Quality RVs: Going Beyond the Industry Standard
With as many makes, models, styles, and price points as there are in the RV market, there’s something out there for everybody. But whether you’re shopping for a travel trailer, motorhome, toy hauler, or fifth wheel, one of your primary considerations should always be the quality of rig. Buying a RV is a significant investment, and you want it to last for a lifetime of camping seasons. Unfortunately, if you’ve done any amount of research, you’ve likely discovered that many RVs leave something to be desired in the quality department. Campers often complain about cheap cabinet doors falling off, the corner of the roof peeling up, and roof or slide out leaks that just can’t be solved. All these things add up to countless hours with your RV in the shop. So how do you know which RVs are the best and which ones you should avoid?
The internet is filled with almost as many opinions on what the top RV brands are as there are RVs. That’s why we’re not going to add our own top 10 best RVs list to the pile (though we believe our Terra Firma and Endless Highways Edition should be at the top of every list!). Instead, we’re going to take a different approach and help you understand how to get through all the noise and recognize a quality camper. There are some great, well-built RVs on the market, but they can be harder to find. By taking a little bit of time to educate yourself before you buy, you can avoid a whole lot of frustration, heartache, and trips to the repair shop.
Tips For Finding a Quality RV: Research, Research, and More Research
There’s been a significant amount of consolidation in the RV industry over the years. There are just a handful of companies that own most of the brands on the market. Thor, Winnebago, Forest River, and REV are some of the biggest, and among them they control some of the most well-known brands including Airstream, Jayco, Grand Design, Coachmen, Monaco, and Holiday Rambler. Unfortunately consolidation and buying power doesn’t always lead to a high quality product. Quality standards can change over time, and a brand that may have been considered reliable and high quality ten years ago, may be lacking today.
There are several great ways to learn about the quality of a RV manufacturer. First, warm up your favorite search engine and see what the internet has to say about a brand and model. Forums are a great source of information because you’ll get the unvarnished thoughts of people who already own the rigs. Look at the types of comments people are making – what’s breaking, what’s poorly designed, what’s working well, what do they love? Plus, it’s a good idea to look for major recalls.
We recommend you read the manufacturer’s website. What are they talking about? If they build a quality RV, they’ll want you to know about it. Buyer beware if the manufacturer isn’t talking about the construction and the materials they’re using.
Mingle with other RVers at the campground. Ask them who they think builds great campers. RVers love to talk about their rigs and share the things they’ve learned over the years about which manufacturers are the best.
Finally, consider smaller manufacturers like Bowlus. You won’t find our luxury travel trailers at the RV shows or on an RV dealer’s lot, because we sell our hand-crafted RVs directly to the consumer. Smaller RV brands tend to be better at customer service because they’re interested in having a long-term relationship with their owners. Look for a brand that has a reputation for listening to their customers, designing their floor plans based on customer feedback, and most importantly, one that helps customers resolve any issues with their rigs. We’re proud to say that our travel trailers are passed down from generation to generation, as family heirlooms. That’s why you won’t find any used Bowlus trailers on an RV dealer’s lot.
A Quality RV is a Well-Built RV
Don’t just focus on the floor plan or the amenities an RV has to offer. While those are critical factors to finding the unit that’s right for you, it’s the details that really matter when it comes to quality. Many manufacturers use cheap materials. Partly this is done to reduce weight, but sometimes it’s just cutting corners for the sake of the bottom line. We fabricate over 70% of every Bowlus we make in-house (appliances are made by the top providers in the US and Europe). This isn’t the cheap way to do it, but it does provide us with an industry leading quality control process that ensures every Bowlus will last a lifetime.
Quality on the Outside
Travel trailers are built one of two ways. Either they’re wood-framed units (also known as a stick and tin), or they have an aluminum frame. Wood is cheaper but heavier while aluminum is more expensive, more durable, and lighter. The exterior will either be aluminum or fiberglass. Bowlus uses the highest grade of aluminum on our travel trailers. The aluminum on our shells is the same grade you’d find on an airliner and is held in place by over 5,000 expertly placed aircraft rivets.
Quality on the Inside
On the inside of well-built RVs, you’ll find real wood doors and cabinets. Cheaper manufacturers use veneers over particle board which simply don’t last as long. Another key difference between a high quality RV and a cheaper model is in the material used for the countertops – laminates aren’t as durable as solid surfaces. Research the materials used on the couch, in the chairs, and for the dinette. You want to make sure that you’re investing in a camper with high quality and durable fabrics, not something that will easily rip and stain.
When you take a private Facetime tour of a Bowlus, you’ll quickly be able to see the care and craftsmanship we put into each unit. From the durable stainless steel countertops to the real birch wood walls and ceiling, our artisans hand-craft a luxury travel trailer that will last. You’ll even find responsibly farmed teak in the bathroom and commercial grade flooring that is both luxurious and durable. Plus, our artisans meticulously stitch the high-quality sofa and armchairs in every Bowlus. Our luxury travel trailers aren’t built on a massive assembly line. We custom build each unit with the options you choose.
Don’t forget to research the appliances and the RV’s systems. Consider how easy the furnace, water heater, cooktop and oven are to light, how well the AC unit cools the space, and which systems operate off electric, propane, or both.
A Quality RV Doesn’t Mean Nothing Will Break
One thing to keep in mind is that even if you buy the highest quality RV on the market, you’re going to have to fix a few things (keep a toolkit on hand for just such an occasion). Even if you only use your trailer for a few weeks of the year, driving it down the road feels like an earthquake for your RV. But, if you start with something that’s well-made, and you keep up with regular maintenance, a high-quality RV like a Bowlus will give you years of amazing memories and camping adventures.