I am an avid RV enthusiast who understands that my life and my safety depend on the condition of my coach's equipment.
I have been an RV enthusiast for more than 50 years, and during that time have seen that my fellow recreational vehicle owners are paying far too much for parts and labor when their coaches need repairs and upgrades.
This happens because most people don’t realize that what you pay to purchase a motor home, travel trailer or camper is only the beginning of your ownership expenses.
Repairs are constant and can be extremely expensive, so it pays to learn about potential costs before you purchase of an RV.
Average Labor Costs
If you take your unit to a big dealership for repairs, you'll pay a minimum of $129 per hour, but this price can rise to as much as $189 per hour if you own an expensive rig. Some dealerships have the attitude that if you can afford to pay several hundred thousand dollars for a coach, you can afford whatever they want to charge to repair it!
Smaller sellers will charge as little as $65 per hour, so if you shop around, you can easily reduce your labor costs . Some will give you a break and instead of charging by the hour, will offer you a flat rate per job. If you can get them to do this, you'll save a bundle.
How to Cut Costs
Many of the items used in RVs are no different than the ones you can purchase in stores or online. Certain things, such as specially sized plumbing parts, cannot be bought this way, but most others can. Furthermore, there are many talented workers around who are willing to do jobs for cash "on the side" to earn extra money.
- TV repairmen can fix your television set,
- people who work in carpentry shops can upgrade cabinets,
- upholsterers with RV experience can redo your furniture,
- tailors can make curtains and
- flooring experts can carpet your coach.
These people charge far less than RV dealerships do, and the quality of their work is just as good, if not better.
Sometimes people who already are employed in a dealership will also hire themselves out when they are off duty. Employing them can easily reduce labor and parts costs by half. Dealerships would like people to think that they are the only places where consumers can find RV parts and services, but this simply is not true.
Owners have all sorts of options for cutting costs if they will just take the time to ask questions and let workers know they are in the market for less expensive services and parts.
Typical Large RV Parts Replacement Costs
Here is a short list of items that many owners may eventually need to repair or replace:
- A refrigerator can cost upwards of $1,000. Large ones can cost as much as $2000.
- Air conditioners run about $600.
- New tires will cost between $250 and $900 each depending on size and brand.
- Entry stairs will cost upwards of $300 depending on the type and size of step.
- A good quality inverter will be $2,000 or more. (Check out the savings in the ad I show below for the one we purchased from Amazon recently. Same product, lower cost. It's a "no brainer".)
However, people who own luxury coaches can pay significantly more for parts and labor. I just met a couple that paid $20,000 to replace a major part in their diesel engine. Awhile back another couple told me they had to pay $17,000 to replace their windows!
The good news is that Good Sam Club offers warranty insurance that will pay the bills to repair or replace most items if you own a newer coach.
You might be wise to buy that coverage if your rig qualifies.
Where to Find Prices for General Parts
To get an idea about prices for general parts your best bet is to go online and do some quick cost comparisons at sites such as Amazon, Camping World and Ebay Motors.
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However there are many other sources you can use such as
- local hardware stores,
- local thrift shops,
- online parts sellers,
- RV salvage companies and
- plumbing supply shops
You can also call or visit repair shops to find the information you seek.
Older vs. Newer Units
Some people think that buying new protects them financially from the high costs of parts and labor, but this is not always true. New is not a guarantee against the need for repairs.
- One example of this occurred when an elderly couple bought a new luxury motor home. Problems began on day one and continued until the warranty ended five years later.
- Immediately after that, the floor joists gave way. It was going to cost them $6,000 to fix them.
- When the couple asked the manufacturer to pay half, he refused and advised them to trade the unit for a different one. They did, and some other poor soul eventually purchased that same coach and got stuck with his own set of headaches!
The rule of thumb has always been that the simpler and more well constructed the RV, the less costly it will be to fix it. However, what you pay for repairs depends more on the specific coach you purchase than on its age.
- Generally speaking, older units will have more problems than newer ones. However, those that have been well maintained may actually be better because their issues may already have been addressed.
- Conversely, new coaches often have myriads of issues, some of which can be quite serious, as in the example I just cited. If problems appear within the warranty period (and you have a good warranty), repairs will cost nothing, if not, they can cost plenty!
If you buy a new RV from a dealership, they usually will offer a 5 year warranty for all repairs, but these warranties are not always as good as people think they are. How to Avoid RV Contract and Warranty Problems explains why.
The bottom line is that no matter what you buy, you should plan on spending a great deal of money to maintain and repair it.
Make Sure You Can Afford to Pay for RV Repairs
As with all things, it is up to you to do your homework. RVs are luxury items, and should be seen as such. How much it will cost to repair will depend on what you buy, how well you care for it and where you take it to be serviced.
Unfortunately, even when you take steps to reduce expenses, the price is never going to be cheap. However, motor homes, travel trailers and campers are wonderful to own, but before you buy one, you need to make sure you know how much it will cost to keep it repaired.
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This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
Questions & Answers
Question: I have a 33 foot, 2003 Prowler. How much would it cost to replace wall and floor around leak from roof?
Answer: That depends on the size of the leak, who does the work and how far the leak has spread in the roof. You need to take your coach to a few dealers and get estimates, but you may find that making this repair could cost more than it's worth.
Question: How much does a new roof on a 27-foot travel trailer cost?
Answer: That depends on the materials and the person doing the work. Roofs are quite expensive to replace, though. You could easily be looking at $6,000 to $9,000. Call around to some repair shops to find your best price.
Question: What is the cost of flooring? We have a 2008 R-Vision 28’ travel trailer. Everything is in great shape except for the flooring under the linoleum. It has about a 6’x 5’ soft spot. The linoleum looks fine; it’s the flooring underneath. We want to price the trailer as is to get rid of it. We would like to give an estimate of the repair cost.
Answer: It is likely that the soft spot is wood rot in the joists. This would require more than a "spot" repair. Friends a few years back had joist problems, and the repair cost was $6,000. You'll have to take your coach to some RV repair shops to get estimates because your coach is smaller than theirs was and is also a trailer and not a motorhome, which means a replacement will likely cost less. However, it's going to be expensive. I doubt anybody would want to buy a unit with this type of problem, even if you lowered the price because wood rot leads to all sorts of problems...including termites!
Question: My RV has 34,000 miles on it and runs great except for the steering which has a lot of play. It has new tires. It has had this loose steering since I bought it nine months ago. I have only taken it on one camping trip about 60 miles round trip. Tomorrow I am getting an oil change and fluids and belts checked. I have been reading up on the steering and mentioned my problem and asked her to check out the tire rods. What else do you think it could be that I should mention?
Answer: A loose steering wheel could be dangerous. Why did you buy this coach knowing it had this problem? You need to have an RV repair person do a diagnostic on the steering wheel itself because it sounds like the problem may be in the structure and the steering component may have to be replaced.
Question: How much would it cost to drop the black and grey water tanks on a 1993 Tioga?
Answer: If you are talking only about dropping these tanks but not repairing them, you would only pay labor charges. These can vary greatly depending on who does the work, but be aware that if your sewer tank is not clean, the cost will be quite high. In fact, you will have problems even finding someone who will do the work. Labor normally can range from around $65 per hour to $189 per hour, so shop around.
Question: What is the average cost to replace an entire slide on a camper?
Answer: It depends on the size of the camper, but can range anywhere from around $4,000 to $20,000. I'm not sure if this includes labor, but it is very costly to do.
Question: We were told that our Diesel Turbo needed to be replaced. How can I find out the actual cost of an engine part for a diesel RV?
Answer: Unless you are planning to do the labor yourself, you are unlikely to find the cost of this part. If I were you, I would take a trip down to the closest large dealership and stop by their service facility to speak personally with someone in charge who can look up prices for you. This is not something you want to do by phone.
Question: I bought an old, but good quality gas motorhome for very little money. I am not sure what investment to make. Safety is my only concern. What is your opinion?
Answer: If safety is your only concern, have a trained RV mechanic go over the engine, generator, brakes, tires and general alignment of your coach. If he finds problems, fix them!
Question: We dropped our camper off to get repaired, and the shop had us pull it onto a gravel side area off of the main road. As it was sitting there waiting to be pulled into the repair shop, an 18 wheeler truck struck the back of the camper with their mirror. It did slight damage. They did not stop to provide their information and just took off. The repair company told us we could just replace the back fiberglass. How much is something like that going to cost?
Answer: First, you have a hit and run situation there, and should contact the police about it. Second, the trucker may not have even known his mirror hit you. Third, your RV insurance should pay for the damage as this is a collision. Fourth, your RV repair place should be able to give you an estimate, which you will need anyhow for insurance purposes. You should have called your insurance company immediately, but apparently did not. There may be more damage than you realize, so do it now.
Question: What is the labor cost to replace RV flooring?
Answer: It depends on who is doing the work and what kind of flooring you are replacing. Usually, some of the furniture must be removed, the current flooring removed and the new flooring installed. Installing RV flooring is highly specialized work and few places will install without also selling you the flooring. Make some calls to RV repair shops to see what they will do for you, but you can probably count on paying $100 per hour at the very least.
Question: How much should I pay someone to install my own A/C?
Answer: Call some dealerships and ask them what labor rates are so that you can pay accordingly. They can vary greatly, but you want to make sure you get someone to install an A/C who knows what he is doing.
Question: I'm in Arizona. Is there a continuously updated list of qualified RV mechanics who are honest?
Answer: I doubt it. The best way to find a qualified and honest RV mechanic is to talk with other owners to learn about their experiences and who they have used. You might want to go onto some of the online RV owner forums to get this type of info, too.
Question: I have a 36 foot Keystone Passport Ultra Lite Grand Tour RV, and I have a small water leak in the rear bathroom along the base of the wall behind the toilet. What could the problem be?
Answer: Check the seal on the base of your toilet. I've had several that have produced small leaks like this when they develop cracks, etc.
Question: How much do shops usually charge for maintenance on an RV Ac Unit? I am not able to do myself.
Answer: Standard maintenance fees run from $65 to $129 per hour.
Question: I have a 2016 Fleetwood Storm. It has had many issues since day one. Now the warranty is out, and the floor under the main slide is buckling, making a hole. Was told by an RV repairman that adjusting the rollers would not help. How much would it cost to do this fix?
Answer: It sounds like you have a serious problem. There is no way for me to tell you how much a repair would cost because any number of issues could be causing your problem. The only thing I can tell you is that major slide room repairs are costly and sometimes a repair isn't even possible. I would take the coach to several RV repair shops to get estimates. I would also contact the manufacturer to see if they can advise you about this issue. It almost sounds as if the underlying structure of your coach is not strong enough to hold the weight of the slide, but at this point, all you can do is what I suggested because most states do not have RV lemon laws or those they do have are very limited. After two years, I doubt they would apply anyhow. If the repair costs are too high, you may want to consider trading your unit for one that is of better quality.
Question: I was in an accident with my 5th wheel. The frame is bent, and there is major damage to the fiberglass on both sides. I have insurance. Dealership/camper repair places won’t make an estimate, since they don’t do that type of repair. Insurance does not have a personal to appraise camper damage. Now what?
Answer: Contact the insurance commissioner in your area. All insurance companies are supposed to have adjusters that assess and appraise damages to vehicles. Yours likely does, too, and the commissioner's office can demand that they provide one. Don't let anybody touch the coach until an adjuster from your company provides an appraisal, and be sure to use a repair shop that is provided by your insurer.
Question: To repair axle seals and repack bearings how much should it cost?
Answer: This is a question for your RV repair shop to answer, but I definitely would do some comparison shopping before moving forward with this project.
Question: What is the average air brake cost?
Answer: I don't think there is an average cost because engines come in different sizes. I suggest that you call some RV dealers and price them out.
Question: One of the beds in my hybrid trailer was leaking while it was closed. How much would that repair run?
Answer: Hard to tell. If it happened when the bed was closed, it must be coming either from the roof or a window. If you can find the source, you can repair it with some caulk. If the damage is bad, you probably will have to take it to a repair shop. Get some estimates.
Question: How much would it cost to get a piece of exterior damage fixed on a camper?
Answer: Labor costs would run between $65 and $129 per hour plus the cost of the parts. The hours involved would depend on the amount of damage.
Question: I have a 2004 Layton travel trailer. The switch on the heater outside keeps slipping off when it wants to. Do I need to replace the whole heater or just a switch?
Answer: This is a question for an RV repair shop to answer because there is obviously something causing the switch to fall off that may have to do with the internal workings of the heater. Estimates cost nothing, so I suggest you get one or two of them so you will know what to do.
Question: What does it cost to replace outside lower bins on a 38 foot Fleetwood RV that is eleven-years-old?
Answer: You'll have to contact an RV repair shop or two to get your answer. It sometimes is very difficult to find parts for older RVs like this one.
Question: What is the cost to put travel trailer back on frame?
Answer: Your best bet is to contact RV repair shops and ask them to give you ballpark prices for work like this. Probably a big dealership would be your best bet for having this type of work done because it will require specialized equipment.
© 2013 Sondra Rochelle