4 midsize diesel rvs

RV Shopper Series – Midsize Class A Diesel

In this RV Shopper Series we take you on an RV shopping experience, as if we were at the dealership together. We walk through 4 similar RVs and point out our top three likes and dislikes from each motorhome. We try not to cover any overlapping issues so you can see what we like and don’t like when looking for a new RV.  So, let’s go RV shopping!

Most people don’t start their RV adventure with a big brand new 40 foot plus motorhome, they slowly work their way up to it.  By no means are these the top of the line motorhomes out there but they aren’t the least expensive either so we’ve classified this type of Class A Diesel Motorhome as “Mid-Size”.

We can’t cover every detail or every motorhome so we’ve selected 4 of what we feel are the top sellers, the new-to-the-market and the most popular motorhomes in this class of RV.  We’ve also done our best to feature the major RV manufacturers for this more luxurious RV segment.  Here’s our top selects for the Class A Mid-Size Diesel motorhomes:

  • Fleetwood Discovery 40X – 3 thumbs up
  • Tiffin Phaeton 40AH – 2.5 thumbs up
  • Itasca Meridian 40R – 2 thumbs up
  • Thor Tuscany XTE 40GQ – 1.5 thumbs up

If you’re shopping for this class of motorhome there are several other RVs in this segment you may like to see including the Winnebago Journey, Newmar Ventana and Forest River Berkshire XL.

4 midsize diesel rvs

Who is this RV made for?

We think this type of Motorhome is perfect for the shopper looking for a touch of luxury with a majority of the amenities one would expect to find in a small home.  With this class of RV you can expect bigger engines with more power, higher end paint jobs, cooler cockpits, more technology, better ride quality, less road noise during travel, upgraded furniture and several other little touches.  We recently did a side-by-side comparison of an entry level RV vs. this mid size RV and we feel it’s worth a watch if you’re wondering “why the big price difference?”

How much does this RV cost?

As always it’s nearly impossible to translate the MSRP into the “Street Price” one might expect to pay but a quick search online shows the Thor for under $200,000.00, the Fleetwood for $214,000.00 and the Itasca for $230,000.00.

What to look for when shopping for this type of RV.

  • Storage – Different chassis styles provide various amounts of basement storage.
  • GVWR, GCVWR, GVWR, OCCC – All these acronyms add up to provide you EXTREMELY valuable information about your RV: How much stuff you can carry; How much towing capacity you have; How much water you can load into your tank.  Make sure you ask for this info on each RV you consider purchasing.
  • Inverter and Batteries – Most RVs in this segment have a puresine wave inverter with a smart charger which is a bonus. The battery banks vary but most have at least 600ah which is a good start for boondocking and adding solar.
  • Build quality – Take note of the quality of the things you’ll use daily such as windows, storage bays, entry door, cabinets, bed, bathroom, faucets, sinks, fridge, seating comfort, A/C, heater, awning, etc. Its the small things that make the final price vary, for example if all the fixtures are low quality it might explain why one RV is $10,000 less than the others.

If you have a personal experience with one of these brands, RVs, or this “Mid-size” class A diesel segment, please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.  We hope our RV shopper series might help others when it comes to searching and buying their first, or next, motorhome.

Disclaimer – Yes, we’re generalizing with a lot of this information, but we’re trying to help people target which RV is right for their needs.  Your experience and opinions will be totally different. The different RV dealerships didn’t compensate us nor are we affiliated with them in any way, but we are thankful they let us hang around and film inside their RV’s.  None of the RV manufactures featured here compensated us either.  All opinions expressed are our own and based on our RV’ing experience.  At the time of filming we traveled in a Fleetwood Excursion.

Famous for my "how-not-to" videos, and typically the man behind the camera, sometimes I’m forced to be here in the “spotlight”. When you see my face you’re probably reading something more technical than adventurous, but either way I do my best to tell it like it is and infuse my opinions into the commentary…after all this is a blog and not MSN.

Comments (38)

  • Mark Hron

    I appreciate all you guys do for RVing. So, of all of the RVs you have been in which one is the one you could live for years in on the road?

    Thank you,

    • That is a tough one as we have not found one coach that is perfect. We really, really liked our Monaco Vesta overall and were very happy with it. We do however love the space/layout the most on our Bounder. So we would like a 30ft version of our Monaco diesel with a bounder layout. Which of course doesn’t exist.

  • Bob Spellberg

    Thanks, your videos were great. I have just started looking to jump from a 38ft toy hauler fifthwheel to a Class A Diesel pusher. My size pref. is 38 ft. I have looked at Winnebago Forza/Itaska Solei and the Forest River Berkshire. They seem to have the same floorplan though depending on the dealer there are differences in plumbing and construction materials. We do watch TV and not having an articulating arm on many coaches can be a problem. King beds are also nice. 36 ft has them the 38 did not. I like you want Nav in the dash.

  • Juan


    Nice videos with great info. I’m thinking of buying an RV, have you ever evaluated the Newmar Dutch or Essex? They are relatively expensive but I have decided to focus on the 2005 to 2010 models. Buying resale, does the 20-40% discount from used MSRP still stand (buying from a dealer)? I’m focusing on the torque and HP, looking for a 400+ MH, I’m concern about going up hill and having to slow down to 20 mph, lol. I’d like to maintain 60-65 mph. Reliability, is there a web site that provides reliability records that can be reviewed, similar to Carmax?

    Let me know your thoughts.


  • Melinda

    Hey guys love your information. My husband and I are getting ready to be full timers by Jan 2016. We are in our 40s and the kids are grown and gone. The one problem we are having is to buy a Diesel RV or a Diesel Truck and Fifth Wheel? Would like some advice. We will be having our grandchild join us some on the road and maybe the older kids. We also want to stay under 100,000 everything paid off. Thanks.

  • Did you guys trade the diesel for a gas model? And if so why?

  • Stan

    Hi…lots of fun keeping up with you guys. Love the videos! Are there any tips to saving money if you have to order an RV directly from the manufacturer? No one has what we want (options) so we are looking down that road. Any tips you can give would be great!!

  • Rob Franks

    Do you know if any winery estates in BC that offer RV camping?
    We thought you had mentioned this when you were last at the RV show in Abbotsford.

  • VP

    Fun to watch! I love seeing all the new bells and whistles. But those fancy do-dads come at a huge cost compared to the same coach model that is just a few years older. The one thing you fail to mention in your reviews is that depreciation on these new coaches is a KILLER, especially in the first 5 years of ownership. You might want to include a TOTAL cost of ownership figure (over say 5 years) in your comparisons. Doing this using NADA values for similarly equipped 5 year-old coaches of the same model and manufacture should be fairly easy. Most would be shocked at how much value these depreciating assets lose over the time ones owns them. Everyone worries about fuel mileage and maintenance when the nasty D word is by far your biggest expense of ownership with these babies.

  • Bruce

    Hi Guys,
    Could you possibly do a video of what it is like driving a diesel and a video of you guys driving it so I can see how diesel pushers ride?
    Thank you,

  • Merry Green

    We just started full timing in a 2014 Thor Tuscany XTE 40 GQ. It seems to be a good upgrade from our 27 ft Coachmen travel trailer. 🙂 I agree that the windows are great in this rig. The dogs love looking out the window that is cabinet to floor. The driver’s chair is great for Ben, who is a large man. We bought a Rand GPS that rides on the left dash for easy viewing. One of the greatest selling points was the buffet and dinette area that has become Ben’s work space. This was very important since he’s continuing to work a 9 to 5 job on this adventure. My biggest complaint is the kitchen, which is small. I keep telling myself that it’s a small sacrifice for the freedom and fun we have in store. We also swapped out the narrow king mattress for our decadent regular mattress, which has made narrow spaces around the bed more narrow, but that comfy night’s sleep is not negotiable!

    Being new to the life style, we find the ride of this rig to be extremely smooth but we have nothing to really compare it to. All I know is that I am so comfortable with my feet up and the movie screen of the countryside in front of me that I’m not sure if I’m awake or dreaming. Life is good!

    Thanks for inspiring us!

  • Steve Kiser

    Thanks Nikki and Jason for this site and sharing your experiences and knowledge. I bought the 2015 Tiffin Phaeton. I opted for an all electric coach. The large living areas, bath and closet sold me with Tiffins customer service rep.
    I am uhm hmmm well I agree the aisle with the slides closed is tight…I can grab a water and use the bath. As for the bed well I best pull over somewhere. What I have learned is to get one thing you give up another …when you have limited space. I had a gas 35′ Class A before so driving this will be a learning experience. I leave Saturday for a 350 mile trip from Louisiana to Alabama.
    Thanks again for this site.
    Safe travels!

    Steve and Bruiser the navigating Yorkie

  • Neal Davis

    Jason, I just read your comment about Fleetwood doing customized coaches. That’s exciting to consider, but could one have a coach customized and still have any ability to negotiate a sales price less than MSRP? Thanks again for this video/story(and all the earlier ones); it’s great to gain the benefit of all the RV knowledge you and Nikki have. Thank you! Neal

      • Neal Davis

        Very cool. I can hardly wait to see the video. Thank you!

  • Neal Davis

    Great stuff! Thank you for educating even more on how to critically evaluate an RV. Thank you!

  • John Rawlings

    Even though I’m in the UK, I love your video reviews and seeing inside the RV’s. They’re HUGE compared to anything in Europe. You make me dream of touring USA in one of those big beasts. Would it be possible to include a quick panoramic shot of the interior in your videos so I can get a better idea of what the interior looks like.
    Can’t wait to see your new motorhome!

  • Scott Shaffar

    I researched the RV industry for a year prior to my purchase decision. In the end, I selected Newmar. I recommend you include Newmar in these evaluations.

  • Mark Elliott

    Hi guys – while you’re at the factory talking turkey with the product managers ask them if they’ve ever considered creating 3 versions of each RV model with versions optimized for: weekend warriors; full-timers using primarily full hook-up RV parks; and a full-timer boondocker version where solar power with a large battery bank and larger fresh water/holding tanks are much more important.

  • Rod Reichardt

    As always I enjoyed both the article and the video. The lack of attention to the details you guys point out on the Thor is a bit scary. We bought a Tiffin 36LA gasser a year ago and now find ourselves in the market for a small to medium sized DP. We love our Tiffin’s floorplan but we use it to attend events all over the country and often have a bit of a time crunch to get them. Because of that I am sometimes driving for 18 hour stretches. The longer range and quieter/softer ride of a DP would be much appreciated. We also dry camp for the events so bigger tanks are a plus. In looking at diesels that we can afford ($220K max) the Fleetwoods seem to have the things I am looking for. The new for 2015 Expedition 38K has a floorplan very similar to our Tiffin but with a lot more area due to the opposing slides. I would prefer a Discovery but that floorplan in is not offered on that platform, yet.

    I do have some complaints with the Expedition. The exterior paint schemes are mostly unfortunate IMHO. Some of the really odd designs cut into the interior wood trim on the Expedition and the Excursions remind me of the electric wood burning kits that were popular when I was a kid in the 60s. In these two coaches they look like the designs were actually done by a kid. Some really odd choices. Not deal breakers for us, but definitely head scratchers. One other complaint is the lack of optional drop down bunks/beds in larger DPs. For some events we have guests and could really use an extra bed. It seems that the larger (and nicer) DPs are designed to sleep fewer people. I get that they are aimed at retired couples but I think that many people would like to have a spare bed that lifts completely out of the way when not being used. Why not make them optional in the mid-sized DPs? It seems to me that for minor penalties in cost and weight you get a much more flexible motorhome when you add that option. It seems to make much more sense than bunk beds. It seems like every gas motorhome has a drop down option. Why not more DPs? I can only think of a few entry level DPs that do. The Winnebago/Itasca Forza/Solei 34T, Holiday Rambler Ambassador, and the Fleetwood Excursions. How hard would it be to offer as a carte blanche option on larger, midsize, DPs?
    Keep up the great work! I feel like I learn something valuable every time you post something new.

      • Rod Reichardt

        Thanks for the replies. I am visiting my dealer later this week for our “final” warranty visit on our 36LA. I will talk to our sales person about special ordering a coach. I am looking forward to any more information you guys can add about that process. Right now definitely leaning toward the Expedition 38K due to the floorplan. It will be interesting to see how pricing compares on a special order as compared to something already on their lot. Our dealer has two locations and the one that we use didn’t order any Expeditions this year. The other location has 6 or 7 including 3 38Ks. Apparently they do not share stock between the locations. Not a huge loss as I don’t care for the color choices they made on those.

  • Quig

    Thanks guys. I always look forward to your posts. Obviously, when comparing coaches there is a huge difference between what is important to full-timers vs. weekend warriors. My wife and I will be starting our full-time journey sometime in the next three months; and hope to stay on the road for several years (maybe longer).

    If we were only taking short vacations or weekend trips, then we could live with a small shower, or an all in one bathroom. But if this is my only shower and toilet for the foreseeable future; I want something better. A larger shower with room to turn around. A separate room for the toilet; so one person can shower, and another can use the toilet. Yes, we’re married, but we still appreciate a little privacy. There needs to be some counter space around the bathroom sink, so you can put your toothbrush or razor down. Space to hang a towel or two would be nice too.

    We know folks who RV and prefer to use the bathroom and shower facilities at the RV parks they visit. Likewise, several folks have said having a washer/dryer in the RV is wasted space; since most parks offer laundry facilities. If we were only out for a short vacation, those options might be fine. But I prefer my own bathroom and laundry facilities; so being plumbed for a washer/dryer, and the bathroom layout are important considerations.

    Similarly, on a weekend trip I might do all my relaxing and cooking outside. However, if I’m full-timing, this is my home. I need permanent counter space in the kitchen. So if I’m using the stove and the sink; there still needs to be useable counter space. Space to place a toaster, and/or the coffee maker, and still be able to use a cutting board. Can you access the fridge with slides in, while you’re underway? Can you get to the toilet; while the slides are retracted?

    In the living room/area where will the satellite box or dvd sit? Again this is my home, and TV is an integral part of our daily lives. Where is the TV mounted? Do I have a straight line of sight to the screen? Or do I have to be turning my head 90 degrees to see the screen? TV may not be important, if I’m only out for the weekend, or if I’m parked in Yosemite. But again, if this is my home for the next few years; TV placement becomes important.

    Since we’ll be working from the road, where will we work? The dining table? The captain’s chairs? Is there space for a printer to be set up? Can it be permanently kept there; or will it need to be packed up every time we move?

    No RV is going to meet everyone’s needs. Any buying decision is going to be a matter of compromise based on function and price. Depending on each of our personal likes and dislikes, some of these features might be deal breakers.

    Obviously, your quick video tours can’t address all these factors. All the features that are important to me, may be trivial to others. But I still enjoy your videos, and find them useful. You two always make me smile, and make me anxious to get on the road.

  • Jeff

    I feel that you should be more transparent about your connection with Fleetwood. It’s a shame that they come out on top every time you do a review when it’s so obvious that there is a business relationship there. Some of the dislikes of other RVs in this smack down were the same for any RV such as narrow walk ways when the slides are in. This sounds like you are clutching at straws to find a dislike of another product over the Fleetwood product which has exactly the same issue. I love the way you are travelling full time and using the promotion of products and services to fund your lifestyle. However please be transparent about the company’s you are in a relationship with as that way we can understand the difference between a genuine smack down and a promotional smack down.

    • Jeff, sorry to hear you feel this way. Fleetwood did not win every smackdown nor is there any one real winner. In the small gas smackdown Forest River FR3 was our top pick, in the midsize gas Holiday Rambler Vacationer was our top pick. Our connection to fleetwood had nothing to do with this series and we are very transparent about all of the different products/brands that we work with. We are not sponsored by fleetwood but do work with them on other projects and we do travel in a test unit of theirs that we pay for. The dislikes that we pointed out could be applied to lots of different RV’s of different sizes and layouts by any and all of the manufactures, that is the point. We wanted to show the little things that a new buyer might not think to look for. This is not about promoting one product or another, they are good options which is why they made our list to compare and are simply our opinions(and not purchased). I am sorry if you don’t agree with the ratings given but that is also the point, what features matter to us may not matter to you. Thank you for taking the time to express your concern and opinions, we do appreciate it and always welcome feedback.

  • Kris Driessen

    I am more concerned with the quality of the frame and the engine than the interior aesthetics. Which model/brand has the least repairs and/or the best reputation?

  • Brian Baldridge

    Thanks for all the shopper videos. My wife and I aren’t quite in the market yet. So, all the tips and hints you give in these are great preparation for the big day when we start shopping!

  • Sheila

    Which one works for me???
    None of them….too pricey & too fancy!
    I’ll take my 2015 Lance Toy Hauler any day!
    After all, you want to be outside, not inside with all the fancy stuff. (Just my opinion) but thanks for the looky-lu, it was fun!

  • David

    Keep up the Great job, and be safe out there.

  • Judy Rutan

    Winnebago 2006 Adventurer 37B. $50,000 with 36,000 miles on it. First time in the RV world and trying to see if we like. Husband wants big. I want small. This is our compromise to test the waters. What do you think. I’m 60 my husband is 68. Appreciate your comments. My first choice has always been a 2012 Monaco Vesta. He won’t buy due to the Navistar Engine and all those snobs out there who poo poo this cute yuppy vehicle due to that engine. Could probably buy one with a 3 year extended warranty for $117,000.

    • Bernard Schaer

      Hi Judy, I currently own the Monaco Vesta “Windy”, previously owned by Nikki & Jason Wynn. I will put it up for sale at the end of May because of health reasons – very sad!! It’s been a great coach. The engine never gave me any problems. Personally, I think there is a lot more unsunstantiated rumor out there about this engine than fact. A lot of talk that’s given this Maxxforce 7 engine a bad rap. I really love this coach! It’s great for two people with plenty of space. And I get 12 mpg….. ! Contact me if you are interested.


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