The Ultimate Class
Want to Buy a Preowned Prevost
A discussion to help compare
coaches for first time buyers...
Since the 1980's many Prevost
conversions have been manufactured. Because the Prevost shells are commercial
bus shells, they have a very long life. A Prevost conversion coach with even
over 200,000 miles on it still can provide useful service. Since hundreds of
conversions a year have been created, more and more preowned Prevost
conversions are becoming available for purchase.
There is a temptation with first -time
buyers to assume that certain conversion companies produce substantially
better coaches than others. While this may be true in certain cases, it is
not universally true. Some conversion companies have made better coaches in
specific years, others have put out variable quality in the same years. A
more useful comparison between coaches can be made by knowing more about the
systems which are used in Prevost conversion coaches, the shells and the
potential for maintenance and reliability.
A properly maintained Prevost coach
can be an economical luxury coach, as the original manufacture of the shells
is unparalleled. Further, they cannot be compared with any other
manufacturer. Conversions, on the other hand, are variable; the more you
know, the more prudent your purchase.
An historical view of converted
Shells are manufactured as much as a
year or two before a conversion is titled. The date of manufacture of the
shell is always stamped on a metal plate in the engine compartment of a
Prevost shell. It can take six months or more to convert a coach, so the time
between manufacture and ‘model year’ of a conversion will not match. This is
normal. So, our discussion will center on the shell date, as that will have a
more direct bearing on your assessment of a particular coach.
Before 1988, you may find coaches in a
variety of configurations: One may be taller on the inside than another: This
can be determined by the number of ribs seen just below the windshield on th
front of the coach. Five ribs will tell you it is a ‘tall’ coach. Three ribs
a ‘short’ coach. Also, older coaches will be narrow-body coaches, 96" wide;
newer coaches 102" wide. In 1988, Detroit Diesel introduced the DDEC system,
which is an electronic fuel injection system for the engine, which was
upgraded over the years on the 8V92 engine. Previous to this date, mechanical
fuel injection systems were used. Mileage tends to be better with a DDEC
system, although some mechanics like the idea of a mechanically-regulated
system. The Allison transmission was used, which is a five-speed automatic
transmission. Prevost introduced the Detroit Diesel Series 60 engine in
mid-1995. A few shells were made with the existing 5-speed Allison
transmission, however after that, all shells were produced with the 6-speed
Allison transmission, just as they are produced today.
From the late 1980's through the
earlier 1990's, air conditioning systems on coaches was primarily with the use
of Cruise Air systems; with compressors built into the coach. These are
heavy-duty, industrial level units. Bus or over-the-road air
conditioning/heating was installed on some units, utilizing a 24 volt DC power
supply, generated by a massive cam-driven 3-phase alternator on the front of
the engine. Units after the mid 1990's tend to have roof-top air
conditioners. All this is about ‘modern’ technology. When a Cruise Air is
working well, you will have no problems. When it isn’t, it can be very
expensive to repair. The original bus air system likely has R-12 coolant in
it; this is very pricey to maintain and conversion to the newer 134a coolant
system can be expensive and troublesome.
There are many late-80's and early 90
coaches available in the marketplace which are terrific values, as they have
been well maintained. Many can be acquired for less than a new entry-level
fiberglass diesel pusher, and you have a Prevost.
Until just a few years ago, there was
no choice but to acquire a Prevost without slides. If you are interested in
slides, you will be looking at a much newer coach. There are a few
aftermarket non-Prevost slide coaches before 2000/2001, however the quality of
those slide are quite variable as they were adaptations by various companies
to put a slide in a Prevost and do not measure up to the Prevost-produced
slides of today.
Prior to the introduction of the XLV
and H3 series coaches, the only coaches available are the Mirage XL, a
riveted, stainless coach, which many think of as the traditional Prevost shell
and a few H3-40 non-metal coach conversions.
There has been a progression of other
technological changes over the years beyond air conditioning and other
systems. After 1992, convertors had to adhere to the 1992 RVIA standards,
especially electrical systems. Coaches before that time had different
industry standards, one notable standard was the lack of a hard-wired ground
at the shore power connection. This can be a big problem if a reverse
polarity connection is made, as the coach has only a ‘floating ground,’ which
can damage electrical equipment in the coach. This can be remedied, but you
need to know what you are looking at.
Interior treatments on conversions
have changed remarkably over the years. Since the mid 1990s, many conversion
companies have worked diligently to reduce the weight of coaches. Solid
laminates have been replaced with newer materials which look the similar but a
fraction of the weight. Solid granite has been largely replaced with
granite-faced composite materials. The look is the same, with significant
savings in overall coach weight. Solid woods in some cases have been replaced
in later years with lighter, high quality veneers. Corian counters and tops
have been replaced with lighter, equally durable materials.
Electronics systems have been
dynamically improved over the years. A mid 1980s coach will likely use
aircraft grade toggle switches; new coaches are operated by central remotes
with the newest proprietary software. In between are touch-sensitive control
systems with a wide variety of options for lights, electronics, shades,
locking mechanisms and the like.
Electrical systems themselves are
quite different between model years and convertors. Many older coaches and
newer ‘lesser quality’ conversions are wired with ‘marine style’ cabling from
batteries. A more sophisticated and somewhat more costly system is the use of
an electrical ‘bus’ system, which brings the power of the batteries to a
central location, from which it is distributed. High quality coaches use
ceramic fuses on conversion side, with the less expensive bi-metal fuses on
The same thinking goes into plumbing
system. A more expensive option for distributing fresh water is called a
‘manifold’ system, where water from tanks or shore water is controlled to
individual facilities from a central location. Some older, quality
conversions use copper pipes, more modern units often use plastic or PVC water
piping, some with or without manifold or distributed control systems. A
manifold water supply system allows users to turn off individual water outlets
on the coach for maintenance or pressure controls.
Waste systems vary as well. Some
coaches feature PVC tanks, others stainless steel. There are benefits and
cost variances between the two. Stainless can rupture; PVC tanks are less
expensive however are more susceptible to deterioration and buildup over time
than stainless tanks. Some coaches feature remote or power actuated dump
valves, others simply use traditional RV push/pull valves.
Electrical control systems are another
difference in the quality of a conversion. Older coaches using toggle-switch
controls are simple and straightforward, however toggle switches can fail and
the wiring systems themselves are burdensome; when they work they work well.
More modern systems use 12 volt actuating switches, which lightens the weight
and complexity of higher voltage wires themselves, but can be difficult to
repair by the owner. Gauges and systems control switches vary; older coaches
often use high-end marine panels for monitoring and controls; other coaches
use automotive quality systems.
Heating systems differentiate coaches
from one another as well. Hydronic heating systems which incorporate hot
water production, powered by diesel boilers such as the Aqua Hot/Webasto are
considered to be a more modern approach to creating warmth and hot water.
Some older coaches use diesel powered or LP fired burners such as the Espar,
Primus systems which are either hydronic or hot-air based systems. Some of
those systems can be difficult to maintain and some parts are hard to find.
Hydronic systems are typically low-pressure heat transfer units controlled by
thermostats zoned within the coach, often in storage bays as well. A few
conversions have been seen with traditional Suburban LP furnaces, used on
fiberglass coaches. Many coaches also use electric ‘kick’ heaters, two or
three to take off the chill when other systems are not necessary.
There are a host of other issues not
covered in this introduction. Many companies have converted Prevost coaches
over the years, some more or less successfully; some better than others. Some
preowned coaches were originally produced as custom coaches and others as
production coaches. Many Prevost coaches have been modified or refurbished
over the years. Some of these modifications add to the value of the coach,
others do not. Usually, technological ugrades matter, appearance-based
upgrades (except for body paint) do not significantly add to the value of a
coach. A high quality paint job on a Prevost conversion can range from
$20,000 to $30,000, depending upon the condition of the existing painted
surfaces and the complexity of the paint job itself.
Of course, such improvements as
in-motion satellite, GPS, plasma screens, satellite radio and the like can add
to the curb appeal of a coach, but not necessarily directly to the overall
value of an older Prevost conversion.
Convertors in general...
It is important to remember that there
are many levels in the category of “convertors.” There are many firms which
have produced very low production levels of conversions, and some have been
great, others, well, below the expectation of the Prevost shell itself. Some
conversions have been accomplished with tour bus shells, entertainer shells;
these shells are not designed for motorhome use and have major drawbacks as
they were converted without the express intention of the shell’s ultimate
use. They are exempt from RVIA standards and do not have the benefits of the
Many convertors have come and gone
over the last 20 or so years and there are a wide variety of Prevost
conversions available on the marketplace. Knowing more about the systems
inside of a coach allows buyers to make a more informed decision about the
value, use and potential maintenance of a preowned coach. Look, if you can.
At a number of coaches by a given convertor. Here are some questions you may
wish to ask yourself:
1. Is the convertor still in
2. Are they currently producing custom or production coaches?
3. Do they maintain records on coaches produced they have produced?
4. Has their sales volume been more or less constant over the years?
5. Do they provide customer support for preowned coaches?
Of course, when you walk into and
around a coach and say to yourself, “I LOVE this coach,” much of the above
doesn’t matter as much, as often times the acquisition of a Prevost conversion
can be an emotional decision. But somewhere along the way, every coach will
require some amount of modernization and maintenance and it’s good to at least
have a general idea of what you may be in for, quite literally, down the
Purchasing a coach from a convertor,
private party or informed dealer is your best bet, especially when you can
really spend some time with the coach and get your questions answered; get to
‘know’ the coach. Beware of the many internet sites which offer coaches on
consignment as the sales people in most cases have never even seen the coaches
they are offering. They have no inventory, no maintenance or service
facilities, do not warranty coaches and often have no personal knowledge of
the history, maintenance or ownership of what they are selling. They are
agents who are only interested in making a sale and you have no recourse if a
coach is misrepresented.
When you get serious about your coach,
the seller should be willing to have an informed friend, owner or Prevost
center look at the coach. Any Prevost conversion is a significant investment,
not to be made lightly. Further they are complicated; big machines and
subtle, informed observations can make a big difference in the ultimate
enjoyment of the Ultimate in Road Transportation.
There many, many more points which can
be made about evaluating, assessing and valuing an individual Prevost coach.
The discussion board at
www.prevost-stuff.com is a good place to check out many different opinions
and experiences with different conversions and systems, direct from owners
themselves. It’s free and easy to use. Further the site offers a wide
variety of Prevost coaches for sale in various models, years and conversions
which are available for purchase and most Prevost owners love to talk about
Check to see if maintenance records
are kept, talk to previous owners, if any. Prevost Car Company maintains
records of previous owners and will furnish buyers with that list upon
request. Call them up and learn about their experience with the coach.
Most importantly, if you have any
uncertainties about a specific coach, arrange to have it looked at by either a
Prevost service center (you can find them listed on this website’s Information
Center through the Prevost Car website) or one of the 150 Prevost warranty
service centers around the country. Detroit Diesel also has hundreds of
inspection centers around the country and will help you assess the condition
of the engine, if you have questions about that. If a seller balks at having
the coach inspected, that is informative as well. Prevost maintains a
national computer data base on each coach serviced and those records are
readily available if no hard copy maintenance records are available.
Never hesitate to contact a seller and
ask for more information; there are few people who know everything about
Prevost conversions, as each coach is uniquely different than another. The
more people you speak with, the more you will know, enhancing your purchase
and heightening your ownership experience.
A well thought-out purchase of a
Prevost coach is a good beginning to a wonderful luxury motorhome lifestyle,
incomparable. This site offers a wide range of information and a huge number
of Prevost owners who chat on the discussion board, use it. Every owner on
the board has gone through the first stages of learning about a coach and most
are eager to help the newcomer!