This blog post has been on my “list” for a while and I’ve resisted writing it mostly because I wasn’t sure of my own conclusions.  Discussions on extended warranties are akin to opening a can of Sicilian worms in an Italian bait shop. It’s a MESSY topic with lots of very heated opinions on each side of the fence. After 5 months of thinking, testing (yes, actual real-life testing) and experience I’m going to be honest and tell you there is no absolute answer. Extended warranties are not for everyone. They can be a waste of money, they can be supremely helpful and they can also be everything in between. Our situation is that we currently have an extended warranty, it has worked and paid out for us (we’re ahead on our money), but I’m still not sure it’s worth it (I know, I’m a walking contradiction).

So what I am going to do in this post is give you the tools to decide for yourself on whether you need one including how to negotiate the best policy, traps to be wary of and what to plan for with claims. So, take a big breath, sit down in your comfy chair and here it goes:

1/ To Buy Or Self-Insure -> That Is The Question

Should you put your money in the bank or in a policy?

The truth is for most items you buy in your lifetime extended warranties are simply not worth the money. They are often overpriced for the protection you get and you rarely get your money’s worth. In fact that’s the very reason they are so very lucrative for the people who sell them to you!

The only situation where this question becomes “iffy” is when you’re dealing with a very expensive item (like an RV) where the cost of repairs can be really, really high. At this point it becomes a grey area. For many people simply putting money aside every month for repairs and using that “self-insurance bucket” when something comes up will put them ahead on $$ for the lifetime of their RV. For others the financial worry of a major breakage is too much to bear and buying a warranty for “peace of mind” makes their RV life alot smoother. You’ll have to decide, based on your own financial situation, age of your RV, $$ value of your big ticket items and risk tolerance whether self-insurance will work for you.

2/ An After-Market Warranty Is More Like Insurance

If you decide to buy an extended warranty one key thing to understand up-front is that, unless it’s manufacturer-provided, it’s really more like insurance. Manufacturer-backed warranties (e.g. the one you’d get with a brand new RV) are more like “true” warranties in that they pretty much just fix anything that goes wrong. After-market warranties are different. When you buy an after-market warranty you’re basically trying to insure against some future breakage/failure on an item which is no longer supported by the manufacturer. These non-manufacturer warranties can be very specific and have lots of potentially tricky “outs”. You cannot treat an after-market warranty like a safe-house and think everything will just “get fixed”. You can also not treat an after-market warranty like a bank deposit and think you’ll get your money back. Know and understand that if you sign an after-market warranty it is a contract that you may never use and you need to abide by all the details to get your “insurance” to pay up. If you go into the process with this understanding you will be much happier with your decision in the long run.

3/ Not Every RV Warrants A Warranty

An extended warranty on an older coach makes no sense

Even if you’re bought into the whole idea of an extended warranty not every RV owner should get one. Here are some of the cases I would not consider it:

  • New RV Owner – New RVs typically have a “breaking in” period which will often require lots of trip to the shop. If you’re buying a brand new RV it should come with a manufacturer-backed warranty for at least a year, and that’s the warranty you should use before shopping for one on your own. If you’re buying a “new” used RV  you may be able to negotiate a 1-year repair plan backed by the shop you bought it from to get you through the “break-in” period -> that’s what we did with our rig. In fact we got the shop to throw in a 1-year plan for free and spent the first 6 months getting free repairs on all our systems from the dealer. Well worth it and not a cent out of our own pocket.
  • Older, Used RV Owner – Most RV owners will tell you that if things are going to break, they’ll do so in the first few years. Once your engine, appliances and other items are “broken in”, your chances of any kind of warranty-backed repair drops dramatically. Also as your RV gets older you are more likely to simply replace/upgrade things rather than repair them and these new items won’t be covered by the original warranty. Lastly as your rig ages policy costs go up and the cost-benefit of having a warranty goes down.

Personally I feel the best candidates for extended warranties are newer RV owners past their initial 1-year factory warranty who feel they still have some “breaking in” to do, or in-between owners (RV is a few years old, but not yet old enough) who need the insurance in case something comes up. It’s a cost-benefit decision and only you can make that assessment for you. In our case once our current 5-year warranty is done we’ll not be buying a new one.

4/ Dealer-Sold Warranties Are Big Money Makers -> For The Dealers

Many RV dealers will try to sell you an extended warranty when you buy your RV. Unless the warranty is backed by the dealership itself (which is extremely rare) and you plan to get all the repairs done at that very shop, I would never personally sign up to one of these things. Dealer-sold warranties are typically much more expensive (often twice the price) and less comprehensive than any warranty you can get externally. Avoid the trap and shop around on your own.

5/ Key Items To Negotiate In An Extended Warranty Policy

Read the fine print on every contract

Assuming you’ve decided to go-ahead on a warranty purchase start looking around and getting quotes on policies. Get several quotes and then get a copy (and read) each of the contracts before you sign. You want to treat an extended warranty like insurance which means you should look to get all your “big ticket” items covered (the ones you can’t afford to fix on your own), but you ALSO need to be aware of the fine-print and “outs”. In my mind the 2 most important “must have”  items in an extended warranty are:

  1. Exclusionary Policy  – Extended warranties come as either “inclusionary” or “exclusionary” policies. Inclusionary are the most common kind (also the cheapest) and will only cover the specific items listed on the contract…in other words if it is not on contract it is not covered. This sounds great in principle, but can be a real “gotcha” if some non-covered part you didn’t even know about causes your claim to be denied. Exclusionary policies are the other way around. They only list items which are NOT covered on the policy…..by contract everything else IS covered. Since RVs are extremely complicated machines with thousands of interacting parts many of which I don’t even know the name of, my recommendation is to go for an exclusionary policy. They are more expensive, but they are much more comprehensive policies, much simpler to understand with alot less potential “outs”.
  2. Consequential Damage – One of the biggest potential bummers in a warranty claim can be denial of a big ticket item due to damage from a non-covered part. Imagine a non-covered part (say some type of gasket) blows and damages a big, expensive covered part (say, your transmission). Unless you have consequential damage the warranty company can legally deny your claim. This is a situation you never want to be in. Even if you decide to buy an inclusionary policy, make sure consequential damage is part of the policy.

These are my personal “must have” up-front items. Working from this baseline,  look for the following clauses too:

  • Understand Transfer and Cancellation Policies – Make sure that you can transfer or get out of the policy if you sell the RV or decide you don’t like it.
  • Know Who’s Backing the Warranty – Most of the folks you get quotes from will be brokers (i.e. companies who sell you products from other companies) and not the actual people managing your warranty and claims. So, make sure you find out who that is. You’ll want to be sure the claims company is a reputable one and the underwriter is a solid, A-rated insurance firm.
  • Make Sure You Can Use Any Repair Center – If you’re travelling around you don’t want to get stuck somewhere the warranty isn’t accepted. Make sure they’ll accept any repair center nationwide.
  • Call Around & Check Reputation – Call some RV shops nationwide and ask them if they’ve worked with this company before and what the claims process was like. If they’ve got a bad rep or are not well known that’s not a good sign.
  • Check On Full-Time RV Coverage – If you’re a fulltime RVer make sure the warranty you buy is valid for full-time use of the RV. Some are not, or require a surcharge for that purpose.
  • Understand Term Limits, Deductibles And Claim Procedures – If you’re getting a 60,000 mile policy does that 60K start from today, or from the day you bought your RV? Also what are your deductibles and how difficult is it to make a claim?

There are many more details, but those are probably the most important ones. Just make sure you read all the fine print so you know the potential “gotchas” up-front.

6/ Keep Ontop Of Maintenance & Contract Details

Once you’ve bought a warranty make sure you stay ontop of maintenance and any other contract “gotchas”. Most warranties will deny claims if you do not follow manufacturer-recommended maintenance guidelines, or let your parts rust, or do not change out worn parts. If your fridge fails, the last thing you want is to get denied because you didn’t do your yearly fridge service. Stay ontop of it and keep your records in order.

7/ If You Make A Claim, Follow Policy Procedure (And Prepare For Time & Hoops!)

Be ready to jump through some hoops

We’ve used our extended warranty twice since we bought it, and although it’s worked and paid up both times, neither experience was painless. No matter who you use, make sure you understand the proper procedure to make a claim. Extended warranty companies require the damage to be assessed up-front (sometimes they’ll even send their own inspector) and will then need to approve the repair before any work is done.  Ontop of that warranty companies will often only approve a certain labor rate and number of hours for repair (based on national averages and internal guidelines). This is where things can get really gritty. Assuming you’ve been ontop of your maintenance and there are no other “gotchas” in your contract you might still end up arguing with the warranty company on how much they’ll pay for the repair….so you’ve got to prepare for time, patience and some back and forth!

As an example our first repair was in CA and the shop labor rate was above what the warranty would accept. We managed to negotiate the shop down, but it took a couple of days of back and forth. Our second repair was in OR. This time the warranty company wanted to send an inspector (2 days), wait for his report to be approved (another day) and then, even though we passed inspection and the labor rate was OK, they would only reimburse 2.7 hours on what the shop deemed to be a 5 hour job. In the end we managed to negotiate a compromise, but it was still alot of painful hoops to jump through. Bottom line, if you make a claim expect to spend some time on it.

8/ And Our Solution Was….?

So, given all that who did we get our policy with? I got quotes from several companies including Good Sam’s, GoRVWarranty and Wholesale Warranties. Good Sam’s did not offer an exclusionary policy so I decided against them up-front. GoRVWarranty and WholesaleWarranties (both brokers) offered similar contracts at vastly different prices. My research on GoRV dug up some questionable practices** and alot of folks who were unhappy with the company (poor after-sales service) so I negotiated a hefty sum off  WholesaleWarranties and stuck with them. My finally policy was for 60 months/60,000 miles, $100 deductible with CSI/Allegiance, underwritten by American Bankers Insurance (A.M. Best “A” rating) and costs us ~$1.5 per day. It’s an exclusionary policy with consequential damage and free tire plan thrown in. So far I’ve been very happy with WholesaleWarranties. They are easy to deal with and (more importantly) they’ve “gone to bat” for us against the warranty company each time we’ve had a claim. I’m still not sure the warranty is worth it (we could have managed each of our past 2 claims faster and easier with money put aside), but only time will tell.

That’s it folks. If you haven’t already fallen asleep I’d love to hear your experience and thoughts on extended warranties. Feel free to comment away below!

** UPDATE: As of Nov 13th, 2012 Go RV Network, the parent company of Go RV Warranty filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in the West Texas District court. Definitely happy we avoided them as a broker.

55 Responses to The Ins & Outs Of RV Extended Warranties

  1. Hi Nina and Paul,
    Our Norcold 1200RLIM refrigerator gave it up, released its ammonia, and is now serving as an ICE box. We ordered a replacement cooling unit and are contemplating buying a 10 year warranty on it offered by the online company that sold us the cooling unit-www.rvcoolingunits.com. Do you have any advice for or against?
    Thanks. Kathie

    • libertatemamo says:

      It’s a darn good question. I guess I would first try and understand if you can buy the policy later (i.e. can you buy it once the initial year policy from the manufacturer has expired)? Anytime you can delay a warranty purchase I would do it. That gives you a year to try the product and see if you like how it works and are going to stick with it -> for example you may decide you’re not happy with the way the cooling unit works, or you may decide to replace your entire fridge with a residential fridge next time it breaks in which case a longer warranty on the cooling unit makes no sense. If you can work it for a year before buying an extended warranty, then do it.

      Another question to ask is if will the extended warranty will cover labor and service in an RV? If it won’t then consider those costs and whether the extended warranty makes sense in $$ terms based on what it would cost to repair the cooling unit.

      Just some things to think about….

      Nina

  2. Lisa says:

    Very timely post for us, thanks for the insight!
    Lisa

  3. Luke Alexander says:

    1. The Monaco dealer where I bought my coach, offered us a 5 year extended 50k mile, $200 deductable, for $4,400. I ended up buying the same warranty from DeMartini RV for $2,200. Dealers will sell the extended warranty without buying a coach from them.
    2. Be sure that the repair shop that you use is very well versed in negotiating with extended warranty companies. Also, be sure that the repair shop goes in with a high estimate. The warranty company will never consider paying more than the first estimate, no matter what the outcome.
    3. A lot of the repairs on motorhomes are unique due to the complexity of a motorhome. There rarely will ever be a fixed price for your repair, so plug in several days to negotiate with everyone involved.
    4. I have found it is easier to wait for the big claim and just pay the small claims out of my pocket. Life is too short to spend time haggling with an insurance company. I want to be back on the road.

  4. Ingrid says:

    Excellant information. Hubby and I have been discussing the pros and cons of a warranty. We have heard plenty of horror stories about these companies finding reasons not to cover. Thanks for this timely post.

    • libertatemamo says:

      So happy I can help. It’s a complicated and heated topic for sure. No. Absolute right answers here I’m afraid.
      Nina

  5. Daveave says:

    Very thorough. We have X-tra Ride only because it cost me a $50 transfer fee from prior owner. Currently at a park that has RV repair service and they market X-tra Ride. Talked to the owner about having my “annual” done (no maint issues at all) as a preemptive move and he said in marketing X-tra Ride for 5 yrs. never had a problem on a covered item, regardless of having the annual done or not. More stuff to ponder.

    • libertatemamo says:

      I would advise reading the fine print on the contract on that one. All the extended warranty contracts I’ve looked at stipulate that maintenance has to be followed. You can do the maintenance yourself, but you need to keep a record (e.g. receipts). I’d be surprised if the X-tra Ride doesn’t also require that detail. Possibly the person selling them has never personally handled a claim on a big ticket item? Just my thoughts anyhow…
      Nina

  6. Mary Ann says:

    I think it also depends on how “handy” you or your spouse can be. My hubby can handle lots of repairs himself, including redoing some that were paid for elsewhere. Even if you can’t do repairs yourself, it often makes a big difference if you have a pretty good idea what is wrong before you take your rig in.

    • libertatemamo says:

      Very good point Mary Ann. If you’re handy that certainly comes into play, and might alter how you feel about an extended warranty. Some folks will still buy it as insurance for the big ticket items, but for smaller items they handle everything themselves.
      Nina

  7. jil mohr says:

    we never had an extended warranty on our 5th wheel… but we have on other products….for peace of mind I am a big believer and over the years I feel I have come out ahead….great informative posting…

    • libertatemamo says:

      Interesting that you never bought one for your 5th wheel. It’s definitely a grey area, but i feel extended warranties make more sense for expensive items (I.e. where repairs can be really pricey) as opposed to inexpensive items (where it’s often cheaper and easier to replace rather than repair). Since you like warranties, i’m just curious why you never considered one for the home?
      Nina

  8. Paul Dahl says:

    You did an excellent job on this post. Many people have lots of questions and you hit all the areas that seem to be questioned the most.

    I have an extended warranty, and like you have come out ahead already, with two years left on my policy. If they give me a choice to renew it, I will. I like the coverage and peace of mind it gives.

    Two things I’ve found, if buying new, you should wait until the original warranties on the RV expires, no sense in having paid for a year of warranty coverage that is already covered.

    Secondly, it is not uncommon for the repairing dealer to charge an extra fee for processing the warranty claim. I had a repair done on my dash computer and I was charged and extra $25 warranty processing fee. Not a big deal but something to be aware of.

  9. jil mohr says:

    @Nina…I don’t think we were ever offered one for our RV. and I never thought about getting one somewhere else even if it were available……I honestly don’t remember…they always fixed everything when we needed it…and for all the items in it they were under warranty and I am not sure we were offered extended for those either…and luckily we never had to test anything…basically in the 10 years we have had the same 5th wheel we have only had minor problems and they were fixed ..the only thing big in the rv that needed anything was the frig with all of the recalls..we were reimbursed for a new one… ..we did get an extended warranty for our truck though and we ended up ahead on that..and have it for our truck now…I am a big believer in getting insurance too and hope you never have to use it…I will check with Tom to make sure I am accurate on this…you know what happens to all those grey cells when they start getting old…:)

  10. Fantastic post, and one for sure we’ll be pointing our readers towards in the future.

    We’ve never really had to come up against this question ourselves. Our first RV was so minimalist, that there was really nothing to warranty. Our second came with a virtually lifetime warranty. And now our 1961 vintage bus conversion is so old and unique that I doubt any warranty company would touch it anyway :) We factored that into our purchase offer, and have set aside funds to handle repairs and upgrades, which we’re having fun doing on our own so far.

  11. As rookies we fit nicely into the No 4 category :( and we paid too much money. However, it became very handy when we had hydraulic and slide issues. But we are still not ahead in the game. Once it expires we probably just self insure ourselves for going through claim is quite a hassle.
    Great post.

    • libertatemamo says:

      I think many people end up in that catagory so don’t beat yourself up too much. I’m glad you’ve been able to use the warranty even if it was overpriced!
      Nina

  12. Great post! We have always covered our RV’s with extended warranties and like you have been $$ ahead. But for us not enough to make much difference had we invest or saved the same amount we paid for the warranty. – Anyway, great review of the issues. Thanks.

  13. Peter says:

    I have had a number of extended warrenties….one comes to mind was on my tow vehicle that was a Dodge diesel. I paid $1800 for it and was denied twice on service even though the items were covered. But, as you said, one was a gasket failure that lead to a major failure. I have since decided that with our MH we will maintain a $5k kitty and hope for the best as out MH is a 2002 and the warrenty cost are way out there. Thank you for your wonderful blog.

    • libertatemamo says:

      I’ve heard that same warranty story many times, unfortunately. Getting coverage denied is a common occurance. Self-insuring is definitely a viable option and makes even more sense with an older MH.
      Nina

  14. David says:

    Great post and discussion! We just purchased a used 2013 RV and trying to decide if we should go the extended warranty route. This is our second used RV and I was able to do most of the repairs on the first one. So, after reading all the comments putting aside a repair reserve account makes the most sense. Thanks!

  15. Elailne says:

    Have full coverage on my 2010 5th wheel but had bad experience with running over debris that fell off moving vehicle that caused extreme rocking & jolting to RV resulting in washer/dryer vibrating so violently in spin cycle first time we used it after this accident, that it blew the washer and inverter. RV ins. wouldn’t cover anything because no “external damage to RV” proving “collision”. Looking at extended warranties as future option, looked at Good Sam but saw under Exclusions: Any damage or failure resulting from Acts of god, power surges, collision, impact, upset, road damage. So this same damage we experienced would also not be covered? The salesperson said they would just repair or replace these items and not ask or question the cause…but that’s not what the policy says. What do you say?

    • libertatemamo says:

      That’s a tough one to answer. If the contract says it doesn’t cover road damaged items, then I guess it depends on whether the assessor that comes out (if one comes out) is able to tell the issue was caused by road damage or not? Not a clear-cut answer, I know, but the best I can give.
      Nina

  16. Elailne says:

    Reading my own comment, need to point out that I am exploring extended warranties for FUTURE coverage (not the current damage) to take care of damage not covered by my currrent RV insurance that covers comp & collision…but rejected damage from the above accident.

  17. Carol Bronson says:

    Thanks for the very useful info. After reading your blog and RVdreams blog we are going with Wholesale Warranties.net instead of the MPP Execu-Care that the dealer sells ($900 more) will see if they will throw in the wheel/tire protection on the ITASCA Navion we just bought.

  18. Lisa says:

    Excellent advise. I have my contract for a new Forest River Forester with the 7 yr warranty included for $3,900 waiting for me to sign from Camping World. I now will wait till after the first year and shop around now to see what fits for us. I did not realize there were other companies I could price shop for. I will be giving Wholesale warranty a call. Very grateful for your help.

    • libertatemamo says:

      Sounds like plan. Make sure the Forrester you’re buying has a 1 year manufacturer warranty on it (most new rigs do), but otherwise I think shopping around after that year is done is an excellent idea.

      Nina

  19. Lisa says:

    Thanks Nina
    one more question. Should I get the Good Sam warranty or the wholesale warranties? It does come with a one year but you get the warranty for less when you purchase it when rv is new.
    Thanks
    Lisa

  20. Wes says:

    As “Newbies” in RVing, I’m hoping this is not a childish note/question. We are preparing to purchase a 2004 Delmar 40′ diesel pusher Mountainaire. 65K miles. Loaded, from friends. They are selling for health reasons. We are strongly considering Wholesale Warranties like you did. Are you still pleased with them? My biggest concern is a breakdown on the road & how well they respond . Absolutely hate being stuck on the road.

    • libertatemamo says:

      So far so good. I have to admit we have not had any warranty repairs done in over a year, so can’t really comment further on the contract we signed. If shopping today however, I’d use them again.

      Nina

  21. Wes says:

    Hi,
    Are you still pleased with Wholesale Warranties?

    • libertatemamo says:

      Yes, still pleased with them, but admittedly we’ve had no major claims since I wrote this post. I still think they’re one of the better options out there.

      Nina

  22. gail cowan says:

    We just bought a new Holiday Rambler Ambassador 2013 we love it. My husband is the handy type. We still have the year warranty, but we love to travel off the beaten trail and are worried about there being a Monaco dealer close. We are going to Moab in two weeks my husband thinks we need to get a warranty before we leave. What do you think?
    gail

    • libertatemamo says:

      I honestly don’t think you’ll have an issue finding an authorized repair location if you need it, but that’s just my guess. If your husband is that worried, why not call Monaco and find out what services they have in the Moab area…just in case? That way, you can go feeling comfortable that there is an option nearby in case you need it.

      Nina

  23. Rudi Schmidt says:

    We live in Australia and just purchased a 2004 Motorhome in the USA which we will pick up in May.
    We intend to travel full time for a number of years in 6 month intervals.
    Not knowing anything about the aftermarket warranty in the USA but feeling we need some sort of protection what would be your recommendation.

    Rudi

    • libertatemamo says:

      Honestly my best advice would be to give the guys at Wholesale Warranties a call and see what they say. I’d look for a similar kind of warranty to what we got.

      Nina

  24. Theresia Brouns says:

    We’ve been thinking about and getting quotes for an extended warranty. Had Good Sam for our 2010 Cougar 5th wheel, but never needed them (had a repair but it was less than the deductible). We’ve gotten quotes from both Good Sam and Wholesale Warranties, and between trying to decide whether to get another extended warranty, and who to go with, we’re getting headaches. I figure you’ve done your (and our) homework. I think we’ll go with WW and see if they won’t throw in the tires. I like your professional approach to making your choice, so I’ll go with yours. My headache is already waning. LOL Thanks

    • libertatemamo says:

      Well I have to admit even writing the article gave me a bit of a headache :) Warranties are not an easy thing to sort out. Glad I could ease the pain for you a bit. Good luck with everything!
      Nina

  25. Byron Potter says:

    If you buy a new Forest River, pay the extra 150.00 to get the additional year of factory warranty (2 yrs) dealer will not tell you that but it is in the paperwork

  26. Trudy says:

    Wow! Thanks for all the great input everyone! In 2000 we bought a ’92 Bounder with 40+K miles and got the extended warranty, which indeed did pay for itself, not without hassle, but it was well worth it. Now we are in the process of acquiring a 2000 36′ Dolphin with ~40K miles and of course had pressure to buy the dealer-offered two-year warranty backed by Allstate. We pick the unit up two days from now and are waffling over the decision. Lots of what-ifs and what-fors. So I’ll be spending tomorrow talking to providers. I’d feel a lot better if I could talk to the previous owner and get some (hopefully) honest assessment of the rig. Thank you again.

  27. James snyder says:

    We have a contract with Good Sam and I agree that it probably is not worth the money and I am thinking about not renewing it this year. The consequential damage thing gives them too many way out. We have had two incidents, one was caused by a air hose that had a leak and caused the unit to miss and overhear. The exhaust manifold had to be replaced. They not only would not cover the hoses but the labor time is always less than the repair facility charges. Out of a $2300 bill they paid less than three hundred. I don’t need this type of insurance

    • libertatemamo says:

      So sorry to hear that. Sadly that’s a common occurance. We had Good Sam’s for a while and found the same thing. Too many easy “outs” for them not to pay.

      Nina

  28. Theresia Brouns says:

    We went with your suggestion for an extended warranty for our 5th wheel, and we’re so glad we did. The inspector was professional and fair when he came to check the RV. We’ve had a blown tire, and although it wasn’t new, they replaced the full cost. We feel very confident that we did the right thing. Thanks again for writing the article.

  29. Sue says:

    This has been VERY helpful information as we consider purchasing an extended warranty. Thanks for taking the time to enlighten and educate us!

  30. Barb says:

    Great article! Have just put a downpayment on 2003 Isata Sport Sedan. Will be going solo and worry about breakdowns and repairs. Will contact Wholesale Warranties for info. You should get a commission! :-)

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