We’ve owned two Class A motorhomes: a 2015 Thor Challenger 37GT and a 2008 Winnebago Destination 39W. We bought the Thor new in May 2014, but traded it in a year and a half later for the used Winnebago.
We’ve been much happier with the Winnebago than we were with the Thor. Superficially, they were quite similar. But underneath they were very different. The most significant difference is that the Winnebago is a diesel model, while the Thor was a gas.
Knowing what we know now, we wouldn’t hesitate to choose an older diesel model over a newer gas model assuming they were about the same size, layout, and price. We made an even swap of the 2015 Thor for the 2008 Winnebago with a dealer, and we feel we got the better part of the bargain. While a gas model might be fine for part-timers, we would recommend a diesel to anyone considering a full time nomadic life.
The advantages of a diesel model are many:
|Mileage||10 MPG||8 MPG|
|Weight rating||28,000 lb||22,000 lb|
|Towing capacity||10,000 lb||5,000 lb|
Perhaps the most overlooked advantage of a diesel versus gas is the wheel placement. The images below compare the placement in each model.
These two coaches are from the same manufacturer for the same year and they come in similar floor plans. Yet there is a dramatic difference in the wheel placement between the gas and the diesel. Though they are nearly the same length, the wheels on the gas model are positioned much further toward the front and the wheelbase is shorter.
This wheel placement results in the gas model having a long overhang in the rear. You don’t have to be an engineer to see that the diesel model can provide a smother ride and better handling without the tail wag and overloading issues that affect gas models.
In addition to the general advantages of diesel, here are some specific features about our motorhome that we really like.
- Unique curved cabinet work: made from honey maple and cherry.
- Unusual table and chairs dinette set: very practical.
- Comfortable overall floor plan: especially convenient placement of seating and television.
- Large storage bays underneath with pass-through.
- Basement air conditioning units: saves room on roof for possible solar.
- Large opposing slideouts: 14′ on the street side and 21′ on the curbside.
- Extra long 20′ awning: extends from the curbside slideout rather than over it, giving us much more usable shade.
- Side entry door into the living area: an 8′ awning hangs over the door.
- Both awnings are motorized and automatically retract when windy.
- Dual RV refrigerator: automatically runs off electric when we’re hooked up and propane when we’re not.
- Dual heating system: automatically runs the heat pump when we’re hooked up or the propane-fired furnace when we’re not.
- Large storage tanks: which means we can go without water and sewer hookups for a week. Our rig holds 92 gallons of fresh water, 80 of grey, and 60 of black.
- The black tank is especially large: we only produce about 30 gallons of sewage a week. But having extra capacity allows us to keep plenty of water in the black tank at all times, whether we have a sewer hookup or not, ensuring everything is well diluted. When camping, we keep the black tank valve closed until we’re ready to empty it. Afterward, we give it a good flushing and add back 15 gallons of clean water along with some Dawn dish soap and Calgon liquid, aka the “GEO method” (Get Everything Out).
- Accurate sensors on each of the storage tanks: rather than the standard probe type, ours sense water levels from the outside. That means they never get gunked up, give a false reading, or leak.
Here is a further discussion of some of the changes we’ve made to the original motorhome.