The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the need for more online services and helped expedite the availability and ease of buying RV parts online. Everything from commonly-used items to specialty repair parts are easy to find and purchase online, which can be especially helpful if you’re not close to an RV supply center.
Like with any online purchase, there are some common problems and precautions you can take to prevent a bad experience. Here are some helpful tips that will guide your online shopping experience for RV parts, plus eight items to consider before you click that “Buy” button.
Almost anyone can create an impressive looking website with some simple online tools, but it tells you nothing about the company’s ability to deliver on time or support the product after the sale. A quick Google search on a company will show you ratings and customer comments; scroll down to find the poor reviews to see if and how the company responds. If there are no Google reviews, or most of the reviews are poor, keep shopping.
Many retailers sell on Amazon or eBay to get more exposure for their products. These big sites charge the retailer 15 percent or more for using their services, forcing the retailer to mark the product cost up. To potentially save money, search for the seller’s name to see if they have their own website and buy from them directly. You may even have success in calling the online RV parts retailer and negotiating the price down for a better deal—many items online have a minimum advertised price that allows the retailer more profit margin, and the ability to offer a better deal offline.
3. Years in Business
How long a company has been in business isn’t always a sign that you’ll get better service, but it’s often an indication that the person selling you the parts has knowledge and experience. You may receive an item and have questions about how to use or install it, so purchasing from someone experienced is helpful. You have a better chance of getting the information you need from a retailer if they’ve been in the RV business for a while.
4. Physical Address
There are plenty of online sellers that don’t list the address of their business, which means they most likely don’t personally handle the product or carry stock, and instead use multiple distributors to drop-ship the products. This practice can increase the chance of an incorrect product being shipped, missing parts, or damage to a product due to improper packaging. There’s a much higher confidence level when a company is willing to list their address on their website, and you should raise caution if you can’t find it.
5. Product Warranty
Many people tend to ignore the product warranty until they have a problem, but it’s something you should consider ahead of time. Online listings sometimes omit the warranty information even though they’re warrantied. Some warranties will cover parts and labor for repairs while others don’t. Make sure you ask prior to your purchase and get written proof of the product’s warranty if it’s not listed. Keep a copy of your receipt in case the product fails before the warranty runs out. It’s also a good idea to research the manufacturer that made the product to see how long they’ve been in business and what kind of reputation they have, for added reassurance.
6. Return Policy and Restocking Fee
When you have to send a product back, it can be inconvenient and expensive. Make sure you know the return policy of both the company and the product before purchasing. Online retailers should have a clear return policy and outline the consumer’s responsibility and costs. Some items, like electrical parts or sanitation items, have a no-return policy and can’t be returned under any circumstance. Some retailers charge a 20 to 30 percent restocking fee, making it not worth the effort to return the parts. The bottom line, know your responsibility and costs before you buy.
7. Replacement Parts
The RV industry is far behind the automotive industry when it comes to knowing exactly what items were used when the RV was built. RV manufacturers can change assembly-line parts mid-year and often do not document the change in the RV parts manual. This makes obtaining the correct part challenging, and trying to find it online even harder. The VIN number alone is not much help in these instances and it takes an experienced professional to find the correct item for your specific need. It’s always best to find a qualified dealer or retailer for your make and model of RV to locate the correct part in this instance. Buying something that “looks right” often ends in disappointment.
There are plenty of creditable online retailers that do an exceptional job for their customers. Do your research and build a relationship with them so you’ll have a go-to source for all of your RV needs. Yes, you can always save some money by shopping around, but the peace-of-mind and customer service you’ll receive by getting to know a renowned retailer will usually prevent buying headaches.