Buying a new car or truck has become much like buying a commodity, you purchase it at the lowest price possible (regardless of where the dealer is located) and expect the manufacturer Ford, Chevrolet, etc to stand behind their product via their nationwide networks of dealers when it needs warranty work wherever that may be, and they do.
This process works for several reasons. The manufacturer is just that—a manufacturer; they manufacture the vehicle, control production for the majority of the components the vehicle, train technicians how to diagnosis and repair the vehicle along with knowing how long it should take to diagnosis and repair each item in their vehicle, allow that amount of time for their dealers to repair it and pay their dealerships retail labor rate to make the repair. The reality is the service department of most car dealerships is more profitable than the sales department in today’s economy.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t work this way in the RV industry for several reasons.
RV manufacturers aren’t really manufacturers, just assemblers, taking somebody else’s product (door, furnace, sink, rubber roofing, axle, etc) and putting them together to make an RV, much like building a house. Most of the component items carry their own warranty of which the RV manufacturer has no control over.
Since RV manufacturers don’t manufacture their own components, it is difficult for a manufacturer to train service technicians on how to properly diagnosis and repair items.
And since they can’t control the overall quality of their units, it is hard to calculate what they should hold in reserve to cover the warranty costs per unit manufactured, so they try to control warranty costs by shorting the dealer in the time they allot for repairs, paying less than the dealer’s retail rate or making the dealer contact the manufacturer of the component for reimbursement. Needless to say, warranty work is not profitable for the average RV dealer.
To further aggravate the problem, the recent surge in RV sales has left RV dealers scrambling for RV technicians to keep up with the demand for service. While the RV industry has recognized the shortage of technicians and is spending millions hiring teachers, writing curriculum and launching a national training center that will be known as the RV Technical Institute, it will be some time before the shortage of trained and certified technicians fill the void.
Bottom line: Most RV dealers service departments are currently straining to keep up with the demand for service, with a limited number of trained personnel, while still trying to make a profit, so when the choice comes down to performing warranty work for the customer who bought somewhere else (out of town dealer or online and had it delivered) OR servicing somebody that purchased through their dealership, who do you think receives priority?
Being the guy that finds out he can’t get warranty work done by his local dealer is one adventure in RVing I don’t recommend!
See also: Here’s What To Look For In An RV Dealer
Dave Helgeson’s many roles in the RV industry started before he even had a driver’s license. His grandparents and father owned an RV dealership before the term “RV” had been coined, and Dave played a pivotal role in nearly every position of an RV dealership. He and his wife Cheri launched their own RV dealership in the Pacific Northwest. The duo also spent 29 years overseeing regional RV shows. Dave has also served as President of a local chapter of the Recreational Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA), worked on the board of advisors for the RV Technician Program of a local technical college, and served as a board member of the Manufactured Home and RV Association. Dave’s reputation earned him the title of “The foremost expert on boondocking,” bestowed by RV industry icon, the late Gary Bunzer (The RV Doctor). When he’s not out boondocking, you’ll find Dave in the spotlight at RV shows across the country, giving seminars about all things RVing. He and Cheri currently roam in their fifth travel trailer, with Dave doing all the service, repair and modifications to his own unit.
Maybe the manufactures today should think about building a better product rather than the junk they throw together today, That way they could serve everyone and have fewer service issues. My local dealer was EXCESSIVELY overpriced. I met face to face with the local dealer to attempt to purchase and they basically were being greedy and they did lie to me. I saved thousands and did not buy from my local dealer. It was the best decision!
Stephen Monteith Albers says
Your suggestion is spot on. But manufacturers need a lot of encouragement to do the right thing since lying to customers is SOO profitable. Saving “thousands” on the upfront price is not the best solution since many thousands of dollars in all-in costs can be buried in shoddy construction. A couple of hundred miles on a forest service road at speed is very helpful in shaking loose inherent design flaws that cost big bucks to put right via upgrade, not just repair.
Stephen Monteith Albers says
This article makes good sense for the consumer grounded in traditional purchasing methods. But there is a MUCH better way to acquire an RV that does not require being chained to one dealer to fix things that should not have failed in the first place. Once the warranty period is over you’re stuck anyway. In short, buy quality and vet the hell out of the unit before you pay for it. A great way to start is to rent the RV for at least a week and run it hard through all applications you plan to use it for and look for problems. And you’ll find plenty since the manufacturers don’t do anything except throw the product together. Get all the defects fixed (at the dealer’s expense) and then rent for another week of brutal testing. Continue the process until the RV self destructs or actually works. Any dealer who won’t rent is a scam to be avoided.
I have not had an issue getting good service locally even though I did not buy it there.
Joseph Oravec says
And that is why until this Changes, the RV INDUSTRY will look like a Bunch of Redneck Bumpkins. What the Hell Good is to have a RVIA (SEAL) certified stamp on the side of your RV? If it is as meaningless as you report here. You might as well just see the RVIA stamp as a way for the Dealer to Overcharge for you for that 2019 RV. If the Dealers and Industry (Dealers, Suppliers, Manufactures) cannot or will not stand behind, what they collectively (or NOT) build. Then the RVIA Certification, and what it stands for is worthless. When that Stamp appears on the side of your RV, it used to mean, that the people whom assembled the RV, the people whom supplied parts for the RV (LP tanks, Water/Sewer systems, Electric, and Appliances) , and the Dealers that sold the RV’s were joined together as a Team to put out a QUALITY product. And a Buyer could and should expect that all involved used professional skills and standards to deliver the Buyer an exceptional Recreational Vehicle, built with Pride. It that is NO Longer true. You might as well shut it ALL Down. In Elkhart Indiana , Jackson Ohio, or any other place that RV’s are assembled, I would hope that people whom assemble RV’s understand, that their Buyers will NOT stand for overpriced GARBAGE. You want to make some money from assembling an RV? Then make it a High Quality RV. I am willing to pay for a Quality product. But, the RV Industry does it Buyers and itself a disservice, when they turn out Low Price and Lower Quality RV’s. Or, will not MAN UP and stand behind what they collectively produce. Get your STUFF together folks. The Buyers can give a cow pie whom wants to pass a buck, and blame each other for letting the RV owners down. When an RVIA Badge or Seal is on the Side of an RV, BUYERS should Expect the Best, and NOTHING less! If an RVIA Badge or Seal is NOT on the side of an RV, BUYERS should RUN and not just walk away from it. If the folks that Assembled, Built, or whatever an RV, did NOT care enough to get (MEET) the RVIA standard for an RV? Why should you as a Buyer/Owner trust or spend your hard earned cash buying it?
Bill T. says
I disagree with the article. When I bought my unit, new, it came with a two year warranty from the RV manufacturer. Now the manufacturer has multiple authorized dealers to sell and service their products, I agree with one of the above replies about my local dealer gouging the customer. I bought my rig from a dealer 4 1/2 hours away because they sold me the identical rig for about 40,000 cheaper, not to mention actually having one in stock to look at and not just from a brochure. I required after market warranty work and my local dealer provided the service after being authorized by the manufacturer. RV warranty work is always a fight for who is going to pay for it between the dealer and the manufacturer, regardless of where you buy. It is always in the consumers best interest to shop around. The MSRP is just that, a suggestion.
Jay Fishman says
This article is accurate in many ways. For many, one of the most frustrating aspects of ownership is warranty work and service. While there are certainly exceptions, you hear many nightmare stories about dealerships taking months to perform warranty work or denying it all together. In our case, we have always gotten priority attention and service from our selling dealer. On occasion, they gone above and beyond to help us. The exception we have to this article is with Ford. There are 4 Ford dealerships within 15-30 minutes of our home and NONE of them will work on motor homes. They want nothing to do with motor homes. Surprisingly, Ford does not require them to either. I had one dealer tell me that with them selling 300-400 new vehicles per month, they simply don’t have the time or interest in working on motor homes. They don’t want them on their lot and they stopped training/certifying their techs to work on them. When I called Ford to discuss this issue, they acknowledge it’s an issue. They did tell me they’ll approve a third party to perform warranty work but if it’s a power train problem, you must use a Ford dealer. In our case, the closest Ford dealer that will work on a motor home is 65 miles away. So, if I can’t drive the coach for some reason, Ford will pay to have it towed 65 miles??? I hope I don’t have to find out.
Glen Fotre says
My local Winnebago dealer won’t work on my Itasca because it is over ten years old. How’s that for support?
Eldon Farmer says
Glen, sometimes when i’m feeling blue I eat a warm bowl of chili. It’s good for the soul.
Here’s more- Many local dealers and independents have no qualified personnel who can accurately diagnose and repair many rv problems. I had 3 different rv places and a mobile outfit mis diagnose my slide problem. La Mesa RV out of Davis, Ca charged us over $2,600.00 and it never worked properly after that. Fast forward through much more frustration and we finally went to the factory in Junction City, Ore. These people are competent and good to deal with. We should have followed our instincts a long time ago and made the drive up there (Winnebago). My advice to you is….if there’s any way you can make the trip, go to the factory if you can’t rely on your local shops!
Wayne Specht says
Here’s how I beat the no=quality, lack of customer support, price-gouging issues…I quit RVing. Now we stay in motels and have a free breakfast, newspaper and a swimming pool.
Stephen Monteith Albers says
Absolutely right! Aside from the few that are four-season and boondock-capable, an RV can only lumber down a paved highway from one overpriced RV slum to another at a huge all-inclusive cost. Much better to luxuriate at a variety of resorts and inns and let the maid do the chores. A very powerful addition to your vehicle is a 2-3 day bivouac-stocked backpack and hiking boots that can get you into nature like no RV park or campsite ever can and for free.
WayBeck 2018 says
Gee Stephen. Why are you even here? Promoting over priced resorts and lodges apparently.
Stephen Monteith Albers says
No, the original poster provided the reality check of the effete mass trailer market. To the contrary, I recognize that an empowered four season boondockable RV can provide access to millions of square miles of nature’s bounty that never sees an RV park or “campground” and no resort can come close to. Resorts are for people who are tired and will be content with the same view of life.
WayBeck 2018 says
I must be very lucky. We have experienced few issues with our RV’s over 15 years. And, we have never had a problem getting warranty work completed or out of warranty repairs. We have a marvelous mobile tech for when we can not get the RV to him. Maybe some here approach things in a different manner and expect too much, too soon?
Richard Hubert says
Disagree with a number of points made in this article –
(1) All OEMs carry an accounting warranty reserve for each unit sold. They know exactly what it is for each MY and model – it is not some mysterious unknown factor. It is basic business management.
(2) Yes – all manufacturers try to keep their warranty costs down but this is in part because they often have to work with dealers who may file bogus claims, may misdiagnose problems or simply try to inflate their claim. So all manufacturers have to be cautious, but the better ones will ultimately support their products better than the worst ones.
(3) People should buy from dealers who have a good reputation and offer a fair price (which is hopefully a local one), but once I leave town and travel all over the country – if I have a problem, where I bought my RV is totally irrelevant. Getting a good purchase price, supported by good initial service (while you are still in the area) is important, but once on the road it is the brand and it’s support which are much bigger factors.
(4) Build quality – you imply that RV manufacturers simply throw together a bunch of components and then care less about their build quality. That may be true of one well known brand, but most others have learned that if they have issues with a particular component brand they will either have that manufacturer support it, re-design it or they will move on to a higher quality competitor. Just a like an auto manufacturer assembles the components of its choosing (they are mostly assemblers as well), they realize that ultimately the customer looks at the brand if they have any issues. Customers expect a quality brand to select quality components.
As a group you strongly throw manufacturers under the bus, but like most other consumer products there are some better than others – they are not at all the same. After all, it is still a very competitive business, and there are manufacturers which do care about their products and their customers.
Of course, this is a moot point if you travel far from home in your RV. Hardly does you any good to have a warranty good at one location that is far from where you roam. A good reason to buy a good solid used RV and fund your own warranty program, since money is good most anywhere so … transferable.
John Koenig says
Paying more in the expectation that you’ll get priority service because you bought from a “local” dealership, is a fantasy. Unless ALL of your RV use will be LOCAL, the odds are that when you need service, you won’t be anywhere near the selling dealer. Now add the problem of simply GETTING the necessary parts needed to DO a repair and, welcome to the reality (um,nightmare) of RV service as it truly is these days. Until RV builders SERIOUSLY “up their game” regarding ensuring that EVERY unit gets a PROPER Quality Control check BEFORE it’s shipped, the problems will continue. I heard one manager tell RV rally attendees that it would cost too much to check every unit. Really? When you don’t check, then you can’t know just what is being done wrong on the line and the result is that poorly built RVs are sold to the end customer. In 2014, I was SERIOUSLY looking to upgrade. The Winnebago Tour (and its’ sister the Itasca Ellipse) were at the top of my possibles list. These were the top of the line, flagship models with an MSRP of ~ $400,000,00! Inspecting one, I discovered drawers in a kitchen island cabinet were assembled improperly. Now if Winnebago Industries could NOT get two pieces of wood properly nailed together, how did they do on the “hard stuff”? This was actually at least FOUR problems. The “craftsman” who build the drawers didn’t give a rat’s ass. Then, another “craftsman” took those improperly build drawers and assembled them into a pull out island. Quality Control before leaving the factory? Not that day! Then, an RV dealer is showing the “quality build” of a $400,000.00 motor coach before anyone there ever looked at them (it took me < five minutes to discover this problem). Winnebago Industries was promptly dropped from consideration. I understand that RV sales are DOWN for the last two years. I'm NOT surprised.
I was on my way to the states when I had a issue with my dump valve, couldn’t get it open. I phoned the dealer and they told me where another dealer was that sold the same unit i had that would fix it. I was 4 hours south of my place. When getting there I was told by the service department that they can’t fix it because I didn’t buy from them, further more i had to make an appointment, or I can drive two hours back and get it fixed, that was when my wife and I lite up like a Christmas, loud enough so that they heard us all the way in the showroom how much a piece of doodoo this was and that we told them they where going to pay for my fuel back to where we came from, plus this was a bunch of garbage that they couldn’t fix that was simple to get at as I had no tools or proper part to fix the issue. Boy they pretty much told us get the trailer out back and we will fix it right away. I had to be in the states for a course that I was taking and we wanted it to be a holiday also. it pays to raise a little hell especially if you are traveling to a destination with your rig. RV’s should be like car dealers if you bought it at certain place you should be able to get it fixed anywhere without any issues. Car makers also out source their supplies for their vehicles so why are RV’s any different.
Bob Brown says
I may be wrong but raising a bit of hell to a dealer who had nothing to do with your trailer and demanding an immediate repair without having made an appointment wouldn’t go over very well at 99.99% of dealers. I assume you didn’t phone ahead on your way there? I’m actually surprised they fixed it. Why would you expect them to pay for your fuel?
Bill Williams says
Some people would complain even if you beat them with a new stick….
I hate to say, but one can eliminate a ton of problems buy 1 buying a coach with no slides (of course not me) and buying an older coach that has already been “shakin’ down” and had all the upfront defects fixed. Now with an older coach, one needs to be careful and make sure it has well cared for and stored inside or at least covered when not in use.
Richard Hubert says
You are assuming that I live somewhere near where I purchased my RV!
We live in southern CA, but bought our RV in Houston, TX. We then sold our house and have been full timing ever since, traveling all over the country. We have no “home”, and certainly no local dealer to return to.
The reason we did not buy from any local dealer – even though there are lots in Southern CA, is because none had the floor plan or model we wanted. So we went to a dealer who did.