Oh, the Horror! Stories of warped walls, water leaks, warranty issues, and maintenance problems seem to fill the world of RVs. Are you cringing at the thought of purchasing your first RV? How do you know what RV brand to buy and what RV brands to avoid?
Reviews and woeful tales of owning an RV can send you off the deep end with worry and concern about purchasing a recreational vehicle. These provide insight to RV ownership and can be useful guides to assist in your search.
Are you a first-time buyer? Or are you seeking guidance in another purchase? Here are a few suggestions to help you through the myriad of questions and concerns that you might have while searching for your RV and will help you with concerns and potential problems before making your final decision.
What You Need to Know Before You Go Shopping
No manufacturer can produce a ‘perfect’ RV. All recreational vehicles are comprised of thousands of components. The bigger the RV, the more components and more potential there is for something to go wrong. You can experience issues with all types of RVs, from entry-level travel trailers to luxury motorcoaches.
Does Price Equal Quality?
Most RV manufacturers want to attract buyers and offer a broad range of styles and designs with ‘something for everyone’ appealing to first time buyers in all price ranges.
The sizes, styles, features and the level of quality generally equal or reflect the prices of RVs however, not always. Although lower priced entry-level models have fewer features, they might not be lower quality, and vice versa. Higher priced, top-of-the-line models might not be of higher quality.
Construction vs Interior Features and Finishes
Quality of construction is not always reflective of the price either. Many high-end or high-priced RVs have poor quality construction. and many RVs that are built well but have poor quality interior finishes. On the other side of this, there are also many lower-priced RVs that are both well constructed and finished nicely inside and out.
What do You Like and How Much are You Willing to Pay for It?
Quality is a personal decision. High quality for me may not be the same for you. Ask yourself: “What is the best quality that you think you will be happy with for the amount of money you are willing to pay?” Look for what you like and what you are comfortable paying.
In most situations, I believe you ‘get what you pay for’ however, there are occasional discoveries of value at a reasonable price. Do your research and gather information
Check the Ratings and Read the Reviews
Read the reviews and look at the ratings with an open mind, knowing that they are one-sided opinions based on individual experiences and do not reflect the true quality or reliability of RV brands and manufacturers.
Reviews and ratings can be found from very unhappy owners venting their frustrations about the quality of construction and amazing service from the manufacturer of their beloved RV to very happy RV owners raving about the exact same brand and service.
Most negative reviews are written by the unhappy disgruntled owners who want to ‘vent’ their frustration about unpleasant experiences.
Are Accusations of Poor Quality and Worst Brands Valid?
In the minds of the owners who write the negative reviews, the complaints and accusations are valid. However, how realistic are the expectations of the owners? A negative review might be from an owner with the budget of a tent-trailer but high expectations and lofty dreams of a quality RV with features of a luxury motorcoach.
Dissatisfied owners quite often expect more than can be delivered by the manufacturer. On the other hand, some of their complaints might be reasonable and should be taken into consideration.
Beware of Expert Marketing Techniques
Good reviews and high ratings should be read with a bit of curiosity as well as caution. If you see only good reviews and high ratings with few or no negative reviews, be suspicious.
Reviews and ratings are often used as marketing strategies. Knowing that most people read only the first few reviews, the negative and low-rated reviews are either not shown or are filtered to the bottom of the list leaving only good and top-rated reviews visible.
In addition, beware of marketing techniques that lead you to believe the popularity of brand names and don’t necessarily portray the truth about the quality of an RV. Larger manufacturers spend more money on advertising and rely on name recognition. Smaller and lesser-known manufacturers may spend money on higher quality parts instead of advertising.
Popularity does not reflect value. Many of the ‘popular’ RV brands are priced for entry-level purchases, so more people can afford them. You see them in a lot of advertising and recognize them on the road. Price and popularity do not always equal quality and reliability.
Small Production vs Large Production
Small production manufacturers offer fewer models and designs and can build their RVs with more care and attention to detail. Since they have fewer units to produce, these manufacturers generally have a reputation for quality control.
Large production manufacturers offering extensive choices of models and designs, potentially have less quality control, giving less attention to detail while focusing on higher production and advertising.
What about those Horror Stories and Tales of Woe? Are They true?
Whether or not horror stories and tales of woe are true is a matter of opinion. Are they valid? Perhaps. In my experience, most stories and tales of woe become tall tales over time. Most are exaggerated and become enhanced with the telling of them.
There are, however, a few items that are consistently mentioned in reviews and comments and deserve consideration. These items and complaints, which include leaks, warranty issues, and service maintenance, are are not limited to any one RV brand.
Leaks Seem to be the Most Prevalent Issue and Biggest Concern
Most leaks are caused by poorly sealed roofs, windows, and vents. It is advised to be pro-active and check the seals on your RV before any problems arise. Have them checked upon delivery and consider re-sealing, especially the roofline, windows, and vents. Better to be safe than sorry.
Warranty Issues are Also Prevalent
Warranties vary with each manufacturer and should be considered carefully. Have you had warranty issues with other products? Most complaints about warranty issues appear to be a misunderstanding of the coverage.
Make sure you understand what is covered and what is not. The type of coverage offered could be a deal-breaker when comparing different RVs brands.
Service Maintenance is another Major Complaint
This is more of an issue with dealerships and service centers rather than RV brands. Understand your warranty and be familiar with the services covered. My advice is to shop dealerships as well as RV brands and models. Some RV dealerships offer a variety of brands.
Find a dealership you are comfortable with and build a rapport with them. A happy RV experience will include a friendly dealership and service center.
Stay ahead of maintenance and repairs by checking things out yourself. It is good to be a bit of a handy-man and take care of some of the smaller issues yourself before expecting your warranty to cover everything.
What You See is What You Get – or Is It?
Inspect the RV models on display thoroughly while you are shopping. Look at the ‘fit and finish’ of display coaches. How well are they done? If the quality and finish of the display models are not done well, what are the finished products going to be like?
Be sure to inspect your RV thoroughly upon delivery as well. Look beyond the glitz and glamor. Look at everything. Make a list of things you see that aren’t right and have them corrected.
You might still find defects and experience failures so with a previous inspection list, you have a record of pre-existing conditions or situations if an issue arises after you have taken possession.
When shopping for RVs, consider used or pre-owned vehicles which might be more affordable and you might be able to upgrade your purchase to a larger or higher quality brand.
Looking at used and pre-owned RVs also gives you an insight into durability and how different brands hold up during use. Not all wear and tear will reflect construction or quality, as much will depend on owner care and use (or abuse).
If you have no previous experience with RVs these suggestions and guidelines will also help you in searching for used or pre-owned RVs.
Rent Before You Buy
Consider renting an RV before purchasing or even shopping. Renting an RV gives you a hands-on experience as well as an opportunity to determine what you want and what RV brands or manufacturers you might want to avoid. Try out different types, styles, floorplans, and features, then go shopping.
What Should You Avoid?
Avoid making your RV shopping and buying experience stressful. Shopping for an RV can be overwhelming. Instead of concerning yourself with RV brands you should be avoiding, look for what you want in your RV and have fun.
Purchasing an RV is an investment. Some RVs cost as much or more than the average house and just as buying a house – a costly step. You want to be certain you are making the best, or right, choice for you and getting the most for your money.
Caution is certainly advised when purchasing your RV. However, in my opinion, there are no RV brands to avoid. There are no worst or best. All brands of RVs have good and bad reviews. All manufacturers have high quality and poor quality models.
Whether you purchase a new or used RV, follow these guidelines during your search, final decision, and purchase. In the end, your camping and traveling experiences will be more satisfying and more fun, having made your decision with confidence.