Purchasing a camper is a significant investment. You want to ensure that you get the best deal and that you save the most money when buying an RV. Just as you would purchase a car, expect to negotiate the price of your RV. You must begin the purchasing experience with a gameplan and know as much as possible about the camper that you want. The mark-up on most recreational vehicles is between 15% – 35%. Often you can negotiate a discount between 20 – 25% off the retail price.
Spend time researching the brands and the models that you are interested in purchasing (Check out our article on floorplans and options). Camper shows are great places to view a large variety of campers with all of the latest amenities. We attend at least two shows a year. One of the best aspects of camper shows is that you get to explore at your own pace without a salesman looking over your shoulder. After the camper show, use the internet to do some comparison shopping. This is an excellent way to determine the average price of the camper that you are interested in purchasing.
Purchasing at a Camper Show
Camper shows can be a fantastic place to purchase a camper if you have extensively researched the camper that you intend to purchase. However, do not get caught up in the moment and make an impulsive decision to purchase. If you are visiting a show thinking that you might buy an RV, we recommend visiting on the first day of the camper show, and then go home. Take some time to do a little research to ensure that the camper you picked is the model that you want and that the price the dealer is offering is fair. Most dealers will have show discounts that look appealing, but you will find that they are not as good as they might seem. Once you had time to research the price, return to the show, and make an offer.
Join Camper Owner Facebook Groups
There are numerous camper owner groups and forums available on the internet. Facebook has many private groups based on specific RV brands and models. We belong to two groups for Grey Wolf owners. Look for the brand that you are interested in purchasing and join those groups. Scroll through and read posts from real owners about their campers. This is a great way to get unbiased opinions.
Do not be afraid to ask questions in the Facebook groups. Visit a group and tell the members what kind of price the dealer is offering, and ask if they think that the offer is fair. Also, ask for the pros and cons of the camper model that you are interested in purchasing. Most people are more than happy to answer any questions that you may have. Plus, if they are already owners of that specific brand, you will get no better advice.
Set a Budget
Setting a budget is a crucial step when purchasing a recreational vehicle. It is important to stick to your budget. Once you are on the lot and looking at campers, it is easy to get caught up in amenities that you would like to have, but cannot necessarily afford. Purchasing a camper that is over your budget generally only leads to problems. You want to be in a position to always enjoy your camper with no regrets.
Shop Around and Don’t Be in a Hurry
Camper shopping can be tricky. There are so many models and brands, and the chances are good that only one dealer in the area in which you live will carry the model that you want. The dealers know this, and if your heart is set on a specific model, they will take advantage of you, knowing that you cannot go down the street and purchase the model from someone else. Don’t forget that it is possible to get the camper that you want at the right price, and that patience is a virtue.
In most cases, we recommend buying locally when possible, for a few reasons. First, it is always good to support local businesses, and secondly, when you need service work completed, they may treat you better if you made your purchase from them. However, do not be afraid to travel to get the best deal.
While at a camper show, our family found the camper that we wanted. We actually went home, did research on the camper, and then returned to the camper show the next day to make sure that the camper met all of the wants and needs on our list. We then returned home to find a dealer that had a model available with the exact options that we wanted.
We drove from Georgia to North Carolina to make our purchase. We did not do it to save more money, but rather, again, to get the exact model that we desired. At the time we purchased our Grey Wolf, there were two different outdoor kitchen options. One with an outdoor refrigerator and icemaker and the other with an outdoor refrigerator and a cooktop. We wanted the outdoor cooktop, and it was worth it to us to travel several hundred miles to buy the model that we wanted.
All of the negotiating was completed on the phone. We emailed photos back and forth of the model we were trading in and made a deal. The transaction worked out great, and we got the added bonus of trying out the new camper for a few days in South Carolina on our way home.
Purchase During the Off-Season
Most people are looking to purchase campers in the spring when the weather is warming, and camping season is drawing near. Later in the year, as camping season is ending, fewer purchases are made for new campers, and dealers are more willing to cut a deal. Buying a camper in late fall or winter can save a good bit of money.
Purchase Last Year’s Model
Purchasing last year’s model can be a money saver. Many RV companies introduce their new models in the spring, and dealers will usually have a few of the previous year’s models still in stock when the new models arrive. The dealer will want to clear their inventory of last year’s model, so this is an excellent time to purchase your new camper at a significant discount.
Do Not Pay Dealer Prep Fees
Dealer prep fees are what dealers charge you to prepare your camper to use. Prep fees are unnecessary because it is the dealer’s job to sell you a camper that is ready to use. You should question and refuse all fees as they relate to prepping your camper.
Ask About Add-Ons
There may be some add-ons for your camper that you will need. This is the time to ask your salesman and see if they will throw any of these add-ons for free, or at least give you a discount. Some dealers would rather provide extra value this way, rather than offering a steep discount on the camper itself. If you have to purchase the add-ons anyway, this may be very beneficial to you.
New campers should include an electric cord, but it probably will not come with a water hose to hook up to city water. Hoses are inexpensive and you can ask the salesman to give one to you at no charge. Ask about a water regulator as well. A water regulator is needed so that you do not damage the pipes in the camper. Camper pipes are not designed to withstand standard water pressure, so a regulator is a must.
If you are purchasing a camper that you will tow, chances are, you will need a hitch. Discuss with the dealer about having a hitch installed for you at a discount when you pick up your camper.
Unfortunately, the tires that come stock with most campers are made in China. These tires are not the best quality and are affectionately known as “China bombs” in the world of camping. One of the first things we did after purchasing our camper was to change out the tires. We chose Goodyear Endurance tires, as we believe that these are the best tires for our travel trailer. At the very least, while at the dealer, I would use this opportunity as a negotiating point.
Salespeople know all too well about china bombs, and you could negotiate the new tire price. Tell your salesperson that it is going to cost you $500 to purchase new tires, and you would like to have that amount taken off the price of your camper. You may also strike a deal with the dealer for installing the new tires on your RV, especially if you are willing to leave the stock tires with them for free.
The other item that you may change quickly after purchasing a camper is the mattress. The bed that comes in most campers is not comfortable. This can be another point of negotiation. (Check out our article on replacing the bed in your camper).
An area that, in looking back, we should have negotiated on when purchasing our camper is an awning over the slide-outs. Awnings over the slides help prevent sun damage to the slide membrane. Slide toppers also prevent water and debris from collecting and damaging the top of the slide. Ask the dealer about having these installed for free, or at least with a discount.
Know your Trade-In Value
If you are trading in your camper, consult the National Auto Dealers Association (NADA) guide to determine the value of your current camper. It is also a good idea to check out used camper sites and see what your model is selling for on those sites as well. We traded in our last camper for our current one. In negotiating, when the salesman gave us our trade-in price, we knew right away that it was fair because we had previously done our research.
Get Preapproved for a Loan
Being preapproved for a loan provides you with a stronger negotiating position. You will probably get a better rate from a credit union or an outside finance source such as LightStream than you will from a dealer. We used LightStream, and they provided us with an unsecured loan at a reasonable rate. Having a check in hand allowed us to focus on negotiating the best price without the worry of financing.
Buying a camper can be confusing. However, knowing some basic techniques for negotiating the best deal can be helpful. Visit the dealer very well prepared to get the best price. Remember, it is important to research campers, determine what you want and need, and stand your ground when you are negotiating the price.
Do you have any RV negotiating tips to share? We would love to hear from you! Please drop us a line in the comment section below.