PUP build quality by brand and model. Post your experience.

Discussion in 'Camper Pre-Purchase Questions' started by davekro, Nov 13, 2019.

  1. davekro

    davekro Active Member

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    I understand ranking brands/models high to low on perceived quality can be a sensitive topic. I searched and did not find and brand quality discussion. I am new to owning a pup. We are considering upgrading to get a NTU slide out and a better condition pup than our first/current '99 Starcraft 10' box starter pup for next season. I am hoping folks can share their pros & cons experience with pups they own or have owned. There is such an historical depth of experience and knowledge on this forum, that a lot could be shared to help newer pup folks have a better idea of what to look at and for to match their particular wants and needs in a pup.

    I'm hoping folks can share their 'Pros & Cons' experiences in a non brand bashing way. Maybe pup brands will be in a 'Below Average', 'Average', and 'Above Average' range of pros and cons based on initial build quality, build materials, and overall design. Those here with first-hand knowledge of several brands & models, opinions will be most useful. Those of us with only first-hand knowledge of only one brand (your current pup), can be good info too.

    The bottom line trying to be assessed is: What brand(s) could be considered 1) Above Average, 2) Average, 3)Below Average? I'm thinking of rankings for the used market of 20+, 15+, 10+ 5+ years old pups. Most folks seem to be looking for the best camping value in a used vs new pup I think. All levels will have things needing repair over time. Some issues may be more frequent or systemic to certain brands. By design, brands geared to a lower initial price point, are more likely to find themselves in the below average over the test of time. There is no shame in this. It's simply lower initial build cost vs. higher initial build cost, Apples and Oranges. Maybe an alternative way to get a 'sense' of theoretical build quality is hearing what brands were higher priced in their day and currently.

    Please share the info about the brands/ models you have direct experience with or knowledge of (to the best of your recollection). Ex: Year, Brand, Model, Box length, ≈Dry Weight, Lift System (note non-standard features like Slide Out, Front Storage, Highwall, other).
     
    Last edited: Nov 13, 2019
  2. 1380ken

    1380ken Well-Known Member

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    I would be concerned with the type of lift system. Especially on a used popup.
     
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  3. davekro

    davekro Active Member

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    I'll start with my albeit very limited knowledge.
    We have a '99 Starcraft, Stardust, 10' box, 1560 dry weight, Shelby 5438 lift. The quality seems good for a 20 year old pup. The two reason we are considering upgrading is 1) the bunk roof vinyl is extremely stiff, feeling brittle and needs replacing ($750 for just bunk end canvas, $1150 entire canvas). 2) We really like the idea of a slide out for a more roomy feel. It's just two of us so it is a desire, not need.

    Condition and amount of broken things on used pups is very dependent on how the previous owners have cared for it (or not), maybe more than initial build quality. So we need to keep that in mind as we mentally grade brands.

    Noticing that this Starcraft has real oak routed cabinet doors this seems like Starcarft might be a higher initial cost pup, but IDK. I did buy a new Starcraft in the late 70's, prob 8' box. Too far back to remember specifics, but I don't recall a negative experience, but it was brand new. When we were shopping, we went to a huge Jayco dealer to get an idea of sizes, floor plans, features and options to know for our search on Craig's List for a low priced entry pup. We were not shopping for brand(s), just decent condition and what we thought we'd like. For next season, we have the luxury to search and wait for more specific specs. We are already camping in our 1st pup. Shopping for an upgrade is a fun game for DW and I. :)

    On our short viewing of many new Jayco Pups and a few TT's, we were first ooo'ed and awed by all the newness. Then we felt the cabinetry felt spartan. We had looked at a 2012 17' Holiday Rambler TT from CL an it was super nice and had a quality feel to it. I later learned that TT brand was a higher end. So that 'quality build' we'd seen on that TT colored our perception of the Jaycos. Apples and Oranges of a comparison to be sure. For us, Jayco is not a pup we'd likely consider.
     
    Last edited: Nov 13, 2019
  4. davekro

    davekro Active Member

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    That's a very good point to consider. I added it to the criteria. Thanks. What are the different types of lift systems and how are 'They' ranked as far as desirability?
    The only two lift systems I am aware of are Goshen and the Shelby 5438 (mine has). I see Coleman wiffle-tree discussed a lot. Is that part of Goshen or some other type of lift system.
     
  5. Dingit

    Dingit Well-Known Member

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    I had a '74 Apache (12'x6' box, under 2000 lbs) that was very well built with a simply amazing lift system. Metal cabinets on this year model with a faux bois finish. Freezer in the fridge. Seamless roof. No electricity required for old-school furnace. ABS roof and walls a tad brittle but repairable.

    I started new trailer shopping looking at small travel trailers as well as popups in 2017 and was generally disappointed. We were coming from a 2012 popup truck camper made by a small manufacturer. It is not fancy or stylish but it is solid with sensible practicalities like labeled fuses and properly screwed screws.

    The new popup trailers and lower end (if you want small, you almost have to go "low end" for travel trailers) travel trailers didn't meet expectations.

    I do like the modern features like wipeable vinyl seats, more access points to the inside, and better electronics support.



    We ended up with a 2008 Fleetwood (Coleman) purchased last year and have found it to be well built so far, although the carrying capacity is pretty low (and others have reported axle issues due to "overloading"). It's a 14'x7' box highwall with slide and built in gray tank, probably pushing 4000 lbs. We do find screws on the floor and can't always tell where they go, but there are features that the current HW makers should be copying: the bathroom wall setup is easy and not falling apart on the dealer's lot :p, the sink is located in a slightly less good spot which enables the faucet to remain in place when you unpop...ahhh highwall "problems"....

    The Fleetwood/Coleman lift is working well for us so far. I think it is exclusive to their popups. Perhaps the new Somersets have it? mine has an electric lift which is noisy.

    The Apache lift was definitely exclusive to them and is really excellent and safe, but they've been out of business for a long while and parts might be hard to come by. Make sure it works before you buy one.
     
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  6. 1380ken

    1380ken Well-Known Member

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    The Goshen lift system is very simple and easy to fix. Almost the whole lift system can be repaired or replaced from under the camper with the roof down. It has one cable. Many lift systems have multiple cables and pulleys which are not easily accessible. The lift system will matter less on a newer camper as all lift system last a long time.
     
  7. Econ

    Econ Active Member

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    Reminds me of the expression "cream of the crap".
     
  8. lksdrinker

    lksdrinker Active Member

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    Probably depends more on your definition of quality. Are you more concerned about the canvas staying in tact and stain free, or the frame never rusting? Maybe you want an electric lift system instead of using a hand crank; or a particular type of door or door handle. Hard to compare apples to oranges.

    In the end each manufacture wants to keep weight down as much as possible, which often equates to things feeling cheap and flimsy if you really start looking. Past that you have addons like furnaces, fridges, and other electronics which are usually made by a different company altogether. Then you have other factors like what the going trends are (or were when an older unit was built), and also what material the roof was made of for any particular manufacturer during any given model year.

    I dont think you can make a blanket statement about Brand x being more or less reliable than Brand Y or come up with an average or above average "brand". Maybe certain models are more appealing than others based on their features or layout.
     
  9. jmkay1

    jmkay1 2004 Fleetwood/Coleman Utah

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    I had a 1990 Jayco and it was a pretty solid camper at the time. Of course there really wasn't much to break as it was as bare bones as they came. Thing to note is this roof had a single seam that could easily leak if you did not keep up on the caulking. Also the lift system is entirely enclosed within the camper so if it was to break your on your hands and knees tearing behind wall panels to get access to things. Because of this many rv repair shops refuse to look at the lift.
    I currently own a 04 Fleetwood Utah the one with a slide out. Love the camper but it has a gosh awful roof, the alumitite roof Nick named the alumaleak. What I love about this camper is the wiffletree lift system which can easily be accessed from underneath the camper and perhaps behind the back panel. Biggest problem is no RV shop is willing to work on this camper as this company is out of business and parts are not readily available. My mom has a 06 Rockwood TT that was built way too cheaply. Plastic sink/faucets, cheap plastic clips on things that of course all broke. The biggest issue with their TT is since day one the floor was spongy and now the floor is so soft we fear we will fall through. Pretty sad but cheap and plastic seems to be a common theme when I was looking at the newer campers. [V]
     
  10. WrkrBee

    WrkrBee Well-Known Member

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  11. davekro

    davekro Active Member

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    When were you looking at new units, that turned you off? Thanks for the info. If we do not end up coming away with general across the board (and years) general quality levels for many/most brands, your and other's descriptions of what you saw on certain year brand/models can give us all a better idea of what to eyeball when looking at a prospective camping vehicle. Maybe seeing how an individual trailer, regardless of brand held up after 'X' years, is a good enough gauge for at least that brand/model/year (and if maybe if a drunk monkey was assembling it on a Friday of a 3-day weekend, with his mind other places than his work. ;)
    Also good to get informed of certain model's weak spots to inspect more closely, like I believe certain years of Coleman roof issues (ABS?). DOn't know if it continued into the transition/buy out by Fleetwood.
     
  12. davekro

    davekro Active Member

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    Maybe another angle to help folks navigate the used pups they run across while shopping is describe if a brand (or model in the brand) had specific issues maybe for specific years. I'm thinking of Coleman ABS roofs that were not thought too highly of for a certain period. Many (most?) pop-up brands have changed hands one or more times over the years where build quality might have changed for the better or worse. Maybe as simple as improvements in brand/model 'X' improved in 19xx or 20xx.
     
  13. CamperChrissy

    CamperChrissy Well-Known Member

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    We have 2006 Fleetwood Niagara HW. It's kind of a mixed bag. The PO honestly took pretty poor care of it (which is normally something we would avoid). However, it was overall very solid and water-tight, no signs of water leaks. Canvas, vinyl, and zippers in good shape. The lift system, bed slides, dinette slide all operate well. The cushions and curtain fabrics are in good shape for their age, a few thin spots in the curtains which seem reasonable given their age. Curtain valance was very droopy because the elastic was dried out due to age (reasonable, no problem, I sew and fixed it up). These are all the reasons we bought it (for the relatively cheap price!). The interior finishes are not that great. Cabinets are very thin wood (some sort of pressed board) with basically paper veneer over it. I've actually accidentally peeled some off and I'm the most careful person in my family! Counters are decent. Faucet is cheap feeling, but still functions fine. When we bought it it had no hot water heater (the original one was removed), outside shower didn't work, and porch light didn't work. Seller was upfront about it and not a big deal for us. Overall I'm happy with the quality of it for a 13 year old camper.
     
  14. davekro

    davekro Active Member

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    14' box, that's a biggy. What is the dry and max GVWR for this? Were you looking for a HW. or it came up and was a good deal? If you were buying again and similar good deals were seen on a HW and a standard, which would you pick? I don't care for the bathroom idea, but frig w/ freezer might be nice. IDK, is the freezer much of a plus? What are you finding are the pros and cons of a HW? Thanks for the info. Good to hear from an owner of the less seen HW, :)
     
  15. Dingit

    Dingit Well-Known Member

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    I was looking for a highwall.

    I wasn't picky about brand or size so long as it was on Craigslist. :p However, I DID want one with a bathroom and an OVEN, so I had to rule out a few of those on CL. Highwalls have bigger fridges that usually have freezers. I like the freezer and bigger fridge. (The '74 Apache had a typically tiny fridge and it was probably a fluke of the era that it actually had an itsy freezer in it. It was very fancy.)

    One thing I like about the later (2007 and later--verify dates if important :) )Fleetwood models is the builtin gray tank. New ones (only Rockwood/Flagstaff these days) don't. We dry camp. It is useful.

    GVWR on the Arcadia is 3970 lbs, dry weight listed as 3075. I don't know what is included in that "dry weight". We do not have AC but always carry the full ~26 gallons of water, 2x propane tanks, battery, stuff...The Niagara is almost identical and more popular, probably because it has a microwave. :)

    HW pros: more usable cabinetry because it doesn't have to fold, bigger fridge (with freezer) because it fits, oven (most people don't care about that), solid wall bathroom on some (I don't care about that but I did want at least a curtained place for a potty), sometimes a bigger fresh water tank, sometimes gray tank. It might be easier to set up because you don't have to mess with the cabinets.

    HW cons: ridiculously tall and heavy for most vehicles. You can't see over it when you tow. It's taller than I am. (We did do an axle flip but still with OEM wheels, so only a few very important inches.) Less airy and tenty inside than a low wall. I can't reach the ceiling switches and have trouble with the zippers over the counter cuz I'm short. It's harder to get into the beds because they are pretty high. It might be harder to set up because pulling out beds is easier when they aren't at face height. You can't get the slightly more burly "off-road" models.

    You can find brochures for most years of most makers on this and other websites, so before looking at a used one, pull up the brochure and compare things like floor plan, bed size, CCC, dry weight, cassette vs tank toilet, etc. Drive out to Turlock and look at the new ones. They're gorgeous and stuffed with cool options and don't have pastel stripes.
     
  16. jmkay1

    jmkay1 2004 Fleetwood/Coleman Utah

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    This is the reason I chose not to get the highwall. I looked into one HW set up on a hill once and was able to walk under the bunk end with room to share and I'm 5'7. 95%of my camp sites are on hills. I would need a stool just to set up. That and I feared my mom would fall getting out of bed in the middle of the night. Couldn't believe how massive they are.
     
  17. Dingit

    Dingit Well-Known Member

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    The spouse is taller and we set up together, but I don't know if I could actually pull the beds out by myself on a slope (and there is always a slope--it's rare that I can't walk under one end). The garage or a flat spot, yeah no problem.
     
  18. JustRelax

    JustRelax Active Member

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    To me the new ones are all built about the same. There will likely be some things that need fixed that you have to take back for warranty or fix yourself.

    On older units, and I think this would go up even more the older it gets, would depend way more on owner maintenance than original build quality. You could have something that was a tank 20 years ago that has been neglected since it rolled off the lot be complete junk and one that was not the best out the door get every bit of TLC along the way and be a complete gem.

    I'd put way more emphasis on buying from someone that truly loved their pupup and hate seeing it go for something bigger and better than one that has been sitting in the back lot untouched for the last 5 years vs. original build quality on an older unit if quality was your main purchasing decision. It will likely cost a bit more. Some guys are looking for the cheapest and the one that's been sitting for 5 years will be cheaper, but will likely need fixed as well.
     
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  19. davekro

    davekro Active Member

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    JR, I agree withyou 100%. It's more about the TLC it got or the neglect it got over 20 years. The one we bought in August, I see now fall into the later category. I have invested a lot of sweat equity into it to bring it up to par. Unless we decided that this 10' floor plan (w/o slide out) actually DOES fit our needs great gong forward (and that is possible), we'd pass on new canvas and sell it to upgrade. We just don't know for sure yet, so we'll roam Craigs list as a hobby and continue camping and making small improvements to this pup. we might get $500- $1,000 over the $1,000 we paid in August. That would ease an upgrade differential, if we decided to upgrade. This discussion is making me realize newer (in model years) definitely does not mean in better condition. Asyou said, if you buy from someone who cares for, and enjoys making user friendly mods to boot, that can be a verygood way to go. Just gotta find another anal retentive perfectionist like my self to buy from. LOL
     
  20. BillyMc

    BillyMc Well-Known Member

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    We've only owned our current PUP and it had and has it's issues. The latest is the shower faucet. The cold will not turn off. I looked at different brands and once you get past 10-15 years old a good one, of any brand, seams rare. The biggest issues were water intrusion around seams. The next biggest was user damage. Third was gutting PUPs seams to be popular. I'm okay with someone making it their own, but some would get offended when I declined to buy because the sink, stove, and fridge was missing. We bought an older inexpensive PUP, because I wasn't sure that DW would like it. I knew she wasn't a fan of tent camping. She is more of a hotel/resort type of gal, but she is more of a save me some money gal. In the two years we've had it it's saved us more on lodging than we paid for it. While I like the PUP very much we will be moving to a Trailmanor when the PUP is ready for retirement.
     
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