RV SHOPPING TIPS
RVs (& RV Dealers) Are Not Created Equal!
Here’s a guide to making an informed RV investment decision!
Know what you want. Make a priority list of the characteristics of your perfect RV and be ready to compromise intelligently. The perfect RV rarely exists. Rate each model you are considering against your perfect RV criteria list and pick the best one. This will help you avoid shopping confusion and keep what’s important to you foremost in your mind. Develop an RV Shopping Plan to keep your focus!
Set A Budget. Determine how much you want to invest. If financing, what would you be comfortable investing per month? What would you be comfortable putting down? How long do you want to finance? Determine what works and spend your efforts finding the best possible RV to fit your needs and the budget you would be comfortable with. Remember RV loan interest is still tax deductible for most people as a second home!
Understand that you will need service. ALL RVs will require maintenance. Human beings build all RVs. Mistakes can be made and problems may occur. Be sure you know how service issues will be handled at home and on the road. Ask for a copy of the warranty. It should be in writing and clearly state what is and what is not covered and for how long. It is up to you to know what support you are getting or not getting. Do not make assumptions! The RV industry has many sales focused dealers providing little or no service support. Their buyers become “orphans” with no home base service center and far too often have great difficulty getting help when problems occur. Make a service relationship part of your purchase decision.
Check out the price. Many people pay too much. Always compare to an independent frame of reference such as the NADA RV Appraisal Guide (or at nadaguides.com ). Nearly every dealer has it. Compare new RV’s Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) to the “Suggested List” in NADA. Compare selling prices for new and used RVs to used retail in NADA. To check out trade values and the real price you are paying, compare the trade value to the used wholesale listed in NADA. Ask the dealer to justify any differences and shop elsewhere if he can’t.
Know the Manufacturer. Many manufacturers have gone out of business, filed for bankruptcy, or been sold. Reputations for reliability, design and customer satisfaction vary widely. Make it a priority to check out the manufacturer of any RV you are considering. Sources of information include the Internet, your state Attorney General’s office, the Better Business Bureau, the NADA RV Appraisal Guide, as well as the comments of current owners. Look for a solid track record and financial strength. You want a company that makes a commitment to taking care of its customers.
Check out the Dealer. No product is any better than its dealer. Compare service facilities, years in business, commitment to customers, lines carried, and reputation with RV owners. Some good sources include the Better Business Bureau, the State Attorney General, and current customers of the dealership and the Internet. Look for Factory Trained and Certified RV Technicians; a competently trained staff shows a commitment to success. Consider who owns the company and for how long. This is one way to gauge how likely the current philosophy of business is going to continue.
Pay attention to the details. Get specific about weights, capacities, standard and optional equipment. Every RV has a weight sticker disclosing the unloaded vehicle weight. Know your tow vehicles tow capacity. Know what the RV weighs and how much capacity is left for your gear. Be specific and detailed when comparing RVs. Many RVs look the same but vary widely in optional equipment included. The same model could easily cost thousands of dollars more (or thousands of dollars less) depending on equipment. Be sure you know what you are getting for your money.
If you have a trade, don’t focus solely on trade value. Many people pay too much because they focus most of their attention on the trade value they are getting, instead of figuring out the real price they are paying for the RV. Use nadaguides.com to help determine real prices and real trade values. Try to look at the whole picture, and not just the trade allowance.
Know what kind of orientation you will receive when you pick up your new RV. RVs are too sophisticated for a “here’s the keys” approach. Good salespeople, dealers and manufacturers recommend that you take one to two hours or more to run through the operations of your new RV and learn how it all works. This is a key to reducing future problems and enhancing enjoyment of your new RV.
There is no maintenance – free RV! We don’t drive maintenance – free cars or live in maintenance – free homes. Our RVs are no different. Understand what maintenance is required and when as well as what it will cost. Know what is involved in owning a RV and protecting your investment before you are going to buy. The key to fun RVing is regular maintenance.
Do business where you feel welcome and wanted. How does it feel to be there? Do you get good information? Do they have the facilities and staff to provide the support you need? Are you treated with respect? If you’re not getting treated properly up front, what do you think will happen after they have your money?
Don’t be fooled by the games many dealers play. Learn how to determine the “real” price and avoid all the hype. RV dealers make a profit. They must to stay in business. They can’t sell below cost. They can’t give you a trade value above what you paid for it. Dealers buy at wholesale and sell at retail. Period. There is no magic way around this fact. The reality is the extra trade value or the big discount is a “fudge factor” added to the price. No one really pays manufacturers suggested retail price. Everyone gets a discount. This “factor” would have been taken off the list price to get to the “real” price anyway!