How to avoid buying an RV Lemon

How to avoid buying an RV Lemon

By Deanna Tolliver

After the first two parts in our Lemon Law series were published, we heard from several readers about their RV Lemons. But one letter in particular really troubled us. Margaret B told us the story of her 2017 Thor Ace; sure sounds like a Lemon to us.

Margaret and her husband owned a 2012 Thor Ace, and loved it, but after he passed away in 2014, she found it painful to be in that RV without him. In 2017, she traded it at the Seattle RV Show for another new Thor Ace. And, she writes, “There my hell began.”

After many weeks of waiting to take delivery, she was told there were warranty issues. “They damaged the bedroom door and were waiting for parts,” among others. When she was finally told it was ready, “I drove the 86 miles with my daughter only to find out nothing had been fixed. They ended up having 15 staff walk out weeks later, and closed their service center. I had to get permission from Thor to transfer it to another service (center) where I had to wait in line at their busiest time, along with Thor taking their time to ok repairs and send parts.”

“I am now at 15 months and never had my RV a single day this whole time. The treatment I’m receiving from Thor has been shocking to say the least, threatening that I can’t turn the RV back over to them and they won’t compensate or renew my warranty. They have dragged this on until my warranty has now expired, and I’ve yet to take possession of it.

“I am sickened by the whole process. There are many more people like me going through this and nobody cares. I just want to drive off with my RV and have my full years’ warranty and get on with my life!”

We encouraged Margaret to contact a Lemon Law attorney, and hope to follow up with her to get the rest of her story. (List of Lemon Law attorneys by state)

Al, who responded to the Lemon Law article, said “Buy a used RV from a knowledgeable owner, who will show it to you at their home.”

“Hire an independent RV tech. Tell the dealer no deal until your tech goes over the unit and gives his OK.” —Jim

The best way to avoid having to deal with an RV Lemon is to not take one home to begin with. Here’s a list of the most common potential Lemon RVs from the top Lemon Law firm in the country.

Following these suggestions may help you avoid taking an RV Lemon home:

• Do your homework on the model you think you love. Go to the forums online and ask questions. Visit campgrounds and look for that model. RVers are generally a friendly group and will talk to you about the pros and cons of that RV.

• Do a Google search to see if there have been any manufacturer recalls.

• Follow Jim’s suggestion (above) and hire an independent RV tech to go over it prior to signing on the dotted line.

• Ask the dealership for a copy of their PDI (pre-delivery inspection). If they don’t have a written form that they follow, with check marks and room for comments, look elsewhere. 

Most good dealerships will insist that you plan on at least a half day for the walk-through. In addition, a good dealership will allow you to spend some time at their location if you need to transfer your belongings from your old unit. I know of a couple of dealerships that encourage new RV owners to spend a few days living in their units, with full hookups, at the dealer’s expense. Any problems can then be dealt with before you take your rig on the road.


Previous Lemon Law articles:  Part One: Got a Lemon? Help is available (sometimes). Part Two: When the RV dealer hands you a lemon...


Today’s RVs are more complex than ever before. They are also more expensive. Before you drop tens of thousands of dollars on a new one, do as much as you can to ensure you don’t end up with a sour taste in your mouth because you bought an RV Lemon!

 

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18 thoughts on “How to avoid buying an RV Lemon

  1. Sarah

    Margaret, as one widow to another, it seems like they are taking advantage of you. They are only doing as little as they have to. They may think it is fixed as best as they can, but if they really wanted to find another option, or if they wanted to avoid an expensive lawsuit, there is always more that can be done. They will only do what you demand – and yes, a firm polite demand is entirely appropriate in this circumstance.
    If you just want to be done and are tired of fighting, I can totally understand that. But if you are truly sick of the process and want them to do the right thing, find a lawyer who wants some free publicity and let him take the case without you having to pay him for it. Big bad R.V. company takes advantage of widow makes for bad PR, and a savvy lawyer could have a field day with your situation.
    If your experience is anything like mine was, you probably wish your husband was here to fight this battle for you. I’m so sorry that he isn’t. But you have paid for an R.V. that works properly, with a door that won’t open as you drive it, and that’s what you should have. I’m sorry you’ll have to fight to get it. But you can do it!

  2. Donna W

    Absolutely agree. We had a 2008 lazy daze that we just sold. After 10 years looked and performed almost as good as when we bought it. Good solid rv with quality parts and built to last.

  3. Margaret B

    Thank you RV Travel for posting my journey here with THOR, I was not expecting to see this but extremely grateful for all that you do for us in the RV community….Update as of today!

    Last Monday I picked up my brand new 2017 THOR RV for the very first time in 15 very long agonizing and stressful months. Things have all been repaired to the best they can be at this point but my door does still have a couple of issues but because it’s out of alignment this is all that can be done so it’s still difficult to open, lock and I can pull the base of the locked door away from the frame several inches. I had to pay for a full PDI since it’s clearly never had one with the list of warranty repairs it needed before it was even sold and THOR refused to cover this cost and offered 1 hour payment but since it takes over 5 hrs I had to pay almost $600 to have this done. They did find out during this inspection that my water pump was also damaged and incorrectly installed so it had to be replaced but still was not working so they traced the lines back to under my sink and found that nothing was installed properly, water lines damaged and twisted back where water could not get through and the installation so poor they had to add a flexible pipe to prevent this from happening again. This issue has been posted by quite a few other THOR owners. All through this 15 months THOR were very sympathetic with me and I trusted and followed what they told me to do by just keeping them updated on how things were being fixed and then it went from that to them telling me just call us when everything is finally resolved and we will discuss extending your warranty and making things right but we can’t do that until you have your RV back…so I have been calling them several times this past week and each time promised that the man dealing with my case will return my call and as of today that has just not happened. I just want to be able to drive off in my RV with what I signed for, a brand new undamaged RV with a FULL years warranty that I was promised and not one that expired while it sat on 2 service lots for over 15 months. I loved my first THOR back in 2012 but sadly this has not been my experience this time and I want them to keep their promises and stand by their word to make things right for their customers who go through this hell which has made my journey in grief with the loss of my husband even more painful I will be the first person to happily post that they did keep their word and do this but sadly as of yet absolutely nothing has been done and I will not stop until they do as promised and the service center also said they have put many calls in to THOR while they were fixing everything all unanswered! I will post any updates here and thank you again RV Travel.

  4. Gary Morak

    I have 2018 keystone avalanche 275rd. I waited 6 weeks for delivery. When I went to pick the 5th wheel up(Oct 15) found out salesman quit the day before. Waited 3 hours for trailer to be ready, then slides would not work. After 5 hours techs found broken hydraulic line with fluid all over bottom. Dealer said he fixed it. I live 6 hours from dealer, and every dealer I call say if you did not buy it here we will not service unit.

  5. Scott Darragh

    Yes there is a trouble free rv out there. We have a Leisure Travel Unity (2016) with 38,000 miles on the odometer. We have experienced only 2 issues with the unit. Drove from our home in Florida to Montana when the electro/ mechanical interlock on the microwave/ convection oven broke and could not open the door to shut the unit off. Turned off the breaker and sent an e-mail to the service manager at LTV in Canada. They immediately sent a new microwave to a Montana LTV dealer in Kalispell,. Two days later we pulled in and they replaced the unit in about 20 minuets, no questions asked and we were on our way with no interruption to our two month trip. The second problem was with our Dometic fridge. While in Texas (the outside temperature 100 degrees) the eyebrow board (electronic mother board) on the fridge failed. We found the nearest LTV dealer and showed up there, they were able to quickly analyze the problem and replace the part. A month later when we returned to Florida, we sent the receipt for the repair to LTV and they reimbursed us fully with no questions asked. Spectacular customer service to say the least. Having a background in product design and having gone through the LTV factory I would highly recommend an LTV rv for both quality and service.

    1. Silvia

      Very happy to hear that since I am expecting delivery of a Unity LTV in a couple of weeks.

  6. JIM SMITH

    What needs to happen is get a judge with some balls and slap the manufacturer with a $10,000 a day fine for every day your coach is not in your possession. And it does not matter if it’s a $15,000 trailer or a $1,000,000 coach.
    After this happens a few times they may just wake up.
    They WILL NOT straighten up until it affects their pocketbook.
    Are any judges out there having trouble with an RV?

    1. John Snell

      It’s called lack of regulations. Regulations on businesses are for consumer protection.

  7. Bill Bateman

    My bad experience was with a 2002 camper I purchased from a large Bend, Or RV Dealership in April 2015. When I picked up the camper and did the final inspection I specifically asked for them to demo the rooftop a/c unit. The tech turned it on and went thru all the speeds and gave me the impression it was operating normally. It was 40 degrees that day and similar for the next month or so here in central Oregon. Well, my 1st trip with the new (to me) rig was to Whitefish Montana in late June and temps soared to record 106° that day. When we left the rig for dinner I turned on the a/c full blast and headed into the house expecting to come out an hour or so later to find the camper cooled into the low 90s at least .. guess what, it was 106° inside and out still! #@%&#! Further inspection found an old broken compressor to evap pipe that showed signs of being that way for a long time. Needless to say the most economical fix was a new $700 a/c unit.
    The dealer told me it was my responsibility during the final pre purchase inspection to find defects such as this. Yah, right!
    For future reference, any ideas on how to check a rooftop a/c on a 40° day. (I have read that most a/c compressors will not activate under 55° anyway. It did blow 40° on the 40° purchase day :))

    1. Michael

      Have them move it into a heated service bay and wait for everything to warm up. Then try it.

  8. Silvia

    We have a 2010 Tiffin Phaeton and have spent many very enjoyable trouble free miles in it. The odd extremely minor issue it had was immediately taken care of by Tiffin. My husband passed away this winter so I am now trading it for a much more compact Leisure Travel Van, delivery expected in a couple of weeks. Here’s hoping it will be as good, or nearly as good, as our wonderful Phaeton.

  9. Tina GAllagher

    Reading horror story after horror story, I’ve actually met few people who were truly happy buying new. Of course, a “bug or two” is expected, but not unlivable/un-roadworthy. I think buying used when I know I’ll be taking care of repairs is more in line with my budget. I’m still kicking around the idea of building my own (massive undertaking, I know) but in the end, I’ll come out with something I’m comfortable with and know everything works. It really seems that 2017 was among the worst manufacturing years for RV’s- the used lots seem full of them.

  10. Trudi Frank

    Stay away from all Thor products build after 2008. We have owned RV’s for 40yrs. We had to file a lemon law on our new factory built 2015 Thor Tuscany XTE 40 EX . Story is to long. But from the 1st month it was undriveable. 0ver 400 broblems and major. Took 2 yrs in court and still could not get our money back. It was replaced with a new 2016 Thor Tuscony xte 40 AX which took a 1 yr to make it run right. You would thought they would of made sure it was in perfect shape before dropping it off. They also were to pay for the reg and thatook a year. You can not get Thor to do work or get the right parts. Thor builds junk. I did research on the RV and had a 200 pt Ca list I did and that still did not help. Sales people have no clue what they are selling and once you take it off the lot you are on your own. I had over 400 e-mail that I had for the lawyers and Thor repair and others. The RV industry does not care. Thor and forest river own just about every RV built. We would not trade it in to avoid 3 yrs of hell just to dump our rigs on someone else. Trading it in you also lose your money. You do not know what kind of problems you will have until you spend time in it.

    1. Margaret B

      Yes Trudy sadly that’s what I’ve been reading on many of the RV forums online and the complaints are building fast that it’s all THOR RVs built in the last few years that are facing this nightmare list of warranty issues that clearly were not inspected at the THOR manufacture and the dealerships saying they are sick of them having to take care of all these issues before they can be sold. One dealership told me they will no longer sell THOR RVs because of this!

  11. Terry Duffy

    I had a 2009 Thor Four Winds Sprinter. The slide motor kept failing. Had it replaced twice under warranty. After the warrenty expired it failed again.. The dealer took the slide out and found that one of the seat belt nuts was not tightened and came off. It was lodged in the slidr track.
    Thor would not cover the cost. After presure from the dealer they paid for half as “Good Will”. Cost was $1400.
    This was not only a manufacter defect but a safty issue because the seat belt would have failed in an accident.
    Purchased a 2016 Winnebago View new. It had 30 things wrong. The slide still makes noise. Does anyone make a trouble free RV?

    1. Glenda

      Yes, there is at least one manufacturer that does not make junk — Lazy Daze. They are expensive but they are built to last. Mine is a 2001, bought used in 2006, which I have been living in from day one. It still looks good inside and out.

  12. Retired firefighter Tom

    Wow! I wish I could say “unbelievable” but I can’t. My Forest River had a sprung front door – a different style than the rear bedroom door. The first four doors didn’t fit but the 5th door was correct. Then they said the unit “was out of warranty” and wouldn’t honor the repairs. The dealer was kind enough to not charge me for labor but I had to pay for the door. Letters to Forest River were never answered. No where near what Margaret is going through, though. My heart goes out to her at the loss of her husband and then to be knocked down by Thor.

    1. Margaret B

      Thank you Tom for your kind words and yes my door would fly open in the locked position while driving and happened when several service workers drove it and has been repaired 4 times and still not perfect, this is not an uncommon issue with THOR doors unfortunately. It has been repaired to the best they can do at this point I’m told!

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