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High Tops versus Coachbuilts


Alexx

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We have enjoyed recent discussion of this subj - such as initiated by JudgeMental. In our youth we were VW Campervanners. So now approaching retirement, we thought a high top van - a Poessl Fortuna or a Rimor Horus - would be the natural choice to drive down memory lane. Until we came across a EuraMobil Profila 580 coachbuilt. It has the same sort of length and manoeuvrability but is so much bigger inside. It made the high tops look/feel cramped.

 

So now we are having a re-think. What is it like sleeping in an - albeit spacious - alcove, or, as my wife calls it, a shelf? Does an alcove coachbuilt use much more diesel than a high top? How much is it affected by sidewinds or passing trucks? Whatever we get will be our sole transport, so is a coachbuilt more hassle to drive around and maintain than a hightop? Are there other factors we should be aware of in making the final decision?

 

We live in Denmark and that means buying in Germany (great - masses of choice) but importing and registering here (not great - as the taxes are punitive and unavoidable). So before paying out 'once in a lifetime' money, we hope some of you with more experience could share that experience with us.

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Hi Alexx and welcome to the forum.

 

When we went looking for a high top we too thought that they looked a bit cramped but that 'feeling' in the van depends on the layout of the furniture.

It seemed to us that some makers try to fit too much in, especially those who put seats or kitchen appliances halfway across the doorway.

 

I've not had a coach built but I understand that long term you are more likely to get leaks in the roof in a coachbuilt that in a high top, simply because high tops don't have seams.

(Mind you, I assume that monocoque coachbuilts don't have roof seams either ?)

 

As you say your van will be you only means of transport length and width will be very important if you want to make parking easier.

 

I'm not keen on the "sleeping on a shelf" idea either although it doesn't seem to bother some people. Bit claustrophobic for me.

You could always try it out by sleeping under your table, or bed, at home.

 

Good luck with the search.

 

;-)

 

 

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Alexx - 2011-03-17 10:11 AM

 

 

We live in Denmark and that means buying in Germany (great - masses of choice) but importing and registering here (not great - as the taxes are punitive and unavoidable). So before paying out 'once in a lifetime' money, we hope some of you with more experience could share that experience with us.

 

Hello Alex,

 

Am i missing something here?

 

If you purchase a vehicle in the EU and pay all normal local taxes on that purchase can you not take it anywhere in the EU and just re-register it in the EU country of your choice if you so wish without paying any other taxes?

 

This does not sound right.

 

Nick

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malcd

 

Yes both the Poessl and Rimor vans have a lot of "furniture". But that seems the 'price' you pay for wanting - as we do - a fixed bed. All three Ford Transit bases have slightly different dimensions but the all feel equally manoeuvrable. "Shelf-sleeping" may be the main sticking point !

 

Nick

 

Yes it most definitely does not sound "right". But Denmark has maintained a number of opt-outs from EU standards. Vehicle taxes is one of them. Basicallly you pay twice for one vehicle - which is why you see so many old bangers on the roads here. We are domiciled here so have to follow Danish regulations.

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Hi Alexx,

We have never owned a coachbuilt so cannot comment from personal experience, however we are on our fourth hightop panel van conversion. Our current ‘van is a Devon Conversions Monte Carlo (similar to the more common Adria Twin). I offer the following thoughts:

 

It’s 5.88m long and (a great advantage to my mind) we are able to leave the beds made when touring and still have a dining and sitting area.

 

We average 30 to 32 mpg when touring. Our friends average 25 mpg in their coachbuilt motorhome.

I have never checked our mpg ‘around town’ but I would have expected a coachbuilt to be worse.

 

As the ‘caravan section’ of the PVC is an integral and factory built part of the complete vehicle there will be no damp ingress due to leaking joints. No floor de-lamination either.

 

PVC’s generally are narrower than coachbuilts so better for country lanes and parking.

 

I would also suggest that PVC’s are a little more secure, due to the lack of an habitation door.

 

Not sure how valid a point this is but a few years hence should a section of your coachbuilt be damaged then it may be difficult to obtain a replacement from the manufacturer. As the PVC is basically a standard van then a replacement or repair would be easier.

 

Usually one can see out of the rear windows in a PVC. Yes rear view cameras are available – but that’s more expense.

 

A point unrelated to holidays but nevertheless true, over the years we have saved literally hundreds of pounds in delivery charges. The large sliding door and rear doors have enabled us to carry anything from a washing machine to a sofa bed. (I accept that others may not want to use their ‘van as a delivery vehicle but it suited us).

 

Having said all that, there is no denying that overall there is more room in a coachbuilt. Although with many coachbuilts when the bed is made there is little room left.

Also in our opinion, £ for £ (or in your case Krona for Krona!) :-D you get better value with a coachbuilt.

 

A few points – there are probably more – and others will no doubt disagree with some of them but as I said these are just my thoughts.

Hope this helps your research, as you say it’s “once in a lifetime money”.

Cattwg :-D

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Guest pelmetman

We have always used the overcab bed in our coachbuilt, and since I changed the foam to a thicker and better grade we find it more comfortable than our bed at home :D

 

Other advantages, our bed is permantly made up so no faffing around at night :D Also as the bed is as the name implies Over the cab it does not add any length to our van, so although being a coachbuilt it will still fit in a supermarket car park space ;-)

 

As for extra width I doubt ours is much wider than many of the newer PVC and definetly a lot shorter. The short wheelbase also makes it far more maneuverable than a LWB PVC ;-)

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Don't forget Coachbuilts don't always have to be overcabs.

 

Low profiles offer much the same dimensions as a hightop, but with low beds. As you get older do you really want to climb ladders to the overcab?

 

Our low profile is actually lower than the hightop Duetto that we owned before, if virtually the same length but a bit wider. It also allows us to drive under 2 low bridges to the North of town, where the Mobilvetta overcab we had before the Duetto could not go, requiring quite a detour.

 

Just something else to consider.

 

David

 

 

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over the years we have owned most types....initially a small van conversion, AS Harmony, then as we were going to be away for longer periods a Compass coachbilt with overcab bad, followed by another AS Van conversion, then two low profiles coachbuilt - a Radipo 710F, and currentlya Burstner Marano 595.

Each has/had its good and bad points, and indeed we think next time around (if there is one!) we shall revert to a van conversion,simply on the basis of the width.

In terms of comfort and use of inside space, the Rapido and Burstner have been much the best, but we do find the width of the Burstner at 7'6" PLUS those very wide mirrorrs gives frequent cause for concern when driving, and parking, and indeed limits where we will attempt to go. At under 7' and much shorter stems for the mirrors, we think the present Fiat Autocruise style panel conversion are much the best, even though they still seem to be mostly on the long wheelbase.

The overcab definitely suffers from high wind both side and front, but conversely you do have a 'bed space' although we found relatively high levels of condensation on the side mand front wall of the luton.

The best compromise - regrettably no longer available - was without doubt the Radipo 710F...it was quite narrow and a compact length of some 18' or so, but spacious, well designed, and we like the rear lounge layout ,plus if you did want to leave the bed made up, you still had a small front dinette.

Our present Burnster has a similar layout, though no front dinette, although both seats will swivel, and provide usefull living (as well as dumping if required). Both seem pretty well made.

 

Again though, it's back to the 'horses for courses' and I guess most motorhome owners have their particular likes and dislikes. The main thing from experience is that you do need to try to work out which compromise you find the most suitable - and whether you want a bigger vehicle which may be less usable in some cases, or a small one, which undoubtedly will be more of a compromise between better driving but offering less living space!

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Hi Alexx, welcome to the mad house! :-D

 

To answer some of your queries:

 

"What is it like sleeping in an - albeit spacious - alcove"

We don't like it, we found that it wasn't the easiest thing to get in/out of especially if you're the one at the front end and have to climb over the other occupant. It also can get quite hot in summer too.

 

"Does an alcove coachbuilt use much more diesel than a high top?"

It will definitely use more diesel due to the larger wind resistance as you travel, I would generally expect around 25-28mpg form an overcab coachbuilt, but around 5mpg more for a low-profile coachbuilt, and possible even a bit more from a van conversion.

 

"How much is it affected by sidewinds or passing trucks?"

The bigger the overcab, the more it will be affected, as the one your'e looking at is 'huge', you will definitely get some 'wag' as trucks go by and sidewinds will definitely catch the van more.

 

"Is a coachbuilt more hassle to drive around and maintain than a hightop?"

It depends on what you eventually end up with, coachbuilts on the whole are wider than a van conversion, although they do vary, so slotting them into a parking slot between cars can be more difficult. Length can be got round sometimes by putting the 'bottom' over the kerb, grass etc in car parks, this is generally easier with a coachbuilt as one which is the same length as a van conversion willl generally have a shorter wheelbase with a larger rear overhang. The former will also usually have a better turning circle so manoeuvrability (that word I can't remember how to spell again! *-) ) will probably be better. As for maintenance, a coachbuilt needs to have regular damp checks (around £50 a year in order to keep any water ingress warranty valid) so you have to factor that into the mix, but both would need the same base vehicle servicing and possibly habitation services, again for warranty purposes if nothing else.

 

"Are there other factors we should be aware of in making the final decision?"

Decide exactly how you are going to use it and what layout will definitely suit you all year round, not just for holidays.

 

One of the best things to do is make a list of all the types of journey you make in your car for a week or two, then think about how you would deal with those journeys (parking, turning, carrying luggage, bulky items, shopping etc) in a coachbuilt and a van conversion, this will then give you some ideas of what size is the best and the type of use you will put your new vehicle to, and could realistically live with on a day to day basis.

 

Once you have done this, you can then make a definite decision as to which type of vehicle will suit you best - an overcab coachbuilt, a low profile coachbuilt, or a van conversion - then you can start looking at layouts etc within your chosen type. There's not point in looking at internal layouts until you know this basic information. There are so many layouts within each type of vehicle now, you should be able to find what you want.

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Hi Alexx

If you want to retain the narrow benefits of the PVC, but the extra space of a Coachbuilt, I suggest having a look at the Dethleffs Globus T1 or T2.

Lowprofile Coachbuilt, but only 2.15m wide (200mm narrower than most coachbuilts & only 50mm to 100mm wider than most PVC)

 

http://www2.dethleffs.de/gb/reisemobile/globebus.php

 

May also be worth considering the Burstner Ixos Time IT585, another Low Profile with the ("A" class style) dropdown bed in the cab.

 

http://www.buerstner.com/uk/motorhomes/ixeo_class/ixeo_time.html

 

 

 

 

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Thanks everyone for posting such useful advice. And Cattwg and Mel B particularly for going into such detail - the 'list of journeys' idea is especially good. Our heads say a high top van - the sensible, if a bit boring (?) choice. But our hearts will probably go with the coachbuilt Profila 580 - it looks to have the characteristics that pelmetman values in his coachbuilt.
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Now I remember why the Euramobil Profila 580 sounded familiar!!! We were very seriously considering buying one of these before we eventually got our Chausson Flash 04.

 

We were tempted by the 580 but it looked overly large/high on the short wheelbase and we were concerned about how it would handle. We also didn't particularly like the fact that the cab isn't incorporated into the main habitation area which we felt meant we wouldn't be utlising the space efficiently in a smaller vehicle - at the time we had a 7.14m long low profile Rimor with a double dinette and felt the cab space was 'wasted', so in a smaller van it didn't make sense to cut it off and make the remaining usable living space even smaller. I appreciate that the lounge area is large, it does then compromise the kitchen etc area a bit. I also remember that getting from the cab to the rear could be a painful experience with the overcab bed base being fixed and low!

 

Whilst the 580 has the underfloor storage area, it isn't the easiest to get to and is somewhat restricted by the locker opening size so if you need to use your vehilcle to move largish items, or take hobby equipment with you, it may be an idea to think instead of a low profile garage model.

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Mel B

 

Thanks for the additional thoughts ....

 

I agree the Euramobil does look short 'n' high. Certainly not as sleek as your Chausson. But comments on German websites don't report any consequent handling problems. As for the rest, I guess it's all about personal likes/dislikes. Which, I also guess, is why there are so many differing layout options in motorhomes. We rather like the separation of the driving area - the illusion when parked that you are not living in a vehicle ?? In the (later) versions we are thinking of the overcab bed base lifts up. Access to the underfloor storage, though, does require pondering. That's where your 'list of journeys' comes in !?

 

Price and availability will be decisive. There's a very big dealer in Munster who has a lot of ex/current rental Profilas available for sale with low kilometerage and decent-looking price tags. We shall - by Easter - see!

 

 

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Guest JudgeMental
The height is what you pay for a fully winterised double floor van...worth it in my opinion. I am in Munster at Easter picking up our new Adria :D
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Guest 1footinthegrave

You can already see the different opinions, and this is just my take on it. We had a low profile fixed bed coachbuilt three vans ago, loved the space, loved the no bed making hassle every night, fantastic insulation. But, hated the additional width of it, which although probably only just a few inches more than a PVC seemed more like a couple of feet, and did not much like the 25mpg. Never once entered my head that it could double up as " a car"

 

However the double cost ( which sadly is a factor in our case ) of running two vehicles seemed to us at least, ridiculous, given that we do tend to be fair weather campers, so the van spent extended lengths of time parked up, and visa versa the car.

 

So the decision was made, a PVC, and dump the car, use the van for everyday transport. Well here we are two years later and the car is still on the driveway. We have found that despite all good intentions a LWB van is simply too much hassle to use as everyday transport, a quick dash to the supermarket for some forgotten item, or the corner shop and the size of it simply does not lend itself to that kind of usage, on a day to day basis. Lets face it very few would buy a normal panel van to use as a car. Most UK parking provision is specifically aimed at cars. So for us it did not work out as intended.

 

On balance the PVC has solved some of the issues we had with a coach-built so no real regrets, but it is an IH which has everything our other van had where some PVC seem less well specified, and good design is crucial so look at loads, and especially how the bed makes up, this can be a real pain with some conversions. At the end of the day it is swings and roundabouts all the time, that seems to be the nature of the beast. But if you really intend to just have one vehicle my view despite it not quite working for us, is that a PVC will prove less of a problem than a coach-built for day to day use.

*-)

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Guest JudgeMental

Yes for 2 a PVC makes far more sense and that is why we are changing to one...

 

We only had the Eura because we needed a family van. If I still wanted a coachbuilt I would go for a low roof model, just because a high top is unnecessary just for 2 and the low roof a lot easier to live with, and a bit more practical....

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A no brainer for us as we camp all year round.

 

PVC in winter - no thankyou very much. Year round campers spend more time in the van in the cooler months, (well ok, we do) and having owned a PVC for 3 years and experienced the smaller space, we know what we're talking about.

 

Then onto a coachbuilt, wow, what a difference. It felt then and still does like a different holiday experience altogether in winter.

 

And no, the coachbuilt isn't hugely longer.

 

Martyn

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Guest Tracker

I tried to downsize from a Talisman to a Symbol in 2004 and it was a disaster!

 

After the space and comfort of a larger van the Symbol was a step down too far for us (tiny kitchen, tiny loo, uncomfortable lounging, awkward bed(s), limited floorspace) and as there was only a couple of mpg in it and it was still more than cumbersome enough to use as daily transport we reverted to a Nuevo and what a difference in comfort and space again - and all for no mpg penalty - but it was more cumbersome again for everyday transport?

 

Maybe if we downsize again will will retain an old cheap car for local use and use the nice van for longer trips - but then the mpg penalty, comfort and extra travel times becomes more noticeable?

 

There is no right or wrong way - whatever works for the individual is right for him/her

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Guest 1footinthegrave
Guys, surely the point ( with all due respect) that some of you are missing is the OP is saying "Whatever we get will be our sole transport" and therefor it's suitability for that role, that's the angle he is looking for advice about, not a debate about coach-built versus PVC, or specifically winter touring suitability. I'd love a big American complete with queen anne bed and slide outs, but don't think that would be practical for a trip down to Tesco's on a Saturday, or a doctors appointment and the like, as a sole means of transport. Unless you genuinely think differently. Don't take the post headline as is without ( again with due respect ) reading what he is looking for advice specifically about. *-)
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Had 3 coachbuilts, even the children preferred a tent to the shelf. Some of the e newer German motorhomes have more headroom but you pay at the pumps with a coachbuilt. You can get a fixed bed - the shelf - in a short vehicle if length is an issue.

 

We are on our second a-class. Have been looking at PVCs for three years now and still cannot convince ourselves they are better than we have. Our Hymer is less than 21' and it is my only vehicle. However, I wouldn't want to drive it to work everyday.

 

So think of an a-class, test the bed first, make sure it is big enough and you don't exceed the weight.

 

 

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Guest pelmetman

Having had a fiat Amigo :D...... Which must be the smallest camper ever on the planet, you could park it in a fag paper (lol)

 

Now we have a camper which I think is the best compromise for a useful daily vehicle and comfortable long term accomodation, if I was restricted to only having one vehicle then I would plum for a SWB with height ;-)

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pelmetman - 2011-03-19 10:38 PM

 

Now we have a camper which I think is the best compromise for a useful daily vehicle and comfortable long term accomodation, if I was restricted to only having one vehicle then I would plum for a SWB with height ;-)

 

Don't suppose you want to sell it ?? :-D

 

Our little high top is only 15ft 4ins long, but living 10 miles from civilisation as we do, using the van instead of one of the 2 cars is not really an option - as its too cumbersome and at 30 mpg too thirsty just pop out to town. As for camping in it, we've never known any different, so don't feel cramped at all. If I could get hold of a Stimson St. Tropez, I'd use that as an everyday vehicle and lose one of the cars though.

 

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1footinthegrave - 2011-03-19 10:16 PM

 

Guys, surely the point ( with all due respect) that some of you are missing is the OP is saying "Whatever we get will be our sole transport" and therefor it's suitability for that role, that's the angle he is looking for advice about, not a debate about coach-built versus PVC, or specifically winter touring suitability. Unless you genuinely think differently. Don't take the post headline as is without ( again with due respect ) reading what he is looking for advice specifically about. *-)

 

Fair comment. I must admit to not even reading the OP, so apologies from me.

 

I believe that a Coachbuilt would still win the day though. Based on usage, obviously. Taking a coachbuilt shopping/Dentists/etc based on "our" sized van wouldn't be difficult in my view.

 

Martyn

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