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2007: RV Purchase

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  January 23, 2007: Gwen and I have begun a search to replace our King of the Road fifth wheel. We have considered a motor home but still feel the advantages and economy of the fifth wheel would be better for us at this time. Several years ago, we looked at the Carriage fifth wheel and were impressed with its quality. Carriage is also a very popular coach with a very active user group too. We have done some Internet searching to compare prices and specifications and we are liking the Cameo, one of the Carriage lines. As with everything, you can spend almost any amount on a fifth wheel. The Cameo is a mid-price range coach.
Click for a larger view The model we seem to like best is the F33CKQ. It is 33 feet 11" long so only 11" longer than our King of the Road but has
four slide-outs rather than the two on our King of the Road. If you click the floor plan you can see a larger view. Since we are now full time, year round, it would be nice to have a trailer with a more comfortable and useable floor plan and the additional slides for more room. Even with the additional room and additional length, the Cameo is about the same weight as the King of the Road, so big blue should have no trouble pulling and stopping it.
We still have some questions about this and other units. Fortunately, the Salem RV Show will be happening this weekend. Several years ago when had our little Aerolite trailer, we visited the Salem RV show and enjoyed the time very much. The Carriage units will be at the show as well has many other brands for us to compare. Will we tow our King of the Road to Salem for the show? No, this won't be that kind of trip. Instead, we will leave home without it and stay in a motel during the show. I've created a checklist, you might take a look and make your suggestions before we go. I've left off some of the obvious or "always included" things but hope this will help keep us focused.
January 24, 2007: Part of my RV research has included learning about extended warranty. We don't currently have one for our Best-Rate
King of the Road and fortunately have not had any serious problems but know some of my KOTR friends have extended warranties and have used them. I know dealers always try to sell you one so want to know what's available. I found the "Best Rate" service above which advertises a warranty program so received the following quote from them:

EXCLUSIONARY Coverage - commonly referred to as "BUMPER to BUMPER" covers virtually every component on your RV except the items listed as not covered. It’s easy to understand, and universally considered to be the best type of coverage available. Click on the "Contract" link below for coverage details.

RV Warranty Price Quote

The quote provided is based on a new or newer RV with at least
1 month remaining on the manufacturer’s warranty.

3 Years - $50 Deductible - $595
5 Years - $50 Deductible - $650
7 Years - $50 Deductible - $695

Optional Systems INCLUDED in Quote: Seals & Gaskets, Slide-Outs, Electric Steps, Leveling Jacks, Rental Car Benefit, Trip Interruption, and Towing/Roadside Assistance. Additional options such as Commercial Use and Increased Towing Benefit are available to customize this versatile policy to your specific needs.

Additional Benefits

Here are some additional benefits you should consider when evaluating our featured coverage.

  • Coverage is good at any authorized RV repair facility in the US and Canada.
  • There is no limit to the number of claims.
  • Claims may be paid upon repair completion by Corporate Credit Card.
  • Transferable and Renewable.
  • Additional options such as commercial use, plasma TV and others are available

To view the actual contract, click here:

This seems like a good price to me. I had priced a warranty for my KOTR from the Good Sam club and it was nearly this price per year. If you know about extended warranties, I'd love to hear from you.

Hitch Hiker 329RSB January 25, 2007: Gwen got a chance to explore the Hitch Hiker 329RSB today. This unit is very comparable to the Cameo above with a slightly different layout. You can click the photo for a larger view.
The 329RSB is a new model for 2007 with an advertised GVW of 13,500 on the same size tires and axles of my KOTR (GVW 15,000). This concerned me because the empty weight is the same as my KOTR. That means I would carry 1,500 lbs less stuff... and I have little else to throw out. I called Hitchhiker and was able to talk with the "engineer", Mr. Anderson. He told me that 7,000 lb axles were an option on this model and would bring the GVW higher to equal what I carried now. We aren't looking to carry more weight than we already carry but we are looking for a different floor plan.
January 26, 2007: The Salem RV Show begins, weather is perfect and there are many RVs to examine. This is part of the outdoor exhibit. There are also three large indoor exhibits to visit. RV Show this Weekend
Overview of outdoor exhibit
Interior of a 33CKQ Cameo We were able to tour the Carriage Cameo 33CKQ, the unit we mentioned above. This happens to be the 2006 model so the counter top is squared off with an angle cut while the 2007, the counter top is rounded. There is much about this trailer that we really liked but difficult to say that it is something we would trade our King of the Road for. We need to see what else is showing at the exhibit.
January 27: 2007: Van, a reader of RVeCafe has suggested that we should visit The Original Pancake House in Salem. That's the first thing we did this morning. Apparently everyone else in Salem decided to visit at the same time. There was a good long wait list but we stuck it out and enjoyed breakfast. It was worth the wait ... we'll return the next time we visit Salem. The Original Pancake House in Salem
Door side of the Cameo 35SB3 January 28, 2007: Have you ever walked into an RV and been astounded at the creativity of the designer? It happened to Gwen and I while on a search at the Salem RV show this weekend. I'm not talking about the awe you might experience when walking into a million dollar motor home. I'm talking about surprise with the placement and usability and uniqueness of the design.
We toured with an open mind, walking through every unit looking for the quality and usefulness we needed. We were already partially sold on the Cameo 33CKQ and Hitch Hiker 329RSB. When we stepped into the Cameo 35SB3, we found it difficult to believe what we were seeing. The potential comfort of this 35' 11" coach became increasingly apparent. Martin was attending the RV Show as a representative from the Carriage factory. Gwen and Dale meet Martin, the Carriage Factory Representative
Door on the right leads to the bathroom and door on the left leads to the bedroom It was great to get to talk with someone who knew the Carriage product inside and out. When shopping for an RV you must learn to be deaf to virtually anything a salesman tells you but, Martin's honesty and knowledge helped us to see the Cameo benefits. Gwen is examining the fabric swatches in the photo. One of the design features that impressed us were the three separate living areas in the coach. The bedroom (door to the left in the photo at left), the bathroom (door to the right) and the
kitchen/living area. We eventually learned that this coach was within our budget and could be towed by our Dodge. You can click on the floor plan to enlarge. The bedroom door is not shown on the floor plan but you can see its location in the photo above. We are still negotiating with changes and price. Cameo F35SB3
Cameo F35SB3 kitchen in cherry January 31, 2007: The negotiation continues. While we visited the Salem RV show, only the cherry cabinet model was available to view. The kitchen is at left. It's a gorgeous color but could soon become overwhelming so we are bidding for the Maple cabinets (Maple is pictured above in the doors to the bedroom and bathroom) . Of course the Maple is most
expensive. I think we are literally within hours of signing the deal but still waiting for the final numbers to be offered. I will be telling the whole story of the negotiation process once it is completed. While at the show, I took nearly 80 photographs of this model, inside and outside. I knew we would not remember details. I took my disk to Walmart and printed 74 photos so now we can refer to them when wondering about windows, electrical outlets, drawer spacing, etc.
February 1, 2007: Still negotiating but very close. How many fifth wheels do you know with full width rear storage accessible from three doors? The Carriage product is the only one I know. On our trip to Arizona, the King of the Road had a pin weight of 4,300 lbs. With rear storage, I will better be able to balance the load and make the pin weight around 3,500 lbs. F35SB3 Rear
Queen bed, window and closet February 2, 2007: The deal is struck and the Cameo F35SB3 is ordered. We will be picking it up in Salem, six to eight weeks from today. I'm going to be writing about the details of this purchase then publish the Internet methods I used to find dealers, learn about their history with past customers, and check out trailer prices nationally. Watch for the report in several weeks.
February 5, 2007: Before I show more of what we like about this trailer, first the negatives. 1)Our Cameo has two 30 pound propane tanks, we are accustomed to 40 pound tanks in our King of the Road. 2)Gwen would rather not have the refrigerator on the living room side of the kitchen. 3)Since our KOTR has two furnaces, we can easily heat the two areas of the trailer separately, the Cameo has one furnace so directing the heat to one area of the trailer is more difficult. 4)Finally, many of the cabinet doors have plastic "tiffany" inserts. We are paying extra for solid Maple cabinet doors. 30# Propane Tanks
Mor/Ryde Pin Box February 6, 2007: What do we like about the Cameo F35SB3. We've ordered the Mor/ryde pin box with our trailer. This pin box eliminates the "chucking" happening in the tow vehicle. Mor/ryde has an interesting video showing how the pin box works. We had to laugh at the video. It shows a driver shaken while towing a fifth wheel. Gwen and I have experience this many times.
February 7, 2007: The Mor/ryde RE suspension is another reason we purchased with the Cameo. This is a rubber equilizer allowing further travel of the leaf spring giving a smoother ride for the trailer. You can check the Mor/ryde page for a video of how it works. MorRyde RE Suspension
Snap pin February 8, 2007: Another item I've always wanted on my King of the Road is snap pins. These are spring loaded pins for the jack legs up front. Quickly set the legs to proper height, then lock in place with a snap. The Cameo does not come standard with individual leg height controls. Having a separate motor
to change the height of each leg separately would make leveling the coach far easier. Martin said this would be a $400 option. I chose not to get this option.
February 15, 2007: My King of the Road has painted steel rims. These alloy rims are a great improvement. The steel rims chip from road debris and then rust. They are very difficult to keep clean while the alloy rims look good even when dirty. Note the 8 lug nuts. An 8 nut axle is a 7,000 pound axle while a 6 nut axle is a 6,000 pound axle. So, in theory, the maximum axle 8 lug, alloy rims
weight of this trailer is 14,000 pounds. That is confirmed in the printed specs of this trailer. However, look at the load rating on the tires. The Cameo comes standard with "E" rated tires. The printed load rating on the sidewall of the tire says the maximum load is 3,200 pounds. Unless you go to a higher rated tire, then, the maximum weight is 6,400 pounds per axle or 12,800 pounds for the tandem set. The gross vehicle weight for this trailer is 16,000 pounds. My intention is to keep the gross weight at 15,000 pounds, the same weight as my King of the Road. Both trailers have the same carry capacity since both have the same empty weight. If I keep the trailer axle weight at 12,000 pounds or slightly less, my pin weight will be about 3,000 pounds or slightly higher. During our recent Arizona trip, I discovered we had a pin weight of 4,300 pounds with the King of the Road. Although that heavy pin weight is within the capacity of my truck, I'd rather keep the pin weight to 3,500 pounds or less. Since the Cameo has rear storage, I'll be able to control the pin weight easier ...if I get Gwen to throw out some of her shoes, carry less toilet paper or get rid of the cat, that may solve the problem :-), just kidding sweety. Note: yesterday I received a surprise phone call from Martin, the Carriage factory representative. He was confirming some changes and informing us of changes which could not be made. When asked when production would start he informed me of the factory closure in Millersburg, Indiana due to the cold February storms. I hope we will get this trailer before the end of March.
Incoming water, cable and phone control February 16, 2007: This is a convenient control center for incoming water, cable, satellite and telephone. Top left is the hot water switch for the water heater. Top right is the gravity fill for the freshwater tank. Then comes the connection for cable, satellite and telephone. The city water, freshwater connection is next with connection to the blackwater tank flush to the right. The external shower is also located here connected to a shower hose. Far more convenient than the external shower on the King of the Road. The freshwater holding tank drain is at the bottom of the compartment. All hoses and lines come into the compartment from a flanged entrance at the bottom of the compartment. I'm not seeing a method to fill the freshwater tank while connected to city water but perhaps that's elsewhere. There is also no room in this compartment for my freshwater filter system as I have in my KOTR. That means it must sit outside, subject to weather and theft. Other than that, I like the simplicity of this utility control center.
February 17, 2007: This is the sewer hose storage just above the sewer hose outlet. A lamp for night hook-up is to the right. I'm not impressed with the sewer hose storage. The lock on the door is plastic and seems fragile. This is something which will need replacing soon. I do like the lamp. sewer hose storage
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