Purchasing an RV is a significant investment, but not all brands are worth the high price tag.
How can you prevent making a costly mistake when shopping for an RV?
Follow this guide to RV brands to avoid. Inside you’ll find the makes and models that give buyers the most problems both short and long term.
The RV lifestyle is full of excitement, adventure, and relaxation when you can count on your recreational vehicle performing as it should. So, keep reading to learn from RV owners and mechanics what brands to avoid and why!
RV Brands To Avoid
While no RV brand is perfect in every way, the best brands understand the actual dynamics of pulling a home down the highway for thousands of miles and building the vehicle to withstand the abuse.
Other brands tend to focus on design over durability, so the “wow” factor overrides your questions about long-term maintenance issues.
Who cares if the slide-outs leak when you can cook on the incredible kitchen island! You get the point.
Don’t be the buyer who has to take his new RV into the shop for repairs a scant few days after purchase by avoiding the brands below.
Top 8 Worst RV Brands
1. Hurricane by Thor
The Thor Hurricane has a reputation for being a consistent mish-mash of bad reviews for poor quality and recalls on parts.
Why? The main reason is that the company is known to use reconditioned or salvaged parts on a “new” build, leading to faster break downs.
Recalls run the gamut from failing parking brakes to bad seals on the hydraulic jack system, both dangerous situations while parked at a campsite.
Charging issues with the house batteries are also common, which causes failure of the 12-volt system that runs appliances like the refrigerator and lights. Replacing the four to eight batteries inside a large motorcoach is expensive, to say the least.
Interior fabrics on furniture and driver and passenger seats wear down quickly and often need replacement after only a year or two. With over 50 recalls over the years, this brand is a no-no on both new or used models.
2. Forest River
Forest River RVs are everywhere, and the consensus is the brand has gone way downhill in the past decade in both quality of materials and customer service.
Once the company snags you with a sale, expect to find trim work and cabinet doors shimmying loose after a few trips. Particleboard underlayment on countertops can swell when wet or in a very humid climate. Flooring on the Forest River models also has a myriad of complaints about sinking or waviness.
The real dilemma is the inadequate attention to detail on exterior caulking and trims that allow leaks during rain. Even after returns to the dealership for repairs, many customers complain that water still comes in, especially on slide-outs.
Water leaks mean rotting wood, rusting metal, and mold in your walls. Please pass on this brand, no matter how much lipstick they put on the pig.
Gulfstream may as well offer an open-roof on all their RVs, as this brand is notorious for leaks with its newer-year models.
While leaks are a serious matter, other problems include locks on doors and hatches not staying secure. Stopping for gas to find out the basement door is wide open, and your camping gear has fallen out is a real concern.
The heating and cooling system within the RV is another continual battle, as the thermostat fails to read correctly, which leads to overly warm or cold conditions.
Poor air circulation and indoor humidity from breathing and propane heat allow frustrating condensation to form on ceilings that drip, drip, drip.
There’s no need to waste time looking at this brand when better-built options are available for the same price.
Pre-2001, Keystone built decent RVs, but the quality is lacking in both trailers and fifth-wheel models once Thor acquired the brand.
Interior cabinetry uses a pressboard with a thin veneer that initially feels weighty and nice but will quickly lose strength at the joints and screw attachments from travel vibrations.
Customers complain of doors falling off and “buggy” electronic components. The control panel configuration is another point of concern that makes getting accurate readings of your propane, black or grey water tanks, or other levels difficult.
Unless you are looking to buy a road-tested vintage model, pass on the newer Keystone brand RVs.
Fleetwood is another once-reliable brand that offers one of the worst interior builds in both craftsmanship and materials quality.
Within months, customers complain of loose trim work, popped seams, delamination of walls, poor wiring, broken fans, lifting flooring, or torn or very worn upholstery.
As each small issue grows into realizing that the RV isn’t worth the money, the warranty has lapsed, and you’re stuck with the full repair bill.
Even worse, owners who encounter severe manufacturing defects within the warranty window are often given the run-around by customer service who try to avoid making the repair.
Detour around the Fleetwoods on the RV lot, and save yourself a lot of hassle and money.
Coachmen has been around for over fifty years, but as the saying goes, “They don’t make ’em like they used to.”
Bought out by Forest River, the new models feature low-quality workmanship on plumbing connections, which cause leaks both inside the walls and under sinks. Another problem that causes concern is the particleboard shelving inside cabinets that quickly warp and bend under standard kitchen gear’s weight.
Leaks around the roof edges and slide-outs are common, and ceiling panels can work loose and sag after getting some miles on the RV.
With so many issues, you would think customer service would bend over backward to please their customers, but you would be wrong. Most owners are dissatisfied with follow up service, so take a pass on this brand.
Coleman is the name behind all kinds of reliable camping gear, so why should you avoid their RVs? The company has rushed into the RV market without the skills to build a sturdy, livable unit.
Customers find the overall layout of the RVs to be odd or uncomfortable to navigate in real-life use. The finishes are flimsy and loosen up after a trip or two and need constant reattachment.
The worst part is the appliances that act up randomly with no notice. The showerhead can suddenly spray water out the side, the toilet valve won’t shut completely (letting the lovely smell of sewer gas into your RV), of the refrigerator won’t cool down.
Wiring shakes loose and creates shorts or flickering lights, and even the decals on the exterior fade and crack quickly.
With so many possibilities for things to break, don’t bother with this brand until they improve on both the build’s design and quality.
Not every Winnebago model is terrible, with the big problems centered on the finish of the interior and exterior walls of motorhomes.
The attachment to the underlying structure is weak, and wall panels can pop loose and look wavy or uneven.
It’s easy to add a nail or two to an inside wall to fix the problem, but the outer walls’ delamination is a time-consuming and expensive repair.
Electrical problems are another common thread among customer complaints and RV mechanics. Sometimes pinpointing the issue is difficult, as most RV wiring is complicated and hidden from easy access.
Watch for these specific areas of concern when shopping for a Winnebago brand.
Why You Should Consider Used RVs
People love to purchase shiny, new products, and RVs are no exception. Being the first to fill the cabinets, stock the fridge, top off the gas tank, and drive off on a new adventure is satisfying!
Then a few months later, you find that you are spending a lot of time, and money, fixing things, which turns your purchase into something not so fun.
This problem is the reason RVers with experience opt for buying a used recreational vehicle. Not only is the price much lower than a new RV, but it’s hard to detect what is going to shake loose once you take that new RV off the lot.
A model two or three years old with some miles on it will have many of the “issues” identified and fixed so you won’t have to mess with it. Hopefully, honest sellers will point out what problems the RV has or had so you know what to watch out for.
Most people selling a personal used RV, or those found on commercial lots, are not because the vehicle was a lemon, but that it doesn’t fit into their lifestyle. Either they don’t care for RV travel, they are too old to drive around safely, it’s not big enough for their family, or need to move to a place that doesn’t have space to park the rig.
Combining a good brand of RV, such as Newmar, Tiffin, Jayco, or Northwood, with a lower, used-RV price is a win-win!
Few people are making their first RV purchase fully understanding the long-term consequences of their decision. Many choose on price (learn when RV prices drop) or interior design alone.
You are buying a house on wheels. These motorhomes, fifth-wheels, or travel trailers are expressly framed, clad, and run with different electrical, heating, and plumbing systems than you have in a typical residential home.
RVing should be fun. Staying clear of brands that lack proper builds or use inferior parts lowers your risk of costly hassles and helps maintain a good resale value.
When you start with a reliable, well-built, low-maintenance RV brand, you will avoid years of headaches down the road!