Friday, October 22, 2010

RV Basics : More on RV Buying OR your mini-RV buying guide

Sheri and I have bought a new RV. I thought it might be useful to look at some things we have done and learn both from our victories and well as our mistakes.

First, I'm going to list a few points that at least tell you how Sheri and I think and I don't think anything has dissuaded us from our beliefs. But with these beliefs you can probably plan out your buying a little bit better.

  • Do not pay list. Do not even pay close to list. It surprises me how many people won't get very much off of the list price (evidenced by anecdotal info found on craigslist and other sources).
  • Even after you buy, expect to stay in unit nearby the dealer, then turn back in for another week or two of warranty work. You must build this into your buying plans.
  • An RV on the lot SHOULD (I found a dealer in Louisiana who did not want to try to deal) command a lower price than one to be ordered. Why? Because of tied-up capital. Because it won't be 100% what you want.
Our expectation is that your ceiling price is 25% of MSRP of the unit with the equipment you want to purchase. Most important question is : what is list? Also, I think 25% off in a $130K unit is easier than in a $45K unit. What do YOU think? Post your ideas.

Now, I'll list the ordered list for the buying sequence we used.

  1. Determine the type of unit you want to buy and why (we needed a bunkhouse fifth wheel).
  2. Know your financial limits (our budget precluded a class A, size needed precluded travel trailer, etc.)
  3. Know what you believe are to be the BRANDS you want to use to narrow your search further. Typically, factories will employ a quality standard across their models, so going with brand saves time. It isn't a guarantee, but it gives you something to go upon.
  4. Know the options you truly want/need. We went round and round on double pane windows in an RV. The dealer was convinced that they were not important, but our RV neighbor was - so we got them. If they would save us $20/month for 6 months per year, and perhaps extended the life of our air conditioner by 3-4 years AND reduced the overall noise in the RV by running the air 25% less often, then they are probably worth it. So we went with them.
  5. Narrow down to the units you want. It is very time consuming to get good pricing, so if you have more than 2, this is going to get hard.
  6. Call dealers, near and far. Wherever possible, see if you can get the manufacturers list price sheet. That is a HUGE help in selecting options and negotiating. If you call dealers near the manufacturer you can calculate the freight charges.
  7. Try to get a dealer close to where you will be most of the time. We went 3.5 hours away, so that is a little bit far from Austin, but I think it will be fine.
  8. While at a dealer - when you are close to the end - absolutely be willing to leave and go to lunch and take a break. Buy on YOUR terms. Stretch it into two days if you want. Take your time. Stay in your game plan.
  9. If you are equipped with excellent purchase knowledge, do not be afraid to say "we will buy at this price with these options today." Again, it is ok if you get flak to go for a Starbucks break. 
  10. Buy the RV. Arrange for a nearby try-out after purchase.
  11. Live in the RV for at least 2-3 days (this is the step we are at now).
  12. Find as many warranty things as you possibly can. Get RV back into dealer repair bay ASAP.
  13. After warranty fixes, then you can take it home.
  14. We have an RV so we will need to transfer items from old to new.
  15. Sell the old RV.
How did we do in buying our RV?

We did get a list price sheet, and we believe we got our fifth wheel at 30% off of list so we would consider that a victory. I cross checked that with a guy in our RV park who had a unit from the same manufacturer. He got his for about $3K less (and was proud of his deal), but his was 1 foot shorter, and had two less slides so that would account for quite a bit of difference. 

On the bad side, we switched brands AT THE DEALER which I would consider to be an RV buying mistake. However, when we went into the brand we originally intended to purchase, we were shocked at the visible feel of low quality - for example - the floors bowed when we walked on them. Still, I was uncomfortable getting out of our game. A post "buyers remorse" web-check and call to another dealer indicated that we did truly get a substantially better unit with incredible positive feedback on the web AND that we were within our 25% off metric. Also the research/learning we expended on the intended unit was absolutely useful with the new brand as well. The unit was also already on the dealers lot and honestly, bunkhouses probably aren't 'hot sellers' with the general RV crowd.

Miscellaneous notes on RV buying:

I have a friend who corroborates this story - told to me by the RV sales person. Both believe that selling outright is better than trading in. The advice we got was to use NADA guides - find the base price for your model (less options), pick the lower price (you get two, high/low) and then add a couple thousand dollars and put on craigslist and it will sell within a week. A week - really? My friend listed his ad 3x (a week per listing) and on the third time, it sold within 24 hours of listing. Anyway, that is our plan. I'll update everyone on how that goes.

When we were looking for helpful information, we decided to purchase a buyers guide on RV's. The reason is that there are so many brands - how can you compare - and the second reason is that MOST people - love the RV they have - that is not a perfect rule, but certainly one I've noticed. We purchased a buyers guide from JR Consumer and it seemed very well done.

When you are selling your RV, you can consult several sites, but I think that the NADA Guides site has a certain 'air' of authority that other sites, like, might not. We are using it to sell our Puma.

I hope this help. Post your buying stories on comments. I'd love to hear.

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