I am an RV enthusiast with more than 50 years of experience owning, driving, traveling and living in recreational vehicles.
If you want to save money when your RV needs repairs, the tips in this article will help you to do so.
Most owners already know that if they want to play they have to pay, but this does not mean you have to go broke when trying to maintain or upgrade your camper, travel trailer or motorhome.,
There is no question that parts and labor are expensive, but you can mitigate some of those expenses if you learn to
- do regular inspections,
- repair quickly,
- comparison shop,
- use unique sources for products and labor,
- research before you pay,
- negotiate the best possible price and
- be creative.
I have used these techniques regularly and successfully for years because I have always lived by one simple financial philosophy: why pay more when you can pay less?
Regular inspections help you to find problems when they are small and do not require expensive repairs.
Finding early signs of water leaks, excessive rust, cracks, or breakage of any kind is well worth your effort and time.
Doing this means more than taking a casual look once in awhile. Instead, spend a half hour every month to check every interior and exterior area of your coach with an eye to finding problems. The Best Way to Avoid Buying a Defective RV shows you how to do this.
Doing monthly inspections is one of the best ways to save on RV repairs because inspections allow you to find problems before they become expensive nightmares!
The longer you wait to make a repair, the more expensive and time consuming an issue will become.
Therefore it pays to act quickly once you discover a problem.
A small leak does little damage, but it can lead to issues such as black mold and wood rot, both of which are issues that can cause major damage to a coach.
It costs far less to caulk around problem areas than it does to have a repair shop rebuild part of your RV!
You will always pay less for parts and services if you take the time to find out where you can find the best deals
One of the biggest financial mistakes people make is to assume that the prices charged by one repair shop are the same as in all of them. You can easily save hundreds of dollars on repairs if you take the time to shop around.
Also, not all repair shops are honest about the types of repairs an RV needs, especially if they think you know little or nothing about making repairs.
During one of our vacations, my husband and I discovered a problem with our motorhome. We pulled it into a well-known and supposedly reputable shop and were told it would cost $1200 to fix our coach.
Fortunately, another RV similar to our own had the same problem, and my husband watched as the mechanic fixed the unit. It was a simple matter of removing the old part and replacing it with the new one!
We bought the part for $60, my husband made the repair, and off we went.
That dealership was taking advantage of the fact that people were traveling and didn't know anything about making repairs. It was a simple job that most people could have done, and it took the mechanic less than an hour to do it. Since the part only cost $60, it meant the shop was charging more than $1100 for labor!
If you travel with the right devices and guide books, it's fairly easy to comparison shop. Even if my husband could not have made the repair, once he knew what needed to be done, he could have made some calls and found better pricing.
Here are three more examples of deals my husband and I found:
- A few years ago we installed digital TVs in our older coach. We soon discovered that to make them work properly, we also needed a digital antenna. A local RV dealer wanted $89 for the exact same antenna we purchased on Amazon for $18 including shipping! We have been using it for years and have had no problems whatsoever. Amazon has many deals like this. All you have to do is search for them!
- A large RV dealer in Rapid City, SD wanted $550 to install new electric entry stairs. PPL Motor Homes in Houston, TX installed the exact same product for less than $300 and gave us a free campsite for the two days it took them to do the work! Since we were headed back to Florida anyhow, we included Houston on in our itinerary and saved ourselves a bundle!
- A local dealer wanted $5,000 to sell and install a Blue Ox tow bar and a base plate for our car. Instead, we purchased the products from a seller on eBay and had a local hitch company install the base plate for us. The total cost was$1500, including shipping.
As you can see, there are many ways to take advantage of deals, even if you are unable to make repairs, yourself.
Ordering products from reputable internet companies is easy, fast and often costs less than buying locally, but you should always shop around before you buy if for no other reason than to make sure that what you are buying is exactly what you need and want.
Use Unique Sources for Products and Services
I recently asked a fellow who was helping to lay new carpet for us in our RV how much it would cost to reupholster our living area furniture in leather. He said the dealer would charge around $3,000 but he could do the job for us for around $1200!
Forget feeling that you have to take your coach to dealerships for repairs and upgrades. Find alternative sources for parts and labor and you’ll save a bundle.
There are many from which to choose. All you have to do is search!
The trick is to make sure that the person doing the work is qualified, and the products you purchase meet your needs.
Awhile back my husband and I ordered a refrigerator and washing machine sight unseen from an out of state dealer whose business was selling returned RV appliances at reduced costs.
We arranged to be present when the shipment arrived, only to find that the items were nothing like what the seller had described. We refused to take delivery, took plenty of photos, got the names of witnesses and demanded a full refund.
Because we paid with a credit card, we got every cent back (even shipping costs).
Things worked out in this situation, but we learned a valuable lesson. When it comes to large, expensive items that must be "installed", deal locally so that you can see before you pay.
Research Before You Pay
People who don't know any better will try to convince you that paying high prices for RV repairs and services is the only "safe" way to go when you your coach needs work. This is not always true.
If a shop wants $189 per hour plus parts to do a job, find a competitor who will do the work for a flat rate instead.
Some shops won't tell you they’ll do this unless you ask and then let them know you'll go elsewhere if they won't negotiate pricing with you.
Negotiate the Best Possible Price
Prices for repairs and parts can vary greatly.
- If you go to a large dealership, they will price gouge you until you can hardly see anymore.
- If you find a good, local mechanic, you can save a fortune.
We had a major problem years ago while we were traveling through Oklahoma. The local dealership wanted $1,000 to do the work we needed.
Instead, we found a good mechanic, followed him to his small ranch, hooked up to his electric and water, and stayed there for two days while he worked to replace every gas hose in our unit.
The total cost for everything was $200.
A few years the generator in our motor home stopped working. We were in Rapid City, SD. The locals there told us that there was a shop in town that specialized in generators, so that's where we took our coach.
It was only after endless hours of labor that the men there told us that there actually was only one man there who knew about generators, and he was in the hospital!
After two days of examination by mechanics who did not really know what they were doing, we got out the manual, figured out the problem and told them what they needed to do.
When the job was finished, they thought they were going to charge us for 12 hours of labor, but we refused to pay it. Instead we demanded that they charge us the going flat rate.
It was not our fault that they didn't know how to fix the generator, and we sure as heck were not going to pay them for the hours they wasted trying to find out what they should already have known!
- The more you learn about doing things yourself, the more money you will save.
- The more you are willing to negotiate, the less you will pay.
If you want to pay less to maintain your recreational vehicle, now you know how to do so. This has worked for me, and it can work for you, too!
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.
© 2015 Sondra Rochelle
Sondra Rochelle (author) from USA on May 16, 2015:
KathyMcGraw: Thanks for your kind words. You obviously are doing this RV thing the right way! Kudos! I do have an ebook, but it is not about the RV life. I have often thought that if HP ever goes under, I would take all of these articles and create an ebook with them, but for now I am content to leave them as they are. It's easy to find them by going to my profile page, and you can always print them out to keep for reference. You are the exact person for whom I write this stuff. My goal was to help others who want to RV, and obviously my plan is working...at least for you! Thanks for stopping by, and I hope you'll share when time permits.
Kathy McGraw from California on May 16, 2015:
I have learned a lot from your different articles, and now this one. I am smiling because I just bought a small travel trailer-25 ft. that is a no fluff one, but meets all our needs. I also had to fix a couple things and have a local guy doing it for $35 an hour. Thank you for sharing all your knowledge, and I was just thinking....do you have an ebook? I have so many of them, but all these RV hubs would make great fodder for one book :)