WHERE to buy an RV … and WHAT to look for

Does it Matter WHERE you buy your new (or used) RV? 

and… What you SHOULD look for when evaluating that rig!

Part 4 of a 5 part series. Part 1 is HERE.

I learned some interesting facts when I first got into RV consulting in the Spring of 2015. I saw people who lived in Wyoming willing to buy from a dealer in Michigan or Indiana and in some cases travel there to pick up their new RV. A wise move? Well, listen to my thoughts below and then see if you agree with my summary posted below

Important note (updated Nov. 2020): My comments in the “Where to buy” video (NOT updated) were based upon the assumption you purchase from a dealer. I’ll admit right up front, I prefer buying from dealers. At the time, I WAS working for a dealer, but now as an independent RV Consultant, I maintain the SAME position.

When I purchased my first two used Class C motorhomes about 17 years ago, I bought from dealers. Why? A dealer has the obligation (at the least the HONEST ONES DO) to inspect the RV before they put it up for sale – AND you can always ask the Service Manager (who often has NO love for their own sales department) what they found on the camper you’re considering. They will also share that report with you – showing what was wrong with it when they brought it in on trade. They will also show you what they fixed – and what they left for you to deal with.

2019 update: I’m NO LONGER with any individual dealer. I’ve started my own Concierge RV Buying Service – designed to help you through the process and save you TIME, MONEY, and AGGRAVATION – check it out HERE.

A good negotiator (hopefully YOU – or you can always reach out to ME) can not only get the price down to a point where it’s a “great deal”, you may get the dealer (on a used camper) to toss in a 90 day extended service contract. While these contracts are NOT a full warranty, they WILL cover components (hot water heaters, slide motors, landing gear, refrigerators, a/c, etc…) and this can be VERY important to YOU as you drive off with your used RV – and if you’re buying new, extended service contracts that extend coverage out to as much as 7 years are well worth the cost (and if you reach out to me – I can save you some real money on one of these contracts. (Nov. 2020: Currently I’m “in between” ESC providers – but – contact me in any case for recommendations.)

Corona virus update Nov. 2020: Unprecedented demand for campers has reduced inventories and slowed the production of new RV’s, BUT, deals are STILL able to be found and negotiated. Patience is a MAJOR key!

If you buy from a “wholesaler” located near many of the factories in Michigan & Indiana, you may get a “teaser” price, but one BIG pieces missing will be the thorough prep done by many local dealers, and ongoing service and support you will WANT and need from your local dealer.

TIP: Here’s where NOT to buy from… “the BIG retailer

If you buy from a private party, YOU the buyer assume virtually all the risk. The seller is not obligated to know if there is anything wrong with the RV (roof issues, black mold, etc…), so the responsibility is ENTIRELY yours to ensure you’re getting a good rig. I highly recommend hiring a tech to inspect the camper before purchase.

RV Trader is the #1 site through which used RV’s are now sold. If you’re really lucky, you’ll find a rig that already has an extended service contract applied to it for sale – and then you’ll have greater confidence that you have some level of protection when you drive off after closing the sale.

What to look for when buying a RV…

Summary thoughts on this topic…

  • Virtually ALL RV’s require service/repair in their first year (and beyond!) – be sure you know how you’ll get your new rig serviced when you purchase! (And… do NOT believe the wholesalers when they tell you your local dealer will accept your business for warranty work!!)
  • Consider the protections you’ll have when you buy from a dealer vs. a private sale
  • Is the rig you’re looking at WELL BUILT? (IN MOST CASES the answer is NO – contact me for whom to avoid!)
    • how accessible is the furnace for service? (and if you camp in the cold, it WILL need service!)
    • any refinements to the frame construction?
    • how will the rig drive off-road? do they use shocks on the axles?
    • does it have tires or china bombs?
    • is there attention to “finishing touches”
    • is the plumbing protected/insulated?
    • will the countertops hold up?
  • Since this original posting, I wrote a review of my own (NEW) 5th wheel – HERE – in that review, I detail WHAT I looked for and WHY it matters. Now, 3 years into owning my camper, I’m convinced more than ever that the design and engineering exhibited by a SMALL NUMBER of camper manufacturers (in each major category of rv’s) DOES matter. AND – I always recommend a well built USED camper than a crappy, poorly build NEW camper (usually by one of the BIG manufacturers who are well represented in many RV dealers across the nation.)

AND… Are you willing to pay for a unit that attends to all or much of the above? Some of the best rigs I’ve seen are NOT the most expensive out there, but they’re also not trying to hit a budget “price point”.

There are several other posts in this How to Buy an RV series. Be sure to check them out HERE. Part 5 – RV LOANS can be found HERE

Additional resources you may wish to consider include exploring the value of an Extended Service Contract and how to prepare for winter conditions if you live in your RV where winters get COLD!

As always… THANKS for visiting… and COME BACK SOON… y’hear? Please DO leave comments below and SUBSCRIBE to us using the box below to ensure you receive updates of new posts when they get published. Oh, and if you’re looking for great prices on some of my own choices for accessories, click the image below!

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57 thoughts on “WHERE to buy an RV … and WHAT to look for”

  1. Hi Alan, We have watched hundreds of videos & looked at so many floor plans! The Forest River 31QKBTS seems like the best floor plan for a mid size family. We love the fact that it has a separate room for the bunk house & it’s rather large room. We don’t have a truck as of now and our budget will be lucky if we can afford an F250 or 2500 or else we would look at 5th wheels. Since I see Forest River is pretty much disposable what do you recommend for a bunkhouse travel trailer? We have 3 kids and hope to travel for a few months consecutively. Thanks for all of your great content!


    • Chris,

      You’re looking at a very large (and poorly constructed) travel trailer. At 36ft plus for the wildwood and salem 31qkbts models, in my view they’re bordering upon dangerous. My preference if we need to stay to an oversized travel trailer is a Jayco Jay Flight (2017 or EARLIER.) You’re going to need a very hefty truck to pull any of these. I’d MUCH rather see you in a 5th wheel – even if it means getting an older unit. As to truck, you can do the same – get an older 3/4 ton, preferably a diesel. I’d be glad to discuss this at greater length with you as I do offer a Concierge RV Buying Service (https://rvAcrossAmerica.net/buysell) through which I can find you a camper and negotiate a best price for you.

      Alan Sills
      307 269 2546

  2. Alan;

    After researching more, i think I’m in the same conclusion of Forest River. I appreciate the information and will be looking to the options you have referenced. Thanks.


    • Yep, its unfortunate that so many are snookered into wasting hard earned money on forest river – and frankly – most of the thor brands and kz. I have a new post coming out in a day or two that will speak very directly about options for 5th wheel buyers.



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