By Chuck Woodbury
Anyone who doubts there is an issue with poor quality RVs rolling off the assembly lines should read these comments from our readers. All these letters came to us recently. We could add 100 similar letters if we showed y0u more of those we’ve received. 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.
• • •
We bought a brand-new Coachman 260DS Leprechaun 9/6/17. We had it in our posession for 4 hours before returning it to the dealer for service—myriad of issues. It was in for repairs 91 days the first 120 days we owned it. It’s in service even now for hopefully the final two issues. As a former quality manager of an ISO9001 manufacturing concern, I am appalled by the lack of quality and concern in the RV industry overall.
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.
• • •
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.
• • •
Hello my name is George, I just wanted to complain about Camping World’s lack of customer service. My camper has been in for repairs at there Fayetteville NC branch for two months and as of yet they cannot tell when it will be repaired. Camping World always has an excuse. We camp host and we told C.W. that we needed the camper fixed by the 7th of May so that we could load it and get to Vermont by the 15th. Even the corporate office has not been able to get Fayetteville to respond, can you help us?
• • •
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.
Do you have an RV lemon? If so, where can get help?
In the first installment of RVtravel.com’s RV lemon law series we told you where to turn for help if you believe you have a lemon. In the second installment, we explained how (and where) to pursue legal action if necesssary. In our third installment, we offered several suggestions (including from our readers) that may help you avoid buying an RV lemon. Learn more.
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.
• • •
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.
• • •
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!
• • •
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.
• • •
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!!
• • •
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 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.
• • •
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!
• • •
I HAD MY FIFTH WHEEL for less than a week when I discovered water coming out from my underbelly. Came to find out that the RV dealer had removed one of my holding tanks to repair another RV that had been returned for repairs. The dealer then replaced my holding tank with a smaller one that was not designed to be in my RV. It was further complicated by the fact that they did not even strap it in so that it would stay in place.
This dealer has many different locations scattered across the country, and at the time I discovered my problem I fortunately took it back to a different dealership. The service center quickly identified the problem making me aware of what the other dealership had done.
Sadly, my state had no lemon laws but I was so upset at what these folks are done in selling me a brand new rig that I contacted my state consumers affairs department. I finally got my rig repaired after more than three months in the shop and the only thing I got from the dealership was a couple thousand dollars for my troubles. And only because the consumer affairs department served as an arbitrator to force the company to make compensation. I felt that they should had taken my RV back and started the process over. But, after more than 6 months of letter writing and phone calls , and being warned that simply returning the unit would hurt me and not the company I bit my lip and accepted the repairs and small compensation.
I then began to have problems with the ‘new’ furniture that came with my fifth wheel. I quickly found that it was made in China and begin to fall apart. Numerous calls to Heartland only got one of my recliner’s replaced and a $300 payoff for the malfunction of my sleeper sofa. The frustrating thing is that the Heartland company ONLY passed on responsibility to their venders and I had to wait months for the slow process of getting this covered by through the individual warranty proceeds.
I have learned two valuable lessons:
1- Never buy new.
2- Know the company that makes the unit and whether they have a practice of standing with the consumer to resolve the issue.
Sadly, there are hundreds of manufacturers of RVs and I only know of one company who stands behind what they build and will work with you to make necessary repairs. My next RV will be a Tiffin.