Own an RV? Lemon Laws Probably Don’t Protect You

Lemon laws have become less common in many states. Many states’ lemon laws have no provision for recreational vehicle buyers. An RV is a huge investment that depreciates rapidly. A lack of legal protection after a purchase is one of many reasons to consider an RV purchase carefully. Knowing local laws is a step any potential RV buyer should take.

An RV on the open road
RV | Smith Collection/Gado via Getty Images

Lemon laws vary wildly from state to state

Like many areas of law, lemon laws can be drastically different from one state to the next. Some offer limited protection for car buyers. Others have comprehensive codes that favor buyers over owners. Each shopper should carefully research their own state’s buy-back laws and buyer protections before entering into a sales contract.

One of the biggest issues buyers encounter when invoking lemon laws is the intentionally vague language used to write them. Most states include protection from “unfair and deceptive acts and practices.” When the word of law is so imprecise, interpretations and precedents are set. It’s all too common for courts to favor dealerships leaving buyers in the lurch after a regrettable purchase.

There are several buying headaches that lemon laws address. When automakers become aware of a design defect, they may issue notice to dealerships but not buyers. Dealerships are instructed to repair defects only after owners make a complaint. Some states have lemon laws that require owners to be informed of these silent recalls.

RVs are a risky investment with little safety net

A large RV parked at the base of a mountain
A large RV | George Rose via Getty Images

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Lemon laws are even vaguer when it comes to which vehicles are covered. RVs are not always covered or are only offered in part. Some states have consumer protection laws that cover the non-living quarters of a recreational vehicle. Others cover only the chassis.

RVs depreciate much faster than a car or truck. It’s estimated they lose up to 30% of their value at the moment of purchase. This makes the investment risky. The easiest way to avoid being burned by purchasing a lemon is to inspect every potential purchase carefully. Reputable, third-party inspectors can help buyers identify problem areas before leaving the sales lot with a time bomb. Consumer Reports recommends taking every possible precaution to avoid buying a defective RV.

It’s much easier to avoid buying an RV with a laundry list of issues than it is to buy too fast and need repairs. Bringing an RV in for repairs can be very expensive and cost owners months of downtime. Any flaw with the living quarters or mechanical systems may end up coming out of an eager buyer’s pocket.

Warranties can provide some relief

An RV on the open road
An RV on the highway | Robert Alexander via Getty Images

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Where lemon laws fail to protect owners from costly repairs, manufacturer warranties can save the day. Warranties are not absolute. There are specific terms and limitations for each one. RV owners will notice their warranties look much different than those for a traditional car. Instead of one contract from the vehicle’s manufacturer, RV owners will enter a warranty with the manufacturer of each major system or component of their rig.

Many common repairs will not fall under the manufacturer’s warranty. Weather damage. collision damage and towing damage are not covered even under the most generous wear and tear plans. These are considered part of typical RV maintenance and are a fact of RV ownership that many buyers ignore. The true risk and cost of RV ownership are greater than it seems.