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RV extended warranties: Worth the money?

To RVtravel.com:
“Hi. I would like your opinion on an extended warranty for a used RV. I realize that this may not be appropriate to ask of you, and I know it is my decision to make, but as a long-term subscriber I trust your opinions. If there were any articles related to this subject, I missed them.

“I own a 2016, bought new in 2017, Winnebago View on a Mercedes Diesel. It has 59,000 miles, which includes three trips from Coeur d’Alene to the East Coast. Our last trip covered 39 states with 9400 miles, so we do a lot of highway driving. Anyway, it has been serviced where we purchased it and Mercedes for diesel maintenance. I try my best to perform preventive maintenance. Any input would be greatly appreciated. Thanks and take care.” —Tony D.

Tony’s response to Tony

This is a terrific question, Tony. As someone who sold a lot of these while I worked at a dealership, I can provide this information and hope that it works for you, and our other readers interested in this topic. 

There are a lot of factors that can determine if an extended warranty makes sense for you, including factors in your own life. Furthermore, there are all sorts of companies offering warranties. Some are good, others not so much. So let’s start with you, shall we? 

While it’s a sad truth, RVs are not the most reliable products known to mankind. Truthfully, they are designed for very occasional use and there are some important maintenance items on them that most people rarely perform. This combination exacerbates the issues RVs already have. So you’ll find plenty of places where lots of people are complaining about RV quality. 

An RV is subjected to lots of adverse travel conditions

Even further, an RV going down the road is sort of like a house experiencing a 4.5 magnitude earthquake during a hurricane. Seriously. So lots of stuff tends to wiggle itself loose. 

But don’t let all this dissuade any of our readers from buying that dream RV because, despite the potentially negative side, the positive side is so wonderful. Taking your own little home away from home with you on vacation and having all the things you’re familiar with, sometimes in remote and absolutely stunning locations, is incomparable. That night at the Holiday Inn will never compare to waking up and seeing deer out the window as you brew your morning coffee, or being parked right under a magnificent tree with nobody else around. 

We absolutely feel that RVing is the best way to vacation, period. And RVers are some of the nicest people we’ve ever met, and you get to hang out with them. 

Should you buy an extended warranty with your RV or is it wise to just save your money?

Let’s look at warranties

So, back to the warranties. Here is a rough rule of thumb for warranties. 

Most extended warranties are 5-10 years in length. A warranty is a gamble – you’re buying it and gambling that something expensive will break and the warranty company is selling it to you hoping nothing expensive breaks. The warranty business is a profitable one, so they win more than you do. 

However, if your budget doesn’t allow for replacing a $1700 refrigerator or a $900 air conditioner or a $1200 water heater, a warranty can be a very good bit of peace of mind for you. RVs are comprised of a number of very expensive systems, as mentioned above, that also undergo the shake, rattle and roll that is travel. If one of these systems breaks and it’s not in your budget to fix it, you may be doing without. 

At the dealership where I worked, we had replaced all of these mentioned systems under warranty for customers. The warranty company simply gives us a credit card number and we solve the problem. More common issues involve plumbing problems. The damage they cause when there’s a leak, unless covered by the warranty, can be expensive. So the decision to buy a warranty might depend on your own financial reserves and what an expensive repair would mean in your reality. 

An extended warranty may give you peace of mind

If paying a few dollars a month is a more comfortable situation than having to come up with the money to cover a big repair bill, then an extended warranty might mean a great deal of peace of mind. 

One thing to know: No warranty covers things like brakes, seals, gaskets and items that are considered normal maintenance items. We do see a lot of RVs that have water damage from leaking roof seals or window seals and, frankly, those are part of the routine maintenance that most RV owners never do. 

You will go a long way toward extending the life of your RV if you simply inspect the seals on the unit every 3-6 months or so. This includes the seals around all the various holes in the roof (for vents, pipes, etc.) along with the seals around the windows and doors on your RV (don’t forget the baggage doors!), as well as the marker lights. Anywhere a hole is punched in your RV is a place where water can get in and cause damage. None of these seals is covered under any warranty as they are all considered a maintenance item. 

Choosing an extended warranty

So, how do you choose a great extended warranty company? One of the ways is with the policy they give you. 

There are two major types of policies: those that specifically mention what they do cover and those that mention what they do not cover. While this may be counterintuitive, the warranties that mention what they do not cover are often better simply because you know what won’t be covered, so everything else basically is. 

Those warranties that do mention what they cover often can weasel out of coverage by claiming a non-covered item is the real cause of your troubles rather than just fixing what went wrong. 

You might ask around at various shops and repair places for RVs both in your area and just at random to see if one particular warranty company stands out as really good or really not. Does Brand X warranty company work hard to get out of paying while Brand Y just takes care of the customer? The people who are making the claims, the repair shops, are the ones who would have insight on this. 

Where to buy

The obvious answer to this would be to buy the warranty at the time of purchase of your RV. If you’re financing the RV, most dealerships can simply roll the warranty into the financing so it’s a small “hit” every month. 

However, there are also companies that sell warranties aftermarket, many of which offer lower prices than what a dealer might charge. The disadvantage here is that you’ll be buying the whole warranty at once rather than being able to roll it into the financing of your RV. The advantage is that you have time to shop around and may save many hundreds of dollars. 

There are a number of brokers of these warranties that can provide input on their experience in coverage. Also, in some states, most notably California, the places where you can buy extended warranties is limited by the state, also minimizing your choices. 

Things to look for

The first thing I’d do is look at what the paperwork on the warranty covers. Are the items INcluded or EXcluded the ones that are important to you? 

I would also take a look at the company providing the warranty itself. How long have they been around? Are there ratings and reviews you can find online? I personally put almost zero credibility in the Better Business Bureau nowadays – but that might be a place to start, just the same. 

If you have a motorized RV, as reader Tony D. does, does the chassis manufacturer also offer a warranty option on the chassis itself? Generally, for motorized things, I feel better about the chassis manufacturer’s warranty options than those of a third party. 

In Summary

I was surprised at how well some of these warranty companies covered expenses that came up in RVs, but also dismayed at others that really balked at paying for anything they supposedly covered. 

Having an extended warranty can mean a great deal of peace of mind. Having an RV is really a joy, in most cases, and an extended warranty can mean you have one fewer thing to worry about when it comes to your RV. 

No matter what you decide is right for you, making sure that your RV is well-maintained will go a very, very long way toward making sure it’s ready and willing to be a participant in the incredible vacation adventures we have in this beautiful country. Basic maintenance means you’re much more likely to enjoy RV travel.

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From the editor: Wholesale Warranties advertises on RVtravel.com. We wouldn’t run their ads if we didn’t believe in their product.

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Sweden\'Texas
1 month ago

I bought an 5 year Extended Service Plan from Nation General Insurance, a Good Sam Company, for $2900, and $500 deductible. When a Spring broke, the Dealership Said they had to replace both springs. The ESP would only cover one broken spring, which cost $500, I got NO insurance pay out for that repair. And to make matters worse, another spring broke and I got NO payment again from NGI company. Save your money and DON’T buy an ESP ever.

Neal Davis
1 month ago

Thank you for the information, Tony! It is extremely informative, especially the INcluded vs. EXcluded distinction. Our warranty through CoachNet on warranty RV #1 seemed to work well for us. RV #2 is still under the manufacturer’s warranty. Once that lapses, I’ll call both CoachNet and Wholesale Warranties. Thanks again!

Lee Ann
1 month ago

We purchased an 5 year extended warranty when we picked up our 2017 fifth wheel direct from the factory to begin fulltiming. Granted the first year with our fifth wheel was covered under the factory’s warranty however, the next 4 years on the road 24/7 and despite being diligent with routine maintenance things still stopped working or broke and we were happy to have the extended warranty when it was applicable. We are now in our 6th year of fulltiming and purchased another 5 year extended warranty through a different company. Recently within a few months apart an ac/heat pump failed and the satellite dish died. Both are covered under our extended warranty so around $3000 for replacements cost us our deductible of $200 each. I agree with the comments that it’s a gamble whether you’ll use the warranty. I also agree that if you plan to make this purchase be diligent in your research, read the contract/ask questions, and know the repair history and age of your rv.

Cee
1 month ago

I bought a 2 yr old MH and the dealer worked hard trying to convince me to buy their service warranty for an astronomical amount of money. I said I would purchase one myself. I went with Wholesale Warranties, they got my money and I got the shaft. Several items on the covered list went south but Wholesale denied every claim. Will never buy another service warranty but having a licensed /certified technician check out the RV is money well spent.

Lawrence Neely
1 month ago

read the fine…fine print. I had an issue and the warranty did not cover it. They did a word search several times before pointing out to me why it was not covered. In an obscure paragraph, next to a sentence excluding nuclear blast, was a sentence excluding fasteners (my issue was a weld, but since there were bolts involved, it was a “fastener”. about all I could figure, only appliances are really covered, most everything else is excluded somewhere in the fine…fine print. create a savings account and save your money

Last edited 1 month ago by Lawrence Neely
TIM
1 month ago

I am against the so called “extended warranties” for numerous reasons but this is probably the best written and most informative article I’ve read on the subject. Good job Tony!

wanderer
1 month ago

You can waste your money insuring everything in the world, or you can have emergency savings to handle big ticket repairs. If you wind up not needing them, the savings still belong to you. Your ‘warranty’ money is out the door forever.

When you buy a rig, be sure you have slack in the budget for repairs and maintenance; if you can’t swing that, get a less expensive, perhaps simpler, slide-less rig.

RallyAce
1 month ago

While in the market for a TT a couple of years ago, one dealer was pushing the extended warranty. I asked to see a copy of the warranty and they refused telling me each one was customized for the unit being purchased but it would be sent to me upon completion of the sale and the salesperson went on and on telling us what was covered and how it was the most value added thing we could buy for the TT. This was a huge red flag as you had no idea what you were buying other than the non-binding description from the salesman. If this had the scent of a scam, what else were they trying to obfuscate on the sale? Our feet went into full retreat mode and out the door we went.

Spike
1 month ago

I would never finance a warranty or buy one on a new RV at the time of purchase. New RV’s come with warranties, so why buy a wasted year or years in the case of motorized chassis, when you already have coverage? And pay finance charges and the big dealer commission to boot!

It’s pay now for sure….upfront….or MAYBE pay later. As Tony said, it’s a highly profitable business, so who usually wins?

If you are meticulous about your maintenance, take all that upfront money and stick it in an account you will use if and when you have a cost. In the long run, chances are you’ll be way ahead.

But, if you really want to buy, do your homework, shop, and thoroughly read that contract prior to purchase.

bull
1 month ago

Tony,

You need to refer to the Legal Definition of a WARRANTY!

What you were selling at the dealership was an “Extended Service Contract” provided by an outside vendor that your dealership was selling. That plan was not an Extended Warranty!

By law only the manufacturer of any item can provide a WARRANTY on an item.

An example would be the microwave installed in an RV. The RV manufacturer does not Warranty that item as is clearly stated in the manufacturer’s WARRANTY statement. The appliance manufacturer provides the WARRANTY on the microwave itself.

All one needs to do is look at all the “Extended Warranty” auto plans advertised on TV today. The advertiser calls it an “Extended Warranty” HOWEVER when you read the bottom disclaimer in small print on your TV screen you will clearly see that you are purchasing a “Service Contract” for specific services for repair/replacement of items on your vehicle.

bill
1 month ago
Reply to  bull

Very well said! A reputable contract seller will tell you that up front. The dealer we bought our lightly used 3 year old $80k class c from (Dennis Dillon RV in Boise) wanted $6k for a 5 year service contract which they insisted was an “extended warranty” then told is that the box that was checked for “slides not covered” was a mistake and I shouldn’t worry about it! I found an “exclusionary” contract from Good Sam for $2k ($4k difference) that did cover slide mechanisms but decided to underwrite a repair savings account myself.

Last edited 1 month ago by bill
Donald N Wright
1 month ago

I bought extended warranties for both my used Airstream and my used Aliner popup. Nothing under warranty has broken. got both from Good Sam.

Jim Johnson
1 month ago

Tony hit it right on, but missed one point. Our extended warranty covered mobile repair from licensed operators. Our rig is a long way from a garage and pretty much stationary, used as a seasonal home. The water pump on our 2017 Keystone TT failed a year after the manufacturer’s warranty, so we were in extended warranty territory. Our mobile rep indicated that yes he could do the replacement under warranty, but the company didn’t pay him for the time he would be captive on our site waiting for the okay to do the work. It would be my expense. He was on hold (pre-pandemic) for nearly an hour. Pump replacement took half an hour. In the end I saved at best $35 vs just paying him outright for the work. More, had I been confident in my diagnosis and done the work myself, I likely could have saved even more.

Sandra W
1 month ago

I bought a used Class C motor home from a local dealer, and also bought their 5 year extended warranty (one that stated what it did not cover). Three years later, I decided to sell, and it sold within hours of listing it-because of the transferrable, still valid warranty. I even made my money back.

Bob p
1 month ago

Back in the 80’s I bought a 27’ single slide 5th wheel and the dealer talked me into an extended warranty. This would only increase my payment by $49/mo. When I received the policy and read the coverages I decided that I would cancel the policy and put $49 ($50) per month in a savings account for repairs. When the loan was paid off I had a pretty good savings account balance as all the repairs were done by me anyway. Now had I had a major appliance fail it would’ve been different but most of those failures occur during the first year of a new RV. An older RV say 10-15 years old may have several things that will die. As you say it’s a gamble, life insurance is a gamble, it depends on your capabilities.

warmonk
1 month ago

I purchased an extended warranty when I purchased a new trailer (since sold). Then, when some issues arose, it became a question of pay out of my pocket or invoke the warranty. If I could get through the extended warranty period without using it, I would receive a refund of what I had paid for the warranty coverage. Tough call. In the end, I did not invoke the warranty by having paid for the repairs myself as they arose. I received a refund that was just about equal to the repairs for which I had paid. I consider myself lucky.

However, I also purchased a warranty when I bought a used vehicle. Within two months, to cover a major repair, the warranty company paid out more than double what I had paid them. Again, I consider myself lucky.

Risk is the product of probability and impact. Impact is usually measured – in this context – as expense and loss of use. Despite my trying to live by the axiom “never take a risk that you cannot afford”, there is an element of luck.

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