One couple found that trading in their type A motorhome for a smaller type C made for a more comfortable travel experience.
By E. Miles Harvey, F40787
Two events prompted my wife, Nancy, and me to consider a smaller motorhome. We both turned 70, and Nancy had a serious hip problem (after six replacements) that was aggravated by climbing up the stairs in our previous type A motorhomes.
During a 26-year period, we have owned nine motorhomes; have driven more than 250,000 miles; have crossed the United State nine times; and probably lived in the various coaches the equivalent of four years. Our first motorhome was a 21-foot model in which we spent six months on the road during our first sabbatical from my former law firm. The last motorhome was a diesel pusher with all the bells and whistles.
When we decided to downsize, we chose a 30-foot Lazy Daze type C motorhome with a Ford V-10 gas engine that’s equipped with a Banks PowerPack. It has twin beds (making it easier for Nancy to get in and out); a sofa that converts into a double bed; a three-burner stove with an oven; and a microwave oven. The motorhome’s very large windows give it a spacious feeling.
The differences between a type A and a type C motorhome are many. Right now, we are delighted with the decision to downsize. Everything seems simpler and easier. For our purposes, the main advantage is the ease of getting in and out of the coach. Rather than the five steps in our former motorhome, there are only two steps up or down in our type C. Also, the firmer ride is much better for Nancy. The last four type A coaches we owned have had large copilot chairs made of soft foam that, together with the air bags and suspension, gave a ride that caused pain in Nancy’s hips. The type C has smaller, firmer seats, and the coach rides closer to the road without the floating softness of the type A motorhomes.
Although I was a good lawyer, I was never mechanically inclined, and the last couple of motorhomes were probably beyond my capability, as far as most of the exotic equipment was concerned. The diesel furnace, complex inverters, diesel generator, state-of-the-art entertainment equipment, GPS, washer-dryer, safe, etc., were all more than I could readily handle. When the owners manual for our last type A coach came in two large volumes plus a large expandable file, I knew I was in trouble.
Our type C has an 88-page manual and some accessory equipment instruction booklets. Almost everything in the coach can be operated intuitively or is so simple to use that a quick look in the manual suffices. The most difficult thing for me to learn to do was attaching the valve stem extenders “” I found that I was missing that page in the manual.
Surprisingly, we seem to have more storage space in the type C. It has two large lower compartments, one of which goes from side to side. Ample space is available for stowing chairs, a lounge chair, a table, a ladder, the grill, my toolbox, and the other usual incidentals. In the type A, much of the basement storage was occupied by the diesel-powered furnace, which took up one entire compartment; the water and sewer hookups and a small shower handle; and the large, 7.5-kilowatt generator. Although we had storage trays that slid out from either side, it seems even easier to get things in and out of the side storage compartments in the type C.
Inside we carry as many dishes, glasses, pots, pans, appliances, clothes, bed linens, books, maps, and other items as we formerly had, and still have many cabinets only half full. The last type A did not have a pantry, which the type C does, which helps with the storage of canned goods. The only area where we have lost space is the bar, so we simply carry fewer beverages than we used to.
Our type C is 99 inches wide, which makes it a scant 3 inches narrower than the last four coaches we owned. It doesn’t have a slideout, like our last coach, but we do not feel cramped; in fact, it is quite cozy. The dinette seats four comfortably and we have space to entertain a total of six people without crowding.
Our last coach had a 350-horsepower diesel engine that could pull 40,000 pounds. The type C has a 305-horsepower gasoline engine to which we added the Banks PowerPack, so it probably has 315 to 320 horsepower, with a weight of 15,000 pounds. Pulling away from stops and going up hills feels about the same as with the larger diesel coach, and we still tow the same Saturn we had before. Gas mileage is approximately 8 miles to the gallon, so fuel economy isn’t much different, and the cost per mile is about the same. It would be difficult to estimate the difference in long-term maintenance costs.
The type C handles much easier for me. I thoroughly enjoy having the ability to roll down the driver’s side window and stick my head out to back up. In our former coaches, Nancy would direct me into our campsite with her handheld radio, but she now needs only a few hand signals. Driving the motorhome is much more like driving a car. I can see out the back window and watch the towed car through the magnifier “” no remote monitor needed. It is fun to drive with my arm resting on the window ledge. Sitting closer to the road, I feel more in control and more responsive to what is going on around the coach. Obviously, there isn’t as much length to worry about, and turning a corner is less stressful. We had forgotten how convenient it is to have cockpit doors for the driver and copilot.
Routine maintenance is much easier in a smaller coach as well. Checking the tire pressure is a breeze with the valve extenders and the smaller tires. The dipsticks for all of the fluids are right under the hood. And the batteries are smaller and much easier to access.
With the type C we never have to worry about length, height, or weight. The coach fits in almost all state and national parks where a 30-foot limit seems to be about the norm. At our height, no underpass is a concern, and neither are weight restrictions on narrow bridges.
Cleaning the outside of the smaller coach takes only an hour and a half using a waterless cleaning product. There simply isn’t as much area to cover, and much less climbing up and down the ladder is necessary.
Of course, type A motorhomes boast many advantages when compared to type Cs, and these are many of the reasons type As are so popular today. Riding high lets you scope out the road ahead with a better perspective of the traffic. A diesel engine is better for the long trips. We miss the automatic levelers “” they are certainly more convenient than putting blocks under the wheels. Interior space in the larger coaches seems more homelike than in smaller coaches. And basement storage is appealing if you really need it. Most type A motorhomes today are bigger, longer, more glamorous, glitzier, more powerful, and have more accessories.
The features of today’s type As do, however, come at a cost. The total price of our new type C (including many items we added) was approximately 37 percent of what we paid for our last type A.
Downsizing is certainly not for everyone, but if your age or health says it is time to take it easier, don’t give up the motorhoming life. Instead, consider going back to where most of us started and get something that is easy to handle, less expensive, and, above all, cozier.