Before we purchased our new RV to begin our journey as full-time RVers, experienced RVing friends warned us that a new motorhome would be fraught with problems and that we would be better off buying a used one that was already broken in by someone else. So we first narrowed down the type of unit and features we wanted and the manufacturers we liked, then we looked very aggressively both locally and on the internet for a used unit that met our requirements.
Unfortunately, after many months of unsuccessful searching, we were butting up against the time frame we needed to begin our travels. We just couldn’t find a used coach that offered the layout and features we were looking for at a reasonable price point. So we broadened our search and look at new units as well.
When we found the unit we wanted in Florida (we were living in Massachusetts at the time), we put down a deposit, flew to Florida, drove the coach around some before we made the purchase; it seemed pretty good. I (Mitch) had previously rented privately-owned RVs for weeks at a time while vacationing so I was pretty familiar with using many of the subsystems in big coaches. But we knew to try and address every problem before we took final delivery of the vehicle.
The dealer hosted us at a beachside RV park nearby our first night. When we returned to the dealership the next day, we had a “punch list” of 24 items that we found that were nonfunctioning or defective in the unit. In a few cases, we just had questions about operation that neither we nor the dealer could answer. The dealership agreed to resolve everything before we took delivery, but they required a month to do so. We flew home to Massachusetts.
Five weeks later, in July 2014, the dealer had replaced all the parts in question and resolved (nearly) everything on our punch list. We took a one-way flight to Florida and drove the coach back home.
After three days and two nights on the road and in RV parks on the way home to Massachusetts, we amassed a punch list of ten more items. None of them were critical, but we hoped to get a few of them fixed while in New England the month before we started our year-long journey. But no dealers had room in their schedule to help us.
So we set out on the road as planned in mid-August, driven by the need to get our two freshman boys off to their respective colleges and moved into their dorms.
As scheduled, we dropped off the first freshman at Clemson, South Carolina, and visited friends in Georgia the following weekend. Then we dashed across the country to get the second boy settled at the University of Utah. After only four days of driving, at 1900 miles, the trouble started to catch up with us.
Dead in the Water
On day five of the journey, we broke down along I-24 in Calvert City, KY. And I mean broken down — engine dead, not starting, not even turning over. We had to get her towed in 100-degree August heat. Valerie began calling the rig “the Beast.” (Read more about this breakdown here.) After a one-day delay for a frayed ignition wire, we drove extra long days to reach Utah.
We got the other freshman settled in Utah and began our adventures exploring, but the problems were mounting. We were forced to make a service appointment at a dealer in Las Vegas and stay with Valerie’s sister and brother-in-law while our “house” was in the shop. By the time we reached Las Vegas, on Sept. 4th, exactly three weeks into our full-timing adventure, our new punch list of issues had grown to 28 items! That’s on top of the 24 that were fixed before we took delivery, and the one that caused us to breakdown — 53 issues on a brand new coach that we had purchased less than three months earlier.
I began keeping an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of the problems. Eleven days later the dealer in Las Vegas repaired or resolved 19 of the items, which was actually very impressive. We still had 10 items unaddressed, but we decided, “The (road) show must go on!”
Dead in the Mountains
In December, the Beast broke down again, this time on I-80 late on a Saturday night. We were at 8000 ft. elevation on the Continental Divide in Wyoming trying to get through the pass before an impending snowstorm. We didn’t make it. We discovered diesel fuel was streaming from out from underneath the engine. We managed to limp along to a service center parking lot, where we hunkered down in the storm overnight, braced against 60-mph wind with “blow-over” warnings for large-profile vehicles. With two of our kids onboard, all of us breathing in lung-fulls of diesel fuel fumes, and running the diesel generator for heat, we had quite an ordeal (read more details about this story here.)
By the time we finished our first year as full-timers, our odometer read over 27,000 miles. In this first year we amassed seven different punch lists, totaling 91 issues! Our RV was in service 84 days during that first year, if you include the 35 days of repair before we took delivery. It cost us a lot of time, and a lot of aggravation, but almost no money; some extra gas, and a couple nights at a hotel when we were in a pinch, but nothing compared to what it probably cost the manufacturer to repair all these issues. I can only venture a guess, but the parts, the labor, diagnostic time, shipping, cost the manufacturer an estimated $40,000. The tow-truck operator told us the tow alone would have been a $550 bill if we didn’t have warranty coverage.
An Easy Decision
Like most RVs, ours has a one year bumper-to-bumper warranty. Certainly some items in an RV have a longer warranty — three years in some cases, five years in others. However, as we approached the one-year anniversary of our purchase, we investigated options for extended warranties. We knew enough not to purchase the overpriced ones they were trying to sell us at the dealership where we bought the unit.
I personally have never bought an extended warranty for anything I ever purchased before, including cars or electronics. However, the potential costs affiliated with the repairs of our motorhome, and what we learned about the dysfunctional ugly underbelly of the RV industry since becoming immersed as full-timers, not having a warranty seemed risky, and potentially back-breaking from a financial perspective.
In our research, only a couple of high-quality extended warranty companies came up over and over again. Ultimately, we opted to purchase our coverage through Wholesale Warranties. We came to the conclusion that this company was well-regarded by its existing customers. The sales people we spoke with during the process of evaluating different coverage options were very knowledgeable and helpful. The company has even produced a number of videos that are available on their website and on YouTube that help better educate the consumer about warranty terminology and how to differentiate one from another. The company offers a wide range of options in duration and coverage that can suit any budget. And this is all the company does, so they are focused on being very good at it.
If this is beginning to sound like an ad, so be it! We are announcing our first cross-marketing affiliation, and it’s with Wholesale Warranties! While we may receive some compensation for referrals traced back to our site, we can’t be bought. We’d tell you what we think about this company either way.
The good news for us is that we have broken in our motorhome! After a year on the road, Valerie hasn’t referred to our coach as the Beast for many months. It’s the Love Shack again, and it’s is performing much more reliably. We no longer have to keep spreadsheets to keep track of the problems. In the last six months, we have only had two days of service due to new issues. This has given us an opportunity to experience the claim process with Wholesale Warrantees. The process was smooth as silk — exactly how it had been described to us when we were contemplating a warranty purchase. Wholesale Warranties completed payment for the work over the phone via credit card directly between the warrantor and the repair facility. All I had to pay was my $50 deductible.
We purchased a warranty for seven years or 100,000 miles from our purchase date. It covers us wherever we go as we travel around the country. Hopefully, we will continue to need it as little as we have during these first few months. Repairs still cost time and headaches, so the fewer the better. However, if we do run into big problems, we know that we will only be out $50, regardless of the size of the repair bill. Additionally, we see this as a purchase that will add to the resale value of our rig because the warranty is transferable to future owners.
…not that we’re thinking about buying another NEW motorhome anytime soon!
Our advice to new RVers hitting the road: adjust your expectations for a new RV. Even used ones have problems but new ones– no matter the price point — are going to have issues — big and small. All issues are an annoyance but some may even leave you stranded. We would never want to discourage anyone from buying a new or used RV — do it! It’ll be an amazing adventure! But be prepared emotionally and financially for problems.
Would we still buy our new 2014 Thor Tuscany 45LT? Yes! We would do it all over again! It’s worth it! We have been to some incredible places and have some great stories as a result!
But we might have planned a less ambitious itinerary. If you plan to put 20,000 miles on an RV the first year, a lot of problems will be shaken out, literally. We would have ideally bought the RV about six to 12 months in advance and taken many 500 mile trips from home with plenty of time for service in between. But keep in mind you only have one year to address many issues under the bumper-to-bumper warranty on a new vehicle. After that, consider the peace of mind an extended warranty can bring.
Keep on RV dreaming and we’ll see you in the warm places!
If you’re interested in finding out what Wholesale Warranties can do for you, get more information from www.wholesalewarranties.com.
If you decide to go with Wholesale Warranties for your motorcoach, travel trailer, boat, or tow car, you’ll receive a $50 off discount if you start from any of the links on our blog or mention RVLuckyOrWhat.
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