One reason Consumer Reports doesn’t rate RVs

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By Chuck Woodbury
EDITOR

RVers ask me all the time if there’s a “Consumer Reports” for RVs. I tell them, no, there is not. There are websites that sell reports where RVs are rated, but I do not trust them. I don’t know how you can adequately rate an RV without going to huge expense: There are so many makes and models, and within each model there are different floor plans. 

My friend James Raia does a weekly podcast about cars, and this past week he interviewed Mike Quincy who for 20 years has purchased, driven and evaluated cars for Consumer Reports.

As Mike notes, Consumer Reports purchases all of its test vehicles. The publication’s annual reliability survey analyzes data in 17 areas from more than 500,000 vehicles, 50 of which Consumer Reports purchases anonymously and the remainder from its readers who rate their own vehicles. 

I have never heard of any company buying an RV to test it, much less 50 a year. Most ratings, in fact nearly all that you read online or in magazines, are more fluff than substance, often reading more like sales brochures than legitimate reviews.

James asked Mike later in the interview what happens to the cars after they’re tested. Mike said that at least some are purchased by the staff.

Listen to the podcast below or on the Weekly Driver website, where you can read a summary of what Mike said during the half-hour program.


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Alvin

Personally I think the main reason CR doesn’t involve itself in the RV market is because there really is very little to say about most of the product – that’s good. They’d be in a constant battle with litigating lobbyists (read that lawyers) defending the industry – and the junk they produce.
I get it that CR does not want to travel that awful highway.

When selecting a unit some of us pick the best contraption we think fits our needs, take it home, tear it apart, (the one I returned 2 years ago- {yes returned and got my hundred plus grand back} had 42 faults, 7 of them safety related) repair all the mistakes built in, then hit the road – those who can’t do that, wait in endless lines for “Warranty” repairs.

I have never met a single person in 50 years of RVing who wasn’t able to show me a travesty built into a unit. And anyone who thinks they built them better in the “good old days” – well friend you likely never owned anything built in the “good old days” as they were crude as hell too!! (outside of a Spartan – or similar high end rig built by real craftsmen)

Dry Creek

If they are going to vet a bunch of cars every year, and don’t usually do more long-term evaluations than three years, why doesn’t the CU just lease those vehicles?
Speaking of leasing vehicles, it just dawned on me that I haven’t ever heard of leasing an RV. Of course that doesn’t mean it isn’t out there……

Michael Nistler

Generally, the rule of thumb works well for RVs – if the price seems too good to be true (or even “affordable”) it probably is going to have more than its share of problems. Okay, that sounds too pessimistic, but unless you’re an astute or lucky purchaser of a second-hand RV and willing to wait for a sweet deal (RV.com etc.), the new love of your life may prove to be a short-term honeymoon.

Granted, the industry needs are honest, candid reviews (hard for owners not to have either a possible bias (pride) or an overly negative view (thinking they should own the world for a song and a prayer).

So we generally have to spend considerable time on the internet doing reviews from a wide range of sources, talk to lots of RV buddies that have a “LTR” with their toys, or enlist seasoned RV maintenance staff to tell it to us straight!

Happy Trails, Michael

Carl

I doubt you’ll ever see CR get involved with RV testing. As CR is based in Westchester county, a snob suburb of NYC, the biases inherent in the metropolitan mind set would automatically preclude the editors from even thinking RV’ing would be of interest to their subscriber base.

Rich

A consumer review on an RV would be somewhat complex, it would have to broken into three segments, but eventually based on the quality of build of the specific manufacturer.

Chassis and drive train. Various manufactures

Appliances (as all RV manufacturers basically use the same appliances).

Quality of the actual RV build, floor plan, quality of materials, storage, fit and finish, workmanship; proper sealing etc., noise .

Tom McGrath

My wife and I are on our 3rd motorhome, a 2011 Tiffin Phaeton. Purchased it new, nothing but problems year after year. The shame is we traded an ’05 Newmar Mountain Aire for it. I would never own another Tiffin product. True, it is buyer beware. Thanks for all you do.

Doug

What about: https://rv.org/?

I used this organization’s listings years ago when we almost bought a 1999 Newmar Dutch Star. Information seemed to be right on the money. Haven’t looked recently tho’. JMHO.

Jersey Pete

The car ratings in the annual Consumer Reports Auto Buyer’s Guide are primarily based on feedback from subscribers, and for the same reason that Chuck mentions: CR could never afford the dollars or time to rate EVERY single vehicle, so they rely on owner feedback. The RV world needs the same, instead of relying on word-of-mouth (or in these days, word-of-social-media). I believe there is a viable business venture for someone willing to organize and produce such a system. Chuck are you listening??? 🙂

Booneyrat

How can anyone rate any of the junk the RV manufacturers have been shoving out the door since 2008 when the builders could care less…their sorry warranties prove it? The last good rigs were built by Excel and NU-WA,both companies took pride in their product,…and there has been very little since to crow about.It really is a buyer beware world now and I doubt it ever gets better.

TravelingMan

I have to ask….Where does CR get their funding from? Subscribers? Wouldn’t you think that there are plenty of RV’rs or want-to-be RVr’s that would subscribe to that magazine (paper or on-line)? I know in the this “take” (vs. give-and-take) world that there are those who everything for free. But I do suppose that there are many that will be willing to pay for a credible RV resource.

Bill T.

Hi Chuck. Normally I am not one to point fingers, but the bulk of RV reviews I have seen are all biased reports from people who are sponsored by the industry. They are offered at very little or no cost, RV’s to test and report on. IMO, sites like RVLifstyle.com and others, who receive sponsor income and get a free rig to drive around in will always produce great reviews. They are not going to bite the hand that feeds them. I tend not to believe these sites, especially those RVIA Millennial cheerleading channels. For these reviewers, when all is said and done, usually have the opportunity to purchase the rig they are driving, or a new one at, or below cost. I don’t know about you, but I can afford to be driving a third new Roadtrek in as many years. No wonder the RVIA is so bountiful. Thanks to you and all the other folks out there who are real RVer’s, with honest and true RV life experiences to review and pass on. Honestly reporting, both the good and the bad, helps those of us who are “Realtimers”.

Roy

Maybe what is needed in the RV industry is a system like UL (Underwriters Lab). If a company wants a certification from them, some number of ‘test’ units must be provided at no charge (as I understand it). If UL can’t approve it, they don’t knock it, they just don’t certify it.

Something like RVIA but a certification format that WORKS for the consumer, not to sell funky stickers for looks and profit.

I agree that I would never pay for a ‘report’ from any RV review source, but rvreviews does seem to publish actual usage reviews by real customers and owners.

Jeff Arthur

Been consumers reports subscriber for years. Dropped them quite a while ago. They are not bad for what they do but dropped them for didn’t .

Roy

How about rvreviews dot com ?? Seems like at least ‘most’ of the consumer reviews are legit, often disparaging. ‘Review’ sites all ask you to BUY their full details. It’s a business .. it’s how they make money and profit.