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Airstream to Winnebago: The Biggest Problems of Popular RV Brands

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Rough Rides

As summer nears, you probably think of campfires, s’mores, and RVing — which lets you camp and enjoy the great outdoors without having to sleep in it. Buying a poor-quality RV brand could quickly turn a trip sour, though, and Marshall Wendler, cofounder of Camp Addict, doesn’t like a beginner’s chances: “I don't have any specific input on the worst RV brand. In fact, they are the majority of RV brands out there,” Wendler says. “Throw a dart at the wall.” With advice from Wendler and other RVers who love to talk rigs, here’s what we’ve learned from the experts about brands that you should probably steer clear of if you're looking to buy or rent an RV. 


Related: You Won't Believe These 25 RV Horror Stories

Thor Hurricane RV
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Thor Hurricane

Most common issue: Needs lots of repairs


Ironically, this is the RV I live in. As a newbie two years ago, I didn’t know any better. Luckily there haven’t been many issues on mine, but many people I run into on the road talk about the model’s quality issues. Workmanship and materials aren’t the best, and that means you’ll probably spend the first year of ownership making repairs yourself or under warranty. Thor Hurricanes are entry-level Class A motorhomes, and you get what you pay for. 


Related: The Best Places to Buy an RV, Used or New

Gulf Stream 2021 Innsbruck
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Gulf Stream

Most common issue: Leaks


Water damage is a major concern for RVers. It can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars to repair, and even result in a total loss of an RV. Many Gulf Stream owners have reported problems with leaking, frequently from outside — but in some models as an interior bathroom leak. In the RV world, leaking is enough to scare anyone away. 


Related: 18 Reasons You Really Don't Want to Buy an RV

2005 & 2006 Ford E-Series Sunseeker by Forest River
2005 & 2006 Ford E-Series Sunseeker by Forest River by Andrew Bone (CC BY)

Forest River

Most common issue: Mechanical, structural, or electrical problems


Forest River has multiple active recalls for mechanical failures such things as brake issues, software problems, faulty wiring, leaky propane valves, use of flammable materials, and more. Not only are these problems a hassle to fix, but they could be life-threatening. Founder of Surf Gear Lab Marc Bromhall says his Forest River was the worst RV he ever owned, and that he would never buy another. 


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Coachmen RV
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Coachmen

Most common issue: Faulty slide-outs 


Slide-out rooms make an RV feel more spacious, but Coachmen’s have caused a variety of problems. The 2017 Freedom Express model was recalled because the slide room driveshaft rubbed against driver’s-side tires, and many owners report leaks from the slides. The added space might not be worth the headache. 


Related: The Most Outrageous Luxury RVs Money Can Buy

Fleetwood RV
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Fleetwood

Most common issue: Safety hazards


Driving an RV may already feel scary — I’ll always take the passenger’s seat rather than drive my house down the road. Safety concerns are even higher with Fleetwoods, which have drawn reports of cracked rotors or otherwise failing brakes. Some owners have reported fridge fires, which are downright terrifying in the RV world.


Related: 12 Dangerous Roads You Should Never Drive in an RV

Holiday Rambler
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Holiday Rambler

Most common issue: Poor quality workmanship that affects safety


Despite being a luxury manufacturer, Holiday Rambler draws complaints of subpar workmanship. If you buy, owners say you can expect seat belt problems, faulty brake pedal assemblies — maybe even windshield shades that fall down in the middle of a highway drive. When workmanship affects safety, it becomes a much bigger reason to avoid a brand.

 

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Keystone RV
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Keystone

Most common issue: Electrical problems 


Thor makes Keystone RVs, and since Thor already made our list, you can bet you’ll see a lot of problems with this brand as well. Many owners report electrical problems, with more than one resulting in a recall related to short-circuiting electrical systems. Flipping the breaker all the time is annoying; worse than that, electrical fires pose a serious risk. 


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RVs Can Be Insanely Expensive
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Winnebago

Most common issue: Low-quality materials and construction 


Winnebago is a popular brand, but there are more than 1,000 recalls for its RVs. Problems range from electrical issues to unsecured furniture. Low-quality materials and labor might save you money initially, but in the long run will bite you 


Related: From Covered Wagon to Winnebago, the Evolution of the RV

Coleman RV
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Jayco Starcraft trailer
Jayco Starcraft trailer by Bahnfrend (CC BY-SA)

Jayco

Most common issue: Mechanical and electrical safety issues


There are recalls out for multiple Jayco brands. Some of the most common issues include windshield wiper failure, faulty electrical wiring, and trailer hitch problems‚ which means that whatever you’re towing could detach completely as you drive. “Because of repeated failures in ventilation, plumbing, and fixtures, there is a significant likelihood of ongoing maintenance expenses” for Jaycos, RVer Imani Francies of 4Auto Insurance Quote says.


Related: How Much RV Can You Get for Your Money?

2017 Itasca Solei 34T
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Itasca

Most common issue: Mechanical and electrical malfunction


Winnebago, which already made this list, also owns Itasca — so it’s unsurprising the brand also has problems. Common recalls include faulty safety shut-off switches on the fridges, transmission problems, and reduced braking function. If you buy an Itasca, be prepared to make frequent repairs … and to monitor major mechanical and electrical systems to prevent injury. 


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Airstream Factory
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Airstream

Most common issue: Brakes and trailer hitch problems


Airstream is iconic, but even this brand has its share of troubles. While not as common as with many of the other majors, they are worth paying attention to when buying. Improper welding has been known to cause separation of the tow ball and the coupler, and there are recalls around trailer brakes locking up. 


Related: These Stunning Custom Airstream RVs Are Perfect for a Summer Getaway

Champion RV
Champion RV

Champion

Most common issue: Seat and seatbelt problems


Poor workmanship and design flaws are at play in many of Champion’s most common problems. The workmanship problems aren’t just cosmetic: There are reports that seats may dislodge in a crash, and seatbelt webbing often frays or separates from the frame. This kind of issue isn’t worth the risk. 


Related: 15 Dangerous Products That Had to Be Recalled

Dutchmen
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Dutchmen

Most common issue: Trailer connection and handling problems


Dutchmen’s several issues include insufficient clearance between trailer floors and wheels, which can impair handling. Some fifth wheel models have also had the incorrect hitch system installed, according to reports — an 18,000-pounder rather than a 21,000-pounder.


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Newmar RV
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Newmar

Most common issue: Electrical wiring problems 


Even the best brands have their issues. Newmar luxury RVs are known for their quality, yet have an electrical wiring issue across years and models that can cause overheating, unexpected movement of slide-out rooms, or loose power connections. When paying several hundred thousand dollars for one of these RVs, it would be frustrating to have any problems, especially one as serious as an electrical failure. 


Related: 32 RV Accessories to Make Road Life More Luxurious

Tiffin 2021 ALLEGRO BREEZE
Tiffin Motorhomes Inc.

Tiffin

Most common issue: Brakes and kitchen appliances


Tiffin is another luxury maker, but that doesn’t mean its products are perfect — just that it has far fewer recalls when compared with Newmar. The Tiffin Allegro model has had the most issues reported, with a fridge shut-off switch malfunction and leaking refrigerant or coolant. There have also been multiple recalls related to brake drag and brake failure. 


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Rent and Roll
NetaDegany/istockpoto

How to Pick the Best RV


If you’re feeling discouraged after reading this list, don’t be. Find a floor plan you love and resign yourself to making repairs around it — most major RV brands have lots of problems. As great as it would be if RVing were just bonfires and vacations, it can be a lot of work, and it’s up to you to decide if it’s worth the effort. To save yourself from major headaches, get an RV inspected professionally before buying. Wendler also advises checking out the content at RV Consumer Group, which does owner surveys and hands-on inspections.


One last piece of advice: Almost every manufacturer has recalled the fire extinguisher it includes with their RVs. Buy your own before hitting the road. They aren’t that expensive and could save you thousands of dollars in damage or even save your life.


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