RV Travel reader offers advice about buying an RV


From reader John Sargent of Tucson, Arizona
The RV quality situation from manufacturers and service departments is well documented, yet uneducated buyers are a real contributing problem. Here’s a solution from the buyers’ view. I have been RVing since 1979: 3 class A’s, 1 trailer and 2 class B’s — more than 200,000 RV miles.

Buyers might want to do some homework on the quality differences between manufacturers. Look at Facebook groups and manufacturers’ websites. Buying a coach without having both plumbing and electrical diagrams is asking for trouble.

Buyers should take responsibility for educating themselves about their coach before they take delivery. Download and read the manuals. Have both the pilot and any copilot be educated to the same degree.

Buyers must recognize that any leverage with a dealer is lost when payment is made.

Buyers obtain an advantage when they realize the buyer walk-through is a time to verify the dealers PDI (pre-delivery inspection) process. This will require some investment in education for the buyer. Use the Internet to create a buyer’s walk-through checklist. Use your phone camera to take pix or videos of specific processes and actions.

The buyer’s goal should be zero defects before the purchase is complete. Buyers need to communicate this to the dealer during the sales process. Be prepared to stop the delivery process if faults need to be fixed. Always schedule a walk-through and delivery for Monday or Tuesday, never for Thursday or Friday. Provides time to get parts, do repairs.

Get to know the service manager before you buy. Understand how to get service in a timely manner.

Buyers need to be willing and able to do small repairs, minor gluing, screwing, etc., in order to avoid long waits to fix little stuff later. Assemble an RV toolkit. There are plenty of suggestions on the Internet in owner forums, etc.

Buyers should educate themselves on the major components not made by the RV manufacturer: generators, fridges, LP systems, water pumps, roof AC, awning, roof fans, microwaves, etc. Know the warranty and service policies for each device. In many cases it’s easier to go directly to these companies than the RV manufacturer to fix stuff during the warranty period, and after, as well.

If you are going full-time or close to it, contact the manufacturer and speak to the vice-presidents of marketing, service, or dealer relations to confirm how you can get dealer service on your coach while on the road, not from the selling dealer. Capture all names, telephone numbers and emails. On one class A motorhome I was planning to use for full-timing the VP said, “If you ever have a problem getting service on the road, call me, I will take care of it.” I understand this is for major items, not something an educated owner can fix in 15 minutes.

Learn if the RV manufacturer holds any annual meetups or events. Often you can get warranty and post-warranty service during these events at little or no cost. Keep a log, document all your calls, emails, visits so you can clearly explain what you have done to resolve any issues.

Just my 2 cents.

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Pay careful attention to the microwaves, refrigerators, dishwashers, stoves, ovens, generators, furnace units, roof A/C units, axle systems, brake systems, windows, electrical panels, water heaters, faucets, toilets, plumbing pipes, insulation, carpet, structural frames, cabinets either particle board or parts of real wood (mostly Amish assembled), roof materials (fiberglass, EPDM or a TPO type) etc. Notice the basic similarities. Ever manufacturer (99%) out there there will get their components from 1-3 suppliers. The major difference can be the side wall components such as fiberglass, metal panels, wood studs, aluminum studs and how they are attached to one another. So basically, whether you buy a $20,000 unit or a $200,000 unit, you are getting the same product. Most all components are designed to last 5 years (or less) and your will replace them. Count on it. If you can’t do it yourself (lack of skill sets or due to age or physical abilities), you will have a repair center do it for you. It will cost a lot and you can expect to be out of service for several months. Your unit will leak. Your floor boards will rot. Your seals will not keep all of the water out. Your duct systems will fall apart or come undone. Your carpet will last about 3 good years. Your hard floors will scratch from the slides coming in and out all the time. The hydraulics will quit. You will have to learn to over-ride the system. Your tires will last about a year since they are the wrong size and most don’t know how to calculate the load properly. You’ll need to lube your axles at least twice a year if you use your unit. If not, you’ll pay high fees to store your unit since city code states you can’t keep it at home. The list is going to go on and on.

I get it…This sounds negative but of those reading this, how many agree? Most all of this has happened with our 3 month old – second hand purchase from an 80 year old couple who discovered they could not hitch and unhitch the trailer with their undersized pickup. (we have had this one for about 5 years now. I am a maintenance fanatic).

We have been to most all of the manufacturing plants in Indiana to see how they are put together. Even the top end lines are no different than the lower end lines. Go see for yourself before you buy. Tours are free. The bling is what gets you.

For the love of Pete, if you are buying a rig, buy it used. Save yourself a ton of money. Forget a worthless warranty. Educate yourself thru these forums and learn to fix it yourself. Get the right size pickup truck.

If you decide to do this, it’s because you want to. Not because you have to. If you don’t understand this before you get into this, have your For Sale sign ready.

fred f

Poorly written and condescending. Very mean spirited.

Steve S.

We bought our current travel trailer 7 years ago, and were planning on buying something new and a bit bigger within the next year or so. You stated “Buyers might want to do some homework on the quality differences between manufacturers. “. You are absolutely correct. I have been doing research, and there are several manufacturers who under no circumstances would I buy from. Since these 3 manufacturers control about 65% of the brands on the market, it is a good initial filter. Of the remaining, most of the anecdotal comments I can find are about 50/50 between people who state “I love it, no problems” and those who state “I hate it, will never buy one again”. So, where does that leave me? It would be great if there was some way to ‘try before I buy’. If only I could rent the unit for a long weekend and see how it goes. I’d rather spend a couple hundred bucks up front to discover a lemon, than have to spend a lot more (including the inability to camp) after the fact. However, my understanding is that if they rent a unit, they can no longer sell it as new. So either way, its a crapshoot (literally, based on some of the stories I’ve read).