What Can You Expect if Your RV Is a Lemon?
Did you buy an RV to find some escape? Are you spending more time at the dealers than on the open road? You have rights.
Facing travel restrictions and public health concerns, many Americans made the leap to recreational vehicles in 2020. The RV Industry Association reported that RV shipments were up 53.5% percent in July 2020 from the same period for the previous year and the surge in RV sales is projected to continue into 2021. With an increase in sales came an increase in defects, complaints, and legal wrangles. RV owners are now struggling with how to deal with their lemon RV.
An RV is not a car.
Some RV buyers expect owning an RV to be similar to owning a car. However, recreational vehicles (including Class A, B, and C motorhomes, fifth wheel trailers, travel trailers, toy haulers, and truck campers) have different problems and different legal protections. An RV has the features and mechanical systems of an automobile but also has plumbing, electrical and climate control systems, appliances, and furnishings. All of these features and systems have the potential to fail and cause you inconvenience and expense.
When your RV has an issue, it can be more difficult to deal with than a car repair. Often you discover the fault when you are miles away from home or your dealer, and authorized repair facilities are hard to find. When your RV is your living space, the impact and expense of being unable to use your RV can be huge. Sometimes you find yourself dealing with multiple manufacturers due to the many different systems and appliances in an RV. If you do end up in a dispute, the legal protections are different.
Veteran RV owners often remind rookie buyers that an RV is not a car and that they should expect to carry out maintenance and repair just as they would when buying a house. That does not mean that a new RV owner should accept defects as part of the RV experience.
Common RV problems.
A “lemon” typically means the vehicle has a defect that substantially impairs its safety, use or value. Some common problems that we see with RVs are:
- Leaks – both in the exterior (doors, window seals, and walls) and interior (plumbing, toilet, shower); often makes the RV unusable and leads to other problems such a rust.
- Rust – typically associated with a leak, can lead to structural problems, and affects the value of the RV.
- Electrical and lighting system malfunctions – can affect drivability, living quarters, and be a significant safety risk.
- Structural issues – defective wall panels, doors, or windows can make an RV unusuable, unsafe, and lead to costly repairs.
- Unreliable or faulty appliances – cooktop, microwave, refrigerator, washer, dryer or other appliance failing with normal use.
- Poor quality materials – exterior or interior materials that are not fit for their purpose.
- Customer service issues – dealers and manufacturers are not interested in helping owners with problems or questions.
While these problems can occur in any RV, there are some brands that are repeat offenders in our practice. See our blog post to find out which four brands we see most often amongst our clients.
Lemon laws for RVs.
There is more than one avenue to pursue if your RV is a lemon. State lemon law, which varies from state to state, is one option. If you are pursuing a state lemon law claim, the law that applies is the law in the state in which you bought your RV. Unfortunately, some state lemon laws do not cover RVs, and those that do often limit the lemon law protections to the chassis only (excluding the living quarters.) In Pennsylvania, the automobile lemon laws exclude RVs, while in New Jersey and California, the lemon laws only apply to the chassis portion.
The federal Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act applies throughout the country. It gives extra teeth to the written warranty that you received when you purchased your RV, requiring the seller to honor the warranty, and providing for cash compensation if they do not. Like most state lemon laws, the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act allows the seller a reasonable number of repair attempts (typically 3 or 4) but it does not impose the same time or mileage restrictions on a claim as state lemon laws. Both state and federal law will usually require the dealer or manufacturer to pay your attorneys’ fees.
In addition to state lemon law and the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, federal and state unfair trade practices legislation may apply to offer you a legal remedy. Arbitration may also be an option, or required, under your sales or lease contract. And in every case, negotiation is a valuable tool that is particularly effective when you have a skilled negotiator who is familiar with the industry and the applicable laws.
If you are dealing with defects in your RV, Timothy Abeel & Associates may be able to help. We are experienced at navigating the practical and legal issues created by a problem RV. Contact us for a free case review to find out what you might be entitled to by law.