While hitting the road in your RV is a ton of fun, getting a high-quality RV is an integral part of the process. Otherwise, you’re looking at unexpected maintenance costs and endless frustrations. While there are tons of factors to consider when shopping for an RV, the first thing you need to look at is the brand.
We’ll break down everything you need to consider to help you avoid some of the common pitfalls that new campers make when purchasing their first RV.
From there, we’ll help you save some money when you head to the dealership to buy your dream RV.
Things to Remember
Reviews can be tricky to navigate. Just because you got a deal or a great product doesn’t mean everyone experienced the same. Furthermore, just because you had a bad experience with an RV or dealership doesn’t mean everyone else also had a bad experience too.
That’s why it’s essential to take a step back and review the average customer’s experience and compare them to other brands and reviews.
While we would avoid the brands mentioned here, that doesn’t mean that you’ll have a bad experience if you purchase one. You’re just taking a risk that we wouldn’t recommend. Read our guide, check out the RVs and decide what is best for you.
But if you get an RV from one of these brands and run into problems, don’t say we didn’t warn you.
Different Types of RVs
When you’re shopping for an RV, there are a few different types you should familiarize yourself with. You can’t break down which RV brands to avoid if you don’t know the basic terminology surrounding what makes up an RV.
We’ll give you a quick breakdown of the most common types of RVs here before diving into the RV brands that you need to avoid.
Class A RV
When you think of an RV, you’re probably thinking of a Class A. These are the large, all-in-one motorhomes that have everything you could ever think of inside them. Not only are they large and luxurious, but the cab connects to the living area – which is the most significant difference between a Class A and a fifth wheel.
Class B RV
Class B RVs are a lot like Class A RVs – except they’re a lot smaller. They’re attached to vans and offer a raised roof, making them a lot easier to drive. While they’re smaller in size, they still typically come with all the necessities, and you can reach everything from the cab.
The smaller size means they don’t have as many features, they get far better fuel economy, and they are far more affordable upfront.
Class C RV
Class C RVs are similar to a Class B in just about every way, except you can’t access the camper from the cab.
That’s because while Class B RVs are attached to vans, Class C RVs are attached to trucks. The sleeping arrangement is usually directly over the cab, which actually allows for a little extra living space in the RV itself.
Class C RVs are smaller and more fuel-efficient than Class A RVs, but they still typically offer a full array of amenities, including a bathroom, kitchen, and of course, a sleeping area.
Class A RVs scream luxury, and so do fifth wheels. The big difference between a fifth wheel and a Class A RV is that you have to tow a fifth wheel. While the fifth wheel itself is far cheaper than a Class A, you’ll need a larger truck as well to pull it, which adds to the overall price.
Fifth wheels are larger and more spacious, but they require a truck with a fifth-wheel attachment in order to tow.
Travel trailers are the fifth-wheel’s smaller cousin. While they vary in size, weight, and luxury, they’re far easier to tow because they don’t require a specific fifth-wheel attachment. But this also limits their maximum weight, which means you have to be cautious about adding extra luxury features.
Brands to Avoid
Just because you’re spending a ton of money doesn’t mean you’re getting a high-quality RV. Even worse, since most RVs don’t offer warranties that last longer than two to three years, once you buy an RV, you don’t get any real guarantees that it’s going to hold up.
That’s why we took the time to track down some of the most notorious RVs for reliability issues. That way, you can look the other way when you’re shopping for a new RV.
After the 2008 financial crisis, Fleetwood overhauled their production process to improve profits. While they certainly did that, they did it by cutting corners. These aren’t things you’re likely to notice the first time you walk into a Fleetwood, but that’s kind of the point.
This is especially true with their RVs, where they still make semi-decent products. But if you take a look at their travel trailers, a clearer picture starts to form.
They still look like a luxury RV brand, but you run into problems when you dig a little deeper. They cut costs by sourcing lower-quality materials, axing some quality control measures, and on top of that they have terrible customer service.
But the biggest red flag for Fleetwood is that you’re going to have a tough time getting any warranties. They claim they’ll fix any problems that crop up, but when you try to hold them to it, they refuse to help.
It’s a company that doesn’t focus on offering a great customer experience, and in our mind a lack of warranties is a clear warning. This alone is a good enough reason to avoid the brand entirely.
Winnebago is an established RV brand, and compared to some of the other entrants on our list, they’re not all bad. However, they do have some problems with their quality control, which means you might experience a few issues right off the bat.
While that isn’t bad enough to get them on our list in and of itself, what really does cause concern is their customer service department. The good news is you’ll get an actual representative on the line. The bad news is they won’t help you.
Not only do you have to fight to figure out what you need to do to fix your RV, but it also doesn’t seem to matter all that much if it’s still under warranty.
It’s a never-ending game of whack-a-mole to get resolution. The strategy seems to be to pass off the problem until you’re not covered anymore or you’re too frustrated to deal with it. We can’t recommend a brand with such terrible customer service.
Coachmen used to be one of the top RV brands out there. That was until Forest River bought them out at the end of 2008. While Forest River isn’t bad in and of itself, they completely wrecked the Coachmen brand.
Unlike a few other brands on this list, Coachmen’s problems go beyond simple quality control concerns. Modern designs on Coachmen RVs are just plain awful.
Sinks and roofs leak, they use poor quality materials, and some of the designs have critical flaws that show a lack of care.
But the problems go beyond that. When you walk around a new Coachmen RV, you’ll find loose and crooked screws, low-quality upholstery, and just an all-around low-quality product.
While the problems go beyond quality-control, they have issues there too. When you buy a Coachmen RV, you’ll likely have issues from day one, and they won’t go away until you sell it.
If you’re buying an older used RV – find a Gulfstream. But if you’re purchasing a new one from the dealership, run the other way from Gulfstream RVs. This might seem like dramatic hyperbole, but the trust issues that plague their newer RVs lead to non-stop problems.
Leaking roofs, suspension components, windows, and everything else made of metal leads to expensive reoccurring repairs. They’re not problems you can ignore either. Leaks destroy everything underneath them, so as soon as the problem crops up, you’ll need to address it – over and over again.
Not only is it a pain to fix, but it’s detrimental to the resale value. Nobody wants a rusted-out RV, even if it is only a few years old.
Outside of the rust issues, these are incredibly reliable RVs, so if they can get their materials back under control, these will be top-notch RVs once again.
Keystone gets a rough go of it on RV forums, which is usually a reasonably good sign they might be a brand you want to avoid.
Thor Industries owns both Jayco as well as Keystone brands. While you might think a diverse brand means they produce a reliable, long-lasting product, this just doesn’t seem to be the case.
Something seems to be wrong with Keystone’s quality control because there are far too many new RVs that have problems. But if you don’t get a dud and they made everything correctly, you should be good to go.
It’s just a little nerve-wracking to know that you’ll have to wait a year or two to find out if you have a quality RV. In our opinion, it’s not worth the uncertainty.
Jayco’s been making RVs since 1968, and they created the first fifth-wheel trailer in 1976. With a company with such a storied history, you might find it hard to believe they have reliability issues, but that’s precisely what many Jayco owners report.
Part of the problems seems to stem from the fact that Jayco RVs offer so many premium features. While those features are nice when the RV is new, they tend to start falling apart after just a few years.
A legitimate question is if those problems are going to continue cropping up since Thor bought the franchise in 2016. Whenever something significant like that happens, you can expect the product’s quality to change as the new owner implements their new processes.
Since it takes a few years for those changes to occur, and Jayco trailers are only notorious for problems cropping up after a few years, this is definitely a situation to monitor.
Whenever you’re purchasing an RV, there are a few things you need to do to help ensure that you’re getting a great deal and a phenomenal RV. After you’ve ruled out the most unreliable RV brands, you can move onto the next step of the buying process.
Some of these things might seem a little elementary and some might be things you have not considered. Either way, we promise you’ll want to take the time to understand what goes into the buying process so a salesperson doesn’t try to push important points past you.
Do Your Research
Purchasing an RV is a big deal. It isn’t a small investment, and you want to make sure you’re getting what you want the first time. While you might think the best way to figure out what’s out there is to head to a dealership and see what they have to offer, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
While these salespeople have a vast knowledge about what’s out there – it is their job to sell them after all – that doesn’t mean they have your best interest at heart. Their only goal is to sell you the most expensive RV possible.
That means loading you down with features you might not care about and upselling everything. Do you need the sports package or the luxury package? How much would it cost you to add on those features yourself?
Know what you’re looking for before you step foot in the dealership, and don’t let them sweet talk you into something you don’t want.
Walk Through YOUR RV
Sure, the dealership has floor models that they want to show you, but before you finalize any paperwork, walk through your RV. You wouldn’t purchase a home after only seeing the show model – don’t make that mistake with your RV!
This is something some dealerships do an excellent job with, while others try to get you to finalize all the paperwork before you see the RV you’re actually purchasing.
Take Your Time
Slow down when you’re buying an RV. The salesperson wants to make a sale and move on to the next customer, but you’re making an expensive purchase, and you need to make sure that you’re getting exactly what you want.
Take your time and look at multiple RVs. Even more importantly, when you’re walking through your RV, don’t let the salesperson rush you out. Check out every room, cabinet, and amenity.
Look at Everything
We mean it. Walkthrough your RV and look at everything. Each cabinet, each wall panel, every screw you can find. The walkthrough should take a while, and by the end of it, the salesperson might be a little annoyed with you.
That’s alright, you want to find an RV that you like, and you don’t want to get one that slipped through the quality control measures set out by the company. In the end, it’s going to be your RV, and you’re the one spending money on it. Make sure everything is up to par.
Point Out Flaws
Every time you find something that’s not right, point it out to the salesperson. It doesn’t matter if it’s a loose screw or peeling paint. They might offer to fix it for you, and if they do, that’s great, but you’re still setting yourself up for the negotiation.
If you found a flaw that they can’t fix, that’s an area that you can use to lower the price, even if you don’t overly care about it. Point it out, make it obvious, and make it seem like you care – even if you don’t.
Ask the Hard Questions
When they’re trying to sell you a package, ask them what you’re getting that you couldn’t add on yourself. Ask them why the manufacturer opted for a specific flooring type if there are better options out there.
Ask them if there are better quality alternatives to different components. More importantly, ask them questions you already know the answer to. It might sound like you’re wasting time, but you’re not.
You’re doing two things; you’re testing their trustworthiness, and you’re setting yourself up for the negotiation.
If you’ve made it clear that you can get everything in their upgraded packages for less money elsewhere, it’s a lot harder to sell it to you for the full price. Moreover, you’re pointing out flaws in the design you can use to drop the overall RV cost.
Tips and Tricks to Lower the Price
An RV salesperson is no different than a car salesperson. They’re working off of a commission, and they want to make as much money as possible. They’re going to use every trick in the book to try to sell. That’s why it’s so essential that you know what you’re talking about before you head in.
These are some of the best tips and tricks you can use to make sure you don’t get ripped off when you go to the dealership.
Know a Fair Price Before You Start
It’s pretty hard to negotiate with anyone if you don’t know the value of what you’re buying. Unfortunately, many manufacturers keep their MSRP values under wraps, leaving you a little more at the mercy of the dealership.
But there’s good news if you come prepared. There are multiple ways to figure out how much both a new and a used RV is worth, but you have to do your homework. If you’re looking to come prepared, check out this guide to help you find the value of any RV!
Don’t Sound Like You’re in Love
This might be your dream RV, the one you’ve been waiting for your whole life, but don’t let the salesperson know that. Point out all the flaws. Let them know the things they could have done better. Make it sound like you could take it or leave it.
The salesperson should feel like they have to sweeten the pot to make you buy it. If it sounds like you’re purchasing it no matter what, they don’t have any incentive to lower the price.
You might love the RV, but put on your poker face and act as if you can barely stand it.
Of course, you can negotiate the RV’s overall price, but don’t think there isn’t any wiggle room on packages. This simply isn’t true. This is where your previous salesmanship comes into play.
You’ve already asked them what’s so special about this package and what you couldn’t do yourself. That means it’s now a convenience, not a necessity. This makes it a lot more challenging for the salesperson to sell.
If they won’t take the price off the package, have them shift it over to the RV. It doesn’t matter how they do the accounting. What matters is the final price.
Don’t Fall for Fees
Between you and me, fees are the biggest scam out there. Most of them are entirely made up, and all of them are overpriced. Do your research on fees before you show up. Taxes and registration fees are real things, but how much are they in your state?
Dealer prep fees, advertising fees, ADM fees, and processing fees all have one thing in common. They’re all complete nonsense! When you see an ADM fee ask the salesperson what it is for knowing beforehand that it stands for “Additional Dealer Markup.”
Ask them why they are adding an additional markup. You already negotiated the price, right? They call it an ADM because they don’t want you to piece together how much nonsense it is.
Almost every dealership tries it, and they’re all entirely made up. Research your fees before you go. If you’re negotiating the price, don’t bring up the fees until the end. Let them work it into their profit margin, then fight every unnecessary fee off the price.
If the salesperson needs to save a little face, just have them take the fee’s price off the RV’s price. It doesn’t matter how they justify it; all that matters is how much you pay.
Don’t Let Them Up Sell You
The salesperson wants to upsell you to the next trim level or comfort package. If you show up already knowing what you want, you won’t be as tempted to splurge on something you don’t need.
But once you leave the salesperson and head to the finance office, that’s where the upselling really starts. They’ll try to push every kind of package you can think of – “additional key packages,” “theft protection,” “service plans,” and so much more.
They’re going to push them hard because they’re a significant moneymaker for the dealership. But when you break everything down, they’re never worth their salt.
They know you just committed to a significant purchase, and now you’re worried about protecting it. So, they try to push a ton of plans you don’t need.
For example, most “theft protection” packages don’t include much more than additional etchings and maybe a security plan. You can find the security plans for less, and the etchings aren’t needed. Even if you want the etchings, you can do them yourself with a kit from Amazon for a fraction of the cost.
Plus, your RV already has a VIN, which is all the etching provides anyways.
Finance It Yourself – But Don’t Tell Them Right Away
Do you want to know who the highest-paid person is at the RV dealership? The finance officer. Once you’ve settled on an RV and the price and you get whisked away to another office to finalize the sale – that’s when the dealership really starts to hone in.
They want to set up the loan for you and take a cut of the commissions. They want to add on all sorts of protection packages and everything else to charge you more. When you’re negotiating the price with the salesperson, they’re accounting for all these margins.
Let them think they’re getting them, and they’ll be more likely to lower the final sale price. Once you get into the finance office, break out the fact that you’ve got the financing covered – they’ve already agreed on the lower final price, so you get to save some money.
Purchasing an RV is a huge investment, and if you go with the wrong brand, it can be a huge risk. But if you do your homework and avoid some of the more notorious brands, you can save yourself a significant headache.
From there, if you head to the dealership with the right RV in mind and know what you’re doing, you can save a ton of money and avoid getting ripped off.
It might seem stressful at first, but when you’re cruising down the road in your new RV without any issues, it’ll all be worth it.