And then there are blowouts – another little secret. Most RV wheel wells are just plywood boxes with a plastic “fender” screwgunned to the side. When a tire blows out (when, not “if”) it can tear the whole side of the trailer or coach apart. The plastic “fender” is destroyed and often part of the siding of the trailer is torn off, leaving a large black rubber mark down the side. This is hard to fix, as the fenders may not even be available. Two of the campers in the leak-fest section showed signs of blowouts – that were unrepaired. We had two issues with this – on our 5th wheel and the Class-C. There was some damage (cracked fenders) that we had to live with – dealers were unable or unwilling to order replacements.
(Why do RV tires blow out? Several reasons. Some folks don’t check tires pressures very often, and when a trailer tire goes low, it may be hard to detect from the tow vehicle while driving – which is why I have a trailer tire monitor on our new trailer. Others think that 32 psi is the “standard pressure” for a trailer tire when it should be closer to 50 or more. RVs sit for long periods of time, and tires for a motorcoach or trailer can dry-rot long before they are worn out. Motor coaches are a particular problem as the tires can run close to $1000 apiece and folks are reluctant to replaced older dry-rotted tires that have “perfectly good tread left” on them. Blowouts just happen. They shouldn’t tear out the side of a coach or trailer!).
And let’s not even talk about slide-outs! They leak, they jam, they sag, the bottom part juts out. A big hole in the side of a camper than flexes as it goes down the road – what could possibly go wrong? How many times have you seen some hapless soul in the campground waiting for the “mobile RV repair” guy to arrive because the slides on his $250,000 motorhome won’t slide in?
OK, you say, that’s a low-end unit. Better-made RVs will last longer! Yet in the park here is a fancy motorhome with four slides – and delamination on three of them.
RV makers know what sells RVs – glitz and gaudiness and as many flat-screen televisions as you can wedge into a rig. People want shiny-shiny, and oftentimes these RVs are nicer than the houses their owners own (as they are pre-decorated to a theme and the furniture is all new and actually fits the space).
Quality is a hard selling point, as most folks can’t recognize it, and it is hard to discern even to the trained eye. Usually, you have to keep something for a few years to know if the quality is any good. And if it is, then it develops a reputation for quality.
Ahhhhh! But the other secret of the RV industry – the name change game. There are hundreds, if not thousands of brand and model names for RVs. Each company has several division names, product line names, and model names. And these names are routinely retired and new names put in their place. So you might think the “ACME WEEKENDER FUNTRAILER 25” is a good trailer, after owning it for five years. But the problem is, ACME dropped the FUNTRAILER model three years ago and dumped the WEEKENDER line last year. And this year, ACME was bought out by AJAX and now the ACME name is gone.
And maybe the name game is intentional. If an RV develops an odious reputation, well, you don’t have to worry about it for long. Just change the name. Heck, some airlines do this, after a major crash.
One mistake we see some oldsters doing is to buy an RV in retirement, spending an awful lot of money, and then getting a “tow behind” to pull behind it. For the first few years, everything is OK, but like any motorized vehicle it gets old and worn out. Pretty soon, you staying in a delaminated, chaulky older-style motorhome, pulling a Saturn behind it, and wondering where all the fun went.
We think, sometimes, of maybe getting a larger RV. But the heartbreak of RV quality prevents us from doing so. Our old Casita, now 15 years old 20 years old (!!!) is made of two heavy pieces of fiberglass, joined in the middle in a horizontal seam. Rain runs right off, so there are few opportunities for leaks. And the trailer thus looks like new, after two decades. Keeping it indoors when not being used, helps, of course. And its small size makes that possible.
UPDATE: After 15 years of ownership, we sold the Casita for nearly what we paid for it! That’s a quality camper – and a “cheap” one to buy, too! Our new Escape 21 is made from ONE piece of fiberglass!
We keep looking at larger trailers, but quality – and layouts – often turn us off. An “upgrade” should be an upgrade in every regard, right? Why go to a larger trailer that has a smaller bathroom? (many do, which I cannot figure out. RV makers are not very space-efficient, and often waste valuable inches in their designs by using standardized cabinetry and furniture that encroaches on personal space).
Maybe someday, someone will build an affordable quality RV – on an assembly line, without staples and wood, and without seams and leaks – an RV that is durable and simple and easy to use and easy to maneuver, and lasts a decade or longer with minimal maintenance.
Well, maybe we already have it.