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Learn from others’ RV buying mistakes

In a recent poll, we asked our readers: Did you make buying mistakes when you purchased your current RV? More than 1,700 readers participated in the poll, and the results were impressive: 55 percent say they made no mistakes when buying their current RV; 35 percent responded yes, they made mistakes, but none proved to be a big deal; and 10 percent said yes, they made serious mistakes that they regret. I’m so happy that most folks are happy with their purchases!

RV buying mistakes pollI was hoping we’d get many informative comments along with the polling information, and our readers certainly did not disappoint! Here’s hoping if you’re in the market for a new or new-to-you RV, you can avoid mistakes like the ones some of our readers admittedly made.

RV buying mistakes from our readers

Devious dealers

We received some wonderful testimonies from satisfied customers. There really are great dealerships out there with wonderfully dedicated salespeople. But just in case you come across the, shall we say, less-than-honest folks, here are some cautionary tales:

Matty G. had this to say: “I say RV stands for ‘Ruined my Vacation.’ The bigger the dealer, the worse they are. Check the batteries before you leave the lot. The first dealer put old batteries in, as he knew I was leaving the area for good. As soon as you sign papers they basically leave you on your own.”

Warmock added: “Working in a campground for four years, I saw so many truck/trailer combinations where the truck was simply not up to the task…. Most people had never weighed their rig because the salesman had said it was all OK.”

Mike W. commented: “I was convinced, against my better judgment, that our coach had plenty of battery to operate our residential refrigerator … even when boondocking, which we used to do a lot of. Now, we do very little boondocking due to having to start the generator and run it each morning to charge batteries for the stupid refrigerator.… [I] should have listened to my inner voice.”

Manufacturing malfunctions

Once again, it’s only fair to report that several happy consumers praised the manufacturers of their rigs. And then, we heard from these folks:

Donn admitted: “I knew they were poorly built but did not expect HOW poorly. I’m convinced whoever trimmed it out had only one eye. Nothing is plumb or level.”

MrBud shared: “We upgraded to a larger TT with a slide-out…. Well, long story short, the slideout wasn’t sealed properly, allowing for water intrusion along the bottom rail of the Schwintek gear rail. You would think the manufacturer (Forest River) would have caught this, but no…. Had we had a professional inspection done before we took ownership, they would have caught this issue. We now regret not having that done.”

John K. reports: “In 2014, after three years of searching, I ‘graduated’ to a TRUE Super C, Diesel Puller (a 2015 Dynamax DX3-37RB). Being my first motorhome, I was woefully unprepared to do (or have a professional RV inspector) a proper inspection. Like most RVs, it was heavy on ‘flash’ and VERY light on build quality under the surface. Like many (most?) RV builders, Dynamax was NOT big on Quality Control. I suspect that my DX3 was built by Moe, Larry & Curly. Fortunately, the Freightliner base was built like a tank. I’ve made numerous upgrades & fixes in the ~7 years I’ve owned it.”

Warranty woes

Ron admits: “My mistake was agreeing to a 7-year, $7,000 extended warranty that was tacked on to my total cost that was financed for 20 years. That $7,000 will eventually cost me twice that amount by the time my coach is paid off. Big mistake!”

Too big?

Size matters. Some folks had second thoughts about their RV’s large size:

Deborah M. shared: “Overall, still pleased 11 years later. But it never occurred to us to look where the gas filler is. It’s ON the back wall. Makes it essential we pick the right fuel station, especially when towing our Fit. Sadly, we’re two feet too long for many state and national parks, but we’re comfortable, even with two big dogs or two guests.”

Julie says: “We thought we were making the right choice when we sold our house and got our 42’ fifth wheel to go full-time. While we chose it to ensure we had ample room to serve our needs, it didn’t take long to realize we’d have been just fine in a 30′-35′ rig. Though we haven’t had real problems, there have been some challenges with where to stay, and we’ve definitely tested the ‘big rig friendly’ language that many campgrounds and RV parks tout.”

Too small?

Thomas D. commented: “Life is changing so we got rid of the fifth wheel and bought a truck camper. Should have tried it before we bought it. To use the sink and mirror it’s best to kneel with your left knee on the toilet cover. When using the ‘throne’ your knees hit the wall. And the worst thing is an 8-gallon gray and a 5-gallon black tank.”

Just right … eventually

Just like Goldilocks, several folks eventually found the “just right” RV of their dreams:

Warmock commented: “I bought the right trailer, but I should have bought the truck after buying the trailer. I was plus or minus 200 pounds of the GCVWR every time I weighed the combination – sometimes over, sometimes under. That truck was working at its design/build limits and maintenance costs skyrocketed. Buying a new, bigger truck a couple of years later reduced per-mile all-in costs by 50 percent, increased the safety margins, and reduced the risk.”

Advice to avoid RV buying mistakes

They say we learn by our mistakes, but why not skip the heartache and aggravation and learn from the mistakes others have made instead? Maybe “wanna-be RV owners” can learn from the following reader comments:

Ray suggests: “We were experienced campers when we bought our retirement RV, a 5th wheel. We found the floor plan we wanted. There were two within 200 miles. I had created a checklist of items to inspect for quality, including the roof/underbelly and anything that moves and its accessibility when buttoned up for travel. I don’t think we could have asked for a more bend-over-backwards dealership than what we had. After pulling it around the parking lot we had the dealership hook it up to electrical and high-pressure water and tested every circuit. We even ran the AC and held the pressure overnight. ADVICE: Make your list and add to it as things occur to you.”

Denny and Shari S. want you to know that: “We should have ordered fabric furniture instead of vinyl.”

To sum up:

Roy says: “We, like so many people, can say that we’ve made mistakes that we learned from. I called our first RV ‘the learning curve’ cause we made some bad mistakes!”

##RVT1041

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Christine
2 months ago

GREAT article! Very helpful!!!

John
2 months ago

Buying used has worked best for us, that said we have just purchased our 3rd new RV. Put a fair amount of time into the the PDI, and felt good about the purchase. Finally had time to take it out for a test run after spending a couple of weeks setting it up to our liking.
We ended up having a bad self resetting fuse(breaker that fits in the fuse slot) on our furnace took a couple of day with 24degree morning’s to figure it out.

We purchased the 5th wheel 20% under retail, and had a good experience with the service department preparing the rig for delivery.

Be prepared to fix things your self, don’t buy an expensive warranty and perform your own PDI. If you are buying a unit in the lower price range be prepared to fix more.

pursuits712
2 months ago
Reply to  John

My dad was a mechanic and I recall we only had one new car that I can recall. Dad’s mantra was “Let the other guy take the depreciation and get the kinks out first!”