Filed under: RV Maintenance, RV Modifications, RV Repair, The RVs We Drive, Uncategorized
Looking For Fun with the Fun Finder
How did we select our current RV? Well, I’d like to report that we had unlimited funds and time to select nothing but the very best that satisfied our every whim and need. I’d like to tell you that, but it wouldn’t be true.
Instead, I’ll tell you what is probably a common story. We had camped for many years while the kids were growing up. But, as time went on, life began to interfere. Promotions, transfers, tuition, mortgages; all added up to lots of responsibility and outgo; as opposed to income. We dreamed of an early retirement and an upgrade to a class A motorhome that we would tour the country with. Years went by and vacations became less frequent (After all, ambitious people don’t actually take vacations, do they?). After a while, any trips we took were of the hotel variety. Our dream had started to fade as I chased after the corporate brass ring.
I’m not going to complain; at least not too much. I got to travel the world, staying in fine hotels and, in general, enjoying my life. My wife got to share in some of this and we were even able to take the kids on a tour of England as a graduation gift for the boys. But, there was still that dream, sitting in the back of my mind, but pushing itself to the front whenever corporate life began to pale. At least in comparison to what I thought that couple were experiencing; in that motorhome that had just driven by…
My 64th birthday came and went and I realized that I was getting seriously old. It was then I decided to hell with everything else, we were going to capture as much of that old dream as we could, while we still could.
So in 2009, with a smallish to middling pile of money, we went shopping. We knew that our dollar would probably go further than it ever could before, what with the economy tanked and dealers dying for business. We had already decided that we would need to use our existing truck as our tow vehicle. It was nearly paid for and wouldn’t require a second, or more substantial combined loan, if we had to replace it and also buy a trailer.
I did a lot of research online; learning as much as I could about trailer RVs. One persistent warning I received was that I’d be crazy to use a 6-cylinder Mazda SUV for my tow vehicle. Its 3500-pound tow limit was just too small. There were those, though, who had been trailering for years and told me that, if I was careful and didn’t demand more from the truck than it could handle, I’d probably be okay. We would later learn that, not only would we be okay if we didn’t push, err pull it too hard, but, after climbing the nearly 10,000-foot Tioga Pass into Yosemite, we would be just fine.
We began looking at trailers; having decided that they would provide us with the simplest yearly maintenance and least costly purchase price. They could also be small enough to meet our towing weight needs and, at the same time, permit me to handle most of the maintenance and repairs myself.
We looked at used trailers, but found two problems: old technology and structural problems. The lightweights that were on the market looked and felt old. Bathrooms and kitchens were out of style. Appliances were old and looked it. Then there was the smell and feel of rot; mildew and spongy floors.
Having ruled out brand-new as too costly for the first year or two; given the drop in value the instant you pulled it off the lot, we started looking at brand-new leftovers. There were plenty of these on the lots in the ultra-light, 18 to 20 foot length and towing weight class we were looking for (No, we didn’t tour the country, going from RV dealer to RV dealer, nor did we shop on the internet, where I’m sure we could have found thousands of suitable trailers, all because we found just enough in local lots to give us plenty of choice). In time, we located what we wanted: A dealer that had been around for a while, was looked at favorably by customers, had a choice of the “right” trailers and was “hungry” enough to bargain with.
I won’t mention the dealer by name, since the market has continued to go up and down and some dealers are gone or merged, or whatever. I’ll use our experience going through the transaction of buying, though, as an example of what to look out for.
There were a number of sub-3000 pound dry-weight trailers on the market that would meet our towing load requirements. The one that caught our eye was the Cruiser RV Fun Finder X line. Take a look at the Cruiser RV Fun Finder X website for the latest photos of and specifications for the 2011 189 FBR (FBR = front bedroom) and FBS (FBS = front bedroom + slideout) models. Note that ours is a 2008 189 FBR and does vary in some aspects from the latest model.
We had to skip the FBS model (with slideout) because it weighed too much. As with the 3 Bears, the FBR(without slideout) was just right. It has an axle weight of 2533 pounds, hitch weight of 255, equaling a dry weight of 2788 and a GVWR of 5855; resulting in a load capacity of 3067, which was way beyond our towing capacity, but, with careful loading, could still fall below our 3500 pound towing limit. (We’ve never weighed her loaded, but after a cross-country trip through deserts and mountains, we can report that we never overheated, tracked true in heavy cross-winds, never dropped below 35 MPH on the steepest climbs, and didn’t blow the transmission – thank God)
The Cruiser RV Fun Finder X models didn’t have that plastic, IKEA or popped-out-of-a-mold look that we’ve seen in some of the other ultra-lights. Like those from China.
A point here: During our time with the Fun Finder X, I keep finding the “Made in China” label on more and more parts. I know that that would cause some shoppers to scurry for the exit, but I think there aren’t many things left that aren’t made in China. And you’ll learn that, no matter where certain parts on our trailer were made, for the past 3 years and 6,000 or so miles, the trailer has been very reliable.
The Fun Finder X looked like a real trailer inside and out. For its size, it has lots of storage. The substructure looked well thought out and strong; dual 15-inch alloy wheels, Dexter EZ Flex Rubber Equalizer System, aluminum house framing, laminated, Gel-Coated walls, an I-beam frame with corner jacks, EDPM rubber roof, etc. It carries 40 pounds of LP, has a 55 AMP WFCO 3-stage charger/converter, a 16K BTU electric ignition furnace, a Shur-Flo water pump with E-Z Wintering kit, a 2-Door Dometic refrigerator/freezer, a 6 gallon LP water heater, and a Duo-Therm Brisk-Air AC (Check the specification sheet here and standards and options here).
And so we bought one. And, about 6,000 miles later, everything still works, nothing has come loose or fallen off and the only thing that I can complain about is that the red swoosh decal; and only the red; not the silver or dark gray, but just the red, has dried out and is peeling. Go figure…
Another note here: After discussing the issue of towing with some old timers, I went what might be considered overboard with our hitch and bought a heavy-duty 2-inch receiver with an adjustable height hitch and load distribution system. I think that it has a lot to do with our trailer’s tractability and balance.
We’re very satisfied with it, although we would want a few changes if we were in command of such things: The whitish cabinetry isn’t painted; it’s covered with some sort of vacuum coating. It hasn’t peeled off or anything and it’s simple to just wipe it off if it gets dirty, but an enameled or urethane finish would have been nice. I guess if I peeled off that plastic coating on the cabinets I’d find a lot of finger-lapped, less expensive softwood under there, but that’s not inherently bad; finger-lapped joinery is strong. The other issue is about the bathroom. It must have been designed by and for people of small stature (dwarves?). Taking a shower is an exercise in yoga and body contortions. You basically have to wet yourself (with the shower, you cretins), soap up, and then perform a pirouette to rinse off. Having a BM, at least for those of us who aren’t, umm, height challenged, is another test; best performed with the bathroom door fully opened (which is tricky when you have company). Otherwise my knees are mashed up against the closed door.
Other than that, that’s it. I did make some modifications to better meet our needs; like removing the drop-down table and replacing it with two pedestal tables, which required removing the two facing bench seats, bolting them side-to-side and then bolting them to the floor against the wall in the form of a couch; which worked out pretty well. I did all of that because I am, hmm, sleep-challenged. Due to a cervical spinal cord injury, I cannot lie perfectly flat on my back without going into spasms and back aches. I therefore need to set-up and sleep-on a folding chaise lounge every night, which is all you need to know about that.
The only real problem we ran into was during the purchasing process. There was a difference between the finance contract numbers we had agreed to in advance and what was noted on the sales contract during closing that needed to be sorted out. And then there was the difference between what was installed in the unit while it was on display out in the lot or requested as an option during the ordering process and what was in the unit when we picked it up. Normally, a missing TV, stainless steel outdoor cooking unit, spare wheel cover, and a stainless steel convection microwave oven, not to mention the also missing remote-controlled Fantastic Fan wouldn’t bother me very much (like HELL). In fact, I did come unglued after finding out that all of those things weren’t in the unit when I picked it up.
A hint here if you’re ever faced with a similar problem. Have a heart-to-heart discussion with the sales manager. Remind him how many prospective buyers scan the internet to find out how other buyers view his dealership. Go on to remind him of the fact that (if you are) retired people have all the time in the world to get up on one or more of the many chat rooms and forums on the internet and trash their dealership. If they think that their sales versus inventory numbers suck just then, just wait until one or more irate internet users get done with them. This will usually do the trick in resolving any shortfalls in expectation versus delivery.
A way to possibly avoid the same thing happening to you is to write down, in duplicate, everything discussed and agreed to; to be signed by you and the salesperson before going anywhere near the finance closing. As a matter of fact, don’t go near the finance guy’s desk without first having a “walk-through,” checking that the RV is exactly as ordered; with nothing missing or, “Oh sorry, that’s been backordered – I’m meant to mention that” B—S—.
Till Next Time,