What You Need to Know About RV Slide Rooms

Updated on April 6, 2016
TIMETRAVELER2 profile image

I am an avid RV enthusiast who has traveled, lived, workcamped and volunteered nationwide for more than 50 years and am still going strong!

You have probably seen travel units with slide rooms and may have been inside of one, but probably don't know much about them.

They are beautiful and add a great deal of interior living space to a coach, which is why people want to have them. Most who buy motor homes and campers with this amenity, however, are unaware of the downside of owning them.

This article will help you to decide whether they are worth having.

What Every RV Owner should know about slide out rooms.
What Every RV Owner should know about slide out rooms. | Source

RV Slide Rooms Have Positives As Well As Negatives

A slide room is an add on to a coach that moves outward from its side wall to create more interior living space. They offer some nice perks such as luxury and comfort, but they also can be unsafe and may have other types of problems as well.

A 1999 or newer motor home or camper will come with at least one because they are now standard equipment. However, before you decide to buy a coach with this amenity, you need to weigh the pros and cons of owning one. You also need to know that there still are other options for you if you decide that purchasing travel unit with slide out rooms is not for you.

A Little RV Slide Room History

The phenomenon of RV slide rooms began in the late 1990s with manufacturers adding one small unit to the basic structure. Soon, it morphed into something called a "super slide", which was considerably longer.

The manufacturers saw that these amenities were here to stay and were going to bring in big money for them, so they started to get serious about feeding the public's appetite for them.

Before long, coaches had two, then three and then four. This year, they actually came out with a coach that has five, one of which is built on to another!

The Good Points

When these rooms first came on the market, the general public fell in love with them because they increased living area and made coaches seem more home like. This made them more comfortable for travel and living. They were especially good for full timers or people who left their coaches set up in campgrounds for use as needed.

When you enter a coach that has one or more of them open, it looks just like an apartment. Clever designers scale the furnishings to increase the illusion of spaciousness, use high grade materials to plush them up and locate the slides logistically to make the best use of the space they provide.

These all are reasons why people like them and clamor for more.

Slide out rooms give RV travelers more interior living space in their coaches.
Slide out rooms give RV travelers more interior living space in their coaches. | Source

Trouble in Paradise

It seems the more of them manufacturers add, the better people like it. However they have many problems that sellers are hesitant to share with buyers.

For example, they can add up to 1500 pounds to the weight of an RV and also add up to $12,000 to its selling price. Extended warranties for them cost up to 30% more than they do for non slide units. They limit the amount of storage space and only work when a unit is totally level. Sometimes they simply stop working, and the cost to fix this type of problem can be high.

In some units, these rooms cramp the driver's seat, and when the seat is all the way back, it can damage the slide. Furthermore, older campgrounds are not built to house them, and the newer parks charge a premium for placing them on their rental lots.

When they are closed, they make using the RV during travel awkward and uncomfortable. If they become misaligned, their gaskets become damaged to the point that the entire slide must be removed and the gaskets redone so that the units work properly.

It is not unusual for them to leak and using them can also affect the internal temperature in ways that can make a coach uncomfortable.

Regardless of what salesmen tell buyers, sooner or later people who purchase them are going to have to deal with problems, some of which can be life threatening.

The Ugly Secret

As much as people want to believe that they are safe, this is not true.

The wall structure of recreational vehicles is very thin and in many cases, it is nothing more than a piece of metal or fiberglass above a small slab of insulation covered over by a piece of paneling. If you cut a huge hole (or holes) in the side of this wall and install a heavy, movable section in its place, you compromise the basic structure of the coach. If you cut more holes, the structure weakens even more.

This isn't a huge problem when a unit is stationary, but when it is moving down the highway, the road vibration can wreak havoc. Furthermore, weight distribution can cause balance problems which result in turnovers, especially when road and weather conditions are bad.

Then there are the dire consequences of highway driving accidents.

If you are driving down an Interstate Highway at 60 miles per hour and you have a collision, your vehicle stops, and you stop with it (as long as you are wearing seat belts). However, the slides are still moving forward at 60 miles per hour. Whoever is sitting directly in front of them (driver or passenger or both) is going to be crushed to death.

This is not information I made up. I got it from RV Consumer group, which is a non profit organization that provides travel unit safety information and oversight and from interviews with people who own travel units that have slide rooms as well as from my personal experience.

RV Manufacturers Are Unregulated

Right now you are thinking that if all of this information is true, then why are manufacturers allowed to produce and sell travel units with these rooms. The reason is that the RV industry is unregulated. Thus companies will continue to produce what people want and are willing to buy, regardless of the dangers. In other words, this is a buyer beware situation.

I recently had a candid conversation with a highly experienced salesman at a large RV dealership in my town. He totally agreed with me about the dangers and other problems associated with slide rooms, but stated that as long as people demand to have them, companies will keep producing them.

Unfortunately, in today's market, consumers of rigs built after 1999 no longer have a choice unless they want to pay much more and special order a recreational vehicle that does not have any slides.

Are the benefits of slide rooms worth the risks?
Are the benefits of slide rooms worth the risks? | Source

Are The Benefits Worth the Problems?

Recently I spoke with an RV repair man who works for a major, high end manufacturer of luxury motor homes. Here is a direct quote from him:

"All slide rooms leak. Often, owners cannot see where this is happening, so the damage caused by leaks can be extensive. It can even get into the steel supports and rust them. Insurance pays for the repairs, but they are expensive and will cause rates to rise significantly."

Unfortunately the consumer protection laws that are in place do not address the types of problems I have discussed here. Until they do, people will continue to love the luxury and comfort of RV slide out rooms and will keep buying them.

If they do their homework and look at both the pros and cons, they can then decide of the benefits are worth the problems.

As far as I am concerned, I feel that those who want to buy a unit strictly for full time living will be OK if they purchase a unit with slides and inspect them regularly for leakage. However, those who want to travel would do best to purchase an older unit that does not have them.

Tour Of Older Motor Home With Three Slides

Would you buy an RV with slide rooms now that you know their problems?

See results

© 2013 Sondra Rochelle


Submit a Comment

  • TIMETRAVELER2 profile image

    Sondra Rochelle 4 years ago from USA

    freecampingaussie: Sounds like you're doing it right and have the correct attitude! Thanks for stopping by.

  • freecampingaussie profile image

    freecampingaussie 4 years ago from Southern Spain

    An interesting article as we live in a caravan . I have no desire to own one of those slide outs as we spend so much time outdoors anyway ! We are wanting to buy a campervan in March in Britain then another one in the USA .

  • TIMETRAVELER2 profile image

    Sondra Rochelle 4 years ago from USA

    cam8510: In a wide body (or any) motor home, the passenger seat swivels 180 degrees to become part of the living area. Sometimes the driver seat swivels partially as well. Maneuverability is no different for trailers than for motor homes, you have to take some driver training for either one and practice, practice practice before going out on the road. Actually, with the right rig and proper equipment, you definitely could go to ND in January and be comfortable..but the winter driving would be tricky no matter which rig you have. By the way, for 1999 back, RV Consumer Group put out a book that covered every single motor home and trailer. After that, they only analyzed them one year at a time, and the books cost about $20. Being a cheapskate, I asked my local library to order the 1999 book for me, so when I want to do research in those years, I do it at the Library. Trust me, the right motor home will be quite spacious, depending on how well you pack (yes, I have a hub on this, also) and which floor plan you choose. I've done this stuff my entire adult life, so you can rest assured that the info I'm giving you is good.

  • cam8510 profile image

    Chris Mills 4 years ago from Missoula, Montana at least until March 2018

    This is great information for me. Regarding a motor home, here are two bits of input I have gotten. The source has done some traveling, but I am still very open to different ideas. 1. lost living space for motor and driver/passenger seats. Maneuverability in tight spots. Now, regarding cold weather, I assume you are not suggesting I take anything to North Dakota in January. But for me, that would be a possibility. I suppose for those times, I simply wouldn't use the trailer/motor home.

  • TIMETRAVELER2 profile image

    Sondra Rochelle 4 years ago from USA

    cam8510:If you are talking slide rooms here's the deal: If the trailer will simply "sit" for long periods of time and only occasionally move from one place to another (once every six months or year), you will probably be OK. If you will be on the road a lot or for long distances, I would avoid them. Finding a trailer with dual pane windows will be difficult because the wall structure in a trailer generally is too thin to support them. If you go to RV Consumer group's website you will be able to buy a CD that gives you info on units geared to year round living. However, you can do OK with most trailers if you get some of that rolled aluminum looking insulation and cut it to place inside the windows in cold/hot weather and use a couple of small electric heaters (front and rear). My gut feeling is that you would do better to buy a motor home and tow a car. We found a 1999 Holiday Rambler Vacationer for $17,500 in mint condition that has dual windows, is solidly built, has no slides and is well insulated. You have to buy 1999 or earlier to get a no slide unit, but try to find a "wide body" (102 inches wide) unit. They are very spacious and comfortable and cost no more than the normal 96" units. Good luck!

  • cam8510 profile image

    Chris Mills 4 years ago from Missoula, Montana at least until March 2018

    Timetraveler, I think we may have talked about RVs before. I will be buying an travel trailer by the end of summer. I had been planning on getting something with as large a slide as I could get. The reason is that I will be living in this year round and I wanted the extra room. I suppose I could just get a longer trailer to compensate. I do not want to buy a liability. I will start searching for older models that don't have the slides.

    One other question. Do you know who makes a truly winterized trailer. I want double windows and insulation so I can go where I need to go. I am am just beginning a new career as a traveling Laboratory Technician and will go to various places for three month assignments. I will have some say about where I go, but sometimes, just to keep working, I will need to go into cold weather. useful, up and shared.