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Old 06-12-2016, 08:32 AM   #1
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Interstate advice

My wife and I are looking at a 2013 Interstate EXT. We looked at a Roadtek side by side and found the interior furniture and fixtures to be much nicer in the Interstate. However when I came to this forum I am concerned at about the following:
1. Build quality seems to be suspect. A big concern.
2. A $5,000 - $10,000 investment in airbags is needed to make the rear bench livable. Shouldn't have to spend that on a unit at the price point IMO.

Not sure if we should be looking at another brand of MB Chassis or another Chassis all together. Trying to get a perspective as in most forums panic comes out about a few issues and sometimes is over stated.

Thanks,
Ken
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Old 06-12-2016, 09:21 AM   #2
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Originally Posted by texasm3 View Post
We looked at a Roadtek side by side and found the interior furniture and fixtures to be much nicer in the Interstate.
I noticed the same thing when I was shopping for mine. However, both were superior to the Winnebago ERA.
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A $5,000 - $10,000 investment in airbags is needed to make the rear bench livable. Shouldn't have to spend that on a unit at the price point IMO.
The same is true for any Sprinter-based conversion, so it's more of a buy/don't buy decision point than it is a Roadtrek/Airstream decision point.
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Old 06-12-2016, 10:07 AM   #3
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Unless the Roadtek has airbags, they will suffer the same ride quality issue. I suspect they would have as many critical comments on their forums if their community was as large as ours.

We also have forum members with Interstates that are a dozen years old so some of the issues you see may not apply to newer models, or may not crop up for you until the year 2030. Air stream is also selling a TON of new models right now so we also get lots of newbie questions such as why doesn't the water run only to find out the owners didn't know where the pump switch was located.

The Airstream Interstate is a great vehicle on a great chassis but you have to understand it's limitations. If you want to boondock for multiple days, you will need to run the generator. It's really not much of a limitation.

We have lots of engineers, pilots, and other technical people on this forum with both disposable income and free time so much of our complaints of late are focused on some of the head scratching stuff we uncover when we pull back the curtains to add new capabilities to the vehicles we love.

Yes, what Airstream does isn't always up to the standards I expect working at NASA, but then neither is two thirds of the stuff flying on the Space Station. Seriously, who's idea was it to design a treadmill without a power switch? If an astronaut wants to turn on the treadmill they have to call down to mission control to have some engineer do it for them.
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Old 06-12-2016, 11:33 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by texasm3 View Post
My wife and I are looking at a 2013 Interstate EXT. We looked at a Roadtek side by side and found the interior furniture and fixtures to be much nicer in the Interstate. However when I came to this forum I am concerned at about the following:
1. Build quality seems to be suspect. A big concern.
2. A $5,000 - $10,000 investment in airbags is needed to make the rear bench livable. Shouldn't have to spend that on a unit at the price point IMO.

Not sure if we should be looking at another brand of MB Chassis or another Chassis all together. Trying to get a perspective as in most forums panic comes out about a few issues and sometimes is over stated.

Thanks,
Ken
This question has been asked many times is a legitimate one. Having owned both a Roadtrek, and Airstream Interstate, I have a unique perspective than most, because to know a Class B is to own one and use it for an extended time over several years.

Here's my take.

Build quality is probably hit or miss with either one. My Roadtrek was built better than my Airstream, with only one defect. My Interstate had so many out the door I lost count. It could have likely been the other way around, however, from what I've read on other forums.

The only Class B that probably wouldn't have this issue is Advanced RV, but better be willing to spend over $200,000 and wait a year and I'm not in that category-with a depreciation of around 20% the first year, that's about 50 grand down the drain. They include the VB airbag option for the ride. Unless you ride in the back, it's a waste of money in my opinion. I have no problem with the ride in my 2011.

Feature wise and for interior quality of materials, on the surface, Airstream wins. But beauty is only skin deep. Yes, the interior looks nicer, but the ergonomics is worse when actually using it. A good example is drawer space, mirrors,shower design, etc. Roadtrek wins in how these units are used in my opinion. Airstream uses higher quality components, such a electric waste valves, better quality inverter/charger (Roadtrek uses a Chinese OEM brand), better monitor gauges (one big plus is the tank gauges). But the solar is a joke on the Airstream and doesn't do much if anything at all with poor wiring and a cheap controller. But there's a price to be paid for some of these options, and the more complicated they are, there are more things to fail. Roadtrek's interior is solid wood and vinyl laminate, and it's not exactly top notch materials. But it worked good enough for me. Airstream uses a 13,500 btu roof AC, that is barely enough to keep it cool in hot climates, and the very limited insulation doesn't help. Roadtrek uses a 11,000btu and that's even worse. You can do the math (they do have a 18,000btu undermount AC option, though-if it works).

Roadtrek has the ECOTrek lithium battery system and up to 600 watts solar-again if it works as advertised, but Roadtrek is known for making claims that later prove untrue and I wouldn't trust it to perform or work as they claim at least for a couple of more years and see what actual users report because of the lack of documentation of the system, and the fact that there is no way to monitor battery usage-a good way to keep the customer from knowing the system doesn't work as advertised. There are reports coming out that the amount of parasitic draw by each 200 amp bank is around 6 amps per hour, which means that the solar may not be adequate to keep all of them charged. Again, the lack of documentation makes it a bit hard to trust.

Roadtrek warranty is six years-twice as long as Airstream's. That is a big plus to me-it's probably the life of the unit for most folks.

Customer support-maybe Roadtrek wins now, but certainly not in the past. I've read reports of them recently flying technicians to homes to fix the electronics which was wired wrong or simply didn't work out the factory door, and more than once to the same home when the fix didn't work the first time, and at least one buybacks. I've never heard Airstream sending anyone from Jackson Center to fix defects that shouldn't have happened in the first place and forced at least one customer to arbitration rather than a buyback. So with Airstream, once you buy it-it's yours unless you are willing to go the distance.

If I had to make the decision again, Airstream would not be in the running for me, mainly because the shower/bath combo is so poorly designed to make it very frustrating to use. At least Roadtrek's shower actually drains. The plastic slap on panels on the Interstate's side trim are also problematical, either falling off or fading, along with the bumpers which fade as well. I did not have these types of issues in the Roadtrek.

I hate to say it, but I have better memories of using the Roadtrek for the five years I owned it, than I do of the Airstream Interstate, mainly because of poor design or poor quality of the build itself. The majority of memories I have had in the Airstream is fixing things that shouldn't have failed or were incorrectly installed in the first place. But, with that being said, I'm not sure I'd buy a Roadtrek either at this point unless I could thoroughly inspect it before I took delivery, and it has it's own set of drawbacks.

You asked, and this in entirely my opinion. Others may come to the exact opposite conclusion, with horror stories about Roadtrek (and there certainly are). Any mass produced Class B is likely to suffer from similar issues. It seems that the main goal is pushing them out the door to maximize profits-and they know this. Quality of the build is simply not important. I honestly think both manufacturers have very limited or no quality control whatsoever. Otherwise, how could they leave the factory with so many things that don't work, such as mis-wired electronics, or leak, etc. They leave the testing to the end user, and the dealer to fix those mistakes. And that is inexcusable in my opinion, but that the reality of almost all mass produced Class B manufacturers. They could, of course, change that policy-but it would decrease the profit per unit.

If you do buy a Class B, no matter what brand, before you sign the dotted line, inspect the vehicle and it's systems thoroughly. Arrive early, and tell them to fill the tanks, try out the plumbing, the pumps, the electric, all it's systems and take it for a test drive. Look a the windows carefully, the trim, the interior panels, and take your time. If you find anything, before you sign, have them fix it. Then take it for a day or two and stay close to the dealer so when you find the things you didn't find the first time (and you will), they can fix those as well. Then take it home. That's about the best you can do.

Good luck!
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Old 06-12-2016, 11:45 AM   #5
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Known: How many Air Forums Sprinter and B-Van forum users report problems.

Unknown: How many total Airstream Interstate owners have problems.

Unknown: How many Airstream Interstates are currently being sold.

Your post embeds the core question "What, if any, problems could I expect?"

The point has been made previously that forums tend to attract a disproportionate number of people who do have problems. The ones who have no problems tend to have nothing to complain about and correspondingly less to say.

A rough feel for the likelihood and types of problems might be glean-able from looking at [only that subset of Forum users who started posting with zero problems only to later develop problems].

An example is Galveston Girl, who posted one of the very first lithium inquiries some months back. No big problems initially reported other than maybe batteries needing upgrade and wondering which way should she go (battery decline is so common that I tend to exclude it from the "real problems" list). It was largely a curiosity question at that time.

Last week, GG reports back that her generator starter has gone out. Forum members speculate that her issue goes well beyond the starter. Actual problem TBD.

I haven't run the numbers on Forum users who fit that description - it would take quite a bit of forensic effort. My husband and I went into it expecting no problems and we've had a superabundance of problems, but our Interstate is older.
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Old 06-12-2016, 12:37 PM   #6
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Thanks for the opinions and advice that's what I was looking for. Time will tell what happens next. Have a great week.
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Old 06-12-2016, 12:52 PM   #7
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My husband and I went into it expecting no problems and we've had a superabundance of problems, but our Interstate is older.
I feel that our interstate is pretty solid now but it took a couple years to get there. I'm glad we bought used or I might have a more pessimistic view.
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Old 06-12-2016, 01:22 PM   #8
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Yes, what Airstream does isn't always up to the standards I expect working at NASA, but then neither is two thirds of the stuff flying on the Space Station.
So rocket science isn't exactly rocket science, either?
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Old 06-12-2016, 02:11 PM   #9
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Unless the Roadtek has airbags, they will suffer the same ride quality issue. I suspect they would have as many critical comments on their forums if their community was as large as ours....
Well said... But, also realize that the largest Roadtrek owners forum on the Internet, Facebook "Roadtreking: The Group", does not allow members to complain about their Roadtreks.

This Facebook group is indirectly controlled by Roadtrek and is infamous for banning any members who complain about the quality of their Roadtreks.

I think gmillerok1 gave a fair assessment of his experiences, but his Interstate seemed to have more problems than most owners on this forum have mentioned.
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Old 06-12-2016, 02:32 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by texasm3 View Post
My wife and I are looking at a 2013 Interstate EXT. We looked at a Roadtek side by side and found the interior furniture and fixtures to be much nicer in the Interstate. However when I came to this forum I am concerned at about the following:
1. Build quality seems to be suspect. A big concern.
2. A $5,000 - $10,000 investment in airbags is needed to make the rear bench livable. Shouldn't have to spend that on a unit at the price point IMO.

Not sure if we should be looking at another brand of MB Chassis or another Chassis all together. Trying to get a perspective as in most forums panic comes out about a few issues and sometimes is over stated.

Thanks,
Ken
One person's experience, after buying a 2015 GT Ext new. 13 months now and 14,500 miles
  • bath door latch fell off. I simply put back on and tightened
  • awning failed to work after several trips. I had to bring back to dealer, they had a visiting service tech who apparently was accumulating lots of expertise adjusting these
  • back TV stopped working. We don't watch much, so it took us a while to discover the problem. They found a break in "thin" wiring, so they fixed and replaced with thicker. Same trip as awning fix
  • sometimes after a heavy rain, we'll discover a little water on the floor of the bath. I figure it's from around the vent fan (happens even when closed). Haven't bothered getting it fixed because that little water doesn't hurt, and I don't want anyone up there doing more harm than good
  • upgraded the 100 w flex panel solar to 2x100 rigid panels, with new controller and new wiring. Base system totally inadequate. New system is fantastic. Cost was $2000 outside contractor
  • squeaky microwave drawer about drove me crazy until I put an inflated child's inner tube in the drawer, and some styrofoam pieces under the drawer when not in use. Problem solved
  • windshield washer reservoir emptied constantly. Couldn't find the leak. MB service discovered it was a loose connection to headlamp washers warranty
  • rear lounge seat scuffed on our very first trip when I set a gym bag on it that must have had a rough footing. I couldn't even find the rough footing and I couldn't believe such a bad /permanent scuff happened so quickly and easily. If we keep this a while, might wind up reupholstering
  • front tires wearing ridiculously on inside. Even though I did what forum people said, which is to do a new alignment because Airstream doesn't re-align from MB factory even after doing the coach build-out. I don't know if the wear happened before the alignment (5000 miles) or if I hit a pothole and got it out of alignment. Might need new front tires already, plus a new alignment (each costs ~ $250

I figure we have had a very good experience. Others in the forum, not so much.
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Old 06-12-2016, 05:48 PM   #11
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texasm3,

What do you want to do with the motorhome? You mention you might look at other chassis. For camping, a smaller chassis might be easier to fit between trees and the sides of roads. If you plan to be remote camping then the RT tends to have better electronics. But if you are looking for comfort and more of a standard camping situation then the AS or even Pleasureway both have very nice features.

You might want to look at the ClassB forum for a wider perspective on options.
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