I’ve been amazed at the difference in quality between top RV manufacturers and lower quality manufacturers. From cheap cabinets to “What were they thinking!” layouts, you definitely get what you pay for when it comes to an RV.
How much does the manufacturer matter? I’ve read of some owners even visiting the factory where their RV was made to see if the quality and service matched up with their expectations. If it does, much like the birth of their own child, they come back and even watch their own RV being put together. Pretty cool.
When it comes to picking out the top RV manufacturers, appliances don’t come into play as much as service and craftsmanship. For the most part, you will get the same engine if it is a motorhome or includes a generator, the same fridge, the same ceiling fan, the same water heater, the same AC, and so on. For the most part, these manufacturers make the appliances or engines.
So if you are reading a forum and someone is bashing a manufacturer because their AC unit went out 3 times in the first year, unless it was a electrical wiring problem, it’s not the manufacturers fault. It’s up the manufacturer to make it right if the RV is under warranty, but the AC unit itself is the same unit likely used by tons of companies.
So what should you look for when deciding if an RV brand is a jewel or junk? Here’s a few questions I would ask
How’s the Customer Service?
I’ve tried to contact Forest River for an axle question. Phone calls got me nowhere. I just left message after message. After 3 days, they finally answered an email.
I’ve also called Newmar for support three different times. Each time, I got straight through and the rep on the phone spent 10-30 minutes with me trying to help me solve my problem.
And I’ve read of others on this list having the same great customer service with top RV manufacturers. Their owners have personally contacted them about a problem. They’ve covered things out of warranty. Paid for hotel rooms. Gone above and beyond. Customer service matters for sure.
How is the Build Quality?
When it comes to build quality, your upper-end companies will not cut corners like the budget ones. They look for ways to fit storage in every nook and cranny in the RV. They use real wood. Staples and nails are not sticking halfway out of the floor or walls. Edges on the woodwork line up.
You may be thinking-“Big deal. I don’t really care if my cabinets line up perfectly or my carpet is coming up a bit at the corner.” I say it is a big deal. If the manufacturer cut corners on the cabinets, carpet, and linoleum, do you think they cut corners on other parts of the RV you can’t see? Electrical, plumbing, roof seals? Build quality is a big deal as well.
What is the Resale Value?
This one can take a bit more research, but if you dig around, you can look at used models and compare the decline in price based on the original MSRP for the product. Keep features in mind when doing this though and make sure you are comparing apples to apples.
What’s the Track Record?
Pop any company’s name along with the word forum and you can read how people feel about them in a matter of minutes. If you are looking for honest opinions, I would avoid forums dedicated to one specific group of owners. I would also look for posts by people who have actually owned the RV brand you are interested in. Many people have opinions about brands without having ever owned anything buy one brand. I haven’t owned every brand on my list, but I’ve owned 3 so I feel like that is enough to see a difference.
When looking at track record, you will also see people who are smitten with their brand. Take that with a grain of salt, but there has to be a bit of truth to it as well. The brands I see with this the most are Airstream and Tiffin.
One more note and then we will dig in. Most companies offer several different lines of RVs ranging from their premium line to their budget line. A Newmar is not a Newmar and a Forest River is not a Forest River. The quality control will be similar across all models within a company, but the materials used will vary. Confused yet? Cool. Let’s go.
Top RV Manufactures (That Aren’t Insanely Expensive Luxury RVs)
What if My RV is Not on the List?
If your brand is not on this, I either
- Intentionally left it off because it did not answer well on the questions above or
- Accidentally left it off because I have not researched it yet
If you are curious about a company, feel free to mention it in the comments and hopefully others can chime in about their experiences with it.
This list is in no way meant to offend anyone who already owns an RV that I haven’t listed as being from a top manufacturer. I’ve owned two RVs from two different manufacturers not mentioned on the list. They were not terrible RVs, but if I were to start over, I would look for one of the above listed brands in an older year rather than a newer one of lesser quality. The list is primarily meant for a new RVer who is curious about where to start.
Also keep in mind, there are exceptions to any rule. I’m sure there are RVs I’ve recommended that ended up being lemons. I’m also sure there are RVs built by budget companies that are still going strong after 10 years.