Got a Lemon RV? Help is available (sometimes)

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By Deanna Tolliver
Associate Editor

Do you think your RV may be a lemon? If you bought a new RV and you’ve taken it back to the dealer or manufacturer for numerous repairs and it’s STILL not fixed, you may, in fact, have a lemon RV. 

Discussions among RVers about the quality of RV construction generally lead to the same conclusion: Manufacturers are sending many substandard units out their doors these days. Why? One possibility is that production is being rushed at an unprecedented rate. Over the past five years, RV production has almost doubled (285,749 in 2012 vs. 504,599 in 2017, per the RV Industry Association). 

RV quality is also likely affected by the shortage of skilled workers to produce them. Unemployment in Elkhart, Indiana, the “mothership” of RV manufacturers, is around 3 percent. Ten years ago, it was 20 percent. “Help Wanted” posters compete with each other at busy corner intersections. Workers at RV manufacturing plants receive bonuses of $500, $1,000 or more if they remain on the job three months or longer. Kyle Hannan, with the Elkhart Chamber of Commerce said, “You never want to say there’s anything bad about the lowest unemployment rate in the state and there’s not, but the challenge is finding enough qualified workers.”

A rush to produce more RVs and possibly unqualified workers to make them? Sounds like a bad combination that can only make RV buyers unhappy with their new homes-on-wheels. The dreams of happy road trips leading to fun-filled destinations are turned into frustrating nightmares. Instead of sitting by the lake around the campfire, you find yourself sitting on the shoulder of the road or in an RV repair parking lot.


Over the next few weeks, RVtravel.com will be examining the world of lemon RVs, and what options for help you may have if you own one.

The law is apparently on your side. There are Lemon Laws in all 50 states (Click here for a state-by-state summary), as well as a Federal Law, called the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, passed in 1975. The purpose of these state and federal laws is to protect the consumer from deceptive warranty practices. But what must have occurred in your interactions with the dealer/manufacturer varies greatly from state to state. 

For comparison, if you bought an RV in Iowa, the Lemon Law is a little vague: “Reasonable number of repair chances or a reasonable amount of time to complete repair during warranty.” Other states’ laws are more specific. In Minnesota: “Four unsuccessful repairs or 30 business days or one unsuccessful repair of total braking or steering loss likely to cause death or serious bodily injury within shorter of two years of warranty. Chassis only.”

The Federal Law does not require any product to have a warranty; its purpose is to ensure that if a business/manufacturer warranties its product, the warranty must comply with this law.

And if that sounds like lawyer-speak to you, don’t feel alone. Next week we’ll give you some ideas on how to pursue legal action to help resolve your Lemon RV problems, as well as show you the RVs most commonly involved in Lemon Law cases.

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J Cherry
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J Cherry

My husband and I just spent a week in the Tiffin Service Center Parking Lot. We were one of the lucky ones. We needed a few minor repairs and then some valves changed out re the suspension. Our unit is 2011 Allegro Bus. We researched and researched before we bought our “use” unit. It’s been wonderful and we love it. I met a lot of people who have bought a 2018 unit from Tiffin. It makes me very sad to say that they are not happy and the quality has gone down hill. One guys said his 2014 was built… Read more »

Rush Songer
Guest
Rush Songer

We had a 2014 Keystone Cougar, It had electrical issues. You cut the light on in the bathroom and it froze the picture on the TV. When you cut the light off the TV would go black then reset to present on screen. There where 11 electrical receptacles on one 20 amp breaker. Keystone said it met the Electrical codes of today. Exterior Walls were detaching from unit. Grey water tank split on top and leaked.

Booneyrat
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Booneyrat

Stay away from Grand Design as it seems since Winnebago took them over,they have cut corners on quality control…I found out the hard way.

Donna L Williams
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Donna L Williams

So pleased you are discussing this. Have a new Roadtrek zion SRT on a Ram promaster chassis that has been in various repair shops for over 5 months. Fuel filling problem. Part of the issue is finding Ram promaster service shops that will work on RV conversions. Had to go 100 miles from my home. If not repaired this time will have to try the lemon law process.

Edward Price
Guest
Edward Price

Here’s a crash course in Lemon Laws and how they apply to the special case of an RV. Steve Lehto specializes in Michigan consumer law and has a number of YouTube videos that speak directly to understanding the State and Federal Lemon Laws, and has published several videos that deal directly with RV’s. Learn what Lemon Laws are, what they cover, and why RV’s are generally NOT covered by those laws. Check out these episodes; the first two are RV specific and most important to us (play them a few times, you will learn so much): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IP_u2JR51_Y https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TYIuCaWP_TU https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z_zP76mIODI https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ONg61qywl5w… Read more »

Thomas
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Thomas

Anybody besides me have significant multiple problems with Mercedes sprinter based RV?

Colin Grant
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Colin Grant

Look at Sprinter Source Forum for answers to problems. The later models have problems with the exhaust system and parts are expensive. They all need regular oil changes at more frequent miles than they claim. The older T1N model is less complicated and very reliable. I have a 2006.

Revbucco
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Revbucco

I had my 5th Wheel for less than a week when I discovered Water coming out from my underbelly. Came to find out that the RV dealer had removed one of my holding tanks To repair another RV that had been returned for repairs. The dealer then replaced my holding tank with a smaller one that was not designed to be in my RV. It was further complicated by the fact that they did not even strap it in so that it would stay in place. This dealer has many different locations scattered across the country, and at the time… Read more »

Shannon
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Shannon

I look forward to more on this topic. So far we’ve been lucky. We’ve purchased 3 brand new RVs over the years and haven’t experienced any catastrophic failures (yet). But we’ve had numerous annoying issues that took way too long to fix or should never have occurred in the first place. It makes us leery of ever buying another new RV.

Dick and Sandy
Guest
Dick and Sandy

The Lemon Laws in many states concerning RV’s, DOES NOT cover the LIVING QUARTERS of the RV. And the LIVING QUARTERS of the RV is where most of the problems persist. That leaves few if any options of many state RV Lemon Laws to help the RV owners.

Dave
Guest
Dave

There is another variable in completing repairs successfully. There are many high volume dealers that don’t have the service expertise to do the repair, so they do a bandaid repair. Then your back in a week with the same issue.
The same high volume dealers “service department” mainly supports the sales department getting new units out the door ASAP – actual repairs are put on hold for possibly months.