We wrote these RV buying tips because the buying process can be a relatively good experience if you have done your homework, chosen the right rig for your lifestyle, and are armed with knowledge about the process itself. Some folks we know have likened it to torture. We had quite a different experience. We knew exactly what we wanted in a rig and we knew we wanted a late model diesel pusher. We had researched brands and product lines within brands. After having lived with that first (and only) RV for more than seven years, we are still satisfied with our buying decision.
We were armed with “The RV Buyer’s Survival Guide” by Bob Randall and Mark Polk, and had read it several times. I can’t emphasize enough that this small book is an RV buying “Bible” and is available at amazon.com. The sections on figuring MSRP and understanding trade-in values are worth the $14.95 price of the entire book.
By the time you are ready to enter into the buying process, you should have decided on no more than two rigs, preferably one. You should then only discuss the buying price of that RV. If you have a trade, you must save that negotiation for later. Unfortunately, many RV dealerships use the “four-square” method of figuring a price. They will divide a piece of paper into four squares and one will be your trade, one will be the RV you want, one will be the finance details, and the last will have the final price based on all of those details. Don’t fall for that. If you are asked “How much can you afford each month”, do not answer. Instead, insist on a selling price somewhere between the initial asking price and your initial purchase price based on your homework.
One important RV buying tip is that RV dealerships, like every for-profit business, must make a profit in order to stay in business. They must make money over and above their original purchase price on the unit. My feeling is that five percent is a good figure, considering this will be a major purchase. As the negotiation progresses, you should get to an acceptable purchase price that you are willing to make a buying decision on the spot. After all, you have done a ton of homework to get to this point.
RV Buying Tips for the Trade-in
Then you will have to deal with your trade-in. The best possible solution is to sell it yourself. When you trade at a dealership, you add a middleman, the dealer, who will have to profit from the transaction. That’s more money out of your pocket. You must realize that you will want more than the dealer will give. Here again, homework is key. There are tools available for evaluating the price of used RVs. Remember that the dealer will want to give you wholesale instead of the higher retail value. This is why you want to avoid mixing the rig price and the trade-in price.
So, now you have a purchase price you can live with and there is handshaking all around. Not so fast. We have another RV buying tip. You must demand that this price is only valid upon a satisfactory PDI (Pre-Delivery Inspection). This is a thorough inspection of every aspect of the RV from the roof to the basement, headlights to tail lights. All equipment such as air conditioners, refrigerators and other appliances, slide rooms, driver controls and all water and electric systems must be operated and work as if new. The PDI should be performed on both new and pre-owned units. Some less than scrupulous dealers will try to charge you for this vital service. Don’t fall for that, it’s a deal breaker. You must demand this be put in writing on the purchase contract. If discrepancies are found during the PDI, the dealer must fix them prior to purchase. Once past this hurdle, you have finished the “front end” of the deal.
The Back End of the Deal
Now you are entering the “back end” of the deal. This is where the dealership really makes money. You will be moved to another office to talk with the Finance and Insurance Manager. Are we having fun yet? The finance manager will explain the various means of financing your RV and introduce several banks and finance companies that he works with. Please remember, we are now introducing another “middle-man” into the transaction that will ultimately be paid by you, the RV buyer.Is it time for another RV buying tip?
Part of your homework is to obtain pre-approved financing. Remember that in addition to the price of the RV, there will be taxes and licensing fees. This is also a good time to remember that not all finance companies will loan to full-time RVers without a permanent “sticks and bricks” address. Usually banks won’t, but some credit unions will. This is all part of your advance preparation and RV buying tips.
The next thing on the Finance Manager’s agenda will be the extended warranty. He will have at least one company that will offer several levels of extended warranty coverage on your RV. Because we drive a diesel pusher with lots of on-board electronics and expensive appliances, I recommend an extended warranty. Here’s a must do RV buying tip. Get an Extended Warranty. We are on our second one and we have gotten our money’s worth. There are, however, some considerations. I would also do some homework to investigate several of the warranty companies and compare both prices and coverage. Visit some RV forums and ask about other folks’ experience with different companies. We should have done this, but I didn’t. When renewal time came along, we had done the investigation and I believe we picked a good one.
The Finance Manager will now try to sell you a roadside assistance plan and/or towing insurance. We have found through tough and expensive experience that the best company for this is Coach-Net. They are RV pros. They will also know what equipment is required to tow your particular RV. Next up for the Finance Manager will usually be insurance. Some larger dealerships have in-house insurance agents. Once again, you should have already picked an insurance company for both vehicle insurance and the extended warranty. This is a good time to remind you that not all insurance companies will write coverage for full-timers. At long last you have jumped through all the hoops and are ready to take delivery on your new (to you) RV.
It’s time for another RV buying tip. If you are trading in a rig, there should be a space set aside for that with both rigs side-by-side to facilitate moving all your stuff from one to the other. There should also be an opportunity for a technician to come over to the new rig to explain all the various features and systems as well as point out all the documentation you will receive. You must insist on this step. Spend a night at the dealership so you can then try all this stuff out for yourself. Make a punch list of items for the dealer to fix. Don’t leave the dealership until you are satisfied. This is your last, best chance to get things fixed to your satisfaction. Are you tired yet? Buying a rig can be an exhausting experience, but immensely satisfying if you have done your homework and end up with the RV of your dreams. That’s the reason for RV buying tips.