Let's see now...we've owned two different 5th wheels for a total of three years. Of those three years, we've been a member of the manufacturer's "owners club", ours being Heartland Owners Club, for about two and a half. Since being a member, we've attended three National Rallies and three Regional/State Rallies and we're glad we have! We'd like to share 7 reasons why we think you should become members and club participants of your preferred manufacturer's owner's club.
1) DISCUSSION FORUMS - Many manufacturers, like Heartland RVs, have their own discussion forum. Most are private and require you to sign up but once you do, there's usually a plethora of departments and topics in which you, as an owner, can ask or answer. To become a member of the discussion forum, usually, one does not need to be a 'club member', however, after joining the forum, why wouldn't you? Most likely, there has been someone before you with the same issue that you can get an answer quickly. These forums are incredibly important. For one, we aren't bogging down the manufacturer with phone calls 'why is this' and 'where is that' and it's available to you 24/7. There are so many who have troubleshot their own problems with their coaches that they are willing to save you the hassle, money and time by giving their solutions. It is also in the forum that you can get answers if you may be in the market of trading or buying. What better place to get different opinions on different makes, models and floor plans. The Heartland Owners Forum has been instrumental in our quest to get minor repairs completed, ideas for upgrades and then there comes the friendships. We will get to that later in the Rallies section below.
2) RALLIES - Like Heartland RV's, many manufacturer's owners clubs will have an annual or biannual National Rally and to participate in this, most likely, you will have to be a 'club member'. After all, it's an 'Owners Club Rally'...well, unless it's the manufacturer themselves who puts it on, and if it's the manufacturer who hosts the rally, club members are oftentimes, granted early registrations and perhaps a discount on the registration fee(s). Often, they will be near the manufacturer's location. Our first Heartland Owners Club National Rally we attended was in June of 2015 in Goshen, Indiana near Heartland RV's headquarters in neighboring Elkhart. The Club President (title may vary) is usually the one who puts it together with the assistance of the manufacturer and key club leadership. A National Rally lasts approximately three, five, even up to seven days. Let me tell you, a good National Rally will have so much going on that you will barely have enough time to sleep, but fear not, you will get to.
During a jam-packed fun rally, there will be a great assortment of classes and workshops of all sorts; from leading RV component manufacturing companies talking about their products (i.e. Dometic, Lippert, etc.), classes on maintenance of your coach, troubleshooting, renovation or upgrade ideas and lifestyle classes (crafts, jewelry making, essential oils make-n-takes, cooking, etc.). But there's more than just classes and workshops!
Typically included will be an array of vendor tables, albiet RV component manufacturers, RV products and services, and lifestyle products and services (ie. Mary Kay Cosmetics, Handcrafted Jewelry, Essential Oils, Tupperware, crocheted blankets, purses, keychains, etc.).
There might be awesome catered meals. This is usually a great highlight of the rallies because its the precise time members can network with each other. We have met the greatest RVers and people at these and have come home with a handful of travel cards and business cards of peeps we want to follow or network with in the future. There will also be free time where you can branch off with other attendees to check out the local eateries and sights.
Most likely, you'll get to board new(er) models on display. You can see what the manufacturer is doing to improve, add to, take away, etc. in their latest products. Such fun to see the new floorplans too! Its a mini 'manufacturer exclusive RV show'! Most likely, their will be a few of the Owner's Club members who want to show off their coaches interiors, so they may even have a 'Tour of Owner's RVs'. Its amazing to see what others are doing inside and outside of their coach.
Tour of Kelly and Michael Barnett's Heartland Landmark filmed at the 2017 North American Heartland Owners Rally.
A big highlight of the fun-filled National Rally (if held near the manufacturer's facility) is the Factory Tour! This is a must do/see because you, as an RV owner, get to see start-to-finish how your trailer, or similar ones are designed and manufactured. This will give you a better understanding of the engineering, build quality, man hours, etc. it takes to put your RV together.
Oh, and finally, there are 'fun nights' with local entertainment, socializing, cool drawings and give-aways!
3) REGIONAL/STATE RALLIES - These rallies are smaller than a National Rally, larger than a Chapter Rally and usually pack a whole lot in. They generally include one or more class/workshops, have an evening of entertainment, a catered dinner and door prizes. Region rallies tend to be held every other year and cater to members within a geographic region as well as club members traveling in the region.
4) CHAPTER RALLIES - These rallies are smaller than a Region Rally. The venues tend to be smaller and more intimate as well. Chapter rallies generally include a potluck meal, games, campfires and door prizes. Chapter rallies tend to be more fellowship driven. Chapter rallies by far, outnumber other rally types of most clubs.
5) DISCOUNTS - Like most any membership, there may be a manufacturer's 'members only' discount for ordering 'manufacturer only' parts and accessories. There also may be time-sensitive incentives for new product purchases at different times of the year or at rally times.
6) FRIENDSHIP, FELLOWSHIP & FAMILY - Every time we've left a rally, we've felt rejuvenated. You can have the best product out there but if you don't have the comraderie that is put into such venues, you will have just that...a product. The familiar faces we see at each rally reminds us of our own families. As such, many of us full-timers, our club members ARE our family. We share, laugh, cry, encourage and embrace each of them. Seeing them on the road is like a reunion all over again; picking up where we left off the last time we saw them. For us, as full-timers, the HOC (Heartland Owners Club) members who we've bonded with are the heart and soul of RVing. Seemingly, we are always eager to help our fellow members.
Oh, and admit it...you pass another of your same manufactured coach on the road and you give that biker-wave through your windshields. Or, you get a little excited when you're sitting in a campground or park when another RVer is driving in with their beautiful coach or camper by the same manufacturer as yours. Intrigued, you intensely study it to see what floorplan it might be and minutes later, you're dying to see the floor plan or amenities so you log on to the www to look up their model. You are instantly drawn to meet them so you purposely divert your evening walk to their RV to make small talk. Then you find out that they, too, are a member of the owner's club and you're bonded for life. You're then making arrangements or committing to attending the next rallies for a reunion before either of you leaves for the next destination.
7) COST - the cost of a magazine subscription is mostly all that will it will take for you to join most RV manufacturer club memberships. With your membership, you will no doubt, get a packet with all of the informative benefits, decals and/or plates for your RV, and perhaps other swag goodies.
So, there's seven reasons. What's holding you back from joining your RV Manufacturer's Club? You've really nothing to lose and so much to gain! We know clubs aren't for everybody but thinking about the wealth of information alone and the sense of belonging should be your enticing invitation. Some things, you just can't put a price tag on but you sure can show off your club membership decal or plate!