Readers’ tales of woe about the quality of their RVs

Readers’ tales of woe about the quality of their RVs

By Chuck Woodbury
EDITOR
Anyone who doubts there is an issue with poor quality RVs rolling off the assembly lines should read these comments from our readers. All came within the last week. We could add 100 similar letters if we went back a couple of months. Please keep in mind there are two sides to every story. We only know that with the constant flow of letters like these coming to us either through emails or comments to articles, there is a serious problem — one that the industry doesn’t talk about.

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AS A FORMER 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 quality control 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.

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WE PURCHASED OUR HOME ON WHEELS in May 2016 and have had nothing but problems. There needs to be something done about the poor quality of RVs, and I suspect it will just get worse. The saying “You get what you pay for” does not compute in the RV world. Our RV cost over $100,000 and it had problems from day one.

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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 dealers 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.

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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.

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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 quality control ISO 9000+ quality system used by automotive and other manufacturing companies. Since all RV manufacturers, 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” based on whether a laboror 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 manufacturers to fix these problems if they want to keep selling RVs. Perhaps, if the industry would 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

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.

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I WORKED IN HIGH TECH manufacturing for 25 years and 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 and 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

Another point for drivable RVs. When we bought our Newmar Dutchstar 16 years ago we had looked at Monacos. We took it for a ride with a salesman on a stretch of highway we knew was horrible. It was road terrible and 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 and 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!

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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.

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A CLASS A MOTORHOME 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!!

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WE DISAGREE WITH THE 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

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 two minor warranty 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 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

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 number of coaches two months to two years old 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!

• ••

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.

• • •

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.

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WE HAVE OWNED an RV since 2003. Started in a 26 ft Sunline travel trailer. We had that for 10 years and never had a thing wrong. It was built so well. We moved up to a 2013 Cougar High Country fiver with slides. Again we had done our research. Walked through many models and found this to be built well. Never had any issues with it. We visit the RV shows every year looking at the newer models since then and have seen a steady decline in workmanship. Such that we were not looking to change. Last year all that changed when a

Last year all that changed when a semi truck drifted off the highway into our RV and truck on the side of the road awaiting a tire repair. We were shopping again for a new RV. We were very disappointed to see the decline in workmanship and the huge upsizing to RVs. It took awhile to find something we liked but we did. Our 2017 Durango 2500 has been great. No major issues. Workmanship has been good. We love it. There are good things out there you just have to do the research and look at everything. We had gone to an RV show last year, walked into one, and two of the cabinet doors had damaged hinges. When I asked why they hadn’t bothered to fix it, I was told ” Oh that’s just because so many people have come through and opened and closed the doors” well if I buy the camper and plan to use it, I will be opening and closing those doors A LOT. They shouldn’t do that. He just shrugged and blew me off.

• • •

WE WERE VERY DISAPPOINTED to see the decline in workmanship and the huge upsizing to RVs. It took awhile to find something we liked but we did. Our 2017 Durango 2500 has been great. No major issues. Workmanship has been good. We love it. There are good things out there you just have to do the research and look at everything. We had gone to an RV show last year, walked into one, and two of the cabinet doors had damaged hinges. When I asked why they hadn’t bothered to fix it, I was told ” Oh that’s just because so many people have come through and opened and closed the doors” well if I buy the camper and plan to use it, I will be opening and closing those doors A LOT. They shouldn’t do that. He just shrugged and blew me off. Needless to say we would never buy from him or that model. If you can’t pay attention to detail at a show with something simple like that what am I going to get if I buy from you?

• • •

MANUFACTURERS 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? Ooh, yes, they have a disclaimer about that. My 2017 Forest River arrvied with 17 items that were not in the coach that should have been, let alone the horrible workmanship they performed on a LOT of the installed items. I really felt like I got ripped off and I’m doing something about it. I’ve made them put in some of the items that were supposed to be there and also there is a HUGE roof issue that I’m still fighting over. Hey we paid $180,000 for this and it was supposed to be a dream coach. So far its been a nightmare!

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18 thoughts on “Readers’ tales of woe about the quality of their RVs

  1. DAVE TELENKO

    I have a 2017 Forest River 34QS, it was supposed to be our dream RV, not a night mare! In the 10 months we’ve owned it 4 of those months we couldn’t use it for one reason or another. Including 4 trips to the dealer to fix, replace or repair over 25 issues. Waiting for the dealer (DDRV) to get an appointment & then waiting for the work to get done, none of them in a reasonable time. NOT to forget all those KOOL items listed in their fancy brochure, that weren’t in our motor home (12 of them), their excuse was in the fine print of that they can change what they said without telling you, how sad. My dealer said that the FOREST RIVER BERKSHIRE was their best seller, didn’t tell me it was a great resource of warranty work & money for them!
    Disgusted with my dream Motor Home

  2. Charles Cowles

    We bought a new Class C 2011 Coachman Freelander 21 qb on a chevy chasis 6 years ago. We have put over 60,000 miles on it. It has been a WONDERFUL RV!!!! The ONLY thing that had to be replaced was a $30.00 fan vent motor !!! WE LOVE OUR COACHMAN !!!

  3. Stephen Douglass

    Seems the writers of some of the poor quality RV stories have made an effort to hide the names of those poor quality RV’s. You need to NAME NAMES!! How else do you expect to bring pressure to bear?

    1. Chuck Woodbury

      Stephen, If a reader identifies the year and make/model of their RV we will almost always include that in their comment and/or letter to the editor.

  4. Wayne Caldwell

    After reading all of these comments (and so many more from earlier stories) and the report from the deliverer, I thanked my wife that last year we bought our 2001 CrossRoads All American from the original and only owners. From what I’ve read, our CrossRoads was built with extremely high quality materials and workmanship before Thor bought the company.

  5. Richard Russell

    FYI all readers : we have tried to operate our motor home safely and do routine maintenance- the manual for our 2015 Tiffin Allegro shows ‘no’ alternate procedure for retracting slides in the event one fails to close! This Tiffin Allegro has no Mechanial crank mechanism as older motor homes such as our 2003 National Seabreeze

  6. Richard Russell

    We are one of those buyers! Tiffin, which we had heard was the Cadillac of motor homes is anything but: we have had 2 slide issues due to faulty or broken slide mechanisms, the first problem just 6 months after acquiring same! Warranty doesn’t cover that we are informed ? Say what? This year we drove 7000 miles without our kitchen slide because the motor failed as well as our failed cruise control! Say what ? Quality sucks and I’m going to write a letter saying so return receipt to Red Bay Alabama and Mr. Bob Tiffin-!
    Maintenance issues wouldn’t be so bad if these things broke after 5-6 years of use we believe and I once worked for Ford and an auto parts store so I know a little about what I speak. Is it due to buying stuff off shore or the employee they hire? We’ve made no less than 1200 miles at our expense and our last encounter took 60 days and I had to make an appointment 3 weeks in advance of bringing our RV to their shop in Pensacola ? WTF?
    Little stuff such as sinks not caulked, faulty roof vent and that was within the first 3 months ? O, by the way; 2 weeks after taking delivery I took it back to the Tiffin dealer in Pensacola for the firewall to be caulked for holes? The driver’s side window was extremely slow so I assumed it was the nature of the beast – I recently had a trustworthy mechanic say ‘the window is slow’; I subsequently had this Tiffin dealer fix some assuming it was covered by warranty ? Wrong and that repair cost $135 and the seal, which has been loose since purchase was also glued for another $100-? All in all, our last visit for warranty work cost us $1880 American-! That’s BS-!

  7. Bob Robinson

    We bought a 2010 Travel Lite model 960 Truck Camper as the travel trailers we owned turned out to terrible workmanship so being we had a Chev.2500 Long Bed why not try a Truck Camper..so we toured the factory in Paris, Indiana and was convinced of a well built camper as it was mainly a family owned company so we thought we had hit the jackpot..After the rear steel [optional} bumper came loose on one end we surveyed the problem and found that the rear overhang of 18″ was totally unprotected from water off the roadways thus serious rot in only 3 years. No help to fix or reimburse from the factory so over $1,000. later by a private carpenter repairman we felt it was time to say goodbye with integrity to a new owner..We never looked under the rear knowing it would be protected but out of sight out of mind..So beware of Travel Lite truck campers..is my advice.

  8. mark evenson

    I enjoy reading this publication. I have an RV albeit a very small one. A 17′ Casita travel trailer. I understand the issues with quality control and just want to compliment the folks at Casita. I toured the shop where all the units are made. I saw 1st hand the quality control. I am sure that there are both good and poor manufacturing practices in the RV industry as a whole. I am glad that I found a good one.

  9. Richard Davidson

    Our Mountain Are is a 1997. We have had her for 14 years being the third owner. Yes she is an old girl, but we have kept her up to date with many additions, repairs as needed and new paint etc. She is everything we need. Yes she doesn’t have all the bells and whistles that the new ones have, BUT she is well made, sturdy and can take a beating. (which I have mistakenly proven time and again with my out of the way shortcuts and back roads). We have looked at new coaches but just cannot find anything that compares to the quality we have in our old girl. They don’t make em like that anymore has never been a truer statement.

  10. Tom Rastall

    Have had 3 airstreams and have to say the quality on all 3 have been excellent. Most recent is a 2016 25 foot. The dealers and airstream customer service have been excellent. Something must be said for 80 year old technology. Hope Thore leaves them alone.

    1. Jaime Hanohano

      We purchased a 2017 19′ Airstream Travel Trailer and, so far, everything is in working order. There were a few minor cosmetic issues that the dealer took care of but other than that we are enjoying traveling about with her. Airstream’s reputation was the main reason why we decided on this brand…it was worth saving a bit more for a bit longer. Like you, Tom, we hope Thor doesn’t do any drastic changes or “improvements” and just leave well enough alone.

  11. David Albright

    After researching RVs for their availability of “cold weather packages” I was steered necessarily to Canadian built units since few US models offer them, and those that do are seriously lacking. In doing so, I found that they actually listen to their customers and build real QUALITY products. My next purchase, new or used, will be of a Canadian designed and built RV!

  12. Phil Smith

    Wow – this is not encouraging! I take delivery of my Leisure Travel Van in February, but I hope I am not deluding myself that this is a quality-built unit from quality workers. Their videos look good, at any rate – I’ll let the community know when I pick it up!

    1. Bob Minor

      Please do comment because we’ve been looking hard and a Leisure Travel is high up on our list of possibles.

      As David Albright commented, we get the impression that Canadian builders make a better quality product with a bit more thought given to durability.

  13. Pete Karczmarczyk

    I believe the two best Class Cs going are Phoenix Cruisers, made in Elkhart, IN., and Lazydaze made in Montclair, CA. I’ve had NO problems with either of them. They are both well made and drive well.

    1. Gary R

      My wife and I toured the Phoenix Cruiser factory last year and were quite impressed with what we saw. The place was clean and well organized, unlike some of the larger factories in the area. We saw units in various stages of completion which revealed very good workmanship and quality materials. Most of their workers have been with the company for years and seem to be dedicated to making a quality product. Their prices are reasonable for the quality level too.

      In addition to Phoenix Cruiser and Lazydaze, I would add Coachhouse and possibly Nexus to the list of good Cs available now. I read recently that Nexus will be “test camping” every unit that comes off the line, something that other manufacturers should be doing.

  14. Rob

    I found out the hard way that new doesn’t always mean better. I purchased a new Ford F150 and it was a total lemon, lost $5000 to get rid of it. This taught me a lesson when it came time to purchase our 5th wheel. We have been going to the RV shows for the last few years and I always noticed and pointed out to my wife the way the new models are built. If you open a cupboard door and look underneath or in the garage area’s of a unit and the wires or pipes are not strapped down properly and it looks like a birds nest that’s a good indication of how it was built. So we went on a mission to find an older unit that had been cared for and had solid bones, good roof (hadn’t leaked) frame in good condition. We bought a 1993 Gulfstream for $2900 bucks. We have spent $5000 on it and totally updated the interior, replaced the water heater, furnace, brakes, and tires. Installed solar and a battery bank system (1500 watt pure sine wave inverter) and will be keeping this unit going forward. I can’t justify spending $60000 and up for a new unit unit that is thrown together especially considering I would have to borrow the money for such a rig. My older rig doesn’t have slideouts and some of the fancy electronic stuff but we only sleep in the unit and watch some TV on a cold night.

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