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RV Dealerships are not Telling You!

Although many would argue that price is the most important factor in buying an RV, I think education about RV dealerships has a greater impact.

Very few “after the sale” reviews mention a great price. Most new owners speak of how they were treated.

After years of working in the RV sales arena, I can honestly say I have heard it all. Every dealership has its perks.

As a result of internet pricing posted on dealership websites, there really isn’t really much difference between one versus the other. To remain competitive and to draw you to the store it all starts with a price and ends far from it.

RV dealerships what are they not telling you?

In my experience, two types of RV dealerships exist. Company-owned and privately owned. The larger dealerships can offer lower prices. But do they reveal every fee? The company owned dealerships start with the lowest price. Once committed will reveal to you line item pricing showing the fees. On the other hand, most privately owned dealerships offer all-inclusive pricing, both exclude tag, title, and tax.

Salespeople must be trained. The problem lies in the fact that not all are trained to do the same presentation when it comes to the fees. I have witnessed a sales process where the salespeople will reveal the fees as a lump sum, as a line item or even add the fees to the principle in your loan.

You might be asking, what are the fees?

Fees include, but are not limited to:

      • destination
      • prep
      • freight
      • orientation
      • detail
      • inspection
      • repairs
      • upgrades
    • tag, title & tax

Understand that an RV dealership is a business and cannot operate without a profit. When a dealership “gives away” the unit at a cost the profit could be in the fees. Knowing the numbers is important. Make sure you understand what the numbers are and what each number represents.

RV dealerships have RV salespeople, do I need one?

There is an old adage that states “nothing happens until something is sold,” the whole chain of events begins with you coming to terms with the salesperson.

Every business has sales and salespeople are necessary. They can make the experience be a pleasant one or make it a total disaster. There are three types of RV salespeople that you should be aware of when purchasing a new or preowned coach.

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RV Salespeople

The Newbies:

Just recently hired, are in training and sell off of sheer excitement. Most are fun to work with. A beginning salary makes them “bulletproof” from making mistakes. Being shunned from the other salespeople newbies have one goal in mind, talk to many people and get the deal fast.

Newbies may come across as impatient. When asked a question they can’t answer they will beat around the bush or ask someone to help them. Some will even steer you to the RV’s that they are the most comfortable with which usually ends up being a nightmare. 

It is common for these salespeople will flip or turn over the deal to a sales manager to help with the closing.

The Intermediates:

Stage two salespeople that are working their way up the ladder. The achievers spend time with the manufacturer’s reps learning the fit and trim of the different RV’s. They work hard at product knowledge. The downside to reaching this level is that they are usually under the gun to meet a specific quota that is realistic but must be achieved. The pressure applied to sell can be felt by the customers.

Most buyers are so uneasy working with them that they make up some excuse to leave. Most Intermediate Salespeople do not make their way up the ladder in Sales. There is a high turnover of Intermediate salespeople as a result of being halfway through the month but not halfway to achieving their goals.

Working with an intermediate can feel like a whirlwind of unnecessary information because they want to share with you everything they have learned whether it is important to you or not.

The Veterans:

These Salespeople have tenure because they have been at the dealership for several years.

The Veterans know the inventory and have the ability to answer the toughest questions in an instant. Being patient, persistent and polished are qualities allowing the customer to picture themselves actually owning the RV which creates a pleasant buying experience.

Veteran salespeople cover all of the bases. Experience has taught them the ins and outs of what could go wrong. Most cover this crisis in the presentation to avoid the backlash of an unsatisfied client.

Rarely do you see a recent buyer come in to see the sale manager to discuss any discrepancies? Veteran salespeople get great reviews.

Salespeople can make or break a deal. Knowing that they are not created equal makes you aware of what to expect when going to the dealership.

It becomes apparent that you should do your research online before arriving to enhance the experience. Even better, call ahead and ask the receptionist to schedule an appointment.

While talking with the front desk ask for the appointment to be with the best salesman available to talk about the particular class of RV you are looking for. Salespeople look forward to appointments and prepare themselves. Some will even have three coach’s sitting out front and ready for you to see.

Setting an appointment with a Veteran ensures that you receive the best knowledge, the best price and are better prepared to move forward.

RV Dealerships, do they make a profit?

Businesses are in business to make a profit. With the ever-increasing rise of internet research and pricing, a profit at an RV dealership is challenging.

To be competitive a dealership must be fully aware of what the competition is selling comparable coach’s for and then meet or beat those prices. Some even hire a team to do nothing but search hundreds of dealerships daily and chart these figures. That coupled with a multitude of other factors lead us to ponder where the profit actually comes from.

The profit and loss statement at months end can get very detailed and complicated.

So what is the bottom line?

How does an RV dealership make money?

An RV dealership makes a profit when the price of the unit sold brings more than the expenses incurred to provide a clean, safe, well-built unit to the customer.

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The systems put in place to create the selling environment goes well beyond what your normal brick and mortar store could ever imagine. The different departments behind the scenes preparing that beautiful recreational vehicle for you are something you should be aware of.

RV dealerships buy inventory from different manufacturers like:

    • Thor
    • Forest River
    • Winnebago
  • Airstream
  • Keystone

The majority of all RV’s are built in Indiana. Most travel 1,000 – 1,500 miles to reach the designated RV dealership.

RV’s cannot be put in a box and shipped. Most have to be individually be transported by an independent contractor one at a time.

Paying transports by the mile can be costly the further the destination is from Indiana.


The next issue with delivery is called “shakedown”, the initial test of what can come apart on the open road. When a new RV travels from Indiana to the designated dealership by a transporter who is in a hurry as a result of being paid by the mile, bad things happen. 

It is hard to build a lightweight unit tough enough for such a long haul. Upon arrival the initial inspection reveals what trim and fixtures have become loose, separated and broken. This leaves the dealership’s service department the expense to have the rig put back together. The repair expense is added to the total cost of the unit and paid by you, the consumer.


To further complicate the whole delivery process the coach has to be cleaned and detailed before it can be sold. The detail and cleaning of the whole rig are also paid for by you, the proud new owner.

Once the RV is repaired after the initial shock of being delivered they usually stay intact for years. This is a good thing, you are buying what you see and it should stay that way.

With several competing dealerships located close together, most dealerships upgrade the unit with different trim to “set themselves apart” and make the coach more attractive. Whether you asked for upgrades or not, you guessed it, you pay for that as well.

It is always good to ask the salesperson if any upgrades have been done to the tires, trim or even coated with some “paint and fab” that really isn’t necessary for you to enjoy your RV. 

RV Dealerships, In Conclusion:

With all of that said, it is a good practice to do a little research before arrive and know what questions to ask when you do. As stated previously, RV dealerships do have to make a profit and salespeople need to make a living.

I hope this article helps you along with your decision to purchase and to be aware of some items that really should not be paying for. Questions are a good thing. Knowing what questions to ask is the key.

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