In the market for a new RV? We share which RV brands you might want to avoid (and why) plus which RV brands to buy.
The 2008 financial crisis affected every industry in the United States. In the 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. — a 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. Without getting our hands on hundreds of RVs and performing our own accurate testing, we simply can’t determine which RV brands to avoid. We did however manage to gather a great deal of data that others have put together for you to digest and make that decision on your own.
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 several well known and respected brands such as Airstream, Damon, Dutchmen, Four Winds, Heartland, Jayco, and Keystone. With all those brands, you are sure to find an RV you’ll love, and potentially some RV brands to avoid.
Thor A.C.E. Motorcoach
With typically average reviews, the Thor ACE actually gets a fair shake on the popular RV forum, iRV2.com, as a decent entry-level RV. In this thread, several members chime in about their good experiences with their Thor ACE.
So it’s within that context that you have to take in this fairly well-known video about an unhappy customer that actually dresses up like a Norse God to point out the issues he has had with his Thor ACE. Ultimately you’ll want to test drive and investigate the Thor ACE yourself and see if it’s one of the RV brands to avoid.
We mentioned that Keystone RV was one of Thor’s brands, and typically is not considered one of the RV brands to avoid. We found folks talking about questionable quality in this forum thread. Yet, we also found an encouraging video from Keystone about their various quality control measures, and a glowing reference from well-known New England RV dealer, Flagg RV. They offered three reasons to buy a Keystone stating:
“We trust Keystone RV and their commitment to creating quality and innovative RVs. That is why we at Flagg RV choose to stock so many Keystone RVs. Their quality and service standards line up with the satisfaction we want our customers to have.”Flagg RV
Finding an unbiased review is often difficult, but that’s what these popular Canadian YouTubers promise in their Keystone RV review.
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. Jayco has been popular for millions of RVers and you would not think it to be one of the RV brands to avoid.
We found an interesting video that had in excess of 300k views. The owner raves about how nice his Jayco travel trailer is to tow and how easily he was able to take some great trips with it. He also discusses some fit and finish problems he found with his Jayco. Alternatively, this writer had great things to say about Jayco products. If you are looking at Jayco as a potential suitor to your RV needs, consider joining this Jayco-specific forum to learn more about owner’s experiences.
Berkshire Hathaway (Forest River, Inc.)
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. Forest River markets several models under their Forest River and Coachmen RV brands.
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 Coachmen.
Coachmen has been in 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.
Both Forest River and Coachmen brands are generally well respected, yet like all brands, there will always be detractors. We found this video of a YouTuber taking the time to point out the quality control issues in his Forest River RV.
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.
Time will tell whether or not they have jumped back into the market with an eye toward high quality or not.
Started in 1950, Fleetwood was the top-selling RV in the industry. Now they are part of the REV Group, a 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. Under REV, they have rebuilt themselves to again be a top-selling brand. We found a great video by Camping With the Kellys who discuss the many things they love about their Fleetwood RV after 1-year of ownership. They also reveal the issues that have cropped up during that time.
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.
Popular YouTubers Less Junk, More Journey created this interesting Winnebago factory tour video, asking ‘What Sets Winnebago Apart?’ They make no bones about being happy with Winnebago’s quality and it’s doubtful they would consider Winnie to be one of the RV brands to avoid. However, before we proclaim that the grass is greener, we found some contrasting opinions in this Winnebago Owners forum.
Things to Remember
There are many other RV brands to avoid 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. 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.