Quality of class B camper vans

This is a post with a simple message

There is no van from any manufacturer that is 100% problem free.

If you look at a forum or Facebook group dedicated to any Class B model, from the Airstream Interstate to the Winnebago Travato, you will see numerous posts reporting van defects and lamenting poor build quality. Keep in mind that people who have a problem are likely to write a post about it. Maybe they want help, solace, or just a place to vent. If someone doesn’t have a problem they are less likely to post, and are out enjoying their van. I’ve never seen a post where someone out-of-the-blue writes “I am so grateful I have never had a problem with my Dometic cooktop.” So if you see post after post about awning failures in a Winnebago Travato, remember that probably the majority of owners don’t have this problem. If you are a new subscriber to a model’s forum, you are likely to come away with the impression that the model is riddled with problems and the build quality is horrible. Keep in mind that you are seeing a skewed sample of owners’ posts.

Comparing camper vans to cars

With rare exceptions, the quality of modern automobiles is very high. Worldwide, there are over 90 million cars produced each year and in the U.S., about 2.5 million. With that volume of production, a substantial amount of automation makes sense. Most of the work is done with precision robotics–robots that are as precise at 5am Saturday morning as they are at 10am Tuesday. The auto industry accounts for 30% of all the industrial robots.

Photo by Steve Jurvetson under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license

The world, and how you view the world

Let’s agree on a few facts:

  1. The Recreational Vehicle industry could do a better job with build quality
  2. Dealers could do a better job with checking the van and doing good prep work and in general, being better at being nice and wonderful people. This, of course, is true of everyone. It would be great if everyone was 10% better at their job and compassionate and caring to everyone they meet.

There are two positions you could take: 

  1. For the price I paid for this thing the van should be of high quality and the dealer experience should be wonderful.
  2. I know there are going to be some problems with the van when I get it and the dealer experience may not be perfect but I will deal with it and I know everything is figureoutable. 

While position 1 may be 100% true (vans should be of better build quality)  it will also, with 100% probability, lead to frustration and suffering. I can nearly guarantee it. Position 2 leads to more happiness. There are going to be problems; we’ll deal with them. Let’s get out there! It doesn’t let people off the hook. We wish things were better, but they are not and are beyond our control.


Here is one couple’s list of issues with their new van:

  • Warped bottom drawer underneath microwave (need to replace entire panel and latch)
  • Crinkled window shades (possibly from water damage) needs to be replaced.
  • Crooked window shade frame above galley
  • Broken fan. Motor doesn’t work
  • Shower head stopper trigger doesn’t entirely stop water from flowing out
  • Galley power outlets not working. Fuse must have tripped.
  • Truma heater does not work

Here are another person’s:

  • Poor dealer prep or in fact no prep
  • Awning didn’t work (new motor ordered)
  • Truma not working — no hot water

And finally, “The Fusion infotainment system failed withing the first 500 miles. The replacement of this unit took 3 weeks at a large Airstream service center in Phoenix. Then the top fridge failed followed shortly by the furnace. Some of the automatic blinds then also stopped responding to the remote input controller. All the above failures with less than 2000 miles on the unit”

There is no van from any manufacturer that is 100% problem free.

It is figureoutable!

It is easy to feel it isn’t fair that you encountered build problems but remember everyone does.   It is easy to feel that it is someone’s fault–someone is to blame. It is okay to feel that but don’t dwell on it on it and build up those feelings until you get angrier and angrier and more and more frustrated. Life is too short.  You will find problems when you initially get the van. You will encounter more problems in the first 6 months of ownership and yet more in the first year. You will diminish your dissatisfaction if you expect them. 

The good news is that most of the components in a van build are not that complex.  A piece of lamination separates from a cabinet.  Fixing it with a tube of liquid nails is a more productive use of your time than posting a screed to the van’s Facebook group (and there is a nice element of satisfaction in making a van repair). (To be fair, you might get satisfaction from a good Facebook screed.) Almost anything in a van that is broken you have the capacity to fix. If you can’t fix it, buy some beer and invite a friend over to help. To quote Marie Forleo “Everything is Figureoutable

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