RV Buying Guide: The RV Purchase Process

Expert Advice

What To Know About The RV Purchase Process

After you narrow down your RV type and floor plan of choice, it’s time to head to the dealership — here’s everything you need to know about the RV purchase process.

The first thing to know about purchasing an RV is that the shopping process is very different from buying a new car or truck. While there may be some similarities, there are more differences. 

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Chances are you have dozens of car dealerships, representing every major brand, within a short drive from your house — this isn’t the case with RV dealerships as they can be more spread out. So while you may have a local RV dealership nearby, you may also need to drive a few hours to a non-local dealership to find the RV of your choice, or you may need to buy at an RV show. These are all good options, but there are some important things to consider with each one.

Purchasing From A Local Dealership

  • Purchasing your RV at a local dealership is extremely convenient:

    Shopping at a local dealership saves you time and, if they have your dream RV, may just be the ideal situation.
  • Purchasing your RV at a local dealership is convenient for warranty service post-sale:

    The more dealerships you look at geographically, the more bargaining power you have when it comes to negotiating a purchase price.
  • But a local dealership may not have your dream RV or your preferred brand:

    Few dealerships carry every, or even most, RV brands. So, if there’s a certain RV that checks all of your boxes, you may need to expand your search to find it.

Purchasing From A Non-Local Dealership

  • Purchasing from a non-local RV dealership expands your RV brand options:

    If your local dealership doesn’t carry your favorite brand don’t despair, just get ready to drive further (likely more than two hours from home) to find it.
  • Expanding your RV search may also increase your bargaining power:

    The more dealerships you look at geographically, the more bargaining power you have when it comes to negotiating a purchase price.
  • A non-local RV dealership may not be convenient for warranty work or maintenance post-sale:

    If you do end up buying your dream RV far from home, are you prepared to drive it back for warranty work and maintenance? We strongly recommend that you call local RV dealerships to see if they perform warranty service on an RV purchased at another dealership. Have a game plan for this scenario to avoid irritation in the long run.

Purchasing At An RV Show

  • RV shows have a carnival-like atmosphere that makes for a fun shopping experience:

    We love going to RV shows because they’re fun and connect you with the vibrant RVing community.
  • Free educational seminars prepare you for RV ownership:

    Many RV shows offer free seminars about RV maintenance, RV travel, and RV culture. As a potential newbie RV owner, there’s so much to learn, and you can learn a lot by attending a seminar at an RV show.
  • There are plenty of brands and floor plans to explore in one place:

    While a good local dealership may carry three or four RV brands and dozens of floor plans, a regional RV show gives you a chance to look at dozens of brands and hundreds of floor plans. A massive national RV show, like the Florida RV SuperShow and America's Largest RV Show in Pennsylvania, allows you to see the vast majority of RVs in production. Tip: Bring good walking shoes.
  • RV show pricing is competitive:

    If you’re not comfortable negotiating but still want to purchase your RV at a fair price, an RV show may be the best option for you. RV show prices tend to be very competitive because dealerships are competing with each other and are motivated to move a lot of inventory.
  • But you don’t get to drive the rig home that day…

    You’ll need to pick up your RV at the dealership even if you buy it at an RV show. The dealership will want to prepare the rig for you and schedule a walk-through to teach you about the RV’s systems and operating procedures.

Next, you’ll want to understand what to expect at the RV dealership when you pick up your new RV.

Jeremy Puglisi

The RV Atlas

Jeremy and Stephanie Puglisi are the co-hosts of the weekly RV Atlas and Campground of the Week podcasts and the RV Atlas blog. They are also the authors of See You at the Campground: A Guide to Discovering Community, Connection, and a Happier Family in the Great Outdoors, and Where Should We Camp Next: A 50 State Guide to Amazing Campgrounds and other Unique Outdoor Accommodations, and the Acadia National Park Adventure Guide. After buying their very first pop-up camper more than 10 years ago, Jeremy and Stephanie caught the RV bug in a big way, and now spend over 70 nights a year in their travel trailer with their three sons, Theo, Max, and Wes, and sweet Maggie the pup. You can follow along on their adventures (and misadventures) over at RV Atlas.