If Life Gives You a Lemon …
The majority of RVs are well built and reliable. Most will give years of enjoyment to their owners with only routine and expected repairs.
Unfortunately, there are some RVs (both motorhomes and trailers) that cause nothing but nightmares for their owners. It is not hard to find a fellow traveler with the story of at least one example of a “lemon” to look out for. Problems can occur with any product we purchase, but when you shell out $100,000 for a motorhome that spends more time in the service bay than it does on the road, it can be a very frustrating experience.
It can be very difficult to pick out the lemons from the rest of the crop, as the rigs that turn out to be major headaches start their life looking just as new and shiny as any other quality RV. Lemons are not limited to any one manufacturer; you will find reports of them in all classes of RVs, from the least expensive trailer up to the most expensive luxury bus conversion.
If you buy a new RV and within a short period it has spent a good part of its young life in the repair shop, you may start to suspect that you have purchased a defective rig — a lemon. There are stories of RVs that spent more than 400 days in a period of two years in the shop for repairs. With some persistence, these RV owners were able to recoup the full purchase price of their RV plus any costs they incurred for repairs, lodging, and the costs of legal help if needed.
If you are not a good record keeper, it is important that you learn to be one when you buy an RV. Not only will you need to keep good records of your warranty information, but it is also very important to keep records of all service and repairs done to the rig. If you should have to make a claim under the “lemon law,” this documentation will become your number-one piece of evidence to prove that the RV is defective. Make copies of all service transactions and keep the originals in a safe place.
Along with documentation of service records and maintenance, keep records of all phone calls and correspondence you have with your RV dealer or manufacturer. Get names and numbers, and record the exact time and date with a synopsis of the conversation. If the person you are talking to agrees, you can record the conversation.
As a consumer, what legal protection do you have when buying an RV? The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act is a federal law that provides protection when you buy any product that costs $25 or more and comes with a written warranty. Its purpose is to ensure that repairs and/or replacement for defective products is performed within a reasonable period. If a product is covered by a written warranty, and any part of the product (or the product itself) is defective and cannot be fixed after a reasonable opportunity, the warrantor must permit the buyer either a refund or replacement or provide the buyer with monetary damages as compensation for the warrantor's failure to perform. Most states also have laws that offer the consumer protection from monetary loss due to defective products. Some states such as California have enacted more stringent warranty provisions than the federal act.
In some cases, you may have to hire a lawyer to help you. If you do and you are found to have a defective RV, the judgment should include coverage of the legal fees.
I hope you will not have any problems with your RV, and even if you do have problems, it is possible that your dealer and the manufacturer will do their best to make things right. They realize that RV owners are a very sharing group, and if they are unhappy with their rig or with the service they receive, they will gladly share that information with other potential customers.