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Marketing ploy draws eyes to RV’s bells and whistles, distracts from asking important questions

Just like most folks at the gigantic regional RV show, we had stars in our eyes. Those stars blocked our view, I guess. Or at least they caused our common sense to blur a bit. How is it that when spending tens of thousands of dollars on an RV, our main concern is the bell-and-whistle items that honestly don’t add all that much to the actual RVing experience?

Uninformed consumers

Here’s what I mean: Instead of looking closely at (or asking a manufacturer’s rep) how the cabinets are put together, we took note of the fashionable handle pulls and the cabinets’ soft close feature. Are the cabinet boxes simply glued together or are nails and screws involved? I wish we would have asked. Rather than inquiring about the grade of carpet used in the RVs and if any carpeted area had an underlaying carpet pad, we allowed ourselves to be blown away with the up-to-date color and style.

While watching in awe at how easily the company rep opened and closed the hide-a-bed, we failed to ask if there was any kind of warranty on the sofa’s fabric. The questions, “Will the fabric fade easily?” or “What recourse do we have if the ‘pleather’ peels or chips?” never passed through our lips. Yep! Stars in our eyes for sure! Well, that was several years ago, and I hope we are a bit more informed as customers now.

Not again!

It happens so easily. Walking through RV after RV at a local RV dealer recently, we once again began to take note of the different floor plans and the flashy “extras” like a wine cabinet or integrated cell phone charging stations. Suddenly the actual idea of camping is once more out the window and instead, we’re arguing the benefits of granite versus solid surface countertops. When we’re out in nature, will countertops still matter? We’ve never been wine drinkers, so why does the wine rack impress us? See?! It’s happening to us again!

Marketing ploy

Marketing, people. It’s all about marketing. RV manufacturers know that bells and whistles help to sell RVs. Gone are the days of a basic, well-built, functional RV. Now it’s all about exotic finishes, electronic accessories, and all of the comforts of home—all of them!

Sticker shock

And then there’s the cost. Wowza! How do folks afford these costly rigs? When did we make the leap from thinking a tent with an attached floor was absolute luxury, all the way to demanding a king-sized bed? Things have changed since we were younger, haven’t they? RV companies have changed, as well. I wonder if the latest surge in RV purchases and the manufacturers’ push to crank out more and more units will continue to result in lots of bells and whistles but poorly constructed RVs. I wonder what the future holds for both the makers and the consumers in the recreational industry. Do you wonder too?

Related:

Heading for Tampa or another winter RV show? Here are a few warnings to consider

Finding the “perfect” RV requires a shift in perspective

##RVT1035

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Vincee
4 days ago

Well as far as warranty questions go, we all know how crappy the RV industry as a whole warrants their RVs. Also, unlike the automotive industry where the vehicle manufacturer warrants the whole vehicle, the RV industry has the nasty habit of letting each separately manufactured item/device in your rig be separately warranted by that vendor. That’s why you get a packet of individual owners’ manuals.
I have tried to keep in mind a very simple premise when we shopped for our motorhomes, “does it help us camp any better”. An example, full-body paint costs thousands more but it doesn’t help cook that hot dog outside any better or make the campfire experience more enjoyable.

Rusty
4 days ago

Spot on in your description of attending Rv shows, almost as like house hunting. We are looking to move from our Class C to a 5th wheel or bumper pull this year. And attending the Colorado Rv show yesterday we figured would help us move -in to the 5th wheel world. We, like most people, walk through a 5th wheel or bumper pull trailer and one’s eyes, okay mine, become the kid in the 50s era candy store. We gathered up brochures of the rigs we were interested and left to dream of the perfect rig for us.

Diane Mc
4 days ago

I would always go directly to the bedroom and see if there were bedside “tables” for your glasses, a book, a phone, glass of water. No matter how amazing the motorhome was, if they weren’t there, I’d tell the sales person it was a non starter. They were always stunned. A couple of times they said they could ask the factory to do a special. Our 2002 Dutchstar has nice size ones w/cabinets overhead. Also we opted for the very expensive solid wood cabinets. So worth it. They look the same today as the day we took possession. And double pane windows. Think we will keep her.

Rusty
4 days ago
Reply to  Diane Mc

Wife does the same

Cathi
4 days ago

So true. The best built items in our 2016 rig are the hardwood drawers under the dinette seats. We had friends that found out, after the purchase, that there was no place for the toilet paper in either bathroom, because the current sized rolls didn’t fit on the toilet roll holders. We bought our first and so far only RV based on the floor plan first, then on the bones (Cummins, Freightliner, Allison). We live in it full time and are happy with those choice points. Yes the cabinets are a bit on the cheaper side and the pleather is starting to show bad wear, but after 60,000 miles and almost 6 years, I am happy with our purchase. When we looked at other/newer rigs, too much glitz and not enough practical.

Bret Medbury
4 days ago

This exact issue generated a game I used to play, many years ago, at RV shows. You could totally stop the RV sales guy in his tracks by asking “how much water does it hold?” or “how large are the holding tanks?” Usually after a moment of stunned silence they would go searching for a brochure. You could go from RV to RV and do the same thing.

Vanessa Simmons
5 days ago

LOL made me think of my DIL and their recent used truck buying experience. The sales person is touting the bells and whistles and she is under it checking the axles, springs, exhaust, rust, etc. and under the hood pulling dip sticks! Those sales people didn’t know what to do!

William Gusa
5 days ago

Several years ago I purchased a high end motorhome with all the bells and whistles, got rid of it after getting tired of fixing all of them. Now own a plain jane motorhome which does a great job without the repairs.

Pat M Shaw
5 days ago

It’s fun to see the lipstick and mascara they put into RVs, but we do it to get ideas about what we could add to our old gal. We wouldn’t trade our ’94 Mallard for a new RV, not even as an outright trade!! Our frame is much heavier and this old camper will outlive the news one. Tap the frame of these new fancy campers with something like a broom handle (hubby used his cane). They sound like a thin tin can. Ours rings like a big church bell!!! Just look at how thin they are, even the tongue. Nope, we don’t want one, we want one that will last.

John Koenig
5 days ago

When I was in Sales 4+ DECADES ago, the saying was “sell the sizzle. NOT the steak”. Still applies today.

John Martin
5 days ago

Absolutely right on. Stars in our eyes, oohs and aahs like fireworks. Happens to everyone.

Steve
5 days ago

Good read and I think it supports my theory (following). I believe we need to create two categories – camping and RVing. Years ago we tent camped (and yes a floor was great). Now we are on our 4th RV- and we are glamping. If I was in my 30’s or 40’s, I would love to backpack camp. I have – try a 2 week canoe trip through the boundary waters ares. Carry it in and carry it out! Now being retired, I don’t want to carry it in, I am enjoying the fruits of my labor with my better half. We are not tenters or weekend campers with kids on vacation. We are long term RV’ers (glampers) who semi live in the unit. So as I said, two different categories. So we want some of the bells and whistles, but that does mean poor quality. We as the buyers need to start demand better quality and push the mfg’s to do so. Good RVing

Neal Davis
5 days ago

We are still toying with the idea of buying a 2022 on a dealer lot. We bought our current one from the same dealer in 2016 (also was a new RV) and it worked out in our favor because the dealer competes on price and we go to the factory for all warranty and extended warranty work. Alternately, we may order a 2023 and, because we share the fears of things possibly being built a bit carelessly, will specify a factory delivery to give us a week at the manufacturer to find and have them fix every problem it has. Hopefully we miss very little. We also are investigating hiring an RV inspector to further ensure no problem is overlooked before our first camping trip in our next one. Yes, a bit frustrating to pay extra for a factory delivery AND an inspector, but we dislike problems (and I am handy in the way Gaylord Maxwell claimed he was — I carry tools, but I am not very good at using them myself).

Tommy Molnar
5 days ago

Nice article, Gail. A reminder for even we ‘supposed’ old salts of RV’ing to keep our eyes on the ball and not on the bounce.

RallyAce
5 days ago

Homebuilders and real estate sales people have known for decades that nobody sees or cares what is behind the paint. RV sales people, who are basically stereotypical used car salespeople, know this and will deflect any questions about how it was build. My favorite line from a salesperson at a major retailer is ‘xxxx would not be the largest maker of RVs if they built and sold junk’.

GWM
5 days ago
Reply to  RallyAce

Oh yes they would!

Jim Prideaux
5 days ago

These questions are not asked because most people equate RVs with cars or products for the home. No one asks the car salesman if the paint job or color of the seats will fade. No one asks the home builder if the cabinets will fall apart or if the roof will cave in.

Darin
5 days ago

I would say this is true, by my own experience. Even for seasoned RV buyers, you can get caught up. Just like our beloved automobiles, RV purchases can easily become an emotional one. I’ve purchased 5 RV’s over the years — a class A (gas), class A DP, a class C, a travel trailer, and another class A DP. The first DP and the travel trailer were new purchases and the rest were used. I probably got caught up in the bells and whistles on 2 of those, and it was with both of the DP’s. (Those were the 2nd and the most recent purchases.)

TexasScout
5 days ago

This video is a great reference for people wanting to know about how new RVs are built today. This is a brutally honest review of the new GeoPro. What’s bad and the majority, what’s good. It’s over an hour, but VERY thorough. I recommend anyone thinking of buying a NEW or Used RV watch this.

https://youtu.be/g0dNRyqKXjo

littleleftie
5 days ago

You are absolutely right! Distraction is exactly the game. It isn’t always obvious,,,until it is obvious, what one needs vs. what one thinks one needs and wants. Years ago, when looking thru various different trailers on a lot, we were inside of a tent trailer (pop-up) when a salesman opened the door and admitted another couple. We were chatting with them, he waiting outside, when the wife said “I just love how there is a huge king-sized bed for us.”. I commented to her—“yes, but to get to that bed, you have to squeeze past the table, step onto the cushions and then crawl into the bed…won’t be so easy in the night if one of your kids wakes up on the other bed”. She admitted that she didn’t even consider that they’d have to crawl over the table. The salesman gave me quite a glare as they exited, saying that they’d have to go home and reconsider….. Looked really good, but looks weren’t functional for their needs.

Tom H
5 days ago

Yes, I wonder. I wouldn’t buy a 2021 or 22 unit, not that I’m shopping. The quality is definitely a bit poorer as manufacturers have been forced to pick up the pace. Something has to give and its undoubtedly going to be quality. You published an article not too long ago that spoke to stock holders pushing the companies to clear backlog. What I read was “get these rigs out, don’t worry about quality”.
We are headed to the Florida RV Super Show next week and excited to see what’s out there. We will probably be distracted by the bling but since we’re not buying it won’t hurt. Thanks for the reminder to keep it all in perspective.

Bob p
5 days ago

The younger generations have been raised on bling so they don’t know better, they were brought up in a bling and disposable world, so it won’t matter to them.

Steve
4 days ago
Reply to  Bob p

How true! And they all think they’re going to be millionaires by the time they’re 30!!