Tuesday, July 5, 2022

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Readers speak out about scary expensive RV repair bills

Here at RVtravel.com, we recently conducted a poll asking readers to tell about their highest RV repair bills. We expected to hear some whoppers, and the folks who commented didn’t disappoint. Read for yourselves.

Wendy was one of the 6 percent of poll responders that spent $20K to $30K on RV repairs. Here’s what she said: “Unfortunately, right after we purchased our 2016 Newmar Dutch Star, we started leaking oil…. It should’ve been a clue to us. We made a fatal mistake thinking our bank loan inspection was an actual inspection. We also let the consultant selling it rush us! So, a complete rebuild to the tune of $27,000 to Cummins on a diesel with only 55,000 miles on it, 4 months after we purchased. Oh, if I could go back in time….” I can only imagine your angst, Wendy. So sorry this happened!

The majority of folks who responded to our poll (69 percent) reported spending $5,000 or less on their RV repair bills. Maybe the best news of all is that only two voters reported RV repair bills so high that they got rid of their RV altogether.

Mr. and Ms. Fix-it

Before we get to the brutal truth about huge RV repair bills, we should recognize that several poll respondents said that they were “handy enough” to fix their own RVs without engaging the help of a dealership or private mechanic. This meant substantial savings to people who were both mechanically inclined and (in my opinion) extremely brave. (I can’t help but cringe when my husband crawls into our RV basement with his screw gun!) By handling the fixes themselves, these folks save a lot of cash, because many repair shops charge upwards of $170 per hour. Yipes! Still, many of the do-it-yourselfers mentioned the high cost of replacement parts, the difficulty in finding those parts, and the frustration of time spent waiting for those necessary parts to arrive.

Here’s how Steven N. put it: “I tell anyone that asks about getting into the ‘RV thing’ that you have to either be handy or well off. If you aren’t handy enough to do your own maintenance then you better be well off, so you are able to afford to pay someone else to do it.”

Here’s what Joe thinks: “We have a 2020 diesel pusher motorhome that we purchased in 2019 and for the most part has been trouble-free (knock on wood). … The build quality of the motorhome is good, it’s just the crappie components (common to most, if not all RV’s) that stink. Everything that has gone bad is made in China or has major components that are made there! Luckily, I can fix almost anything. It’s just hard to get at some of the issues.”

Jillie offered up this idea: “Keep a savings account towards RV repair.” I agree, Jillie. Just like an emergency account for other areas in your life, an RV repair savings account can take some of the sting out of those scary expensive RV repair bills.

Wait times for RV repairs

I feel for anyone who has to pay for RV repairs. Adding to the sting of the high cost of repairs is the wait time. This is time when the owner could be out enjoying his RV, but instead must wait for repairs to be made.

L.H. responded: “After a three-month wait to get an appointment and a five-month wait for the repairs … my out-of-pocket was about $13,000.” Ouch! Waiting eight months to use your RV hurts almost as much as the 13K bill! With so many more people getting into the RV lifestyle, wait times are sure to increase.

My own local RV dealer has stopped taking appointments for repairs or scheduled maintenance. Instead, they put the customer’s name on a “waiting list.” We placed our name on this list before our trek south for the winter. Now, back from three months of “snow birding,” we still have a two-week wait. Thankfully the “fixes” we need didn’t forestall our annual trip. Other folks aren’t as lucky. There’s nothing worse than making monthly payments on a rig or paying for storage on that RV you simply can’t use! Once you finally get your turn for an appointment, the wait for repair parts may set your trip back even further. Let’s hope that with the pandemic weakening, the supply chain delays for RV parts will ease up, too.

Will warranties help with expensive RV repair bills?

As you might imagine, there’s an ongoing debate about RV extended warranties. Are they worth it? Are some warranties better than others? We’ll leave that discussion for another day and instead hear from our fellow RVers.

James S. wrote: “The dealer tore the Cummins engine down thinking it had a bad wrist pin. [Instead] ended up having the power steering/hydraulic fan replaced. What should have been a less than $5000 repair became a nightmare. BTW, my warranty company refused to pay.”

The most infuriating warranty story came from Chuck D, who wrote: “Two weeks before the warranty was up on our new Class A we told the dealer about the roof leaking. They told us they ‘could not get to it now. Call back and schedule it for repair.’ A few days later we noticed the roof had splits across it. Big cracks all the way, following the ridge of the supports. I finally talked the dealer into sending someone to look at it. He came and looked. Then he went back with the report that the roof had to be replaced. I called to schedule the repair and the warranty was two days past [expiration] so I had to pay.” Chuck ended up going elsewhere and replacing the roof with RV Armor, a product guaranteed for the life of the RV. Check it out here.

Expensive RV bills are here to stay

It’s inevitable. RV’s will continue to break down. Repair bills will continue to go up. There is some good news, though. There are more and more websites, YouTube videos, and online tutorials that may help you become a do-it-yourselfer. You may need to purchase tools, spend non-fishing time, and befriend a mechanic, but you might (like my husband and me) learn to reduce at least some of the RV repair costs by doing it yourself.

Thanks to all of our poll responders! Happy traveling!

##RVT1048

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Brenda
2 months ago

Hmmm. I have been reading this newsletter for a lot of years. I recall not all that long ago there was a huge focus on something called “lemons” and the expensive side of owning an RV. Then the tide turned and “campground crowding” took our attention away from those issues.

Nothing has changed in the world of RV ownership. RVs have always been an expensive hobby. Now they are becoming an expensive way of life.

RVs have always had problems, some more than others. It’s a given that bad roads aren’t helping; finding good production workers and techs isn’t helping either, nor is the frenzied demand by buyers.

Those same folks who never read their manuals, likely never did their homework before buying.

Thinking about buying an RV? Read back issues of this newsletter; join Facebook groups to see what folks are REALLY saying about their rig. Do your homework. And for heaven’s sake, don’t believe salesmen or commercials!

Dennis G.
2 months ago

My wife married her mechanic. Learned house and car repair from my dad. Was a master tech at age 22. Have rebuilt over 100 engines in the last 40 years. Currently I restore classic cars, and have taught myself to paint cars.
My wife’s BMW needed a starter last fall. The repair shop wanted $800. I did it at home for $150. Repair prices have gone into the stupid realm IMHO.
Our vintage RV has required a number of repairs, and neglected maintenance to be performed. This including replacing the front and rear springs, rebuilding the brake system, and replacing the tires. Yes, replaced the 19.5 tires at my house.

BILLY Bob Thronton
2 months ago
Reply to  Dennis G.

Hopefully you pased some of this on!

Scott R. Ellis
2 months ago

RV’s are like boats: if you don’t like messing with them, you won’t like owning one.

Tim
2 months ago

My 15 year old Diesel Pusher needs constant attention. There is no way I could afford to hire out all the work required to keep it in shape. However I have my limitations and sometimes I need help. When I do I try and find a local shop or mobile mechanic. So far I have been able to. I can’t imagine parking my rig at a dealership and waiting months for them to overcharge me for a repair that with a little research I could have fixed myself or with some knowledge could have assisted a shop or mobile mechanic to repair.

tom
2 months ago

Love my RV Roof covering. Great peace of mind.

Michael Gardner
2 months ago

Not a dime. For labor. Warranty has covered my problems, or I’ve fixed things myself. I’ve saved thousands in repair charges, but of course with some stress of finding parts and doing the work.

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