Edited by Russ and Tiña De Maris
If you’ve been a bit chilled by the weather, you’ve come to the right place. Maybe it’s the cold weather that warms up the opinions, and comments from our readers over the last couple of weeks show there’s no question about where folks stand on some RV topics. Here we go!
Vanishing RV fun?
Hunting for a campsite? Editor Chuck Woodbury, now on the road full time, has had plenty of “adventures” looking for places to park his motorhome. In a recent story he wrote, “For people like me, who have traveled by RV for decades, RVing today is not as much fun. I was reminded of this in a letter last week from a reader named Paul. There are so many RVs these days, it’s often a chore to find a campsite. Until about five years ago, I never made a campground reservation, never needed to. Now, I make them most often, typically after a lot of time and research.”
Chuck’s comments struck a nerve with plenty of you. Here’s a sample.
B W Odom writes: “We have also noticed more campgrounds converting sites to long-term rentals — essentially becoming a mobile home park with some overnight spots. One local park with a six-month limit simply allows the residents to switch sites every six months to get around the rules.
“For us, there are two other factors pushing our decision: (1) the lack of quality/dependability we are finding in newer RVs, and (2) the lack and accessibility of reliable repair facilities. The upkeep of our RV has become a serious factor in our decision…costs have gone up every year due to increasing labor rates, lack of competent technicians, and poor product quality. Wait times to even get an appointment can be months!
“Surely the $$ that the RV industry is bringing in could be used to provide training and scholarships to put more qualified RV techs into the workplace; and to provide startup assistance for new campground owners or even campground expansions? Or perhaps all of those taxes being taken in for these new RVs being sold could be dedicated to expanding state/local parks?”
Tommy Molnar sounds a slightly different note: “Sometimes we stay in ‘pay parks’ for the necessity of washing clothes or cleaning out the black tank. If the park is in or near a small town, we always walk the town and take in the local flavor: Small mom and pop stores, a museum of local history, or a restaurant known for some specialty item on the menu. It’s still fun for us, but we too are noticing more and more folks out on the road (and in campgrounds). I don’t want to sound like one of those ‘I got mine, now lock the door’ guys, but in a way, that’s how I feel, selfish as that sounds.”
Finally, John Rakoci offers a thought that should give the RV industry folk a pause for thought. “Correct, not as much fun, more expensive, much more crowded. Since we live at the beach in North Carolina being on water is not as important as it is to many and that helps. Being retired is the biggest help of all. We stay home during summer months and I fish the Atlantic. Once school starts again in September we are on the road a lot!
“Florida, where we spend at least two months is very crowded and expensive. We have a campground that we will always reserve a spot for the next year before we leave as we have looked and will continue to but have not found anywhere we like better. We have even more plans for Georgia, Tennessee, and Louisiana. We are still open for Virginia, Alabama and maybe Mississippi this year before schools let out. However, I’m like [others] to a point, when all I can find are tight spots, I’ll quit too.”
RV quality becomes a bone of contention
Sad to say, but predictably, time would fail us if we published every comment received regarding the state-of-affairs when it comes to RV quality control issues. Got ear muffs? You might want to put them on before you read the comments!
DRW speaks from experience. “Too many people are buying the floor plan and the ‘bling’ factor with zero concern about the bones and build quality. My method is to avoid new motorhomes, and look for very high end older coaches that have depreciated into my price range, then update and modify to my taste.
Ellen recognizes the problem, but wonders what to do. She writes, “We’ve been full-time RVing for about eight years now and have bought two rigs in that time and definitely saw a decline in quality over those years.
“I’m wondering, though, how you’ll advise people to be smarter about buying an RV when many of the issues people are finding are behind the walls, above the ceilings? How can one know they’re buying a unit that won’t leak around the windows because the hole for it was made too big? Should you take all the face plates off the electrical switches and plugs to make sure they’re properly anchored? don’t have to take the dashboard apart in my new Jeep to make sure the steering wheel is properly anchored. Yes, buyer beware, but hey! We have to draw the line somewhere.”
James, in South Texas adds, “At the cost of RV’s one would consider workmanship and the manufacturer’s good name would go hand in hand. The recall lists continue to grow, the list of poor workmanship increasing each day, and the number of complaints verbalized and written increasing, why is the RV Industry not listening?”
To which, editor Chuck responds, “The RV industry listens, it just doesn’t care. As long as people buy what a particular manufacturer makes and the competition isn’t any better, then they just keep cranking out bad RVs, or at least ones with many flaws. Consumers must do a better job of shopping for a quality unit. Sadly, Consumer Reports does not rate RVs and there is no other organization that I personally respect that does.”
Which leads us to a related topic: Many of our readers have asked why rvtravel.com doesn’t recommend publications and reviews from say, RV Consumer Group. Here’s why from an answer Chuck provided a reader earlier: “I have mixed feelings about RV.org [RV Consumer Group], and cannot recommend it as a source of quality information. Some people claim the information they have purchased there has been a big help, others say they felt they wasted their money. RVreviews.net seems to be focused on selling information. In either case, my staff and I purposely avoid recommending either of these businesses. We know of no ‘Consumer Reports’ for RVs.”
Nightmare on RV Street
Once again called in to mediate issues for an RVing couple, the RV Shrink deals with “Husband’s dream RV is wife’s ‘gas hog’ nightmare.” Evidently our readers felt there’s plenty of room in the RV world for a “bigger” rig. Or do they?
Jerry X Shay suggests, “Don’t think of gas mileage as ‘driving to work each day.’ Right now we are into our sixth week (of eight weeks) in one spot. Talk about great gas mileage – ha! You will not be driving down the road 365 days a year. As stated, you will drive your McMansion to a destination and then drive your car around to see the sites. Be sure to pencil in the fact that you are on an extended vacation when you RV. You will be paying to park, admission to attractions, you will eat out to try cultural food of the area, attending RV rallies, etc. Gas is not your only financial concern.”
Richard Warnke recommends conservative measures to make your big rig go farther. “Drive with a light foot. No jackrabbit starts. As long as we aren’t holding up traffic, 55-57 mph is fast enough. Don’t use the cruise control unless the road is really level. Watch the road ahead so that we don’t race up to the red light and have to jam on the brakes. In fact, watch the road ahead so that we almost never use the brakes on expressways. (Brakes destroy the inertia one pays to create with fuel.)
“Pay less for fuel. We use the Gas Buddy app on the phone to find good gas prices — of course, making sure our rig and towed can negotiate the gas station. One of our credit cards gives us a 5% rebate on fuel purchases in the USA and Canada, plus 3% on campgrounds. In this way, with limited $$$ resources, we’re able to enjoy full-timing, including driving our motorhome 25,000 to 30,000 miles per year, taking in many beautiful sights of God’s creation.”
Gene Bjerke suggests an alternative: “If your main concern is cost, why are you buying a McMansion? We travel in a top-of-the-line Class B. We get 18-20 mpg, dry-camp frequently, and are perfectly comfortable. If space is most important to you, you have to realize space costs. A smaller rig can be just as comfortable and offer all the amenities at a lower cost. You pays your money and you takes your choice.”
Ban diesels from big cities?
We heard plenty off coughing from our readers when the story on four big cities around the world that plan on banning diesel engines from operating within. A sample of the responses shows the coughing wasn’t from smoke inhalation.
Glen got right to the point on his feelings on the matter. “This is absolute BS. For any of you who have visited Europe, what percentage of their daily drivers are diesel? My bet is it’s the higher percentage because the diesel powered cars get much better mileage compared to gas powered. And this doesn’t seem to take into account DEF [diesel exhaust fluid]”
Still, not everyone’s a fan of “oil burners.” RVGrandma gives her “two-cents” with, “I hate diesel pickups – they are noise pollution in RV parks! I hate getting behind diesel trucks that spew out black smoke causing you to cough. Doing away would be impractical. They just need to set emission standards for diesel like gas powered. Make the truck owners keep them in better working order so they don’t spew out the black smoke, etc.”
In response, Susan Callihan drops in another quarter’s worth. “Diesel vehicles produced prior to 2011 are dirty and smoky IF they are not properly maintained. I’ve been stuck behind many gasoline powered vehicles with the same problem – not properly maintained. However, diesels produced after 2011 are cleaner, with minimal particulate emissions, due to the use of DEF. Let’s not wrap all diesel vehicles in with the older, not maintained ones.”
Others question the practicality of such bans. Cindy, for example writes, “Yes, diesels are favored even in colder climates of northern Europe. And yes, it’s due to a couple of things: (1) mileage and (2) ease of repairs and parts. Most of the diesel cars are actually manufactured in Europe (e.g. Volkswagon, BMW, etc.). Doing away with them would hurt the automotive industry. I don’t believe it would make a great difference in air quality. Let’s face it, it’s NOT practical for everyone to drive an electric car, but that’s what would have to happen. Not practical for commercial trucks at all.”