buy a trailer
TAKE A FLASHLIGHT TO CHECK THE UNDERBODY OF THE RV

18 Smart Ways To Get The Best Deal From The Dealership To Buy A Trailer

I have noticed when I buy a trailer or just ask for prices, that campers are sold by dealers having much more margin than other non-commercial vehicles. There are massive markups from the dealer when they sell an RV, and that they deviate very frequently from the suggested retail price furnished by the RV manufacturer (MSRP) who has suggested to its dealership partners lower prices.

Likewise, in other cases, the dealerships have higher mandatory minimum prices arranged with their vendor who is the RV manufacturer. These policies pushes price up continuously for new RVs affecting consumers that want to buy a trailer. Likewise, it also turns prices higher for their substitute products that are the used RVs.

Do you know that I spent the same in my imported European SUV than my US manufactured travel trailer that of course, does not even has an engine?

Well, there must be a way for us to obtain better deals when we buy a trailer or any kind of RV, to balance this situation that leaves us otherwise defenseless.

So I wrote a list with all the ways to get better deals from dealers when you buy a trailer, but it applies mostly also to motorhomes:

Dealership With Good Aftermarket Service

This is probably the most important one. Only buy a trailer from a dealership that has obtained an excellent aftermarket reputation.

A good service after the sale is very important: in the dealership I bought, I had a couple of mechanical issues and some others pure cosmetic ones. Those were part of the warranty coverage. I obtained approval in about fifty minutes and they were later reimbursed.

However, I met people also with similar travel trailers in RV campsites, and similar minor complaints. Their dealership informed them that the approval was taking about ten working days.

So do not buy a trailer if the dealership does not have a reputation of at least a good aftermarket service.

Purchase Preferably Slightly Used Campers To Avoid Depreciation

I do not recommend to buy a new RV due to the high depreciation of new models. I explain in my article about RV depreciation, how to find RVs with the highest residual value. However, note that in the first year, when the new RV leaves the dealership, there is a strong inclination in the slope of the depreciation curve.

RVs have a high depreciation in the first year. Later on, some brands as Airstream and Forest River, maintain a high residual value after more than a decade.

I will recommend you to buy buy a trailer that is slightly used, and people had to change because the size of their family required a different RV class.

According to NADA, RVs are negotiated and transferred in an average of three years after the registration.

You are single and you have a teardrop camper or a tiny RV. You get married and you buy a class B RV. Then you have a child and you trade it for a class C RV because the bunk or alcove above the driver cabin is a good place for the kid. After this, you have another kid and you finally prefer a hybrid with two pop ups and more sleeping quarters. you buy a trailer again. Three years later, you buy a couple of dirt bikes for your family and you discover that you need a fifth wheel with a toy hauler. Therefore, it is very frequent to change RVs as the family gets larger.

So, get a used RV, buy a trailer that is slightly used with a bit less than three years, I would say, in consideration of the slope of the depreciation curve.

Always Buy A Trailer in Fall or When Winter is Starting

The best moment of the year to buy a trailer or a camper is fall and the start of the winter. Prices are lower, and also companies that have the core of their business in renting RVs, will prefer this moment of the year to renew their fleet. They will list their older models of campers for sale and there you can find good prices.

In winter there are more campers for sale than in summer. This could be as we said, an effect of the renovation of the fleet of some rental agencies.

Buy A Trailer From a Dealer and Not From a Private Seller

If you decide to buy a trailer or of course, any RV class, you have two options: purchasing from a private owner or purchasing from a retailer or dealership that has a plethora of campers for sale. The purchase of a used vehicle is not necessarily more expensive at the dealer. On the contrary: Since the dealer is required by law to a 12-month warranty, this can be very convenient.

The fact that you buy a trailer from an established RV dealer, does not exempt you from performing the thorough inspection we described in this article as part of the due diligence.

Even with a dealer, that can offer you more trust,  you do not know in the end which condition the vehicle is in unless you perform a thorough inspection. Even if it makes a good impression optically, there may be technical defects, some patent defects and some hidden ones.

Buying an used RV from a dealer, does not guarantee that your targeted RV is in good condition but at least he will grant you a twelve month guarantee and will be technically and economically in better position to respond for any non visible defect that the RV has and that appears after buying the RV or one of his campers for sale.

Inspect Thoroughly The RV and Make a Test Drive Before You Buy

Visit the RV in the dealership in daylight and preferably during the rain or immediately afterwards. Look for rust and damage to chassis and bodywork. Measure the tread depth of the tires, independently of which they should not be older than six years.

When you buy a trailer, an RV in general, it is important that you personally inspect the vehicle and make a test drive before you buy it. So you get a first impression and above all a feeling for the new vehicle.

Whether buying from a private seller or a professional dealership, a visit including a test drive is in any case mandatory for you and in this visit you must carry a lantern or flashlight and a pair of gloves to study the underbody.

Ask the seller as soon as you arrive to his house or commercial facilities where the campers for sale are shown: Have all services and inspections actually been performed? Request to cast a glance into the service booklet . Only what is fully documented and evidenced here can be taken at as granted. Good is also when there are still bills of repairs and so on which support the entries. Also take a look at the test report of the last main inspection and the results thereof.

During the viewing you need one thing above all: time. There is no value in superficially taking a look and rushing to make a decision. Look closely, because what you see now will not surprise you later.

Read The Contract And Check These Clauses

Ask about previous damage or accidents and request the freedom of accident and other damages contract clause explicitly stated in writing in the contract. The note “without apparent accident damage” is not sufficient, better: “without previous damage from accident and other damages“.

Check Inspection Certificates And Registration

Check the papers and certificates before you buy a trailer: Request the gas test certificate. Match the VIN with the papers and also check if a leak inspection has  been performed regularly.

Avoid Rebuilt RVs: Protect Your Interest

Before you buy a trailer, check the status of the used RV. It cannot be “Rebuilt” or “Salvage”.

At the moment that the RV is annotated as “salvage”, this annotations will remain in the recreation vehicle even in the case that you repair it and remodel it until it has a normal condition again.

The Department of Motor Vehicle can inspect the RV after a repair and refurbishment through a registered garage or licensed rebuilder. In that case a new annotation will be introduced as “Rebuilt”. Therefore, despite all the money spent, work and effort performed in the RV, the selling price will be severely capped in virtue of these annotations. Vehicles in the RV salvage yards are normally RVs with a “salvage” registration.

Remember that even if the travel trailer or motorhome was repaired or restored by the best specialist, even if it was customized to perform better than the original vehicle, it still remains titled as rebuilt.

Take a Flashlight And Gloves To the Visit To the Dealership

My experience says that when going to buy a trailer, I have to take with me a pair of gloves and a flashlight or lantern to inspect in detail the underbody. The flashlight can be useful also inside the RV to detect moisture or a second paint layer that hides moisture inside the RV.

buy a trailer
TAKE A FLASHLIGHT TO CHECK THE UNDERBODY OF THE RV

Apart from this, the contract will always state that there is a warranty provided by the seller regarding hidden defects.

Also if you want an extended warranty later on, your RV should be in a good condition.

Search In the Entire Country, Not Only In Your State

We met a couple in the RV park, that bought an Escape Trailer in British Columbia in Canada and brought the RV back to US, driving it. They were searching for prices and quality and the best trailer was available there.

The first time I had an RV was a teardrop, when I was single. So I searched for the dealerships in the vicinity withi two hundred miles. My goal was to obtain the best price and pay less. However, I finally paid much more than what I would have paid in a dealership in a different state. Each dealership has its own markup policy: do not forget that.

Search all over the country, specially in Indiana, where the majority of RV manufacturers are located and in the south. Due to its climate, there is always a stable RV market there.

Additional costs are about two dollars per mile depending on weight and size of the RV. Ask the dealership if you can have your RV shipped to your location. You can always drive it back home yourself, as I described earlier the case with the Escape Trailer purchase in Canada.

RV Prices Are Misleading: See What Happened To Me

The prices on RVs are frequently really misleading: Imagine you see a $ 30,000 RV in a dealership and the same in another dealership for $ 32,000. Which is cheaper? The answer is: “I need more information in order to know that, I need to know what is included in each price“.

Request the dealership to have these different prices disaggregated accordingly before you buy a trailer from him.

Some campers do not include any accessories and you have to buy them all later, while others will provide you a gift card or include amenities and accesories that you will need. My dealership included a weight distribution system with its sway bars and hoses for the wastewater tanks. Others include installation of the trailer hitches and hitch ball and this is very convenient.

I explain in this article however, step by step, how to install a trailer hitch.

Some dealers include you the service of winterizing your RV. Some dealerships have also parking and storage facilities and they can offer it for free during several months or charge you a nominal fee.

Conveyance charges and documentation fees are also included in the price. The dealer will deal with the formality of registration, so you become the legitimate owner and the dealership will also furnish the temporary tags. The dealership will cascade to you these costs plus a documentation fee.

Sales tax that the dealership has to pay will be passed to you as well. Have these values also discriminated in the documentation so you are informed as a customer what are you paying for. These are our rights.

If you are shipping the RV to your location, expect of course a fee for the freight service and a processing fee.

Special Attention To Mold And Moisture

These paragraphs are dedicated to the most important thing to check inside the RV before you buy a trailer, because it can be a factor of price negotiation with the dealership: this is moisture and mold. How to look and where to look.

This special care is because mold and moisture is the first clue to discover, in many cases, a situation of water damage. Water damage can cost you a lot of money and will be excluded in the coverage of any extended warranty you request in the future.

There is a moisture detector, that you should be taking with you when visiting the facilities of the dealer and having the first contact with the RVs.

Check for mold or other signs of moisture damage, such as musty odor or damp spots to determine. Condensation caused by a lack of ventilation or small leaks can permanently damage the construction of a mobile home over the years. This can happen often in hybrid campers, as I describe in the article where I compare them with travel trailers.

Therefore, thoroughly check the seals around windows and doors. If it has already come to mold in the interior, a removal of the damage is often only possible with great effort. However, it is not impossible to remove, but after you do it, there may still remain a stain in your carpet or other surfaces.

So, always check whether the leak tightness inspections have been carried out. Also, the shower tray in the bathroom or wet bath should be examined for cracks and damage. Through them, moisture can reach the subfloor. With a thorough look under the RV, the floor, which is often made of wood in older travel trailers, you can have an idea.

After checking mold and moisture, then what then remains is the functional testing of electrical installations such as control board, lights, TV, etc. as well as the gas and water system, but I wanted to open your eyes on mold and moisture.

Extra Costs Of A Generator

Consider always when you buy a trailer, that you have to separate in your budget, for a generator and a long cable cord to plug it in to your RV. This is necessary when you do not have an electrical pedestal or hookup available, for example if you do boondocking.

To use the generator in an RV park, it has to be silent. Good generators that are silent, remote controlled and reasonably priced, are the Champion and the Yamaha. My generator is currently a Champion and I recommend it because I know it well.

 

Set The Dealerships To Compete For You!

 

This is a technique you must really apply. It requires more time, but you will really save money. This approach will provide you leverage to allow you to obtain an advantage in any negotiation against the dealership, who is initially more powerful than you. As he has a dominant position and you are so weak, it is fair that you do as much as you can to obtain a good price pitting them wisely against each other. See how:

The cost was initially $ 37,000 for my target travel trailer (the second travel trailer, not the teardrop I had first). I found anyway, a pretty similar floor plan layout in a different dealership. They wrote me the price in a paper and it was much less.

So I went to the original dealership and I described them what was happening, something like this: “I am interested in this model a lot, but I went to another dealership and I found pretty much the same floorplan for this price (showing them the paper) that is much less. Even if I prefer yours, the difference is about 5K, a lot of money for me, and I am ready to buy a trailer. Is there any adjustment you can do in your price for me?

He said that he could not reach that lower price because it was a different make and brand of RV. Nevertheless he offered me a huge discount to buy a trailer and I saved $ 2,800.

The dealership obtained revenue and an operation closed, and I walked away knowing that I received the best possible price and moreover I asked for a gift card………oh, the gift card, see this paragraph below….

Request A Gift Card

There are many ancillary expenses after you buy a trailer, a new or used RV. From very simple ones as a transparent hose for the blackwater tank, or a Reflectix for a hybrid or pop up camper, to something larger in size and price as a generator.

It happens that the dealerships sell also many of these RV accessories. So ask them for a gift card to purchase these on his store. You will buy items that you need anyway with a gift card of  two hundred dollars or more.

I have an article, with all the “RV must-haves”. Things I discovered I needed from my very first trip and I did not have with me and I wish I would have bought before my departure.

Never  Buy A Trailer On Your First Visit

Well, the tip is “never buy anything in your first visit”. The salesmen in the dealership know that your first visit is the right moment to ensure a sale, and make you buy a trailer because they can pitch based on our natural impulsive behavior.

But really, you have to visit several dealerships, compare floorplans, quality and prices. Salesmen will be less eager next time, and you will improve your bargaining position in the negotiation of price and delivery conditions.

Likewise, it can happen that you actually change your mind as you look and test drive RVs. As I describe in my article about hybrid campers, I was decided to buy a hybrid. However, later I changed my mind after visiting dealerships and finally bought a travel trailer.

Select Among Different Brands

Some RV manufacturers have extremely high prices in their RVs just because of the make and the brand they have. This is sometimes a symbol of quality and you trust this brand, so you want to buy a trailer there. But sometimes it is not.

Airstream models, with their aluminum signature always have higher prices than other RVs. The Airstream Nest, made of fiberglass is also very expensive, because it is still an Airstream. So just go and check other brands.

I have an article about RV prices, that I recommend you to check out to understand how to detect and avoid these huge variations among different makes despite having similar size and floorplan.

Always Rent Before Buying

If you are thinking of buying a travel trailer or any kind of RV, what I did is to rent in Outdoorsy for not less than a couple of days, the same RV type and brand that I wanted to buy: Do you want to buy a Conquest from Gulf Stream? Then go and rent for a couple of days this model and see if it is suitable for you and your family. Outdoorsy is where I will recommend you to find RVs for rent.

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Alexander Beliavski
I am Alex, an RV designer and RV developer. I create bill of materials for RV manufacturers for travel trailers and fifth wheels. I have also worked as an RV designer. As a consultant, I create customization trees for RV manufacturers who want to offer a solution to prospective customers to design their custom RV with variant configuration. Apart from this, I sell in Indiana trailer hitches, hitch balls, goosenecks and weight distribution systems where I provide advice to customers who want to know which is their towing capacity, which hitch ball should they utilize and how to deploy a weight distribution system. I do my best to explain all these processes and their installation, here in RV Favorites.