By Ron Burdge
LEMON LAW ATTORNEY
When you get ready to buy a new RV, there are a five questions you should always ask the dealer first, before you sign anything at all.
#1: The PDI. The how, when, where and what of the PDI (pre-delivery inspection) is certainly one of them. And it is absolutely right that it should be done when it hits the new dealer’s lot. Be forewarned, though, that some dealers don’t do a PDI until just before or after a sale is happening. And when they tell you about it, ask for a copy of the inspection form so you can see what repairs were needed just to make it saleable. The more things they had to fix, the riskier it is to buy it.
#2: Lot Rot. How long has the dealer had the RV on its lot? The longer it sits without being sold, the greater the chance there will be things wrong with it, some of which you might see and some of which you won’t see at all (maybe not until you are going down the road at 60 mph). When the unit sits too long without being sold, dealers call that “lot rot.” Generally you want to stay clear of problem RVs that the dealer hasn’t been able to sell. Dealers know what their “turnover” is (the average amount of time an RV sits on their lot before it is sold). If they won’t answer your question, you should be very concerned. In fact, that’s true for any question you may have.
#3: Service Department Process. Ask what it is, how does it work. You don’t want to bring your RV into the shop any sooner than the day they are going to start working on it, so ask. Some shops make a repair appointment when you call up and know they most likely won’t be able to actually start the job for weeks after the date they give you. They do that because once it is in their shop they know they have it captive until they can get around to it. Service work that is waiting to be done is better for their profit than waiting for the work to come in. Better for them but worse for you. Making loan payments while waiting for your RV repairs to be done does not a happy camper make.
#4: RECT. Every dealer knows their RECT number and that number is more important for you to know than it is to the dealer. RECT is the “repair event cycle time” in the dealer’s service department. In other words, it is the average amount of time it takes from when the RV arrives at their shop to when it is ready to go back to the owner. Some dealer repair shops simply work better and faster than others. To you, this number tells you about how long you can expect your RV to be unusable to you when you need something fixed, warranty or not. You want it to be the smallest, shortest number you can find.
#5: Get the 9 Magic Words. “We warranty this RV to you for 3 days.” Ask the dealer if they will give you their own 3-day warranty that if anything goes wrong in the first 3 days, they will fix it for free – anything at all. But be careful because they might just give you lip service and say “yes” and ignore it later on when you sign the sales papers. So when they ask you to sign the sales papers, that is the time you tell them to first write down on those papers that they warranty this RV to you for 3 days. You want it handwritten on the sales contract (they often call that the “Buyers Order” form) and written down by them – not by you. I am a lawyer, so take my word for it that in most states, when the dealer salesman writes that down on the sales contract, in most states you will automatically get a four-year warranty that the RV is “merchantable.” Believe it or not, that is very often a far better warranty to you than the factory’s “limited warranty” paper will turn out to be.
So what do you do if they won’t write down that they give you their own 3-day warranty? Walk away. RV dealers are a lot like politicians: They will promise you anything to get what they want, and at dealerships what they want is your money. If they won’t stand behind what they are selling to you for 3 days, how can you trust them that they are selling you an RV that is reliable, one that will work, one that will last for at least 3 days anyway? You can’t. Don’t forget those 9 magic words because they are legal. They can give you a whole lot more RV protection than you may think.
Ron Burdge is a long-time supporter of RVtravel.com and a highly regarded RV Lemon Law attorney. He can be reached at his website or by phone at 888-331-6422.