While recreational vehicles can be an inexpensive way to tour the country on your own terms, RVs themselves aren’t always cheap. And when you make an investment as large as an RV, you want it to be reliable and last you for years and adventures to come.
Regardless of whether you’re purchasing a luxury Class A motorhome or a small pop-up camper, you expect a certain level of quality. But as some companies have struggled to stay afloat over the years, they have turned to making cheaper products, sacrificing quality for the bottom line.
In this article, we’ll go over a few brands that have gone down in quality and do your research on when shopping for an RV.
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Remember, just because a brand has a poor reputation doesn’t mean that you can’t find a good product built by them— you can, especially if you look at older models. And even reputable brands can encounter problems, so be sure to look up reviews and details about any RV you are looking at.
And if you really want to get a feel for a recreational vehicle before you buy it, renting one can be a great option. For RV rental listings in your area, check out Outdoorsy. There, you can find a wide variety of trailers, campervans, luxury coaches, and everything in between.
Owned by Thor Motor Coach, Hurricane is one of the most ill-reputed RV brands around these days. If you are somewhat familiar with the world of RVs, then this may come as a surprise since Thor themselves are known for high-quality products. But it seems this apple has fallen far from the tree, and Hurricane just can’t bring the thunder.
Now, if Hurricane was just criticized for cheap cabin materials that could be easily broken or damaged, that would be one thing. Many people are willing to overlook cheap interiors if everything else is sturdy and reliable. But recently, Hurricane RVs have been experiencing safety issues, including multiple recalls in the last few years.
Two separate issues brought the potential for spontaneous fires in their RVs: the parking brake and a faulty battery wiring system. The faulty parking brake would allow the vehicle to slowly move forward, which in addition to causing a crash could heat up the brake pads, potentially causing a fire. Additionally, the faulty battery wiring system could damage the electronic control center circuit board, increasing the risk of an electrical fire. When buying an RV, look for one that won’t catch on fire and avoid a Hurricane RV.
Image via Unsplash
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Sort of like Fleetwood Mac, Fleetwood RVs seem nice on the outside, but there are some problems on the inside. Though they used to be known for their luxurious RV offerings, recent models have exhibited shoddy craftsmanship with interior components such as the flooring, upholstery, and even fans, all breaking down and coming apart soon after purchase. Some reviews have even cited problems dealing with customer service who are hesitant to reimburse customers for issues covered under warranty.
Now, this is just our advice, so you can go your own way, but if you don’t love your RV when it's still new, you will never love it again. The last thing you want is to buy a poorly built RV and be tied down in repair costs.
If you’ve ever watched Wheel of Fortune, then chances are Winnebago is the first brand name that comes to mind when you think of RVs. But name recognition isn’t everything when you’re looking for an RV— quality is. And sadly, Winnebago seems to be lacking in recent years in that regard.
While RVs are having somewhat of a heyday in the last year or so, that was not the case during the 2008 economic crisis, which nearly bankrupted Winnebago Industries. While they were able to bounce back from that, their reputation has taken a hit, as reviews of their more recent offerings show a lack of workmanship and low-quality materials.
There have been some reported issues with faulty electrical systems, but the most common complaint is interior walls that pop into the cabin and exterior walls that delaminate. While the interior walls are more of an aesthetic issue, the delamination can expose the insulation, leading to water damage and a hefty repair bill.
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Like the rest of this list, Coachmen used to be known as a reliable brand, but that has gone away in favor of cheap parts and labor to keep costs low and margins high.
As a result, numerous owners have complained of issues with the plumbing where water leaks into the cabin and behind the walls. Adding to the list of water issues, there have also been reports of leaking on newer models with slideouts. Between those two issues, you can just be grateful that Coachmen doesn’t make boats!
Another less-severe issue is the quality of the cabinets inside: the cheap particle board construction can’t hold up to regular usage for long, warping and sometimes outright breaking under the strain of their contents. On top of all that, reviews for their customer service department are subpar. Like Hurricane, Coachmen is now owned by Thor Motor Coach.
It seems to be an unfortunate trend of the industry that brands have lost the trust of their customers. Keystone, which was once a reputable manufacturer, is another name that you might want to be wary of.
On top of poorly constructed cabinetry that comes apart fairly quickly and doors that fall off, some newer Keystone RVs come equipped with faulty electronics. Add to that some complaints of the control panel not clearly or accurately indicating key information such as propane levels and greywater amounts, there are enough reasons to avoid this RV brand.
As we said earlier, not all RVs made by these brands will be bad, and not all RVs made by other brands will be good. It is up to you to look up common problems with any model that you are considering and have the vehicle inspected for these problems before you buy them. And regardless of the reputation of the RV you are looking at, it can be a good idea to rent one for yourself to get a feel for what it's like to drive (or tow) it and to stay in it.
An RV is an important purchase! Make sure you do the homework to make the right choice that will keep you happy on the road for years to come.
Cover image via Unsplash
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