By Chuck Woodbury, editor
Experienced RVers agree: Do your homework before buying an RV. By all means, do not buy the first RV you see or buy on impulse.
It’s 2016 and RV manufacturers are cranking out RVs faster than ever, more than 400,000 new models will be sold this year — an all-time record. In way too many cases, those RVs are leaving the production line with serious problems. The general thinking among RVers is that if you buy “new,” expect to spend some time in the shop later getting production mistakes fixed.
RV dealers these days are often so overbooked and overworked that they don’t fix things right. In some cases, their technicians are downright incompetent, frequently due to a severe shortage of qualified help. It may take a dealer a month or two (or even longer) to get an RV into the shop, and then, even after pronouncing the RV fixed, only have the owner drive away to then discover the problem still exists. This situation is epidemic.
That’s why many RVers are buying low-mileage used units, where the bugs have (hopefully) been worked out.
So what to do?
First, new buyers should spend a lot of time browsing the Internet for information about vehicles, manufacturers and dealers. Soak up as much information as possible. If it’s RV show season (Fall and Spring, mostly), by all means attend a show and compare models. Visit RV dealerships, but vow not to buy on impulse. Just look. Pick up literature.
Perhaps most important is to check with other RVers about their experiences with an RV model the new buyer is considering. Once they settle on a particular RV, they need to find the best place to buy it. Many dealers really do care about their customers. But, sadly, many do not. They care about the sale: What happens later doesn’t matter.
Two valuable online resources are worth checking for clues about an RV dealer’s reputation. First, check with the Better Business Bureau to see a dealer’s rating. If it’s not A or A+, consider looking elsewhere. I’d avoid doing business with a dealer that is not a member of the BBB.
Another source is PissedConsumer.com. This is where consumers let off steam. Be aware that what you read here are one-sided accounts: The person complaining may have a chip on his or her shoulder or simply be a chronic complainer. Still, if you read countless complaints, all posted recently, then be cautious when dealing with the business in question. Here are a few RV dealers with a substantial number of comments:
Keep in mind, the larger the dealership, the greater the chance that some customers will not be happy. It’s impossible, after all, to please everyone and typically those who feel they’ve been wronged scream the loudest even when they’re at fault, not the business.
If you want to dig deeper, contact the state Attorney General’s office where the business is located. This is also where to go if you believe you have a victim of fraud or other illegal business practices.
Finally, there is no Consumer Reports for RVs. Some websites claim to be, but we cannot recommend any as comprehensive, credible buying resources.