Buying an RV may not be the largest purchase we make but it is substantial and has the potential for pleasure and regret.
Many RV buyers fall into the same purchase traps, again and again, overpaying, believing a deceptive sales pitch and encountering problems shortly after driving off with their new or new to them, RV. Some think they can avoid these issues by buying new and inevitably discover that brand new units have their own unique issues.
The following 5-rules will help guide you through the RV purchase and delivery process, dramatically improving your odds of it being a positive experience, enabling years of RV fun.
For simplicity, the following is written in terms of purchase from an RV dealer. The same rule concepts apply regardless of the RV is new or used or if purchased from a dealer or private seller.
1. Buy the right RV
Know what you want before stepping on the RV dealer's lot or before looking at used RV sales ads. Different RV formats work best for different people depending upon their unique wants and needs. By identifying your intended use and budget, you are better able to identify the right RV type and size. Someone planning to use an RV mostly for weekend family outings may find a travel trailer with bunk beds suits their needs. A retired couple, hitting the road for coast to coast travel may want a larger rig, such as a 5th wheel trailer or Class-A motorhome.
This is one of the hardest parts of buying an RV, especially if it is your first, but it sets the foundation for all that follows.
2. Know the market value
You should never pay more than the current market value for an RV, but how do you know what the market value is?
"For Sale" ads are one source for this type of information but they show only asking prices, not the actual sale price. It is normal for sales prices to be substantially less than asking. Though no pricing resource is perfect, the NADA Guide (https://www.nadaguides.com/RVs) seems to be one of the better places to get real-life market value information.
The NADA Guide is created using actual sales data provided by RV dealers from across the US. It shows the low and average selling price for just about every year, make and model of RV and reflects regional pricing variations. Specification, including original equipment information, is included to alert you as to the standard and optional equipment.
3. Know its true condition
Buyers expect a new RV to be 100% functional and in prime condition. Used RV seller will tell you the rig is in top condition, with the exception of obvious flaws. And, every dealer will inform you that the RV has been fully inspected. Unfortunately, all of the above are false or greatly exaggerated.
You don't have to look hard to see reports of the abysmal quality of new RVs and how new units have spent more time at the dealer awaiting repairs than in campgrounds. New RVs are not exempt from flaws and with long parts delays, you don't want to be making RV payments and watching your warranty coverage time slip away while your new RV sits at the dealer.
The single most important rule for buying an RV is to have it inspected by a professional independent RV inspector. This applies to new and used. It will cost a few hundred dollars but that cost is less than potential repairs costs and lost time. If it is a used motorized RV, have a licensed mechanic do a complete chassis and powertrain inspection as well.
This will identify flaws, enabling you to have them addressed before you take delivery and potentially enable the negotiation of a lower purchase price.
Before signing any sales agreement, ensure the contract includes "Subject to final inspection." Write it onto the agreement before you sign.
Why should a dealer hesitate accomodating an independent inspection if he/she has nothing to hide?
4. Put it in writing
There is a saying, “If it is not written down, it does not exist.” Nowhere is that more true than in respect to an RV sale.
Promises like "Don't worry, we'll look after you." are broken as often as they are made. If the promise is sincere, why would a seller object to it being added, in writing, onto the sales offer/agreement?
5. Accept delivery only as promised
Most new RVs arrive at dealerships today with faults and dealers often don't address these until after a sale is consummated. The same applies to used RV, with repair items being left until the unit is sold.
Your independent RV inspection (see rule #3) will identify items needing attention. These should be identified in the sales agreement and noted that all must be repaired to the seller's satisfaction prior to delivery. If buying a used RV "as-is" from a private seller, all defects should be noted in the sales agreement to protect the seller from liability and you from misrepresentation.
When negotiating an RV purchase, never be afraid of asking pointed questions, offering too little or walking away from the sale. Walking out the door assures the seller that you are firm and by them allowing you to walk, you are assured that you are near their bottom dollar. Typically, the salesperson will call you a few minutes or a day later to request you return to the negotiation. I have walked out numerous times and I've been called back, in a far stronger bargaining position, each and every time. You can do the same.
Follow these rules and avoid asking later, "How could I have avoided this?"