You’re on vacation. You open the fridge to grab a cold one only to find out it’s warm. Your RV refrigerator has stopped working. You frantically begin calling around to repair shop after repair shop to find someone who has the RV fridge you need in stock. Every service person you talk to tells you it will be at least two weeks for one to arrive. You book the appointment at your nearest shop and when all is said and done, your repair bill is well over $1,600. And that’s to have it REPAIRED and not replaced.
The problem is that the shock and awe of RV repairs isn’t limited to refrigerators. Anyone who has been RVing for any length of time can attest to the fact that keeping your RV and its components working properly requires money. Sometimes LOTS of money. So, why are RV repairs so costly?
Not everyone can work on an RV. They take up a LOT of room. For service centers that work on motorized RVs, the need to get underneath the vehicles, to access components, usually requires heavy-duty lifts. Many times, RV parts can take more than two weeks to arrive at the shop. Because of the wait-time, service centers require extra space to park the RVs while waiting for repairs.
You can’t look at an RV labor rate the same as that of an automobile. RV Service Centers must have (and store) a wide variety of parts and tools to complete a repair. It’s not just tools for automotive-type repairs, but also for carpentry. They must have room to store plywood, paneling, metal and large windows and doors, just to name a few.
RV Repairs require several skills. Your service technician must know how to be an automotive mechanic, skilled carpenter, electrician, plumber and appliance repair person. Because of that, labor rates are high. Right now the national hourly labor rate is between $150 and $170. With an hourly price tag like that, even simple repairs can add up.
RVs also contain a number of things that require way more time to replace than they would in an automobile, or even in your home.
The refrigerator mentioned at the beginning of this article is a great example. If your refrigerator needs to be replaced, it may not fit through the RV door. To replace a refrigerator, an entire slide-out room may have to be removed just to get the old one out and the new one in. Removing slide-out rooms requires multiple people and eats up valuable shop time. Even if it can be removed through a window, it’s still a tricky process that requires two people.
Speaking of slide-out rooms, these too can be a labor-intensive repair and therefor, quite costly. While a slide-out gear may only cost about $80, the labor required to perform the repair can easily reach over 10 hours.
Fixing electrical issues may require removing entire wall panels to get to the wiring. A hole in metal RV siding will require all the metal below that panel be removed in order to replace the damaged piece. Damage to an exterior fiberglass wall means replacing the entire wall. That includes removing seals, windows, exterior baggage doors, trim and more.
Labor intensive jobs mean bigger bills for you in the end.
And Then There’s the PARTS
RV parts are expensive.
RV appliances, furniture, plumbing, and electrical components are typically more than their residential counterparts.
WHY? They are engineered to weigh less, take up less space and must work on the kind of power that an RV can deliver. An RV refrigerator can typically switch between gas and electric power sources. They are also built to endure being jostled around while on the road and still keep your food and beverages cool in extreme temperatures. The average RV refrigerator can cost upwards of $1,000.
And don’t even get started on an RV AC unit. Unlike a residential AC unit, they cannot be serviced. That means even the smallest issue will most likely mean replacing the entire unit.
Do you have an RV microwave? Most of these little conveniences are secured at the top so that they can hang down from the cabinetry. While you can run down to your local big-box store and pick up a microwave for around $100, these special induction units are going to cost your around $600 when they stop working.
That is if you can find one. During the pandemic, RV sales went through the roof. As the demand for RV repairs increased, parts became harder to find. Between shortages in components and a lack of workforce, some parts for RVs were on backorder on a national scale. Although the supply chain has gotten better, some parts are still hard to find. That scarcity has driven up prices overall.
We Have STANDARDS! (Or not)
As a whole, the RV industry has no standardization. The manufacturers may use one model of appliance part of the year, and another model the rest of the year. They change parts and appliances often; many times, based on who will give them the best bulk-deal at the time. Supply chain issues only made it worse during the pandemic. Because of that, figuring out what works for your RV….and then finding and installing that component, is a challenge at best. You can walk into an automotive shop and tell them the year, make and model of your vehicle and they will know exactly what oil filter you need. That is not true for the RV industry. Every manufacturer uses different suppliers for every part of their rig. And no one at your local service center knows what they’ll need until they see it. The RV industry is making strides in this area, but they have a long way to go.
When you take your RV in for repairs and are handed your final bill-take a deep breath. Remember all that was (probably) involved in getting that repair done. Your first reaction is going to be to take out your frustration on the person standing across the counter from you. After the shock wears off, be in awe of the fact that they got your repair done with everything they most likely had to face along they way. Then, think about your next trip instead and LET THE ADVENTURE BEGIN!