Reader opinion: Want better quality RVs? Then pay up!

Reader opinion: Want better quality RVs? Then pay up!

The following was posted as a comment by RV Travel reader Paul Anderson.

Mr. Anderson wrote:
I would like to comment on the quality issue in newer RVs. I spent 20 years in quality control/assurance. If you want a 100 percent inspection you must be ready to pay for it. I would estimate that if the Trailer/Coach were 100 percent inspected it would raise the retail price by at least 5 percent, possibly more.

The manufacturers depend on their suppliers to inspect their product before it’s shipped. Most problems I’ve heard about are not the trailer/coach manufacturers but rather their suppliers. I feel confident that someone will point out that they should just change suppliers. In the RV world there are relatively small number of suppliers, for instance axles; basically they’re limited to Dexter and Lippert. I’m not saying they couldn’t improve the quality, because they could, but it would have to include not just the manufacturers but their suppliers.

Editor’s comment:
The auto industry has seemed to achieve a far higher level of customer satisfaction and covered the cost of ensuring its products are relatively problem free for buyers. The RV industry isn’t even close in customer satisfaction: In a recent RVtravel.com survey, about 20 percent of our readers described the workmanship quality on their RVs as “terrible.”

Consumers share much of the blame because they do not do due diligence by more thoroughly researching and inspecting the RVs they buy. They buy the “bling” and then suffer the consequences. If they did their homework, RV makers wouldn’t get away with building crummy units.

We’ll keep writing about this. But as far as I see it, an industry cannot produce a product that one-fifth of its buyers say is of terrible quality and expect that’s okay. It’s not. — Chuck Woodbury, editor

Feel free to comment.

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23 thoughts on “Reader opinion: Want better quality RVs? Then pay up!

  1. Traveling Man

    Well… Are of the comments below are spot on. Enough said…

    Now, the question is, what are we (as consumers) going to do about it?

    Sell the rig and do nothing?

    Get back what you can IF you can find a buyer to fix the junk?

    There seems to be only 2 real solutions:

    1) Change comes with your wallet (no pun intended). STOP BUYING until/unless quality is resolved. (not going to happen in the current environment. The NRVIA has a lot more money than you do)

    2) WRITE YOUR CONGRESSMAN and demand change. Invoke regulations on safety and quality. Demand that an RV owner be educated. Demand quality engineering specifications. Demand true and accurate advertising.

    Folks, NOTHING is going to change unless WE demand it. If you know of another way to get this done (other than 1 and 2 above), I’m all ears.

    Folks are being taken for a ride (no pun intended again) and will it not stop unless WE stop it.

    Now…I hate it when the government gets involved in anything. Eventually, they will be as corrupt and bought out as the NRVIA. But in the beginning, we’ll start change.

    Oh…I have thought of 1 other idea. WE start our own QUALITY RV company. Anyone want to pitch in to get this up and going? We can make it a part of the Business Model to EDUCATE to consumer on what they are buying and what to look out for. WE can provide a WARRANTY that will actually be honored. We can pay wages based on the quality input. We can set the expectations for the Company BEFORE the first person is hired. It DOESN’T have to be a GREED Company to be profitable. And…It DOESN’T have to be built in INDIANA to be successful!

    Any thoughts?

  2. Ted Moore

    If RV’s are so poorly built, why have annual unit sales set records for the last, what, 7 or 8 years? Caveat emptor, and if you don’t, don’t come whining to me because you bought a brand new Thor whatever rather than a 10 year-old Tiffin. RV build quality and dealer and manufacturer customer service are problems for the marketplace to resolve, as occurred in the car industry 40 years ago, as other commentators have noted. Lemon laws would help, of course, but it wasn’t those that got Detroit’s attention all those years ago. It was those upstarts from Japan.

  3. DAVE TELENKO

    I have to agree so I can disagree! Most of the RV suppliers are TOP brands, but they also have the same problem, quality control before it leave the plant! As far as the RV manufacture goes, they hope the end user never notices the defects that are in their units, while under warranty. Especially that fancy brochure you got with your new unit. Did you ever compare what was in that brochure to what you actually got, oh yes they have a disclaimer about that. I have a 2017 Forest River that has 17 items that were not in the coach! Let alone the horrible workmanship they performed on a LOT of the installed items. I really felt like I got ripped off & I’m doing something about it. I’ve made them put in some of the items that were supposed to be there & also there is a HUGE roof issue that I’m still fighting over. Hey we paid 180K for this & it was supposed to be a dream coach, so far its been a nightmare!

  4. Casey Piton

    Pay up? Pay up!?!? How much more do I have to pay to get a quality product? We purchased a DRV in May 2016 for over $100,000. Don’t you think I should get good quality for that price? We had 63 problems the FIRST time we went to the factory to get things fixed. We’ve been back twice more and there are STILL issues. Some are supplier issues, but MOST are NOT!!! It’s the quality of the factories that is lacking, not the suppliers. I could write a book on the issues we’ve been dealing with. Since we’ve been on the road we have talked to many people with the same brand and they are having similar issues. It just so happens that in the DRV world, the major quality problems didn’t happen until THOR bought them out. When we were deciding what brand to purchase, we stayed away from THOR because of all the bad reviews. We didn’t know they purchased DRV until it was too late, we are now facing the disappointing consequences.

  5. David and Liz Hernandez, Florida

    We disagree with the first comment that “the problems are with the suppliers;” the issues we’ve seen are primarily with the manufacturer factory workers’ work ethic and no quality checks/rejects prior to pushing the RV out to the dealers. Our issues included: very little (or no) caulking around the shower and sinks, sink drains not screwed tight, slide topper screws overnighted with broken off heads and then glued back on, microwave installed at incorrect angle and without removing the metal vent tab causing it to vent back into the RV (yes, carbon monoxide from the gas stove was not leaving the coach), main circuit breaker was installed as a 20 AMP instead of a 30 AMP, wallpaper wrinkly installation in multiple spots, over cab TV excessively vibrating while driving due to improper installation, and I could go on and on here… We had upgraded from a 2008 to a 2014 Itasca Cambria (both of which we purchased new), because we wanted full body paint, more slide outs, and newer technology improvements. What a mistake! The 2008 required only one visit to a shop to resolve 2 minor warrranty issues during the years we owned it. The 2014 was clearly a lemon; although we learned the Lemon Law only applies to the motorized vehicle part and not the home part. The Ford part was never the problem, all the issues were clearly Winnebago’s fault. Multiple 3-4 month long shop visits for 11-37 issues each time resulted in being without our new coach for a total of 11.5 months out of our 24 months of ownership. We decided we couldn’t take it any longer when we returned from a trip with 9 additional issues to go to the shop for, and had to sell it. We considered trading it, but almost any new RV we looked at had a host of bad reviews and/or we noticed similar flaws while they sat on the showroom floor. Because of the rapid depreciation, we were quickly upside down in our loan. This unit’s MSRP was around $127,000; we bought it for $95,000; and dealers would only buy it back for $57,000. We lost over $25,000 just to get out of it before the next NADA RV Value book release depreciated it yet again. We are very passionate about RVing and miss it everyday. The quality issue has completely soured our RV dreams. We now own a passenger van and stay at hotels. This was not our dream, but the industry pushed us out. Every issue we had was without a doubt due to factory installation defects, incomplete work, wrong parts, and then no (or fraudulent) quality checks before the unit was released from the factory. The dealer just pushed the unit along without proper checks of their own. We can’t help but see the increasing amount of 2 month – 2 year old RVs which are now for sale and think most of them may be in the same condition (owners couldn’t take dealing with all the issues and sold them at a loss just to move forward). We did not experience this with any of our previous 1990-2008 model RVs (not even those from the same manufacturer)! The industry clearly lost its quality around 2012/2013, and we can’t wait for someone to truly bring the quality back!

  6. Frank Yake

    I suspect if the same lemon laws that apply to cars were extended to RVs the manufacturers and suppliers would soon have to sort out quality problems…..or lose sales to dealers!

    And a Casita…while a bit primitive and small…is consistently built….though not appealing to many due to size and/or cost.

  7. Eric Eltinge

    Just like the 1960s and 1970s. Lousy American cars allowed the Japanese to take over the auto market. I’ll bet a Toyota Tundra chassis would be more reliable than my Mercedes Sprinter. Sad!

  8. Glenda

    I have a 2001 Lazy Daze motorhome, which I bought from the original owner in 2006. It is a high-quality unit, which I would put up against almost any new unit being built nowadays. However, one thing that really irks me is that so many RV parks won’t allow me in because of its age. One park that I called wouldn’t accept me for that reason and also because it’s less than 30 feet long! I guess they prefer those big lemons.

  9. Wayne

    Pay Up???? Class A motorhomes that cost Hundreds of thousands of dollars should have the “cost” of quality built in. How about manufacturers just being honest with consumers? Example: Winnebago brags about quality inspections and the famous rain test each coach goes thru. My 2014 Tour left the factory with NO sealant around the front cap—the first time it rained it was like Niagara Falls in the front seats. Maybe they only test every 5th coach. Of course I also had over 100 system/parts failures in the first 2 years spending weeks parked at the factory for “fixes” that promptly failed again after leaving the factory. Their mantra seems to be just slap the thing together and let the dealer worry about repairs. The problem for the consumer is that the dealer cares less than the factory!!

    1. Gary Causey

      It’s so upsetting to me and I’m sure many buyers can relate. My neighbor has a new Tour and it also has spent more time at the dealers under warranty repair than on the road. When he expressed suing under the lemon law…..well there “ain’t” no lemon law. It just sits with the FWS not working after four repair attempts.

  10. jason carr

    After 20 years in QA the commenter should know quality can’t be “inspected in”; it needs to be there in the design and manufacturing process.

    We don’t necessarily need to pay more: I suspect there is a market for a better quality, simpler RVs at the same price points. Perhaps the Gen X and Millennial buyers will be the demographic groups that make it happen.

    The sad quality of RVs and chintzy amenity overload are what convinced me to build a Class B rather than buying one. It will cost half as much, have 3x the solar power, and be laid out exactly the way I want.

    “Feature creep” is real and tempts manufacturers to keep adding low quality ‘amenities” to check all the boxes.

  11. Rene Maloon

    A lot of good comments. We have an older RV 2001 & have only had 2 other RV’s. We have gone to RV shows in our area & have not found anything in the market that has impressed us to upgrade. So far we have been happy with our older model but still don’t want to go full time, less so with some of the problems you have been reporting. At any rate, your articles are spot on, and I enjoy most of them. Those that don’t interest me, I just pass on. Thanx for all you are doing. PS-Montana still has some great boondocking places, but you have to know where they are.

  12. Diane M

    Worked in hi tech manufacturing for 25 years & ran the Materials organization. I could go on and on about what RV companies need to do. I wonder if any of them have looked at the cost of warranty vs doing it right the first time; the manufacturer & their suppliers. Not to mention any goodwill lost by unhappy customers not upgrading in future or telling prospective buyers to stay away. Another point for drivable RVs. When we bought our Newmar Dutchstar 16 years ago we had looked at Monaco’s. We took it for a ride w/salesman on a stretch of highway we knew was horrible. It road terrible & crossed them off list. Took the Newmar on same test drive and rode great. Both salesmen told us the majority of buyers don’t do test drives. Even with salesman driving! We love our Dutchstar. We recently put a new engine in & had factory do some remodel, new roof, paint. Probably $80K for a like brand new coach. Too expensive for new coach at our age and worried about getting a lemon since we were lucky with our first!

  13. Jim Bennett

    Pay up? Where is the limit on the incessant greed from dealers and manufacturers who shove these rigs out the door for a fast buck? After spending countless weeks researching all makes and models of fifth wheels,I settled on a certain make and model…whose manufacturer “swore” was the best built and most quality inspected out there…WRONG. I was flat out lied to by the dealer’s so called service manager for starters…the rig was never properly PDI’d and I spent over a month fixing things the dealer should have fixed up front.There seems to be a gross lack of “I don’t give a hoot” anymore…no morals or work ethics like us old timers had. We have been RV’ing for over 40 years,and full timing for at least 5…I have never seen such greed and lack of integrity in any industry. I know there are many who never run into these unscrupulous dealers…but I would bet the farm there are more who have than have not.RV manufacturers,and dealers…put up or get out of the business…stop stiffing consumers for profit.

  14. Bill

    Hi Chuck, in your article you mention that one fifth or 20% of the RV owners are dissatisfied with their rigs. That means some or all of the remaining 80% either didn’t comment or are satisfied with their units. On the quality control front, I don’t believe I have seen any of the RV manufacturers are part of the QC ISO 9000+ quality system used by automotive and other manufacturing companies. Since all RV manufacturer’s, to the best of my knowledge, build their units “by hand” in a tin garage, using whatever unskilled or semi-skilled labour they can find, buying a well built rig is a “luck of the draw”, that this labour did a good job of assembly that day. A 20% poor build rate appears to be acceptable to manufacturers, as long as the units go out the door. It is up to the RVIA to work with dealers and manufacturer’s, to fix these problems, if they want to keep selling RV’s. Perhaps, if the industry were to slow down and improve production some of these quality issues could be better controlled. People who are in a position to buy a new unit will wait for a quality RV. Buyers, when you are looking for a new or used RV, remember it’s like buying new home. Do you buy the first one you see? Of course not, so do a good inspection. Check into the maintenance and history of that used rig. Take them for a good test drive and look them over without the sale person looking over your shoulder. Eventually the RV buying bubble will burst. Manufacturers and dealers will go out of business again. But if you do a good job shopping for an RV, there will be less chance you will get a terrible rig and need the help from those defunct dealerships and manufacturers.

  15. Chuck

    As a former RV sales person, I can attest that any complaints are mild ones. The dealer has to sweep nails and screws off the floor after receiving the rigs. Dealer QC consists of whichever sales person happens to be free at the moment. I’ve found ceiling lamp fixtures sitting on the table waiting to be factory installed during inspection. I opened up a murphy bed one time on a new unit and the loose bolts on the frame caused the upholstery to rip in half on the first use. Additionally, the dealer complaints are correct as well. Employees in the “working age” group don’t show up for work. And they certainly don’t inspect incoming units if they are not there. Running a business correctly is hard work that includes lots of feedback from all front line employees on improving processes and quality. A well run dealership is both hard work, and hard to find.

    1. Jim Bennett

      How right you are about American work ethics and morals anymore…but one will quickly notice how fast the quality has dropped and the price shoot up. GREED.

  16. John Ahrens

    I think the solution will be similar to the auto industry. The auto industry was fixed when foreign manufacturers started selling higher quality products for less money than the American manufacturers. This forced the American car companies to get better or get out. We need someone to figure out how to bring the same quality standards and practices to RV manufacturing, building a better product for less money

    1. Mac

      We bought a pre-owned 2006 Pleasure Way (manufactured in Canada) which we’ve had for 1 year. We just returned from a month-long cross-country trip and were quite pleased with its performance and durability; adding stabilizers certainly helped. Upon our return we’ve considered updating and looked at 2 American-made products. Your article on poor standards for RV’s inspired me to go beyond the glitz and decor. The interior structures were inferior to what we own, the walls jiggled when I lightly pressed my hand against it. I can’t believe these RVs would be sound in any normal conditions, i.e., driving on a road with normal wear and tear let alone a windy open highway. We realize the unsafe construction of these products and have decided to keep our Pleasure Way. Keep up the informative articles!

  17. Johnm405

    I think people should do with articles in the newsletter they don’t want to read should do the same as with e-mail skip it or hit the delete button.

    There is no way all articles will or can be interesting to everyone.

  18. Frank D

    I worked for a Diesel manufacturing company for 33 years and more than half of those years in Quality Assurance. It is proven that 100% inspection will only catch 80% of the quality issues. A lot of it is due to boredom with some people, but with other people the repetitive views will cause the defect to stand out.

  19. john stahl

    I agree with CHUCK. The auto industry has done it. The RV industry needs to get with it and stop making excuses or get out of the business.

  20. Pat Hoyland smith

    You are so right chuck. There really isn’t, a quality RV out there. It is a crap shot with your money. No consistent RV is made. I don’t feel you need to check suppliers, I think they need to choose better parts, and install them more accurately. Inspect, and most of all stand by and back up your product.

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