We all have our “must-have” lists when purchasing a big-ticket item. We use these lists because they help narrow down our choices when, say, buying an RV. You may not want the same features on your RV that I do. That’s okay. Everyone is different. But one feature that all RV owners will undoubtedly want (and need eventually) is a good service department. Is that “must-have” on your list? It should be!
Great service by default
We’ve owned four different fifth-wheel RVs over the past several years. Our local RV dealer is not owned by a big-name national behemoth. Rather, it’s a mid-size family business and they’ve taken good care of our service needs. How did we choose our dealer and their service department? By default, really. They were the closest store to our stix-n-brix home and seemed to have a good reputation in our community. We knew friends who’d purchased an RV and had service done there and recommended the dealership.
What we didn’t know at the time we purchased our first RV was how important the service department would be. Now we know and are so grateful to have “happened” upon what seems to be a rarity in the world of RV repairs and maintenance. Because of the huge boom in the RV industry lately, there just aren’t enough qualified technicians to service all of the RVs out there these days. Many dealers (like ours) have had to limit their service only to those rigs that were purchased off their own lot. Since we bought a new RV from this dealership in the past, they have graciously agreed to continue servicing our current rig which we purchased from a private owner.
Finding a great service department
I don’t recommend “hoping” you’ll “just happen” to find a decent service department. Here’s what I do recommend:
- Service bays. Check to see how many service bays the dealership has on-site. This will give you an idea of how many RVs can be serviced at a time. Theoretically, the more service bays, the greater the chance you’ll have less of a wait to get your RV serviced. Don’t base your choice solely on the number of service bays though. We’ve all heard the service horror stories from some of the largest dealerships in the RV industry. And the stories really are a horror!
- Certified mechanics. Ask how many certified technicians the dealership has on staff. Look for service technicians who have an RVIA Master Certification, other RV certification, and/or have several years of experience working on RVs like yours.
- Years of operation. Ask how long the company has offered repair/maintenance services. Experience in the RV service industry can help reassure you (though not guarantee) that repairs and scheduled maintenance will be done correctly.
- Days/hours of operation. Will the service center be available when it’s most convenient for you? Are weekend appointments possible? How late can you pick up your rig in the evenings? All are important questions to ask.
- Approximate appointment wait times. Many dealerships are months behind in their service department. The problem? Too many RVs and not enough good techs to work on them. Great service may require that you wait weeks or even months for repairs or scheduled maintenance. Ask about this.
- Services available. What services can be performed? For example, will the shop replace tires on your rig? Do they do their own bodywork, or do they have other vendors for this? Can/will they perform yearly maintenance? Do they handle warranty issues?
- Costs. Find out the hourly work rate that the shop follows. Compare the hourly price with other shops you’re considering. (Remember: The cheapest shop isn’t necessarily the best or the worst.) Get an idea of yearly costs by asking questions like: What is the cost for a pre-trip systems check? What RV systems need a yearly review?
- Communication. Can you phone or email a technician with a question, enabling you to troubleshoot issues on your own? Are charges itemized on the repair bill? Will the technician call you for authorization before working on your rig after diagnosing the problem? What happens if you are not satisfied with the work? When you phone the service department will you talk to a real person or leave a message on an answering machine? When you pick up your rig, will the technician go over the service fix to show you what’s been done?
- Personal reviews. Always check any online reviews to see how actual folks rated the work done on their RVs. Ask around, as well. A personal recommendation can mean a lot when making the important choice of where you’ll take your RV for maintenance and/or repair service.
You don’t always have a choice about who will work on your RV, especially if you break down on the road. But when you do have a choice, do all you can to ensure that you choose wisely.