When Sabrina and I were shopping around for our RV it was easy to find dealers and RV shows where we could walk through various RVs and get a good feel of what it would be like to spend our days in the space. When walking through the RVs, we could tell which brands were using materials of high quality and which ones were not. We were quite impressed by Winnebago and the impeccable fit and finish of the things we could see.
But what about things we couldn’t see? I worked in construction for over a decade and knew the materials we could not see were just as – if not more – important than what we could see. We wanted to know how the wiring and plumbing were installed and we wanted to see the steps taken from a bare bones frame to a finished product.
After a quick search online, we found that Winnebago offered a factory tour in Forest City, Iowa. At this point, we were serious about buying and thought it was a must to find out what went into the construction of the space we would be calling home.
[Note: Photos are not allowed during the Winnebago Factory Tour. All photos of the tour included in this article were provided by Winnebago Industries.]
Factory tour experience
The tour started at the Winnebago Visitor Center where there was plenty of car parking and even RV parking available. You can even stay in one of the complimentary campsites nearby for up to three nights. There is electric at each site and there is a sani station and potable water down the street at Pammel Park if needed.
Free tours are offered twice daily (Monday through Friday) April through October at 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. – except for holidays and the week of July 4th. Reservations are recommended for groups larger than six people, and they ask that you do not wear open-toed shoes. (For contact information and other details, check here: https://winnebagoind.com/company/visit).
When we entered the visitor center to sign up for the tour, we were not expecting a free museum about Winnebago’s fascinating history. We arrived early for the tour and spent an hour and a half in the museum before the tour even began. When the tour was ready to begin, a bus picked us up at the visitor center. Our driver/tour guide greeted us, and we were on our way.
The factory sits on 60 acres, so it’s nice to be shuttled around for the two hours. We were impressed right away with what we saw. We had no idea that so much of the RVs were built in house and by hand. We were also impressed by the attention to detail the employees were putting into their work.
We enjoyed going up onto the catwalks and looking down onto the assembly lines, it really gave us a nice aerial view of the raw chassis coming into the building all the way to the finished ones going out the door. You really have to watch carefully to see them even move as it goes so slow. This tour is exactly what we were looking for!
From up high we could watch the tile installers laying all the flooring down and the cabinets coming into place. We watched them carefully install the windows, add furniture, and we were able to see that the appliances were bolted into steel and the steel studding going into the framework and walls. It really looked like they were building a home that just happened to sit on wheels.
We were glad to learn that our captain’s chairs are bolted to a steel frame rather than a wooden one. Surprisingly, this is not standard with all manufactures. Another thing we liked was that the fresh water and holding tanks were custom made in house and in all different shapes and sizes. Instead of just having a stock rectangle, they are able to make them fit perfectly around obstructions in the build – such as plumbing and support structures – this allows for larger tank capacities than most other RVs.
One of our favorite areas was the Stitchcraft building, we really enjoyed walking through it and being able to touch and see all of the fabrics in their raw form before the seamstresses began turning them into finish products. Prior to this, we thought for sure that pillows, blankets and cushions were something that would have been outsourced.
While on the tour we met a retired couple on the bus who worked in the Winnebago Factory for 30 years and came back to see the tour. They were telling us how wonderful their time was with Winnebago and how much they enjoyed working for the company. I know that does not improve the build quality directly, but I’d like to think that happy employees take more pride in their work than disgruntled ones.
The deciding factor
Sabrina and I really enjoyed our time on the tour and after seeing how the RVs were made, we knew that Winnebago was the right choice for us. We have put over 30,000 miles on our Vista and have traveled all over the country this past year and our coach has been the key to us having safe and fun travels.
If you are considering purchasing a Winnebago, we highly suggest taking this tour to get more insight into what you are buying. And if you already own a Winnebago and have been thinking about taking the factory tour, now is a great time to start planning your trip!
During this year’s Grand National Rally (which begins July 23rd), Winnebago will be offering special building tours including tours of the Cabinet Shop, Chassis Prep & Metal Stamping, Motor Home Assembly, Stitchcraft and Rotocast-Plastics.
Sabrina and I will also be doing a live presentation at this year’s GNR at 9 a.m. on July 24th. We would love for you to come out and say hi and let us know what you thought of the tour.
Also, if you are wondering what else there is to do in Forest City while you are there, we did a short video of where we went after our tour of the Winnebago factory.
We hope to see you this July and wish you all safe travels!