacle

Jayco Pinnacle – 2016  Company started in 1968 and remains family owned (Update, Thor bought Jayco 7/1/16). Here is a good forum thread about changes in Jayco management. They claim their two year warranty, compared to most others with one year bumper to bumper, is the best in the industry. Toured again in 2016, they still build a nice front living room but the furniture was not comfortable. The pillow backs pushed on the back of my head. The Pinnacle is kind of in a price point of it’s own, shoehorned between something like a decked out Keystone Montana and a Heartland Landmark. Maybe a Redwood would be a good comparison. Still in 2018 they insist on electric front jacks vs hydraulic. For Karen and my needs, when I evaluated the value of the Pinnacle I still think it is over priced.

Jayco Designer (700x350)New in 2016 is the Jayco Designer. The Designer appears to be a rebirth of an older model. I want to research the Jayco warranty which states:

“The Jayco 2-Year Warranty is a manufacturer’s limited warranty. Each Jayco is warranted against defects in materials and workmanship to the original purchaser for twenty-four (24) months from the original date of purchase. Jayco offers to the original purchaser additional industry-leading lifetime parts and labor coverage on our camping trailer lifter system, roof, floor, and frame.” Here on 9/5/17 the Pinnacle remains on our list, but barely.  They only have one floor plan that meets our wants. I also think the MSRP is al little high so that brings down the value score.

Open Range 3X

Open Range 3X 2016:  April 2015 Jayco purchased Open Range which is now to be known as Highland Ridge RV. I’m interesting in comparing these to others as I understand they try and get their rigs light weight.  I follow the Campers Cornicles blog. They travel in an Open Range. Of course I’ll be watching for any changes due to Jayco having purchased the company, The Jayco warranty for Highland Ridge states: “The Highland Ridge RV, Inc. (“Highland”) warranty covers this recreational vehicle (“RV”), when used only for its intended purpose of recreational travel and camping, for two (2) years of use.” I toured the 3X in October of 2015 at a Clinton, Missouri dealership just to look at floor plans. I’m worried that Open Range is not advertised as being a fulltime unit. This and others may someday be off the list just because their advertisements nor warranties claim the rig is for fulltime usage. Here on 9/5/17 it’s off our list for fulltime use. The 3X might make it back onto the list should they start building a floor plan we would be interested in which is a rear living room at 40′ or less in length, with good cargo capacity and tanks sizes.

Rushmore fifth wheel

Rushmore by Crossroads RV

Carriage Fifthwheel

Carriage by Crossroads RV

Cameo Fifthwheel

Cameo by Crossroads RV

Crossroads Cruiser

Cruiser Touring Edition

Crossroads RV  – 2016 has been around since the 1996. In 2016 I noticed the Rushmore was no longer on their website. I’m not sure but the Cruiser Touring Edition may have been added and is advertised as their #1 selling RV. There are three levels of the Cruiser fifth wheel. Over the past 18 months I’ve been watching forum posts about the Rushmore and many posts are negative. Is this a move to just remove the Rushmore – for now- because of bad press? Other fifth wheels such as Carriage or Cameo  are built by Crossroads. These were popular fifth wheels several years ago, owned by other companies. Crossroads is a division of Thor.  I’ve heard they built Rushmore in the Redwood factory so there are a lot of similarities such as the frame. Just like with the Redwood by Evergreen they advertise their Falcon Technology as a single source design for the rigs foundation such as frame and suspensions built by Lippert. On their construction page all claim to be rated for fulltime usage. Of the four, Carriage may have the better construction but I’m still researching that. Crossroads is another company with a two year warranty. I’m really wanting to see a Carriage up close. Rovingbear on the IRV2 forums has one, bought it at the Missouri dealership which has a “lifetime warranty.” Carriage has disc break and 8,000 axles option which would be needed to improve their marginal cargo capacity with 7,000 pound axles which might be because of heavier construction. I’ve been reading the Carriage is a lot like the Redwood because Crossroads owns Redwood. (Update – they sold Redwood to Keystone). One forum poster said there are Redwood stickers on the frame. It’s not shown here, but CrossRoads also builds two levels of the Cruiser. They announced their 2017 Cruisers are redesigned to be 10% lighter and costing less. They may have dropped the Carriage in 2017 because it’s not on their website. With Crossroads selling the Redwood to Keystone and having stopped building the Cambridge, there are no longer any units on our radar.

Arctic Fox

Northwood Arctic Fox: Hear a lot of good things about their durability. Their frames are not built by Leppert which some think is a plus. They claim having an off-road chassis. I’ve never seen one in the wild but I’ll be on the lookout. Appears they are in the 70k range new. Off the list as of 9/5/17. We asked some friends to tour it for us when they were in Washington State. It is a way nicely built trailer. It and the DRV have the best frames out there for the price. It just does not have the amenities and floor plans we are interested in. When anyone asks what is the best fifth wheel for fulltime on the forums, the Arctic Fox is always going to be mentioned. Mostly because they are in a class of their own with how they build their frames. Versus others using Lippert I beams.  We had some friends tour the trailer for us in 2017 as they are hard to find and dealerships are limited. We still could not find a floor plan we were interested in.


K-Z Recreation Vehicles 2015 builds the Durango Gold in 2015 which is advertised as a fulltime rig. As of 2015 they have been in business for 43 years. They have some features I want to look at; to include what they call power fresh tank water fill, outside shower & dry camping water siphon system and Touch Remote for slides, awnings, exterior lighting & leveling. Toured it a the 2016 show. Using a rating system of what’s important to Karen and me, the Durango came out low in the ranking. The Durango Gold is a nice trailer but has limitations due to it’s lighter weight. The Durango has a lot of value for what you pay for however. Here in 2018 I would summarize the Durango as “if you are looking for a decent lighter weight full time trailer, this is the one to consider.”  But like all lighter trailers, watch out for cargo capacity limitations. After researching cargo capacity I’m of the opinion you need 3,000 pounds or more for full time. And remember, options you add to the trailer lowers that cargo capacity.

  • Noticed their G381REF model in 2015. Really like it. Rig is lighter weight than others with the same floor plan. Great use of space in the living area. Kitchen is separated by the recliners. First noticed this floor plan with Grand Design which is 3′ longer. One issue with the G381REF, for us, is no coat closet.
VanleighRV (800x382).jpg

Vanleigh Vilano

Vanleigh RV – 2016 is a new (Sep 2015) luxury fifth wheel company out of Burnsville, Miss., co-owned by Leigh, Van and Bob Tiffin, three generations of the founding family of Tiffin Motor Homes Inc. Not sure but their warranty may not be the best (3 years on frame). If I were to look at buying a class A, Tiffin would be high on the list. Here is a short blog post after we toured the Vilano in 2016. Tiffin owns their own glass company, wood supply and laminates. So much of what their motor homes are built with is owned by the company. I would assume that would make it easier for replacement parts as a trailer ages. I also like the fact they are starting out small in fifth wheels and not trying to dominate the market right off. This approach might help insure quality as they are not outgrowing their capacity to build a nice unit. As of 9/5/17 the trailer comes out near the bottom in my evaluation because of storage capacity and tank size. For the money, I’m looking at the Redwood or Heartland Landmark. On 11/10/17 I learned Vanleigh RV is introducing a new fifth wheel targeting the fulltime RVer. It’s called the Beacon. Click here for a video. Okay, in 2018 they stepped up their game by increasing cargo capacity and tank sizes.  Price point went up as well, maybe you need to compare it to a Jayco Pinnacle.

Winnebago Destination

Winnebago Destination

Winnebago Destination – 2016.  I’ve done no research on this unit yet. Wanted to get it added to the list to make sure to remember they build a fifth wheel. They bought Grand Design so I’m still waiting in 2017 to see what changes. I’d suggest taking a look at the Grand Design.
Prime Time Sanibel
Just added the Prime Time Manufacturing – 2016. Sanibel fifth wheel. I’m reading the Mark and Patty RV Adventure blog and noticed their rig. Prime Time has been around since 2009. They had planned to buy a used high end trailer but went with a new Sanibel which was affordable. I still need to research the trailer and compare it against others at the same price point. It has a drop frame so the basement is larger. I look for this feature in all fulltime trailers. Prime Time is a division of Forest River which is owned by Berkshire Hathaway. At a quick glance the cargo capacity looks a little low and so does the fresh water tank. Offer the Forrest River 2 year optional warrant at no extra charge. They announcement big upgrades in 2017. Here on 9/5/17 it continues to not score in the top 10 for us. I doubt I’ll be back to look at the trailer. It would probably make for a better snowbird or vacation trailer.

spectrum 1Sprectrum 2 Here is a new one for 2017:  Spectrum RV of Australia is entering the US fifth wheel market. They claim to have a European look and build trailers to withstand the rough Australian roads. Their USA website is not complete. Here is what I believe to be a link to their Australian site. These trailers have an interesting interior. I played around converting Australian currency rates to US dollars and believe the MSRP’s on three fifth wheel models are somewhere around 100K (US)  and below when sold in Australia. According to Spectrum they have imported American RV’s and modified them. They claim “Australian roads demand better suspensions.” They reinforce the chassis, the outriggers are doubled in strength to support the walls. They dismantle the nose and strengthen the pin box area and add steel reinforcing to prevent cracking and breakage. (9/16/17)


Thanks for reading. Again I want to let you know I’ll not be updating this page after 2018. Why – because we will be done shopping for our trailer.  Please feel free to email me at mseneker@hotmail.com or post a comment. Some of the best advise I’ve been given is from those of you who sent an email which started a long discussion on specific trailers.

70 thoughts on “Larger Luxury Models

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    • AlanB
      I’ll be writing about an older guy I just met who was pulling a DRV Elite with one of those tractor trailer like trucks. He picked his Elite up at the factory last year. He has owned fifth wheels for 25 years and managed camp grounds. He also had 6 large issues with his Elite. One issue included a poor paint job, noting DRV does not do their own painting. He had to call the owner of the paint company who made good on it. They kept his rig for a few weeks to fix the paint. He knew DRV and a lot of other’s contract out part of the process and all use a lot of the same components. What he did not appreciate was that DRV sent the Rig out with a poor paint job.


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  6. David O – We owned a 2010 399BHS Open Range until last year. As a company they are tops!!!!! Absolutely love their service after the sale (at least from their facility in Shipshewana – hated our selling dealer)! My only concern for anyone planning to be full time is they use frames from Lippert which are only 8 inch beams along the length of the frame (I have the frame detail drawing from Lippert showing all member sizes/gages). Ours lost camber over time and ultimately cracked both sidewalls. Fortunately Lippert recambered it for free (they are great too), but I had to pay O.R. to repair the fiberglass (not a lot but, hey). I thing they, along with other manufacturers, take weight out of the steel frame to make them lighter. Helps on towing but not on longevity. The rear overhang past the axles flexes too much if the frame is shallow and flexible (think diving board). We bought a used 2009 Cameo F37RE from a friend and love it for its durability, although similarly equipped with our stuff it weighs a full 2500 lb more than the O.R. did but it has double 2×6 steel tube frame rails. I will never again full time in anything that did not have a stiff, heavy frame – everything else is cosmetic. Just make sure you have enough truck to tow AND STOP the thing. Most 3500 or 350 trucks since around 2013 should do fine. Prior to that nobody had a light duty truck with a GCWR over 20,000 lb. My new 2016 Ram 3500 top 39,000 lb! FYI DO NOT keep the 235/80R16 tires and wheels – they are junk no matter the brand (after buying 28, yes 28, in 5 years I tried them all)! I bought 17.5″ high pressure aluminum wheels and Goodyear G114 LHT 215/75R17.5 tires adn absolutely love them – not cheap ($500/tire and $265/wheel) but it was well worth it. Have not had a bit of trouble with them in 2 years and 50,000 miles – haven’t even had to add air!


    • David, appreciate the descriptive comments. I had read about the durability of the Cameo a while back. A long-term fulltimer is telling me to buy an older well built unit and upgrade it as needed which may be what we end up doing, but not sure yet. Believe I’m sold on the 17.5″ H rated tires and wheels for the heavier rigs. If I’m reading correctly what you wrote, you suggest staying away from the 16″ tires. I had been wondering about a G rated tire on a 16,000 pound class trailer such as some of the Open Range 3Xs?

      I’m leaning towards a 12″ beam for 16,000 to 19,000 trailers. Augusta RV says their frame is slightly thicker than others and I’ve read where some, like the DRV, added a box frame. Seems like many of the units I’m attracted to at least have the 12″ I beam. Suppose the suspension might matter as well. For example if we buy an older rig and upgrade to the MORryde independent suspension.

      Just started looking at trucks and appreciate you adding the comments about the 350/3500 trucks. Still not sure if a 19,000 pound trailer will require something like an F450. Recently watched a video regarding the need for a truck that will STOP a large trailer and the F450 was about 1,000 pounds heavier than an F350. F450 has larger brakes and tires which all add up to better stopping but less pin weight capacity because of the heavier truck. That’s about all I know about trucks. Still trying to learn about gear ratios and more.

      Really interested in your views on all of this. We would like to get it right the first time and all the construction details are confusing.


      • Sean,

        I’ve learned a bit more about the trucks after much research. I no longer have any concerns about stopping or slowing down a trailer as heavy as 19,000 with a properly equipped F350/3500 truck with engine/exhaust braking. As well as trailer breaks of course.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. We were at the 2016 Tampa RV Show and ordered a 2016 DRV (Mobile Suites). After waiting over 4 months for it to be built with specific modifications, we received a 2017 rig. We didn’t know this until we were signing the papers at the dealership. We are going full-time and were at the point in this process that we really needed a different rig so we continued with the delivery of the 2017. The rig has differences from what we saw in the 2016 at the show but I can’t find any information on what was changed on their web site. We are finding some problems and have a factory appointment in August mostly because this was the earliest appointment we could get. After reading what you wrote here, I am wondering if you have a source of information for the DRV products that I have been unable to find doing web searches. I have sent an extensive email to the factory sales rep that we met and worked with on this order but haven’t received a response. During the order/delivery process we worked with several sales reps through the dealership because they kept quitting which could be why no one from there ever mentioned that we would be getting a 2017 instead of the 2016 we ordered.


    • Diana, I don’t have a good source for current DRV products. Steve, at the Puppy Paths blog owned one but had a tremendous problem with issues in his Elite Suites. Last year he had all the names and contacts at DRV. Unfortunately, his trailer turned out to be a lemon which I’m sure can happen at times.

      DRV is tops on our list in that price point, so far. For our budget we would have to buy maybe a three year old unit so we have been watching the 2015 and newer trailers.


  8. We just started full timing and purchased a DRV 38RSSA. Even though we had ordered a 2016 DRV, they apparently had a model year change over and sent us a 2017. We have had this new high-end rig since about April, 2016 and have had some rather ridiculous problems. Some of these include: The cloths hanging bar in the closet came down 3 times (we’re hoping its fixed now); the kitchen sink was not “glued” in property; the kitchen faucet would swing completed around with the handle opening in transit and if the water was connected before catching it pointing at the floor, that’s where water would start running; the kitchen faucet and side spray would drip (the factory replaced this with another faucet that was also defective so we finally purchased one from Home Depot and installed it ourselves); floor tile in front of the off door slide has buckled and separated (the factory says this is not covered under warranty), the factory re-glued the buckled part but its not a neat looking repair; a pantry drawer comes completely out in transit damaging the rails and drawer below (it actually is found sitting on the floor below), we had installed a latch to hold it in and their authorized repair facility replaced the rails removing our latch and on our first trip out the same drawer did the same ejection so we put the rails back together as good as we could and re-installed our latch; the assist handle by the steps disappeared while in transit and we hadn’t made any stops so we know it wasn’t stolen; and some other little things.

    This is our fifth 5th wheel but our first to be considered “high-end”. The rig seems to be structurally sound and has a lot of really nice options that we hadn’t experienced before and really like. However, the DRV under Thor ownership is not proving to be the DRV that we heard so much about before the Thor acquisition where customer satisfaction was one of the most important things.

    We went on a DRV factory tour during one of our factory visits for repairs. One of their salesmen conducted the tour. This salesman was telling people on the tour with us some of the same things that we were told at the Tampa RV show where we put in the order for our new rig. So far, we haven’t experienced things we were told by either the factory or one of their overflow repair centers. While on this tour, we refrained from being confrontational with the salesman but wanted to give the factory time to make things “right” with our new rig. So far our experience with DRV has been disappointing.

    In looking at your latest post a couple of things came to mind. You didn’t mention rig length. When you’re looking at places to pull in for the night or to spend a few months, the longer your rig the more limited you are on options. This is one of the main reasons why we had to go with the 38RSSA from DRV (the other is the weight – we can pull this rig with our 1 ton duelly with a 20K hitch). The other is where you mentioned the tires on the new DRV Aire. We really like the “H” rated tires and if they’re pulling anything less on the new model, its worth it to upgrade.


    • Diana, thank you for stopping by and the detailed comments. Really are depending on you that went before us to learn from.

      The first trailer I bought was a 30’ travel trailer. Went to the lot, asked the salesman what was their bestselling brand then picked out one with a walk-through bath and put it on a rented RV lot. Not much planning. When we decided this time on a fifth wheel, like so many others, we learned DRV and Montana were very popular in their price points. That was over two years ago, and I’ve learned so much. Both trailers became a good starting point for comparisons in my research. I of course sought out others that owned both trailers to get their firsthand experience. I’m sorry that you have had issues with your DRV, others I know or met have had issues as well. I hope once you get everything fixed then that will be the end of it. The factory not fixing the floor on warranty and then doing a poor job is inexcusable. I’ve also been reading lately that Thor is moving management around in their recent Jayco purchase. Wonder if that will change the Jayco image – I’d think so, and not for the best. I’d hope DRV would stay the same before the purchase.

      Wow, I’m glad to be researching trailers by the build year. So much changes each year and if we ever bought a used one, without researching prior years, who knows what problems we would end up with.

      We are trying to stay under 40’ (pin to rear bumper). It’s been suggested for fulltime the 38’ length is a sweat spot. We looked at many at the 35’ length and the floor plans did not work for us. Floor plan will most likely dictate our length and we will make do with it. Of course, we want the shortest length that will work in terms of floor plan. I follow and read many blogs where folks travel with a 40’ trailer so I’m thinking I have an idea of what to expect.

      I’m still torn between going with a trailer in the 16,500 or 19,000 (under 20,000) pound gross weight class. It is becoming most apparent those closer to 19,000 are better built structurally. But then again, I follow blogs where most have trailers closer to 16,500. For sure we are going with a one ton dually truck. And when we purchase I’ll make sure to set it up to handle the weight, to include the pin weight. At times, I wonder if the heavier trailers have to have heavy construction such as H rated tires (which I agree are best no matter what), 8,000 pound axles, disc brakes and more. When the lighter trailers can get away with less of a foundation because of the reduced weight. I’ll not sacrifice tires even in a lighter trailer.

      I’ve not seen the new DRV Aire in person. I was not overly impressed with their last attempt at a lighter weight trailer which was the Tradition. I guess I’m more excited to see what the difference will be.

      All this said, even the best engineered and best materials will not overcome poor construction labor. We are heading to Augusta RV soon to tour their trailer. This will be our first factory tour. And because of great advice from people like you, we will be looking at more than just the flashy interiors. I want to know more about service after the sale, financial stability, how they treat their employees and more.

      Not funny how the guy on your tour said some of the same things when you went to the RV show. Maybe an indication of rehearsed replies rather than telling the truth based on experience. I also think when one reads a brochure and can’t find the answer to questions it’s because they don’t want to talk about it – because the competition has a better way. I’m about done with uneducated sales people who stick to the script, if they even have an answer. When we tour the plant at Augusta RV we are to be one on one with a product expert. I’m handing her a list of written questions to answer; then we can go on the tour.

      I checked out your floor plan on the web. We are leaning towards a rear living room plan. Karen is leaning towards a model like the 38RSSB3 with the stairs on the off-door side and hallway closet. She knows she will give up kitchen counter space but feels the larger center island will work. Your vanity slide in the bedroom must be way nice to have. Nice DRV, especially the 19,000-gross weight. You have a beautiful home.

      Please, when you have time, stop back and give me some more pointers.



  9. Thanks for you response. One quick additional note that might help you our when picking your floor plan. The main reason we picked the 38RSSA was that my husband really wanted to be able to access the bathroom with the slides in. When we were looking at the Tampa RV Super show (there is also one in PA I think in the Fall and these are great for seeing what’s out there), this was one of the few options we had from DRV with this feature. In examining floor plans of various manufacturers it appears that if the stairs are on the off door side, you can not get into the bathroom with the slides in.

    I will be interested in what you find after your Augusta tour. When we were at the Tampa show, we really liked what we saw at their display and almost made the decision to purchase from them. The DRV factory salesperson convinced us to go with DRV and threw in some upgrades when we were placing the order. We had also met and talked with a lot of DRV owners in our travels and they were also part of our decision process but Augusta was a very close contender. If you go with DRV, there is a small family owned dealership called Rolling Retreats in Elk City, OK that has an excellent customer service reputation. Alicia who is the wife of this husband/wife owned dealership gave us a lot of pointers on what we should insist on in our purchase even though we ordered through a dealership in Ocala, FL. If we should ever decide to order again, we would definitely go through Rolling Retreats (if we were to consider DRV again). Right now we do really like a lot about the DRV but are still very disappointed in our experiences with the warranty issues.


    • Thanks for the comments Diana. Very good point about the bathroom access on the off-door side hallways. I took another look at a floor plan we were liking and there is an issue. I can now see why some of the bathroom doors are on a slant. We also prefer access to the bedroom, bath and fridge with the slides in. We also know we don’t want a slide under the main awning. That has helped us reduce the floor plans we are interested in.

      I’m wondering if it is an issue also when the furnace vent is under the main awning? Or do you find your not outside under the awning much when it’s cold enough for a furnace? Or do you just don’t sit in front of the vent?


  10. Our furnace vent is on the door side between the entry door and basement door. Its where the door opens to so you wouldn’t sit in that area anyway and it has not been as issue. We do have a vanity slide and the awning goes out over this. Since this is a very small slide, it also hasn’t been a problem and we really like that bit of extra bedroom space. We only went with the one awning on the door side and the only problem with this is that because of the door side slide the awning edge is just barely over the entry steps. This doesn’t give much coverage for when it rains. Instead of buying the second awning, we’re in the process of having window awning put on over the windows on the door side slide. We had these on one of our Carriage Cameos and they are really nice in windy areas where you can’t put the large awning out. They have a tie down strap that straps to the rig and we’ve had them out in 30+ miles per hour winds. Hope this helps.


    • Thank’s for following the blog!

      I suppose fiberglass would be better than rubber roofs. Personally, I’m sticking with the rubber roof with a 12 year warranty. I had a rubber roof on a travel trailer for six years with no issues. Today, if the roof goes bad there are other options such as coatings they put over them with lifetime warranties. Of course, I’d hate to have to argue with a warranty provider if there was water damage to the trailer. And none of the RV brands I am considering come with fiberglass roofs so for me it’s a moot point.

      I read the article you provided the link to. Looks like the author also replied to his own article four times. I did not read through the web site much, but looked at the titles of other posts. The titles seemed controversial for lack of a better description. Hearing both sides of the story is a good thing. I may read a few more of his articles but will keep an open mind.

      I have come to believe at least with fifth wheels, they will loose about 45% of there value in the first five years, assuming you buy new at a fair price to start with. So, it seems reasonable to assume the 45% loss in value is part of the expense of ownership. I would also think proper and consistent maintenance, or lack of, would play a role in how fast the trailer deteriorates. For me, the trade off is worth it for the ability to travel the country in a “home” rather than paying for motels or whatever.

      Not all RVs are built equal in terms of labor. For example Augusta RV and New Horizons use hourly employees rather than those that work by the piece, slinging trailers together. I plan on doing the best I can to check everything out before I write the check. And not buying more RV than I can afford to; knowing it will depreciate.

      I would really enjoy further discussion on all the topics mentioned in the article but did not want to tie up your time with it. For example, as you may know there are different ways to build a laminated wall. And it you don’t want a laminated wall there are trailers that don’t use them.

      Please send a reply if you want to discuss further.


  11. I really like the Keystone Montana but I’d like to keep the length down if I can but still get a quality full-timer 5th wheel. Right now I’m leaning toward the Montana’s brother the Alpine just because I really like the floor plan and length of the Alpine 3400RS. At 36′ 4″ it still has everything I like about the longer Montana 3721RL at 39’ 7” . They look like they are well built (at least the 2016-17) models I’ve seen on-line and in person.

    Here are some nice videos on the computerized manufacturing process at Keystone…

    Keystone Engineering – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EJ6lHvpC0_Y&list=PLSZib4zwgOdhinTy-9oYglylHvL5wfMdX&index=2
    Laminating – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nlUYUupOTMY&list=PLSZib4zwgOdhinTy-9oYglylHvL5wfMdX&index=5
    Manufacturing quality – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=simfdQ0mwQs&list=PLSZib4zwgOdhinTy-9oYglylHvL5wfMdX&index=6

    I’ve noticed that you have to be sooooo careful when reading about the various models out there as many are really dated and 5th wheels seem to be evolving by leaps and bounds.

    I’m looking to compare the Keystone with the Grand Design, but since it looks like they are both owned by Thor now I’m not sure how much different the quality will be. I found one site that said that the Grand Design was better in quality, but it was from a dealer that doesn’t sell Keystone so I’m taking it with a grain of salt. Plus there’s no date on the comparison.

    Buying a “new” RV that’s last year’s model seems to be the way to go as I’ve seen the price drop by 20 Gs! Here is a great site I found recently that shows you the RV Dealer cost! (information does not include applicable shipping, dealer prep, state or local taxes, title, license and the like.)
    Hope this helps when it comes to the negotiating process! – http://www.seedealercost.com/products/category-models/index/id/341/productCategorySlug/recv

    Thanks and keep up the great work!


    • …Also, the dealer I spoke to said that even though the model may be a year or two old, since they are not used they are still considered new so the warranty still starts once you purchase it, not based on the year!


    • Hi Bryan, we have a lot in common regarding trailer model selections. Hope you take a look at our short list for 2018 listed here on my ratings page.

      All the models you listed are still on our list so far. We are leaning towards the shorter trailers as well. I noticed the Montana model you referenced was the 3721RL which I believe is the residential fridge model. I’m interested in your pros and cons on residential fridges. I read an article the other day regarding making sure you have the trailer cargo capacity to handle the extra battery/generator or solar system required if one goes with the residential models – assumed if one is to not have electrical hook-ups or in the event the electrical hookup is poor at a site.

      We are having trouble finding a floor plan we like with the Grand Design. I asked the local dealership sales managers a few questions. I’ve known this guy for three years now, having met him at a local show. His dealership pushes the Grand Design over the Montana; it would seem. He says the real draw for sales on the Grand Design it can be a lot less expensive than the Montana. He pointed us at the Redwood 3401RL (36’9″) as well, adding if one was to load up the Montana then you are getting close to the Redwood price. I’m thinking about writing a blog post on the Redwood which changes a lot starting in 2017 as they are chasing a lower price point. Some say Redwood may go out of business because of the some of the changes. The sales manager said a guy from Keystone took over leadership at Redwood and that’s why we are seeing the changes.

      After three years of looking hard at the Grand Design, I’m just not seeing what others are seeing in. Their shorter model 310GK lacks cargo capacity and the grey tank size is marginal. It is however the fastest growing trailer line. Of course the tank size may not be important if one plans to spend the majority of the time on full hookups.

      Come back and let me know what else you find out and your ideas!


      • Mark, looks like you’re as much of a research hound as I am. I call it a gift. My wife would probably call it a curse. Ha! I’m glad I found your site. We are hoping to make the leap next year if possible. I’ll likely go for a 2017 to take advantage of the “let’s clear room for the new stock” discount.

        When it comes to Residential vs: RV fridges… My first thought was, Duh! why not have a fridge that can run on propane if you find yourself without electricity, right? Then I did some research and discovered that the residential fridges are so much more energy efficient that they keep your food so much colder, longer. Also after hearing people complain about how the RV fridges never really get things that cold even when powered… I changed my mind and have decided that the residential fridge is the way to go.

        You’re right, the Grand Design definitely has fewer models and floor plans. Also I noticed that the Reflection has less cargo space and the flat bottom as opposed to the superior Z-Frame design which they only seem to have on the Solitude model. The 310GK has a nice floor plan and is under 35′ but I haven’t seen it in person yet. Another reason I started searching for a 5th wheel under 35′ is that some of the parks (esp. by the beaches) here in CA have 35′ limits.

        As for the water capacities, The fresh/waste/gray water for the Alpine 3400RS is 66/49/83 while the Solitude 310GK is fresh/waste/gray is 93/50/100 according to their specs – https://www.granddesignrv.com/showroom/2018/fifth-wheel/solitude/specs .
        The Solitude specs on the insulation look really solid as well but I didn’t see the R rating on the Alpine but they have a package that boasts triple insulation.
        The Solitude has a 10″ frame compared to the Alpine/Montana which sports a 12″ z-frame.
        Here’s the Alpine specs – http://www.keystonerv.com/alpine/#/features (expand the feature sections for more details).

        So… water storage goes to the Solitude, but the frame construction goes to the Alpine/Montana. My wife and I are going to visit a couple RV dealers next week as I’m off all week. I’ll let you know our findings.


      • That dealer cost website is amazing. If you click on the model you can even check off the various options!

        P.S. The water tank specs I posted above must be updated for 2018 because the 2017 specs from the dealer cost website only shows 54/50/50 for the Solitude. What a difference a year makes, eh?


      • Thanks for the update on the Solitude. I’d not seen their 2018 specs and the tank sizes would make a major difference in if we look closer at them. I’m a little concerned with the cargo capacity of the shorter units at 2900 pounds. Although plenty of people full time with less cargo capacity, this seems restrictive to me for a full time trailer.

        I’m still leaning towards the RV fridge. I had no issues with the one I owned years ago. Might regret that if we find ourselves not boondocking as often as we think. I’ve decided to start off with no more than two batteries and see what our needs end up being. Keep in touch. It’s nice to meet another researcher.


      • Update on the Solitude 310GK water tanks. They were upgraded in 2018. Here’s how they break down:
        93 gal Fresh tank is an 81 gallon tank plus a 12 gallon hot water tank. Black = 50 gals, Gray is 100 gals (made up of a 50 gallon Kitchen + 50 gallon Bath tank).

        I’m finding myself leaning more and more toward this model (as I’m looking for a 35 footer because of the size limit at many of the national parks and others). In the video walk-throughs I’ve seen they still look very spacious if you are looking to sleep 2 – 4).


      • Seems like sometimes the shorter trailers make better use of the space. One feature we don’t like about the 35-36 range is the theater seating is more narrow but I suppose you can get separated recliners. I like the 310GK floor plan also. I just have trouble getting over a 2900 pound cargo capacity. Have not looked at it in detail so can’t say for sure if it will make it into our top 3. The sales manager at the local dealership is big on Grand Design because of the lower MSRP compared to the Montana and he thinks Grand Design customer service is better than Keystone/Heartland which he sells.

        One other important consideration for me in the Grand Design is you can see the air conditioner return vents are exposed in the ceilings. They claim their system is 30% quieter than the old types, but I wonder when compared to fully ducted systems.


  12. Now that you mention the cargo capacity, I just noticed that the Alpine’s carrying capacity is less than the Montanas across the board. Does that mean that the Alpine has heavier construction or is there another reason they have less carrying capacity than the Montana at the same lengths… hmm…


    • I’m not sure on this one. I’ve not fully evaluated the Alpine. Comparing the Montana 3160 at 35’6” against the Alpine 3400RS at 36’5”. The Montana comes in at 4,065 cargo capacity with the Alpine at only 2,945. At that’s without heavy options such as dual pane windows. At a glance, the usual foundation stuff which effects gross weight capacity does not look that different such as frame size, tires and axles. So now I’m wondering if it might be in the build weight. The Alpine has a gross capacity that’s 1,000 less than the Montana. Added construction, such as maybe taller slides or better insulation or better cabinets would not be deducted against the gross weight capacity, that just lowers the cargo capacity. You bring up a wonderful question. I’m beating it’s in the frame design/construction even if both use 12” I beams. Maybe it’s because the Montana is a foot shorter? But 1,000 pounds is a lot. Maybe it’s in the thickness of the frame steal?

      I’d like your opinion on another area. Some think they can haul these base fifth wheel builds around having stuff upgraded, thinking it will increase cargo capacity. That just does not seem to logical without increasing the weakest points which could be something as simple as the frame where it goes from 12″ to 10″ on the way to the hitch. Can’t imagine you could increase capacity at those weld joints without some beefed up cross members or something similar. That being said, would you agree that once someone buys any trailer you will be stuck with whatever the gross weight capacity the engineers originally built into it?


  13. Mark. I think you’re right on when it comes to weight capacity. Any structure is only going to be as strong as its weakest link. That’s one reason the Montana’s 12″ frame supports sound like an advantage… but then I just saw a comment from Big Truck RV who said, “I am not a fan of Montana since seeing a significant amount of frame issues popping up. Highly documented as a major problem with newer Montanas.”
    I’m not sure what “newer” means, but I do know that they were bought out by Thor. Here’s the video and comment thread if you are interested in his take on the best RV brands. I found it highly informative…

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Solitude Update:
    I reached out to Grand Design on the Carrying Capacity or CCC of the Solitude 310GK and it looks comparable with the Alpine, averaging around 2900 lbs. Hope this helps others in their comparison shopping…


    • Thanks for the update Bryan..

      I’ve read so many times that 3,000 for CCC is the minimum for fulltiming. Wish I had everything pilled up that we would be taking so I could weigh it and prove it to myself. I’ve spent so much of my research time proving to myself what others are already reporting. However, I’ve taken it at face value that anything under 3,000 pounds is of concern. Of course there are plenty of examples of people fulltiming with a lot less capacity. Karen and I could see packing a lot of stuff. We could see having some camping supplies, our inflatable boat, a couple bikes, a generator, at least a combo washer/dryer, she likes hard copy books, two dogs… and the list goes on. Point being we could live without all those extra items but don’t want to. We also plan to stay in places without water hookups at times so have to leave capacity for at least a full water tank. In the 310GK with 90 gallon fesh water capacity that would be over 800 pounds just there if you figure topping the tank off before pulling it to a field to park in.

      Just saying…

      I do like the 310GK floor plan. It has everything in a floor plan we would want and at 34’11 you got to think that’s a plus. Wish they would build it with a 12″ I beam rather than the 10″. I assume that is among what is keeping the CCC down.

      We toured the Redwood 310. http://redwood-rv.com/model/redwood/RW340/3401RL

      Like the floor plan and the cargo capacity. I’m not sure yet if Redwood will survive as a brand or not and they have changed a lot since 2016 to lower the price point. But a fully decked out Montana could be nearly the same cost but with lighter brakes, axles and tires. We do prefer the position of the washer/dryer closet in the Grand Design 310GK because it’s not in the master closet where one would have to move clothing to use it, unlike the 310GK. But the Redwood is over 35′.


      • Mark,
        Ha! Looks like we posted at the same time. If there’s a larger model of the Solitude you are interested in, shoot me an email and I can give the email address of the Sales Manager that I’m corresponding with. He’s been very responsive so far…


      • Mike, re “But a fully decked out Montana could be nearly the same cost but with lighter brakes, axles and tires”, is lighter in this case a good or bad thing?


      • Cynthia, in this case lighter means not as good. A better choice of words may have been ” but a fully decked out Montana could be nearly the same cost but with lower capacity brakes, axles and tires.”

        In other words the Redwood would have better braking and able to carry heavier loads which is the reason it has much higher cargo capacity.


    • Here’s the quote from Grand Design:
      “The 300gk and 310gk have a lower GVWR than all of our other floor plans. The goal here was to keep the coach under 35ft and also to keep the weight down at 15k so that the special certification in licensing for more states would not be needed.

      2900 lbs on a short coach like this is quite a bit. Figure the fresh water is usually the majority of the capacity used if pulling completely full of water.

      81 gallon Fresh Tank at 8.34 pounds per gallon is 675 lbs which would leave about 2200 lbs still remaining.”

      MARK – I believe you are looking for a larger 5th wheel, so the purposeful weight limits shouldn’t be an issue on the larger models, but I don’t have specs on those.


  15. Mark,

    Thanks for the link to the BigHorn 3160 from Heartland! That is an impressive unit. After comparing the specs to the Solitude 310GK, here are my impressions of the two.

    The Heartland BigHorn 3160 Elite is one of the closest to the Solitude 310 I’ve seen. I dig the 3160’s walk-in pantry! I’d have a hard time putting a washer dryer in there.
    BH 3160 is 11″ longer than the Solitude 310 which puts it over the 35′ limit that many parks have which is an issue for me, but probably not for others.
    The Solitude has bigger tanks for 2018 than the BigHorn, but smaller on the older models. Oh what a difference a year makes!
    The large windows in the BigHorn 3160 look just like the ones in the Solitude which I love including the windows on the street side which very few have (another plus in my opinion). The Redwood has much smaller side windows in comparison to these two.
    The BigHorn still has the vents in the floor which I’m not a fan of as dirt and junk can get down there.
    The BigHorn has more cabinet space in the bedroom.
    Both have the side bedroom windows that should allow for a nice cross breeze. The Solitude also adds a window above the bed.
    The Solitude has an ottoman that pulls out from under the bed which is really cool.
    The Solitude has a higher R rating on the insulation but not by as much as against lesser models.
    Cargo capacity for the BigHorn is listed (if my math is correct) at 3,485 lbs, compared to the 11″ shorter Solitude’s 2900 lbs.
    Last I heard the Heartlands have the one piece roof which I’ve heard can collect condensation and cause black mold. Not sure if that is still the case. The Solitude has a vented attic.
    The larger Solitude models have a 12″ main frame with a 10″ drop frame, but the smaller 310 unit uses 10″ I-beams for both.
    The Heartland page for the 3160 – https://www.heartlandrvs.com/brands/luxuryfw/bighorn/bh-3160-elite#sp-component specifies that it has a… “Strong 12˝ I-beam frame with rust prohibitive coating (10˝ on smaller models)”.
    Have you checked to see if the 3160, being a smaller model also has 10″ I beam frames? I’d be curious…

    Anyway, those are the pros and cons that I see comparing the 2 models. Hope this helps those looking for a smaller luxury 5th wheel. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts…

    Liked by 1 person

    • All the new Bighorns are 12″ I beam as far as I can tell. Actually, the Big Country would be a more affordable trailer and you may get the most for the price, at least that’s what I’m seeing so far. If you are set on 35′ then all of the Heartland full profile trailers are out.

      Over all what I really like the most about the Solitude is what I’ve been reading about customer care after the purchase. That is possibly the most important aspect in the event the trailer has issues. That could make or break it for a person on the road. What I don’t like about the Solitude the most is the cargo capacity. I’ve never compared the two side by side.

      Overall every year the Bighorn beats the Solitude out based on our wants. This may change this year as the Solitude has improved. I’ve got to update a few things on the document I use to rate a trailer and then I’ll post it on the blog. This year is also the first time I’m using a consolidated spread sheet which includes the MSRP for each trailer. What I’ve learned is you get about what you pay for – to some extent.

      When I look at a high scoring trailer and then the price, the value sometimes is not there compared to another. For example I finished up scoring the 2018 Redwood 3401RL (36’9″) which scored 233.75 points out of a possible 295 points. The Bighorn 3160 Elite (35’10) scored 228.25 points. At a glance the Redwood seems like a better trailer, and it is overall. However when you look at the MSRP things change dramatically.

      The Redwood MSRP is $113,102 without full body paint.
      The Bighorn MSRP is $93,359 without full body paint.

      If you divide the MSRP by the score you get an idea of the value. If a trailer has a higher score and lower MSRP it would have more value for the money. If the score is low and the price is high it would have lower value for the money.

      $113,102 divided by 233.75 points in the Redwood equals 483.
      $93,359 divided by 228.25 in the Bighorn equals 408.

      In this side by side comparison based on what important to us as part of the scoring, the Bighorn has a higher value for the money. I’ve not done this analysis for the Solitude yet.

      Hope I explained that well.

      I have another document that lists out specifically what’s important to us by category such as plumbing, size, cargo capacity, furniture, frame and more. I’ll have to send it to you for the full effect. Hard to explain.


  16. I’m looking for a simularly quality constructed unit with mid-floorplan den/bunk room that will last for slow seaside bookdocking along western/southern shores over the next 15 years. My 1st choice is the Augusta AM-41MD, which seems to tick all the boxes – except the 120K price which will be a stretch on my budget. 2nd choice, is the Solitude 377MBS, followed by the Montana 3950BR. But these carry concerns about axle ratings, tire ratings/origin and weak under-slide construction that will not (for example) withstand a blowout. Would love to hear your thoughts, and if you know of other manufacturers with such a floor plan that make a quality unit.


    • Wow, that Augusta 41MD is a big trailer. I’ve done almost all of my research in trailers at 40’ or below and never considered the mid living room plan. All I can think to do in terms of advice is to consider the other manufacturers (near that price point) with similar builds such as 8,000 pound axles, H rated tires, disc brakes (or close to it). That might look something like this:

      DRV Mobile Suites: The 44 Cumberland. You may need more than an F350/3500 truck to pull it as it is very heavy. I would have to think the price might be higher than the Ambition.

      Jayco Designer: In 2017 they don’t build that floor plan.

      Forest River Riverstone: The don’t build that floor plan.

      Redwood: In 2017 and 2018 so far they don’t build that floor plan.

      Heartland Landmark 365: They don’t build that floor plan.

      These are the only five outside the Augusta or the much more expensive custom builders such as New Horizons. I’m not sure what you can find on the used market with that floor plan. But you can go here for ideas. If you took a step down in price point, in the range of the Keystone Montana, Heartland Bighorn, Forest River Cedar Creek you might save enough money to haul it around for upgrades such as the MorRyde Independent Suspension system. They could install the 8,000 axles and H rated tires at the same time. Not that the extra heavy foundation would make it last any longer if for some reason you are just going to park it rather than move it around.


      • Thanks Mark. The 2nd BR (for my Mom) is a must for me, or I’d surely be looking shorter. Fortunately, I gained experience with a large rig, when on tour with my animals. Otherwise, it could be a real circus (pardon the pun)!


      • Although not in the same class as Augusta or DRV, you could take a look at the Montana High Country.

        The 362RD is about as close as you can get to a two bedroom that I’ve ever seen at 41′.

        I guy awhile back told me that is where he went looking for a bunk room. They have a couple floor plans. This is still a full profile trailer.


  17. Pingback: Additional Costs to Buy and Equip an RV and Truck | Our Future in an RV

  18. Our 3rd RV, and It’s a Landmark365, replacing our beloved Airstream 30 Classic. Like any RV today they are building them way too fast, and they seem to be lacking quality control. I have been around manufacturing for most of my life, and have never seen anything quite like the RV industry…Loosely Controlled Ever-Changing Dirty Chaos! That’s how most factories look to me!

    After our 2 weeks in Elkhart and touring the different factories, there were not many top choices for us, we like quality, but also have a budget to stick to. For us this is how it played out. Full Body Paint was important to us.

    Our Finalist List – Best first:

    Heartland Landmark365 – Overall winner, not perfect, but it’s really good.
    Redwood – A Close Second, very nice, floorplans did not fit our lifestyle
    DRV – I actually like the ones a few years ago better

    Our Cut List – Worst first

    Grand Design Solitude – Caught me by surprise… Factory tour said it all, horrible construction, one sloppy dirty mess.
    Open Range – Not the quality we were looking for, but I think it’s a decent unit.
    KZ Durango – Some good, and some bad, just did not feel like luxury when you peel the onion back. We like their Venom Toy Hauler.
    Montana – lack of wire bushings roof meeting the back wall scared me away, but over all nice units with the legacy package
    Cedar Creek – Really Nice unit, just missed the finalists list.

    One you may have not considered is Spacecraft in Missouri, who makes custom trailers. After reading your blog, you may be the happiest with a custom built trailer, but be prepared to get the wallet out!.

    My 2 Cents: All RV’s have problems, and 97.6% of RV’s will have compromises. Life’s short, don’t overthink it too much, buy one and get out on the road, If you don’t like it after a year, trade it. And most of all have fun!



    • Thanks for the comments Paul.

      Unfortunately my wallet is not fat enough for a custom built. Your top three models are all excellent in my book. It took a while, but we figured out what features were important and I have taken my best guess at what construction is better than some. Nice to get a quick run down on your list and experience after spending two weeks on factory tours.

      I’m ready to make compromises because for one, our budget is not endless and second every stock trailer has features/construction that require compromise.

      I read a blog post the other day where the author suggested simply coming up with a list of what is important in one column. Then list each trailer and check off which has the most of what you want. Seemed like an easier process than what I’ve been using. However, I had to do all the homework to get to the list of wants.


    • Whew! Sorry 2 see your comment re Grand Design Solitude being worst on your list. I had the 377mbs in my top 3 list, but hadn’t had the luxury of a factory tour like you. So thanks for sharing 🙂


      • I Cynthia,

        Believe you were commenting on Paul’s post regarding the Grand Design. For me the Grand Design 369RL came out at 10th place out of 15 trailers. I’d like to see their cargo capacity increase and that might help some.

        I’m thinking about doing 2 or 3 blog post regarding how I’m rating trailers to get some feedback from others. I’m sure I go way overboard when evaluating them. I’d put a lot of faith on the factory tour as well so I appreciate it when someone comments about their tours. We might go back to Indiana one more time and tour our top three someday.

        Darn, forgot to right down another bunk room model you might be interesting in. Hope that search is going well. If I see it again I’ll let you know.



    • Paul – Could you provide some more detail to your comment regarding your Grand Design factory tour – “Factory tour said it all, horrible construction, one sloppy dirty mess.” Are you referring to the factory being sloppy and dirty or the Solitude itself? I recently toured a Solitude 310 at a dealership and was super impressed with the fit and finish (opening, closing, examining everything I could). I couldn’t look inside the walls, however so I’d appreciate if you could elaborate if you don’t mind.

      Thanks for posting your first-hand tour observations!


  19. I’m glad I finally found a blog worth reading. In depth without boring details. Good work. I would like your gut opinion on this questions. We are full timers and bought a new 2016 Big Country 3150RL last May with great Factory discounts. We love this RV, but the bedroom is a little tight for us. I found a gently used 2016 Forest River Cardinal 3875FB with a larger bathroom, closet and 2nd toilet. The floor plan is very similar and the interior finish is comparable. The differences beside size and space is the Cardinal also has full paint and has an Onan 5500 Genset. If I can make a nearly straight up trade, is this a switch you would make? Just looking for an opinion from an experienced RV’r. Thanks for any help.


    • Thank you for reading Barry. And thanks for putting me in the experienced RV’r class, although you’re living full time in one makes you more experienced than myself.

      I’ve been thinking about your question for several hours. I’m very familiar with Big Country and we considered the 3155RLK during our search. The simple answer is absolutely you would be coming out ahead with a full paint Cardinal with the Onan generator if traded straight up or even with a few dollars added. Speaking only in terms of price comparison. New, the Cardinal is in a price point above the Big Country. Closer to Bighorn.

      Would I make the switch? Yes, if I liked a front bathroom floor plan and most all the other wants we have are met. However, we are not in the market for a front bathroom. If you try and sell your 2016 Big Country the depreciation hit would be considerable unless you bought it at a very, very low price.

      There is a reader on this blog with a Cardinal if you would like me to refer him to you, just let me know. I have not toured a newer Cardinal. Because there is not a dealership close to us. We looked at the Forest River Cedar Creek that is in the same class as the Cardinal.

      A longer answer, comparing your Big Country and the Cardinal, would include making sure the weight, length, cargo capacity, tank sizes if you boondock and more are things you also considered. Assume you did all that and the Cardinal fits what you are looking for.

      Dollar for dollar, considering the amenities and construction, it’s hard to beat a Big Country in its price point. During my research for luxury full profile fifth wheels in it’s weight class I personally felt the Big Country was the best overall value.

      When I first read your comment, by immediate thought was “what’s wrong with the Cardinal that someone would swap it for even money with a Big Country.” The new MSRP pricing is way higher, especially when you add on a $10,000 paint job and $3,500 generator.


      • Thanks Mark, you confirmed exactly what I was thinking and feeling. Our Big Country is in better condition and shows less wear, but if we can make the deal work, it would be an affordable step up. I also questioned the lower value for the Cardinal but the NADA book values for both coaches is surprisingly close. One thing we did learn about buying new is to wait and hunt for that lonesome ‘last year model’ that the dealer needs to move. The factory rebates offered($20,000+) covered any depreciation loss we would experience as the current book value is only $2,000 under what we paid. I will update you on if and when we make the switch and any issues that may help others with wheelin’ and dealin’.


      • Barry,

        Here is a link to Russ’ webpage. He owns a Cardinal. There is a contact link on the page and I gave him a heads up you might be contacting him.


        He owns a Cardinal and can give you the low down on the brand. He’s a good guy.

        And 10-4 on the idea of buying last years model as a new unit. Hope to find the same deal you did.



      • End of saga. I called the dealer and it appears that our 2016 (new) Big Country that we took possession June, 2017, lost $40,000+ in value. I quickly realized that they had no interest in making a deal, which is their right, and we said goodbye. I called a friend at another dealership in another state and was informed that the NADA book did show a large depreciation but it was only a $27,000 loss…ugh. As we received a factory incentive of over $23,000.00, we avoided the huge initial loss on a new coach.
        So the dealer would give us a trade-in of $35,000 against a $57,000 purchase price.
        No thanks.
        RV’s are terrible investments. But so are European vacations, Beanie Babies and IPhones.
        Thanks and I hope that someone gleans a nugget out of this and can use it in the future.


      • Well that sucks. Yup, I’m believing the depreciation is up to 55% in five years if you sold the trailer outright. At least you still have a great trailer! Should you have gone with a king sized bed, I’ve heard of people cutting down the wood platform and installing a queen for more space.

        I’m thinking that dealer was trying to rip you off also. I might have believed 20 percent loss of value in a year, but the Cardinal should have also lost value.


      • Does anyone know whether the King gives more storage space than a queen or does it depend on the manufacturer? If it doesn’t then I’m inclined to go with the queen for extra walking room.


      • Woops, wrong post earlier. I’m thinking the storage area underneath is the same between the king and the queen. Some also have the ability to hinge up from the headboard side but not sure that gives anymore storage space but may be a hiding spot for special stuff.


  20. Hi Mark! My husband and I are also from Missouri! We both enjoyed your article with the awesome research. We also plan to full-time beginning 2019 as well, and like you, have researched all of these brands, and are still undecided. I want to let you know that we have taken a closer look at VanLeigh’s Beacon and Vilano. There is no mention of the I-Beam size on their website or in the brochures that were sent to me. I contacted the National Sales Rep for VanLeigh this morning, and he stated that both the Beacon and the Vilano have a 10″/10″ double stack I-Beam. Not quite sure how I feel about that yet, as even Montanas, Solitudes, Redwoods, etc., have the 12″/10″ I-Beams. I found that interesting. Would love to hear about what you end up buying.


    • Hello fellow Missourian,

      Yup, the beam construction on the Vilano was always confusing to me. I assume the 10″/10″ is the main beam in 10″ as well as the portion that drops down at about the basement level (drop frame). And by the way not all the Solitudes use a 12″ main beam but that might just be in their shorter trailers.

      Good luck in your search. We still have our top five list and are waiting to see what the 2019 models look like before we make a move.



    • Thanks for the nice comments Andy. I have certainly gained more from others during my research. This blog started off just being a place to park my notes and until then I was not even aware of what blogging was.

      The entire RV search process is like a moving target in terms of all the minor, and sometimes significant changes, that come year after year with each brand and model. Once one decides on a couple specific models it sure is easier to then concentrate on the minor changes for that particular model. For example, in the Vilano we are looking at the 2019 changes are as simple as them having moved the location of the electrical recliner seat button, or size of their display panel for the slides and such. Along with many other minor tweaks. I’ve come to notice these slight modifications when looking at photos online. One can tell the difference between a 2018, 2019 or 2019.5 just from those minor tweaks.

      We looked at the Keystone Alpine several times to include a personal tour in an RV park with a fulltimer. In it’s price point, that is an awesome trailer.


  21. Extremely informative site, I wish I had found this sooner! I must say, I’m surprised at how quickly Jayco Pinnacle was thrown out of the running while lessers remained. My experience, just walking 2 feet into a Grand Design made me turn right around to go back to the Pinnacle. They just came out with a shorty for the first time in 2019, perhaps the previous length was it’s downfall? Could you elaborate more on why Pinnacle is barely mentioned? I’m sad to see that Thor has them now, I do see more customers struggling with service issues than the years before. But it does seem that they have a lot of bang for the buck… Your thoughts?


    • Hello Tanya, thanks for posting the comment. I actually kept the Pinnacle on the list as late as the 2018 models, specifically a 36KPTS floor plan even though the exterior length was 41’ when we drew the line at 40′. With so many brands to select from, one has to trim the list down. I had even followed a YouTube channel for several years who owned a front living room Pinnacle for many reason but mostly just to see how it worked for them.

      I’d started typing out a more involved explanation of why the Pinnacle came off our list for 2019 but the short answer is I trimmed the list down considerably to finally force our decision. Minor areas of what we wanted out of a fifth wheel just chipped away at the scores for several brands that did not make the final cut.

      What I like most about the Pinnacle is the interior. It’s one of just a few in that price point that are just different when you walk into it. I think you know what I mean. It’s classy.


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