By Chuck Woodbury
My father owned a small plane, a twin-engine Piper Comanche. I flew with him often, mostly for pleasure, but sometimes I hired him to fly me somewhere on a business matter in a small town rather than hassle with a commercial flight.
When we climbed into the cockpit, we both knew we were about to take off in a very well-built piece of machinery. I was thinking about this today and wondered if I were to learn one day that Piper, Cessna or Beechcraft were purchased by a big RV company, say Thor or Forest River, the two largest, would I fly in one of their planes? I didn’t even have to think: “No way on earth!”
Private aircraft are made to last. Visit any small airport and you’ll find planes made 50, 60 or even 70 years ago, and all perfectly safe to fly. Yes, they were required by the FAA to undergo regular maintenance, but the planes were made well to begin with.
Except for luxury motor coaches, RVs are made to sell, not to last. That’s important. Think about it: made to sell, not to last.
Be sure to answer our poll on this subject when you finish this article.
New RVs look pretty, even the “stick and tin” (industry term) models that Camping World sells to unwary customers by the tens of thousands. Those stapled and glued models will be junk in 10 years.
Most cheap- to moderate-priced RVs do not even receive a final inspection before they leave the factory. If there are defects — which there almost always are — it’s the dealer’s job to fix them: A highly ethical dealer will do that. But most will not, or at least they won’t look very closely for defects. They’re too busy in their shops trying to fix the crappy RVs that previous customers bought.
That job falls to the consumer. And that is why, if you read our Facebook Group RV Horror Stories, you will find report after report from RV buyers whose brand-new RVs spent more time in the repair shop their first year than on the road. All the time, those would-be RVers were cancelling vacations and camping trips. Yet they were still making monthly payments (as their units depreciated) and … tick, tick, tick … their factory warranties were expiring.
Close to a half-million RVs will sell in 2019, as in previous years. I’d estimate three-quarters of the buyers will buy the “bling” — the “great floor plan” or the “beautiful” interior or maybe the great graphic package. But they won’t even bother to look beneath the surface and see the staples and glue holding the flimsy pine framing together, and the very cheapest Chinese components running the systems.
Ya gotta hand it to the RV makers: They know how to build good-looking cheap crap that consumers will buy with a twinkle in their eye dreaming about all the great times they’ll have with their rolling home in the years to come.
OKAY, TO BE FAIR, most RVers will enjoy their rigs, which will be of acceptable quality. But far, far too many will be poorly made, some too badly to be used.
At RVtravel.com, we are only able to educate a relatively small number of those half-million new buyers on how to buy smartly. We hear later from the others, who lament making huge buying mistakes such as “not inspecting the coach from front to back, top to bottom” before signing their contract.
If only RVs were made like small planes, or even automobiles. It’s sad that the biggest remaining manufacturing center in America is in Elkhart County, Indiana, “the RV Capital of the World.” Can’t we Americans do better? But, you know, profits are up, CEOs and stockholders are happy, so there you go…
So what do you think?
Would you fly in an airplane made by an RV manufacturer? Answer our poll.
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