Protecting Your Investment—RVs and Lemon Laws
When you buy a recreational vehicle or RV, you’re not just buying transportation. In some cases, you’re investing in a home. With the growing population of baby boomers approaching retirement, an RV is an investment that makes good sense for many-- giving you the freedom and flexibility to travel where you want without having to worry about accommodations.
According to the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association, 384,400 RVs were shipped to dealers last year, which represents about a 4% increase from a year earlier and a 27-year high. According to the May 31, 2006 edition of the Wall Street Journal, motor homes (which can sell for as much as $400,000 or more), make up about a fifth of the RV and trailer market, and generally cost anywhere from $5,000 to $100,000.
With such a sizeable amount of money spent, one would expect some level of protection, either through your warranty or through the state lemon law if you encounter problems soon after your purchase. Unfortunately, that protection may be harder to obtain than you think. Clearly, making the decision to purchase an RV is not something you do on a whim, and the last thing you want to have to deal with is making countless trips back to the dealership after making such a major purchase.
There are several issues you should expect to deal with as a new RV owner:
- Less than half of the states in the U.S. have lemon laws that cover RVs.
- Of the states that do cover RVs, some actually only cover the vehicle portion or chassis (engine, transmission, etc) but not the living area.
- Because RV’s are not manufactured in one place—that is, the vehicle is manufactured one place while the living area is completed elsewhere--there is greater potential for problems to occur.
What Kinds of Problems?
Some of the problems typically associated with the manufacture of RVs include:
- Cargo capacity much lower than advertised due to safety standards and weight restrictions
- Vehicle cargo specifications do not match real-world experience
- Your RV received poor or inadequate repairs
- Component issues ranging from electrical inverters to fit and finish problems with furnishings and everything in between
- Poor warranty claims handling
But even in a state without coverage, you do have some recourse. According to A Businessperson’s Guide to Federal Warranty Law, the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act of 1975 requires manufacturers and sellers of consumer products to provide consumers with detailed information about warranty coverage. In addition, it affects both the rights of consumers and the obligations of warrantors under written warranties.
So as with any vehicle, you should have proper documentation of any repairs made to the vehicle, possess a complete understanding of the warranty and have attempted to reconcile any issues with the dealer/manufacturer before filing a claim or seeking legal action.