Well here you go with a major purchase that in some cases can be between the purchase price of a car and a house. Buying any RV from a camping pop up trailer to a full sized RV Class A can be stressful, exciting, confusing and scary. I have bought more vehicles than most city blocks have owned in a lifetime combined (yep not proud of my addiction to cars) so I felt my attack plan here would be the same. I'll share some tips and tricks in the hopes it saves you some money so you have more to spend on furnishing and enjoying your new purchase.
Looking: This is where you should really spend a lot of time. Sometimes this is called due diligence and you have a lot of questions to answer here.
What type of unit are you looking for - this is such a simple but huge question.
Do you want a pop up, travel trailer, Class C, Class A, etc
What will you use it for?
What can your vehicle pull - your trailers should be way less than your max tow weight!
Who will be RV'ing with you?
New or used - pros and cons of each and will be covered later.
Dealer or private party?
Area your willing to travel to in order to get it?
What are must have features?
What brands are you open to?
Where will you be taking it (off road for example)?
There are lots of great sites to help you and if you don't answer the questions above you will get stuck in analysis paralysis or worse yet, just run out and buy something you will regret.
For our situation, we outlined our answers to the above and filtered our searches on sites like Craigslist, Offer Up, RV Trader and local dealers. We narrowed to under 19 feet and were open to new and old. We had to be close to 3,000 lbs so Ruby our 4runner could pull it safely. We opted for new given what was available in the used market for our area. We will cover our selection in more detail in a separate post.
Dealer vs. Private Party: If you are buying from a private party it will be a used trailer and the pricing will be much simpler. You simply need to know what you can afford, be able to secure financing or have cash on hand from some source (don't dip into a 401k for a depreciating asset like a RV). You should remember that you will have to pay registration and taxes on top of your purchase price, depending on your state, etc.
Know 2 things when looking at a used trailer price:
Use www.nadaguides.com to find the value and original purchase price.
Know the market value in your area of that trailer.
For example in AZ in the beginning of summer when inventories are low, you can get a premium on used trailers as folks want to escape the heat. You really can charge 40-50% more than the value of a small trailer folks can tow with their SUV's. This contributed to our decision as well, we knew we could sell ours for what we paid for it in the next few years.
At a dealer you will pay a bit of premium and the usual fees like doc fee you pay at a car dealership. You will also have choices, and they will do a bunch of the legwork for you, like registration, taxes, etc. You can also include some of the "extras" into financing if you like, such as sway bar, brake controller, etc. Careful not to finance too much making the amount you pay over time for these add-ons increase dramatically in price. Dealerships for RV's are pretty relaxed follow the following steps:
Find a dealership that carries what you are looking for, remember you did your looking first. The chances are higher you will get conned into buying something if you just randomly keep visiting dealerships they will show you what they have vs. what you want.
Don't get distracted and compromise. It is easy oh this is nice and that is awesome and soon your in something you can't afford or doesn't meet your needs, stay focused.
Find a dealer that makes you feel relaxed, one that listens to you more than they talk at you.
Any dealer that starts with "What do you want your monthly payments to be?" is a red flag. Any dealer that talks about credit more than the RV is also a red flag. I say there are credit dealers that happen to sell cars or RV's, and these are no bueno.
You need to do it at your own pace - you will know when you found the "one" - just like your spouse....
I do like Gander and Camping World, as they are pretty relaxed and can meet all the needs of any RV'er.
The Deal: Now you listened to Wildly Graceful right and have done your research. Know that sales other dealers around the world are offering and start at that price. Meaning if your trailer is $16k, know that it is on sale in Ohio for $12,900 and ask for that starting price. Like auto dealers they do get factory incentives. Like our was $9,999 for the first month it came out in 2020. We got a 2021 so that didn't apply, the dealer couldn't offer us the factory incentive and I confirmed that with Coleman. So then move to the next best price. For instance I found ours for sale in AR for $10,999 so guess what I started with...yep.
Ensure you get a price you are comfortable with. DO NOT start with how much do you want your payments to be. Payments are the derivative or end result of price, fees, length of financing, down, and rate. Often dealers want to start with how much like $200 and then they behind the scenes work the deal to magically get you to $199 but now your interest rate is ridiculous and didn't need to be. Negotiate like this:
Negotiate the price - if they won't go to what you want to pay - walk, someone else will.
Know what your credit score is about and know what rates you will be at - 5.5% is about the lowest you will get on an RV and anything under 8% is pretty good.
The amount of your trailer and type will determine how long they can run the financing. Not every RV is 20 years. Typically:
Under $10,000 is no more than 10 years
$10,000 - $15,000 will be able to go 15 years
Over $15,000 can go to 20 years sometimes - each bank is different
Securing financing in advance can lose you some negotiating power - but know what you want your rate to be based on credit. Ask the dealership for your copy of the credit score if you let them run it.
Know what you can do for a down. They typical ask is 10% down and that can be flexible. If you put higher down, ask for a better rate.
Negotiate fees, transport costs, and any add on charges - the dealer has to make some profit, but these are all flexible, yes even if they say they are not.
Setup charge - this is the fee the dealership will try to charge you to prep your rig and show you around the rig. They check everything, test the systems, add a battery, fill propane, etc. They give you a tour of your new rig for about 2 hours. Now if your a new RV'er, this has some value so paying a bit for this service is acceptable, but if you can do this all yourself, negotiate this down to zero and have them simply prep the rig, which by the way is their job.
Negotiate any insurance you may want to buy. We purchased insurance as we have kids, have no idea what we are doing so we will break stuff and the added cost was acceptable.
Insurance on your trailer is separate - shop it around, we found the best deal with National General, through Good Sam. The amount will depend on the value of your rig. Make sure you ask for all discounts, military, Good Sam, etc.
Look at the deal once you negotiate all the above, and ask for a copy of the deal sheet and sleep on it. If the next day it feels good, then sign the deal and move forward.
Crazy thing, but ask for your trailer to be secured once purchased, or they will walk a ton of people through it selling that model for the future delivery. If the want to do that, then ask for compensation of some sort, maybe some free product or such.
Happy to help if your in the process, simply shoot an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will respond pretty quick.