How to Shop for an RV Like a Pro

The weather outside doesn’t scream camping right now but the 2019 RV shopping season is about to officially kick off. RV Show season is beginning in Michigan and it’s time to think about what you’ll be camping in this season.

When we started shopping for our RV, one of our biggest questions was, “How we be sure we’re buying the right camper at the right price?” We want to help you answer that question.

We talked to Ben Hopkins, Sales Manager at General RV’s Wayland location to get some tips from the other side of the shopping experience. And, we added a few tips from our experience purchasing three campers in the last five years!

Find the Right Floorplan

According to Ben, the most important decision in RV shopping is the floorplan selection. Really think about how you plan to use the RV to make sure you pick a floorplan suited to your needs. We found it was really helpful to do some research on this online through manufacturer and dealer websites before visiting the RV dealership.

Before our last RV shopping trip, we made a checklist of “must-haves” and “nice to haves” for our new RV. We used the list to narrow down our RV choices when we started looking at manufacturer websites to see what was available. This list also helped us narrow which manufacturers to research because some simply didn’t offer a floorplan that would work for our family.

Here’s an example of a few “must-haves” we identified for our camper:

  • Fifth wheel, less than 35ft in length
  • At least one slideout
  • Room to sleep three growing kids (at least two bunks, preferably three)
  • Separate clothes storage for our kids
  • Functional clothes storage for us (not JUST a closet)

The list was also really helpful when we started touring campers at the dealership. There are so many cool RVs out there that it is really easy to get distracted by the new features and pretty accents and lose track of what you really need.

If you don’t have time to do the research before you shop, Ben told us he trains his sales team to ask LOTS of questions to help you select the right floorplan. Expect questions about your cooking preferences, number of people sleeping, and how often you plan to use the RV.

Know What You Can Tow

Save yourself the heartache of falling in love with 40 foot fifth wheel your F150 will never be able to haul! Ben told us that one of the first questions his sales staff will ask is the towing capacity your towing vehicle offers. Each truck is unique so it’s important that you research and find information about your EXACT vehicle.

Here are a couple resources to help:

Ben says if you have any doubt, call your local dealership’s service department. Providing your vehicle’s VIN number will get you the information you need. I’d recommend having this in hand before you shop. You’ll totally impress your sales person!

Set a Budget

Before you head out to look at all of the beautiful RV options, do some serious thinking about how much money you’re really willing to spend.

It’s so, so easy to spend more than you want on an impulse when you’re standing in a dreamy RV. Being open about your budget will also help your sales rep determine which models are in your range and show you only those you can afford.

We found that many RV sales reps preferred to give us pricing of the “per month” variety. We knew what we were willing to spend per month but we also wanted to be comfortable with the entire price because we plan to pay off our loan as soon as possible. Don’t be afraid to ask for the total price. After all, you’re responsible for paying the WHOLE loan.  

And, if you need a little more time to think about it that’s okay! This is a BIG decision. Ben told me that purchasing an RV is the perfect combination of right RV, right time, and right price. Be honest with yourself if now just really isn’t the right time.

Shop for the Best Deal

We’ve been to several RV shows and have always rolled our eyes when we hear the sales reps telling people the show prices are significantly better than any other time of the year. I asked Ben about this in particular because I was curious if this is a sales tactic or if it really is the best time to get a deal.

Ben says that RV shows typically are when they’re offering the lowest prices because they negotiate additional rebates on their show models with manufacturers. Dealerships pay significant fees to be at the RV shows so they’re motivated to sell as may RVs as possible to meet their goals.

If you’re not shopping at a show, we recommend calling several dealerships to compare pricing. Each dealership has different circumstances so it’s possible you may be able to find a dealership willing to go lower on price.

But, remember that if you have any issues down the road, you’ll have to work with that dealership for service. Ben told us that General RV offers a “Keep You Camping” program which basically means they’ll do whatever they can (including pulling parts off RVs on their lot) to fix camping-critical issues as soon as possible since ordering new parts can often take several weeks.

Find a Sales Rep Who Gets You

It’s important to be comfortable with the sales person you’re working with to find and purchase your new RV. We’ve experienced issues in the past where we just weren’t on the same page with our sales person. We didn’t know what to do so we left the dealership.

I asked Ben what people should do in this situation and he said, “It is 1000% okay to ask for a new sales person”. While it might be a little awkward for you, Ben says he trains his staff to deal with issues like this and that his staff is always okay finding you someone else to work with.

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