Who really makes a quality RV?

Who really makes a quality RV?

By Steve Savage
Mobility RV Service

In a week’s time I received an email and a campsite visitor, both of whom wanted to discuss quality control. The email was from a reader who wanted to know who made the best RV.

My answer is always the same: The best quality control is generally found with RVs from small manufacturers — make that, very small volume manufacturers, usually accompanied by price tags to match their quality control. They are not perfect, but at least with those you might have a fighting chance.

If the question is intended to ferret out the best from large manufacturers — Thor, Forest River, Heartland, etc. — here we go again. In my opinion, quality control is so variable that buying based on brand name and counting on finding a quality product is simply an impossibility. Yes, they all make some good RVs, but they also make some which are a nightmare for their owners. Again in my opinion, warranty coverage is no better from one than from another. Search the Internet for the model of your choice and add “complaints” to the search bar and you will see what I mean. Those complaints also match my experience as a technician.

My campsite visitor wanted to simply vent about the problems he had with his own unit, which he purchased new. In his opinion, such poor quality control was, in his words, “unethical” — an opinion I hear often. What he wanted to know is why things are the way they are, and I think the answer to that question is simple: Sales are going great guns. New RVs are rolling out the doors in record numbers. People continue to buy them while readily acknowledging they will have problems. It is analogous to purchasing a car and expecting the tires to go flat and windshield to leak water.

So here is where RV buyers are stuck. RVing is fun. People like to RV. My wife and I live to RV. We both grew up in RVing families and have been RVing almost our entire lives. In order to RV, people need an RV. Now think back to the years before Toyota dealerships were not on every street corner and we were forced to buy products from GM, Ford and Chrysler. Remember what quality control was like: No one thought in terms of owning a car for a couple of hundred thousand miles. Then Japanese manufacturers came onto the scene and the American manufacturers had to follow suit, and now we all can own a car for years and enjoy relatively problem-free ownership.

Where it gets hazy is RV buyers mistakenly believe owning an RV is like owning a modern day automobile when, in reality, it’s like owning a car made in the ’50s or, worse yet, an automobile of English persuasion made in the ’50s. They could be great fun, but keeping them on the road was a challenge.

Could the RV industry be transformed? Certainly — all it would take is a manufacturer willing to do the same thing the Japanese manufacturers did when they began selling in the United States: Build a quality product with a five-year guarantee on the box, no roof leaks, no slide leaks, no sidewall delamination. Toss in a dose of fixtures that match the quality found in most of our homes, and tires that last as long as those on our cars and trucks.

In order to keep the costs down, dispense with the five flat screens and stick with the stuff that works and is simple to repair. Do folks really need to have the ability to turn their water heater on or roll up their awnings with their cell phones? I think not. What the RV industry really needs is a Toyota Camry!

(photo: bluediamondgallery.com)

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