The question provokes strong opinions in the RVing community: is an extended RV warranty worth the investment? Some RVers think warranties are worthless, while others say they’ve saved thousands. As with any service, RV warranties have pros, cons, satisfied customers, and unsatisfied customers.
The truth is that the answer depends entirely upon you, your RV, and your financial situation. An RV warranty isn’t the solution for every RV owner, but quality coverage from the right company can be the best way for many RVers to budget for RV repairs.
What An RV Warranty Does
An extended warranty, sometimes called a service plan or vehicle service contract, covers the cost to repair mechanical components on your recreational vehicle. When your RV has an issue, the warranty company works with the repair shop to pay for any covered issues.
These issues include mechanical and automotive components like the engine and transmission. Warranties also cover items in the coach, such as appliances, air conditioning, slideouts, kitchen center components, hot water heater, and components for drinking and waste water.
Coverage is available for used and news RVs. Motorhomes and towable RVs such as 5th wheel trailers and travel trailers are all eligible for coverage. Exactly which items are covered depends on the company and the type of policy. Generally, an exclusionary policy offers the most complete coverage. For more information about Exclusionary RV plans and other service plans type, check out our blog post.
More About Extended RV Warranties
An extended warranty lasts longer than a manufacturer’s warranty and is often more comprehensive. Manufacturer warranties don’t cover all items on the RV for the same period of time, making coverage confusing. An extended warranty covers all items for the same time frame.
While technically an insurance product, an RV warranty is not RV insurance. An RV insurance policy covers what might happen: accidents and damage. A warranty covers the more humdrum, inevitable malfunctions that are nonetheless expensive. The full-timing RV blog RVlove.com puts it this way:
An RV – no matter the type, brand or price point – is a moving vehicle with countless moving parts, traveling down the road like a rolling earthquake. Things will shake, rattle and roll, and eventually something is going to break. Possibly many things over time, and sometimes many things all at once!
By paying for service before any problem occurs, an extended warranty allows you to control how much you pay for RV repairs and when you pay it. This helps RVers budget and for many, provides peace of mind when they are on the road. Several companies include roadside assistance and other benefits with their warranties.
Warranties also prevent service centers from overcharging RV owners. This helps when having covered and non-covered repairs performed during the same visit. While your RV is in the shop, some warranty plans assist with travel and lodging expenses.
What's Not Covered?
A warranty doesn’t cover every issue your RV may face, and it’s important to know what isn’t covered and why. Many of the negative reviews about warranties come from RV owners who did not understand their coverage from the beginning.
Damage from accidents, weather, or fire are not covered—these issues would be covered by RV insurance policies. They do not cover routine maintenance, which includes oil changes, tires, and sometimes gaskets. Some companies offer warranty options to cover gaskets and/or tire coverage. Keep in mind that these options usually carry some extra cost.
Coverage does not extend to cosmetic or nonmechanical items, so things like cupboards, carpets, windows, upholstery, roof leaks, and furniture are not covered—many of these issues do not require a visit to the repair shop to fix.
Research warranties on any RV forum or consumer reports website and you’ll discover a range of strong feelings about coverage, most of which are based on personal experience. Not all warranties are created equal, and not all companies are equally dedicated to customer satisfaction, so feedback (good or bad) on one company isn’t indicative of the entire industry.
Warranties are also complex agreements between the company and the RV owner, and with any agreement or contract there will always be fine print. A good company will be forthcoming about the contract details. Some RVers think that this fine print is designed to protect warranty companies from having to honor their contracts, while companies give examples of how most contract details exist to prevent fraud.
RV owners who never read their contract or ask questions often feel angry when they have to pay for some or all of a repair. Sometimes this anger is warranted, such as when the customer receives terrible service or if there is an error. Sometimes the warranty company is trying to protect the customer (and themselves) against a repair facility that is attempting to grossly overcharge for their services. And sometimes the customer simply doesn’t understand their coverage. Bottom line: it’s a good idea to read through your policy.
One of the biggest misconceptions that RV owners have is that if an item is covered, the warranty company should pay to repair it no matter what happened. However, warranties strictly cover mechanical failure, not physical damage or non-mechanical issues such as smells, noises, or cosmetic issues.
Marc and Julie from RVlove.com shared their experiences both with and without a warranty. Without a warranty for their used motorhome, they spent approximately $4000 on parts for repairs that would be covered under a warranty. Since they performed the repairs themselves (sometimes with the help of friends), they avoided labor costs, which they estimate would add several thousands to the total.
With a different motorhome, also purchased used, they took advantage of an extended warranty. They calculated that over a 46-month period, their warranty covered almost $6,000 in expenses, stating that they “used the heck out of that policy.”
Who Might Not Need Coverage?
Experienced RVers who like to fix things themselves may save money self-insuring since they aren’t paying for labor. Since labor costs usually fall between $100 and $200 an hour, labor charges for repairs can really add up, especially on complex jobs like engine work. If you have the tools, the know-how, and the willingness to perform your own repairs, a warranty is probably an unnecessary expense.
Those whose RVs have above 100,000 miles generally are not eligible for warranty coverage, and older, higher-mileage units usually cost more to cover than newer units.
What About Self-Insuring?
Some Rvers choose to pay for repairs themselves, a practice often called self-insuring. People who are self-insuring typically put money away every month to prepare for inevitable RV-related expenses. The advantage of this method is that repairs might be less expensive than the cost of the warranty, meaning that the self-insurer would save money by not purchasing a warranty.
The downside of this method is the reason people get a warranty: the unexpected. Perhaps a self-insurer saved enough money to replace the air conditioning system at the beginning of the season, but will they be able to save enough money before the next issue occurs? Feelings of uncertainty over expenses can affect how often and how far RVers travel.
Your decision to purchase a warranty relies on your comfort with risk. Are you prepared to foot a large bill for a major repair? Are you okay with the risk of multiple repairs? Would the worry of a breakdown or malfunction stop you from enjoying your RV or using it to its full potential?
What's the Best Way to Get an Extended Warranty?
To get the best deal and the best information, contact the warranty company directly rather than purchasing through the dealership. The RV warranty companies on our list list, like dealerships, are third-party providers, meaning that they work with an administrator who coordinates with repair shops and roadside assistance.
The main benefit of using an online provider, such as one of the companies on our list, is a much better price. Dealerships heavily markup the extended warranty plans they sell. Often you can get the exact same plan from the same administrator for less by contacting an online warranty company. Warranty companies don’t have the overhead of fancy showrooms or stocking of expensive new RVs, so they are able to pass that savings on to customers.
Another upside of online providers: RV warranty companies have a better understanding of the plans they sell than a dealership. Some companies assign salespeople as dedicated reps to the people they work with, so that customers always have a person they can go to for answers or assistance. From the feedback we’ve received from customers, dealerships do not offer this level of customer service.