We’ve been at the KOA in Durham, Maine for two days, and the learning experiences are piling up. We’ve had enough experience with this RV (30-foot Cruise America rental class-C) to start to realize the good and the bad, about Cruise America, this particular RV, and our own decision-making process.
The good: This RV has the ubiquitous Ford F53/V10 362HP chassis/engine combination common to most gas-powered RVs, and I have no complaints about the power and driveability. Granted, we weren’t towing a vehicle as Pat decided to follow me in our Honda Civic, so it remains to be seen how hard it is to tow with this thing, but I was favorably impressed at acceleration, even on inclines. The engine likes to rev but doesn’t seem to do so with effort. Even though the temperature was in the high 80’s, the dash A/C kept the whole coach cool and we only ran the generator for the roof A/C, due to high daytime temps on the East Coast this week, when we stopped. Cruise America added a sticker recommending that users keep the transmission in Tow/Haul mode “for increased fuel economy.” This means that the engine winds out a bit more and helps brake the coach on downhill runs, much like a car with the overdrive turned off. We tried it in both modes (Tow/Haul on/off) and preferred leaving it on.
The bad: I’m going to itemize this just to arrange my thoughts.
1. Small holding tanks. We made a choice when we reached the KOA. We could have set up in a treeless field and gotten a full hookup, or we could opt for a forested site with water and electric only. We chose the latter, and this brought with it a chance to try out the holding tank capacity of this rental RV. We like showers, so we didn’t stint on water usage. This means that we need to leave our site periodically to hit the dump station before returning to re-setup in the site. Most experienced RV’ers would put this in the PITA dept. but since we need the practice, it affords us the opportunity to work on our tank-dumping skills at least a couple of times before we leave at the end of this week.
2. No slideouts. Big negative here. While I’m sure many folks like their class B’s with no slideouts, that’s not the way we roll, and we really like the added room that slideouts give us. Next time we’ll be renting from a company that features coaches with at least one slideout.
3. No leveling. Our woodsy campsite is not level, and slopes downward toward the driver’s side of the RV. For coaches with leveling, this is solved with the push of a button. We had to improvise, and fortunately our nearby nephew owns a sawmill and provided us with a wooden solution to raise the low side of the coach. Another reference to renting from a different company here.
4. Fit and finish. Our RV had 30K miles on it, and had passed through many hands on the way to our temporary stewardship. Cruise America says “the renter is responsible for all damages”. We did a walk-around inspection and noted the obvious imperfections, but after two days we’re still occasionally discovering something that didn’t make the list we gave the guy when we left, like roof vent screens that hang askew, roof and stove vents that scream when turned on due to tortured bearings, a bathroom sink faucet with a missing aerator that causes water to gush all over the countertop, Note to self: every switch, every vent, pretty much everything with a button: check.
5. Flimsy house construction. In order to keep the weight down and increase driveability (see “Good” above), the house construction is very flimsy, with walls less than 1/4″ thick. This isn’t enough wood to give bite to things like trim staples in corner moldings, screws for brackets to hold doors open, etc. Aside from the obvious mechanical issues of maintaining the powertrain, this adds a lot of man-hours to just keeping the coach interior in shape not to lose our deposit.
All in all, so far this trip has been a great one for seeing the dirty little details of RV stewardship. Every day it seems I learn something I didn’t know. More as the week rolls on.