Dealerships and RV Shows: Proven Tips for Buying an RV in 2021

 Dealerships and RV Shows: Proven Tips for Buying an RV in 2021

Are you thinking of buying an RV? If so, it's a good time to dig into some useful tips on buying an RV.

Most RV shows were shut down in 2020 because of the pandemic. RV dealerships, though, were busier than ever with many selling out of existing inventory because of so much demand.

Right now, it looks like RV shows will be resuming right after the first of the year.

And RV dealerships are getting new inventory now almost every day.

So the time for buying an RV is upon us.

What follows will be of immense help when buying an RV. But I have even more help. There s so much involved that we wrote a book about it. If you are plan to be buying an RV in the next year or so, I highly recommend you get my RV Buying Secrets. Following its advice can save you thousands and thousands of dollars!

The 3 places to look when Buying an RV

First things first, you need to understand there are three primary places to look when buying an RV.

  1. From a dealership
  2. At an RV show
  3. From a private seller via a site like RVTrader, eBay, or Craigslist (with a growing number of options, such as OfferUp or RVUniverse)

In this post, I wanted to key-in on the first two options: buying an RV from a dealership or at an RV show.

The first situation we’ll talk about is buying from a dealership.

Buying an RV: Dealerships

Every RV dealer in the country now has a robust website that lists most of their inventory.

Hopefully, you have an idea of the features that most appeal to you. Online you can shop and look at the various floor plans of different RVs and start to get an idea of the average price the dealerships are charging.

I’d start off Googling “RV dealers near me.” Become familiar with their inventory and see what dealer most appeals to you.

Visit a couple of those dealerships if you can. Explain to the salesperson that you’re “Just looking” and don’t feel guilty about taking up their time. This will probably be the largest single expense that you’ll make next to your home and you have every right to take your time.

Insider Tip:

If you’re buying from a dealership our recommendation is always to pick a dealership that is family-owned and that has a long history of being in business selling RVs. There’s something about a family owned business with their name out on the front outside that in our experience results in higher quality and better service.

Their name is on the wall, their family’s reputation is at stake and we have found that family-owned RV dealerships tend to give better deals and better

photo abut things to know when buying an rv
If you’re buying an RV from a dealership our recommendation is always to pick a dealership that is family-owned and that has a long history of being in business selling RVs.

A tip about salesmen: avoid any dealership where the salesman says, “If you buy today and today only, I’ll give you this.” And, I also personally distrust any salesman who says, “What do I have to do to get you to buy today?” You don’t have to buy today! And your trip to a dealer should not result in an impulsive decision to buy right on the spot.

Find a dealership that’s comfortable with you doing some tire-kicking. Look around and when you see a couple that seem to meet your needs, ask the salesman if you can have about 15 minutes alone in it. And sit there, sit in it. Sit in all the different sofas, play with all the different configurations in the bed.

Try it out, see what you think. Will this be comfortable with you? Can you stretch out comfortably in that bed? Does it feel like a place you’d want to spend your time?

Look at the shower. Can you get in that shower and move around? Is it workable? Are you too tall? Whatever the situation is, take a mock shower. Feel how it is moving around in there. Will that work?

Try out the kitchen? How is it laid out? See where the microwave is, where the refrigerator is. Look and see if the refrigerator holds enough supplies for you to be out on the road for several days or a week at a time. Or whether the refrigerator is so small that you need to restock it every day or so.

But after you’ve visited the dealerships, continue your search nationally. Take the models that you’re most interested in and search them on other dealerships.

An image of what shoppers might see when buying an RV.
Don’t be afraid of buying an RV outside of the area where you live.

If you’re looking at Forest River RVs, for example, do a search on Forest River RV dealers and pick several of them in different parts of the country.

Look at their website, see how they advertise and promote the same model. See what prices they charge. This will give you a pretty good idea of what price you can expect to be quoted for the RV you want. Then if you see a drastic difference in pricing, don’t hesitate to call that dealer.

Say, “Hey, we’re looking at this particular model and we want your absolute best price and are you willing to fly us out there if we reach a deal on it?”

I know people who have bought from across the country, have been flown in, and have been able to find exactly what they want on that lot far away and made a deal. Most RV dealers will pay your airfare if you’re willing to buy from them.

Some of them, like our friends at Sunshine State RVs in Gainesville, Florida, will even fly you out to their location and then they will deliver that RV right to your driveway.

Don’t be afraid of buying outside of your area.

While you can usually find a better price outside your area, there are some benefits in buying locally, especially if you’re buying from a family-run business near you.

At the top of those benefits is service. If you’ll be having your vehicle serviced locally that is the question you’ll want to ask your dealer. Can I always get in? How long do you normally make us wait for an appointment? And when you get their answer, hold them to that.

Tell them that service is very important to you (and it should be). But before you buy you want a commitment that they will service what they sell in a reasonable time.

Here’s a little dark secret from the RV industry. There just are not enough service techs out there to meet the needs. Often times RV dealers make potential service customers wait for weeks for an appointment. Particularly if you have not bought from that dealership.

So on the plus side, if you’re buying from across the country you might get a better price. However, the negative side is that you might not get the service that you would really like to have.

Buying an RV: RV Shows

RV shows are held across the country almost every weekend of the year. 

On our RV Lifestyle podcast each week, Jennifer and I close out the segment by listing all of the RV shows that are happening that weekend. Just go to https://rvlifestyle.com/category/podcasts/,  scroll down to the most recent show notes and you’ll always be able to see where the nearest RV show is to you. We also list them in our weekly newsletter (see below).

Find RV Shows in our newsletter

Each Monday we publish the insiders RV Lifestyle Newsletter, where we share weekly articles about RV travel that inspire and inform and always list upcoming RV shows. As soon as you sign up, we'll send you for free the RV travel checklist that we use. You can save it to your computer and print it out for every trip like we do. No more forgetting things!  Plus, besides the insider's newsletter each Monday, you'll get lots of special perks and RV discounts. 
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There are three big RV shows that are national in scope and if possible when scoping out an RV we recommend that you attend one of these three.

The first is in January in Tampa, Florida, called the RV Super Show and it is huge. It’s outside and being outside in Florida in January is a pretty good side benefit. And it usually has close to 1,500 RVs for sale from various dealers. This year, it is scheduled for January 13-17 at the Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa.

The deals you can get at a RV show like the one in Tampa are really astounding. The RV dealerships want to clear out inventory. They bring those RVs to the show and they just as soon don’t want to take them home or if they do take them back to the lot, they take them back as sold. So you can often get better pricing at a RV show than you can by shopping the Internet or doing bargain hunting on your own.

An image about buying an rv at the Florida RV SuperShow in Tampa.
The Florida RV SuperShow in Tampa is great for buying an RV

The largest RV show in the country, or at least that’s its name, America’s Largest RV Show, is held in early September every year in Hershey, Pennsylvania. This  year it was canceled because of COVID but in 2019, they had over 1,400 RVs on display from all the major manufacturers as well as hundreds of vendors selling everything from RV timeshares and campground space to gadgets, gizmos, and appliances to stock up your RV. The Hershey show is one of our favorite and we try to attend it every year.

The third big national RV show is on the West Coast and it is the California RV Show. That is held every October. Again, it was canceled this year. There is some doubt about whether it will continue in its present form in 2021 because its major sponsor dropped out. At this writing, though, there is hope an organizer will stepup and attract new sponsors.

When Jennifer and I visited this show in Pomona, California, it 2019 we thought it was every bit as big as Hershey. In fact, those three shows have vied with each other as to which one is actually the biggest.

To get us all excited about what we’ll be able to see when will RV shows start again, we just finished a really fun video on our RV Lifestyle YouTube Channel showing the highlights of the Big 4 RV Shows (including Tampa, Hershey, and Pomona) and Events. CLICK BELOW to watch it.

The benefit of attending an RV show for an RV shopper is that you get to see all of the different offerings from all of the different manufacturers and hear the deals from all of the different RV dealerships in one outing. In a single afternoon of shopping you can save yourself hours and hours of work by being able to rule out or rule in every different possible model that you can find.

Here’s a caution about RV shows. Watch out for high-pressure tactics, sometimes not so scrupulous sales people working strictly on commission make all sorts of extravagant promises. Double-check them by seeing if those promises are shared by other dealerships and other salesmen.

Use your gut to know whether you’re being pressured or if you’ve found somebody who really wants to put you in the RV that is right for you.

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Dealerships and RV Shows: Proven Tips for Buying an RV in 2021

Mike Wendland

Mike Wendland is a veteran journalist who, with his wife, Jennifer, travels North America in a small motorhome, blogging about the people, places, joys and adventure of RV life on the road at RVLifestyle.com. He and Jennifer also host the weekly RV Podcast and do twice-weekly videos on the YouTube RV Lifestyle Channel. They have written 10 books on RV travel.

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