Is Better Quality In The Future For RV's?

author image

April 9, 2009


Well, it just might. The RV industry has been crippled by this economic downturn like no time before.  It has been particularly hard hit as it was such a hot product considering the somewhat limited market.   Some say it will never be the same, and that may very well be, at least for many of our lifetimes.  But, it will recover and again grow.  Perhaps not in the galloping way it has of the past decade.

Back in January I did an article on the quality, or lack thereof, of RV’s today. It was titled “Is There Quality In Today’s RV’s?”  (Link Here if you missed it)  It drew many comments with a variety of different points of view.  But now, could there be changes afoot?  There just might be, but not necessarily by design.

As the RV industry continues to spiral down, some positive changes may emerge.  When we look at the home building trade, when business is booming the quality goes down.  This is due to the lack of skilled labor forcing contractors to hire anyone that knows which end of a hammer to pick up.  But, when the demand falls, the reverse happens.  The skilled tradesmen are still there and the others move on, leaving less production, but higher quality.  Likewise it takes a higher caliber candidate to get a job in the industry.  The end result is usually a higher quality finished product.

The RV industry, manufacturers, engine builders, chassis makers, dealers and related suppliers are no different.  They all require the best of the best to pull them through during tight tough times.  Even the top notched personnel that find themselves out of work due to a company closing, should find job openings within the industry as it hopefully starts ramping back up.

The great number of suppliers are going through the same crunch.  Many of them supply other industries and markets far larger than that of the RV trade.   These companies have to produce a better product at a competitive price to compete in a temporary shrinking market.  A better product, that will better meet the end user’s expectations, and reduce warranty costs.  These may all add up to a higher future quality.


There will be additional costs, outside of that of labor, required to attain this level of quality.  Mostly small costs, stainless steel screws, not the “bean counter’s” builder grade stock, and like.  (The photo to the left is of rusting screws on a $500,000 coach)  The emerging “back to basics” RV must be built by tradesmen, not accountants or shareholders.

Now, I don’t believe this quality change is going to transform over night.  It will probably be far more subtle than that.  But, hopefully, an increase in quality will slowly take place as the industry re-grows.

As usual, tell us what you think.

With A Quality Thought    –     Lug_Nut     –      Peter Mercer

Leave a Reply


  1. Pingback: site

  2. Pingback: my url

  3. William Korn, Great analogy. Sharing both your knowledge and experience with us is appreciated. Thank you for your great input.

  4. William Korn

    As a retired auto / RV dealership principal and a retired owner of a successful construction business I feel that I am qualified to make this statement. Unfortunately, when the economy tanks or is booming different factors cause a decline in the quality of the finished product. Just have dinner in your long time favorite restaurant right before it closes for good. The owners were trying to save the business by skimping on quality, quantity and just about everything else. The same holds true for the world. A stable economy provides the incentives to invest, research and develop quality at an affordable price.

  5. Michael Martin, I would doubt the motor home industry is a large enough market for those players. However, the competition would be interesting. Thanks for the input on this topic.

  6. I am patriotic and love the USA, but the day Toyota or Honda builds a large class A,that will set the RV industry on their toes just like they did with the auto industry.I am sure they will figure a way to replace a refrigerator or sofa without removing the windshield. I also think that when you take delivery you wont have to spend 4 ro 5 days at the dealer fixing or rebuilding a coach,thats just been rushed out of the factory.

  7. Al Paschen, I agree and hope new potential buyers understand that there is quality on many makes at all price levels. Much of the issues, excluding stainless screws, is compounded by a small number of unqualified service tech’s. Thank you for pointing this out and for your valued input.

  8. I understand how RV buyers who have paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for a luxury motorhome would expect stainless steel screws and maybe even pop rivets or some better fastener. They should. But, I fear all this discussion of the need for better quality is giving potential newcomers to RVing the wrong idea!

    There are good quality travel trailers being built. There are also cheap, poorly built travel trailers. Even the good ones are not all built like Airstreams. Most are built more like a house is built. Assembled by installing quality refrigerators, ranges, toilets, electronics and other components in a structure built to travel over the road. Most of the good ones give years of fun-filled service. The bad ones do not.

    The trick is to find the good ones. RV shows are not the place to look for quality. The most important reason for a dealer to take a model to a show is a low price — not quality.

    RV dealership sales people learn early in their career that most prospects don’t want to hear about how it is built — eyes glaze over as soon as they start to tell the prospect about the great construction and quality. So, if you really place a high value on quality, the best way to find the right RV is to go to a good dealer on a quiet weekday and tell the sales person that you really care about how it is built and want to buy a quality RV – not necessarily expensive – but quality. A good sales person will be able to show you a quality product — others may just tell you what a good deal it is. Keep looking till you find a knowledgeable, quality sales person that has a quality product.

    Just to be safe, it can’t hurt to request a tour of the dealership service department.

  9. Danny, I think some manufacturers are now looking at exactly that. A little more cost, a lot less warranty issues. I hope you reconsider and purchase one. The enjoyment of RVing is well worth the price. Thanks for sharing that with us and for your input.

  10. Danny

    I’m looking to buy my first camper trailer and I am surprised as well as appalled how cheaply they are made/constructed. So much so I have decided against purchasing one. A infinite number of quality issues abound and many of these can be remedied by just using a quality more substantial part that would not seem to add a signifiacnt cost or weight to the trailer. It is almost as if they try their hardest to see how cheap they can make them. Maybe things will change.

  11. Engineerman, I believe and appreciate most of what you say, however, I strongly feel that we will see some change in the future. We have, and are still, been through the worst economic meltdown in our lives. The quality for money theme has been brought forward and is far more visible. I think you will people demanding better quality. RV makers will have to build a quality product and stand behind it to compete in tomorrows market. As far as the owners making millions of dollars, good for them. If they are willing to take the chances with all the risks of business today, they have every right to reap the profits, not at the price of quality, however. Thank you for your very full comment and for your valued input.

  12. Engineerman

    I have worked as a degreed engineer for over 20 years; a good chunk in the RV industry. The RV companies are ran by Sales professionals and their right hand is Accountants. Their salaries are hugh and the owners become millionaires in an amazing short time period. They are experts at making things look good for the least amount of money.

    As a good engineer; one that will speak his mind and not be bought off with the gifts, money, slick talk, and threat of losing ones job; we know that screws are a terrible fastener you do not see them used in any automobiles; we know that building vehicles without processes, procedures, testing, good fixtures, structural analysis, accurate documentation will lead to poor quality and the list goes on. These organizations do not care about quality, but only the bottom line. They demand the component suppliers give them what they want; cheap and pretty components; not long lasting or quality components.

    Sorry, but this downturn will not change things; but the Department of Transportation may when more people get hurt driving these things down the road and the Consumer Advocate organizations get wise. But come on why would you pay the price you do for a 1 – 2 year manufacture warranty??? They know you will not hardly get out and use the vehicle before your warranty expires. You spend most of your time fixing it up; and setting still in storage. I am sorry for this poor view of a great american pass time, but we americans have more money than sense.

  13. Johnny Johnson, Your home on wheels sounds great. You are probably not feeling over come by issues, or at least, you have them corrected. Thanks for sharing your experience and for your input.

  14. I’ve got something a little different than your standard rv (but it certainly is mobile). I converted an off-rental box truck from U-Haul into a mini palace on wheels. The price was way less than I would have spent on a comparable sized rv and I had plenty of money left over to fix it up. I bought an older 26′ International box truck from U-Haul ( and it was cheap, durable, and now is home sweet home!!

  15. H Braham, I don’t know that the RV industry has ever had anywhere near the reduction in business as is current today. The construction industry, that we have seen this quality changes in, has been more subject to the ups and downs of demand. Thank you for sharing your view with us and for your input on this topic.

  16. H Braham

    If what you say is true, perhaps coaches made in the past years following economic downturns might be better built… Let’s see; as I recall we had two recessions in the ’90s, two in the ’80s and at least one in the ’70s. Any noticable quality increases in selected coaches (brands or types) seen near the end of those recessions? (for example, was my 2000 Monaco Windsor a “better built” version than just 2-3 years earlier?) Can we learn (objectively evaluate) anything from past slumps in the motorcoach industry or is this current recession simply too large to compare? Cheers!

  17. Alan I Tarlo Sr, Great to get a different view, and well put. You are right, motor homes, and for that matter, nearly all RV’s, are not really mass produced vehicles. However, that seems already to be offset by the cost. People paying that sort of money sould be able to expect at least a reasonable quality level. Your comment was right on the spot. Thanks much for your input.

  18. Alan I Tarlo Sr

    I want to give you a little different perspective. For close to 30 years I was an automotive enginneer. Envolved with total vehicle development and new technology. I was a ground up guy. During that time I was envolved with passanger cars, heavy truck (18 wheel type), buses, and military vehicles.

    Long term dependability begins with understanding that vehicles are exposed to the elements of weather. That means body, chassis, power train and braking systems, electrical systems need to be built to handle a wide varity of conditions.

    COST is what drives vehicle production. Motor homes face a low production number in builds and have an enterior which presents a multitude of unique situations. I believe the RV manufactures understand this. The ones that step up to the plate and build high quality motor homes know there prices reflect the quality costs and persons pay accordaling.

    If you your income is in the middle than you have to find the motor home thats within your budget. RV’s are a very small percentage of the population overall.

    In 3 more years I will be buying my first motor home and start full time RV. Its been fold down camper for close to 20 years.

    Knowing what I know about vehicle manufacturing all of them are going to be faced with cost and providing quality components both exterior and interior.

    Lets hope they choose to do whats right for their customers, us.

  19. Jim Racklyeft, Good Point. I think, however, it may be a long time until we see “bumper to bumper” 3 year warranties again. Perhaps a more limited warranty for three years would be more practical in future. Buyers expecting light bulb replacement and things of that nature may be expecting far more than a manufacturer can afford to do. Thanks for your great comment.

  20. Jim Racklyeft

    IF a better warrenty were offered a lot of the problems would be corrected at the point of manufacture

  21. Edwin, I hope you managed to get all those issues corrected. Your story is more common than it should be. Thanks for your valued input.

  22. Thomas Becher, Well, I don’t know if one could watch the entire building of an RV, but, you can insist on watching all servicing when required. Thank you for your participation on the topic.

  23. Edwin

    We bought our first RV this year; a used TT. Every one we looked at had rusty screws – no exception. We proceeded nonetheless since I am willing to fix the problems. On the inside, panels are peeling loose, hot/cold swapped in kitchen, elec water heater inoperable, power center / battery charger is buzzing.

    Those interior problems I can still overlook —- but finding FIVE different problems with the brakes is totally unacceptable: (1) brake wiring is serial, meaning first point of failure eliminates all brakes further down the wiring chain; (2) wiring “wingnut” connectors corroded in two separate places; (3) magnet wire rubbed through inside one drum assembly; (4) brake shoe adjustment mechanism severely rusted in another hub, (5) emergency switch rusted out.

    The trailer is only 4 years old.

    I too hope that this downturn will lead to improved quality.

  24. Thomas Becher

    I know that the next unit I buy will be made while I watch them building it or I won’t buy it. I really liked what I bought until I took delivery and started to see the poor workmanship that was involved in making it. Air cond duct not connected, shower door not sealed to surround, water pipe that blew off the first time city water was connected. wiring that fell apart(wrong size wirenuts) bath sink water pipes reversed. How they could do that when the 2 pipes are red and blue? no insulation in the front cap. ON and on. It will take time to sell all the Junk thats setting out there before they start making stuff again and will it be any better?

  25. Hi Art, I don’t think the rusting, non-stainless steel screws are one manufacturer’s issue, it’s throughout the industry. I don’t know if it is “A waking up”, I think it may come from a result of better tradesmen, or at least a reduction of the less than average skilled people. Anyway, let’s hope. Thanks for your comments. I will look you up when I get your way.

  26. Lawrence Wood, Well, time will tell. I’m guessing you have not had service at various dealers throughout the country. There are a lot of good technicians, but they are out numbered, in some locations, with poorly trained or people that really could care less. This same talent was copied at the manufacturer’s level. With the recent cut-backs, you don’t already see the difference? Well, we’ll see. Thank you for your input.

  27. Art

    Peter, I also have some of those rusting screws on my Monaco’s’ instrument panel, it’s not a 1/2 M $ unit, but close. HOWEVER, over all, I have had far less problems than I have heard from other high end coach owners.

    As far as the RV manufacturing industry waking up and producing better quality as a result of the downturn, I hope your right……………………..if they are still around. Only the strong will survive!

    Don’t forget to stop by Harsen’s Island this summer.

  28. Lug nut, you’re dreaming! A nice dream, but deeply faulty. Bottom line will still determine quality. Sad, but the truth.

  29. Truman, You are right. We can not necessarily blame the QC department. What is rejected ultimately is only corrected or discarded depending on the management’s view. Thanks for a great comment.

  30. Truman

    Well i hope the quality goes up over all our expiations But only seeing is believing!!! I worked as an quality control inspector in a tire factory And when i have looked at the products that we made “Some Good some bad” I really had no control what was released to the public We all have a BOSS !!!!! Just my thought if we could control it it would be better!!!!! Thanks Truman

  31. Hi John, Well, sometimes some positive things come from a negative situation. I really believe that we will see some changes to the good, as far as quality issues. A couple of years ago, you could build an RV with poor quaity and people would still flock to buy one. Today, the situation has changed remarkably. Now if people are going to commit to a new rig, they are going to demand a quality product at a reasonable price. I really hope the RV industry has bottomed out and thing soon start to get better. Thanks for your alway great input.

  32. Martha Federle, Well, not all RV manufacturers have to answer to shareholders. There are privately held companies like Tiffin and Newmar, both of which are doing as well as they can. Thanks for your input on this topic.

  33. Marge Clugston, Great to hear some positive comments from happy RV owners like yourselves. Thank you for the positive input.

  34. John

    Hi Lug_Nut,

    You hit the nail on the head! In many companies, when the bean counters get to influence building methods and material grades, it can ruin a product or at least reduce its appeal to potential buyers.
    You demonstrate a perfect example with the rusting screw on a high-end coach window. It may not be a critical structural issue but it looks cheap which reflects right back to the manufacturer. Making it hard to believe any of their advertising hype about their product. I hope some of their staff are reading this blog and are taking notes.

    I changed the screws on my present coach to stainless over the years and would have gladly paid a bit extra at the factory level for stainless screws through the entire building process. Little things can make a huge difference.

    I have one thing to say to the remaining RV manufacturers, “Get your act together and build better quality RVs, a product that will last well beyond your warranty liability period. Gee, people may even sell more RVs for your company by word of mouth.”

    That would mean more work for the industry and employees and ultimately, a better product for the consumer.
    Lets hear from the industry too.


  35. The bean counters and shareholders will still be there, and they probably won’t change much. I hope you’re right, but I think there will always be a market for junk, which is why most products for sale in the U.S. have been made in a certain Asian country and are poorly made with few exceptions. Can you imagine what it will be like when they start building RV’s?


  36. Marge Clugston

    We have been in many 5th wheels. Ended up purchasing a Cameo by Carriage.

    I feel they have maintained their quality. We have owned two of them and would buy again.

    M. Clugston