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