Thursday, October 27, 2016

Observations Based on Online Encounters with Some RV Owners

It is important - in my opinion - that if one is looking at making an investment in an RV or Travel Trailer whether new or pre-owned, that one do a good deal of research on RVs/Travel Trailers in general and then when shopping and purchasing learn as much as possible about that RV/TT about that particular RV/TT. And then when making the purchase, don't leave the seller - whether it is a private owner or a dealer - without being given a detailed tour and orientation about everything inside and outside what they are buying.

I am online a lot and spend a great deal of that time either in RV forums or RV Facebook Groups (discussion groups) - and not just those specific to Roadtrek. You can learn a lot about RVs in general that apply to all RVs on some of these groups and forums. Those relating just to Roadtreks are a wealth of information and understanding about Roadtreks - both new and old. But this is not an article about forums.

Last night I was on an RV Facebook Group for new RV owners. There was a member of the group asking for help, and since it was late at night there was no one responding to her. I decided to try to help her. She has a "Camper Van" (in her words) and has had no power for the past four days. She was asking if there are circuit breakers in camper vans. She also said that she was not plugged in and was on batteries when things went off. A Camper Van is another term for Class B RV - whether professionally manufactured or home-built. I started with a response to her to explain that the 110 volt electric system in a Class B (camper van) is generally on circuit breakers and that the 12 volt electric system is on fuses. She came back in a couple of minutes asking where to find the fuse box. I told her where mine is - which certainly would be no help to her if she did not have the same RV - but offered this as an example of places to look including other likely spots around the inside of her van. I also told her that it really depended on the make, model, and year of her Class B - and could she share that with us in a response. What she answered was a 26 year old make and model of a GMC van - she gave the specific make and model of this van, but it was only the name of the van - not any company name of who manufactured the camper van - and this told me that likely this was a camper van that someone put together themselves - which is fine - but my next response was asking her if that was so - and if so, it was anyone's guess where the builder put the fuse/circuit breaker panel/box. In the course of the discussion, I asked her if the Battery Switch was ON. Her answer - "do I have a battery switch?" I then proceeded to explain what a battery switch is - and was not certain that an RV conversion would not have a battery switch. She had been out several days when the power went out and I said to her that my guess is that her batteries need to be charged and using them drained them out. She told me that she had run the engine for a "little while" and that did not help. Well, as I explained, running the engine for a little while is not going to anything - and the van would need to be driven at highway speeds for several hours to bring the batteries up to full charge.

So what is the point of this story? Here is a new RV owner who has purchased a "camper van" that is 26 years old that she knows nothing about. It is very evident that whoever she bought it from did not show her where everything is - nor, likely, did she know to ask to be shown that. She does not understand how the systems in her RV work and while she gets a big plus for trying to get help from fellow RVers on this group, she does not know enough detail about her RV to provide information to get a good response.

This is just one example of many instances where new owners of RVs have no idea about what they own, what it can do, what it can't do, and how it does anything that it does.  If any of you are buying an RV or Travel Trailer do not leave the seller without the seller completely detailing everything to you. RV dealers will do this. Some better than others. They will take you through your new or new to you RV and show you where everything is and how everything works. Hopefully, they will know what they are talking about. When we took delivery of our Roadtrek - and I have told this story in an article here before - we met the new salesman who took over for our salesman who had left the dealership for the first time. He was the one who gave us our "demonstration" of our new Roadtrek. He was very enthusiastic and friendly, but he did not know a thing about our Roadtrek. I prepared for the delivery of our Roadtrek for weeks in advance. I learned everything that I could on a Class B forum - I don't think that the Roadtrek groups on Facebook existed then. I asked on the forum about where things were and what to ask about at delivery. I was ready to be shown it all on the day of delivery and knew what I needed to ask about and to ask how to do everything. The only problem was that the salesman knew less than I did. I have since referred to him as the "plumb dumb salesman" and when we got home - after a night in the Roadtrek trying to make sense out of some of the nonsense that he told us, I let the dealership owner know about his new salesman and our delivery. During this "walk through" or "demo", he was telling us where things are and at one point a service tech walked by shaking his head "no". I stopped him and asked and he came over and corrected what the salesman was telling us at that moment. But the salesman ventured on. He turned on a switch in the back of the cargo area of our 190 near the floor - looking in with the cargo doors open. He told me it controlled something with a name so far out that I can't even remember now what he said. He left that switch on. That night when we were at the campground - always stay near the dealership if the dealer is any distance from your home at a campground that first night after delivery in case you need to go back after finding something wrong - we got into bed and turned off the lights. We were both nervous about this very new to both of us experience. A few minutes later, , Meryl said to me, "Something is glowing back here. There is a light on." I asked where - she said "Under the bed." Yes, there was. There was light coming up from behind the bed - which is right up against the cargo doors. No one ever said that there were lights under the bed back there. Well, that was the switch the guy pushed that afternoon - and they had been on ever since. And confounded by this strange glow coming up from under the back of the bed, I realized this. I was not going to get dressed to go outside to open the back doors to get to that switch and I have to say, that it took quite a contortionist act to reach over the back of the bed's rear board and work my hand down to where that switch was and turn it off. So - more reason to know as much about your new RV as you can before you take delivery. Some RV manufacturers have their manual's for download for their RVs. Roadtrek has these going back a number of years. You can get the manual this way before you get the RV. Bottom line be prepared and get the seller to show you where everything is and how it all works.

Let's meander a little more. I come across so many people who are shopping for RVs and don't know anything about RVs in general. Someone recently was asking about what Class B to buy to go to Alaska in the winter. That question was met with a lot of similar answers about the limitations of many Class Bs - and RVs that are not designed specifically for four season cold weather travel - and those are mostly large Class A bus type RVs that have special heating units that will warm any plumbing or tanks exposed outside under the RV. And even with those systems the need to have 110 volt power generated or plugged in 24/7 to keep the heating systems working. At least this person asked before they went ahead and purchased. Some don't - some plan to live full time in their RV with no idea that there might be a problem in the winter months with freezing weather. I have read many posts from those who learned this the hard way when their first full freeze weather hit and froze their pipes.

Then there are the people who buy an RV or Travel Trailer over the Internet sight unseen - not inspected - and have it delivered to them across the country - after money has been paid. And, of course, when they get it, it is nothing as described, what was supposedly working is not working, and it in no way suits their needs - because in the photos it looked bigger and better than it really was. Photos can be taken in a way to make something small look very spacious and large. What can they do then? Some have discovered that there is little that they were able to do - but have to fix what needed to be fixed or sell with as little loss as possible. Never buy an RV sight unseen - even if buying new, if that year is not on the lot, you want to see a year model that will be the same or as close to the same as you are buying. We saw and test drove a 2010 and we got a 2011 - there was no  difference from our 2011 OTHER than the switch to AGM batteries in 2011 but later learned that we also did not get a slide out battery compartment which had been standard on Roadtreks before our year. These were OK changes - the battery change, great, the no slide out battery compartment - not so great.

No matter if buying new or pre-owned always test drive. Oh, that was a good story. The older woman who bought sight unseen from a relative's friend, had the Class B delivered to her from several states away and found out when she finally got it that she could not drive it. It was too much for her to handle - and then had to sell it - at a loss.

And please, if buying pre-owned, have the RV inspected by both a vehicle mechanic of your choosing and also by an RV technician of your choosing. There are RV techs who just do this or you pay an RV service center to do a full inspection of all systems. So many stories about how good a deal the RV was until they bought it - not inspected - and found out that it needs thousands of dollars in repairs, often to the point that they could have paid much more originally for one in good working order and saved a great deal over what they paid plus the cost of repairs and replacements. I don't know - maybe I value my money more than others? If I am buying something, I want to be absolutely sure it is going to work before I spend a dollar. A small investment in these inspections - even though they will come out of your pocket - is better than finding out you have a money pit after the sale is done.

A good book for first time RV owners or shoppers - The Complete Idiot's Guide To RVing by Brent Peterson. I bought this book in Borders, when there was still a Borders,  when we were first shopping for an RV. I wanted a book that explained all of the systems clearly. This one was the clearest. It also goes into picking and shopping for an RV - and tells you about the different types. Good book. Others have recommended this book also.  The book is still around and certainly can be found on line.

One last story - a couple bought an RV from a very nice couple not a far distance away. They did everything that they should do - just as described here. It seemed like the perfect sale. At the time the money changed hands, the very nice people selling the RV told them that they could not get to the bank vault to get the Title certificate for the RV so they will be certain to mail it to the new owners.  In most states, if not all, one cannot register a vehicle including an RV without a Title certificate. Since these were such lovely people, the new owners did not think anything of it - and the gentleman selling even drove the RV to their home. A week went by and no Title certificate. Attempts were made to contact the seller. No response. They went back to the seller's home only to find that they had moved away. Was this a scam? Maybe, maybe not, but this couple was stuck. They could not register the RV and they could not sell it with the Title certificate. I never did hear how that all turned out but I am sure it did not turn out well. These are not Internet myths - these are people reporting what has happened and are asking for help from other RVers about what to do.

So, if you have followed my wandering here, you have come away with a lot of dos and don'ts. Do the dos - don't do the don'ts.


  1. Great article. When I purchased my used 2002 Roadtrek 190V I purchased it from a dealer who delt in used RVs. They knew less than I did which does not say much. I took it home after I had purchased it and registered it with the state. I then sat in it and tried everything using the Roadtrek manual and and component manuals of all the parts. I then hired an RV mechanic and paid him to show how everything worked. He replaced a broken water pump. He also showed me things that had to be changed in the future.I am still doing those. That is how you buy a used Roadtrek. In order to enjoy your RV you have to learn everything about it. You will still have to hire a good mechanic to fix some things, so save your money for that.

  2. Tomorrow morning my wife and I pick up a Roadtrek 190 Versatile 2003 (85K miles), from a dealer had recently taken it as a consignmente. It was in good shape, originally sold by the dealer, and they had all the service records. The salesman admitted that he knew a lot about Roadtreks, but not an expert, so he would pull a guy from the shop (who regularly trains at the Canadian Roadtrek factory) to answer anything he couldn't. I drove it with the salesman for about 20 miles on Interstate and county roads. Very nice-- and I'm a pretty critical person. We agreed on a good price, and made a special appointment with the salesman to pick it a week later, so they could spruce it up, and fix a few small maintenance/update items. The delivery is a 2-hour walk thru with the expert technician, who will demonstrate all the operational details for me and my wife, so we can both understand. Finally, we'll have the cell phone number of the technician, and were urged to call him any time from anywhere with any operational or maintenance questions. We were also given a 1"stack of all the original manuals for the rv-related equipment. The dealer is about an hour from our home, and they invited us to drop by anytime we needed face-face advice. This level of service was way beyond our expectations, and we said so. They only hoped we would spread a good word, and if we ever upgraded, we'd come back. This dealer is in NC, and I hope there are others like them around the country.

    1. Would you mind sharing the name and location of this dealer? Thanks.