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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 interest 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.

Related:

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

##RVT1027

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ellmarko
9 days ago

I bought a “slightly used” 2017 travel trailer in May of 2019. Having owned several other RV’s in my life, I was somewhat familiar with RV’s in general. Having poured over both the basic insurance policy for the vehicle, & several extended warranty plans, I chose Good Sam. Moving ahead several months, I was working on packing the inside, when the AC stopped working. I took it to a service center, & after a thorough inspection, was told that the unit was pulling excessive power, & would need to be replaced. While up on the roof inspecting, I was also told that the rubber membrane had developed damage, & would cause major water damage if not replaced. Both items were covered by the extended warranty. Nearly $10,000 later, I had a safe & working vehicle. I can assure anyone, without that, I would be paying for a worthless box on wheels. To me, the payments are just the same as vehicle insurance…worthless until you need them!!

Raymond Clark
13 days ago

We bought the Good Sam warranty when we got our RV but when we tried calling CW about 2 electrical issues they wouldn’t return our calls till the warrant expired and even then they couldn’t fix it

Constable333
15 days ago

I have had the Good Sam extended warranty since I bought our new fiver in 2013. Never had occasion to use it until this summer. The water heater developed a crack in the tank where the hot water exits. Had to cancel a trip to return for repairs. The new 10 gallon heater with install and all was over $1700.00. The warranty paid all but my small deductible. No hassle. Worth what I pay every quarter.

Vincee
16 days ago

I faced this same question back in 2006 when we bought our first motorhome which was 6 years old. After reading up on the topic on several RV Forums I decided to roll the dice. We, 15 years and 3 motorhomes later it was one of my better decisions. I’m mildly handy so things like replacing my steps on one rig and then a hydraulic leveler along with a host of smaller items I have been able to take care of most issues that have popped up. Chassis items like rear brakes at $1100, 2 chassis AC compressors on different rigs at about $1000 each repair were probably the biggest expenses I’ve incurred. But, to total everything up to what I would’ve been paying monthly over during our RV ownership, we are far away ahead on the money end of things.

Ray
17 days ago

It was 20+ years ago I was taught a valuable lesson on extended warranties. I haven’t bought one since, but instead, I resigned to accept the expenses, if incurred. I am pleased to say this philosophy has saved me lots of money, time and grief over the years.

What some call peace of mind, I call a false sense of security. However, for some people, that false sense of security can be worth it, until it’s not. I liken extended warranties to gambling with the house who not only holds the money, but interprets the rules of the game as well.

cee
17 days ago

I thought it was a good idea to buy a service plan from Wholesale Warranties because the MH I planned to purchase was 2.5 years old. First it had to pass inspection before they sell you the plan. I had the choice of taking the plan where everything was covered or the cheaper plan where somethings were excluded. I took the more expensive plan. What a big waste of my money. Everything I submitted for a claim was denied. I’ll never buy a service plan from Wholesale Warranties again. If I do purchase another rv I will use an independent certified rv inspector… money well spent.

travilenman
18 days ago

I once worked for a guy who often said — Warranties & Guaranties are not worth the paper they are written on….Over the years I have found out — HOW TRUE HIS WORDS WERE —

Philip Gordon
18 days ago

Although I would never buy an extended service contract on a guy, I was glad I bought one on my DRV fifth-wheel. We have saved a couple of thousands on repairs more than the cost of the contract. Make sure to read the contract first. One company required $2,000 more if you full-timed and they define full-timing as more than 120 days in a year.

Admin
RV Staff(@rvstaff)
18 days ago
Reply to  Philip Gordon

I don’t know, Philip. I think an “extended service contract on a guy” sounds like a good idea. 😆 I can’t figure out what you intended (maybe a “buy”?). Let me know and I’ll fix it, if you want. Take care. 🙂 –Diane

Del W
18 days ago

An extended warranty is nothing more than an insurance policy. You must ask yourself if you are comfortable taking the risk of repair costs or not. Many people are insurance poor with more policies than you can count but they have a security feeling for their mind. Others take only the bare minimum and feel they can get by and weather the storms. Either way is what makes them comfortable and is right for them.
One thing you should never do is include the warranty in financing. You will pay more for it with interest and depending on the length of the loan will be paying for it long after it expired. Most third party companies have a monthly or quarterly payment plan without interest just like any insurance policy.

The Lazy Q
18 days ago

By my recent experience with my 5er, no they are not worth the extra money. I will not buy extended warranty on an RV again. A screw came up through the living room floor tearing the linoleum, cosmetic they say. Cracked bathroom sink, nope not covered. Had my bearings serviced and they found broken plates etc in drum…nope not covered. And a couple more items. Cost me an extra $1k. Needless to say I canceled the remainder of the warranty and got what little money was left. Now as for my truck, it was worth it even though I never had a major problem and the few times it was used, the defect was found during annual maintenance and taken care of at that time.

Warren G
18 days ago

We did purchase a 7 year extended warranty when we bought out trailer. Used it 2 or 3 times for stuff like a water heater repair and stereo replacement, but as we got to our 6th camping season I had decided it was a mistake. Then we had a slide issue that required a new motor and replacement of wiring that melted, and required removing some of the enclosed underbelly. That bill alone was more than what our warranty cost, so it worked out for us. Not sure what we’ll do next time, although I’d like to find a nice sized trailer without a slide. If that happens, probably no warranty.

Satz
18 days ago

I look at extended warranties for RVs the same way I look at auto or homeowners insurance. I’ve paid many thousands of dollars in my adult life for home and auto insurance, and can only recall making one small claim. I’m grateful I never lost a home so I could get my money back.

For me, I’d consider self insuring for a travel trailer and probably most 5th wheels. But for our big diesel pusher, we thought it prudent to protect against a very expensive engine repair.

Turns out, we did a little better than break even, but I would have rather my motorhome had been more reliable. With warranties, you have to accept that you might be paying for someone else’s bad day. You should be happy it’s wasn’t you, and enjoy the peace of mind.

Jopa
18 days ago

Any advice from someone who sold these warranties is suspect in my opinion. If a primary consideration in purchasing any product is the warranty (original or extended), I’d advise one to stay away from the purchase.

Richard Hughes
18 days ago

My son says the lottery is a tax for people with poor math skills. I think extended warranties are in that class. While everyone gets excited about the “Big Winner, most just pay for nothing. Plus, if the cost of the warranty is added to your payment, you lose even more.

Russell
18 days ago

I have a extended warranty on a used motor home. I diagnostic fee and deductible is more than lots of repairs. The repair shops always need more than the warranty commission willing to offer. They also do not cover failure due to corrosion. Never again. I feel the dealer made more on the warranty than the MH!!
Never again!!

Bill T
18 days ago

Perhaps putting a little money away each month for future maintenance expenses might be a good idea. Save it in a bank account so you could earn and keep what little interest the money would earn. When your RV’ing days are over what funds are left in that account are yours to keep and you are not helping another faceless corporation make money by using yours.

Dan
18 days ago
Reply to  Bill T

That makes more sense than buying extended warranty. If the warranty was offered by the manufacturer, then maybe, but not by a third party. I’ve seen it way too many times on cars. The customer is stuck between a shop that says it needs this, but the warranty company will only pay for that. In the meantime, you’re parked. Just find out what the extended warranty will cost and put that money aside. Bet on the sure thing. Our house came with one good for a year, when we bought it. We had to use it once when a remote heat pump started making noises. Communicating with American Home Shield was impossible, until they wanted us to renew. Then we heard from them non-stop for months.

TexasScout
18 days ago
Reply to  Dan

Just take the money that you would have paid for the warranty with and stash it. You may find that you end up on top of repairs that way.

Ron Lane
18 days ago
Reply to  TexasScout

“Stash” it in an interest bearing account that you have immediate access to.

Drew
18 days ago
Reply to  Bill T

I’m a little surprised the author didn’t mention this option.

J J
18 days ago
Reply to  Drew

To be fair, the author did mention rolling the price of the extended service contract into the RV loan, thus assuring you are not only paying WAY more for that contract, the dealer salesperson is making WAY more commission.

But forgot to mention that the extended service contract is secondary to the manufacturer warranty so you’re wasting the first year of coverage.