Originally Posted by texasm3
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.
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.