Listen to this story
By Dana Ticknor
Our last RV purchase was a well-researched foray into buying a new unit from a dealership. We delved intensely into manufacturer reputations, build quality, and warranties.
We chose our manufacturer before even looking at floor plans since we didn’t want to be swayed into purchasing from an inferior builder just because we liked their floor plan better.
We talked to owners about what it was like to get warranty work done on their rigs, we took the time to make a confident decision based on owner feedback, and we bought with the assurance that if we had issues with the product that we wouldn’t have problems getting them resolved.
Even though we had heard many horror stories of shop visits gone bad, we naively thought that if we crossed all our Ts, dotted all our Is, and were involved in the process including great communication, that surely our repair visit would be a positive experience.
We were wrong.
From multiple visits between dealerships, then finally to back to the factory, to resolve our issues, here are our Top 10 tips to help your RV warranty work go as smoothly as possible.
1. Communicate your problems with the manufacturer via email.
This way you have physical proof that you informed them of your problems, and that your issues, as well as your initial communications about those issues occurred within the dates of your warranty coverage.
That is a safety net in case the process is strung out and the manufacturer tries to pull any funny business. Better safe than sorry later.
Include photos of issues, if possible, and ask the manufacturer to attach this information to your file.
2. Make sure your chosen shop is an authorized provider by your manufacturer.
Look up to see if the dealer is listed as a partner on the manufacturer’s website. It’s also a good idea to check their Better Business Bureau rating for service-related complaints.
Always make sure all communication with the repair dealership is done via email, or at least confirmed via email. This way you will have proof of your agreement with them, including anticipated (or requested) date of completion.
It should also note that the work is covered under the warranty, and include a complete, detailed list of what is to be repaired.
3. Does the dealership allow you to stay in the RV?
Some dealerships let full-time RVers stay in their rigs during the time the RV is scheduled to be in the shop. If that is the case, be sure that you find out what hours they will want you to be away from your coach so they can work on it.
Generally, for liability reasons, you have to be physically removed from the coach, while it is being worked on.
This is actually a great time to explore the town you are visiting. Ask your techs what to do around town as local people are a much better source of where to go and what to see than Google.
4. Remove all valuables from your RV.
This includes money, jewelry, electronics, firearms, and prescription medications from your RV. Removing or locking up small valuables, especially medications (which are often overlooked as being a theft temptation), while your RV is in the shop is always a good idea, even if you trust the dealer.
It is one thing to lose cash or jewelry, but if firearms or prescription medications are stolen, they can be dangerous in the wrong hands as both are in high demand on the street.
Knowing that your valuables are tucked away safely will make your dealership visit more pleasant.
5. Take photos of your RV.
Take photos of your RV and especially the work that needs to be done, if possible, before or while dropping off your RV.
While it is not common, damage can happen to your RV while it is in for warranty work. One time when our new toy hauler was in the shop for repairs, the dealership somehow ripped the ladder off of the side of the RV.
While the dealership called to let us know that happened, if we had shown up and found it like that, and they had denied any fault, we would have been hard-pressed to prove it was not pre-existing without photos of what the RV looked like when we dropped it off.
6. Keep communication open with the service center.
Be proactive by periodically (and kindly) calling to see if your warranty work is progressing as scheduled. If you are not onsite, and you feel that work is stalling, consider visiting the dealership in person.
When our dealership called and said that they needed our RV for longer, after we had been very adamant about our pickup date from the very beginning, we told them no.
I immediately hopped in the van and drove two hours to see how our repairs were going. I was surprised to find that they were not fixing our main problem as they should have been, but basically filling the crack and painting over it.
I took photos of the work that had been done mid fix, sent them to the manufacturer and had them attached to our file.
That proved helpful when we had to request that the reoccurring crack be fixed again, and the manufacturer was wondering why we were demanding a second repair when the manufacturer had just paid to have it fixed.
It was very helpful that we sent a new email with new photos to the manufacturer that showed the new crack. It was also helpful that we sent it right away on the the day after we picked up our RV after supposedly getting it fixed.
7. Communicate with your manufacturer if you have any problems.
We were not pleased with the results of our warranty work visit, and called our manufacturer to verify some excuses that the shop had given us.
Our manufacturer shared with us timelines pertaining to the shop’s work requests, and we now know that it sat on the dealership lot for two weeks before they even submitted work approval requests to the manufacturer.
When our RV goes in the shop for the second repair, we will be contacting our manufacturer to verify any stumbling blocks that would impede a prompt repair.
We will also be communicating (mainly via photos) with the manufacturer to ensure that the problem is fixed correctly and, hopefully, permanently this time.
8. Examine your coach before you take delivery of it.
Before leaving the lot, be sure to take photos of the rig and what was fixed. The images should be time stamped, and if possible, have the dealer/shop in the background.
Ask the shop for an itemized work order stating what was completed. Costs to manufacturer are not important, just an itemized list of what the dealership fixed for you.
For us, much of our punch list was NOT completed as promised, even though we had stressed our rigid timeline for pickup before we even made the appointment to drop it off. We absolutely had to have our coach back for a prior commitment.
We made sure that our manufacturer was not charged for those items that the dealership did not bother to fix.
9. Keep all repair receipts together.
Purchase a spiral notebook with an interior pocket to keep track of all work done on your coach. Keep track of oil changes, new tires/rotations, all warranty work, personal fixes and even wax jobs.
Detailing what was done, as well as the date, mileage and who performed the service, will be valuable to you in the future.
Also, knowing the rig’s full service history will make your RV more appealing to any future buyers.
Keep any receipts and work orders, including those for warranty work, in the pocket of the same notebook, making sure that dates are included and mileage noted, if appropriate.
This is very handy if you have repeat issues that need to be addressed by the initial service provider.
10. Thank your shop if you have a good experience!
In an age where work volume speaks louder than quality, it’s important that dealerships understand that consumers notice whether work is done well or poorly, quickly or untimely, and that customers are going to share that information, as well as their name, with their friends and peers.
Also remember to be courteous to your techs. They are simply trying to complete an avalanche of work orders given to them by higher-ups who often have little comprehension of what it really takes to do a good job fixing our rigs.
If all else fails, you could do what we did when our RV went back in to the dealership to re-do the fiberglass crack that they supposedly patched last time as well as replacing the ladder that they mangled.
We let them know that we would be staying in our RV with eight of our kids — and we did — and that I would be photographing their progress for use in our manufacturer folder. Yes, I was very congenial about it.
I’m pretty sure they also understood that the longer we were there, the more likely we were to use the showroom as our schoolroom, playground, and nap place during our stay. Our fix progressed quickly and smoothly.
One last tip
If you can’t get an acceptable outcome by working with your dealership(s), take your RV back to the factory, if possible, and start over with tip No. 1.
We ended up taking our toy hauler back to the factory due to the extent of the repair needed as the crack was just a symptom. We were quite forceful that we WOULD be bringing it back to the factory, and basically demanded a date.
While we did not like how assertive we had to be to get a factory appointment, we ended up being quite glad we went that route.
Our purchasing dealership wanted our RV for a month (which always means much more) and they obviously did not know how to fix our issues.
We ended up hauling our RV to Indiana and the factory took 3.5 days to fix the major repair.
We did not like working with the manufacturer’s customer service person on the phone, and sent confirmation emails about all decisions so we would have a paper trail.
But our tech was fabulous. He was kind, concerned and did an incredible job fixing our RV. He also let us pop in to check on progress at all times, as well as sending us pictures of the work being done so we could feel free to explore the area while we were there.
Remember that a poor experience with a customer service person shouldn’t be passed on to the next staff member you deal with. Treat each person as an individual as it’s just their job, not their company.
It is unfortunate that some dealerships, and even some manufacturers take advantage of owners when addressing their warranty work needs.
Being kind, but assertive, and being sure to cover your bases should you need a paper trail of communication in the future, goes a long way in securing a good and productive experience in working with both dealerships and your manufacturer.