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RV Breakdown Fears

An RV Life and Travel Reader asks....
(Overcoming Fear of Mechanical Problems)

I'm a single mom. Fear of RV breakdowns and stories of others buying "lemons" for their first motorhome is scaring me out of fulfilling my dream of full timing it. Any advice?

Bob, the RVing editor's husband replies:

I realize that RV breakdowns can be a weighty concern while traveling. Coleen and I have never owned a brand new tow vehicle in all the time we’ve been RVing. We’ve owned two brand new travel trailers, one of which we currently use. The other we took back to the dealer after three days because the rig didn’t fulfill the claims made by the salesman. One of the reasons we favor towables is if there is a major problem with an engine or drive train, we still have our trailer to live in while the tow vehicle is being repaired.

In our decades of RVing, we've had a few situations we hadn’t planned.

We had a transmission go out. We got it rebuilt, it went out again several hundred miles down the road. The nationwide warranty didn’t seem to work quite as well as we were led to believe when we tried to have it fixed again. We took time to regroup, traded for a different vehicle that would get us by until we could get what we wanted. About six months later we found what we wanted, at a price we could afford, and sold our “get by” vehicle.

We once had an engine go out rolling in to the Tampa RV Super Show. We sat in the space we had for the show for five days, then had the trailer towed to the empty campground in the fair grounds for another ten days while the truck was getting fixed. The Budweiser Clydesdales were at the fairgrounds for another event, and trotted past our front door several times while we were there. It was great to be able to walk up and pat these majestic animals on the neck. The RV breakdown was expensive and frustrating, but we look back on that experience and fondly reminisce about the Clydesdales.

If you are on the road long enough, it isn’t a question of will you have a breakdown with your RV, it is when will you have a breakdown. Try
to get yourself a reliable vehicle, and then maintain it properly.

When buying a motor home or tow vehicle, have it inspected by a qualified mechanic, you trust. This may cost up to $200, or more, but can be worth many times that amount. Make sure the inspection is aimed at finding a solid, reliable vehicle. You want the engine, transmission, drive line and major components checked. You don’t want a nit-picky list of minor problems some people use to beat the selling price down.

Don’t be afraid to pay for a solid vehicle with a few minor flaws. Especially flaws you can fix yourself or just live with.

Look into Car Fax. I haven’t dealt with them. But, in theory, it sounds like a good idea.

Look for a single owner vehicle. Look for one with low mileage. The more do-das and gadgets you get, the more problems you can expect.

Get emergency road service coverage. It’s available for RVs through Coach Net, Good Sam, A.A.A., and other sources. Road service won’t fix your vehicle. But, when you have a mechanical problem, it will get you off the road and into a campground while you think things through.

Emergency road service will get your motor home or tow vehicle to an authorized repair facility. Get a diagnosis from this facility. Then, take time to consider if you want to shop around for a better price, or even a replacement rig.

I’ve never had an extended warranty service contract. The sales pitch sounds good, but I haven’t heard any good comments about them from real people. If you do consider one, read and fully understand it. There are pre-authorization clauses, select service providers, and other treacherous fine print. I often see letters about them in the help columns of RV magazines; apparently there are more than a few problems with them.

I’ve just reread my answer to you, and I hope I haven’t scared you more than you were. This is a great lifestyle that can’t compare to any other. Try to find as reliable an RV as you can afford. Have some savings or a good credit card, for an emergency. then, hit the road and enjoy the lifestyle. Good travels!

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Comments for RV Breakdown Fears

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re:RV Breakdown Fears
by: SandiS

I agree with Bob on having a towable vs a motor home. I've had both and feel more comfortable with the towable. A reliable tow vehicle is your most urgent need. Get one that has been "gently" used. I like to look at low mileage cars, and I have used Car Fax.

I have the Roadside Assistance program through Good Sam Club. For $99.00/year, it is a very good deal. I love that they will come out and change tires when we have blow-outs as my husband is disabled and I've had both shoulders replaced. Neither of us can lift the tires. It covers your RV, your tow vehicle, and any other vehicles you own.

Keep your tow vehicle in good repair. Replace components as recommended by the manufacturer and you will keep problems to a minimum.

Both my hubby and I have taken trips alone with our RV, so don't be afraid to do that. You meet the nicest people and they will be more than happy to assist you with parking and set-up/take-down.

Hope this helps you. Happy RVing.

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