I have had a great deal of experience both buying and selling RVs and think people should understand the mechanics of doing these things.
If you are in the market for an RV or want to trade one, the best advice you will ever receive is to never trust any dealership, regardless of how credible it may seem to be. If you think they play fair, it is time for a wake-up call!
Salespeople want you to think that they have your best interests at heart, but all they really care about is getting their hands on your money. Once they get it, you're on your own!
This is true of most businesses, but the difference is that
- the amounts involved in these situations are generally huge,
- the products are often shoddily made and
- the information given to consumers is at best minimal and at worst, fraudulent.
Sellers will tell you anything to get you to buy. Once you do, the financial and legal issues you face can be substantial and even life altering. I have no problem with businesses making a fair profit, but I have a big one when they put people's lives and financial well-being in danger.
Hopefully you will keep this in mind the next time you visit one of their facilities.
Sellers who use underhanded methods (and there are many of them) cause all sorts of problems for consumers. One would think that with prices being so high, people could feel secure in their purchases, but this simply is not true.
Recently, a salesperson told someone who had purchased a $200,000 coach who was complaining about issues he was having that for that "small amount" he should have expected things to break and/or need repairs.
The truth is that no matter how much a travel unit costs, it’s going to have problems. I have met people who have spent a fortune on their coaches only to see their
- windows fall out,
- engines break down,
- floor joists collapse,
- slide rooms fail,
- electronics break,
- and more,
sometimes within a week or two after purchase.
How Dealerships Protect Themselves from Financial Losses and Law Suits
Consumers, of course, don’t think such things can happen. They assume that if a problem does occur, state lemon laws, as well as their contracts and warranties, will protect them.
This simply is not true in most cases for two reasons:
- RV lemon laws are almost non-existent.
- Dealers use sneaky methods to manipulate people into signing their rights away.
How Sellers Cheat Their Customers
It is common for RV salespeople to treat potential buyers like royalty until they make their purchase. They make all sorts of promises about repairs they will do, upgrades they will provide and extras they will add on after the sale is completed. However, once they have a customer’s money, all of that is forgotten.
When people complain, sales managers explain to them that nothing in the contract supports what they were told, and it’s the signed agreement that is legal, not the ramblings of some sales person!
Dealers get away with this fraudulent behavior because they hide clauses within sales contracts that make people sign certain important rights away and know that this, while unethical, is legal to do.
You can find more information about this in How to Avoid RV Contract and Warranty Problems.
What Rights Can You Lose When You Sign?
While not all dealerships hide such wording in their contracts, many do.
When this happens, consumers can give up their rights to
- ever file suit against the dealership and/or
- accept shorter statutes of limitations on their warranties than those that they were originally offered.
In the first case, they are denying themselves to take a lying, fraudulent dealer to court when obvious major problems occur. In the second, they can easily reduce a warranty period from five years to one.
Either one of these rights can lead to serious financial problems for buyers, but they soon find there isn’t much they can do about them. If a dealer will not help them, and the courts won’t either, they simply have no recourse, even when they are in the right!
That one-year warranty won’t help much, either.
Why Won’t a Warranty Protect Buyers?
If you understand how RV warranties work, you know why they are almost useless. Here’s how the game is played:
- A customer can make an appointment for warranty repairs, but he may have to wait months before he can take his coach in.
- The dealership might or might not make a few minor repairs, but will tell the customer his RV has been fixed.
- When the customer discovers that nothing or very little has been fixed, he calls for another appointment, and the cycle repeats itself.
- This continues until the warranty period ends.
- So if the time limit is short, the dealer can stall endlessly until it no longer costs him money to do the repairs.
- After that, the buyer must pay.
- He may decide to take his coach to the manufacturer, but RV parts come from many companies, not just one, and each has its own warranty.
This puts the onus on the buyer to find each company and then make contact to see if they will do the necessary repairs for free. It’s a time-consuming and difficult task that may or may not fix people’s problems!
What About Those Lemon Laws?
RV Buyers naturally assume that those Lemon Laws they've heard so much about over the years will protect them in the event of serious problems.
In many cases, they won't, and here’s why:
- Not all states have included recreational vehicles in their consumer protections, and those that do have created loopholes dealers and manufacturers use to their benefit. They rarely, if ever, will take a damaged RV back from an unhappy buyer!
- The wording of such laws states that once a consumer whose coach is under warranty has taken his unit back to the dealer or manufacturer a "reasonable" number of times, he can be entitled to exchange it for a different one.
- That all sounds good, but the word "reasonable" has never been defined. Thus sellers will keep buyers coming back repeatedly over very long periods of time until their warranty time has ended, but are not legally obligated to take a damaged coach back in the meantime, regardless of how bad or obvious the issue.
Thus trying to file a lawsuit is a waste of time.
How to Protect Yourself
If you want to lower your risks for falling prey to these types of unethical behaviors, here is a list of things you can do that will help:
- 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 a dealer.
- 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.
- Comparison shop.
- Read online RV forums to see what problems owners have had with the type of coach you are thinking of purchasing.
- Go to campgrounds and talk to people who actually own a coach similar to the one you are thinking of buying.
- Read online complaints on sites such as RipoffReport.com to see if there have been some about your seller, manufacturer or travel unit.
- Never, ever trust the word of a salesperson because he always will have a conflict of interest that will never be resolved in your favor.
- Never sign anything you have not read and agree to.
It is up to you and you alone to be careful.
Never, Ever Trust an RV Dealership
Remember what has been written here if you are planning on buying or trading in an RV at a dealership.
You can’t trust RV Dealerships. The only person you can trust is yourself.
Therefore, it’s up to you to do whatever you can to avoid being cheated, lied to and manipulated.
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.
© 2016 Sondra Rochelle
Sondra Rochelle (author) from USA on March 27, 2018:
Linda Pingel: I just did some quick research about your issue and discovered that the best way to eliminate the formaldehyde odor is to take all of your belongings and eating utensils out of your coach, close it up, turn on very high heat and leave it on for several days and then air it out for several days. This will force the formaldehyde gasses out of your walls, etc. You can find more detailed info by searching "formaldehyde in RVs" on the net. I could not find anything about the ethyl alcohol issue, but perhaps you can contact the Sierra club for help on that one.
Sondra Rochelle (author) from USA on March 27, 2018:
Linda Pingel: I am so sorry to hear this. It would be a very good idea to open all doors and windows for a few days if you can, put the fans on and air the unit out. This might get rid of those odors. I have seen this type of situation in new mobile homes, but air and time usually dissipate those odors. By all means wear a protective mask when you enter this unit until you are certain you've gotten rid of the problem. Unfortunately, there are very few lemon laws that will protect you (depending on the state you're in). Do some research to see if your state has any. I know a couple that paid a lawyer $25,000 to sue for a faulty slide room only to have the case thrown out of court before it even got heard because their state had no RV lemon laws! Good Luck!
Linda Pingel on March 27, 2018:
We are going through the very same thing as described in this article right now.
Formaldehyde and ethyl alcohol exposure in brand new motorhome. I was in the emergency room three different occasions, two during the first trip and once when we got home. The Company and also the Dealer refuse to speak with us.