The biggest problems RV owners face revolve around maintenance, storage, travel logistics, regulations, and personal challenges adapting to the lifestyle. Frequent repairs, finding storage, driving difficulties, insurance requirements, and living in confined spaces lead the list of issues owners deal with. Proper planning and preparation can help mitigate many of the challenges of RV ownership.
- Frequent repairs and maintenance are the #1 headache for RV owners
- Finding space to store large RVs when not in use is problematic
- Driving, parking, and route planning present challenges for new RV owners
- Insurance requirements and regulations take research to navigate
- Adapting to small spaces and lack of privacy are personal hurdles
Recreational vehicles (RVs) offer owners the ability to travel and camp in comfort, with all the amenities of home. However, buying and owning an RV also comes with a unique set of challenges. Their large size, complex systems, and need for specialized maintenance mean RV owners must deal with issues not faced by regular car owners.
From frequent repairs to insurance requirements to parking challenges, RV owners quickly learn owning one is not always smooth sailing. However, understanding the most common problems ahead of time helps owners properly prepare. Let’s explore the key issues and headaches RV buyers face so you know what to expect before joining the club.
To understand why RV owners face certain challenges, it helps to first learn the basics of RVs and how they operate.
Types of RVs
RVs are available in many types, classes, and sizes. The most popular options include:
- Class A Motorhomes – The largest RV, bus-like.
- Class B Camper Vans – Compact, efficient.
- Class C Motorhomes – Largest share of market, affordable.
- Travel Trailers – Towed by another vehicle.
- Fifth Wheel Trailers – Require a pickup truck.
- Pop-up Campers – Canvas sides for lighter towing.
Each RV type has unique maintenance requirements based on chassis, body construction, slide-outs, appliances and systems onboard.
RVs contain complex mechanical, electrical, plumbing and structural systems. Their roof, walls, windows, appliances, generators and wiring require specialized expertise to inspect and repair. Finding qualified RV service technicians is a major headache for owners.
Understanding this specialized nature of RVs helps shed light on why owners face so many challenges unlike a typical passenger car. Let’s look at the most prevalent issues.
Perhaps the single biggest problem area reported by RV owners is maintenance. Unlike regular passenger vehicles, these large rolling homes require far more preventative upkeep, repairs, and system checks on a regular basis to keep them operational.
RVs contain dozens of mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems concentrated into one vehicle. Everything from the exterior chassis to interior appliances and fixtures needs specialized attention to maintain. The complex nature of RVs makes repairs and maintenance far more frequent and costly compared to the typical family car.
Issues constantly crop up with slide-out rooms, generators, seals, HVAC systems, hot water heaters, electrical wiring, propane lines, holding tanks, and more. RVs also have extensive exterior components including the roof, sidewalls, awnings, stabilizers, and tires that require regular inspection and care. Small overlooked issues can quickly snowball into major repairs if neglected over time.
For example, a common problem is delamination, when moisture seeps between the fiberglass layers of the exterior walls. What starts as minor bubbling on the side of an RV can turn into a massive replacement job if not addressed promptly.
Cost of Maintenance
Not only are repairs needed more often with RVs, but the costs are substantially higher as well. Parts, labor rates, shop fees and diagnostic time for qualified RV technicians is very expensive compared to regular auto mechanics. For instance, a simple awning motor replacement can run $200 in parts plus $150 per hour in labor.
Larger jobs like transmission rebuilds on a Class A diesel motorhome can rapidly cost $10,000 or more. Refrigerator or appliance replacement may cost $2,000 and up. Annual maintenance bills for larger RVs easily total thousands of dollars when you add up all the components needing inspection or service.
Finding Qualified Technicians
Finding qualified RV repair technicians amplifies the headaches of frequent maintenance needs. Most standard auto shops do not have the expertise to properly diagnose and repair RV-specific issues. There is a shortage of qualified technicians familiar with the intricacies of RV systems.
Owners often have no choice but to take their RV to distant certified repair facilities or even out of state to find competent mechanics. This leads to high towing bills and being without your RV for days or weeks waiting for repairs. Even basic maintenance like oil changes become ordeals requiring appointments weeks or months out.
In summary, keeping an RV properly maintained is by far the largest burden for most owners. The constant upkeep demands, difficulty finding qualified help, and high costs all converge to create a maintenance nightmare for RV buyers. However, investing in preventative maintenance and quality parts upfront helps mitigate major issues over the long run.
The oversized nature of RVs poses major headaches for owners when it comes to storage. When not in use for camping trips, these large vehicles take up tremendous space and have specialized storage requirements.
Class A motorhomes can stretch over 40 feet long and 13 feet tall. Even more modest travel trailers range between 20-35 feet. Taking into account the height and width as well, most RVs simply won’t physically fit in a typical residential garage or small parking area.
Few RV owners have enough excess space on their residential property to accommodate parking and storing their RV when not in use. Neighborhood covenants may restrict parking large RVs long-term on driveways or streets.
That leaves owners relying on outdoor parking lots or storage facilities to keep their RV. However, these open parking options leave RVs vulnerable to weather elements, damage from other vehicles, and potential theft or vandalism.
Uncovered parking exposes RVs to damaging UV rays, dirt accumulation, storm debris, rodents gnawing on wires, and temperature extremes that can degrade parts, seals and tires. For instance, extreme cold can cause holding tanks and plumbing lines to crack.
Proper enclosed RV storage provides protection from the elements, pests, and security risks. But covered facilities with enough space for large RVs have high demand. Owners pay premium rates for secured parking bays if space is even available.
Ideally, RV storage also provides electrical hookups to keep batteries charged and prevent mold issues. However, these full-service facilities are limited. Storage costs for motorhomes can easily exceed $100+ per month.
Additionally, storage may be far from an owner’s home, requiring high towing or fuel costs to access. Retrieving items left in the RV becomes inconvenient compared to parking in your own driveway.
In summary, the sheer size and specialized nature of RV storage creates major headaches and expenses for owners. Before purchasing an RV, it is crucial to thoroughly research storage options and costs nearby to ensure they are workable. Taking measurements and looking at aerial photos helps determine if storage is feasible.
Once ready to hit the road, RV owners face a new set of challenges navigating their large vehicles and planning trips.
Even smaller Class B and C motorhomes are far larger than the average car or truck most owners are used to driving. Navigating tight turns, reversing, changing lanes, and parking become extremely difficult, leading to stress behind the wheel.
The mammoth size of RVs poses problems finding parking at destinations. Standard parking spaces are too small. Yet RVs are often prohibited in semi-truck parking. Finding accessible parking with room to maneuver is an ongoing frustration.
To avoid issues driving and parking, owners must carefully plan travel routes ahead of time. They need to research low clearance routes, weigh stations, bridge widths, and any width or length restrictions. RV travel requires far more advance logistics planning compared to auto trips.
While the freedom of RVing is a major draw, owners quickly learn driving and trip planning require major adjustments from a typical car vacation. Allowing extra time and using tools like RV-specific GPS units help streamline travel.
While providing freedom of the open road, RVs also fall under certain state and federal regulations that owners must comply with properly. This includes requirements for insurance, driver’s licenses, modifications, emissions systems and more.
Unlike regular passenger cars, RVs are classified as automotive vehicles but also have aspects of commercial trucks and residential homes. This unique combination requires special documentation, licensing, and insurance needs.
For example, lenders financing RV purchases mandate owners carry a minimum level of RV insurance similar to auto policies. However, finding insurers who offer comprehensive coverage on RVs at reasonable rates can be challenging. The large size, complex systems, and high potential repair costs make them riskier to insure.
Premiums for large Class A motorhomes often reach thousands per year. Owners may need to arrange separate active RV policies when traveling versus lower cost stored coverage when parked for long periods. Insuring RVs out of state also poses complications.
Licensing, registrations, and taxes vary significantly by state. Certain states require additional license endorsements to legally operate the largest RV classes like Class A motorhomes over 26,000 pounds. This may mean completing special commercial driver training to obtain proper Class B CDL designations on your license.
Even smaller RV classes may require non-commercial endorsements added to a regular driver’s license. Owners must research their state’s specific recreational vehicle license regulations to ensure they are properly covered for their particular RV’s size and weight.
Additionally, RVs must comply with laws on window tinting percentages, height/length limits, towing capacity, and smoke/CO2 alarms. Modifying or upgrading an RV’s interior layout or systems may impact compliance on items like maximum occupancy and fire safety.
Transporting hazardous materials, managing holding tank waste, emissions systems maintenance, and generator noise ordinances also fall under RV regulatory areas owners must be aware of. Performing due diligence helps identify any registration, licensing, inspection, insurance or compliance issues specific to RVs to avoid legal penalties or operation issues while traveling.
Beyond logistical issues, RV living also comes with personal and lifestyle adaptation challenges:
Living Space Adaptation
RVs feel spacious at first, but quickly start to feel cramped for full-time living. Families used to living in apartments or houses can struggle adjusting to small spaces and downsizing their belongings to fit.
Life in close quarters also limits privacy. RVs have thin walls. Trying to find personal space and alone time is difficult, especially for couples and families. Adapting to this lack of privacy poses challenges for some.
While the RV lifestyle promises freedom, owners realize they also sacrifice many comforts and conveniences of traditional homes. Test driving different RV floorplans and taking shorter trips help adjust before committing to full-time RVing.
Conclusion of the biggest problems RV owners face
In summary, RV owners face a unique set of challenges unknown to regular car owners. Frequent and costly repairs lead the list of headaches due to the specialized nature of RV maintenance. Storage logistics, driving difficulties, insurance costs, regulations, and a cramped living space all present hurdles owners must adapt to.
However, proper diligence during research and preparation stages helps mitigate many problems. Finding qualified technicians in advance, understanding regulations, test driving RVs, and budgeting for higher ownership costs helps set realistic expectations. Joining RV clubs and owner forums provides tremendous insight into troubleshooting common issues.
While RV ownership and travel involves overcoming challenges, the rewards and freedom of the lifestyle make it worthwhile for most owners. Doing homework on the common pitfalls ahead of time ensures smooth travels down the road.
Frequently Asked Questions
How can RV owners avoid common repair issues?
Perform regular inspections and preventative maintenance like flushing systems, checking seals, testing brakes, and resealing the roof. Address minor issues quickly before they become major. Follow manufacturer maintenance schedules.
What are the most expensive repairs RV owners face?
Engine, transmission, generator, and chassis repairs are most costly, with bills reaching $10,000+ in some cases. Other pricey repairs include slide-out mechanisms, appliances like refrigerators, and exterior repairs like panel delamination or water damage.
What are the best ways to maintain an RV’s value?
Keep detailed records of all repairs and maintenance. Perform preventative maintenance on schedule. Store the RV properly when not in use. Keep the interior and exterior clean. Upgrade features to match modern RVs.
What are some safety concerns RV owners should be aware of?
Carbon monoxide poisoning, propane leaks, driving mishaps, tires blowing out, and fire hazards from electrical or stove issues. Have alarms for CO, propane, smoke, and perform safety checks.
How can RV owners prevent damage to their vehicle?
Use tire covers, wash regularly, repair seals promptly, cover windows while parked, store indoors or under a cover, use surge protectors, and keep an eye out for leaks, pests or other damage.
What are the most common mistakes RV owners make?
Neglecting maintenance, improper driving, overloading the RV, using the wrong type of coolant/antifreeze, leaving tanks full when stored, and forgetting to winterize pipes and tanks in cold weather.
How can RV owners find qualified repair technicians?
Search RV repair shop review sites, ask other owners for referrals, contact RV dealerships, check shop certifications, and look for specialists in your RV make/model. The RVDA has a directory.
What are the most important things to check before an RV trip?
Tire pressure/tread, all fluid levels, refrigerator/AC/furnace, lights, propane tanks, battery charge, safety alarms, hitch/towing setup, and test brakes.
How should you drive an RV versus a car?
More slowly, with smoother acceleration and braking. Wider turns. Allow more following distance. Be aware of height clearances. Walk the route at stops for maneuvers.
What items require specialized maintenance in an RV?
Generator, roof, slide-outs, leveling jacks, appliances like refrigerator and water heater, heating/cooling systems, propane lines, wiring, plumbing, and seals.
What paperwork should RV owners keep updated?
Proof of insurance, warranty info, title/registration, repair/service records, owner’s manual, map of systems, and any recall notices. Digital copies help access records easily.
How often should RV owners check for leaks?
Frequently inspect seals, windows, doors, vents, skylights, and around slide-outs for any water intrusion. Repair immediately to avoid water damage. Inspect roof seals annually.