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The Pros, the Cons, and the Truth About RV Dealerships

The Pros, the Cons, and the Truth About RV Dealerships

Whether you are a seasoned RVer or a first-time buyer, understanding the ins and outs of RV dealerships can help you make an informed decision when purchasing your next RV. Knowledge could save you thousands of dollars or from experiencing buyer’s remorse. Today, we’re looking at the pros and cons of purchasing from an RV dealer and the truth behind some common misconceptions.

Let’s jump in!

What Is an RV Dealership?

An RV dealership is a business that specializes in selling recreational vehicles, also known as RVs or campers. These are vehicles for camping, travel, and other recreational activities. However, we also see people use them for full-time traveling and living.

In addition to selling campers, many dealerships provide financing options, rentals, parts, and accessories. Many locations also offer maintenance and repair services to get you back on the road and storage options when you’re not using your rig. 

You can find RV dealerships nationwide, and they can be valuable resources when shopping for a camper. However, not all dealerships are equal. Some deliver a better experience than others.

WATCH before stepping into an RV Dealership! Avoid regrets!

What Is The Biggest Chain Of RV Dealers?

The title for the largest chain of RV dealers goes to Camping World Holdings. They manage more than 250 dealerships throughout the United States. David Garvin founded the company in 1966 in Bowling Green, Kentucky. However, it’s grown into a massive dealer network in the camping industry. They aim to offer a one-stop-shop experience for almost anything related to campers.

Camping World competes with brands like Lazydays RV, General RV Center, Blue Compass RV (previously RV One Superstores), and Campers Inn. However, there are also many smaller, family-owned dealerships. Some people find the personal touch of a local or small business more appealing than prominent corporate locations.

How To Find a Good RV Dealership Near Me

Finding an RV dealership near you can be as simple as searching for “RV dealer” in your map app of choice. Depending on where you are looking, you may have one or many options available to you. More populated areas tend to spur more competition. You may need to travel to find the right RV dealer or the right RV.

We’ve personally purchased only two of our four RVs from an RV dealership, and we traveled out-of-state both times in order to find the RV we wanted. Sometimes the closest dealership isn’t necessarily where you’re going to find your perfect RV.

Finally, you’ll want to find one that has good reviews. Looking at Google or Facebook reviews can help determine if they are reputable and give you a sense of their customer service mindset. While every RV dealership will tell you they focus on customer service, it just takes reading several reviews to validate their claim.

While on the hunt for the perfect camper, an RV dealer can help.

Pros of RV Dealerships

RV dealerships offer several benefits that make them easy to consider. From giving you the invaluable opportunity to get on board many RVs in quick succession to hone in on what you like or dislike to providing financing options to get you out camping as soon as possible, there are some perks. Let’s consider why it might be worth giving a dealer a shot for your next purchase.

Wide Selection of RVs

One benefit of an RV dealership is its wide selection. More prominent and established locations will offer more variety than smaller or family-owned operations. Not only will they provide different types of campers, but also different brands. This is also where you will find new models that you can tour anywhere besides the factory. This can be invaluable for making a decision on an RV type or floor plan.

The more options you have, the more likely you will find something that meets your needs and fits your budget. If you’re unsure of what you’re looking for in a camper, a dealership can be an opportunity to see different layouts, floorplans, and available options. Not only can you see them in person, but you can touch and feel the differences from one rig to the next.

Rent-to-own RVs on sales lot
RV dealerships offer a wide range of RVs and financing options to help you make buying your dream RV an easy process.

Financing Available

Unfortunately, buying an RV these days is a significant investment. Luckily, purchasing through a dealership can allow you to use their financing options to help make your camping dreams come true. Dealerships often work with consumers to find financing options that meet their needs.

This area is where more extensive dealership networks tend to outperform family-owned operations. Because they deal in higher sales volumes, they’re more likely to offer promotional deals or incentives on financing. However, it’s crucial to recognize that they’re not doing this for free. Offering financing options to consumers is very lucrative for the dealership, and you must always read the fine print to make sure you’re not getting ripped off.

Pro Tip: Save time counting your dollars and cents to buy your RV and use our guide on How to Finance Your Camper With an RV Loan.

Service Departments

An inevitable part of RV ownership is that something will eventually break or require maintenance. As a result, some dealerships offer service departments to help address these issues. Here you’ll often find trained professionals with experience with various models and issues related to campers.

These service departments often work directly with manufacturers. This relationship allows them access to genuine parts instead of gambling with after-market options. While fees can be pricey, many service departments can help ensure the longevity and performance of an RV.

Some RV dealerships only service customers who bought RVs from them. Sometimes, this can help with shorter wait times for getting work done.

Cons of RV Dealerships

While there are many things to love about RV dealerships, there are also some negative aspects to consider. From pushy sales tactics and higher prices to unknowledgeable salesmen, we sometimes feel like RV dealerships are more hassle than they’re worth.

Let’s take a look at some of the cons of these locations.

Dealer System Adds Middlemen

Many RV manufacturers only sell through dealers, and not all dealers work with all brands. This means two things for you, both involving a middleman. First, the only way to buy a new RV specific to your choices is to work through a middleman dealer who then places your order with the manufacturer. This inherently delays communications and complicates the process more.

Secondly, since not all dealers work with all manufacturers, you might need to go to another dealership to see the brand of RVs you really are interested in. Additionally, orders and delivery will only go through those dealerships. So, for example, if you want to order an Outdoors RV and you live in Detroit, Michigan, your closest dealer is in Omaha, Nebraska.

Sales Tactics

One of the most significant cons of RV dealerships is the sales tactics that some will use. The dealer can play mind games with shoppers to pressure them into buying an RV. They often disguise these tactics as limited-time offers, special deals, or falsely representing the supply to create a sense of urgency for the shopper.

Dealers know that consumers tend to make poor financial decisions when they decide quickly. While a sales team member may appear to be the consumer’s new best friend, they typically have selfish motives. It’s not uncommon for these tactics to lead to customers feeling frustrated, confused, and even taken advantage of while shopping.

Pro Tip: Don’t let a slimy salesman stop you from getting a good deal! These are 5 Ways the RV Salesman Is Ripping You Off.

Don’t let salesmen pressure you into deciding too quickly which RV is the right one for you.

Increased Prices

Another strike against RV dealerships is that their prices tend to be higher than purchasing from a private party. They’re a business with salaries, bills, and other expenses. They typically offset these expenses by charging premium prices or adding additional fees. Unfortunately, some will fail to disclose or mention these fees until you sit down with the financing department with a pen.

The advertised price is typically the manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP). It’s not easy to know what the dealer paid, but it’s safe to say it’s significantly less than whatever you’ll be paying. We’ve heard of some consumers negotiating deals as much as 20% to 30% below the MSRP. A consumer’s ability to negotiate depends on the dealership and market conditions. It also depends on your willingness to walk away from a bad deal.

Unknowledgable Salesmen

This is our least favorite thing about RV dealerships. While some dealerships hire experienced and knowledgeable individuals for their sales staff, you may be surprised to know that’s not always the case. For some sales staff, selling RVs is nothing more than a paycheck. The RV dealer may have limited knowledge and zero real-life camping or RVing experience. This can result in the shopper receiving inaccurate or incomplete information.

This trend can become especially dangerous regarding towing. Some salesmen will say almost anything they can to close a deal, including selling you an RV your truck can’t safely tow once it’s fully loaded. They won’t be the ones trying to haul or stop a camper that may be over their vehicle’s towing capacity. Unfortunately, selfish motives can put consumers and others on the road in jeopardy.

Chances are, and especially since you’re here reading this (thank you!), you’ll be far more knowledgeable than the salesman about any RV you’re looking at. Many of the questions you know to ask will be answered with “I’ll have to check on that,” which will be used to hook you into the sales office. You’ll know right away if the person you’re talking to is going to be any help at all. If they aren’t, don’t be afraid to ask for someone else who can answer all of your questions.

Frequent Turnover of Workers

Many RV dealerships experience a constant turnover of workers. This turnover is especially true since camping is a seasonal activity for much of the country. As a result, the longevity of workers is relatively rare. This can lead to a lack of continuity and consistency in customer service.

Unfortunately, this also makes establishing relationships with salespeople or service technicians challenging. Many workers will jump ship or move on to other careers as soon as possible. A constant influx of new hires can result in employees who are unfamiliar with the dealership’s RV models, policies, or procedures.

Pro Tip: Sometimes, you may feel like you have to buy an RV sight-unseen. We’ve got some tips and tricks to use to make sure you don’t get taken for a ride.

Motorhomes at RV dealership
Not all RV dealerships are created equal, so be careful when deciding where to shop.

The Truth About RV Dealers

The truth about RV dealer companies is that they’re an inevitable part of the industry. Only a handful of manufacturers sell directly to consumers. As a result, consumers have no choice but to go through a dealer if they want to purchase a new camper. So, love or hate them; they’re not going away soon.

Our personal preferred method is buying used from a private party, as you usually get a better price and you get to talk to someone who is actually knowledgeable about the vehicle’s history. However, this isn’t always possible in order to get the RV you really want.

Many consumers errantly rely on the dealer to educate them. While the sales team can make general assumptions, they won’t have the entire picture. Shoppers can do themselves a favor by gathering as much information as possible before stepping on any sales lot. Don’t let the unbiased opinion of a salesperson sway or impact your decision.

Don’t let the RV dealer fool you; they’re moving on to the next customer as soon as possible once you sign the papers. While they may have responded quickly to text messages, emails, or phone calls, that will not likely happen when something goes wrong. It would be best not to depend on a dealer after the sale. Make sure they answer any questions you might have before towing your new rig off their lot. 

On the plus side, if you walk into a dealership armed with knowledge and a firm stance on when you’re ready to buy, you’ll likely have a good time. Touring RVs is fun! And even though you can watch tours on YouTube, nothing beats actually stepping inside the model and floor plan you’re considering to confirm your decision.

Pro Tip: RV dealerships aren’t the only places you get to tour lots of RVs. Check out these huge RV shows where you can literally walk miles through the brand new models!

Should You Purchase from an RV Dealership?

Purchasing from an RV dealership is often unavoidable, especially if you want a new camper or a specific used model. However, it’s crucial to remember that you’re under no obligation to purchase from a specific dealer. Don’t think you’re committed to buying a camper just because they give you water and snacks or spend hours showing trailers. Take your time, consider your options, and research to find the right dealership for your needs.

Will you purchase your new RV from a large dealership or a smaller, family-owned location? Tell us your thoughts in the comments!

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About Mortons on the Move

Tom & Caitlin Morton of Mortons on the Move gave up the stationary life for one where they are constantly on the move. They are full-time travelers, television hosts, and digital media producers.
They left their jobs, sold their house and possessions, and hit the road in September 2015 in their full-time “home on wheels”. Since then they have traveled the US, Canada, and even internationally by RV.
Now, they are Discovery Channel & PBS TV Co-stars of The RVers, producers of “Go North” on Amazon Prime, co-founders and instructors of RV Masterclass, and contributing authors for and an Arizona travel guide.

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