RV Dealers and You:
How to Choose the Right Dealer
(and why it’s so crucial)
Buying an RV is easy, right? You just go to your local dealer’s lot, take a look around at the inventory, and then…
Stop right there. You’re already in trouble, and you don’t even know it.
Choosing the right dealer is actually one of the most crucial parts of buying an RV. You’ve probably never heard this anywhere else. In fact, in all the RV books and magazines I’ve read, I’ve never seen this mentioned anywhere.
But that doesn’t make it any less important…
Here’s why selecting a dealer is so vital.
First of all, you want a dealer that carries the types of RVs that are best suited to you. Many dealers specialize in one type of RV (travel trailers, fifth wheels, motorhomes, etc.), or only carry a couple of brands.
Obviously, when you step onto the lot, the salesmen will try to sell you whatever they carry. If they don’t have the type or brand that you originally had in mind, so what? You’ll soon be told that the RVs you originally wanted were actually a terrible choice for you. On the other hand, whatever RVs they carry will be just perfect for you.
Second, the dealer’s sales methods are very important.
In years gone by, RV dealers were mostly passionate RVers themselves, or at least they’d grown up in a camping family. Often you’d deal directly with the owner, and seal deals with only a handshake.
But those days are, for the most part, gone.
For years now, RV dealerships have been consolidating. Larger dealers now dominate the industry. This not only means that friendly, personal service is much harder to find, but it also means that more and more owners are approaching their dealerships purely as a business, and no longer as a passion. This isn’t necessarily bad, except that…
Auto-Industry Sales Tactics Have Spread into the RV World
If you’ve ever worked in the car business, you know that there’s an army of consultants and other “sales professionals” who cater to auto dealers. They’ve developed an arsenal of sophisticated sales tactics – tactics designed to squeeze every possible nickel out of each unsuspecting person that walks onto the lot.
With 400,000 RVs sold by the factories each year, the auto-sales training industry has woken up to all the money available in the RV world. Now these consultants are pitching their services to RV lots all over the country – including your local dealer.
Every year, more RV dealers succumb to these pitches. And every year, more dealers start adopting these high-pressure, and in some cases deceptive, auto sales practices.
So another reason for carefully selecting a dealer is to make sure you won’t be the victim of these auto-industry tactics. But there’s still one more reason you want to select a good dealer…
You Want to Have a Good Dealer
After You’ve Bought the RV
The RV industry doesn’t like to admit this, but it has a serious quality problem.
That’s not to say that every RV has problems, of course. And I’m happy to report that in many cases, the RV manufacturers are working on this. But there are still more problems than there should be.
In theory, each RV should be defect-free when it’s shipped from the factory. In practice, the factories often ship their products with known problems, expecting the dealers to fix them.
So you need to ensure your dealer has a competent service department that can fix these problems properly. You also want a dealer that’s honest enough to fix the problems instead of just covering them up (yes, this really happens).
All this happens before the sale. But what happens after the sale is just as important.
You want your RV to last you for many happy years of traveling. However, just like any other vehicle, your RV will need frequent service and maintenance to stay in top working order.
This is where picking the wrong dealer will make your life miserable. The dealer you bought from will be the one responsible for fixing any problems you experience while the coach is under warranty. Even after the warranty runs out, you’ll probably get the fastest service from that same dealer.
(Thanks to a shortage of technicians, most dealers have backlogged service departments. And dealers give the highest priority to customers that bought from them. So if you go to a dealer other than the one you bought from, you’ll probably have a long wait for service.)
Naturally, this means you need a competent, honest service department at the dealer you bought from. But not all dealers are both honest and competent. Many are neither, in fact. There’s a long list of stories every year from RVers who’ve had to wait months for basic service… or who’ve had to bring the coach into the dealer multiple times for the same problem.
Too many RVers don’t see these problems coming until they’re stuck in the middle of them. And by then, it’s too late.
Don’t be stuck in one of these horror stories.
Make sure that you buy from a competent, honest dealer.
How can you tell one from another? Several ways. First, do an internet search on the names of the dealers in your area. You might be surprised at what you find.
(For example, one of the biggest dealers in my area has at least two separate web sites about him, written by angry customers warning others not to buy an RV there.)
Second, go to your local RV parks. Ask all the RVers there who they bought from, and what they think of the service they’ve received, both before and after the sale.
You’ll hear all sorts of experiences, both good and bad. Consider them all as you make your decision.
Forewarned is forearmed
At the beginning of this article, I mentioned that few RVers are aware of how important the RV dealers are. (You’re now one of the few who knows!)
So how did I learn about this part of the buying process? I heard all this from an RV dealer with 35 years experience, who gave me all the “inside information” about the industry.
I interviewed him on the phone for over three hours, draining him of information on the RV buying process. He told me step-by-step how to get an RV close to, or in some cases even below, dealer cost. Best of all, I recorded the entire conversation. Click here if you’d like to “eavesdrop” on the call.