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Did I get scammed? I bought an RV sight-unseen and it had problems! A precautionary tale for buyers

The story about my plans to travel with 12 cats cross-country continues with twists and turns. I purchased a used 39-foot Class A toy hauler. My thanks to all of you who discouraged me from traveling with the cats in a towable.

Last week I took delivery of my 2015 Newmar Canyon Star 3921. As a rather inexperienced buyer of RVs, I downloaded a PDI (Pre-Delivery Inspection) checklist and thought I was prepared. I was buying this rig sight-unseen from a dealer’s ad on RVTrader.com. I was buying a Newmar, a manufacturer well-respected for quality and support, so I felt a bit better about the deal. I’m afraid I made the mistake that our Russ De Maris spoke about here by telling myself “all RVs have problems; I can deal with them later,” perpetuating the bad trend of letting RV manufacturers and dealerships off the hook for quality problems.

The RV industry is going full-blast and dealers are low on inventory (as discussed here). RV manufacturers and dealerships are struggling to find qualified workers to meet the demand for their units and the servicing needed to maintain them. Quality issues are bound to follow, as our Mike Gast reported here. My dealer is not immune from these challenges. Like many dealers, the dealership is taking in used RVs as trade-ins as people look to upgrade or are retiring from camping, and it must find the resources to service these rigs.

My salesperson was very helpful

My salesperson was very helpful and did his best to make sure the coach was ready, but he is not a trained service technician so he had to rely on his support staff. I am not naming the dealership. Why? Because I think they are trying to do the best they can. However, the RV industry is just not up to par with the auto industry; buying new and used RVs is pretty much a “buyer beware” free-for-all.

In the pictures posted, I could tell that the refrigerator was not right – it was just set in the cabinet with no trim. The dealer was replacing damaged garage flooring and reupholstering the sofa and chairs. They also replaced the tires with new ones (more on that later). The salesperson had road-tested it and said it drove fine with all systems seemingly working. The service department would try to fix the installation of the fridge, which was in working condition.

I was not disappointed in Newmar

I can’t say enough about Newmar’s customer service. Every time I called, I spoke with knowledgeable and responsive people who gave me valuable information.  My decision to buy Newmar was an excellent one.

Delivery day

I faithfully went through my PDI and found a few things wrong that the service guy fixed. I did not walk on the roof but viewed it from a ladder (a newbie mistake). The slides were working fine and the A/C unit was on and cold. The generator started. I tested all the outlets with a Mike Sokol recommended device. All fine. I carefully checked for water damage along all windows and inside cabinets. None. They assured me they had checked all fluid levels in the engine and had changed the oil in both the engine and generator. I asked them about the tire pressures (I had forgotten to bring my gauge) and they again assured me the pressures were at spec.

Okay. Financing secured. I was ready to hit the road and bring my rig back to Asheville – an 11-hour drive with a one-night layover.

A scary first ride

I knew something wasn’t right the first time I went over a bridge; the rig felt like it was bouncing off the road. It shook more than Jerry Lee Lewis ever did. If I hadn’t had my seat belt on, I would have hit the ceiling. It continued like that as I traveled through Memphis, as night fell. Truckers and other motorists were signaling to me that something was wrong. No rear lights apparently. I made it to camp exhausted and, sure enough – no rear lights, but the brake lights worked fine. Thank goodness for small favors.

I am going to make a long story short: I took delivery of a used Class A that needed work.

The suspension apparently needed work and there were some electrical repairs needed to make it safe to take on a long trip. It ended up there was a cracked vent fan cover and a loose electrical connection on the driver’s power seat which I fixed myself (hey, I am very proud of that!). I don’t know how I could have checked the suspension before taking delivery, but I did not take it for a test drive. And, to be fair to the dealership, the coach did drive fine on smooth roads.

My used RV is now in the shop for repairs

The coach is now at the Ford dealership to address the suspension problems. The Ford dealership identified the main problem for my scary ride: The tires were horribly overinflated! I will point the finger at the dealer for this. There is no excuse except inexperienced help for this simple check. The Ford service guy said the shocks seemed okay. One of the brackets for one shock was pretty mangled but apparently safe. One stability bar was bent and had loose brackets. The rear light problem was a fuse in a fuse box buried deep inside the dash, which my wonderful Ford guy found and repaired. The dealership and I should have caught this. And finally, the brakes were a bit wonky and may need to be replaced. All in all, I think I will be able to travel with the cats safely. Whether the ride improves remains to be seen.

The moral of the story

Was I scammed? No. Could the RV dealership have done a better job preparing my coach for sale? Absolutely. The salesperson did his best to help and I commend him for that. However, the RV industry – manufacturers and dealerships/service companies – need to raise the bar for the products they are sending off the lot. They need to ensure that used rigs are thoroughly checked for safety and quality and make sure any problems are disclosed up-front to buyers.

When you buy a house, real estate companies, and the laws that regulate them, are required to disclose any defects and problems. An RV is a house on wheels, so why shouldn’t the industry have standards along this line? Why shouldn’t RV dealerships have them as well? Perhaps there are laws that I am unaware of that hold them responsible, but my experience was one of “Buyer beware.” Until we hold the RV industry up to higher standards, I don’t believe much will change. Let’s start upping the bar, folks!

Your comments and thoughts will be appreciated.
(*Editor’s Note: Dr. Karel has had a long, rough road…literally… finding the right RV for herself and her cats. If you choose to leave a comment, please be nice. 🙂 )

##RVT1022

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Lauri
11 days ago

I just bought my first RV, a used, 42 ft Fifth Wheel Toy Hauler for my ten cats and four dogs. I’ll be living in my RV along with my pets for six months. I too bought my RV pretty much sight unseen. I had an hour to make a decision. I thought I’d educated myself as well as possible but after I purchased it, I tried to pull a VIN report on the NHSTA website and got nothing. I called the manufacturer and they said my RV was too old to be in their system, it’s a 2011. I was able to find five serious recalls, all of which end with fire or explosion, based on the year,make and model. The dealership sold the RV to the previous original owner, but they have no way to check if recalled items have been replaced, it wasn’t serviced by the dealership. I simply want an RV that’s safe, will keep me and mine dry, warm, or cool depending on the weather. I realize full time rv living is a full responsibility. The lack of accountability for repairs to recalled components on RVs is egregious!

Donald Burg
1 month ago

Having owned 5 motor homes I have learned every pothole equals a 7 point earthquake….bring your repair tools!

Jetta McKenzie Pyatt
1 month ago

Dr Carnohan was my (hateful but much loved) cat Katakus’ vet in Asheville! I’m following her journey and wishing her much luck!

Last edited 11 days ago by RV Staff
Jetta McKenzie Pyatt
1 month ago

And I’m so glad to see UFO is among your kitties.

Lauri
11 days ago

Wow, I doubt she’s hateful. Incredibly intelligent and compassionate? definitely. Being a doctor of healing is really hard on a soul. Tread lightly on these incredible humans please. They deal with human garbage, the likes of which are unimaginable to most.

Jetta M. Pyatt
11 days ago
Reply to  Lauri

I can see how you misread my comment. I should have put hateful in the parenthesis and now I can’t edit it. My cat was hateful NOT Dr. Carnohan! She’s a wonderful vet.

Lauri
11 days ago
Reply to  Jetta M. Pyatt

Oh thank you for that clarification ☺ 😊 😄. Now I understand 😻😻😻

Admin
RV Staff(@rvstaff)
11 days ago
Reply to  Jetta M. Pyatt

I edited it for you as soon as I saw Lauri’s comment and your response, Jetta. Take care. 🙂 –Diane

Mark
1 month ago

Having been in the industry for almost 35 years, I can agree with most of what you said. However, you bought a complicated piece of equipment “sight unseen” so in a word yes, “buyer beware” Going to a good local dealer with a good longstanding reputation could have saved you some problems. Your experience could have been much worse. The industry should “up the standards” but honestly, where is the incentive to do so? People who shop online mainly are looking for “the deal” and that drives prices and quality down. It took many years for the U.S. auto industry to “wake up” and then it was only foreign competition that made them. Sadly, while I do believe some manufacturers and dealers are trying, there is just not enough incentive to be better. Example: Camping World.

Beth Chuck
1 month ago
Reply to  Mark

Mark. Well said. If you can recommend a reputable dealer in NC SC area I would like to know. Yes a property disclosure would be helpful, but on the sale day everything works fine, and in 2 weeks something breaks, then who is at fault? 2022 will be an interesting year for dealers.

David Darby
1 month ago

Shake down cruise was in order. Took months to get all the bugs outa mine. Now I go across the country with little concern.

Leslie P
1 month ago

We ordered our truck camper 10 months ago, gave the down payment. And waited. We were leaving the country, around the same time we had been told it would be done, so we called the factory to check in. It was being built as we spoke. We had arranged when we ordered it to do a factory pick up since we would’ve had to drive 2 states over to receive it from the dealership. Essentially driving past the factory. Lucky we called! The dealership had sent the wrong build sheet with our name on it. We were going to get a new camper without what we wanted! The manager stopped our build in time to correct the problems but it was just luck we called when we did! That was all on the dealership. Not once have they acknowledged what the mistake would’ve meant for us. Needless to say, lesson learned. Follow up on it.

Lyle Latvala
1 month ago

I bought my used Tiffin from a large dealer with locations across the country in February 2019, and many of the problems discussed above also happened to me. It’s NOT just a 2020-2021 issue! Our salesman was great and helped as much as he could, but most of the crew assigned to show us how to use the RV systems and to complete the transfer was young, inexperienced, and overworked … as they had three more units to transfer the same afternoon! I knew more than some of the ‘instructors’. I found multiple items to be corrected during the ‘instruction’, and they got fixed over the next 2 days on the dealer’s lot before we departed. The dealer says they inspect a used unit “completely, front-to-back” prior to sale, but they obviously had not inspected very closely (or at all). ….. Until the RV industry focusses on ‘customer satisfaction’ and not on ‘units moved’ and ‘dollars’, nothing will really change. My Tiffin is a quality unit, drives fine, and I don’t want to risk upgrading.

M Black
1 month ago
Reply to  Lyle Latvala

Actually it’s our problem since we are the ones stuck with bills or have it setting for months for repairs. We need some lemon laws and rules for selling used rvs. You cannot know the end and outs or have the ability to know what’s hidden behind walls or if the person who is working actually knows what he is doing.
We have put our faith and trust into a very expensive lucrative business which in turn has been turning out inferior products. We need to start writing to our states and let them know we have an issue and need some laws to protect us.
We looked at some new units slide failed to work another one the arm came of the couch another one a door came off when we opened it. These coaches where all higher end 3 to 4 hundred thousand. This is unacceptable and this is just what we could see happening.

Lindalee
1 month ago

Dear Dr. Carnohan,

There are RV Inspectors just like there are real estate inspectors.

We, who need to buy used, also need to contact a reputable inspector! (I think RVTravel.com has even provided a list – I’ll have to check my back issues.)

Unfortunately paying for a professional inspection will HAVE to become a way of life for used RV buyers (hey, maybe even for NEW RV buyers).

Ah well, just like a real estate purchase inspection an RV inspection will be just one more added expense to purchasing an RV LOL!!

Good luck and give ALL your kitties a hug from a “cat lady” (but I only have three).

Gordon A
1 month ago

My current unit is a 2011 KZ Durango 1500 5th wheel trailer, model 295CS. I bought it privately in Oct. 2019. Built in 2010, it was 10 years old when I put it on the road in May 2020. It needed 4 new tires and two new 30lb. propane tanks. I replaced the vent over the bed with a Fantastic Fan. The only major issue was a leaking grey water tank. I tore open the underbelly and discovered it to be a leak in the drain pipe fitting. I used JB Weld (for plastic repairs for PVC and ABS) and it worked great!

Gordon A
1 month ago

I have owned two RV’s since 2005. My first was a 1989 Class C MH, from my Dad after he passed away. It was a great rig for my 2 young kids and my wife. The only serious problem was a water leak over the front bunk bed, caused by a collision my Dad had driving thru a construction zone. The entire roof and 3 walls surrounding the bunk had to be rebuilt in 2011. A very expensive repair! If you’re going to purchase an older Class C unit, be sure to have it inspected for water damage.

Gregg
1 month ago

We bought our new TT last year and picked it up in March (Sol Horizon Rover). There were zero problems upfront and everything has worked like a champ through several camping trips. Shout out to inTech for a solid build and great attention to detail!

Beth Chuck
1 month ago
Reply to  Gregg

What model?

Matt Arnold
1 month ago

There are independent RV inspectors that do this type of work. Be a good idea to look one up prior to your next purchase. Most will travel to inspect for you. Well worth the money

ken
1 month ago

Has anyone been asked to provide insurance details and prove that you have 2million of liability? This for a 2006 Motorhome.

Cathi
1 month ago
Reply to  ken

I have been required to show insurance and registration any time I am staying 30 days or longer in an RV park

CLeeNick
1 month ago

I’ve never purchased a used RV from a dealership, only from private sellers, and I always checked them out personally beforehand, and accepted what I found wrong with the idea that I’m pretty handy and the initial price was low enough to allow for some inconvenience. We still own a 1977 Mobile Traveler Class C. Everything works, and I’m not afraid to drive it anywhere…in fact, it’s the lowest mileage vehicle we own, and we’ve owned it for 15 years.

On the other hand, the one new RV we purchased, a 2019 Keystone Passport 197RB, was quite a different story. There have been precious few issues with the rig, and Keystone themselves has been great about authorizing warranty service, even for an issue as large as the enclosed and heated underbelly that was on the paperwork, but not on the trailer. The issue we’ve had is essentially a local dealership that was johnny-on-the-spot about getting us into the new rig, but unfortunately, has been slow as molasses on everything else since.

Greg
1 month ago

All RVs have problems all the time. Be rich or a capable do it yourself person with time tools and skill or forget it.

You and your cats will probably be separated by circumstance.

Sorry to be the adult.

Lauri
11 days ago
Reply to  Greg

What do you mean by “you and your cats will probably be separated by circumstance.” You realize you’re addressing a DVM? That’s Doctor of Veterinary Medicine if you didn’t know. How rude!

Bruce
1 month ago

Over the years I have had boats and RV’s. On the marine side for some boats having a survey (inspection) done is quite common and some insurance companies require them. That said, much like commented on inspectors they’re not perfect by any means. I have seen some miss obvious issues. Also never use one the dealers might recommend as they tend to work together and may not be in your best interest.

As far as quality, remember 20+ years ago at a dealer buying a smaller 5th wheel and talking warranty and such. Even then they said all of them have issues. He pointed to a new American Eagle MH in the shop and said the owners had taken a trip and they were working on 3 pages of issues with it.

Boats and RV’s – it’s good if you can work on some of them yourself

Vince Sadowski
1 month ago

The roof on my 97 Dutchstar shrunk up in 3 of the 4 corners. Cracked windshields and windshields popping out at the bottom corners were a constant problem almost from day 1. I wasn’t impressed by the “quality” of a Newmar coach.

Diane Mc
1 month ago
Reply to  Vince Sadowski

That is sad. We still have our 2002 Dutchstar with over 250K miles. One small leak on roof and never an issue with windshields, 🤞.

Jeff Craig
1 month ago
Reply to  Vince Sadowski

My windshield tech told me that once you replace the original RV windshield, you are just biding time for a problem. I had to replace mine after we hit debris that came off a cattle/horse trailer, but ‘split’ windshield designs are notorious for coming lose in the corners. Probably why manufacturers have gone to ‘automotive’ style windshields.

Susan Smith
1 month ago

My hubby and I have been very fortunate in this regard. We have purchased 3 different used RVs from the same used RV dealership. The first RV, a 2000 20’, was purchased sight unseen other than viewing video pictures online, and we had it delivered to us. The second RV, a 2006 30’, was also purchased sight unseen other than pictures we saw online but this time my hubby flew down to get it and drove it back home. The third RV, a 2008 26’, we purchased sight unseen other than seeing video pictures online, but we actually drove the second RV to the same used RV dealership to pick up the third RV. The only reason we traded in the first 2 RVs was due to the size, We call her Goldilocks because the first one was too small for us, the second one was too big for us, but the third one is just right for us. We’ve owned her for 3 years and have lived in her full time for nearly a year.

Last edited 1 month ago by Susan Smith
Beth Chuck
1 month ago
Reply to  Susan Smith

Good for you 3 time charm. Class A? What model? What rv dealership?

Ron Sifford
1 month ago

Anyone with any sense of all knows the labor shortage is due to the very large baby boomers population retiring and much smaller population of the generation Z,Y and Z.

Translation, more jobs than people and the greedy business that pay no taxes and un livable wages with no benefits.

Rick K
1 month ago
Reply to  Ron Sifford

More like the generation X, Y and Z who are living off government handouts that don’t want to work for their income. Businesses pay taxes. It’s built into the cost of their product.

Pat
1 month ago
Reply to  Rick K

Rick, you’re painting an awfully large swath with that brush you’ve got. Baby Boomers are not the last “good” generation by any stretch of the imagination, IMHO.

Beth Chuck
1 month ago
Reply to  Pat

You are right. As the parent of kids age 28-24, super proud of how they are the hardest workers! People should not believe the media on these generations. I feel majority of non workers is age 33-47.

Lindalee
1 month ago
Reply to  Beth Chuck

Beth, I agree with you! The younguns are good it is the in-between (33-47) that seem to be somewhat lazy (I know my niece was – she’d be 43 except she committed suicide in July 2020 – couldn’t handle the pandemic OR the fact that one must work for a living – she wanted hand-outs, sadly, she left a then 16-year-old daughter that has a much better work-ethic than she did).

Wayne C
1 month ago
Reply to  Ron Sifford

You obviously don’t run a business or have employees.

Pat
1 month ago
Reply to  Ron Sifford

Actually, Ron, Millennials were the largest generation group in the U.S. in 2019, with an estimated population of 72.1 million. Born between 1981 and 1996, Millennials recently surpassed Baby Boomers as the biggest group, and they will continue to be a major part of the population for many years.

I agree with you about the greedy large corporations, but I don’t think that applies to smaller and mid-size businesses.

Last edited 1 month ago by Pat
Burt
1 month ago

We purchased a 2018 Winnebago Vista 29VE a couple of months ago from the dealer.

We had done a LOT of research, so decided to not pay for an inspection.

Fortunately the MH was in excellent condition, and there were a couple of minor things that we picked up on the inspection. I crawled underneath the MH to inspect for common issues. Overall the roof appeared to be in very good condition.

Even with doing a very detailed check, which included running the generator for the duration of the inspection there were still some things that we missed. None of them were show stoppers.

For good measure we had the MH checked out by an excellent local truck repair shop that works on motor homes. They gave it a clean bill of health.

If there’s a next time I would pay for an inspection, both for the coach and using the truck repair shop. It would be worth it.

George
1 month ago

To me, the root of the quality problems is labor. Manufacturers and dealers are hamstrung by a shortage of any workers, particularly skilled ones. Supply chain issues seem to be mostly due to port and transportation problems. There is of course a cause of the labor “shortage” and the problems can not be addressed until the underlying problem is (hint: it is of our own making). Until then, very strong demand will give manufacturers and dealers no choice but to sell what they can.

Mike
1 month ago
Reply to  George

“Until then, very strong demand will give manufacturers and dealers no choice but to sell what they can.”

They have a choice. One is to build as many quality units as they can with the labor they have, which is fewer units than the demand they have. The other is to rush units through faster than their inexperienced labor can build them well just to meet demand and then shove all those shoddily built units on to dealers and customers to manage.

I think we all know which choice they are making.