It’s our first RV gear review, and what better piece of gear to review than the RV itself. When we first started toying with the idea of taking some time away from work to travel the country in an RV we had no idea what kind of RV we actually wanted. In fact, we knew nothing about RVs other than Jackie’s childhood experiences camping in a pull-behind trailer. This option was off the table pretty much from the start due to Jackie’s fear that our marriage would end over backing into campsites. I thought a trailer might be an ok idea due to the lower cost compared to other RV types. When I researched further, I came to the conclusion that we’d also have to buy a truck to pull anything but a tiny trailer. Trucks are expensive, and as much as I’d love a new truck it just wasn’t in the budget.
Over the next year we visited local RV dealers as entertainment as much as anything. I remember even as a kid walking through RVs at the sportsman’s expo, and very much enjoying the experience. Of course, the most fun part is touring the mansion like Class A motorhomes. A camper almost as big as my house… I want that! As we walked through the Class A’s at the RV dealers I thought, hey this really is the ticket! Reality always comes home to roost though. The first problem with Class A’s are that their biggest asset, their enormous size, is also one of their biggest liabilities. There are many campsites that simply can’t accommodate a large Class A, and there are many roads that they are unable to drive on. The second, and biggest problem with Class A’s are the initial cost, as well as the cost of maintenance. As we got closer to the big day we realized we just couldn’t afford a nice Class A. We might have been able to buy one, but would have been left with no money for living expenses.
With Class As out of the picture we were down to Class B’s, Sprinter Vans, and the good old Class C camper. Why did we chose a Class C rather than the van-type options? After all van-life is the new hot thing, and all the cool people are doing it. This is all true, and I think if we were in our 20’s and kidless we probably would have chose that option. Maybe someday, but as our life stands right now the lack of space, privacy, cargo and tank capacity ruled out the van lifestyle.
So we finally landed on Class C as our camper of choice. It was the default option, but checked a number of boxes that other types just couldn’t, including:
- 3 separate sleeping areas including one
queen sizedbed in the rear
- Full bathroom including shower
- Large storage area for all of our gear
- Large cargo capacity (~3000 lbs, compared to well under 1000 pounds for some sprinter based vehicles)
- Ease of serviceability
With RV type nailed down, we still had to decide on the model factoring in length, weight and cargo capacity, and other amenities. We wanted our RV to be as short as possible so we could fit into tight camp spots and twisty roads. We also didn’t want any slide-outs. We’d read numerous horror stories about slide malfunctions, and expensive repairs. We decided the extra space wasn’t worth it to us. We spent almost every weekend afternoon browsing RV trader and finally decided on a model we thought was the best compromise, the Coachmen Leprechaun 21QB.
As far as I can tell the Leprechaun 21QB is a model built pretty much exclusively for the rental market. It is a very basic model, but offers a lot of bang for the buck. The biggest benefit in my opinion is that it was built for the rental market. This means that there are a lot of them out there that are only a couple years old, for a decent price. The fact that they were built for the rental market means that they are made for dummies. I always say that simpler is better, and the 21QB is a very simple RV. The fact that the 21QB was made for the rental market is also one of it’s biggest drawbacks. Namely, you might not be able to find one that hasn’t been very well used, even abused at certain times. In fact if you find a Leprechaun 21QB on the used market, it has most likely seen some abuse.
As mentioned before what really closed the deal for us was price. For around $35,000 you can get a two year old model with about 65,000 miles (as of summer 2018, picked up in Las Vegas). At the time of purchase, this was extremely price competitive. Searching locally we found RVs 10 years older, in worse condition for roughly the same price. We purchased our 21QB from El Monte RV, one of the nations largest RV rental companies. They have locations scattered across the western United States. I chose the Las Vegas location to pick up from since it was the closest to our home in Colorado. El Monte has a ‘no-haggle’ pricing scheme, or at least
I departed DIA on an early flight and was at the El Monte sales lot by 10:00 AM. I inspected a few different 21QBs, not really knowing what to look for since I was a total RV newbie. The stove lit, the water worked, the awning extended, the generator started. Beyond the basics, I didn’t really know what else to check. I noticed some cosmetic blemishes, both interior and exterior. The interior finish consisted of a lot of fake wood veneered cardboard type material. The generator had about 600 hours on it. The door looks like it has been crowbarred into at some point, which I didn’t notice at the time but wish I had. I payed the asking price plus the $500 fee they didn’t mention up front. This pissed me off a little, but they knew I wasn’t in any possition to walk. The extra 500 dollars bought me a crappy sewer hose, two leveling blocks, some toilet paper, and not much else. After a long day I took possession, and started the drive back to Colorado.
My first impressions of it were that it rattled a lot, but was peppy in the power department. According to Google, Class Cs are rattly by nature so no big deal. The first real problem was discovered fairly quickly. After sitting in the driveway for a couple days I noticed a puddle of fluid under the RV. Further inspection revealed a transmission fluid leak emanating from the transmission pan drain plug. No problem I thought, I bought a new drain plug and began the seemingly easy repair. Like most
Over the next few weeks we tested out all our systems in the driveway and weekend camping outings. The next problem we found was a poopy one. In the driveway I’d been flushing water down the toilet like crazy, and the led indicator hadn’t moved off the empty mark. This should have tipped me off that something was wrong, but being a newby I just thought we had a huge black tank. Sure enough, while camping on our first shakeout overnight I did my business, flushed, and then noticed that our black tank was completely full. Like completely. Yes, indeed our black tank indicator is non-functional. Luckily we were close to the dump station. Now we use the flashlight-down-the-toilet method of determining black tank fullness.
A few more shakeout trips revealed a few more minor issues. The house batteries were shot and needed to be replaced. The propane/carbon-monoxide detector went bad. The particular failure mode was false alarms at 3:00 AM every morning, which was unpleasant. Our door handle broke on a cold winters day. Internet searching showed that it’s a common failure. Replacing it was un-fun. Within the first month of full-timing, the stock Furrion TV went bad and the kitchen sink started leaking. Both were replaced without issue but still cost some money. One particularly frustrating problem was a roof leak. The water from melting snow entered where the seam of the front cap met the rubber roof. I should have inspected the seam earlier, probably at the dealership lot. The roof tape was clearly coming loose. This doesn’t inspire much confidence in the quality assurance of Forest River. A 3-year-old RV shouldn’t have a roof leak. At any rate, the leak was fixed with Dicor sealant and Eternabond tape. I’m not sure why Forest River doesn’t use Eternabond at the factory. They probably saved $10 by using crappy tape, not worth damaging a companies reputation, not to mention warranty concerns. We’ve seen other newish Leprechauns on the road with the same fix.
Now that we are full-timing we’re pretty happy with our decision to buy a 21QB. The three sleeping areas are absolutely necessary for a family of four. Our oldest
Living space is a little bit tight, and we use every inch of it. We knew what we were getting in though, and it’s a compromise we are willing to live with to have a maneuverable vehicle. The full bathroom is nice, although we almost never use the shower. The shower area is where we keep our dirty laundry as well as some other random things. If anyone does want to use the shower, some rearranging is necessary. Showering is not really an option unless we’ve got full hookups due to the size of our fresh and gray water tanks. I do wish all of the tanks were larger. I believe our fresh water tank is around 55 gallons, and our gray and black tanks are in the 20-22 gallon range. The tanks are the limiting factor for how long we can dry camp. We can get about 5 days before needing to dump and refill.
Our most-used piece of equipment is definitely the fridge/freezer. It’s a Dometic brand and runs on either propane or 120V AC. For the most part we keep it in propane mode and it barely uses any. It keeps our food cold which is about all you need from a refrigerator. Besides the fridge, our generator is our next most crucial piece of equipment. For the price of a little bit of noise and about one gallon of gas per hour we can have full AC power. This provides for the use of microwave and air conditioner, as well as the ability to charge our house batteries. The model that came with our camper is a Onan Microquiet 4000. It’s not that quiet, and has been starting a bit hard lately, but it’s been an essential tool. Hopefully a tune-up can fix the starting issues.
Pretty much all RVs come with a stove. The 21QB has a three burner Atwood Wedgewood Vision, with an oven as well. We use the stove occasionally, but try to cook outside whenever possible. We’ve never used the oven, and have only had it lit once as a test. The furnace and water heater round out the gas appliances. They both work well, especially the water heater which gets extremely hot very quickly. The furnace will heat the whole RV to almost 100 degrees when it is 35 degrees outside. Yes I know, very specific information, but we tested this capability when drying out after the roof leak. The furnace does use quite a bit of propane and electricity so can get expensive to run when boodocking in the cold. Other RVers use portable propane furnaces instead of the built-in furnace but we’re not willing to take the risk, especially with little kids running all over the place.
Storage has been a bright spot. The basement area underneath the living quarters is pretty huge considering the short overall length. Between the basement and storage underneath the dinette seats we’ve been able to bring all our necessities, as well as a lot of optional ‘nice-to-have’ items. When not in transit the passenger’s seats hold two bins which keep most of our non-refrigerated foods. A Rubbermaid storage cabinet between the two front seats houses a hodgepodge of contact lenses, eye glasses, deodorant, batteries, and canned soup.
So far the 21QB has proven to be a good choice for full-timing. As with anything in life, there are compromises, and there’s no perfect solution. If we had it to do all over again we probably would have inspected better at the dealership, but most likely would have still gone with the 21QB. Coachmen makes another model, the 23QB that was available at El Monte, but we decided the extra length wasn’t worth it. Coachmen also makes a model Freelander 21QB that seems very similar to the Leprechaun. I’m not really sure the differences between models, but we couldn’t find one in our price range. Our overall take? Certainly not perfect but pretty good for our new lifestyle as full-time RVers. So far so good at least.
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