Buying an RV out of town? You might be sorry

By Chuck Woodbury

Sadly, it’s becoming all too familiar. You buy an RV from an out-of-town dealer, then when you need it serviced at your local dealer, they tell you, “You didn’t buy from us, sorry.”

With new RVs selling in record numbers, and with poor quality control, you’ll likely need your RV serviced (maybe often). So keep in mind that buying local may be a plus when it needs service. 

Here’s an email we received from a reader  that prompted this article:

Dear Chuck:

“We bought our Coachmen RV in March 2015. When we readied it for a second outing in May the air conditioner would not work. We called both Coachmen dealers near us in San Antonio and both refused us; Crestview RV in Selma asked if we had bought the coach from them, and when we said no, they said they might be able to get to us the end of August, three months away. The closest other Coachmen dealer was Ancira in Boerne, Texas and they refused to talk with us since we did not buy from them. Neither place was helpful when we were looking to purchase.

We had wanted a Ford chassis since the front seats swivel and neither dealer had a Ford and said they doubted they could get one. We then went out of town to purchase our RV.

Luckily, Camping World in New Braunfels, was very helpful (since the A/C was under warranty) and they had us an appointment within two days. Since then, we have routinely used Camping World.
Being a military family (now retired) we moved a lot and I just wondered what people do if they have moved to another area after purchasing a new RV. Do other RVers had the same problem getting service just because they did not buy from that particular dealer? Is this a trend?
You have mentioned in your articles that new RVs today are lacking in quality (I agree). In that case, more and more RVers will be seeking repairs. If a licensed dealer does not help, then who will?”
-Brena B. 
Now, here are some comments we received at
“I have had the same problem with a 2016 keystone cougar 30rli. I’m in California and I purchased in Michigan because it was an east coast floor plan the could not get in California. I spent hours on the phone after I picked it up and towed it home. I had a page list of issues I discovered on my trip home no dealers near me would do warranty work because I didn’t purchase from them and Keystone would do nothing to help. Sounds like a lawsuit waiting to happen.”
– Adam S. 
“I have run into this problem too. We used to own a Mobile Suites and took it to a local MS Dealer. We didn’t expect them to fix the problem (under warranty) but, just wanted them to look at it and see what they thought the problem might be. They refused!”
– Jeff
“I was at Holand Motor Homes in Palm Desert couple of days ago looking at Leisure Vans products. The salesman said if we buy from him he can get us in for service “pretty fast.” If I buy from another dealer it can take from 3-4 months to get an appointment! The pleasure of new RV!”
– Harry
“We’re in the same boat as everyone else here as we got our rig from a Southern California dealer who didn’t check the operation of the washer/dryer, or the awning. Had a horrible time the first time we used the washer and it wouldn’t fill. Then it didn’t drain in the drainpipe, so water soaked the bedroom carpet. Awning needed a part which was pointed out to the dealer in the PDI, but they didn’t do anything about it. As we were in Houston the first two months with our new rig, we looked for dealers in the area because the manufacturer said we had to go to a dealer that sold the brand of our 5th wheel. Strangely enough, they either said they had too many customers already or cited part of the State of Texas franchise laws saying that they couldn’t service a rig from another dealer!”
Charley D.
“We bought a Tiffin Allegro Bus in 2006 at least in part due to the Tiffin reputation. Things may have changed but back when we were still under warranty we could go to any RV repair shop and they knew Tiffin would cut a check within two weeks of when the invoice is received. We were told by many shops it can take months and months for others to pay so they don’t like doing the work. We have also found Tiffin dealers who don’t want to work on our Bus because we did not buy from them – how dumb is that? We are fulltime and travel everywhere so we have no “local” dealer. But if we find a dealer who takes care of us they could be where we buy our next. Good service gets good sales. Research before you buy – let the buyer beware.”
– Brian

“We have purchased a new Tiffin Phaeton from an out-of-town dealer since we’ll be full-timers. The local dealer wanted over ten thousand dollars more to buy from them and told the price differential was when we needed service, we could be ‘prioritized’ over other non-buying customers. That’s pretty expensive considering we may never need service when passing through the area.”

“Bought my Jayco from Jayco dealer that is a mile down the road from the factory. Towed it back to Orlando, Florida and after the first season had a punch list of items that needed repairs. Nothing big but still warranty items. Called the local authorized Jayco dealer for an appointment & sure enough the BS started with “did you buy it from us” rhetoric. Long story short I ended up calling Jayco direct to complain. They said they are independent dealerships & have no control over them. Unbelievable isn’t it! How do you grant someone exclusivity for a product & refuse to service it? I was ready to call my lawyer & see if I could sue for breach of warranty.”

“We purchased a 2018 Elkridge in October. Had to go to Hammond, LA to find the model and style we wanted (about 900 miles round trip). First night on the way home, the smoke alarm woke us up. Smoke was coming from the main thermostat. We turned it off, fanned the smoke away, checked everything out, and slept restlessly the remainder of the night. There’s a dealer in Sulphur Springs, Texas, about 15 miles from our house. When we called them to see if they could check out the thermostat? We got that, “No, we don’t service them here if you didn’t buy from us.” This after we have been to that dealership for inspections and parts! I called Heartland and they apparently CANNOT require their dealers to service their own units. I just do not understand this–if you buy a Dodge Ram truck, you can get it serviced at any dealer! Why isn’t it the same for RVs?????”

Have you had a similar experience? Please leave a comment below.