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RV Reviews: Who can you trust?

It’s hard to believe, but we’ve been reviewing RVs for almost 20 years now. A lot has changed in that time, but then again, a lot has stayed the same. Both ends of that sentence have good and bad implications. 

The RV industry was –and remains to this day- somewhat like the Wild West, with little in the way of regulation or oversight. Marketing claims and promises often aren’t based on fact and some RV dealers are still unabashedly predatory in their practices, preying on unsuspecting buyers with unnecessary up-charges and misleading discounts. Motorhome and travel trailer quality still ranges from abysmal (and sometimes to downright dangerous) to stellar. Known defects in everything from refrigerators to diesel engines (we discuss this in more detail in the newly updated Motorhome Comparison Guide) still aren’t always addressed with any urgency –or even acknowledged. Warranty coverage was –and sadly still is- a joke, often not worth the paper it’s printed on. In recent years thousands of hapless owners found their brand-new motorhomes routinely broke down (especially those with a certain class of diesel engine) and warranty claims for a popular travel trailer and fifth wheel manufacturer were categorically denied for “owner misuse or neglect” -even when the owner had obviously done nothing wrong. Happily, this last example came to the attention of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and they slapped the manufacturer with a multi-million dollar fine. Unfortunately, just like the Wild West, while some rustlers were apprehended, many more still roamed free.

In our early attempts to isolate the decent and fair manufacturers from the questionable ones, those of us here at discovered that most reviews we read were either funded or swayed in some way by the manufacturer being discussed. Too many articles posing as an unbiased review were actually very biased propaganda. Sadly, what seemed scandalous to us all those years ago -and prompted us to write our first modest book: “How to Buy an RV and Save”– has now become an accepted way of life. People can pore through reams of information about a specific RV, but they read the “owner feedback” or “independent review” with a skeptical mind. As they should. There’s a lot of fake reviews out there.

Online retail giant Amazon –to give just one example- now has an entire division that does nothing but scour their site for products with obviously false or artificially enhanced reviews to trick Amazon customers in to buying. The hard part, even for someone with Amazon’s ample resources, is determining what’s fake and what’s legitimate. There are countless companies anyone can hire who will happily write dozens or hundreds of glowing reviews for your product on Amazon, regardless of its’ actual quality. However, tricking buyers to purchase a beard trimmer that works twice and then quits is one thing, but tricking buyers in to purchasing a very expensive but defect-riddled motorhome is on another scale altogether. 

So who do you trust? If anyone can say anything they want in the alternate reality universe of the internet, how do you separate the good from the bad, the real from the false? If Amazon has an entire department struggling mightily to flush out the fake reviews, what chance do you have? A pretty good one, actually. Over the years, in our attempt to routinely condense mountains of information in to readable -and reliable!- RV comparison guides, we’ve become pretty good at spotting the wooden nickels that cross our desks. 

First, consider the writing style. Many fake RV reviews and articles are now auto-generated, meaning a living person has inserted a slew of buzz words (for example, we would use terms like RV Reviews, best motorhomes, top travel trailers and so on, if this were an auto-generated article -which it isn’t) in to a software program and the program then produces an article with perfect grammar and spelling that discusses at length the topic of RV reviews and the highest rated travel trailers, etc. 

Kind of creepy, huh? And this isn’t something that exists in science fiction; it’s here now. Have you ever found yourself reading an article about, say, a Class B motorhome you’re considering, and after a paragraph or two you start thinking to yourself, “what the heck is this guy talking about?” You can’t put your finger on it -the specs mentioned about the motorhome appear to be correct, the sentences are well formed and there are plenty of references to the make and model, but the writing style is stilted and unnatural. Nobody talks (or writes) like this, you may think. That’s because nobody does -but computer programs fed a list of talking points do. 

Another way to know if you’ve been the victim of this time wasting blarney is if you can’t remember a single thing about the article after you’ve read it. Since there is no substance or thought behind the words, you’ll find your much sharper subconscious brain hasn’t even bothered to save the data, instead opting to let it pass through untouched, straight in to the garbage folder. A novelty when they first appeared several years ago, auto-generated articles have spread like wild fire across the internet. They’re cheap, they require no human effort or skill, and they can drive a lot of traffic to the RV dealer or RV manufacturer that utilizes them. Needless to say, when you come across an article or review like this -and you will- we suggest making a note of the site you’re at and crossing them off your list for future reference. If possible, try and determine what this bit of nonsense is trying to get you to do. They’re obviously not interested in providing legitimate RV review information to you, hence the non-sensical article; so what’s their motivation? Do they want you to click a link or sign up for something? Do they want to route you, via a series of ad-riddled pages, to their website? A little detective work usually reveals the party behind the deception, as well as the reason. Ask yourself how much of your valuable time they just wasted tricking you to their store front, and then ask yourself if your best interests will be of importance to them in any negotiation.

Next week we’re going to cover the second and third tricks you can employ to sniff out the fake reviews, either when shopping for an RV or a nifty new beard trimmer. Until then, drive safely and check those tire pressures before hitting the road. 

Happy Travels,

The Team