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Old 10-07-2012, 03:52 PM   #1
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My Great West Van rental experience

For 8 days, Sept 19-27 my wife and I rented a 2007 Sprinter Great West Legend from Good To U Auto Center in Akron, PA. This was a great experience for helping us decide on details for Vanessa, our SMB Indiana EB Sprinter build starting next month. Here I relate the good, the bad, and the ugly with hopes that it will help others avoid mistakes. Note that many of the problems are particular to this unit and others have been corrected in later models by GW Van. Nevertheless I document them here as things to look out for. This is a good opportunity for me to be critical about a van that does not belong to you or me.

I strongly recommend that others considering a Sprinter conversion rent a Roadtrek or Great West (or SMB but I don’t know of any rentals available). See photos below.

Van history. This van, the only RV rental by Good To U, was purchased at an auction a couple of years ago by the owner of Good To U for his personal use, but his wife didn't like camping so he recently decided to rent it. It was new when he purchased it and he used it very little. It had only 6000 miles on it and problems mentioned below were probably manufacturing defects never fixed from day one. Rental was $135 per day, much less than a Roadtrek RS Adventurous that usually rents for $300 per day.

The good. Cabinet doors and drawers are framed with solid wood and looked very nice. The front and rear overhead cabinets angled in from the corners (see photos). The screen door was great (except for a broken latch, described below), so good that we plan to copy it (SMB Indiana will not do this for us); the screen is made by Seiki Screen Systems and seems to be a straightforward handyman install. The tables have no lip around the edge making them easy to clean. The bathroom had a skylight which gave more standing room so I could stand up straight (I am 6’2”). The van had airbags in back with a control to run the compressor by the driver seat. The Winegard crank-up TV antenna worked well. A counter behind the driver seat was very convenient (we changed our plans to include this).

The bad. Swivel seats are too high; we had to place something under our feet to feel comfortable, but my wife was able to reach the pedals to drive. A large force was required to rotate seats. Drawers were hard to pull and were easily jammed. The awning windows rattled loudly. Main light switch was outside the screen door; had to open the door to turn off the lights. Flip-up covers over the sink and cooktop made a nice counter when down, but blocked the windows when up and were generally a pain to deal with (GW Van no longer does this). Access doors for dumping required a key that turned very hard and the supports to hold them up were rusted out and broken. Screen door latch handle was missing; we were able to make it work by tying a string onto the latch (weather was hot with lots of bugs, so we really needed it to work). To start the generator you had to first start the Sprinter engine (probably a wiring problem as the GW Van manual and Onan generator manual did not mention this was needed). There was no 110V outlet on the counter behind the driver seat; to plug in our toaster we had to open the van door and use the outlet behind the kitchen counter after feeding the cord through the screen. The motorized rear couch to bed system operated ok, but it was a pain to re-organize everything stored under the bed each time we wanted to use it as a seat. My wife and grandkids reported a very rough ride back there on some back roads (so it seems the air suspension did not help). The Fiamma awning worked well but had several broken parts in spite of the fact that the van had hardly ever been used.

The ugly. The van fresh water tank had a gallon or more of pink liquid antifreeze in it as provided by the rental agency (proof that the water system had not been used in over a year). We spent a couple of hours draining the fresh water tank and hot water tank and refilling several times to get the smell of the pink liquid out of the system (its good the dump station at the state park was not too busy). I think it is a big mistake that SMB also expects you to put pink liquid in the fresh water tank when winterizing; I plan to have a separate reservoir for pink liquid with a valve to switch between that and the water tank, since we may use Vanessa several times each winter.

The owner had used the hot water heater bypass, and of course left it bypassed when renting to us. When there was no hot water, I opened the valves and filled the tank. It was good to find out that running the hot water heater empty did not break anything!

There was a constant faint smell of propane outside the van. This might explain why the tank was only 1/4 full after 8 days of only refrigerator, stove, water heater, and 2-3 hours of generator use.

The bathroom sink in a drawer (see photo) seemed like a good idea, but it pushed back over the bed and leaked on the bed every time we used it. Also the pipes under the sink got in the way of your feet in bed. The bathroom folding double door was very hard to open and close. With no window or vent in the bathroom, the door had to be left open to dry the shower, but the door stuck out in the room when open. The shower curtain did not protect the wood frame at the bottom of the door. The shower floor did not slope to the drain so a puddle on the floor had to be cleaned every time we used the shower.

The Atwood propane furnace did not work. When turned on we heard clicking as the unit tried to start but I did not smell gas in the outside exhaust. I removed the furnace and left it with an RV dealer who later said it worked fine on the bench (he didn't fix anything). He re-installed it and it worked fine until that night when we really needed it (overnight low of 32). The fan revved up and down a few times before it completely failed. I suspect another van wiring problem.

The A/C worked ok, but after running a few hours it continued to make noise (not sure what it was, but not a fan) so we had to turn off the breaker. Another wiring problem?

Photos

This is the Great West Van Legend that we rented Sept 2012




















We like the open shelf at the left end and will do something like that in our SMB.


The sink below slides into the wall like a drawer. It goes over the bed and leaks!


The bathroom door blocks the isle when left open to dry out the shower.








The screen shown below works great (except the door knob was missing).






Note the Good To U ad below -- the main image is a Roadtrek van!



Epilog. In spite of all the problems, we had a great vacation and learned a lot in our first Class-B camping experience. When we got home I made about 10 changes to my layout diagrams for Vanessa. My web site shows the revised drawings. You may need to reload the page on my site to get the latest drawings.

David
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Old 10-07-2012, 04:05 PM   #2
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Re: My Great West Van rental experience

An excellent plan to rent to help solidify your likes and dislikes before committing to your final design.


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Old 10-08-2012, 08:21 AM   #3
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Re: My Great West Van rental experience

Did the GW Van only sleep two, or is there an option to sleep an extra person (kid) or two?

Also, regarding the small cabinet behind the driver's seat, I'm guessing that is a flex space where a third captain's chair could be installed, depending on the build. That's probably why there is a small window there, too.

That's something you could consider for you van build, if you wanted the option for a third seat. Have a seat on a removable pedestal installed there, and also have the cabinet built. Unbolt the cabinet, stick it in the garage, and pop the seat in and you are good to go.
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Old 10-08-2012, 09:11 AM   #4
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Re: My Great West Van rental experience

Brian,

No space for more beds unless you use the floor and you could put a platform across the front seats. Trouble is that there is no storage space in the GW van for the extra bedding, and not space for a tent and sleeping bags except on the bed while driving.

This one and our's too are really 2-person RVs. Ours does have storage for a tent and sleeping bags in the large cabinet in back and we could sleep kids on the floor if needed. We can sit 4 more people with seat belts in the dinette, but we plan to do this very seldom and only for very short trips since it is not very safe. There are nice campgrounds within 10 miles of our grandchildren so we might do that with their parents permission and encouragement.

In our case the cabinet behind the driver seat has the black tank and water heater under it so no option for a third removable seat.

David
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Old 11-01-2012, 01:05 PM   #5
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Re: My Great West Van rental experience

David -

A great decision to rent a Sprinter RV before you do your own conversion. I wish we had done a bit more of that before we did our Sprinter camper build!

I have a post on my Sprinter RV blog listing Sprinter RV rental companies in the US and Canada, there's twenty different places listed now:
http://www.sprinter-rv.com/2012/01/14/t ... now-about/

Hopefully useful for you and others in the future!

Greg
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Old 11-01-2012, 07:25 PM   #6
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Re: My Great West Van rental experience

Hi David,
What kind of mileage did you get?
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Old 11-03-2012, 10:43 AM   #7
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Re: My Great West Van rental experience

Quote:
Originally Posted by tneuer
Hi David,
What kind of mileage did you get?
Tom
To be honest I had not figured out how to use the steering wheel controls for the dash since this rental was my first Sprinter experience. Now I have my own, a 3500 dually and have put about 800 miles on it, an empty van before my conversion. Mileage on interstates has ranged from 18 to 24 mpg depending on winds and hills and traffic.

David
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Old 01-11-2013, 08:05 AM   #8
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Re: My Great West Van rental experience

HI David,

Would you recommend Good to U for renting a GWV?

We are thinking about combining a visit to SMB with a 2 week trip in VA and NC for mountainbiking so Good to U in PA is on our way down south (we are in Québec)
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Old 01-11-2013, 08:46 AM   #9
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Re: My Great West Van rental experience

Quote:
Originally Posted by Vyed
HI David,

Would you recommend Good to U for renting a GWV?
From this post you see all the problems we had. I would hope most of those have been fixed, in particular the furnace. The van was clean and the Sprinter worked fine, so yes, I do recommend renting from them. This one van is the only RV they rent, so don't expect a lot of knowledge and support from them. The price is a fair bit lower than that for renting a newer Roadtrek.

David
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Old 01-11-2013, 08:54 AM   #10
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Re: My Great West Van rental experience

I just noticed something in your first picture in this thread. Obviously your plan is to bring along the grandchildren to chop your firewood for you? Nothing like an 8 year old with an axe. I bet he had a great time.


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