Tuesday, November 28, 2023


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?


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

Finding the “perfect” RV requires a shift in perspective


Gail Marsh
Gail Marsh
Gail Marsh is an avid RVer and occasional work camper. Retired from 30+ years in the field of education as an author and educator, she now enjoys sharing tips and tricks that make RVing easier and more enjoyable.



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Leonard (@guest_230090)
7 months ago

The biggest problem with RV’s other than shoddy manufacturing is overloading! Consider buying something bigger with a larger cargo capacity and tow vehicle (if required) than you will ever need! How many 2,000 lb. cargo capacity 5th wheels are loaded to 3,000 lbs or more pulled with a 1/2 ton or 3/4 ton truck? We opted for a 4,000 lb. cargo capacity Montana pulling with a 1 ton dually diesel. We carry about 2,000 of cargo and have had ZERO mechanical issues. Poor workmanship on the superficial aspects of the RV to be sure though!

Gary G (@guest_230086)
7 months ago

We HAD a 36’ Everest fifth wheel trailer, loved the layout. Trailer frame broke, had to have it welded and additional steel added. Upgraded to 8K axles with the 3” brakes. Had to put brass screws in the interior molding to keep it together. Upgraded the electrical outlets and lights.
Frames and axles are too light weight for trailers about over 24’, just my opinion. Not so one can load more just haul what is claimed by manufacturers.
Over 24’ should be on frames like fifth wheel stock trailers.
For the money being charged for rv’s one would think you could get some quality.

Jim Johnson (@guest_230081)
7 months ago

This is a recycled article, but wholly appropriate non-the-less.
I have yet to walk a car dealership lot with my wife without the same first question from the lot roaming salesperson – What color are you looking for? Seriously? After you show me the vehicles that best fit my requirements (not wants, requirements), THEN I’ll consider color.
Same goes for an RV.
I found the RV that best ticked the boxes – and what didn’t could be owner modified. Unfortunately it was sold, but an identical unit was at a sister lot and could be moved. Sure paid in full, no rush to move as it’s the middle of winter, wait for better weather. The idiots decided to move it immediately after an ice storm and yep, totaled it in transport. Last one in inventory (for that model year).
They tried all sorts of gimmicks to substitute something that didn’t tick the boxes. Finally after threats of a lawsuit, they supplied the same unit, one model year newer. Only difference was the color of the exterior trim.

RallyAce (@guest_230080)
7 months ago

We are actively in the market right now to upgrade. Once upon a time the sales pitch was about the features and quality. Now it it about the bling. Yesterday,at a long time family owned dealership, the first thing the salesperson wanted to know was are we currently campers, how we planned on using the RV and what features were most important to us. The next thing he said was that he owns an RV and is a camper so he understands that what is important to one person is a non-issue to another. The first unit he showed us was used as it had everything we wanted at a fair price and we were impressed by his concern for making sure we were going to get what was important to us. The guy at the place with the big American flags only pushed the bling. He also could not tell me if a unit had an automatic leveling system while he was looking directly at the controls for the system.

Neal Davis (@guest_230072)
7 months ago

We ordered the RV we traded for last summer. It has bells and whistles (e.g., lane-departure avoidance, electronic steering assist, a 360° camera system, adaptive cruise control, heated tile floors, soft-close drawers, and an escape door and ladder), but it also is made well (e.g., extra thick storage bay door gaskets, dovetail corners on the wooden drawers (not MDF or plywood), wooden cabinetry, and side-mount radiator). Our manufacturer’s designers actually RV or at least listen to RVers because our shower has a water-saver feature when we run on the water pump. It recirculates the water into the fresh water tank until the water gets hot when taking a shower. So far it appears that Winnebago’s acquisition of Newmar has been a net improvement in Newmar’s operations (so said one of our techs when we recently were at the factory service center for warranty work).

Neal Davis (@guest_230069)
7 months ago

I researched RV manufacturers, models, and floorplans for 8 years before we bought our first RV in July 2016 (a deeply discounted 2016 American Revolution). During those 8 years I visited dealers and RV shows in addition to reading books and watching videos. On at least one occasion I showed a salesman at a dealership how to operate an aspect of the RV he was showing me.

Last edited 7 months ago by Neal Davis
Bob p (@guest_230052)
7 months ago

This article was written too late for our daughter and son in law. They had a 24’ TT but the daughter didn’t like the layout. They had just bought it in the fall of ‘22, they went to FL for vacation. Daughter is big into crafts and does usually teach crafts at the campgrounds they’re at so she takes quite a few supplies with her. While in FL one day they decided to stop at a RV dealer to “look around”. They went into a 28’ Keystone, it had beautiful cabinets, two bedrooms one being a king size bed, and all the bells and whistles. Bingo, she wants it, the second bedroom will serve her crafts well. The deal is made, the next day they take the present trailer to the dealer and start transferring their “stuff” into the new trailer. Even with the extra bedroom there’s not enough storage in the basement, now the extra bedroom is stuffed full, cabinets won’t hold it all, now she’s very dissatisfied, hubby says TUFF, you wanted it it’s yours. She was blinded by the glitz and second bedroom.

Jewel (@guest_230070)
7 months ago
Reply to  Bob p

How much “stuff” do they take on vacation?!
Maybe they need to play the RV Jenga/Tetris game and pull everything out, then decide what can go where, what’s necessary and what can be left behind.
Or…maybe it’s time for a 5th wheel! 😉

We went from a pop-up to a 32 foot bunkhouse. Then when our kids grew up, we went to a 5th wheel and have found every time is an adjustment on how you pack and what to bring and how to organize. When we get a generator, that will reduce the storage for us so …it will be reorganize and reevaluate time again!

1 year ago

Another thing – I see a lot of folks spend their time INside an RV and while livability is certainly important, suspension, frame quality, tank sizes, build quality, maintenance points and all of that will also greatly affect your long-term enjoyment of a rig. But I saw NObody at the RV show I went to look at anything but the interiors.

Vincee (@guest_160504)
1 year 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.

Jewel (@guest_230068)
7 months ago
Reply to  Vincee

Well since cars and RVs have different functions (and are completely different from each other) – people live in RVs, whether vacation or full time – it’s a different set of items than found in a car, isn’t it? Car dealers/manufacturers don’t cover the tires and you still have to go to the tire manufacturer to get a warranty.

Household (RV or house) appliances should be separate from the RV. Just like a house, where your option is to get an extended warranty to cover appliances, you can opt in for each item to be covered by a blanket warranty on top of the individual manufacturer warranty that is always offered for any new appliances.

Just fill out those warranty cards and you will be covered.

RallyAce (@guest_230082)
7 months ago
Reply to  Jewel

Cars are designed for build cycles in the hundreds of thousands and millions of units. RV are a tiny fraction of those numbers. This alone makes the comparison of the quality of a car to the quality of an RV next to impossible. How many folks have drivetrain problems on their powered unit vs problems with everything else on the rig?

Rusty (@guest_160456)
1 year 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 (@guest_160387)
1 year 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 (@guest_160457)
1 year ago
Reply to  Diane Mc

Wife does the same

RallyAce (@guest_230084)
7 months ago
Reply to  Diane Mc

That is where we start. Room for the CPAP and power for it? Is the bed three feet off the floor or can a short person easily get in and out of it. Are the storage cabinets accessible or do you need a step ladder and a crow bar to open them? Can a 225 lb person actually use the shower? And then, the most important one, how much usable CCC does the unit have.

Cathi (@guest_160386)
1 year 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 (@guest_160366)
1 year 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.

Spike (@guest_166082)
1 year ago
Reply to  Bret Medbury

Bret, you hit the nail on the head. Most RV sales people don’t know much of anything about what they are selling!

Gail….you could ask all those good questions you listed, but the sales person would either lie or give you a blank stare, in most cases. The best thing to do is to inspect everything you can yourself. It’s not hard to pull out a drawer and look at it’s construction.

Bob-B (@guest_230077)
7 months ago
Reply to  Bret Medbury

A lot of people don’t know that at several of the RV shows, especially the really large ones, many of the sales persons don’t work for either the dealership or the manufacturer. A lot of them are flown in from around the country to work that show.

At your next big show, ask the sales person if he or she works for the dealership or for the manufacturer. If not, what was the last show he or she worked, and what brand was he or she selling? You might be amazed.

Truckman (@guest_230111)
7 months ago
Reply to  Bob-B

Yep we had a conversation on that very subject at a RV show. The whole crew had worked shows all over the country working for various dealers/brands.

Truckman (@guest_230110)
7 months ago
Reply to  Bret Medbury

Sounds like my wife asking sales person which window(s) were for emergency exit. Answer was just throw a chair or something through any window and not worry about it.

Vanessa Simmons (@guest_160365)
1 year 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 (@guest_160359)
1 year 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 (@guest_160351)
1 year 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 (@guest_160348)
1 year ago

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

John Martin (@guest_160326)
1 year ago

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

Steve (@guest_160290)
1 year 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 (@guest_160258)
1 year 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).

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