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5 Reasons to Avoid RV Dealerships

If you’re new to buying an RV, your first thought is probably, “where is my nearest RV dealer?” 

But there are many reasons why buying from a dealer, even though it seems like the easiest option, may not be the best plan of attack.

Buying an RV is stressful. It’s a significant decision and a lot of money! 

And your family is excited and ready to camp NOW. 

rv dealer

Before you make snap decisions, you need to do research into which RV type is best for you. Then you need to get a reasonable price, so you feel OK with your decision using negotiation strategies.

An RV dealer could be your best path forward. However, consider these 5 reasons to avoid RV dealers before you blindly stroll onto the lot!

Cash Isn’t King 

In reality, RV dealers don’t want cash. They make money with financing, which is just easy income to them on top of the initial price paid. 

The tip here is to negotiate, but do not commit to financing or tell them you’re paying cash until the paperwork is delivered. Offering a “cash price” is typically NOT the best price they will offer you, contrary to most people’s thought processes.

However, when buying from a private seller, cash has muscle.

buying from rv dealers
Should you buy a new or used RV? The Millers bought new, and they would do it again.

Your Salesperson May Not Be an RVer (and, have minimal expertise)

Many buyers assume an RV salesperson is an expert. While they may know the specs, there’s a good chance they haven’t gone RVing in years (if ever)! 

Buyers use that salesperson to help them with decisions and information such as how much a rig weighs, their tow vehicle, or how certain features work. 

Many even rely on a salesman’s advice on what size or layout of the trailer they should buy! In reality, most salesmen don’t own RVs, don’t tow, and rarely know how the mechanics and features actually work in the field. 

They’re best trained at getting you to sign on the dotted line.

Dealers Aren’t Incentivised to Offer Deals Now (Unlike Private Sellers Who Need Extra Cash)

Right now, due to the current pandemic, RV dealerships are at an advantage. They have very little stock, because manufacturers were closed down, and many components are from overseas, so RVs can’t be completed. 

This created a shortage of units, while families changing vacation plans to RV travel has increased demand on sales inventories. 

This results in a seller’s market, where prices are higher, and negotiations are less likely to get them to budge on prices.

airstream rv dealer

Immediate Depreciation Driving Off RV Dealer Lot

A big drawback to buying a new RV is depreciation. As soon as you leave the RV dealer lot, your rig is worth significantly less than you paid. 

Sadly, if you decide the RV isn’t the right one for you, you will typically lose a large amount of money trading or selling it, even within a few years. This is why many people prefer to buy slightly used units (from private sellers) and let someone else take the depreciation hit.

RV Dealers Know You’re Excited, They’ll Strike on that Enthusiasm 

Dealers also try to upsell you on additional purchases and add-on accessories. They’re skilled at persuasion techniques. 

Sales reps will often make it sound great to “roll it into your payment” and “it will only be $10 more a month” for add-on accessories that usually cost significantly less outside the dealership.

Many accessories offered at the dealerships aren’t even the best quality brands on the market. Don’t be convinced to purchase last-minute impulse items at the checkout station!

Buying New? An RV Dealer Is The Only Choice.

While looking at rows of shiny new RVs at a dealer is a fun afternoon activity, buying from a dealer, especially in a seller’s market, isn’t the best way to save money.

If money isn’t a concern, or you absolutely need a new RV, an RV dealer will be the best option.

You can always save on camping costs, though! Try free camping in America.

10 Places to Buy an RV that not’s a Dealership

If you’re looking to buy, sell, or rent an RV (Recreational Vehicle), there are multiple alternatives to traditional dealerships. Here are some options to consider:

  1. Online Marketplaces:
    • RVTrader is a well-known online platform where individuals and dealers list their RVs for sale.
    • Craigslist: Local listings often have RVs for sale by owners.
    • Facebook Marketplace: With the growth of Facebook’s buy and sell platform, many people now list their RVs there.
    • eBay Motors: It’s another platform where you can find RVs being sold by both dealers and private sellers.
  2. RV Shows: These events showcase a variety of RV models and are great for getting a hands-on feel of different types of RVs. Dealers, manufacturers, and sometimes private sellers display their vehicles here.
  3. RV Rental Platforms:
    • Outdoorsy and RVshare are peer-to-peer RV rental platforms where individual RV owners list their vehicles for rent. This is like the Airbnb model but for RVs.
  4. Local Classifieds: Newspapers and local classified magazines often have listings for RVs.
  5. Bulletin Boards: Community centers, local grocery stores, or RV campgrounds may have bulletin boards where people post RVs for sale.
  6. Consignment Lots: Some businesses specialize in selling RVs on consignment. This means the business will sell the RV for you and then take a commission once it’s sold.
  7. Auctions: Sometimes, RVs are sold at various auction platforms, which might include repossession sales, estate sales, or general merchandise auctions.
  8. Networking: Inform friends, family, and colleagues about your interest. Someone might know someone else looking to sell their RV.
  9. RV Clubs and Groups: Joining an RV club or group can connect you with enthusiasts who might be selling their RV or know someone who is.
  10. Direct from Manufacturer: Some RV manufacturers sell directly to consumers, bypassing the traditional dealership.

Remember to always do your due diligence when purchasing or renting an RV from any source. It’s essential to inspect the vehicle, verify ownership, ensure there are no liens on it, and understand its maintenance history.

Discover the Best Free Camping in America

To be honest with you, we hate paying for camping. There are so many free campsites in America (with complete privacy).

You should give it a try!

As a matter of fact, these free campsites are yours. Every time you pay federal taxes, you’re contributing to these lands.

Become a FREE CAMPING INSIDER and join the 100,000 campers that love to score the best site! 

We’ll send you the 50 Best Free Campsites in the USA (one per state). Access the list by submitting your email below:

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  1. Mark Luffman says:

    Please write an article on where and how to look for a private purchase of an RV.

  2. Kyle & Olivia Brady says:

    Great idea!

  3. Becky Garrison says:

    I will never buy from a big name RV dealer like Camping World because service after the sale is horrible. If using a dealer, try a Mom and Pop dealer. You can get your RV fixed quickly with them.

  4. Mike Hancock says:

    I would never buy through a dealer. You did miss another method of buying new. Trailers from Casita, Escape (in Canada) And Oliver sell direct from the factory. I have dealt with all 3 and never experienced the “used car salesman” bs that you get from dealers. We like to go to rv shows and eavesdrop on the horrible advice that is being fed to newbies. These guys seem ready to offer 100 year financing on a trailer that won’t last five.

  5. tammy roth says:

    I find great value from buying from my local or semi local mom and pop RV dealership for warranty and service related issues and parts you will have owning a camper and as far as price goes they are willing to match prices options to options minus any games the big internet wholesaler dealerships play (I found out by just asking )…you may think your saving money by buying private party maybe ? But what about things like leaks, soft spots and a a/c problems who do turn to when you find major issues when you go camping your first or second time out?…your local dealership service all their customers first ..
    ..a good salesperson knows their product and inventory and has excellent customer service…someone I can call after the sale…. I’m ok if they don’t have a

  6. David Jones says:

    All this information is great for me. My wife and I have not began or RVing experience yet. Looking at retirement about 2-3 years from now. We want a pull behind RV. I was wondering ang trying to figure out . is it better to buy new or slightley used. I love the information from others who have experience on this subject. RVing is something we want to do with friends. It is an expensive purchase, so the more knowledge I can receive. The better choices we can make.

  7. Arnie Kazdoy says:

    How about an article about where to get potable water. When we use Harvest Hosts or Boondockers Welcome we always fill up our fresh water tank. But there are apps where to go to dump your tanks, is there an app where to get potable water? I cannot find where to get potable water. I’m willing to pay for the water.

  8. C K says:

    Great info. I was wondering where to go to find out the value of my rv if we decide to sell it. Thanks so much

  9. Keith says:

    This must be an old article because the mad rush to buy RV’s is over… now there is a glut of RV’s at dealerships and people who bought during the spamdemic are selling theirs because it’s sitting in the driveway taking up space and getting no use.
    It’s now a buyers market and you can get new RV’s at a cheaper price because newer models are coming out and they still have last years models on the lot.
    And people who panic bought during the spamdemic are selling theirs off just to get them out of the way…

  10. Andrew B. Rawls says:

    After buying a new class B RV, I sold my older one on RV Trader. I got the price I wanted and was pleased with the process. However about two weeks after listing with RV Trader someone sent me an email saying my RV was also listed on eBay for half of what I was asking. I discovered my RV photos were indeed on eBay along with my VIN number but the contact info was someone else in another state. The listing even said the RV was there in the other state. Incredible! I wrote to eBay and RV Trader and even the person who posted the listing. Eventually the listing was marked as sold. I assume the scam worked, the scammer made some money and the listing removed. Based on my experience, I would be very cautious of eBay.

  11. Richard says:

    not so..just traded in our 2020 class C for more than we paid and bought a class A 2023 with a 40% discount off of list..Rv dealers are hurting puppies many have 2022 and 2023 left

  12. Jamie says:

    Avoid Sprad,’s RV in Reno, NV.They are frauds. Sold me an unvetted travel trailer. The AC caught; gas leak in water heater which has to be replaced; leaks, cracks, undercarriage and axel issues; frame issues; leaking fresh water tank, and more. They made an overcharge of $10k, then more on the warranty and financing, then got insurance money from my insurance for fire damage they are responsible for! I am now stuck paying off a trailer worth less than half of the loan amount. Getting service is difficult because I now have to live in it full-time because Sprad’s refused to fix the initial issues. Thank God I took it to a park to test it before hitting the road. I would be dead.

  13. MICHAEL DAW says:

    What a load of crap! If you buy from a dealer you know the RV is free of any liens. If you have a problem the dealer has a reputation to protect. Salespeople won’t last long with no RV experience.

  14. George Dill says:

    Great article guys. Need more of these.
    You forgot to mention that most dealer’s warranties are utterly useless and the service you receive is prioritized by how much you paid over asking price or by the unhappy commotion you stir up in their show room once you return to complain. Did you notice how quickly they shut the soundproof door behind you? Don’t you find it interesting that now that you have an issue your smiling salesmen is out to lunch or suddenly nowhere to be found.
    Don’t buy from any dealer that doesn’t have a service shop on site. A big mistake I made. I was told, if you didn’t buy it from our dealership, you go to the bottom of the wait list on getting things fixed in our repair shop, even if the service shop’s owned by the same company. Six month wait to fix simple problems found in the first two weeks, how convenient. Had to get the issues fixed myself.
    Read carefully all the online reviews about a particular dealership, especially about their service department, before you go shop and get all excited over a particular rig they have in stock – the last one of its kind to be sure. Read between the lines because a few reviewers just like to complain. One bad review doesn’t mean much, similar bad reviews should catch your attention, a lot of bad reviews should have you looking elsewhere. I should have looked elsewhere.
    Check all the reviews, every one of them in as many different places as you can. I should have paid a lot more attention to the service reviews. Paying a little more at a dealership with good reviews, real customer service, and on site quality mechanics is worth more than any discount the underhanded big dealerships can offer you, ANY DISCOUNT.
    Whatever you do, don’t buy an RV on impulse and don’t be in a damn hurry. If they sold it while you were thinking things over, so be it. Believe me, there are plenty more similar models where that one came from and you can always upgrade the tires or paint the rig the color you choose at a later time. Believe me, new or used, you will spend lots of post-sale money after you get your rig to make needed changes, fix existing manufacture design shortcuts, repair poor quality workmanship, or take care of deliberately overlooked screwups.
    I wanted to buy a used rig so as not to get hit with the immediate depreciation but wife wanted a new rig. We waited tell the end of year when new models were coming out. Best time to buy last year’s model. The dollar hit isn’t as bad. Don’t forget, the dealer is selling last years model at a lower price because he knows it has already dropped in value. He’s hoping you haven’t realized although your rig is still considered new, its now a year older.
    No matter which unit you buy, keep in mind, if your not willing to spend two to three thousand dollars each year for routine maintenance and upkeep and from 20 to 40K after the purchase to fix all the design problems you will later find wrong, don’t purchase a new RV. Making personal changes on a used model is a lot less expensive done elsewhere when you consider the money you saved up front.
    Remember the smiling RV salesman that took your calls, even during lunch? Told you how he’d be there for you, look after you. Just pick up the phone and call him anytime. Well my trusting fellow camper, wait until you pay for your rig and drive off the lot. You will suddenly find he is no longer available. He’s probably out enjoying a vacation on the extra thousands he made off you. Try getting ahold of him on the weekend when your generator doesn’t work. Mine wouldn’t even return my call. Funny how quickly their fabricated smile fades with the sunset.
    Before you commit to buy a new rig, verify how forthright a particular dealership really is – take a few days off, yes a few days, and find a quiet seat in their service waiting room with the poor disheartened souls that are sitting around trying to get their rigs fixed. Tell anyone that asks your just waiting for someone. Listen carefully as to how utterly delighted the disgruntled existing buyers are to have purchased their rig from that particular dealership. Listen carefully and let them do all the talking.
    If I had done this with Rec Van I would never have purchased a rig from them, regardless of the sale price. Believe me when I tell you, those grumbling victims in the service waiting room, pick any day, are just the sort of people you want to talk with before committing to purchasing from that dealership. Maybe now that special rig you’ve been eyeing has lost some of the brilliant aura surrounding it. Its hard to accept but let reality slowly sink in. Its better you hear the complaints right from the source. Remember, happy camper, once the smiling salesman leaves the room and the closing rep has taken your money, the service manager will become your next best friend or your worst nightmare. I can’t begin to tell you how important this is.
    Speaking of service: think you had issues while purchasing your RV? Wait until after the dealer’s useless warranty has expired and you have to get things fixed on your own. There are very few shops qualified to work on RV’s and those that do, know your desperate to get it fixed and they’ve got you by the b***s. Better have deep pockets and lots of time on your hands.
    Again, before you walk into any dealership, do your initial research by checking around for the right RV model for your needs, double check all the reviews on that particular unit and find the shops that service that model, then ask the chief repairman about the model you have selected. Don’t be a cheap wad and not offer money for his true opinion. A personal visit during his lunch break or after hours along with a twenty and cold beer will get you results. Any problems he brought up that the smiling salesman forgot to tell you about? It probably just slipped his mind while thinking about that upcoming vacation he’ll be taking at your expense.
    Next, check the dealerships where you can purchase it. Once you have selected the rig right for you, consider all the other factors, size, drivability, upkeep, can your spouse drive it, insurance, and most important parking and storage. “What do you mean it wont fit in our driveway? It didn’t look that big in the showroom.”
    So, you’ve done your research, found a reputable dealership, and you’re ready to bite the bullet. Got your checkbook and anxious to get going, aren’t you? Want my advice? Take a few days off, maybe get away for the weekend. While relaxing, you and your spouse question the reason your making this big commitment. Are you really going to use your new RV or is it just going to sit in your yard after a few trips and simply depreciate? An RV isn’t made to sit, its made to take you places. Would you buy a house to live in only for a few months?
    So you’ve heard enough already, you’ve taken my advice, and you’re ready to commit. Even having done all the above, you can only hope things will go smoothly and you’re getting a good deal on your rig. Remember to get everything in writing up front before you sign on the bottom line. New or used, note everything you spotted that needed attention or repair. Commit to buy, OK, but I wouldn’t give them more than a thousand dollars until they fix everything, period.
    Don’t let the dealer’s closing rep pull any last minute scams on you. They’re good at stringing you along and adding in a few extras while your excited. They make a commission on every overpriced extra they sell. No – you don’t want their damn useless extended warranty for an extra 20K. Remember what you learned while observing those waiting in their service department. What good is an extended warranty with a dealership that has a poorly rated repair facility that don’t care enough to give you good service during the first crucial year? This is where online reviews are worth their weight in gold.
    Now, consider carefully your decision, cross your fingers, purchase your rig using good judgment and savvy, fix it up the way you want, and get the hell out of town and enjoy yourself. What ever you do, take you new rig for a long test run to check out everything inside and outside the rig. I do mean check everything. Look carefully inside every cabinet and storage bin. Check every seam, every fastener you can observe. Run every appliance, read the manuals, and test every feature, even if you don’t intend to use them. Don’t be surprised at what you’ll find. Finding issues in the first trip will get you in for repairs a lot quicker. Do expect to find a lot of small issues. Unfortunately, the quality of work in our country abdicated with the mechanics who used to take pride in their workmanship.
    In conclusion, this is a great article and I commend drivin’ & vibing’ for putting it out. Reality is a hard pill to swallow but in these customer-no-care and buyer-beware days, do your research ahead of time and by all means, don’t be in a hurry. Buying an RV isn’t like picking the perfect mate to go camping with, sometimes more difficult than it might appear, it’s just a recreational vehicle for cripes sake. Yet the large expense requires a sharp mind and total vigilance during the purchase. Do your research, consider all the reviews, consider their service department, use common sense, walk away from anything that smells, and make a conscientious purchase. Then start enjoying the ride.
    Final advice, life’s short and you’re not getting any younger. Now that you’ve finally gotten the rig you wanted, don’t worry about anything else: not the amount you paid for your new toy, how long it will last before something goes wrong, what the neighbor says, what the salesman is doing while enjoying the extra money he made off you, not even how poorly their service department is going to treat you when you finally arrive with your first warranty problem. Don’t think about anything at all but the absolute fun your going to have enjoying your new home away from home while those at the dealership are stuck trying to convince the next unprepared buyer to purchase from them and their service department is trying to convince the latest upset owner that the repair issue in question was caused by something they did.
    Sure, there’ll be a few bumps along the way, you’ll have a a break-down on occasions, you’ll run into some bad weather, and maybe you’ll come across an obnoxious repair facility. Greet all those negatives with a smile on your face and remember why you bought your rig in the first place: a positive outlook on life, the chance to travel and see our country, and the chance to visit and stay in our local state and national parks – my favorite. What more could you want out of life?
    Nevertheless, the enjoyment you receive from your new unit must be worth the price of admission, even if you got it using a scalped ticket.
    In conclusion: Don’t let a bad dealer or experience take away the enjoyment you deserve. If you’ve done your research like I suggested and made the best decisions you could, drive your RV every chance you can. Live your life enjoying the fact that while driving down the road in your new RV, looking forward to your next camping trip, no-one, not the devious dealership, not their lousy service department, not the customer-no-service, not even the unreturned calls, can take that smile away from you unless you let them.
    Good luck with your purchase and happy drivin’ & vibin’
    Signed: GTD, fellow RV owner that wished he had know all this before hand.

  15. Bill Sorenson says:

    This article is total BS! I doubt the author has ever been in an RV, let alone bought one. PROBABLY LIVES IN HIS PARENT’S BASEMENT.

  16. Bill Sorenson says:

    This article is total BS! I doubt the author has ever been in an RV, let alone bought one. PROBABLY LIVES IN HIS PARENT’S BASEMENT.