By Russ and Tiña De Maris
While it seems like the RV manufacturing industry is having a bang-up sales year, not everyone is cheering. There’s an undercurrent of folks who aren’t always happy with the quality of their new, spendy purchases. Would you buy a new RV? A couple of comments from readers speak volumes.
“They tell it like it is”
First, Bill G. tells us about his recent experience on an RV dealer’s lot. Bill took his travel trailer in for recall work (there’s a whole ‘nother story!) and had time for looking around, and a little gab. “I had heard about empty dealer lots, but that was not the case at this dealership. Units were packed and stacked,” writes Bill in an e-mail.
Since the service work Bill needed was not time-consuming, Bill stuck around as the RV technician did the job. “Gotta love those service techs,” he recalls. “They tell it like it is. Without prompting, he started complaining about how bad the new units are.” Interestingly, the complaint didn’t focus on specific “build” issues. “He [the technician] said that they spend an hour just cleaning them up on the inside, as the manufacturers don’t bother to pick up excess wire, wood, or vacuum out wood shavings and other debris.”
What was it your grandpappy told you? You can tell a lot about the quality of the work by the pride the workman takes in his product. If the manufacturer, much less the individual line workers, aren’t interested enough in making their finished product look presentable, what about things that you don’t see? Wiring, plumbing, framing? Maybe Bill has the same viewpoint. Buy a new RV, Bill? He closes his writing to us with this observation: “No way am I buying a new camper right now.”
$140,000 unit – dash electronics ripped out
So what if your current RV no longer meets your needs? Are you stuck in a situation where you must buy a new RV now? Major H. and his wife have “been in the market” for an RV for two years. “As a first-time buyer it was important to us that whatever we got into, that it would have very few issues,” Major wrote. He didn’t want the experience of some he knew. “We had a few friends that bought brand-new over the last couple years and have watched them wait for parts that aren’t coming or recalls that can’t be fixed due to supply line issues, or manufacturers just not caring.”
A visit to a Camping World dealership was pretty revealing for the couple. Major recalls, “They tried to sell us a rig for $140,000 with all the electronics in the dash ripped out. They said they probably needed it for another rig. That made zero sense. Even the salesperson had a hard time accepting that they would take perfectly working electronics from one RV for another.” Was their disillusionment solely with Camping World? “Almost all of the dealerships we went to were trying to sell garbage because the market was hot.”
Shopped hard and found what they needed
For Major, buying a new RV just simply wasn’t in the cards. Still, they wanted into the RV lifestyle, so they shopped hard for a used RV. In the end, they found a 2006 Holiday Rambler motorhome. Of course, a used rig is just that. “We had to put a little into our used rig,” Major tells us. “New tires and new house batteries were first on the list. Cleaning the tanks and sensors and lubricating slide outs and seals came next. Beyond that, little things, like repairing a couple of blinds and making sure the chassis was good to go was all we needed to do.”
If you have to fix it anyway, why buy new?
Is that too much work? Major answers: “Overall the reason we chose used was because if I’m going to have to fix some things then why would I buy new? New should mean everything working and quality control checks should be done prior to leaving the factory. I understand that perfection is a lot to ask for but at $100,000 or more, I expect a much smoother and worry-free unit.”
The same is true for our family. When we determined we’d move full-time into an RV, we scoured our part of the planet. We, too, subscribed to an axiom that Major had heard: “Anything made prior to 2009 was of much better quality than anything newer.” We ended up, too, with a Holiday Rambler – a travel trailer. Yes, we had to put some sweat equity into the rig, and a financial investment as well. But we know where the “bugs” are in our rig and, all in all, I think we’re a lot happier than if we bought into the pitch of “Buy a new RV.” What’s more, we don’t have an RV payment hanging over our heads.
We’d love to hear your thoughts. Use the form below, and please put “Buy new or used” on the subject line.