So you’ve decided to buy your first RV. Congratulations! But as you’ve probably already found out, shopping can be complicated. Your choice of where to buy an RV is one of the most important decisions you make in determining what your new rig will be like.
Let’s dive in and take a look at different options and find which works best for you!
Where Should You Buy an RV?
Where to buy an RV is a very personal decision. After all, you’re essentially buying a home – one that not only has to meet your requirements inside but also fits your travel style. You’ll find different kinds of RVs from each type of seller, so consider your budget, needs, and travel style before buying.
Buying From an RV Manufacturer
If you want the absolute newest, fresh off-the-line motorhome or towable, an RV manufacturer is your best choice. These are the newest models available, with modern amenities, finishes, and zero wear and tear.
Now, when we say buying from the manufacturer, you might still have to go through a dealership. Some manufacturers, like Grand Design RV, will not sell directly to the public. But you are still able to order a customer RV through them through an approved dealership.
You can’t get any newer than a brand new RV from the factory. Buying from a manufacturer guarantees you’ll be the first one taking out your new purchase, which also comes with the benefits of a full warranty. This is important, as RVs are complicated, and issues with various systems can emerge once you’re out on the road.
Buying from the manufacturer is also an excellent idea for those looking to create the RV of their dreams. You’ll be able to work directly with the people who designed your rig to customize it to your needs. After all, no one will be more familiar with your RV than the people who put it together.
The peace of mind and potential for customization come at a cost – literally. Buying from the manufacturer can be very expensive. Plus, like any new car or RV, you’ll take a significant hit on the value as soon as you drive it off the lot. But these brand new RVs are still a valuable asset – some worth up to a million dollars or more – meaning it’ll cost you more for insurance each month.
There are often long wait times for custom work, so don’t plan on taking your new rig out on the road anytime soon. And as we mentioned, RVs are complex items – and even manufacturers don’t always get it right! That means you’ll need to keep the “shakedown period” in mind. This term refers to the first few days, weeks, and months you use your RV, where you test various systems and make sure there are no engine issues, leaks, or other problems.
Since you may need to head back to the manufacturer for repairs, many RVers hold off on long trips until they’re confident they’ve worked out these issues.
Buying From an RV Dealer
Dealers will often stock a variety of RV styles, models, and sizes. At some dealerships, you’ll also be able to have your RV serviced and purchase additional equipment or accessories. The dealer usually offers extended warranties on used RVs, just like buying an extended warranty for a used car.
If you’re unsure which RV is right for you, dealerships will generally have many options for you to check out. A dealership will explain every RV model’s features, from monster Class A to smaller travel trailers. This knowledge is essential if you’re buying your first RV.
This variety of options also means you can also get used RVs in addition to new ones, potentially saving you a ton of money. Dealerships can also sweeten your deal a bit with purchase incentives like service packages or interior upgrades.
Though not as costly as buying directly from a manufacturer, dealers can also be a pricier option. After all, you’re paying for your RV, a salesman’s commission, and the dealership overhead costs.
Whether the RV you’re purchasing is new or used, many dealerships will sell them “as-is.” This means they’re not guaranteeing the rig’s condition, and even a problem you notice an hour after leaving the dealership is your problem and cost to fix. Despite the many options available at most dealerships, you’re limited to what the dealer has in stock. Unlike manufacturers, most dealerships don’t have the expertise or workforce to customize RVs.
Buying From a Private Party Seller
Buying directly from a private seller is also an increasingly popular way to buy an RV. Instead of picking up a used RV from a dealership, you cut out the middleman and go directly to the owner.
Private sellers list their RVs through various methods, from newspapers to craigslist to eBay, which means more legwork for you to track them down.
If you’re on a tight budget, you’ll find the best deals from private sellers. By removing the overhead charged by dealers, you’ll save yourself a significant amount. Plus, many private sellers are eager to get rid of their RV due to issues maintaining or storing it or simply because they don’t use it anymore. You’ll also have nearly unlimited options if you’re willing to expand your search nationwide.
When it’s just you and the seller involved in a transaction, you have inherently less security than dealing with a dealership or manufacturer. If things go badly, your options may be difficult or limited. You’ll also need to get an inspection from a reliable inspector or else risk getting a “lemon” RV.
A damaged or poorly built RV can become a significant money pit, turning your would-be great deal into a liability. Making sure your inspector is thorough is also critical. As we’ve said several times, RVs are complicated – and hidden issues can often become expensive ones.
Additionally, with the gaining popularity of RVs, be on the lookout for the latest scams when buying used.
Tips For Buying a Used RV
If you’ve decided to buy a used RV (whether from a dealer or a private party), there are some essential things to keep in mind to make sure you’re getting a good deal. It’s best practice always to have an inspection conducted by an RV Industry Association certified inspector.
The RVIA provides a helpful tool to locate certified inspectors near you. These folks can spot the hidden issues you or other inspectors would miss, helping you avoid problems down the road.
When dealing with private sellers, always do your research. Learn as much as possible about who you’re dealing with and any potential issues. Never wire money or exchange anything of value with a private seller until you’ve seen the RV and the proper paperwork. You should also not accept RV delivery from private sellers, as this can often be a scam.