This originally appeared as the featured essay in the January 29, 2021 issue of the Saturday RV travel newsletter. We are reprinting it here for new readers or others who missed it when it was originally published.
By Chuck Woodbury
Afriend of mine was starting an online business that would help RVers learn to maintain and repair their RVs. He visited the national headquarters of the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) to see if it might wish to get involved.
He spoke to the then-president and a vice president. He had no sooner begun explaining his new business when one of them remarked:
“RVs don’t break down. RV roofs don’t leak.”
When my friend told me about this conversation I asked him, “They were kidding, right?” He said, “No, they said it many times.”
If you understand the mission of the RVIA, which receives its support primarily from RV manufacturers, you realize the statement isn’t surprising. The RVIA exists to promote the sale of RVs. It can, in no way, intentionally cast a negative light on RVs or the lifestyle.
The RVIA carries out its mission largely by running ads that glorify the RV experience — “Go where you want, when you want.” The RVs they feature are in incredibly beautiful settings. The RVIA and manufacturers pay (in money or perks) “content creators” (many, if not most, who have never stepped in an RV) and “influencers” to write and plant stories, and produce videos that glorify RVing. We get pitched literally every day to use these (sometimes with an offer of cash)! We trash the emails.
The RVIA will never utter a word about how RVs are “perfect burning machines” — that once they catch fire they’re toast within minutes. The pathetic little fire extinguishers manufacturers install in their inexpensive RVs are fire-fighting peashooters. The RVIA, through its GoRVing.com, will never run an ad or commercial showing RVers camping in a Walmart parking lot (even though many thousands do on any given day).
The RVIA will never mention that finding a campsite these days on the fly is very often impossible and getting worse all the time. Want to go “where you want, when you want”? Then plan plenty of stays in a Walmart parking lot. Or make your campground reservations a year ahead and be a slave to a schedule.
The RVIA does not educate consumers about the dangers of “hot skin conditions,” whereby someone can be killed by just touching their RV under certain conditions. They don’t tell people that some RVs are manufactured in such a way that simply adding the weight of a driver, passenger and a full tank of gas and water will dangerously overload the vehicle. The RVIA will never advise consumers to check the CCC (cargo carrying capacity) of RVs, some of which can’t carry any meaningful cargo without being overweight. See below.
The RVIA will never mention the crisis of “houseless” people living in beater-RVs on city streets. I have never heard about the industry devoting any money, time or energy to help improve these often dreadful, dangerous “mobile Hoovervilles.”
ABOVE: This 2018 motorhome can hold 706 pounds of weight before it’s overloaded, and thus dangerous to drive. That “Cargo Carrying Capacity” will be decreased by the weight of passengers, fuel, fresh water, and any belongings brought aboard. So figure 350 pounds for two passengers, a full tank of fuel (504 pounds) and let’s say half a tank of fresh water (210 pounds). That’s 1,064 pounds, or 358 pounds overweight before loading a single personal belonging. So if a family of four goes on a trip, how far overloaded might the coach be? How many RVers buy a coach like this without knowing the CCC?
Are we too negative?
We at RVtravel.com do discuss these things. Some readers complain we are “too negative.” No, we’re not purposely negative: We just provide an alternative voice to all the B.S. being churned out by the RVIA, manufacturers, Camping World and all the websites that are funded through advertising by major RV businesses. (We receive only about 10% of our total revenue from paid advertising, most mom-and-pop operations.)
We save lives and financial heartache
We know from our letters that our advice has saved lives (one example). We know we have prevented new buyers from financing cheap RVs for 15 or 20 years, when in five to ten years their RVs will often be junk they can’t afford to fix that will sit in their backyards gathering dust (while the monthly payments continue).
Camping World is currently advertising entry level RVs for $3.22 a day, financed at about 7 percent for 15 years! That’s 5,475 days, by the way. And, let’s be real: Triple that $3.22 a day (at the very least) for a realistic figure of what that RV will really costs (to register, insure, maintain and sometimes store). Oh, there are camping fees, too.
Even though this website is doing well, it’s increasingly a challenge for us to stand alone amid a barrage of new RV websites written by formula by “content creators” (many of whom, perhaps most, have never stepped inside an RV) to attain favorable Google rankings (and thus earn more money). We’re all vying for the same eyeballs.
I personally have lost industry friends because of RVtravel.com’s honestly. Other “friends” no longer stay in touch. They are embedded in the industry and do not appreciate anyone rocking the boat.
What a shame!
There is no national “RVers” association — one whose mission is to look out for you and me. How can that be, I wonder, when it is so badly needed? We’ve tried to get something going, but don’t have the resources to make it happen. If I were 20 years younger, I’d push as hard as I could. But my energy, I hate to admit, is waning. For now, I believe, RVtravel.com is as close as it gets to being a watchdog for RVers. As long as I am involved we will continue to pledge our allegiance to you and other RVers, not the industry for it money.
If you believe in our mission, please consider helping support us with a voluntary subscription. Only 4 percent of you do, and I’m telling you, it’s a huge help. The other 96 percent of you benefit from what we provide, but do not feel compelled to pitch in. But thank goodness for those who do, for you provide the baseline income that allows us to remain free of editorial pressure from commercial interests that would blackball us in a flash if we wrote the “wrong” thing.
If you know someone who is planning to buy an RV, please urge them to sign up to receive one or more of our free newsletters.
Be safe out there.