Sunday, September 19, 2021
Sunday, September 19, 2021

RV Shrink: Buying a rental RV – Good idea?

Dear RV Shrink:
We are in the market for our first RV. My husband thinks we should buy a used rental Class C motorhome. I am in favor of buying used, and have studied used rental websites, but they seem to want the high dollar for the motorhomes they are culling from their fleets. Are these units a good deal? Am I missing something? I want to enjoy traveling and not have to constantly worry about repair problems. Should we be considering new instead of buying a rental RV? —Confused in Cleveland

Dear Confused:
Everyone has their own comfort level, so one answer does not fit all. With that said, I will give you my personal opinion and you can use whatever feels good to you. 

I personally would never buy a rental unit. They are usually bare-bones units as far as options. RV rental companies do not want a lot of convenience options that create additional maintenance issues. For instance, most do not have a ladder to access the roof. One of the reasons rental companies leave the ladders off is to eliminate renters from using the roof as a patio. If you do find a unit with a roof ladder, check carefully for leaks. 

The salespeople will try to convince you that these units have been serviced after every use, therefore they are in much better shape than private owner RVs. This could not be further from the truth. Renters have had no ownership respect for these units. Many do not even know how to use them properly. Pull up to a dump station and watch a family of RV renters trying to figure out how to dump the grey and black water tanks, and fill the fresh water. This will give you a great perspective on how much training goes on before a rental leaves the lot. 

Mileage is important, but not as important as how those miles were applied. In cowboy terms I would say most rental units have been “rode hard and put away wet.”

It always seems like a good idea to be the first owner and start out with something brand-new, but owning a brand-new RV has its downsides. We have several friends who have purchased new RVs in the past year. Since all their experiences have been identical, I have to assume it is the norm. Every one of them has spent weeks, not days, in warranty service facilities trying to get all the systems working properly. If you buy new, plan on spending quality time with service employees.

If I were buying new I would plan my purchase around a convenient time schedule to make sure I could get two or three service appointments at the factory level before the warranty expired. That means constant shakedown cruises for the first year. To buy an RV and let it sit, while the clock is running on the warranty, is a huge mistake. The old saying “Use it or lose it” should have been coined for an RV warranty.

So, that leaves us with buying a used unit from a private seller. That would be my choice. It takes a lot more leg work, thought and logistics, but if you shop hard enough and smart enough you will find exactly what you want for a whole lot less money and hassle. You’re not just buying an RV, you want to be buying good habits from past owners.

You will often find that private sellers have added many amenities that now have no value to them. This value is passed on to the buyer at no upcharge in many cases. Meeting a seller and inspecting a rig can give you a lot of insight into how a unit has been cared for. This is an important piece of information you are never going to glean from a sales lot.

The last two motorhomes I purchased both came with extensive maintenance documentation that assured me precautionary service had been performed and an indication of what systems had been repaired or replaced. The seller had spent his time sitting in a service facility getting the unit functioning properly – so I didn’t have to. 

With all this said, life has no guarantees. You could still have issues no matter how careful you are during the buying process. Knowing what to ask, what to look for, and what to expect will be your first line of defense. 

Beauty is only skin deep. Falling in love with a floor plan and decor is a good way to get skinned. 

Next week I will discuss this issue from the renter’s perspective, as RV rental use has actually spiked this year. —Keep Smilin’, Richard Mallery a.k.a. Dr. R.V. Shrink

Can’t get enough of the Shrink? Read his e-books, including Book 2 in his two-book series: Dr. R.V. Shrink: Everything you ever wanted to know about the RV Lifestyle but were afraid to ask or check out his other e-books.

Related:

What you should know about buying a used RV

##RVDT1602

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Retired Firefighter Tom
3 months ago

A nationwide Class C rental unit pulled in next to us as we were eating dinner. The driver hooked up to water and electric and went inside the unit. About 5-10 minutes later I heard water leaking. Looking outside I saw water flowing under his Class C. Going out to notify him I saw water pouring out of several places on the underside of his rental rig. I shut off the water, knocked on his door, and told him what I saw and had done. He thanked me and promptly closed the door. I never saw him come ouit at all. I decided to call the “800” number on the unit and told them what I saw along with the unit number and the license plate state and number. Another time I was asked by someone in the same type of rental unit if I knew where the circuit breakers were located. I gave a cursory look where I thought they might be but couldn’t locate them. Apparently this company loves to rent their units but does not show their renters how to use them, I wouldn’t buy a used Class C from this company.

Ken
4 months ago

Our present Class C was a previous rental from CanaDream and is everything wanted, and has performed flawlessly. Our previous unit was a brand new Class A and had its share of problems, including some that were not covered by the manufacturing warranty, but were covered by the aftermarket extended warranty, but not without a lot of confrontation. Warranties love to take your money, not to pay out on that money.

That said, we have used our rental extensively in the time we’ve had it, nothing has failed, and I’ve had fun making my mods. It should be known, I consider myself quite RV savvy, and spent in excess of 15 hours going over the entire unit in great detail. I demand a lot of myself, and my toys.

Kathy
4 months ago

I bought a used 2018 PleasureWay van from an RV dealership, which later proved to be a Canadream rental unit. With 24,000 miles on it, it was in almost new condition – very well maintained. It has everything on it, awning, generator – all in working order. I agree with Marion, the Canadian RV rental companies cater to European tourists, who seem to treat the units very well, and who expect rentals to be near-perfect.

Larry
4 months ago

We have bought both new and used RVs and have found the experiences to be about equal. If you buy either, you will have to wait to have items serviced, its not just new RVs that require patience.

Lil John
4 months ago

Thank you for this article. Right on! With anything you buy I think there are always exceptions. The last class A I bought was a total nightmare, but I purchased it for the right price, and expected to do a lot of repair. Most of the repairs are for manufacturers shortcuts and poor engineering. They just don’t get it! Someone could make good money just traveling around doing inspections for folks. Some things are always mickey moused (no disrespect to Mickey) and it does not seem to matter what you paid. Poor assembly is rampant. Thanks again for a terrific article.

Walter Kreppein
3 months ago
Reply to  Lil John

I agree with the poor assembly concept. Be handy or be rich!

Marion
4 months ago

Ten years ago we bought our Pleasure-Way used, from Canadream. In BC they cater to the European market . That market won’t rent anything more than 3 years old and it has to be meticulously cleaned. It had all the extras except generator and awning because newbies often damage those things. The private ones had generators but usually they hadn’t been started for a couple of years. We traded in our Class C (also a previous rental) before the Spring season got going and they encouraged us to rent the Pleasure-Way for a two day trip. If we bought it we got the rental money back. We found out part way through the deal that we know people who work there and besides cleaning the inside, the mechanical parts are all serviced before it goes out again (usually every two weeks). Our only regret is adding a generator which we never use but have to run every month. Oh well, it is our earthquake back up! There was a rental company that built their own and had a reputation for poor quality.

billh42
4 months ago

Whether buying new or used if the dealer is not near your home town plan on spending a couple of weeks in a nearby RV park or campground. This will make it easier to get the inevitable problems fixed. Plan your purchase so that you don’t have to leave immediately on a long trip. That is a sure fire recipe for disaster.

Drew
4 months ago

Our first rv was a former rental from El Monte RV. It was the most dependable we’ve ever owned…and not “bare bones”. We towed a boat with it too many times. Lots of great memories.

Scott Ellis
4 months ago

You WILL “still have issues,” no matter what. I wouldn’t buy a rental, either, but your letter-writer should be told the truth: RVs are like boats–if you don’t like messing with them, you won’t like owning one.

Bob
4 months ago

I have seen one of the rental units that our dealer has. Yes, they do not have all the amenities of the normal units that they stock for sale or order for customers. I spoke with the person that was cleaning the inside of the unit. She said they often get them back in need of extensive cleaning.
As I looked around, I could see a lot of damage inside and outside. Most of it was minor, but who knows what else is broken. I think most people who rent one are not at all familiar with the operation or minor maintenance required while in use.

Ron T.
4 months ago

Our current class C is an ex-rental but it came from a company in an affluent community where renters are more likely to complain about poorly-maintained equipment. The company also reinstalled items it had removed to prevent their abuse by renters. Three years on I have had to do a bit more repair work than on our previous private owner used RV but most were as-built issues that just hadn’t shown up yet during its rental career. So I’m satisfied with it so far.

Boltman
4 months ago

We bought a 32’ class A for our first rig and absolutely loved it until one Sunday morning as we left Coulee Dam the engine went out in it and when we finally got it diagnosed in the repair shop found that the original engine had been replaced with a used Cummins engine and Allison Tranny. To put it back on the road would have cost us over $10,000. Money we didn’t have… a veteran now resides in it.
Just sayin’ buyer beware!
Happy RVing and hope to see you down the road!

Vic
4 months ago

I miss the RV shrink`s regular column in the weekend newsletter.

Tracy Schulz
4 months ago

We bought used. We had a RV inspector go over the unit. Worth every penny. We did our homework and took our time. We also rented a RV first and that helped us decide what we didn’t and did need.

Ed D.
4 months ago
Reply to  Tracy Schulz

Smart move Tracy!

Ed D.
4 months ago

We bought new in 2016 and the only service issue we have had is the electrical Board for the Hot water Tank. We had it replaced (under warranty) and have not had another problem mechanically with our RV. So we do not see where this comment that everyone here seems to make is true. I know others that have purchased new and they have not had any major issues either. It almost seems that you are intentionally scaring people away from buying new RV’s. I can tell you this: At least we know that we are the only ones that have ever slept on our mattress and used our Bathroom facilities. There is a lot to be said for that peace of mind. Yes, you will take the depreciation hit when you drive it off the lot but that, in my opinion, is worth knowing that it is yours and yours alone!

Boltman
4 months ago
Reply to  Ed D.

You are the exception not the rule! Most RV’s coming out of the factories are slapped together and shipped out with problems built in. Consider yourself lucky.
Happy RVing and hope to see you down the road!

Ed D.
4 months ago
Reply to  Boltman

I hope to see you down the road as well. I said what I said because I know of several people that have purchased new and did not experience any major problems. I know there will always be problems but I guess that people have to research the particular RV they are looking to buy before signing on the dotted line. Every RV has reviews that are posted about them. You just have to review many of them before making that decision. Search and research!
You have great and safe travels as well. Thank you for the response.

Glen Cowgill
4 months ago
Reply to  Ed D.

We also bought new, but in 2009, and had no issues except an Allison Transmission that gave up the ghost under warranty. We still have that motorhome with over 90,000 miles on it and have done some minor repairs. Just had the roof resealed as preventive maintenance. We bought this rig as our last RV and at 79 years old, it looks like it will make it.

Ed D.
4 months ago
Reply to  Glen Cowgill

Great comment Glen. Glad to see your problems have been minimal. Happy Camping!

wanderer
4 months ago
Reply to  Ed D.

Knock on wood, and count yourself lucky. I have bought new 3 times, and the list of problems and careless installations has been long each time, though I have also been lucky not to have had catastrophic problems like some.

No one is trying to scare people. The fact is, people assume that ‘new is more reliable’ like it is when you purchase an automobile. They NEED to know that that is not the case when you buy an RV, the quality control is orders of magnitude lower than with autos.

Ed D.
4 months ago
Reply to  wanderer

Glen, above, has also had an RV with not too many problems. Guess he was the exception as well. I would never say that the RV Industry turns out an impeccable product. I am merely saying that there are more than likely many people that have had problems but not “catastrophic” problems. We are a couple of them.

Mark B
4 months ago
Reply to  Ed D.

It does sound like you are the exception……. We bought our last 3 motorhomes new. The first one in ‘95. It took 1 full year and lots of use to get the bugs worked out. The next one was in ‘08. It too took a full year. The current unit is an ‘18 model we bought in ‘17. It took almost 3 years to get all the little glitches worked out. Luckily we bought a Tiffin because we heard of the customer service. It’s a good thing too. They warranty items long past the 1 year. I do most of the repairs myself. Some things I had to fix after the dealer “fixed” them. They never sat in the shop for weeks at a time. Obviously the newer they get, the more “stuff” they have and are more complex. When you own one of these things you HAVE to be a “handy man.”

Ed D.
4 months ago
Reply to  Mark B

Being a handy man is definitely a good thing if you own an RV. The other thing that I have experienced as an RV owner, is that I have never had an experience where my RV was in a shop for any length of time. Even though we haven’t had many problems, we have had a large amount of “upgrades” installed in our Class C. A new A/c unit, upgraded the fans to fantastic fans. Covered all of the Vents on the top to prevent bugs and rain from getting in. New automatic switchover when we use our Generator. We don’t have to leave the coach to plug the coach in to the Generator when using it. A new Refrigerator. None of these items took over a few days to complete. The Service shop I used to fix the warrantied Electronics Board was LaMesa, in Sanford, Fl. My RV was done in less than 3 hours. Guess I am lucky with my Repair facilities as well. Safe travels Mark and thanks for the response.

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