I am an RV enthusiast with more than 50 years of experience owning, driving, traveling and living in recreational vehicles.
People who buy recreational vehicles are usually on the lookout for sales scams, but few ever stop to think about manufacturing scams, many of which can end up causing them countless expensive and sometimes dangerous problems.
The average person generally knows little or nothing about what goes into the building of a coach. Because of this lack of knowledge, they make their purchases without realizing that they are heading for trouble.
It takes a keen eye to find serious design and construction flaws, but sometimes even the most observant consumer cannot ever know about issues that they surely would avoid given good information.
This article will be an eye opener for many, but hopefully it will provide RV buyers a certain amount of protection at the same time.
The Hidden Truth About RV Manufacturing Methods
The great majority of recreational vehicles are built individually, rather than on an assembly line. This is usually done in a warehouse by a cadre of workers whose job it is to use basic tools to nail, screw, cut, staple and glue these vehicles together. As with many jobs,
- Some of the workers are skilled, but others not so much.
- Some may show up to work sick or drunk, while the rest are alert and healthy.
- After weekends, many may be overly tired.
So, just as in the automobile business, who does the work and when they do it can make a huge difference in how well it gets done! The result is that no two units are exactly alike, and some are more poorly built than others.
Since this is an extremely expensive way to build, manufacturers make it a point to find numerous ways to reduce their costs. All of these create a lower quality in terms of design, materials and construction.
- The manufacturer doesn't really care. He is only interested in selling his products.
- You, on the other hand, should care a great deal because if you get one of the lemons, it's going to cost you plenty!
One would think that the Federal Government would carefully monitor these facilities, but they do not. In fact, there is little the authorities do with regard to the manufacture of motor homes, campers and trailers to safeguard the welfare and finances of the RV-buying public.
This means that it is up to the buyer to do all he can to protect his interests. If he doesn’t do it, nobody else will! Thus, the only way a person can protect himself is to make darned sure that he knows what he is buying before, not after, he seals the deal.
Poor Quality Is Common
People naturally assume that if they spend more, they are likely to have fewer problems because they are buying “better quality." The truth is that no matter how much you spend, the information I just provided above remains firm.
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A perfect example is this list of problems encountered by a buyer of a new $500,000 coach who said that, among other things:
- The molding on the refrigerator fell off.
- One of the slide out rooms would only work when he pushed it manually,
- The drain in the kitchen sink broke and caused water damage to the bedroom carpet.
- The leveling system broke and caused an air leak.
- The toilet leaked allowing sewer water to drain throughout the flooring.
- The bedroom window was not caulked, so rainwater damaged the bed.
- The engine was recalled.
- The engine air duct was missing.
- The entry door would not lock.
- One of the mirror cameras stopped working.
- The roof near the front AC unit leaked.
- The macerator hosing developed a hole and leaked sewage onto the floor.
- The windshield popped during a heavy rain storm.
- The bedroom sliding door fell from its mounting.
- The ceiling light needed to be rewired.
- The satellite antenna shorted out and ruined two receivers.
- The molding on the driver's window fell off.
You may be thinking that this situation is unusual; know that it is not. This information should serve as a great big red flag that warns you not to fall into the trap of thinking that the more you spend, the more you get. In some cases, just the opposite is true!
How Can Things Like This Happen?
The problem is that manufacturers these days are using low quality products that cannot stand the test of time and the rigors involved in driving.
They install rubber roofs, fiberglass laminated sidewalls and other products that lead to water intrusion because doing so saves them money while at the same time allowing them to charge top dollar for their products.
Their callous attitudes towards consumers causes expensive and sometimes impossible to repair issues such as delamination and wood rot which can destroy the basic structure of a coach.
Delamination and rot were not such issues years ago when units were built with wood or aluminum struts and the external walls and roofs were covered with aluminum, but today’s manufacturers have veered away from these techniques. In older coaches, regular caulking of seams eliminated leaks, but in coaches made with the newer methods there is simply no way to eliminate leaks.
You can blame these low-quality products on ineptness, apathy, lack of oversight or pure greed, but no matter the reason, this situation is real and every RV buyer needs to beware.
Is There Any Recourse?
How to Avoid RV Contract and Warranty Problems is a warning to all who purchase recreational vehicles. It is a definite "must read", because it explains how difficult (or impossible) it can be to get restitution if you are unfortunate enough to buy a motor home, trailer or camper that has serious structural or low quality material problems.
I actually met a couple that fell into this trap and is now stuck with a $250,000 diesel pusher that can neither be repaired, sold or properly used because of a major manufacturing design flaw. They paid an attorney $25,000 to help them get restitution, but the court would not even hear their argument, because the Lemon Law in their state did not apply to their case.
While this is the worst situation I have heard of, it is proof of what I am writing here, so let it be a lesson that if you want to avoid problems after purchasing an RV, you had better do your homework beforehand.
Where to Find Information That Will Help You to Avoid Problems
Now that I have given you a peek into the darker corners of RV ownership, hopefully you will understand why it is important for you to do some serious research on any coach you may think you want to purchase.
While doing this will not resolve every issue, it very likely will help you to make a better choice when it comes time to buy.
Here is what you need to do:
- Go online and look up the type, year, brand and model of the RV you are interested in buying in the NADA RV Price Guide. This will give you a basic idea of what you should pay.
- Read How to Know What an RV Is Worth to gain further insights about value.
- Take the time to check out online RV forums such as IRV2.com and Rv.net to see what they have to say about the product you wish to purchase.
- Make it a point to read the very telling information in this blog.
- Be sure to watch the video I have attached to this article.
- Get your hands on every piece of information you can find about the dealer, the manufacturers, the products used and the RVs that are of interest you and read all of it completely.
- Contact your states consumer protection agencies to see if there have been complaints about your potential purchase or its seller.
- Ask if your state has RV Lemon Laws in place. If so, make sure you get copies and read and completely understand them.
- Examine a coach thoroughly before you buy.
- Go to campgrounds and talk to people who actually own a coach similar to the one you are thinking of buying.
- Read online complaints to see if there have been some about your seller, manufacturer or travel unit.
- Never, ever trust the word of a sales person because he always will have a conflict of interest that will never be resolved in your favor.
- Never sign anything you have not read, fully understood and agreed to.
Be Careful When Purchasing Any RV
Clearly, taking the time to learn as much as possible about an RV and its manufacturer is the only way you can protect yourself.
Once you make your purchase, the coach and any applicable problems are yours, for better or for worse. This is why obtaining important information about structure, design, durability and quality trumps buying for “looks” or “hype” every time.
RV manufacturers only care about the bottom line, so be wary and do all you can to keep them from ripping you off.
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: We bought a forest river leprechaun coachman 2016 and it began leaking on both walls after 1 year of owning the unit. The dealer stated that it was not covered under the warranty to repair it even though we bought a 5 year warranty. How come dealers and manufacturers don’t cover roof leaks?
Answer: Unless there is a flaw in the construction of a coach, sellers are not liable for repairs. All coaches leak sooner or later. It is up to the buyer to inspect their units regularly for leaks and repair them quickly. The sooner, the better. Warranties are very clear about what they cover, so if yours does not include leaking roofs, it doesn't matter how many years the warranty is good for.
Question: What is your opinion on Tiffin RVs?
Answer: They have nice units. However, they have stopped doing free work for owners at the factory unless yours is less than five years old.
Question: What do you think of Casita, Scamp, Oliver; the fiberglass-shell trailers?
Answer: They all seem to be well made but are far too small to be comfortable. On the other hand, their small size offers many benefits. You need to think about the type of travel you intend to do. These units are good for very short trips, but I would never take one on a cross-country trip. You'd be surprised at how many people buy small units like these then quickly sell them for the very reason I just mentioned!
Question: I am thinking of buying a used 5th wheel RV. What can you tell me about an Alpenlite?
Answer: The manufacturer of this brand went out of business about 10 years ago. I have heard these are nice units, but getting parts could be a problem.
© 2016 Sondra Rochelle