I am an RV enthusiast with more than 50 years of experience owning, driving, traveling and living in recreational vehicles.
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.
RV Slide Rooms Have Positives as Well as Negatives
A slide room is an add-on to a coach that extends its side wall to create more interior living space. Slide rooms offer some nice perks such as luxury and comfort, but they can be unsafe and may have other types of problems as well.
Until recently, a 1999 or newer motor home or camper came with at least one slide room because they were standard equipment. Although a few manufacturers recently produced some Class C coaches without slides, apparently to test the market, slide rooms will continue to be manufactured, because so many people want to have them regardless of the problems they create.
If you think you still want to buy an RV with slides, make sure to weigh the pros and cons of owning one.
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.
Trouble in Paradise
It seems the more slide rooms manufacturers add, the better people like it. However slide rooms 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 they 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 putting the seat all the way back can damage the slide. Furthermore, older campgrounds are not built to house RVs with slide rooms, and the newer parks charge a premium for placing them on their rental lots.
When slide rooms 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 slide rooms to leak. Using slide rooms 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 slide rooms are safe, this is not true.
The wall structure of recreational vehicles is very thin. In many cases, it is nothing more than a piece of metal or fiberglass over a small slab of insulation, all 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 wondering: if all of this information is true, 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 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
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: Do we need slide-out support legs for an rv slide room?
Answer: Using any kind of support under slide rooms is always a good idea.
Question: What do I need to know about weight limits on the slide out? We just have one small dinette in which I was going to store canned food.
Answer: I would not store anything as heavy as canned goods on a slide out. They are too unstable to add much more than the furniture that is on them. Paper goods and the like will be fine, but not canned goods; too heavy.
Question: I just bought a brand new trailer. The dealer dropped the slide off the stands when replacing the vinyl flooring. I've only used it one time. I want a new trailer, and they are telling me it's structurally fine. Am I wrong for asking for another trailer?
Answer: You are not wrong to ask for a new trailer, but it will be almost impossible to get one unless you hire a lawyer, which can be expensive and still is not a sure thing. Dealers rarely replace vehicles they've sold and Lemon Laws offer scant protections for RVers. Check the laws for your state before you do anything.
Question: How do you open a slideout RV without electric?
Answer: It depends on the type of slide room you have. Some have manual controls you can use. If not, I suggest you call a locally located professional to come out and assess your situation and then fix the problem for you.
Question: I put slides out while my RV was parked on an incline. Now I have water leaking. What kind of damage have I done?
Answer: The big lesson here is to always park on the level, slides or no slides! It is impossible to know how much damage you've done, so you better take the coach to a shop and have them examine it.
Question: Will the things in an RV like the stove, sink, microwave, etc. that are on a slide, work when the slide is not extended?
Question: One of my slides on my RV will not come in. Is there a reset button?
Answer: That would depend on the type of RV you own, but I don't think slides reset. If the coach is not sitting level or the slide has come off the track, it will get stuck. Either way, you'd do well to contact an RV repair shop for help so that you don't make the situation worse. The last thing you want to do is bend the track.
Question: How does a bed on a slider, which says it is a foldable bed, work?
Answer: It's probably a J bed. You lift up the front, pull it forward and the back drops down flat. You can make it more comfortable by covering it with a foam mattress topper when using it.
Question: How many motors drive a typical slide?
Answer: Usually, one 12-Volt motor drives most slide rooms, but some are powered by a 24-Volt motor. It depends on the size and type of the slide and the brand of the RV.
Question: Will I lose a considerable amount of leg room with a slide closed in a class C RV?
Answer: Yes, you will. Most slides are between 12" and 18" deep If you have two of them that face one another you will lose between 2 and 3 feet of space when they are closed. In some coaches, regardless of type, slides that are closed can make it very difficult for you to walk down the center of a unit, and if you try to do so when the coach is in motion, this can lead to falls.
© 2013 Sondra Rochelle
Sondra Rochelle (author) from USA on August 30, 2019:
Interesting info that I'm sure many readers will use.
Mitzi Liias on August 29, 2019:
In May of last year, I started to live in my 26' Sunset Reserve full time. I was scared to death that I would be freezing over winter, because after all, I was living in a tin can. When winter approached, I wasn't sure exactly what to do, because it was my first year, so to start with, I bought 2 large rolls of the silver, double thick, bubble insulation and lined all of the cupboards, closets and the storage area under my bed. I then bought that film from 3 M that you tape to the windows and then shrink with a hair dryer. I wasn't happy with that, so I w bought a roll of thicker milled clear plastic sheeting (that painters put down to protect the floor from drips) and some thin double sided tape, then lined the outside rim of the windows and skylights and applied the plastic. It worked great at stopping the drafts and keeping the warm air in. I still felt some drafts, so i next purchased a 4' x 20' brown tarp and attached it from front to back on the northside bottom of my trailer to keep the wind from blowing underneath. This one step made all the difference in the world. I noticed condensation on the slide out walls due to the temperature difference, so I kept 2 small fans running to circulate the air inside. I purchased a dehumidified to hopefully alleviate that problem. I have since, removed the built in dinner table/bench seats and the couch and found that mold had grown in both corners due to no air circulation. whether you winterize this way or not, you must keep air circulating at all times in the winter months, or you will run into the same problem due to the difference in air temperature. I was toasty warm through the two big snow storms we had, and know now that I can make it through almost anything mother nature throws at me.
Sondra Rochelle (author) from USA on February 01, 2013:
freecampingaussie: Sounds like you're doing it right and have the correct attitude! Thanks for stopping by.
freecampingaussie from Southern Spain on January 31, 2013:
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 .
Sondra Rochelle (author) from USA on January 25, 2013:
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.
Chris Mills from Traverse City, MI on January 25, 2013:
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.
Sondra Rochelle (author) from USA on January 25, 2013:
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!
Chris Mills from Traverse City, MI on January 24, 2013:
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.