Gentleman JackSee other Advice articles filed in ‘Used motorhome buying guides’ written by Gentleman Jack
Fancy an RV for sensible money? Read on!
First, some terminology.
RV, short for recreational vehicle, is used in America and Canada to describe motorhomes and caravans.
A-Class RVs are similar to European A-class ’vans – that is, they are built from the chassis upwards.
C-Class motorhomes are the same as our overcab coachbuilts – that is, they have a coachbuilt body on a chassis that retains the base vehicle’s cab.
Have you got the licence?
Now we understand the terms, let’s get into it…
All the Trail-Lite models featured here are under 7500kg and can be driven by anyone with a C1 licence.
C-Class first. These were available on the iconic GM Chevrolet chassis-cab, but most original buyers opted for Ford’s extremely capable E450 Super Duty chassis-cab.
Different models are identified by numbers that equate very roughly to their overall length in feet.
The most common examples available as a pre-owned purchase all feature queen-sized peninsula beds at the rear, amidships washrooms with a sink and toilet, plus a separate shower.
The kitchen is located just ahead of the comfort station, and the forward lounge includes two swivelling captain’s chairs at the front.
The 27QL has a booth dinette with a tub chair opposite, while the 28QL and 28QS feature lounge and bedroom slide-outs, plus a booth dinette with a three-seat sofa opposite.
The 29RQ offers the same as the 28QL, but without the slide-outs. All of the 31 models offer an extra-long nearside slide-out.
In the 31KS, this is home to the kitchen and sofa, and in the 31SS and 31SL, the dinette and sofa.
A class act?
Moving on to the A-class models: the 242 and the 262 have rear corner double beds, while the 263 offers two permanent single beds.
The 271, 272 and 321 feature queen-sized peninsula beds, and all except the 242 benefit from at least one slide-out.
Similar to the C-Class offer, A-Class buyers could choose a Chevrolet or a Ford chassis – both benefited from a wider track after the 2000 model year.
Motive power for all of these models is usually courtesy of Chevrolet’s V8 8.1-litre Vortec engine or Ford’s 6.8-litre V10 Triton engine, both fuelled with petrol.
Both drive the twin rear wheels through a torque-converter overdrive automatic gearbox.
There was also a diesel option, but these are now in hens’ teeth territory.
- R-Vision Trail-Lite RVs on (LHD only) Ford and GM (Chevrolet) chassis
- Built 1998-2008 in Indiana, USA
- Overcab coachbuilts on chassis-cab, integral coachbuilts on chassis-cowl
- Overall length 7.62m (25’) to 10.01m (32’10”)
What to look for
If you have found one of these on the used motorhomes for sale pages and want to make it your own, here are our expert’s top tips.
Don’t waste time searching for a diesel: it’s much better to go for a petrol motor with LPG conversion – but it has to be bona fide. Look for a reputable manufacturer, such as Prins.
The result is greater mileage per pound spent on fuel, and far less toxic emissions than running a diesel version.
Always have a test drive – check that the transmission changes gear smoothly and that kick-down gives instant oomph.
Annual mileage is usually low, with many owners just driving to Spain or Portugal in the autumn and back again in the spring.
As such, tyres are likely to require replacing because of age, rather than mileage. But remember, there are seven big tyres, so budget accordingly.
As with any coachbuilt, check for evidence of water ingress – examine the roof for damage.
Unlike most RVs, which have rubber roof crowns, almost all Trail-Lites had a vinyl topping, which is easier to repair because it can be welded.
An independent electrician should check out the conversion from 110V to 230V, and insist on a residential gas safety check.
Note that rear travel seats will be fitted with lap-belts only and may be side-facing.
- More bangs for your buck
- European-friendly width
- Domestic-style fixtures and equipment
- Slide-out adds a substantial amount of space
- Only available in left-hand drive (an advantage when touring in Europe!)
- Double-glazing (glass) was an extra-cost option
What to pay
Personal imports are available from £20,000 (C-Class).
At the time of writing, Freedom Motorhomes, the UK Trail-Lite expert and former importer, had a 271 A-Class with twin slide-outs and Chevrolet V8 petrol/LPG power, all of the usual toys, glass double-glazing and fewer than 22,000 recorded miles for £34,999 – you will have to be quick!
Our pick would be the 271/272 A-Class or the 28QS C-Class (pictured).
Or you could try an R-Vision Condor (C-Class) or a Trail-Aire/Stratus (A-Class).