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Thursday, November 12, 2015

Comparing Different Brands of RVs

We recently attended your seminar on RV Maintenance at the Hershey Show. It was really informative, thank you! We are in the process of buying our first RV and saw two Class C models with the same floor plan, but different manufacturers. They both have plus & minus items, but neither one was a show stopper for us. Our question is to try to get an unbiased opinion on the manufacturers, if you don’t mind. We know about Winnebago being around for a long time and that model has a fiberglass roof and the quality is good. We do not know about Coachmen owned by Forest River and their model has a TPO roof. We do not know about its quality and other than opinions of the dealer and one person we met at the show who also has a Coachmen and loves it, we would like to have another opinion. Paul & Dianne B.

Paul & Dianne, certainly Winnebago and Coachmen have been long-standing brands in the industry. And Forrest River is actually the 2nd largest RV manufacturer overall. I wish there was a true, unbiased, Consumer Reports-like publication for RVs out there. But I’ve not yet found one that provides a comprehensive, impartial comparison between brands X, Y or Z. The key word being “impartial.” Many RV publishers provide a “buyer’s guide” or something similar, but those I’ve seen have not been very technically comprehensive. I do present a seminar entitled, “Technically Choosing Your Next RV” which I presented at last year's Hershey Show, but not this year. I’m actually in the middle of an article that covers that material, but unfortunately, it is not yet finished.

The differences between a fiberglass roof and TPO are there, but neither one would be a deal-breaker for me. I endorse a completely new type of roofing system that can be applied over any type of existing roof, called RV Armor (www.rv-armor.com). So no matter what roof is on any motorhome you may purchase, you can upgrade at any time to a fully guaranteed (for life!) roof that requires zero maintenance or attention, ever. So the roof type is a moot issue today.

Other than that, I would equate most all other features being quite similar within the same price-point. It’s more important that you base your choice on what is required by you and the family and how you expect to use the RV. There are just too many questions needing answering, and most are truly subjective in nature. But I do have a few items to consider before making that definitive jump to RV ownership. The learning curve can be shortened drastically by taking the following into consideration before you sign on that dotted line.

* Type – RVs come in two basic types, motorized and towable. It looks like you’ve already determined the Class C is for you though.

* Budget – RVs cost real money, so be sure to stay within your budget.

* Accoutrements – Evaluate your family’s needs and wants. How many people will be using the RV? If you’re a couple with three or four kids, perhaps that 8-foot pickup camper is not such a good idea.

            * How much living space will you need?
            * How much sleeping capacity?
            * What can you not live without in the kitchen?
            * How much storage do you need to support your camping hobbies?
            * How sophisticated does the satellite receiver need to be?
            * Do you even need a satellite receiver?

* Size/Weight Restrictions – RVs come in many shapes and sizes. The larger units may difficult to maneuver in some older campgrounds.

* Brand – You’ve already narrowed it down to two that you saw in Hershey, but varying retail price points exist for virtually every potential RV enthusiast. Build quality, accessory sophistication and overall curb appeal will go up as the price point increases.

* Construction Techniques – I’m not sure which exact models you looked at, but there is a broad range of construction methods employed by builders. Construction materials include: steel, aluminum or wooden structural members, soft sidewalls, laminated sidewalls and varying composites of roof surfaces. They all have their pros and cons, periodic maintenance schedules and refinements, so be sure to ask the dealer lots of questions.

* Research and Homework – Be sure to do your homework before you buy. Here are some suggestions for gaining knowledge before making a commitment:

            * RV Shows – Duh, you’ve already done this one!

            * Neighbors, Family & Friends – I’d make a wager that everyone knows at least one RVing family. Be sure to get their input as well. RVers are typically quick to point out the good in their coaches; as well as the not-so-good. Take it all in and file it away.

            * Campgrounds – Try to visit a few campgrounds in your area. Ask the RVers staying there, how they like their particular RV.

            * Web Research –  Use this resource carefully. Most RV dealers and manufacturers will have a site so it’s possible to compare inventory, floor plans, factory videos, etc.

            * RVIA Seal – Over 90% of RV manufacturers belong to the RV Industry Association, the governing body of the industry. All approved manufacturers will have a “seal of approval” from RVIA prominently displayed beside the entry door. And Winnebago and Coachmen both have RVIA seals.

            * RVDA – The Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association monitors its membership closely. I recommend buying a new vehicle only from a member of RVDA.

            * RV Rentals – Consider renting one from your short list for a weekend.

            * Avoid Impulse Buys – Always give it serious thought and revisit your needs to make sure that RV of your dreams indeed fits your requirements. Don’t be pressured into buying that unit while “in the moment.” 

Good luck! Let me know how you decide!



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