You’ve talked about it, researched it online, and even caught a few segments of a virtual RV show. Today is the day you and your family are going to join the millions of Americans in the RV lifestyle by purchasing your motorhome, 5th wheel, or travel trailer. You know what you want, but here are the 12 Best Questions to Ask When Buying a New Camper.
- What’s Standard Equipment, What’s Optional, and What are the Dealer Add-Ons?
- Is the Sticker Price the Best Price?
- Are There Promotional Discounts, Membership Discounts, or Other Perks Available?
- What’s the Difference Between This Model and Last Year’s Version?
- What Are the Details of the Warranty and Service Agreement?
- Why Is the Sales Rep Recommending A Particular Brand?
- Can My Current Vehicle Tow My New Camper?
- Where Can I Get My RV Serviced When I’m On the Road?
- What are the Common Maintenance Problems With This Brand/Model?
- How Do You Determine the Value of a Trade-In Camper?
- Is It Worth Getting a Four Season Package?
- How Safe Are RVs For My Kids and/or Pets?
You may have the specifications memorized to the point where you could teach the sales reps a few things, but there are questions to ask when buying a new travel trailer or motorhome that can save you money. We’ll show you how the buying process works and how these questions can help you when you’re buying a new RV.
Understanding the Dealership People and Process
RV sales associates don’t last long if they think using “old school” car sales tactics of yesteryears will make them successful. Sales reps paychecks are performance-based, but there are countermeasures in place to make sure they don’t have to resort to disreputable methods to earn your business.
No One Knows Everything
Another significant concept to understand is the separation-of-information process. Sales representatives can’t talk about financing. When they say, “I don’t know if you’ll qualify,” they don’t. Due to regulatory issues, they are not allowed to speculate. Sales representatives are limited to helping you find the perfect RV for you and your family.
Once you sit down with the finance folks, they can tell if you qualify after running your credit and employment information through the various lenders. It seems frustrating, but this system protects you. No one department has all of your data. Know that the dealership is as anxious for an answer from the lender as you.
While you’re waiting, this is a great time to shake off those nerves by looking through the accessories department. You can check out the various hoses, cords, and other things you’ll need once the RV purchase is complete. Your plans may include purchasing all of this online for better deals, but at least you’ll get the experience of seeing it up close.
As you walk around, you’ll find outdoor furniture, cookware, and other supplies that are RV essentials. Have a pad of paper or your mobile device handy to start planning your accessory essentials list to realize your RV experience. Even though RVs come with LED lights on the awnings, you might want to make a right turn to keep your glamping partner away from the crystal RV lighting (yes, they are available).
Best Questions to Ask When Buying a New Camper
During the RV walkthrough, there are some important questions to ask when buying a camper. The answers to these questions can save you money and narrow down the ultimate RV that fits you and your family.
1. What’s Standard Equipment, What’s Optional, and What are the Dealer Add-Ons?
Like cars, RVs have standard equipment, optional features, and unique dealership add-ons. For example, many entry-level RVs offer a power awning (instead of manual) as optional equipment. When the dealer receives the unit, they may add a unique lugnut lock.
You may want the power awning and the lugnut lock, but the overall pricing doesn’t meet your expectations. Know what you’re paying for and why. This information will help when it’s time to start the negotiations.
2. Is the Sticker Price the Best Price?
As we mentioned above, the sticker price has other costs included. The dealership has additional expenses they have to cover in its pricing besides the cost of the RV. They have overhead costs and a profit margin like any other business. You can find a mutually beneficial price that fits everybody’s budget.
Just know that sticker price, show price, MSRP (Manufacturers Suggested Retail Price) and sale price are usually all different. But none of them matter. In order to find out what you should pay you should do some basic research and see how much similar models are selling for.
One great way to do this is to search for the make and model of RV you are interested in on RVTrader.com. This will give you a good comparison.
Another great way is to join Facebook Groups or RV forums specific to you make and model of RV and ask other what they paid.
Also, some dealerships have fees and others do not. Don’t get caught up worrying about fees. The only price that matters is the bottom line with everything added in.
To learn more about negotiating your best price check out our article called How Much Can You Negotiate on a Travel Trailer to Get a Great Price?
3. Are There Promotional Discounts, Membership Discounts, or Other Perks Available?
Discount club memberships like Good Sam’s and even Costco offer discounts on numerous things, including RVs. Dealerships have various sales events at different times of the year.
The best time of the year to buy a travel trailer is during an RV show. You’ll see discounts unique to these events. RV dealerships and manufacturers feature the latest model year floorplans and new coaches hitting the market for the first time.
4. What’s the Difference Between This Model and Last Year’s Version?
This question can save you hundreds or thousands of dollars (depending on the RV you’re looking at). In the first year, the average travel trailer depreciates around 20%. Why not use that to your advantage?
If you find that there aren’t enough changes between the current year and the previous year’s model, consider buying last year’s model at a discount. It’s still brand new!
Also, if a dealer doesn’t have the floor plan you want they can locate the floorplan, have it shipped to their location for you, and take care of all the paperwork right there.
5. What Are the Details of the Warranty and Service Agreement?
The service department has the information for this question. If the contract uses the word “limited,” “structural,” or “excluding,” you’ll want to know the exact components that aren’t covered.
Now that full-timing is more popular than ever, the RV you have your heart set on may not be ideal for the nomadic lifestyle. Some warranties void out if you use your travel trailer in this manner. Make sure you know if your new RV is rated for full-time use before you purchase.
Certain manufacturers and RV dealers offer warranties and service agreements that are transferable to new owners. Our travel trailers become apart of our family, but you may sell it. You’ll want to keep it in the back of your mind if your coach has a transferable warranty or service agreement just in case.
For a deeper dive into this subject check out our article called Is The Good Sam Extended Service Plan Right For You?
6. Why Is the Sales Rep Recommending A Particular Brand?
Dealerships pay a lot of money every year to maintain their licensing agreement with the brands they sell. Your sales representative may have a particular brand they’re pointing you to versus another one on the lot. There’s nothing wrong with asking them, “why this brand instead of that brand?”
The salesperson may point out perfectly valid reasons like better construction, upgraded features, or positive customer experiences that fit your specific needs. Sometimes, manufacturers offer promotions that incentivize the dealership and sales reps to sell their brand over others. Just be aware that this does happen.
Ultimately it’s your choice. The average RV owner keeps their coach for 3-5 years. They either upgrade or downgrade, depending on their lifestyle changes. Some owners hang on to their coach for most of their life and pass it down to their children. The salesperson is looking for you to make the final decision.
7. Can My Current Vehicle Tow My New Camper?
If you’re buying a towable RV, and haven’t bought your vehicle yet, ask the dealer for recommendations. Your sales rep should have a list of SUVs and trucks that are an excellent match for your coach. Don’t take it at face value; make sure you know why they are recommending those vehicles.
You’re going to need to know all of the various weight factors and how they affect the towing experience. The dry weight may good for your SUV, but once you add your cargo and passengers, the vehicle might not handle the extra weight. When talking about weight, make sure everyone’s referring to the same figure.
You also should be prepared for the expense of buying a good tow hitch with anti-sway bars too. They aren’t cheap.
8. Where Can I Get My RV Serviced When I’m On the Road?
Be aware that your warranty may only apply if any repair work needed is completed at the dealership where you purchased your RV. So, be sure to have a thorough understanding of how your service warranty works.
Also, if you camp outside of urban areas and enjoy camping on public land or spend a lot of time in remote areas it might be difficult to find an RV repair shop or dealership. Class B and C motorhomes built on Mercedes chassis have seen some very complicated situations.
For example, the Mercedes chassis is only serviceable at authorized dealerships and Freightliner service centers. Starting in 2021, Freightliner won’t be working on them anymore. As this chassis becomes more popular, auto shops are gaining the ability to work on them, but we still hear complaints from owners who travel long distances for repairs.
9. What are the Common Maintenance Problems With This Brand/Model?
If you buy an entry-level travel trailer, use it for weekend trips, keep up with the preventive maintenance, and winterize it correctly, you’ll avoid 98% of the most common problems.
The last two percent deal with what to look for when buying a camper trailer. During your initial walkthrough, use a flashlight in storage compartments and hard to see areas. During construction, something could have gone undetected during quality control inspection. It’s rare, but it does happen.
Once you sign on the dotted line, if that component fails, it may be covered under warranty, but it’s your vacation that suffers. You’ll find the internet littered with warranty work complaints where service has taken a significant amount of time to finish.
To find out which RV Brands have the fewest service issues you can call RV repair shops and speak to knowledgable mechanics. Or you can get lots of great info about quality and durability from Facebook groups and forums.
10. How Do You Determine the Value of a Trade-In Camper?
There is a Kelly Blue Book for RVs. The National Automobile Dealer’s Association (NADA) is the guide that all managers use to base their trade values. If you choose to look up your trade-in ahead of time, use the perspective that this is a starting point.
When the manager looks over your RV, there are many things they have to consider. Ultimately, they have to make money off of the coach. As much as you love it, they have to be objective.
They have to determine the following:
- How much will it cost to make the necessary repairs?
- What is the best price they could sell the RV?
- Would they get a better deal at an auction?
- If they sell it as is, would there be an acceptable profit margin?
11. Is It Worth Getting a Four Season Package?
You’ll want to research this ahead of time. The misconception many people have is everybody needs an RV like this due to the upgraded features. The reality is, most don’t.
Your sales representative can show you the features of your RV of choice that will keep you comfortable in cold weather. If you want to head out in March or November, new RVs have the insulated underbellies and heat ducting around the holding tanks.
Suppose you intend to regularly camp in extreme weather, like January in the Canadian wilderness or July in the Arizona desert. In that case, your sales rep may have coaches on the lot to show you the difference. Specialized RVs like these are heavier and more expensive due to the additional features.
For more info on this topic please check out our article called What’s Included in an RV Arctic Package?
12. How Safe Are RVs For My Kids and/or Pets?
Over 63% of all RVers are pet lovers. 90% of them have dogs. Most of the RVs sold are family-friendly. Let your sales representative know about your concerns. RV manufacturers not only make RVs for families, but they’re also making pet-friendly features standard on many of their floorplans.
To the untrained eye, many of these features aren’t easily recognizable. As your sales associate points the features out, you’ll see how the designers have thought things through. Safety gates, enclosed bunks, heat registers on the walls, and other features will stand out once they’re pointed out. Remember, the engineers are parents too.
For much more info on this subject check out our article called 6 Best RVs for Traveling with Dogs.
Know Your Wants and Needs Before You Begin Looking for a New RV
Buying an RV is an investment. As you research, you should have a few note pads on your desk. Each one should notate your various concerns, issues, and needs. We recommend a separate pad for the following:
- What features your RV must have
- RV features you’d like to have
- Components that would be nice, but you could live without
- Amenities you refuse to have
- Questions you need to ask
- RV accessory essential list to complete your ideal vacation
- Other needed expenses like RV insurance, vacation budgeting, etc
- Websites, apps, and recommended vacation spots
Much of this you can find on the RVBlogger Website. As you meet people, explore, and gain experience, you’ll adapt and learn the lifestyle tricks. One of your happiest moments will be when you meet someone at a campground that has a question, and for the first time, you’re the one with an answer.
If you have never owned an RV before we highly recommend that you rent an RV before you buy an RV. By renting an RV like the type you are considering purchasing you will learn which features and design elements are must haves and which are not important. Ultimately, you will be able to make a much better buying decision.
We have written dozens of articles about renting RVs so please visit our How To Rent an RV category and look through the pages of articles we have written and read some that apply to you.