Man in an old RV

RV Brands to Avoid and Why

The 2008 financial crisis affected every industry in the United States. In the recreational vehicle (RV) marketplace, it reset the industry as a whole. Many companies that had been around since the 60s and 70s ended up closing their doors. Even the great Winnebago Industries, Inc. — the household name of RVs — was in danger of filing for bankruptcy.

As the economy recovered, the industry had to adapt their manufacturing and marketing strategies. Small start-up companies became bigger, and established companies were either bought out or closed. Some companies even bought out others to become conglomerate organizations building RVs under multiple names.

The new paradigm became aesthetics, lighter weights, and affordability. With these changes, quality manufacturing and service started to come into question. Below are some RVs and manufacturers that are now known as some of the most problematic coaches in the industry.

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Thor Industries

Founded in 1980, Thor Industries built up its business by acquiring big RV names. They became a multinational corporation selling in Asia, Australia, Europe, and North America.

To get into the market directly, Thor created their own coaches through their Thor Motorcoach name by merging their daughter companies Damon and Four Winds.

Thor is the parent company of:

  • Airstream
  • Damon
  • Dutchman
  • Four Winds
  • Heartland
  • Jayco
  • Keystone
  • Starcraft

Thor Hurricane

Thor Hurricane RV

The Thor Hurricane has always had low-quality ratings. Throughout the years, it has had over 55 different safety recalls and bad reviews. Many consider it one of the worst drivable RVs on the market.

To keep the Hurricane one of the most affordable motorhomes, Thor uses reconditioned parts in its assembly. The added wear and tear on the parts can increase their chances of breaking down.

A big problem for many of these motorhomes are the parking brakes, which lose their hold. As a result, owners have seen their RVs move while parked. There was even a recent recall to correct this problem.

Hydraulic jacks lose their stability as well. The pressurized fluid starts to seep out as the seals deteriorate.

House batteries not charging became common complaints. Modern motorhomes are relying more on electricity with all of the components in them. As a result, these batteries have more strain on them and wear out. As a result, their charging effectiveness drops.

Warm climate increases seat-deterioration through peeling their top layers. Not using real leather or other high-quality materials for cost purposes are the source of this issue.

Exhaust piping has had to be reworked as they were originally placed too close to storage units. The heat from the pipes melted the storage bins.

Keystone

Keystone RV

Keystone RV was founded in 1996. Their goal was to offer their customers feature-rich travel trailers and fifth wheels for prices below the market average. As they grew in popularity, they were acquired by Thor in 2001.

Well-known problems are that the cabinet doors fall off their hinges. To keep costs down, they use pressboard and other wood substitutes. As time goes on, these materials break down, and the screws lose their hold.

Also, the design of their control panel creates difficulty understanding and operating the various instruments. Customers have complained that these controls don’t give accurate readings and are hard to reach.

Jayco

Jayco rv

Jayco was created in 1968. They were the company that created the pop-up travel trailer with their folding design. Jayco is also credited with creating the first fifth-wheel trailer in 1976. As part of their expansion plan, Thor bought out the company in 2016.

In recent years, Jayco has started to slip with their manufacturing quality. Recurring problems result from low manufacturing standards.

Flooding problems are a big issue in their RVs. The sources of this problem come from leaks in the plumbing as well as from the roof. Also, many of their toilets come out of the factory crooked due to poor installation.

Another problem that often arises are that their oven hoods stop working. This happens because of faulty electrical problems and poor design. Often, owners have to uninstall their smoke detectors even when cooking safely.

Berkshire Hathaway (Forest River, Inc.)

Berkshire Hathaway RV

Berkshire Hathaway is known through the real estate and financial worlds. In 2005 they started acquiring RV manufacturers to get into the RV industry. This move came from Warren Buffet seeing a rise in sales in the industry.

#1 – Forest River

Forest River opened for business in 1996 with the goal of becoming the best RV manufacturer in the industry. They were bought out in 2005 by Berkshire Hathaway and are sister companies with Coachman.

That goal has become marred by substandard materials being used in their coaches. Issues like rust developing from leaks and sinking floors are prevalent problems that occur with their coaches.

#2 – Coachman

Coachman has been business since 1964. At their height, they were considered the number one RV manufacturer in the United States. After the 2008 financial crisis, they were bought out by Forest River and have become the 5th best RV company.

Common problems that have arisen are issues like weak cabinetry materials that cannot hold enough weight. To avoid this, people have had to cut down their storage needs.

Also, weak seals have created leaks in the roof, shower, and sinks. Due to driving, owners have found screws and insulation falling off.

Other Manufacturers

#1 – Gulfstream

Gulfstream was once a great name in the RV world. After taking a six-year hiatus on their drivable products, they’re starting to re-enter that market with their Class C and B+ motorhomes. Their main products are lightweight travel trailers that are some of the most affordable coaches on the market.

Issues that have the most complaints include leaking, door locks not securing, and faulty thermostats. Also, their customer service department has complaints from RV owners. Customers feel that their issues were not properly addressed and that the customer service representatives did not fully satisfy their concerns.

#2 – Fleetwood

Started in 1950, Fleetwood was the top-selling RV in the industry. They are the parent company for manufacturers like American Coach, Monaco, Holiday Rambler, and other well-known companies. The 2008 financial crisis hit Fleetwood to the point of bankruptcy. They have rebuilt themselves to regain one of the top-selling RVs again.

Fleetwood has also placed its control panels in hard to reach places. Thermostats are not placed at optimal levels. People have had to reach over things or climb over furniture in order to reach the control that they need to get too.

The jack leveling system breaks down. Seepage of the fluid makes the jacks less secure. If your coach is not properly balanced, issues like rainwater coming through the slide outs become a problem.

Battery charging becomes less effective over time. Propane-powered refrigerators are being replaced with full electric units. For weight concerns, Fleetwood uses the minimum amount of batteries to run everything straining them to their near maximum ability.

Pilot and co-pilot seats begin to peel as time goes on. It is accelerated in warmer climates. This occurs from using leather substitute materials.

As full-time RVing becomes more popular, the company itself does not recommend using their products for long-term use. There have also been complaints about Fleetwood not honoring their warranties when customers need repairs performed.

#3 – Winnebago

Started in 1958, Winnebago has become a household name. Even those who are not into the RV lifestyle know this company’s products. They were one of the few RV companies that survived the 2008 financial crisis and have re-expanded into the travel trailer and motorboat industries.

Their modern manufacturing and quality controls are fraught with issues. Leaking from the roof and plumbing have been identified often. Walls start to bend and peel throughout the lifetime of the coaches.

Their customer service quality has greatly dropped recently. Customers have complained that once their coaches are sold, the company doesn’t care about keeping their “Winnebago family” members happy.

Things to Remember

There are many other RV brands out there that haven’t made the list but can develop some of these concerns. The best way to keep your coach in top form is to keep up on preventive maintenance. Your dealer or the manufacturer can educate you on simple things to maintain your motorhome or trailer.

A segment of RV owners are getting into the vintage (the 1950s through the mid-1980s) and neo-vintage (late 1980s to 2007) era models. Many of these RVs are still on the road and are very affordable. Many of these RV owners enjoy upgrading existing features or retrofitting newer technologies to personalize their coach.

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If you are looking to sell everything and live the RV lifestyle full time there are many great RVs out there. Also, learn from other full-timers about common mistakes and techniques you can use to make your new lifestyle a good one.

Product data was last updated on 2019-11-19 at 12:56.

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