As long-time readers know, a couple of years ago I started a very popular series of posts called “A Girl’s Guide to RVing”. Many of those posts have continued to be the most-visited posts on this blog, (such as the How To Dump Your Tanks, and How To Hitch Up Your Toad). But surprisingly, the most popular post (with almost twice as many hits as the rest) is the one I did on my thought-process of selecting a motorhome called: What I Like About My View (and What I Wish I Had)
Now that I’ve had my 2007 J-model View for 8 months, have spent a Winter snowbird season in it, and am now preparing to go full-time RVing in it, I thought it’d be a good time to update my most-popular post with my thoughts on this current model View.
Lots of folks are out buying or trading RVs this time of year, so I hope my detailed comparisons might provide some food for thought on the myriad of little things to consider when selecting an RV. Like I said in my original post, the common refrain is still quite true—there is no perfect RV! There will always be compromises to consider!
I will be starting to full-time RV later this summer, and for the longest time I assumed I would move up to a larger RV when I did that. But I just can’t seem to pry myself loose from these short Sprinter-based RVs! I love driving them, love the way they can go just about anywhere, and I feel most “at home” and cozy when I’m living in one.
But that said, if I were traveling as a couple rather than solo, I’d be looking at bigger Class A’s or Fifth-Wheels pronto (two people have more stuff and really often do need more space)! One of these bigger rigs still might be in my future someday too when I slow down travels and wish to stay “parked” for longer time periods. For now though (with plans to visit the far corners of the Americas in my first few years of full-timing), nothing beats the fuel economy-to-comfort-ratio of the View! The narrow width, and short wheelbase will be perfect for navigating mountain curves and ferry rides to Alaska, Newfoundland, Baja, and beyond!
When I bought my 2005 Sprinter Cargo Van last year, I was immediately impressed by the first generation Sprinter T1N chassis compared to my 2008 View’s 2nd generation NCV3 chassis. Yes, the older T1N is an odd 5-cylinder rather than a V6, and has less overall cargo capacity, but it’s still a winner for my needs:
- The 5 cyl gets slightly better fuel efficiency (1 to 3 MPG), whereas the newer Sprinters have more HP and torque. When I drive the RV, I’m in no hurry, so I’m fine trading the extra HP for more MPGs!
- The T1N has no ULSD requirement and fewer emissions sensors, filters, and parts to worry about. While there’s still some debate as to whether the newer US Sprinters (or any newer US diesel vehicle) is o.k. using the non-ultra low sulfur diesel in Mexico, it’s a moot point with the T1N.
- While I miss the extra storage cubbies around the dash and visors and extra cupholders of the newer Views, I love the older version’s bigger analog gauges on the dash (including a nice big water temperature gauge—so critical when towing a toad up mountain passes!).
- The T1N has a fixed, non-tilt steering wheel and very Euro (non-intuitive at first) seat adjustments. I always thought these would be big negatives until I actually began driving one. For my 5’7” body, this combo fits me better and is more comfortable for long-distance driving.
- I love the protruding carpeted floor box on the Winnebago T1N. It’s a perfect place to hide small valuables and travel documents when traveling in Mexico, and the electrical compartment (containing the solenoid and wiring to connect the RV house to the cab chassis) is much easier to access (in newer Views, the passenger seat and swivel must be removed to get to this).
- Speaking of seats—the deluxe soft leatherette seats in this J are much more comfortable than my previous H, and the swivels are much more robust as well. When combined with my super-duper folding ottoman, I’m more comfortable than with a living room recliner at home!
- All these benefits do come with a couple of big negatives though—the T1N chassis has about 500 lbs less gross weight rating than the newer Sprinters. With variations in RV options, the real weight difference for my ‘07 vs ‘08 View is only about 200-300 pounds, but that’s still a considerable 25% loss of capacity (especially critical for full-timing). My rig has some suspension upgrades and new Michelin tires, so that will help being overloaded a bit, but limited cargo capacity will likely be the biggest reason for trading this RV in the future.
- The newer Sprinters have a 5,000 lb towing capacity whereas this one is just 3,500. This too may be a reason I’ll need trade this RV someday, as there are currently no lightweight 4WD vehicles (like my Chevy Tracker) being sold in the US that are flat-towable.
I’m loving the much larger external cargo bay of the J model! This winter, I carried my (3) 60-watt solar panels, a few bag chairs, an awning mat, patio lights, LP grill, and a few plastic tubs of miscellaneous gear in this space.
While this model featured a split mattress where the outer half could be slid on top of the inner half to accommodate taller items in the bay (such as a bike or golf clubs), the reality is that those bigger, heavier items are more wisely carried in the toad to conserve the View’s precious cargo capacity for more living essentials.
I love still having a skylight in this View. That was one of my most-favorite features of the last one! It’s great on a colder day to let the sunshine warm up the rig.
I’m also loving the front cabinets (rather than an overhead bed). I’m able to stow large plastic tubs to keep all kinds of miscellaneous gear well-organized and easily accessible. While I could have still done this with a bed, it just seems a bit more secure (and visually pleasing) to have these things behind solid wood doors.
I thought I would dearly miss the H-model’s sofa (where I now have a dinette), but it was so uncomfortable to sit or lay on, that I’ve really not missed that sofa at all! When I want to sit, the 2 swivel reclining cab seats are more comfortable. If I want to stretch out and read, either propping up in the rear bed, or sitting width-wise on one of the dinette benches works just great.
Now that I’ve decided to use an arm-mounted monitor for TV watching (rather than the J’s TV over the door), the J will be just as comfortable as the H in that regard.
For a long time, I praised the virtues of having an RV pantry and swore I’d never buy an RV without one…that was, until I bought this RV without one! But, I’ve discovered that the J’s dinette storage has proven to be bigger and more usable than the H’s tall/narrow/deep pantry.
Beneath each dinette bench are doors that flip down. The dinette storage bays are carpeted, so I keep a plastic “under the bed” storage tub in each bin. These easily slide in and out, and are great for storing larger items (like Millie’s dog food, or bulk foods).
In the overhead dinette cabinets, I store everyday cooking items—spices, grains, cans and bags of prepared foods, etc.
While the J’s kitchen cabinets are a bit smaller than the H’s, I’ve found that most of my kitchen stuff continues to fit into it just fine.
I do miss having the nice rear window of the H’s bath and also really miss the “disappearing” pocket door (the J’s curved door can get in the way at times), but otherwise, the slightly smaller shower of the J has worked out just fine and I like the soap tray and shampoo bottle trays being together and above the faucet (rather than on opposite ends of the H’s shower). I also love, love, LOVE my Oxygenics showerhead with it’s separate on/off switch (mounted right below the faucet knobs).
I never really liked the clothes closet of the H being in the bathroom (and half of it being difficult to access in a corner space). The J’s closet is taller and very accessible across from the fridge.
Some folks might initially think to use the J’s closet as a pantry and store their hanging clothes on the removable pole in the shower. But I would caution this approach! My used J came with a sizeable U-shaped crack in the shower wall around one of the pole holders (it’s currently caulked, but it’s a very visual reminder that the shower pole is not meant to be as “load-bearing” as the closet pole!). I currently have a lightweight hanging organizer on my shower pole that carries only my super-lightweight stuff (like spare rolls of TP and paper towels, extra bath towels, etc).
Perhaps my biggest complaint about my H-model View was the lack of a permanent bed (that didn’t require climbing a ladder to get to!). So it’s little wonder that the bed is my favorite feature of my new J-model View!
I always used to think that a permanent bed was such a space-waster in an RV. You only use it at night, so why have it taking up so much space during the day? Well, now that I have one—it gets used day and night!
On one long driving day this past winter, it was cold, sunny, and extremely windy. By mid-afternoon, I was getting tired of wrestling the steering wheel and squinting into the sun ahead of me on the road. When I stopped at a little rest area, I noticed the sun was now bathing the rear bed with comforting warmth, so what the heck, I just jumped up there and took a lovely little nap for 20 minutes! No bed-making, or slide-outs to fool with—everything was just ready and instantly waiting for me! Millie takes full advantage of this feature too and is never without a nice place to rest her lazy bones as we drive.
Another benefit of this bed is the very large hidden internal storage (beneath a flip-up top hatch at the front curve portion of the bed). I stored a Winter’s worth of Millie’s dog food in here, as well as other big bulky stuff for our Mexico travels. The RV was inspected 4 times by Customs agents and not once did any of them check (or know of) this space! In the US, I can use it to hide camera and computer gear if parking somewhere where the potential for theft might be an issue (i.e. at a popular tourist attraction).
Other Comforts of Home:
In my original post, besides the bed, I had wished for an onboard washer/dryer. That problem is now solved with my handy-dandy portable system!
I also wished for more comfortable dinette seats. That’s not totally solved, but it’s been improved greatly with the J’s wider seats, and also my cool little Backjoy if I’m needing to sit at the dinette and work on the computer for a while.
I still don’t have an internal fireplace in this new J, nor do I have a piano. So I guess those are a few things to still wish for. But those are rather minor in the whole scheme of thing.
Now that I’m preparing to full-time in the J, I really do wish that my clothes closet were bigger than a postage stamp, and that I had some giant big basement storage areas on this rig (rather than having to carry so many of the big items in the toad such as kayak and bike). But for now, I’m happy to make those sacrifices in order to get the improved mobility and fuel economy for my long-distance travels.
Will I ever yearn again for real furniture, a real bathtub, and a living space larger than 200 square feet? I’m sure I will at some point. But for now, I’m extremely happy with my little J home and am looking forward to the next few years of travel and adventure!
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