Monday, September 5, 2016

RV buying and why you need to research

Holding our new goTenna's in our 5th wheel.
Lately I've been talking a lot more about our RV lifestyle and less about fishing. This is mainly because RVing and fishing are becoming closely tied together for us.  As we are now promoting RV Fishing Sites, we are attempting to visit as many RV campgrounds where there is good fishing. On this blog we will be alternating between RVing and Fishing but I also realize that I am due to write a fishing article. The next one will be about fishing...  I promise!


We are ready for a new RV.  It's only been 2 years since we got this one, and we really like the layout for the most part, but there are very specific reasons why we want a new RV.  About 10 or 12 specific reasons... or maybe more by now.

You're probably wondering how someone can say "specific" and not be certain about the exact number.  Well, let me tell you how that works...
Within one month of moving in our RV, a cupboard disintegrated and had to be repaired, the AC went out, then shortly thereafter we had water leaking out from under the RV.  About 3-4 weeks later, the slide motor gearbox broke and we couldn't put the slide in or out. Then when they put the AC in, there was a short in one of the wires that ran to the AC and they had to run a new wire.  Yep, we almost had an RV fire. It's probably the arcing the fried the AC in the first place.

It settled down to a dull roar after that.  More cupboards broke. Molding won't stay on.  Windows leaked, LED hitch light melted down, and a slide seal came loose because it wasn't installed properly. Now on to our most recent and favorite failure: The shower floor is cracking up and I'm not laughing.  Won't be long and we're going to be taking showers at the neighbors or in public showers.

So why the sob story?  It's not really.  In reality we expected some of these things.  We bought a fairly cheap RV.  We were aware that cheap RV's are more likely to have things go wrong in the first few months. But this level of craziness is still pretty far out of the normal and we'd like to help you understand some things that we've learned along the way and why it's so important to do your own research.

When we first went RV buying, we did a lot of research - at least we thought.  But come to find out, our research was lacking.  For one, we found out that most RV manufacturers don't like to service their warranties.  In fact, some manufacturers go to great lengths to extend your "repairs" so you make it into the second year.  The reason for this is that it is expected that you have purchased a secondary warranty.  Heaven help you if you haven't!

We fought tooth and nail to get our RV manufacturer to pay for the repairs that had to be made to our RV.  They tried to tell us that a licensed RV repairman wasn't qualified to fix the RV.  We ended up going through our dealer to twist some arms but even our dealer got the cold shoulder.  You wonder why it takes 6 weeks for your dealer to do any major repairs?  They usually have the parts on hand but the manufacturer won't agree to paying for the repairs for any number of reasons. We even tried calling the parent company and they "had nothing to do with that division's warranty department". 

Some manufacturers are better than others.  We found out that ours was one of the worst out there for refusing to pay for warranty work. But others are much better about fixing issues that come up.  However, it seems that ALL manufacturers have lemon's on a regular basis.  Our situation isn't particularly unusual.  What really matters is how your manufacturer will deal with those issues and if they fight you it's going to make that already painful situation seem like a nightmare.

Knowing how your manufacturer handles repairs and issues should be something you find out about before the sale.  However, it's like pulling teeth to get any of that information from a dealer.  They just don't want to talk bad about a manufacturer because it would hurt their business.  This is not surprising but it makes choosing an RV especially difficult.

There's also the Sears "Good, Better, Best" principle.  If you buy something from the "Good" category, you can expect to be treated like second class citizens.  They have bigger fish to fry...  like taking care of their Montana customers in the "Better" category or even worse, they have a customer in the DRV category and the rest of us can just sit and wait our turns.  (We don't own a Thor/Keystone product, I'm just using this for comparison.)

Now that we are selling our home, we are seriously looking at the possibility of changing rigs. Our Yellow Fruity Tooty is starting to really feel like it might not last the length of our loan. We've also realized that there are other options than dealer based RV sales.  

First, there's second hand, that's definitely an option for someone on a budget.  We were warned that buying new isn't always the best plan and that buying used would be better for us in the long run.  We didn't realize that it was most definitely the case.  Had we bought used we likely wouldn't have had these same kind of issues. It's far better to let someone else find all the problems with a rig and get them repaired under warranty than to have to do this yourself.  Trust me on this one.

There is another option though. It's one that we've only discovered in the past year.

Enter factory direct

Factory direct is a much more competitive environment.  Manufacturers who build and sell their own RVs have much more of their reputation on the line.  Often there is only one outlet and the atmosphere is much more family like.

The downside to factory direct is that the RVs generally are much more expensive than your run of the mill dealer based type RV.  Sure you can find dealer 5th wheels that cost a pretty penny, but if you went and spent all that money at a dealer, you're warranty experience is only going to be slightly better than the guy who spent half as much.

Not so with factory direct manufacturers. The stories we've been reading online, both in forums and in other various places is that manufacturers who spend all that time building a relationship with you are going to do their best to keep you happy after the sale.  They can't afford to have an unhappy customer running around the country talking bad about them.  It would really hurt the bottom line.

There are several decent factory direct manufacturers out there:  Augusta RV, Grand Design RV, New Horizons RV, and Spacecraft Manufacturing.  Depending on your budget and your tastes, you may find one of these more appealing than others.  But they all have something in common:  Factory Direct.

We've been watching Spacecraft for several years and their specialty work is bar-none some of the best work we've seen in the industry.  But all that comes with a pretty steep price tag - and I mean steep.  Some of their models compete with high-end motorhome prices.

Of the four manufacturers, we have come to see Augusta RV as the best for several reasons.  Unlike Grand Designs, Augusta RV will do a fairly significant amount of custom work.  Some times on the fly while the customer waits. From what we've heard, New Horizon's does this too, but their prices are a step higher than Augusta RV's.  So what am I trying to say?  Dollar for Dollar, you can't do much better than Augusta.  This is why we have been looking at them so much in the past 6 months.

We've already been talking with one of their sales reps, Nick Wirt, who has been very kind to us even though we aren't ready to buy yet.  The company as a whole seems to be working extra hard to make themselves available so you can see what's going on inside closed doors. From what we've seen and heard, they really try to maintain the family atmosphere.  We are most definitely going to be getting a factory tour at some point in the next 6 months!

So are these factory direct RV really that much more expensive?  I think you'll be surprised.  If you are already in the market for a Montana then you should SERIOUSLY consider Augusta RV.  Their Ambition model compares fairly closely to the Montana's in many ways, but the construction underneath is much better.  Things that you have to pay extra for on a Montana (driving up the cost) are included on the Ambition.  

As a price comparison, a $90,000 Montana and a $90,000 Ambition are two separate beasts.  The Montana won't have several features the Ambition will, plus, the Ambition has thicker walls, and
better insulation in the floor.  The Ambition will be fully tested and will be in complete working order when handed off to you, plus, you'll get a bit more pampering since you'll get to talk to the people who made your unit if you like. Additionally, Augusta will fly you to the factory to pick up your rig if needed.  These guys are serious about getting your business!  Try getting that from your Montana dealership!

Overall, we highly recommend going with the factory direct experience. Sure, we really like Augusta RV, but any of the others will undoubtedly give you a better experience than what you'll get at most any RV dealer.  The RV industry is changing and people are starting to wake up.  Many others like us are seeing that these "big box" RV companies are turning out garbage on a regular basis and we just aren't putting up with it any more.

It's time the RV industry took a more personal approach to something on which we are spending nearly the cost of a house. For that matter, if you bought a car and it had 15 things wrong with it like our RV did, would you just deal with it?  Of course not!  Why do we "just deal with it" when it comes to RVs? 

Not any more. 

Not with Factory Direct like Augusta RV about to steal the show.

Happy trails and tight lines!

Mike & Sarah

No comments:

Post a Comment