One of These Could be Our Ultimate Trailer
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.
Redwood – 2016: 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. Really beautiful rig. This was the only trailer designed and owned by Thor from the beginning. 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. 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 Keystone (a 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. But I’m concerned about Thor having bought them and placing them under the Keystone brand. 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.
DRV 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!
Just 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.
Augusta RV – 2016: 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.
2015 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!
Heartland 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.
The Big Horn is very popular. The Big Country is a step down – I think, 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.
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. 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.
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 center. As 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 – 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.
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 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.
- I walked through a couple units in 2015 and wrote a blog post.
- This is interesting, Highland Ridge will offer aluminum frame cabinets in 2017.
- 2016 Factory tour of Highland Ridge.
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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)