What’s wrong with American RVs today?
Friday, June 14, 2019
Let’s be honest. There are a lot of articles talking about how wonderful RV life is. There aren’t as many discussing the problems of newer American RVs.
I don’t know if it is only American models but that is where I see the complaints online. While it is true you can buy an RV and have no issues, you are taking your chances every time you buy a brand-new RV.
According to information online, 3 out of every 10 RVs require serious repair by their second year. But this doesn’t define “serious.” Many “minor” issues can prevent you from camping for the weekend or can be a major hassle if you are living full-time in an RV.
Based on my discussion in campgrounds, a majority of RVers have to return their RV for repairs during the first year, and the problems continue after that.
Why does this have to be true? It’s like when we bought cars back in the ‘70s. No one seems to expect better. More RVs are being sold every year, but are they getting better? The big three issues are quality, energy efficiency, and design.
Broken screwheads on the awning brackets meant we had to tie down the awning and not use the slide until it was repaired.
Go online and you can see story after story of quality problems with brand-new RVs. The stories include RVs that spent more time in the first year in the shop than with the owner.
During our first year we had replaced the following under warranty: the water pump, DVD player, microwave, stove (twice), and the mattress (twice). That didn’t include all the repairs in the RV with leaks, broken fasteners, air conditioner issues, and missing pieces.
We visited the dealer multiple times and even had to travel to Elkhart to have the manufacturer make repairs. Given that we lived full-time in an RV, all this was a major hassle.
What is left on a less than 3-year-old tire.
The time it takes to get a repair is frustrating. It took one month to get approval and a new microwave shipped when it broke down. It is very difficult to live without a microwave when you are full-timing.
Issues didn’t stop after the first year. Our second year included a broken door latch, a stuck slide, peeling “leather” upholstery, a nonfunctioning lighter on the stove, and broken awning brackets.
We know we aren’t the only ones with problems. The fact you have to schedule a visit to the manufacturer months in advance says something. The people there talk about being there for weeks getting repairs. Remember, many of us spent $100,000 to $150,000 for an RV and instead of relaxing; we are living at a repair shop.
As a full-timer, you tend to find the problems quickly and can get them repaired within the one-year warranty. I feel sorry for the weekend campers who don’t find the issues until after that warranty period. However, considering several of our replacements failed again, it doesn’t look like the repairs are better quality.
An online search shows that back in 2012 we saw 10-20 miles per gallon for a Class A or Class C RV. Now we are seeing only 6-10 miles per gallon!
At the same time, European motorhomes are getting 22-30 mpg. Our last RV got 8 miles per gallon even when we didn’t pull a car and had almost empty water tanks.
Given that gasoline is one of the biggest costs for RVers, there is no reason we can’t do better. In some cases, the issue is that Americans are buying bigger RVs but even many Class B RVs aren’t as efficient as European models.
We started with a 2005 RV. When we bought a bigger, 2016 model, we expected to see some great improvements in the design of the RV. Instead, the new model is pretty and flashy, but the details are wrong and the layout is awkward.
Do RV designers ever live in an RV? Most changes for a new model year seem to be a new exterior swoop and swirl design, the color of the wallpaper, or extra pillows and cup holders but not anything substantial to improve the camping experience.
As an example, the RV model we bought was advertised as “Sleeps 8.” The reality is that 4 of those people have to be less than five feet tall, since the beds on the couch and the converted dining table are short. Extra mattresses are required for all four beds if they are to be used due to how uncomfortable the cushions are. Even the master bedroom mattress requires a topper so we can sleep.
The kitchen design is disappointing. Gone is a cover for the sink…we had to make one ourselves. Also missing is a drawer for silverware and utensils. They ended up in a tub in the oven. The oven is also a disappointment.
Our previous RV had a Half Time oven that allowed us to microwave, bake, and broil. Instead, the new RV had a microwave and a separate gas stove that you had to light yourself and burnt whatever we put into it. We ended up using just the microwave.
Other issues included that the bathroom sink water goes to the black tank instead of the gray tank, the cab is noisy, the AC is noisy, the RV is less insulated to handle heat and cold, the controls for the outside speakers are way in the back of the RV, and the TV can’t be used when it is raining since the sound is poor. But the fake wood cabinets look nice!
Random online comments from other RV owners:
- “The materials are extremely cheap and the workmanship is very very poor. From doors not closing properly, to a leaking faucet to no insulation in the cab — extremely noisy driving down the road. Trim is falling off all over the place.”
- “Most uncomfortable of 3 motorhomes I've owned.”
- “We had it 2 weeks and discovered the following problems: hot water heater, stove, furnace, slide, holding tanks and numerous other defects. ___ has had it for 5 months and still not fixed!!!”
- “We bought this one brand new and have had so much trouble with it. Nothing has worked right from the beginning…We had to send it back to the ___ manufacturing facility for 3 months because it was sold to us unfinished. The outside structure cracked so they fixed it, and the day we got it back it cracked in the same places…The levelers had to go back to the shop 4 different times… The radio system has gone out twice. The slides have broken 3 times.”
- “…eventually settled on a brand new ___ motorhome. Within months, they had 101 documented problems with the RV and reams of emails back and forth between the dealer and the manufacturer trying to get the issues resolved.”
- “I am repairing some of the same problems fixed last year. Every RV owner I know maintains a running list of repair items. After visiting a dealership, service center and the ___ factory already, I still need to have the furnace fixed and fuel pump replaced.
What are your stories of quality, energy, or design problems?
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