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.
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. 🙂 )