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.
- Some of the workers are skilled, but others not so much.
- Several 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.
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
Sondra Rochelle (author) from USA on January 12, 2020:
I'm so sorry to hear that this happened to you, but I am not surprised. I doubt you'll get much satisfaction because Lemon Laws are either nonexistent or minimal for RVs in most states. It would be hard to prove that the damage existed at the point of purchase, and litigation costs could be phenomenal. I wish you the best and do hope you'll keep me informed. The truth is that this may not actually be the result of a manufacturing problem, which makes things even worse. Best of Luck.
Bill Price 100 on January 12, 2020:
This article is relevant to anyone thinking of purchasing a new or used RV. I have owned an RV for most of my adult life. In October, 2019, I purchased a very nice looking 2016 Jayco Greyhawk motor home. I just recently discovered a soft spot in the floor. Looking into this issue further, I have extensive damage to both the motor home floor as well as the passenger slide floor caused from water leaking into the slide and traveling to the inside of the RV. The leak was such that once inside, it ran under the slide and under the flooring undetected. The damage is incredible and must be repaired for the RV to be enjoyed. Initial contact with Jayco was a disappointing “out of warranty” response. I am hoping this position will be reconsidered once they review pictures that reveal the extensive damage. The degree of damage seems to indicate the leak has been present from the start. Clearly the first purchaser of this RV dumped a known issue and I was the lucky recipient. At this point I am taking the hit. I hope there will be some factory help and will keep you informed as to the outcome.
Sondra Rochelle (author) from USA on December 29, 2019:
You definitely need something with a diesel engine. Some can go upwards of 300,000 miles. Buy one that is previously owned as some of the newer ones are expensive but very poorly made. Best way to find out is to look at a few and then do a search such as "complaints about ___________". That will give you a good idea as to what's out there. Good Luck.
Erwin lockridge on December 28, 2019:
I was considering using a small class b for a pilot vehicle. This would involve 100,000 miles per year. Which models do you think can handle that much travel. I just don't want to get stuck with something that just falls apart.
Sondra Rochelle (author) from USA on September 28, 2019:
Bear in mind that many consumers have no idea about what they need to look for when RV shopping. This is one of the reasons I write articles like this. People need to educate themselves because if they don't, it can really cost them.
Riley Jackson on September 28, 2019:
My observation of the current state of RV build quality falls directly on the consumer. Many years ago, trailers were inexpensive, and RVs were relatively pricey. Then, a few RV companies started using cheaper materials, to compete with high quality manufacturers. Consumers flocked to these cheaper platforms, and most of the more expensive coaches disappeared. Fast forward 30 years, and even the more pricey coaches have shoddy workmanship. Consumers have only themselves to blame
Sondra Rochelle (author) from USA on September 24, 2019:
Everybody's experience is different. Obviously you work in a plant where there is care. However, I suggest you go onto some of the RV owner blogs and read some of the horrific experiences people have had after purchasing a coach, even a new one. I've met some of these people myself, and I really feel for them. People don't care where the parts are built, they only know that the unit they purchase has flaws, and they look to the manufacturer to correct them. It's a catch 22, and you are right, people need to maintain their units and many do not. BUT, when you hear of windows falling out of units and incorrect airbags being built into units, it's hard to feel good about a manufacturer. I, however, appreciate your views.
Mac1968 on September 24, 2019:
Here is what gets me.i have been in the RV industry for over 20 years and have done everything thing from sweeping the floor to running a facility. I have read several blogs and different sites that states the manufacturer doesn't care we do as long as you have done your maintaining of your unit. This is a home on wheels don't believe me put a go pro in the unit and take it one short drive and see. The units are built to twist and flex,and yes you will have loose trim and screws and sometimes a loose water connection it will happen.the other thing that sticks in my crawl is everyone seems to think everything is built at the factory it is not.what is built the RV manufacturer is the box slide rooms cabinets and maybe the countertops the rest is purchased and installed air-conditioning furnaces refrigerator water heaters lights TV radios furniture all are bought believe it or not we as manufactures get just as mad as you as a consumer. If you are having a issue call your manufacturer have a civil conversation about the problems I am sure you can get help.
Sondra Rochelle (author) from USA on September 24, 2019:
Although this comment is a bit off topic, you make some good points. However, you should be mindful of the fact that your coach is 15 years old. The newer ones often aren't built as well.
Titan7077 on September 23, 2019:
I have bought 3 different jayco campers 2 fifth wheels and a class a ..only reason was i needed more living space....have had my 2003 class a for for 15 years never had a problem with my jaycos....but u always have to maintaince your camper ...inspection of roof ..cleaning .inspectors for leaks very often before it does become a problem ...in my opinion buy a Jayco
Sondra Rochelle (author) from USA on August 19, 2019:
I've never heard of them.
Robert Murrah on August 03, 2019:
I don't see much information on Innsbruck travel trailers made by Gulf Stream. Any info would help.
Are they well made?
Sondra Rochelle (author) from USA on May 18, 2019:
Wow...sounds like you've got a real job on your hands. Can't say if the problems are due to mfg issues but am guessing that the previous owner did not keep this unit properly sealed. You need to be careful about weight, so am not sure if Marine flooring will work. I do know that most RVs are made with plywood floors that are covered with filon and and then covered with carpet or hard flooring. Hard flooring is best as far as I'm concerned. Stay away from rubber roofs...use aluminum for both roof and siding and then cover with full body paint. Before you do anything, make sure to eliminate every inch of mold and mildew and make sure to seal everything once you finish the job. If you had to pay for this work it would cost you a fortune, and it still won't be cheap if you use good materials, but I wish you the best. Let me know how it turns out.
Gideon J Joubert on May 18, 2019:
I bought a 2002 Keystone Zeppelin Z241 in 2017. It looked nice and the owner said it never leaked water. It is kept indoors at my house but I noticed a crack in the roof. On inspection to repair it I saw that the roof was rotten from previous leaks. I started to inspect it more closely and started to strip it to do the repairs. As I went along I found mold in the walls and floor. The floor had many layers of floor covering. First the original styrofoam with linolin. Then sone kind of a mdf material was added. After that plywood and the hardwood and carpet over the hardwood in bedroom area. All layers were totally rotten in the front corners up to 6 foot into the travel trailer center. I have now removed all interior fixes, taken off the front frame. Will remove the complete roof and side frame to put a new floor on the frame and then rebuild the complete unit. I plan to use 1 inch marine ply for the floor and out a good sealing material on both sides of it. Current rotten floor is styrofoam as well as styrofoam (delaminated fibreglass) walls. Frame is aliminum. I will make the side walls 18 inches higher to accommodate a higher interior space. Currently about 6ft 4 inches. It had a rubber roof. Question is the following. Is a 1 inch marine ply floor good? What will the best siding be? I noticed a person can buy filon that you can bond onto plywood to give you a new fibreglass siding. What will the best roof be? I see they mention fibreglass, rubber IR aluminum. As this is a complete rebuild I would like to do it with the best possible materials that can last for many years I am looking forward to your good advice. Thank you.
Sondra Rochelle (author) from USA on April 29, 2019:
I like Newmar products. They are well built and nicely designed. Some of the older models, though, have rubber roofs, which can be problematic to own.
Kcg408 on April 29, 2019:
Great article. What do you think of Newmar?
Sondra Rochelle (author) from USA on February 11, 2019:
Brands I have always liked are the older, more established ones but the problem is that many companies have been bought out, so it's hard to say. Also, each brand has different levels of quality. You really need to physically go and look at units, checking things such as quality of hardware, wood and upholstery, type of exterior wall and roofing materials, etc. There are huge differences among them, and the better the quality, the more likely a coach is going to do well. As for brands, I have always liked Holiday Rambler, Thor and Safari among others.
Randy1520 on February 10, 2019:
Looking to purchase toy hauler 25ft. What brand do you recommend