One reason Consumer Reports doesn’t rate RVs

By Chuck Woodbury
EDITOR

RVers ask me all the time if there’s a “Consumer Reports” for RVs. I tell them, no, there is not. There are websites that sell reports where RVs are rated, but I do not trust them. I don’t know how you can adequately rate an RV without going to huge expense: There are so many makes and models, and within each model there are different floor plans. 

My friend James Raia does a weekly podcast about cars, and this past week he interviewed Mike Quincy who for 20 years has purchased, driven and evaluated cars for Consumer Reports.

As Mike notes, Consumer Reports purchases all of its test vehicles. The publication’s annual reliability survey analyzes data in 17 areas from more than 500,000 vehicles, 50 of which Consumer Reports purchases anonymously and the remainder from its readers who rate their own vehicles. 

I have never heard of any company buying an RV to test it, much less 50 a year. Most ratings, in fact nearly all that you read online or in magazines, are more fluff than substance, often reading more like sales brochures than legitimate reviews.

James asked Mike later in the interview what happens to the cars after they’re tested. Mike said that at least some are purchased by the staff.

Listen to the podcast below or on the Weekly Driver website, where you can read a summary of what Mike said during the half-hour program.


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28 Thoughts to “One reason Consumer Reports doesn’t rate RVs”

  1. Dry Creek

    If they are going to vet a bunch of cars every year, and don’t usually do more long-term evaluations than three years, why doesn’t the CU just lease those vehicles?
    Speaking of leasing vehicles, it just dawned on me that I haven’t ever heard of leasing an RV. Of course that doesn’t mean it isn’t out there……

  2. Michael Nistler

    Generally, the rule of thumb works well for RVs – if the price seems too good to be true (or even “affordable”) it probably is going to have more than its share of problems. Okay, that sounds too pessimistic, but unless you’re an astute or lucky purchaser of a second-hand RV and willing to wait for a sweet deal (RV.com etc.), the new love of your life may prove to be a short-term honeymoon.

    Granted, the industry needs are honest, candid reviews (hard for owners not to have either a possible bias (pride) or an overly negative view (thinking they should own the world for a song and a prayer).

    So we generally have to spend considerable time on the internet doing reviews from a wide range of sources, talk to lots of RV buddies that have a “LTR” with their toys, or enlist seasoned RV maintenance staff to tell it to us straight!

    Happy Trails, Michael

  3. Carl

    I doubt you’ll ever see CR get involved with RV testing. As CR is based in Westchester county, a snob suburb of NYC, the biases inherent in the metropolitan mind set would automatically preclude the editors from even thinking RV’ing would be of interest to their subscriber base.

    1. Chuck Woodbury

      Carl, I think your reasoning is way off base and without any basis in fact. How do you know that’s a reason? There are many other reasons why CR would not rate RVs besides where the company is located. What’s a “Snob Suburb” got to do with the how a business operates? And who says it’s a “snob” suburb? Come on. . . if you leave a comment, make it constructive and not waste everybody’s time.

  4. Rich

    A consumer review on an RV would be somewhat complex, it would have to broken into three segments, but eventually based on the quality of build of the specific manufacturer.

    Chassis and drive train. Various manufactures

    Appliances (as all RV manufacturers basically use the same appliances).

    Quality of the actual RV build, floor plan, quality of materials, storage, fit and finish, workmanship; proper sealing etc., noise .

  5. Tom McGrath

    My wife and I are on our 3rd motorhome, a 2011 Tiffin Phaeton. Purchased it new, nothing but problems year after year. The shame is we traded an ’05 Newmar Mountain Aire for it. I would never own another Tiffin product. True, it is buyer beware. Thanks for all you do.

  6. Doug

    What about: https://rv.org/?

    I used this organization’s listings years ago when we almost bought a 1999 Newmar Dutch Star. Information seemed to be right on the money. Haven’t looked recently tho’. JMHO.

    1. Charles Yaker

      Doug I agree . I think J.D. Gallent the founder is in. rV hall of Fame. I was a little surprised by that. Comment and would love to see Chuck comment on that

      1. Chuck Woodbury

        JD Gallant is not in the RV Hall of Fame and never will be. That has nothing to do with the value of the information he sells, but for political reasons.

        1. Charles Yaker

          Sorry I was mis informed

  7. Jersey Pete

    The car ratings in the annual Consumer Reports Auto Buyer’s Guide are primarily based on feedback from subscribers, and for the same reason that Chuck mentions: CR could never afford the dollars or time to rate EVERY single vehicle, so they rely on owner feedback. The RV world needs the same, instead of relying on word-of-mouth (or in these days, word-of-social-media). I believe there is a viable business venture for someone willing to organize and produce such a system. Chuck are you listening??? 🙂

  8. Booneyrat

    How can anyone rate any of the junk the RV manufacturers have been shoving out the door since 2008 when the builders could care less…their sorry warranties prove it? The last good rigs were built by Excel and NU-WA,both companies took pride in their product,…and there has been very little since to crow about.It really is a buyer beware world now and I doubt it ever gets better.

    1. Jersey Pete

      While I agree that MOST RVs produced qualify as “junk”, there are a few good manufacturers left after the wipe-outs from the last financial crisis: Tiffin, Newmar, maybe a couple more. But I’m convinced most RV buyers are suffering from what I call the China Syndrome: For years now, US consumers have chosen cheap and shiny products Made in China because most prefer low price over quality, and then bitch about how everything today is “disposable”. When that mindset took over the RV manufacturing world, we all got screwed.

      1. Bruce Kidd

        I like your reference to the China Syndrome. I suggest it goes much further , having worked for 2 large north American firms for 43 years . I call it ” the collateral damage decision making process” Integrity be damned !! We the people , are the authors of our own stupidity .

  9. TravelingMan

    I have to ask….Where does CR get their funding from? Subscribers? Wouldn’t you think that there are plenty of RV’rs or want-to-be RVr’s that would subscribe to that magazine (paper or on-line)? I know in the this “take” (vs. give-and-take) world that there are those who everything for free. But I do suppose that there are many that will be willing to pay for a credible RV resource.

    1. TravelingMan

      There really needs to be an edit button here…I know that there are those who live in a “take” vs a give-and-take world and they want everything for free.

      1. RV Staff

        I’ll check with our smart IT folks that know about stuff like adding an edit button to the comments and see if they can add one. Thanks for the suggestion, TravelingMan. 😀 —Diane at RVtravel.com

    2. Charles Yaker

      Traveling man if you want a subscription service check out http://www.rv.org . I used them for my first rig a New Horizonand was happy with them. I now have a Spacecraft which was unrated but serves me well. I bought there motor home book a few years ago but the good ones were more the;I wanted to pay so we refurbished and painted although I did buy a new truck

  10. Bill T.

    Hi Chuck. Normally I am not one to point fingers, but the bulk of RV reviews I have seen are all biased reports from people who are sponsored by the industry. They are offered at very little or no cost, RV’s to test and report on. IMO, sites like RVLifstyle.com and others, who receive sponsor income and get a free rig to drive around in will always produce great reviews. They are not going to bite the hand that feeds them. I tend not to believe these sites, especially those RVIA Millennial cheerleading channels. For these reviewers, when all is said and done, usually have the opportunity to purchase the rig they are driving, or a new one at, or below cost. I don’t know about you, but I can afford to be driving a third new Roadtrek in as many years. No wonder the RVIA is so bountiful. Thanks to you and all the other folks out there who are real RVer’s, with honest and true RV life experiences to review and pass on. Honestly reporting, both the good and the bad, helps those of us who are “Realtimers”.

    1. Chuck Woodbury

      I’ve purchased every one of my RVs. I know people who write for RV print magazines who have reviewed RVs without ever stepping inside. Magazine salesman tells RV maker, “Buy a couple of full page ads and we’ll do a nice review.” Not in those words, but that’s what it boils down to. That is why at RVtravel.com we do not accept advertising from RV manufacturers.

  11. Roy

    Maybe what is needed in the RV industry is a system like UL (Underwriters Lab). If a company wants a certification from them, some number of ‘test’ units must be provided at no charge (as I understand it). If UL can’t approve it, they don’t knock it, they just don’t certify it.

    Something like RVIA but a certification format that WORKS for the consumer, not to sell funky stickers for looks and profit.

    I agree that I would never pay for a ‘report’ from any RV review source, but rvreviews does seem to publish actual usage reviews by real customers and owners.

    1. TravelingMan

      You may want to read up on what the RVIA organization is all about…

      https://www.rvia.org/who-we-serve

      https://www.rvia.org/membership

      Notice the lack of “Consumer”. You are NOT served. They exist to protect the industry. Not the consumer.

      1. RV Staff

        I think Roy “gets it,” TravelingMan, as indicated by his comment: “Something like RVIA but a certification format that WORKS for the consumer, not to sell funky stickers for looks and profit.” [emphasis added] —Diane at RVtravel.com

  12. Chuck Woodbury

    Roy, in my three decades of writing about RVing, I have never met or even heard of any person who works for RVreviews.net. A man named Randal Eaton, who is billed on the website as a senior editor for the organization, details on YouTube how the company rates the RVs it profiles in the reports it sells. But after hearing him explain the system, I can’t see how the information could be worth the prices he charges for his reports. It’s no Consumer Reports by a long shot.

    1. Patrick Granahan

      The only way Consumer Reports could try to serve the RVing public would be to offer a consumer feed back report using the comments from the RV community.
      It however would turn into one huge collection of negative complaints from dissatisfied owners.

      As things stand right now Chuck and the RVTravel.com website is the only hope for honest reporting on an industry that may never clean up its act.

      Keep up the good work.

    2. Charles Yaker

      Chuck are you familiar with RV.org. Because I would appreciate your take. And yes they describe their methods on the web site

  13. Jeff Arthur

    Been consumers reports subscriber for years. Dropped them quite a while ago. They are not bad for what they do but dropped them for didn’t .

  14. Roy

    How about rvreviews dot com ?? Seems like at least ‘most’ of the consumer reviews are legit, often disparaging. ‘Review’ sites all ask you to BUY their full details. It’s a business .. it’s how they make money and profit.

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