AND… does it matter where in the nation you make your purchase?
These are common questions I hear from my clients when they approach me about my Concierge RV Buying (and Selling) Service. Please allow me to answer with the CURRENT winter – 2022-23 in mind.
Traditional RV Buying Patterns
Prior to the insanity of the past 3 years, during the winter, dealers in the northern states would traditionally sit and watch the leaves blow and snow fly all winter and only on occasion would a buyer wander in. Buyers in these regions could almost name their price IF the camper of their dreams was on the dealers lot. Then we had a brief time where buyers would snap up anything on the dealers lot, regardless of the time of year.
Farther south, business actually picked up in the winter, and dealers could hold onto their profit margins a bit better. These patterns have been altered by several forces, in the coming paragraphs, we will take a look at the RV buying (and selling) market as it currently stands.
Things have changed – ALOT –
A Brief Overview of the current economy and the RV industry as of December 2022…
As to the economy, as I tell many of my Concierge RV Clients, I believe that THESE are “the good old days.” What I’m saying to them is things are likely to get tougher as we move into 2023.
Here’s the “big picture” as I see it: For most Americans, it always comes down to “disposable income” (discretionary income.) Discretionary or disposable income is what remains after you cover your mandatory expenses each month. It is disposable income that most Americans use to take vacations, go out to dinner, and purchase luxuries – like RV campers.
Disposable income in many (most?) households is disappearing. And it is disappearing quickly as food costs, fuel costs, interest rates, rents, and mortgages rise. To compensate, and maintain their standard of living, many Americans have turned to running up their credit cards. Credit card debt has reached record levels (Source: CNBC, 11/22.) Running up credit card debt however is NOT a sustainable strategy!
In summary, many (most?) Americans are running out of disposable income. For the RV sales market, this means there are fewer buyers looking to purchase RV campers. For those who currently own an RV camper, some may elect to sell it to raise cash that they need to meet their own necessary expenses. The net result is FAR MORE RV’s are now available on the used market than we’ve seen… perhaps EVER. Incidentally, purchases of towables are off far more than motorhomes according to the latest RV industry data.
For most people, RV’s are a discretionary purchase. Lets face it, few of us really NEED an RV! That said, there are many compelling reasons to own one (or live in one and work from it as I do.) AND… Because of the current economic conditions, many RV’s are being offered for sale, and business at dealerships is slow as well.
Best Time to Purchase an RV
In light of the current RV market, this winter is a great time to buy an RV. Market conditions nearly universally favor buyers regardless of where you are in our nation. Might it get even better for buyers in the coming months? Yes, but it comes all comes down to whether it is the right time for YOU and your loved ones to purchase an RV.
Why Own an RV? And… When to buy?
I can think of four perfectly reasonable reasons to purchase (and potentially live) in an RV (of any type.) The list of “good reasons” to purchase – and thus creating the right time to purchase an RV certainly does not end with these 4 scenarios:
- A young family with kids who are old enough to appreciate the experience of traveling and camping in an RV, and young enough to actually still want to be with their parents!
- A couple or individual approaching retirement, or in retirement who see value in the “rv lifestyle” and want to enjoy this lifestyle while they’re young enough and healthy enough to do so.
- A professional (or professional couple) who earn their living “remote” and want to travel, know where their (clean) bed is each night and have a kitchen to prepare healthy foods generally not available to “road warriors.”
- Rents in your region have risen “out of sight” and living in a camper at a local campground becomes the most affordable (and realistic) option.
Each of the above scenarios are “time sensitive” in the sense that there’s a right time to purchase a RV camper for their needs, and delaying could impact their quality of life. This is why when clients ask me “is now the right time to buy”, I ask about their plans and goals and advise accordingly. Sure, waiting could get you a better price – but if the time is right, then my advice is to “go for it.”
Great Deals on RV’s CAN be negotiated at this time
RV’s come in “two flavors” – new and used.
Lets talk used campers first. There are two types of sellers – private and dealer. Buying from each type has its own advantages. A dealer will try to get more money for the camper, but they are providing a service to you. All dealers will prep their used camper and do a walk-through (how thorough it is is up to you!) to demonstrate that all the components work. They may also perform certain cosmetic repairs that private sellers will not. Many dealers will also reveal KNOWN issues with a used camper. This post details how to best handle a dealer walk-through on a camper you’re about to close on.
Dealers are also not emotionally attached to the camper they’re selling. Emotional attachment can exist among private sellers, and as such they may be reticent to sell it at the “right price.” Dealers (often) buy a camper at a low-ball price, and have “room” to lower their asking price in order to sell it. They are especially motivated if they need to generate cash-flow.
Realities of Private Sellers…
Private sellers may also be “upside down” – owing more on the camper than its worth. This is an unenviable situation, now being experienced by MANY recent (last 3 years) purchasers of RV campers.
A seller can become upside down when they put little (or nothing) down at the time of purchase. Since campers depreciate FAR FASTER (especially now) than their loan gets paid down, they may owe FAR MORE than its real value. This puts the seller (current owner) in an untenable position where they may have to stroke a check for thousands of dollars to their lender to cover the difference between what they can get for their camper and what they owe their lender. For my own clients in my Concierge RV Buying Service, I work to ensure they do not overpay for the camper of their dreams to ensure that this does not happen to them. Further, by buying used, you generally avoid the (steep) initial depreciation experienced by nearly all RV’s in their first two years.
Private sellers are often willing to sell for less than what a dealer will demand (as if any seller can “demand” anything in this current buyers market!) With a private seller, you may wish to arrange for an inspection of the camper before “sealing the deal.” There are ways to do this that protect the buyer and I work with my clients to ensure this process goes smoothly and safely for them. I worry less about hiring an inspector for a dealers camper, though if it is a motorhome, I may want a mechanic to look it over.
Is purchasing a new camper EVER the best choice?
I bought a new camper (in 2017.) Why? The camper I wanted was a new model (made by Outdoors RV) and NO ONE was making anything like it (or as good as it) at the time (or even still today.) For that reason, I opted to purchase brand new. I can think of other reasons to buy new, these include:
- Buyers of new RV’s receive a full (typically 1 year) warranty from the manufacturer
- Used units may not cost much less than a new one (unusual, but I will detail a scenario, read on…)
I recently had a client looking for a 21 ft. (actual length) travel trailer with bunks. Once we found a model/manufacturer with an acceptable build quality and floor plan, I looked at the used market and at new units. It was clear to he and I that to get him a 2020 camper (3 years old), it was going to cost near or just over $19,000.
I negotiated a price on a new 2023 unit for him for $25,000. The 2023 had a couple of features he liked not found on earlier year models of the same brand. For the manufacturers warranty, it alone was worth the extra $6000. to him to buy new – and I endorsed his decision.
It is important to note that because of the particulars of this model (small size, bunks), they hold their value far better than most campers do. In this market, for a model with a less desirable floor plan, the difference between a 2020 used unit and a new 2023 could be closer to $10,000., at which point, buying used may make perfect sense.
It helps that we’re not talking about an expensive camper. More expensive units will show a greater difference between new and used selling prices.
Negotiating the BEST possible price on any RV camper
Of course, the bottom line to me is knowing how much you SHOULD pay for any camper and how to successfully negotiate that price with the seller! When I talk with a dealer, I know their profit margin, and we’re talking the same language – which seems to help. When the seller is a private owner, I often find myself educating them on the process of selling an RV and help them to understand why I’m offering them what I am – given the current RV market.
My how quickly the market conditions change…
A year ago, I never could have imagined writing a post with the message contained within. Simply put, we have switched from the best RV sellers market to a very strong buyers market in less than a year. It is not a “100% conversion” as a few categories, including Class B vans and small travel trailers are still holding their own, but many other types of RV’s are now solidly in the “buyers market” category. Negotiations should be conducted as such.
In just the past several weeks, I have negotiated deals for clients that frankly surprised even me! If you don’t ASK, you won’t RECEIVE! But, your offer has to be realistic otherwise a seller won’t take you seriously.
An even better buyers market coming?
Might the market continue to get better for buyers? I believe so, but the future is promised to none of us, and only you can ultimately decide the answer to the question “Is now the best time to purchase an RV?”
Thanks for reading! If you do own a RV and want to see accessories I personally use and recommend – click the image below.
In closing, if you’re looking FOR an RV – or looking to sell, please check my Concierge Service HERE – and if you see value, contact me. Comments, as always are welcome below, and if you want to be notified of new posts as I write them, please consider signing up for my newsletter below.