Are you confused by what questions to ask a dealer when shopping for an RV? If you said “yes” it’s ok, because that’s how my husband and I felt when we were shopping for an RV.
We were to totally new to RVing, as-in, “we had never stepped into an RV” kind of new. We thought that browsing at dealerships might better educate us before buying. But starting your research at a sales-lot when you are that new to RVing, is almost the equivalent of being dropped in the middle of the ocean without a life vest.
There are so many RVs to see, and after a while you feel like you’re gulping mouthfuls of information. What started out as an exciting day, can turn into a desperate scramble for the shore (your car) for safety.
You should at least go with some high-level questions to keep you focused on the priority items. Use the following questions to get your feet wet before wading deeper into the surf. You don’t want to get swept out to sea and end up with the wrong purchase.
1. What type of RV fits your needs?
Before going to a dealership, at least think about what kind of RVing you’d like to do. My husband and I thought we wanted a Class C RV, around 25’ feet. But as we started shopping for an RV, we realized that we didn’t know why we wanted a Class C, other than it seemed easier to drive than a Class A.
We hadn’t clearly thought about what kind of travel we wanted to do before shopping for an RV. This is important because the salesperson should understand your vision, so he or she can steer you in the right direction. If you are unclear about what kind of RV you want, check out this article about why you should rent an RV before buying one.
We decided that our vision was to live and work in our RV full-time. We didn’t own a large truck and had no intention of buying one. After sharing this vision with the salesperson, we were able to open our minds to a Class A coach, which was a much better choice for us.
2. What Brands does the Salesperson Recommend and Why?
If you are new to RVing it might not occur to you how important this is. Of course, your budget may dictate which brands are available to you, but if you have a price-range, or if you are willing to buy a used RV, you may have more brand options.
There is a variety of quality and service from each manufacturer. For example, some specialize in higher-end interiors, some put emphasis on good service after the purchase, and some brands have a large dealer network — making getting it serviced more convenient.
Decide on your priorities and then ask the dealer which brands match your needs.
3. What comes standard with the RV?
After you figure out what you need and want, start to narrow down your top two-three RVs. Then, make sure you know what’s included. If you plan to purchase the model on the lot, then what comes with it might seem obvious. But be sure to get the list of features to confirm what’s included.
If you are ordering a coach or having one delivered, then it’s even more important to have the features list. My husband and I made this mistake on a seemingly small item — the passenger side sun shade. We had been in so many models that had one, we assumed it came standard. But our particular model didn’t come with one.
This was a shocker! We’d have to order one from the manufacturer and have it installed (ok yeah, I guess we could have done it ourselves). We still have yet to order and install the shade. Instead, it’s just easier to be grilled by the sun and quietly fume about it, while my husband drives in a nice cool seat.
4. How much does it cost (really)?
If you are familiar with RVing, you’re probably like “duh!”. But if you are new, it’s more like “huh?”. You might think, “but the price is right there on the sticker…isn’t it?”.
Nope. That’s a ruse.
That’s the Manufacturer Suggested Retail Price, which the dealer often changes. An entire article could be written about this subject, since there are many factors that go into how the dealer prices the coach and how much wiggle room there is to negotiate. But we’ll save that for another post.
Once you know which coach you want, ask the dealer for the best price. Then, do your research to determine the market price. To be fair, a dealer might not offer you the best price until you are serious about purchasing the coach, and at the negotiating table.
5. What does the warranty include?
If you buy a new or used coach from a dealer, a warranty should be included. Be sure that you are very clear on what the warranty covers, and for how long. Then, you should decide if you need an extended plan as well, to cover things outside of the standard warranty, or once it expires. We purchased an extended warranty, and thank goodness because we’ve learned that repairs are a constant part of RV life.
6. What are the dealer and manufacturer service levels?
This might not occur to you if you are new to RVing, but it’s important to ask the dealer what kind of service level they guarantee after you buy the coach. This could range from how they care for the coach after the purchase, to how quickly will they repair the coach if an issue arises within the warranty period, or even beyond.
We learned that not all dealers are created equal after you buy a coach. On our coach’s maiden voyage to Parker, Arizona, there were terrible scraping noises and violent wind gusts rocking us. We discovered that the slide slid out about three inches — super dangerous! We assumed that the dealer would be horrified and want to help us immediately.
Not so much. It was going to be three weeks before we could even get an appointment. That didn’t even include the additional time if a new part needed to be ordered. We were leaving in two weeks for a year-long journey, so I begged the dealer to help us sooner. They eventually did, but it wasn’t a pleasant experience for anyone.
7. Are there any dealer perks?
Perks can be a huge money saver! Our dealer offered a one-year membership to both Thousand Trails and Colorado River Adventures. This was one-year of FREE camping in a number of places, which saved us hundreds of dollars. If you work those programs right, you could even save more than that. Perks like this can be a good way to offset other costs when shopping for an RV.
RV Shopping Can Be Fun!
Shopping for an RV at a dealership can be really exciting. Dealers are very helpful, but the experience can also be overwhelming if you don’t ask the right questions. Use these questions to help you navigate the waters of your RV purchase, and your experience will feel like floating on a calm summer ocean. Check out the rig we ended up with on our site More Than A Wheelin’.
Have you shopped for an RV at a dealership? What questions did you ask?
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