By Russ and Tiña De Maris
Over the years we’ve heard from countless frustrated RVers. The story goes something like, “I bought a brand-new RV and hardly got to use it the first year. It spent most of the time getting repairs made, right from the start!” The rants about nearly every RV manufacturer are myriad. Yes, even RV dealers admit the quality of RVs they’re selling is often lousy, and they point the finger back at the manufacturers. But hang on, are RVers responsible, in part, for the junk being dumped on the market today?
RVtravel.com reader puts in his two bits
When we started the RV Consumer Support series, we asked readers to share their RV problems with us. We’ve heard from lots of you, and we’re working our way through the issues. But one of the first emails we received was a thought-provoker from Mike W. He opened with this thought: “I have come to the conclusion that we, the RV owners, are a part of the lack-of-quality problem. We have come to expect and accept flaws from the factory or dealer as normal and to be expected.”
Yep, we’ve all heard the analogy: Your RV is nothing more than a big house, bouncing down the roadway. Of course, things are going to break, you just have to expect it! And it’s true, things do take quite a shaking, and things can break. But is it that way from the start? Here’s Mike’s take:
“As a former aircraft owner, when I bought an aircraft I expected it to be right, and would not even consider delivery if it was not. I cannot imagine me saying ‘I noticed the Navigation was not functioning properly. That’s OK. Deliver it and we will address it later.’ I guess the same thinking could then be applied to a loose wing? No, as an aircraft buyer, known issues were addressed before we accepted the aircraft.”
It starts at the walk-through
Are RVers responsible for some of the shoddy workmanship coming from Indiana, and other manufacturing states? The case could be made that we are, IF. If we do the walk-though on that brand-new (or “previously owned”) RV and we notice something isn’t right. If a buyer spots something that isn’t right and refuses to take possession, something’s going to happen. First, it will likely irritate the daylights out of the seller. If the seller gets enough irritation because he’s been delivered an RV by the factory that isn’t truly ready to sell, word will get back to the manufacturers. Next, it’ll probably get our problem fixed a whole lot quicker than if we went ahead and accepted delivery, figuring we could come back later for a fix. After all, who do you suppose will get quicker attention – the guy who the dealer already got the money from, or the one who the dealer is waiting for the payoff?
Granted, this isn’t going to cover those things that “happen” after you take delivery. Here’s what we heard from John K. A few days after taking delivery of his new Dynamax motorhome it began to rain. It was then that John discovered that the bedroom slideout seals had been installed backwards! John had to take the “Leakin’ Lena” back to the factory, where the seals were properly installed. But that didn’t end it. More problems turned up on subsequent outings – things that John says adequate quality control should have caught in the first place.
Do this when taking possession
Was John, as an RVer, responsible for this mess? Well, certainly not for the slide-out seals. But anytime we buy a rig, it really is OUR responsibility to do a thorough walk-though. Do ALL appliances work? Tell the dealer to turn on the fridge before you come for the walk-though. Did you turn off and on all the lights, all the electrical goodies? Have the dealer demonstrate the run-out and in of ALL slide-outs. Have the dealer hook water up to the rig – then test all water-using knick-knacks. And take a look in ALL cabinets and storage areas to ensure there’s no water running out where it shouldn’t.
In fact, you may be pumping a huge amount of money into the purchase of a new RV – some of which, as Mike W. says, “cost about the same” as an aircraft. That’s a mighty big investment, so why not drop just a fraction of what that new rig costs on another thing. Hire a qualified independent RV inspector to go over the unit before you take possession. If they find issues with the rig, turn their “punch list” over to the dealer. They can get their money – as soon as they fix the problems. Then MAKE SURE they really DID the repairs.
Even before the walk-through
When dealing with sales folks at the dealership, there are a couple of other things that can help. If RVers don’t want to be responsible for rubbish RVs, lay it on the line. Tell the salesman flat-out of your intention to have the unit inspected by an independent party prior to acceptance. If they balk, then walk.
How can you protect yourself against those things that seem to crop up AFTER you take possession? Here’s the advice from Ron Burdge, an attorney and RV lemon law activist. Burdge says there are nine words that should be handwritten, by the dealer, into any sales contract you sign. “We give buyer a 24-hour warranty against defects.” Why that phrase?
Yes, when you buy a new RV, the factory will be giving its own warranty, undoubtedly much longer than 24 hours. However, the statement binds the dealership into backing you up. And not just for 24 hours. Under federal law, in most states, such a statement forces the seller into an implied warranty of merchantability. In those states, the dealer is on the hook for taking care of the seller, not just for 24 hours, but for four YEARS. But, again, the dealer must write this into the contract.
We can make a difference
If enough RVers stand up against lousy quality control and poor RV workmanship, the manufacturers will hear. If they hear it enough, it may well be they’ll put a little more time into turning out better quality RVs.
And remember, if there’s something that you as an RV or RV-related consumer is having trouble with, let us know. Use the form below, and we’ll do what we can to help out.