The RV Industry Is Garbage
Nexus RV specifically.
Before I start, this article is my opinion and mine only.
The RV industry has enjoyed a boom of sales over the last 10+ years. Since Covid took over in early 2020, the industry has exploded even more. As families try to distance themselves; what better way to distance than go buy a fresh new RV. Go outdoors without staying in a hotel. Should you though? The answer is a resounding no. Especially right now.
If I rewind back to when I purchased my last RV….
Back in 2016, I did a lot of research about how I could buy one and not have to pay for it. This basically involved starting a small business and renting it out. When I say “not pay for it,” I mean cover the payments, depreciation, and costs…and hopefully turn a profit, of course. When researching pricing on RVs, I found that MSRP (Manufacturer Suggested Retail Price) means nothing. I’m not even quite sure why the coaches are listed with an MSRP. My going theory is they are so expensive that getting a huge discount makes the customer feel better about a 20 year loan on a depreciating asset. At the end of my research, the “deal” is to get a final price of more than 30% off the MSRP price. If you got to 40%, you were doing great and some deals (depending on demand) were up to 50%.
In my case, the price negotiation ended up near 37% as bunkhouse class C RVs were in high demand. I made enough working my 5–9 (second job) to pay off the RV in 3 years and in 5 to recoup the down payment. So, in 2016, I paid about $72,000 for my RV. How does that compare to now?
Covid demand for RVs has sent prices skyrocketing. Currently, for the exact same RV as I purchased in 2016, the best price I can get is $112,000. In 5 years, there was a FORTY THOUSAND DOLLAR INCREASE! But what changed mechanically? The short answer is the engine. Ford has a new 7.3L engine in place of the really old 6.8L. Thats it. Really. There is nothing new in RV construction, options, or features. Wait, I lied. The Ford chassis has tire pressure monitoring now. RVs are now marketed with improvements to electronic stability control and traction control. For the most part this is all still fluff junk. Stability control is done by the chassis builder before any of these vehicles get coach boxes put on them. If you didn’t know, at a certain length, these chassis are cut down the middle and lengthened, so any previous tuning that was done is pretty much out the door. Is it safe from the Ford factory; sure. Do any of these RV builders test at handling limits to be sure after cutting and pasting the frame; unlikely. So, these crazy prices are here to stay for the short term. Are you getting the same RV though? No, you aren’t. These latest batches of RVs are worse, by far, quality wise. How do I know? I’ve been shopping.
I was shopping because I received an irresistible offer on my 2016 Jayco. I had to find something else to replace it with. I had renters booked and vacations scheduled. I worked out a deal with Lynden Sports Center on the west side of Michigan to purchase a Nexus when it arrived. The arrival date was scheduled for Memorial Day 2021. How did I decide on that builder?
Due to the chip shortage and material shortages in general, RV OEMs are having a hard time even building coaches, so similar to the regular car market used RV prices are very high and inventory of new coaches is very low. Barely anyone had an RV in the floorplan I was looking for in stock. I found a couple and went to look in person, but they just didn’t fit the layout and options we wanted. Most places said I would have to put down a deposit and hope one would come in within 6 months and pricing was not guaranteed. Back when I was getting ready to purchase my previous Jayco, I had shopped Nexus. They were a relatively new coach builder that focused on making the best machines. The technology is the same, really, but they focus on using steel instead of aluminum and some different build characteristics that have positives and negatives. I saw a Nexus Phantom in person in 2016 the quality was good back then.
I called Nexus back and spoke with their sales representative. We spoke at length about the current state of the industry. He indicated there were two coaches in the floor plan I was looking for coming to a specific dealership in Michigan. He gave me the contact information and said I would be able to reconfigure it within reason and get what I wanted on it. That also meant deleting a bunch of options that I’ve had before that I like to call “fluff junk,” which are options that have no business being on an RV. One example is heated mirrors. If it is cold enough to need heated mirrors on the vast majority of these RVs, the water lines are going to be frozen and there will be larger concerns. Same thing with the tank heater option they sell. These are literally small patches on large tanks that slap to your black/gray tanks (but not the fresh water tank) to keep them heated in cold weather. Except, none of the water lines are heated or kept in board in a heated space so they are useless. It sounds good when companies like Forest River mention the “arctic package,” but is really just fluff junk. Nobody can reasonably use the RV in freezing conditions as delivered without doing major damage. There are some coaches that have heated bays. Nexus was supposedly one of them. Nexus advertised having a heated/contained water system. I never did get to examine this particular advertised feature.
Memorial Day came and went and no RV. I was told maybe then it would be end of June. We had camping scheduled and were really hoping to take delivery before July 4th weekend. The days came and went. I finally received a call that the RV was ready and Lynden wanted to schedule a time when I could come pick it up. However, then I received another call that parts were missing from the RV and the owner of the dealership was going down to Indiana to pick them up personally. Wow, sounds like first class service….
A note on new RVs: It is rare to NOT have problems with them. I remember my first toy hauler/trailer. We set out on our first RV trip to a super nice RV park near Silver Lake sand dunes on the west side of Michigan. We just finished up dinner. I was outside trying to figure out how the sewer hose situation worked and my wife was inside finishing up the dishes. I can hear water running, but not the water running down a sink drain sound. It was a hose on concrete sound. Yes, the trailer builder (Forest River) forgot to hook up the plumbing. That wasn’t the only issue for sure. The next two RVs were similar with multiple dealer visits for repairs. Taking an RV to a selling dealer that is not 10 minutes away is very frustrating and time consuming. Nexus though….they convinced me they were different and better. Supposedly, Nexus performs legit camping simulations in house and they have good quality control. This one should be better, right?
I scheduled pickup for the new RV July 12th. I had already cancelled all of my previous rental reservations and was down almost $10k in lost revenue. So, I drove my Jeep out to Lynden and was really excited to see the new unit and get home. The sales guy greeted me and we immediately went to see the RV and begin the walk through. This wasn’t my first time purchasing, so it should have been a breeze.
About 50 feet from the RV, I can tell I am in for trouble. Now, in my business, I do automotive detailing and I have a pretty good eye for paint issues. I could see the paint was really hazy on the rear vertical wall. When we got about 25 feet away, I could see a 2–3 foot long gouge in the paint. Quick lesson in paint and body: If you can catch your fingernail on the defect, it cannot be buffed out. You can wheel it to death, but the scratch will still be there. A scratch/gouge that deep needs body work. I found another area with similar gouges. So, a brand new RV already needs body work. Just to address the body work specifically, the dealership said they would NOT fix it before delivery and I would be required to drive it back to them to get it repaired under warranty. I live 2.5 hours away…that isn’t going to work.
The closest service center to my location was General RV in Wixom, which is about 45 minutes away. Another note: I have had multiple issues in the past getting my RV serviced by a dealership I did not buy it from. Generally, for warranty work, the normal automotive industry does not suffer from this issue. The RV world is different and vindictive. Oh, you didn’t buy it here? Back of the line. Knowing this was one of the key reasons I did not want to take delivery of the coach before it was correct from the beginning.
Body issues pointed out, we continued the walkthrough. I found 12 other issues where things were not put together correctly, were not working or were just wrong. These other issues were small and would likely take a day or so to correct. Fit and finish of the Nexus RV was some of the worst I have seen and far inferior to other RVs I looked at. Panel gaps were massive and surfaces were scratched and pitted. I have worked at car dealerships before and have prepped hundreds of new cars for sale. The motorhome process is obviously more involved than a car, but still, after the prep I found quite a few issues and that was only the first 30 minutes of being there.
The first question: How did it leave the factory like this with so many problems? I thought quality was a priority.
The second question: The RV was delayed for almost 2 full months hanging out waiting for final parts. With it sitting there for so long, how did all of these broken/missing pieces get left out? This points me to the pattern I have noticed of awful quality control. So much for Nexus being different.
The third question: With as many RVs as they dump out the doors, how are they not educating and training the dealership staff to cope with the quality issues?
There was one more concern that I will call a bait and switch. If someone was shopping for an RV and was doing research on options/features, there is a mid-level option called stabilizer jacks. They can be manual or auto. Typically, on mid-high level RVs they come with auto leveling electric/hydraulic jacks standard. These stabilizer jacks have 4 large posts that attach to the frame. When you operate the system, the jack posts come down and lift each corer so the RV can be completely level. This is important for proper propane refrigerator operation and proper drainage for sinks/showers/etc. Jayco includes them standard on the Greyhawk and higher trims, but in the Redhawk line (read: base model), it is an option. If you choose to add the stabilizer jacks to the Redhawk, it is still the same system as on the Greyhawk. Well, Nexus decided to use the nomenclature to their advantage. For a mere $1,550 you can have your stabilizer jacks. Except, these are not the same as the others. They are only in the rear and will not actually level the RV. They just stabilize it. Retail, these jacks are $400. Is it my fault for not making sure to the n’th degree what was on it? Yes. I kick myself for it often. Was Nexus being disingenuous? Yes.
When speaking to the owner of Lynden, he seemed exasperated at the industry himself, claiming that manufacturers are forcing them to accept units they don’t want. Any change orders are met with harsh punishment from the OEMs and the dealerships may not get any RVs (or a reduced amount). According to the owner, the OEMs are also raising prices regularly while quality is going down. For my particular paint situation, I was told, “They are all like that.”
Were they? I went and did some more shopping to find out. The answer is mixed. Some RVs that I looked at were just fine. Even some that I had deemed low quality a few years ago seemed to be well built. One dealer I spoke with said OEMs were shipping units half built and the dealers were left to fend for themselves on making them saleable. It seems like Nexus is doing that very thing. One would think that Nexus would like to step up and be that great small RV manufacturer, but that is clearly not the case, as they strive to be the “profits first” type of corporation that plagues the industry. Is profit a problem? Hell no. Is profit ahead of your mission statement of quality a problem? Yeah, I’d like to think so. If the statement is just empty words for marketing, so be it, I suppose.
I tried to salvage the deal. My requests were:
- Have the paint fixed
- Fix the last 12 items
- I would pay or split the cost of the installation of the correct leveling jacks
Lynden said no and the response from Nexus was shockingly unhelpful. I caught a lot of the quality issues on a brand new RV. A new buyer is unlikely to catch them, which would mean multiple trips to the dealer for warranty work. Since the industry is booming so much right now, I have a feeling there are going to be a lot of unhappy customers come a couple years from now, when these coaches are falling apart due to terrible quality control. Not only did Lynden say no, they went on to tell me that my expectations were too high and the RV would “never meet my standards.” If by standards you mean a brand new $90,000 RV not having issues then yes, I do have standards.
When I asked for information from Nexus, part of the material said, “All the Phantom coaches are built with the same quality as our top of the line class A motorhomes.” If that is the case, based on what I’ve witnessed, nobody would want one of their class A RVs either. Which reminds me about RV warranties; they are the worst in the automotive industry. The standard warranty is 1 year. The only company I am aware of that has a longer warranty is Jayco with a time defying 2 year warranty. Roof and wall warranties are a bit different, but supposedly, those won’t be an issue on these really well built new ones (sic). The rest of the RV that does fall apart won’t be covered past your one year warranty even on a potentially $500,000 purchase price.
Looks like my small rental business will be shutting down for now. Since quality is as bad as it is right now, there is no reason to purchase any RV for the foreseeable future. Those that did purchase now are likely to be upside down on a loan in a couple of years when they want to unload them. I am frequently told by dealers and RV manufactures that everyone just needs to accept poor build quality and construction. The fact that sales are still booming says that everyone has decided to do just that. Is an RV debt bubble next?