What are the most heavy-duty and dependable makes/models?

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Jul 2, 2012
Hi everyone! I'm new here, and am finding myself at a loss. (I'm sure you get that a lot, lol.)

We show horses and have always owned a 5th wheel with living quarters horse trailer. I know a lot about those, but now that we are planning to purchase a Class A dp, I am overwhelmed with all the choices and my lack of knowledge of where to begin.

I am fine with going out and researching info extensively, but I would be MOST grateful if I could reduce the list from MANY makes/models to at least a manageable number! I'd love recommendations on what would be a good vehicle that meets these needs:

2008 to 2012 - $100k or less
35 - 40'
3 - 4 slides
Heavy duty tires, suspension, brakes, etc.
Diesel with plenty of power (Is 350+ best? We may be pulling a small trailer with 1-2 horses)
Nice interior without being over-the-top opulent
Prefer pass-through basement storage, but LARGE storage bays are OK too.

Also, if there are brands that are notorious for being "pretty" but have a lot of service issues and should be avoided, I'd love to know of those so I can steer clear.

Thanks so much for your help!
Welcome to the Forum!

oakrunfarm said:
Diesel with plenty of power (Is 350+ best? We may be pulling a small trailer with 1-2 horses)

Tell us how much your trailer weighs, and then how much your two horses weigh. It helps determine how much horsepower (pun intended) you might need at a minimum! For example, I pulled a 2900# Honda with 300hp in my 38' DP without effort, even in the mountains of the West (well, sometimes, just a little effort on the high passes). Standard brakes and tires on my Freightliner chassis were always fine.

I will leave the rest of your items, which are much more opinion oriented, to others....
Thank you!

We're actually selling our current (5th wheel)  big trailer and would likely not even be pulling one very often as my trainer would normally haul my horse.

If we did, it would be an aluminum trailer with one or two horses weighing around 1000 lbs apiece. Looks like curb weight on the trailer type we'd be buying is around 2500 lbs. Throw in some "stuff," and we're maybe talking 5000 lbs, tops.

Based on my experience with my 300hp coach, your setup is going to require the 350hp or so for the ~5000# towing. We were always right near the edge at 300hp of being undernourished in the high country of the western US. I suspect others are going to tell you something similar from their experience. I can tell you that going from 300hp to 450hp in the new coach is like night and day.

To answer your pass through storage requirement question, from what I have seen, it's a function of the frame design. Our Fleetwood Expedition did not have pass through storage, and our Tuscany does. Believe it or not, I think our 42' coach has less space underneath than the 38' did, but I also think it's a function of what you carry and how it's cubed. As full timers, we carry a lot of stuff you might not, and as a horseperson, I bet you will have some interesting requirements that need to be carefully thought out.

My recommendation is that if storage is a big consideration, you need to really look at a lot of different models and visualize how that space would get used. We seem to keep throwing stuff off and stuff keeps crawling back on, if you get the picture.

We have had four slides in both coaches and would not trade that extra space for the world! Again, spend some time in the lots and check out all the different ways the space can be used. Floorplans are extremely important if you are going to spend any time in a motorhome.

Based on my limited experience in shopping for a motorhome, you may have to increase the ante or look for an older model.  Maybe a 2005 for a mid-level DP.   
You will never get to much power. Think big. It's easy to buy an under powered unit as some salesman has to pass the problem out of his lot and on to you. I have a friend who fell into that situation. When you realize and want to get rid of it on trade believe me every salesman will know all about under power which will reflect on the trade in he wants to allow you for it. 35 MPH on hills isn't fun. Forgetting you came through a mountain on cruise except for the scenery is fun.
You want a minimum of 1 hp per 100 lbs of gross combined weight. More is better, since the 1/100 is less than what you are used to in the family car or even your work truck. If you get frustrated if your speed falls of as you climb steep (more than 3%) grades, you will want more hp. Of course, there is a rice to pay for more power - both upfront and in fuel.

Many brands of motorhme share the underlying chassis, with relatively minor differences. Monaco & Holiday Rambler brands use a Roadmaster brand chassis, while Fleetwood, Winnebago, Tiffin (Allegro), and Forest River, use Freightliner diesel chassis. American Coach and Newmar are primarily built on a Spartan chassis, but some years had Freightliners as well. They are all sturdy, but higher end models are configured with more features and larger coaches get higher GVWR and longer wheel bases.
Hi Oakrunfarm,

I also have horses, well, only one left.  I went through all the calculations like you are doing to figure out what I needed to pull my horse trailer.  We had more trailer than you are thinking of pulling; but even 5,000 lbs is a lot.  We looked at gas engine coachs and finally my calculation meant we needed a diesel.  Most diesels are set up to pull 10,000 lbs.  However, there are some out there that are rigged only to pull 5,000 lbs.  They use a lighter weight hitch and rails.  You need to look at both the combined gross vehicle weight and the gross vehicle weight.  When you get serious have the motor home weighted to see how much it weights when fully loaded with food, people, fuel, propane and water.  Then subtract that from the CGVWR (combined gross vehicle weight rating) and that will be what you can tow.  However, from you message it sounds like you already have decided on a diesel, just make sure you note Gary's calculation of 1 to 100, that will help you get the right sized engine and rig.

We bought a Tiffin Allegro Bus diesel pusher.  It already had the 10,000 lb rated hitch.  Because the coach is on a freightliner chassis there are no extentions like used in a gas coach.  Our steel horse trailer fully  loaded with horses, tack and feed was just at 8,000 lbs.  We live in Southern Californian and pulled up some steep grades.  The diesel did fabulous.  One note, just like when you pulled the 5th wheel, your horse trailer needs a braking system.

Gary also notes good brands to consider.  I would also look at Newmar and Country Coach.  You will also need to keep an eye on your wheel base.  A longer wheel base gives a better ride and if you are towing a heavy load, the longer wheel base will be more solid.

The more horsepower you can get with a DP and possibly towing a trailer with horses, the happier you'll be.  To paraphrase the Duchess of Windsor, you can't ever have too much horsepower!  Our 34' Monaco Windsor had a 300 hp Cummins and we comfortably towed a Geo Tracker.  It had enough power to get up mountains easily.  But that tow car is a lot lighter than two horses, a trailer, tack, and bales of hay.  We later moved up to a 500 hp Cummins in a 40' Monaco Executive and have towed both a Jeep Grand Cherokee and an Acura MDX with it.  I can tell you the 500 hp is much nicer in the mountains and on long inclines like we have out here in the west.  I would say to get the largest engine you can afford, with the biggest tow capacity you can afford.

Remember horsepower is only half the equation-what goes up must come down and the white knuckles are markedly less when you know you have adequate breaking capacity.

Have a 378 georgetown gasser and the uphill part of traveling has always been OK, just when I start over the hill and don't know what is at the bottom makes me nervous. Those exhaust or preferably Jake brakes are soooo nice. The tow and haul feature on the transmission is nice but not a real answer. Don't ever be uncertain of your braking ability - just remember C.W. Mccall and his song about downtown Pegosa Springs!

5000 lbs is not an unreasonable load-my Jeep Cherokee weighs in there, but be aware most hitches on older or smaller motor homes are only rated for 5000#, so if you plan on upgrading the trailer (or getting bigger horses-1000Lbs per horse is pretty light if they are working horses), go for a 10000# hitch capacity.

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