When dreaming about that next vacation, the thought of taking an RV trip may have crossed your mind. But, finding the best time to buy an RV and figuring out your budget are both vital next steps before taking the plunge.
So, what is the best time to buy an RV? Winter is the best time to buy an RV. Few people are buying RVs when it’s cold and the snow is falling, so dealerships are willing to cut great deals in January and February to keep the RVs moving. In addition, many people sell their used RVs after their summer and fall road trips, making finding an RV within your budget even easier.
My husband and I began perusing Craigslist, RV shows, and RV dealers trying to figure out what would be the best deal when looking for our own home on wheels. We found the fall and winter seasons usually had the best prices as new models roll in after everyone finishes up their summer road trips. Even though we ultimately chose to buy a Sprinter Van, we still dream of the bigger space an RV could offer.
So, let’s dive into how the RV industry operates to better understand when to snag your next ride.
How the RV Industry Works
Like most products, the RV industry works on a careful balance of supply and demand. But, similar to cars and houses, the salesman has quite a bit to gain from upselling you on an RV. So, by understanding what you’re walking into and what tactics you can bargain with, you will be prepared to buy an RV without too much stress.
The best time to buy an RV is mid to late winter when the RV lots are full and need to be cleaned out before the next years’ models show up. Sales will usually pop up around Martin Luther King Jr. Day in January and Presidents Day in February. Dealerships will probably advertise sales over Memorial Day and Labor Day too, but these are during peak RV season, usually meaning the sale isn’t all it is said to be.
You may often see brightly colored tags on RV’s windshield that say ‘price reduced’ or ‘35% off MSRP!”. But, don’t fall for these silly signs. A dealership can make up an RV as much as they want to make it look like they’re having a fantastic sale.
Instead, take some notes on the brands you like the best and what they sell for. You will notice that prices are usually reduced when the new models hit the RV shows in the fall and winter. The prices may be reduced again if the RVs haven’t been sold yet. So, keep track of when your favorite brand releases a new model, you could snag last year’s model at quite the discount.
These sales tactics can be used on RVs, pop up campers, travel trailers, and any other recreational camper you can imagine that is sold by an RV dealer.
What is the Best Time of Year to Buy a Used RV?
The trick to buying a used RV is not as much in the season you buy it but in the patience in which you wait for the right one. Used RVs can be found on Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, RVTrader, or at RV dealers and shows. Most people sell their RV’s in winter when they finally decide they won’t go on another vacation or in spring when they are cleaning up around the house.
Just like waiting for the right used car, the best deals on a used RV come with patience. Make a list ahead of time of things you have to have, things you would like, and a few items that would be the cherry on top, even if a bit unnecessary. Then, you can have a clear mind as great deals on used RVs pop up.
Make sure to reference your list and see if the great deal you see is truly what you’re looking for. If it is, you can confidently put an offer on the used RV at any time of year. If you find a great deal on a used RV in summer, don’t be surprised. Many people know if an RV trip will be their last and are ready to part with it directly after the trip.
This is great, as you know, the RV has been in recent working condition and shouldn’t have any major issues if you buy it.
Buying a USED RV – Considerations & Negotiations
If you buy an RV from a third party, you need to make sure the RV is livable beforehand. You should be able to spend a night or, at minimum, a few hours in the RV checking on the bathroom, cabinets, kitchen, couch, and bed set up. Dealers usually allow you to do this as well.
By spending time in the RV, you also can gain some negotiating power if you find small things that are not working properly. Some RV dealers have inspections they perform on used RVs before reselling, but many do not. Some dealers will also try and scare you into buying a new RV instead of used saying they would not service an older one. This is usually false, as repairs are a great source of revenue for dealerships.
Dealer Vs. Private Seller
I’ve touched on a few of the differences between buying an RV from a dealer versus a private seller, but let’s look through a few more.
Benefits of Buying from a Dealer
- Often there is an included warranty or repairs included
- Financing available
- Larger selection
Benefits of Buying from a Private Party
- Less expensive
- Opportunity for an incredible deal
- More personality or customization by the previous owner
- Potential for exchange or swap
Where to Buy
RV country tends to be the south and west, simply due to the easy driving most of the year. But, that means RVs are in high demand, making prices a bit higher. If you’re looking for a great deal on an RV, head north.
The cost to winterize an RV is not insignificant. So, many RV owners will try and sell their RV in the fall after their trip is over. They are incentivized to get it off their hands quickly, so they do not have to deal with it in the snow.
7 RV Buying Tips & Tricks
Many of these tips and tricks can be applied to other big purchases, like cars and houses. So, here are some rules to follow when shopping for an RV:
1. Never buy at the first dealership you go to
Even if you’re dead set on a certain RV, never buy the first time you go to see them. The salesman or woman will show you the best, and probably the worst, RVs in order to make you feel like you’ll miss out on something if you’d don’t buy today.
2. Walk away for the final bargain
When you think you’ve made the best deal you can walk away from the salesperson and dealership. If they let you get in your car, then they could not lower the price anymore. But, if they follow you or call you in a few minutes, they might counteroffer with an even better deal.
3. Avoid weekends at the dealership
Most people flock to the RV dealerships on weekends, meaning you will have busy salespeople who don’t have much patience for questions and letting you see lots of RVs. Instead, opt for a weekday morning when you can have the showroom and lot all to yourself.
4. Never buy a used RV without seeing it
When buying our van, my husband and I flew to Chicago after putting a down payment down on our Sprinter Van. Once we got there, we learned we had been misled about what features our van had. Because we did not have a ride back to New York without purchasing the van, though, we had lost all bargaining power. So, make sure to see the RV in person before purchasing and settling on a price.
5. Start low on negotiations
You might think taking 25 or even 30 percent of the sticker price is a good place to start negotiating, but at that, the dealership will still make a decent profit. Instead, start the bartering at 50 percent of the asking price. This will earn you respect with the salesman and show you as an authority on the subject.
6. Upgrade later
Your RV doesn’t have to have all the bells and whistles upfront. Instead, opt for an RV with good bones. As you begin to use it more, you can decide which upgrade and fancy features are truly worth it. This will keep your costs down upfront and save you from unnecessary spending.
7. Get a loan from your bank, not the dealer
Dealership loans are notorious for looking good upfront but costing you more money in the long run with sneaky fees. Secure a loan through your bank ahead of time, and you should be able to get one similar to a car loan.
Where To Start? Go to an RV Show!
RV shows are, not surprisingly, an excellent place to start when trying to figure out what you want out of an RV. Many RV shows are held in the fall, soon after everyone is finishing up their RV season and is dreaming of their next. Brands are putting out their new models with the latest features and technology, causing most attenders to drool over what they could have.
Because of this, RV shows are an excellent place to start figuring out what you want out of your RV. Many people also bring their used RVs to sell too. Many manufacturers will be there and some have even begun selling direct to customers, cutting out the middle salesman.
The best time to by an RV at a show is the last day. In the first few days, people are happy to pay a higher price to get exactly what they want. But, on the final day, dealers and manufacturers don’t want to have to tow or drive the rigs back to headquarters. So, many are willing to cut a great deal on the final day.
What is the best state to buy an RV?
Florida, Texas, and Arizona have huge amounts of RVs, allowing for a great selection, although the deals won’t be as good. If you can wait to buy in the winter, buy an RV in Montana. Keep in mind that taxes will need to be paid in the state you are registering it in, so sales tax of the state and city you purchase it does not matter.
Should I buy a new or used RV?
If you have plenty of money, feel free to purchase a new RV. You will be able to get every feature you could imagine. But, if you’re willing to wait for the right deal and bargain a bit, a used RV can be practically new but tens of thousands of dollars cheaper.
What can I negotiate when buying a new RV?
When buying a new RV, the biggest way to negotiate is to play dealerships off of each other. Establish relationships with the salesman at two or more different dealerships and engage them in a deal war to see who gets the sale. In addition, you can still get last year’s model RV brand new. You may not have this year’s features, but RV dealerships will want them off the lot.
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Lauren Nowack is a freelance writer and story maker living in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. She is passionate about the outdoors, mental health, and living a bit on the wild side. In her free time, she enjoys mountain biking, building out her Sprinter van, and finding a new trail to blaze with her family.