VanLeigh RV/Vilano: A Quality Experience

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“Quality in a service or product is not what you put into it. It is what the client or customer gets out of it.” ~Peter Drucker

Before trading for our current 2016 Vanleigh Vilano 365RL coach we’d been through a fairly long search process in the effort to replace/upgrade our 2014 Alpine 5th Wheel. We knew we wanted a rear living model with lots of storage, comfortable furniture, a decent bath/shower, functional kitchen, flat slide floors and if possible, an open contemporary feel that would live well. We wanted all of this in a package that wasn’t over 39ft long or had a GVWR over 16500lbs and, of course, had an attractive price.

We’d looked at many makes and models. Many of them reputed to be best for full-time RV’ers, and many that were well above our comfortable budget level, but not one addressed the majority of our needs and wants. Not once did we walk into one and say to ourselves…“This could be it.” We began to think that perhaps our “wish list” was asking too much. That is until we checked out the Vilano. From the first step in we thought this might be it.

Walking into a Vilano we were  struck by the contemporary styling, the openness, the high ceilings, huge slide-outs and the incredible amount of internal storage. Seriously, if you have more stuff then this coach will hold you have too much stuff. Looking past our first impressions we noticed the special touches– like a residential refrigerator which keeps food cold while you travel, fully LED touch button lighting with a dimming feature, electric gate valves for black and grey tanks, heated tanks and compartments for cold weather travel, preps for solar panels and a third air-conditioner and the list keeps going on.

Friends who have visited us in our Vilano have commented, “It’s more like being in an apartment than an RV,” and we agree. It has quickly come to feel like home.

“There is a spiritual aspect to our lives – when we give, we receive – when a business does something good for somebody, that somebody feels good about them!” ~Ben Cohen, Co-Founder Ben & Jerry’s

But, of course, nothing’s perfect and during our walk-through-inspection we compiled a punch list of mostly small things needing to be fixed or adjusted under warranty. Usually, the selling dealership makes these adjustments. The dealership needed time to get all the parts and suggested we come back in about 30-days for the fixes.  When they learned we were heading to Texas in less than 30-days, they sent our punch list to the Vanleigh factory in hopes of putting in a rush order on parts.  And that’s where the story takes a very interesting turn. We drove off the dealer’s lot on a Sunday and on the next Monday morning I received a call from the VanLeigh RV Inc. Service Manager in Mississippi. He was completely aware of our timeline and invited Bonnie and me to visit the VanLeigh factory location in northern Mississippi on our way to Texas so they could “make-things-right.”

When purchasing an RV the main focus in the moment is the RV–the product–and perhaps secondarily are thoughts of the company and the people who designed and manufactured it. I don’t know what our initial expectations were of the VanLeigh company, but that phone call was our first hint that we might be getting a glimpse of something special. Of course we accepted the invitation.

We were at the factory for about a day and a half with our Vilano set up on one of the production connection sites where each finished coach is completed and tested. Vanleigh RV is a new company and the Vilano 5th Wheel was only introduced to the market this year (2015). We learned ours was the twelfth one they produced. They were producing the high fifties and beginning sixties while we were there and they had a large backlog of coaches already sold that they were working against. Amazingly, they were able to complete our entire punch list during that day and a half.

We also learned we were the first customers to visit the factory, although Vanleigh hopes it will become a normal practice. We were surprised to learn our punch list, which we emailed to the factory about a week earlier, had been distributed to all the related departments and discussed in all the production meetings prior to our arrival. They are passionate about ensuring no future customer would be experiencing the same issues that were on our punch list. Everyone who works on these models was very eager to hear about what we liked and what we didn’t. They asked us lots of questions even about things that weren’t on our list and often took notes. We’ve learned a few of our suggestions are being considered for future production changes. We certainly aren’t celebrities, but while we were in their house they certainly made us feel like we were.

“Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world. For, indeed, that’s all who ever have.” ~Margaret Mead

Bonnie and I spent far too many years working with companies who preached customer service but never really connected with or reached the point where they were living their mission statement. You can’t fake it if it’s not believed and acted on by all. Everyone we met and interacted with during our visit, from the security guard to Leigh of Vanleigh himself, left no doubt VanLeigh has managed to assemble and inspire an entire team who believes and interacts as if their customer is their purpose. Perhaps we drank the Kool-aid too, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing when it totally quenches your thirst.  We love their product and our new home and we wish them all the best…for our sake. 😉

By | 2018-01-16T07:29:36+00:00 December 18th, 2015|Lifestyle / Travel / Living Lite, Opinion & Reviews, Sticky|14 Comments

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  1. Monte Stevens 19 Dec ’15 at 9:42 am - Reply

    Loved reading this post. It is not written as a marketing post for the manufacturer yet is very positive and affirming. You’ve done a superb job with it. I feel most business models today are structured to focus on the maximum profit margin attainable. It sounds as if these people lean more towards meeting customer needs. Looking forward to seeing images of the new apartment.

    • E. Brooks Moore 19 Dec ’15 at 2:14 pm - Reply

      Thank you, Monte. I’m pleased you enjoyed this article about our positive experience. It was totally honest and heartfelt on my part. I’m sure there will be images in later posts. Have a wonderful Christmas my friend!

  2. Tom Dills 20 Dec ’15 at 12:39 pm - Reply

    It’s been interesting to watch how a year of experience has translated into finding a home that is even more suitable than the one you chose when you started out. And living in your home on a permanent basis certainly changes the perspective, and things you might be able to live with if it was “just” a vacation home take on a whole new meaning when it is your full time home. Plus I have to imagine that knowing and understanding the quirks, characteristics and features of your home is a bit of a replacement for the other “puttering” you used to do with computers, cameras, cars, etc. 😉

    The perspective of knowing more about the people behind any product is foreign to most consumers. It’s great that the folks who manufactured your home were so open to learning more from your experience and that they are committed to doing what is necessary to improve not only your experience but the experience for other customers. That’s a great approach, and one that almost makes me want to buy one of my own just to experience the service!

    There’s a lot to be said for excellent customer service, and as you said a lot of companies give it lip service but don’t actually do it. Ironic that just this week at work we were “asked” to demonstrate our commitment to customer service by – standardizing our voicemail message. I know you and Bonnie don’t miss the corporate world, and unfortunately the service you experienced is getting harder and harder to find. Or more expensive to pay for!

    • E. Brooks Moore 21 Dec ’15 at 2:55 pm - Reply

      Tom, good insights in your comment. I believe we were always looking at it as a long-term home but certainly we didn’t have the experience or foreknowledge to know exactly what that might look like. Then there’s been changes (the mobile job) which we didn’t anticipate but welcome. The original Alpine coach wasn’t a bad choice but certainly with our refined perspective, this new Vilano suits us much better. We were lucky in that the high trade-in allowance we got for the Alpine made it no worst then had we rented for a year.

      The experience I wrote of in this post was certainly unlike any I’ve had before and if there is another upgrade in our future Vanleigh will be the first consideration. I had to laugh out loud at your story of “demonstrated” customer service in terms of a standardizing voicemail messages. Sadly most companies, and people, just don’t get it and probably never will.

      I hope everything is going well with your new grandchild which is on the way.

  3. Tom Dills 21 Dec ’15 at 5:32 pm - Reply

    Due date is 1/13 and everything is progressing as expected. Kathy has occasional bouts of Grandma-itis but insists it is good practice! 😉

  4. Paul 31 Dec ’15 at 6:16 am - Reply

    Now that is the type of story that I like to hear! Kudos to Vanleigh! Having been one of the fortunates to visit your home, I was impressed with the size, efficient use of space, and the apartment-like feel of it. It looks like a very nice place to stay. Maggie seemed downright comfortable with it! 🙂

    • E. Brooks Moore 31 Dec ’15 at 11:17 am - Reply

      It was certainly a positive experience and we are all comfortable and enjoying our new home — especially Maggie. Bonnie and I are both greatly enjoying your the stories of your visit to India, Paul. What an adventure!

  5. Tom Sullivan 25 Apr ’17 at 2:58 pm - Reply

    Now that you’ve had a chance to live with your new home, has your impression changed for the better/worse? I ask because wife and I are looking to purchase sometime next year and just found this manufacturer. I guess the real question is would you purchase again or go with one of the other luxury manufacturers.

    Thanks in advance.

    • E. Brooks Moore 25 Apr ’17 at 5:26 pm - Reply

      Tom Sullivan: Hi and to be honest we love our Vilano even more after having lived with it. Of course there have been things to be fixed or adjusted but you’ll find that with any brand you buy. The real difference is VanLeigh RV promptly returns your calls or emails and takes steps in getting the problem fixed. I sincerely believe their customer service is the best in the business. That’s the Tiffen family reputation and it’s important to them…and to us! I would certainly purchase another one.

      • Tom Sullivan 27 Apr ’17 at 9:11 am - Reply

        Thank you for your prompt reply.

  6. sandy bailey 18 Jun ’17 at 11:46 am - Reply

    just reading your post, we are also considering a Vilano. We own a 2014 Big Country, had it 3 years, no major issues but when we did have a problem, boy customer service was awful, takes forever to get in parts, ect. Made the mistake of looking at the Vilano, Love Love the finishes, appears to be so much more high line. We are tossing around trading to the Vilano 365rl or the smaller RL325. our Big Country is 39ft. The super quiet A/C was a huge deal, still loving yours?

    • E. Brooks Moore 19 Jun ’17 at 9:15 am - Reply

      Hi Sandy, We had a Keystone Alpine before purchasing the Vilano so I’ve also experienced awful customer service. In answer to you question, Yes, we do still love our Vilano 365RL. It’s had a few small issues but those were taken care and handled promptly by VanLeigh RV’s exceptional customer service, all under warranty. Now that we’ve got some miles on ours I’m very happy with the overall structure and build quality of the Vilano…it still seems as tight and sound as the day we got it. The design lives well over time too. We did end up, after a year, replacing the theater seating and couch with a couple of LazyBoy recliners and a full size fold out futon. That decision was a matter of personal preference rather then any lack of functionality. I just missed my LazyBoy. 🙂 I don’t think you could go wrong with either the 325RL or the 365RL and if we were looking for another 5th Wheel it would still be a Vilano. There’s a Vilano owners group on Facebook if you want to follow more owner comments about their Vilano. Take care and good luck!

  7. Mark from Missouri 14 Jul ’17 at 10:45 pm - Reply

    Earl, I appreciate you having posted about the Vilano. I first saw it when the Kansas RV Center brought one to the local show. They are big on the Vilano which means a lot given the Kansas RV Center, owned by NuWa, built the first fifth wheel which was the Hitchhiker. I had a long talk with the dealerships General Manager about the future of the Vilano and really like the direction they were taking.

    Three quick questions for you. I’d appreciate your opinion as an owner and fulltimer.

    1. I’m worried about the grey water capacity being only 48 gallons in the 35′ model. I once traveled with a 38 gallon grey tank and it was a very limiting for off-grid stays. But, the shorter version does have a good cargo weight capacity.

    2. The 39′ model, which I believe it the same as yours, offers a much better grey water capacity but the cargo capacity is only 2900 pounds. Have you weighed your trailer fully loaded and if so is the 2900 pounds limiting?

    3. Back in 2015, Vanleigh was building frames on both a 10” I-Beam by Lippert and a 10” G- Channel by MorRyde; Exclusively the only manufacturer offering a MorRyde frame. What frame did your 2016 come with?

    Here is a link to my own blog post when we toured the Vilano:

    Mark from Missouri

    • E. Brooks Moore 15 Jul ’17 at 6:28 am - Reply

      Hi Mark,

      I’m glad to hear NuWa is enthusiastic about the Vilano as I do know about their history of the Hitchhiker, which I consider as one of the real classics and can often still be seen on the roads. In answer to your questions:

      1. Yes, ours is the 365RL 39′ foot model and while the grey tank is larger then in the 325RL 35′ foot model it will probably still be a limiting factor for off-grid stays but probably not much more then many other 5th Wheels . We do not stay off-grid for any extended period so it’s not been an issues for us.

      2. We moved from a Keystone Alpine front living model to our Vilano. The Alpine physically had much less storage space so what we brought over initially filled only about 50% of the storage the Vilano offers and we’ve not expanded to fully fill the Vilano storage…it really has a lot of storage and we have everything we need. Our current rule is if something new comes in, something old has to go out. Last year we did weigh our rig and were still well under the rated weight limit and I don’t think we’ve gotten heavier since then.

      3. Our 365RL has the 10″ Lippert I-Beam frame with a MorRyde pin box. No problems or complaints and it’s the best towing 5th Wheel I’ve experienced.

      Best of luck to you and there’s a great Vilano Owners Group on Facebook where a lot of information is shared. I’ve found that they all have some initial issues but I’m convinced none has better customer support then VanLeigh RV.

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