HOW TO BUY THE RIGHT RV: CHOOSING A DEALER
Purchasing from a dealer doesn’t guarantee positive results. You could purchase the best-made RV in the world from a poor dealer and have a terrible experience and conversely you could buy the worst RV in the world from a great dealer and be very happy. The dealer is the key to your experience as an RV owner. You must determine what the dealer is doing for you. If the dealer sells you an as-is basis with no check or prep, you are getting very little benefit.
Identify a Quality Dealer
Consider all facets of the organization in choosing a dealer:
How long has the dealer been in business? How long under the current
management? How long has the dealer carried the product you’re
History simply gives you a feel for the experience level and staying power of the dealership. It can also give you a clue about how it is to do business with them.
How do the dealer’s current and past customers feel about them? Is the
dealer involved in the community? How do the employees feel about the organization? Do they stand behind the products they sell and solve
customer problems? Is it a good place to do business?
Any dealer with a reasonably long history should have lots of prior customers and therefore many sources for reputation verification.
How committed to the RV business is the dealer? Is it a sideline or the main event? How committed to the product you want to buy? Is this the dealer’s main brand or a filler product? How likely is the dealer to continue carrying your chosen product line?
Many dealers have more than one business. With other income sources to rely on, it can be less important to take care of the RV business. Even dealers with a solid commitment to RVs may be carrying numerous brands; and may be spread very thin on training, RV inventory & availability, parts inventory & availability, service capability & know-how, and detailed product knowledge. Still, other dealers change brands often—just to have their perception of the “hot” product. Some change so often it’s hard to tell what they’re selling this month.
Just as in health care, specialists have a higher level of expertise. You wouldn’t trust a heart condition to a general practice physician, would you? Of course not. You’d choose the best specialist you could find. Why not choose the best-qualified, most knowledgeable dealer “specialist” for your RV dealer?
Does the dealership have the capability to service your chosen RV? Are there adequate service bays, tools, and parts on hand?
Sadly, most RV dealers view service as a loss or, at best, a necessary evil. Selling the RV is the easy part. Providing quality, timely service is the real challenge. It takes a serious financial commitment to facilities to come close to meeting the demand for RV service. To judge commitment to service, a dealer should have no less than one service bay for every forty RVs sold each and every year.
How does it feel to be there? Do you feel invited and welcome? What are the dealership goals with respect to its customers? What is most important to them?
Some dealerships believe they don’t have to worry about repeat business. Some believe service and ownership experience doesn’t matter. Despite a long list of unhappy RV buyers, they continue to sell more, all the while ignoring customer’s problems. As in any business, RV dealers are not all the same. Choose a dealer with goals and practices that are consistent with your own. Look for guiding principles or a mission statement for the company. Be sure the dealer you choose is consistent with your RV ownership goals.
Who runs the company and how long have they been doing it? Is there a major investment in facilities and inventories or could they be gone tomorrow? What are the chances they will be here in ten years selling the same brand you’re considering today?
If you’re banking on the benefits of buying from a dealer, be sure the dealer will be around to provide them. Many older RV dealerships are
facing succession issues as the primary management gets ready to retire. These issues can threaten the existence of even strong companies.
Are they well trained? Do they care about you as a customer? Are there on-going training programs? Are they friendly? Are technicians certified?
As in any endeavor, it’s the people who truly make the difference. Training is critical. All people make mistakes. Learning from them and continually improving prevents repeated problems. The effort of on-going training is a sign of concern for the well-being of the customers they serve.
What do they do for their customers? How does the dealer educate its customers about RVing? Are the hours convenient? Is service available? Can you call with a question and get an answer? Do they stand behind their word and their work? What is their warranty policy?
Think about how you want to be treated in all situations and be sure you deal with an organization that measures up to your standards.
Use the Dealer Interview Sheet on the next page to help you choose the best dealer to work with. Don’t buy from any dealer without completing the interview. Use the dealership index on the following page as a
measuring stick for comparison shopping.
“No product is better than
the dealer you buy it from!”
DEALER INTERVIEW QUESTIONNAIRE
Use this interview sheet to help shop for the right RV dealer.
Remember-No product is any better than the dealer you buy it from.
1. How long is your company in business?
2. How long under the current management / ownership?
3. Give me a brief history of your company with the product I’m considering. Years representation, service, etc.
4. What kind of preparation and checkout will my new RV receive?
5. What is your orientation process for new owners to get familiar with their new RVs?
6. What additional items will I need to go RVing? Are they included? If not, what is the additional cost?
7. What are your service capabilities? Could I see the facility? How long does it take to get an appointment
scheduled? What are your service hours? Saturdays? Evenings?
8. Are your technicians certified? By what organization? How are they trained? How often?
9. Please explain any warranties or guarantees that apply to the product I am considering. Are they in writing?
Can I have a copy?
10. How do I get service when I’m traveling far from home?
11. Do you offer any education programs for owners or prospective owners to learn more about RVs?
12. How do I get satisfaction if I am not happy with your service or product? What if the manufacturer falls short on support? What help can I expect from you?
13. Notes & Comments:
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