Our aim with this guide is not to put a bad taste in your mouth. And our aim is certainly not to denigrate RV manufacturers or dealers. We love our RVs, the companies that make them, and the dealers that sell and service them!
But it’s no secret that warranties are a pain point for many RV owners. And many RV owners are extremely dissatisfied with the quality of care after the initial sale. In fact, it’s a major reason many RV owners leave the lifestyle.
So our goal is to educate, not condemn. But we must face some uncomfortable truths along the way.
- The first uncomfortable truth is that RVs break down at an alarming rate. An oft-quoted statistic is that 3 out of 10 RVs will break down by their 2nd year. That jumps to 8 out of 10 by the 5th year and virtually EVERY RV by the 8th year!
- The second uncomfortable truth is that RV dealership rates have never been higher. The national average hourly rate for RV dealerships is around $120-$150. You’ll almost never see a quote lower than a $100 an hour – and we know of dealerships charging more than $170 per hour! (And no, you can’t just take your RV to an auto mechanic.)
- The third uncomfortable truth is that RV warranties are a necessary evil. The warranty approval and repair process can be time-consuming and stressful. But at the end of the day, you’re better off CYA than YOLO. Consider it a necessary ante to the RV lifestyle.
If you buy a new RV, you need to know how your factory warranty works. It doesn’t work like your automobile warranty. Too many owners don’t know this until their first mechanical breakdown.
Changing Gears is here to help!
This post covers factory/OEM warranties. It doesn’t cover extended service contracts, RV Warranty Forever, or other aftermarket warranty products. There is a HUGE industry around RV aftermarket coverage plans, which deserves its own in-depth guide.
Table of Contents
How Does a Manufacturer RV Warranty Work?
Let’s be honest: Warranties are more a sales ploy than the promise of accountability. All warranties are mostly fine print, which lists the exemptions, conditions, exclusions, etc. Warranties cover significant defects, not defective design, sloppy construction, or theft. Warranties also don’t cover wear and tear and failures from lack of maintenance.
Foreshadowing: You’d be surprised what’s considered “lack of maintenance”!
What Is an RV Factory Warranty?
All RVs are sold with a manufacturer’s factory warranty. This is a Limited Warranty that covers significant defects in workmanship and materials. Different parts of your RV will have different warranty lengths. A motorhome powertrain may have a 5-year/60,000-mile warranty, for instance, while a travel trailer may only come with a 1-year warranty.
Your contract might be inclusionary or exclusionary. Inclusionary warranties cover only what’s specifically listed in the contract, while exclusionary contracts cover everything except what’s listed.
As we’ll discuss later in this guide, many of the components in your RV are actually covered by the equipment OEMs, not the RV manufacturer! While the manufacturer may help facilitate warranty claims, you’ll be dealing with a different company.
So when you purchase an RV, you’re actually receiving a dozen or more different warranties!
Is an RV Warranty Transferrable?
Most RV warranties are not transferable to a new buyer. The warranty is applicable only for the original retail customer.
Warranties that are transferrable (see table below for a sampling) typically have constraints, such as:
- Only applicable to the Second Retail purchaser.
- Can only transfer the base warranty, not structural
You must register your warranty. This is often handled by your dealer, but ask twice! RV manufacturers can (and do) refuse service if your RV isn’t registered within 30 days of the original sale!
Premium RV brands may allow an RV warranty transfer, but it usually must be requested and approved, sometimes with a mandatory dealership inspection (and a fee).
Structural RV warranties are almost never transferable.
3rd Party Component Warranties
Here is a list of common components usually covered under a separate 3rd-party OEM warranty. If you want service, you’ll have to go through the OEM (e.g. Lippert, Dometic, Thetford, Airxcel, Dexter, etc.)
- Converters, inverters
- Stoves, ovens, cooktops, ranges
- Water heaters
- Air conditioners
- Roof fans
- Frames, axles, jacks, stabilizers
- Slide-out mechanisms
- DVD players
- Graphics and decals
… which begs the question, “Exactly what’s left to cover?!”
This is a big reason many new RV owners are unpleasantly surprised when something breaks down. Most RV mechanical failures come from tire blow-outs, peeling graphics, broken furnaces, broken refrigerators, broken air conditioners – all things the RV manufacturer itself isn’t necessarily liable for.
But before the OEM will cover the damage, you’ll have to prove it wasn’t your fault. And the RV manufacturer will have to prove it wasn’t their fault. And that can take several weeks.
RV manufacturers prefer that you contact the equipment OEMs directly. However, most manufacturers will help facilitate and even coordinate warranty claims between their customers and the equipment OEMs.
Warranty Approval Process
The factory warranty approval and RV repair process can be … convoluted, to say the least.
- You must document and report the defect, usually within 30 days, accompanied by pictures.
- Generally, you should return to the dealer where you bought the rig. If that’s not an option, you can also find another dealer within the manufacturer’s authorized network. If you’re a customer of an RV network like Priority RV Network or Couch’s RV Nation, that opens up your options.
- Once you deliver the RV to a service dealer, the dealer will document your concerns. They will take pictures of any affected parts and composite a written report.
- The dealer will submit the photographs and report to the manufacturer via a dealer portal. Then, they wait for a response!
- The RV manufacturer can either approve, deny, partially approve or deny, or ask for further clarification or evidence. This process can take several weeks – even months!
- Once the claim is approved,the dealer can begin the repair. Rarely, the dealer will have everything they need on-hand. But usually the dealer must order parts. If you’re lucky, the parts will be catalog parts available from big RV distributors. If you’re unlucky and you need a custom manufactured part (e.g. water tank, cabinet door, etc.) then the process can take weeks!
- Once the parts arrive, the dealer will verify they are the correct parts. If they aren’t – which happens more often than you would think – the process starts all over!
- Once the correct parts arrive, the dealer can complete the repair. During this time, many dealers will require you keep your RV physically on the lot to keep its place in the service queue. If you remove your RV, some dealers will push your request to the back of the line!
When warranty service goes well, you can have your RV in and out in just a day or two!
But when everything goes wrong – the manufacturer disagrees with the dealer, wrong parts are sent, custom parts are required – the process has been known to take months!
We walk through this process in great detail in our post about “Why RV Repair Service Takes So ****ing Long!”
How Long Is an RV Warranty?
RV warranties last for at least one year.
- Most towable RVs (travel trailers, 5th wheels) have, 1, 2, or 3-year warranties (or some combination thereof).
- Most motorhomes have much longer warranties for the frame and/or powertrain, up to 12 years long!
The warranty begins from the date of retail purchase or first put in service, whichever comes first.
Here’s a table of common RV manufacturer factory warranties, updated for 2022:
|Airstream||3-year limited warranty; 3 years of 24/7 roadside assistance||Yes|
|Alliance RV||3-year structural warranty; 1-year base limited warranty||No|
|Bigfoot RV||3-year structural warranty; 1-year base warranty||No|
|Casita||1-year limited warranty||No|
|Chinook RV||1-year limited warranty||No|
|Crossroads RV||3-year limited structural warranty, 1-year limited warranty||Yes|
|Cruiser RV||3-year limited structural warranty, 1-year limited warranty||No|
|DRV Luxury Suites||3-year limited warranty||No|
|Dutchmen||3-year structural warranty; 1-year base warranty||Yes|
|Entegra||5-year structural limited warranty; 2-year/24,000 miles limited warranty||Yes|
|Escape Trailers||2-year warranty||No|
|Fleetwood RV||3-year/45,000-mile structural warranty; 1-year/15,000-mile limited warranty||Yes|
|Forest River||1-year structural warranty||No|
|Grand Design||3-year limited structural warranty; 1-year limited warranty||Partially|
|Heartland||3-year limited structural warranty; 1-year limited warranty||No|
|Highland Ridge RV||3-year limited structural warranty; 1-year limited warranty||No|
|Holiday Rambler||3-year/45,000-mile limited structural warranty; 1-year/15,000-mile basic limited warranty||Yes|
|Jayco||2-year limited warranty||No|
|Keystone||3-year limited structural warranty; 1-year limited base warranty||Yes|
|KZ||2-year limited warranty||Yes|
|Lance||2-year limited structural warranty; 1-year limited warranty||No|
|Leisure Travel||3-year/36,000-mile limited structural warranty; 2-year/24,000-mile limited warranty||Yes|
|Monaco||3-year/45,000-mile limited structural warranty; 1-year/15,000-mile basic limited warranty||Yes|
|Newmar||5-year limited structural warranty; 1-year limited warranty||Yes|
|Northwood Manufacturing||1-year limited warranty||Yes|
|Roadtrek||6-year limited warranty (unlimited miles!)||Partially|
|Scamp||1-year limited warranty||Yes|
|Thor (Motor Coach)||1-year limited warranty/6-year lamination/12-year structural||Partially|
|Tiffin (Coach)||10-year construction limited warranty, 5-year delamination limited warranty; 1-year limited warranty; 1-year coach roadside service||Partially|
Standard Limited Warranty Coverage
Most RV warranties are “flat” warranties. They are also known as Limited, comprehensive, or bumper-to-bumper warranties. They cover significant defects in workmanship and materials for a certain period of time.
Take the description “bumper-to-bumper” with a grain of salt. As discussed earlier, there are many components or failures that are not covered by the typical RV warranty!
- (Meh) A Limited 1-Year Warranty: This is the de facto standard length for the industry. It’s what you get from most bread n’ butter brands owned by Forest River and Thor. You get 12 months of coverage for significant defects in workmanship and materials, excluding components covered by their own third-party warranties, or items considered maintenance items (e.g. exterior seals).
- (Decent) A Limited 2-Year Warranty: Many “premium” RV brands try to set themselves apart with a 2-year Limited Warranty. You’ll find 2-year flat warranties on brands like Escape Trailers, Jayco, Entegra, and KZ.
- (Excellent) A Limited 3-Year Warranty: Pat yourself on the back if you snagged a towable RV with a bumper-to-bumper 3-year warranty! This is only seen on top-tier RV brands like Airstream and DRV Luxury Suites.
Combination Structural RV Coverage
What’s becoming more popular are “combination” warranties. They offer a combination of a flat Limited warranty with a Structural warranty. You’ll often see these advertised as 1+2 warranty, 1+3 warranty, etc.
What is an RV structural warranty? Structural warranties typically cover:
- Floor assembly
- Roof assembly
- Laminated walls
- Front caps
- Skeletal framing
- Slide-out assemblies
Some RV structural warranties may cover the chassis frame as well. Most don’t, though.
- (Good) A 1+3 Warranty: This is becoming a common warranty by well-known and medium-tier brands like Heartland, Cruise RV, and Grand Design. You get classic 1-year coverage for the interior plus 3-year structural coverage for the RV “house” – although be aware that leaks are usually denied for “lack of maintenance” reasons!
- (Better) A 2+3 Warranty: This is a good option for an RV warranty. You get two years of comprehensive coverage plus three years structural. You’ll find this warranty at reliable brands like Jayco.
- (Best) Varies: Once you start buying luxury motorhomes and 5th wheels, you get some pretty good warranties! Entegra has a 2+5 motorhome warranty; Thor has a 1-6-12 (1-year limited, 6-year lamination, 12-year structural) warranty.
What About Motorhome Warranties?
Motorhome warranties are limited by mileage as well as age. Generally, the assumption is that one year of service equals 12,000 or 15,000 miles.
So Leisure Travel’s 3-year structural warranty, for instance, is good for up to 36,000 miles (3×12,000 miles). Whereas Monaco’s 3-year structural warranty is good for up to 45,000 miles.
One-year limited warranties are usually NOT limited by mileage. So your first-year mileage is infinity!
What’s a Typical RV Warranty?
If you want to read a typical RV warranty, check out:
These are your typical 1-year RV warranties (meh).
We also recommend reading Grand Design’s warranties:
Can I Fix My RV Myself?
Most manufacturers won’t approve or compensate you for unapproved repairs.
However, RV manufacturers are often more than happy to ship you parts (for free!) for a simple DIY repair! You’ll be on the hook for any mistakes, of course, but it can be much faster than waiting for a dealership.
Just make sure to get your fix pre-approved. You can normally contact the manufacturer directly, or ask your dealership Service department to expedite your email.
This is a strategy best used for simple repairs or swaps. As Keystone says:
“For example, if you simply need to replace a part (such as blinds, the radio, cabinet door, drawer guide, etc.) and you are comfortable doing the work, Keystone RV can help. We may be able to send you a part no charge to install yourself or with the help of someone you know and trust.”
What Isn’t Covered By a Factory RV Warranty?
We begin with the fine print: We don’t know your warranty! So this list may be completely inaccurate! But this list holds true for RVs from mainstream brands.
Also, this list is not exhaustive. There are other things your warranty doesn’t cover (like acts of God, bad weather, etc.) But these are the big ones we think everyone should know about!
If you take your RV to an unapproved repair facility, most manufacturers will not honor the warranty. Several manufacturers require you FIRST alert the dealer that sold you the RV! If you want to go elsewhere, you’ll need permission.
Costs of Transportation to the Dealership
Your warranty does not cover the costs of transportation to and from the service dealership. That includes gas, mileage costs, accommodations, time off work, etc. You are responsible for all those costs.
Loss Of Use, Time in the Shop
Your warranty does not cover loss of use. If your RV sits at a dealership for a week waiting for inspection, two weeks while the dealership haggles with the manufacturer over coverage, five weeks waiting for parts, three weeks sitting in the repair queue, and one week of actual service … your manufacturer owes you nothing for 11 weeks of lost camping time.
Components Covered by an OEM Warranty
Your warranty does not cover third-party appliances. Most of your appliances, such as your water heater, roof fan, air conditioner, etc., are all covered by their own OEM warranties (from Dometic, Atwood, Lippert, etc.)
Damage from DIY Gone Wrong!
Your warranty does not cover damage from repairs. If you’re a DIY guy, be warned! If you attempt to replace or fix a problem yourself, you may be voiding the warranty – not just for that component, but for anything else affected.
If your RV floods from high water pressure or sparks from an unregulated power supply, you’re on your own. Yet another reason to use a water pressure regulator and surge protector every time you hook up and plug in!
Dealer Screw Ups
If your dealer messed up, that’s on the dealer. As Grand Design says, “Warrantor is not responsible or liable for any failures, breaches, negligence, inattention or problems on the part of the Dealer.”
Any Failure Related to Lack of Preventative Maintenance
Your warranty does not cover failure from lack of maintenance. This one’s the real kicker! Most RVs come with a schedule of Required Maintenance in the Owner’s Manual. This includes things like repainting rusty trailer frames every 3 months, inspecting and resealing roof caulk every 3 months, inspecting wheel lug torque and tire inflation pressure every trip, etc. If you can’t prove that you’ve maintained your RV per the schedule, even catastrophic roof leaks could be dismissed for “lack of maintenance.”
Business Use, Rental, Full-Time Living
Your warranty does not cover full-time living, rental, commercial use.* Most RV warranties specifically forbid living in your RV full-time or any other use besides its “intended purpose as short-term recreational camping.” The moment you confess that you’ve been traveling for six months straight, the manufacturer may discount your entire warranty. Same thing if you admit you’ve been renting out your RV on a P2P marketplace.
*Brands that cater to full-timers, such as Alliance or DRV Luxury Suites, typically don’t have the stipulation about full-time living. You might get dinged for commercial or rental use, though.
How Important Is an RV Warranty?
We’re big advocates for RV education. All RV owners should understand the in’s and out’s of their coverage.
With that said, we don’t recommend buying an RV solely because of the warranty. At most, use a warranty to break a tie.
What’s more important than coverage on paper is the actual quality of service. Read owner’s forums to learn about others’ experiences. Keep your ear close to the ground. Learn everything you can about your warranty.
And hopefully, you’ll never have to use it!
Andy Herrick is a blogging nerd, #8 Enneagram, wannabe bread baker, INTJ, RV industry professional, and small business entrepreneur. He can be found hanging out with his lovely wife and family, skiing, cycling, climbing, hiking, and convincing anyone who will listen why dogs aren’t really that great of pets. Also, he runs this website.