Chances are if you are reading this article you are considering purchasing an RV. You may be wondering when is the best time to buy an RV. There are a few things to consider when deciding when to purchase your rig.
In general, buying at the end of the season or the offseason, during the winter and fall, is the best time to purchase an RV. However, the prime time for sellers is at the start of the season. Savvy buyers know how to negotiate a great deal year-round, and this is probably the best way to go.
Of course, you want to use your RV during the camping season. But purchasing it at the wrong times pre or post-season can result in you paying too much money. Read on to find out when is the best time of year and even time of the month to buy a camper.
Be sure you know the average pricing of RVs before making a purchase. We have a helpful guide on finding out what an RV should cost.
Is There a Kelley Blue Book or NADA For Campers?
When to Buy
The best time to purchase an RV is arguably the end of the season. Many commercial retailers are looking to clean out last year’s models to make room for the new, and hope to do so by selling. But in reality, it is debatable if you will get the lowest price on an RV at this time.
Sellers are aware of when the buyers market occurs and may still mark up their prices. If you are looking to buy from a private buyer the market may not be as vast. The truth is that the “best time to buy” is no secret to sellers and therefore you may not get the awesome deal you were hoping for.
The Benefit of Planning Ahead
- Lower Prices
To purchase during the end of the season or the off-season (this means the winter) you will need to plan ahead. Most people start thinking about camping in a trailer or motorhome during the spring. When the sun comes out and the weather turns warmer, RV vacations begin calling.
But not looking ahead and buying well in advance of the season could hurt your pocketbook. Whereas buying during the offseason may not produce rock bottom prices, buying during the peak season will certainly come with a high price tag.
Buying an RV is similar to purchasing an automobile. Cars also tend to be cheaper during the winter months. Sometimes RV dealers offer holiday sales or cold weather discounts.
It is helpful to begin researching models long before the winter season approaches. That way when the deals are hot you can strike quickly. When the snow is coming down most people don’t have camping on their mind. This means dealers may lower prices to persuade buyers to come-in.
- Greater Leverage for Negotiation
This low demand may provide you with a little more room for negotiation. Even if they offer you a deal you can still see if they will come down from the list price. Typically, they are so hungry for a sale during the winter they will knock off a bit more money.
Lack of demand can also make a more enjoyable shopping experience. Unlike spring RV shows that are packed with people, the retailer will probably be mostly empty. You won’t have to vie for a salesperson’s attention, giving you more time to discuss a price.
- More Models Available
Shopping during the offseason may provide you with a wider selection of RVs. You will likely get to choose from new, used, or even the next model year as well as a variety of sizes and types. When everyone is shopping in the spring the turnover is higher resulting in more limited stock.
Many RV owners head south with their rigs for the winter, others may be wanting to sell. Private sellers often look to get rid of their RV during the fall and winter months after they have used it for their final summer season. They don’t want to deal with the hassles of winterizing or storing it so you may get a great deal in the late fall.
One of the easiest ways to find Rvs from private sellers and dealers alike is RVT.com. You should definitely check out their site.
Best Time of Month
It is hard to say if there is the best time of the month for purchasing an RV. RV dealers are quite similar to car dealerships and their sales cycles. This means that they likely will have monthly sales quotas.
It is hard to determine how many sales they were able to make during the course of the month, but if you shop towards the end of the thirty days you may have a higher chance of getting a better deal. If they are short of their quota the salesman may give you a deal just so they can make the sale.
Though you can argue that the winter then the fall seems to be the best season to purchase an RV, getting the best deal still takes tact. A savvy buyer will know how to negotiate an acceptable deal during any season. And you are in luck because we have some tips for you!
RV Buying Tips
- Do Your Research
The first step, and arguably the most important, is to do your research. You need to know which size, type, brand, and model of RV you want long before you ever set foot in a dealership. Here is a refresher.
Motorhomes are commonly divided into classes based on weight; class A is the biggest and heaviest and class C being the smallest. Class B, contrary to common sense, is a moderate in-between size and weight. Their price is determined by their class and size.
Class A motorhomes are the largest, usually including the most amenities and the most interior space. But, driving a class A motorhome will be nothing like driving your typical vehicle due to their size and weight. These campers usually range from 29 feet to 45 feet in length.
A bigger size means more room inside for dining, relaxing, and sleeping. Most class A motorhomes can accommodate multiple people and have more than one sleeping area. The formal bedrooms usually contain at least a Queen sized mattress.
Class B motorhomes are the smallest and least inexpensive, resembling an oversized van. They are broken down into two categories, Class B and Class B+. Class B motorhomes are usually anywhere from 18 to 24 feet in length, while B+ is only slightly bigger.
Because of their small size, they are affordable but come at a cost in terms of space. Class B can lack the storage and living space one would expect from a motorhome. Class B+ usually includes more amenities and therefore tends to be more popular. Class B is commonly referred to as “camper vans”.
You will usually only find one designated sleeping space in a Class B motorhome. They may include a pull-out couch but usually can only sleep three to four people. The kitchen and bath are modest, featuring only a wet bath.
Class C Motorhomes, somewhat counterintuitively, is a middle ground between classes A and B. They usually range from 30 to 33 feet long and are a perfect size for most RV enthusiasts.
They can resemble campervans on a larger scale. The cabin over the driving area offers extra sleeping space to occupants. Most have more than one sleeping area that does not include a pull-out couch. The kitchen and bathroom won’t be spacious but will be larger than a Class B motorhome.
There are numerous RV manufacturers but not all RVs are created equal. A large number of RV manufacturers may not use high-quality building materials, resulting in a dismal RV with a short lifespan. Be sure to read plenty of reviews and research brands before heading out to make your purchase.
Your budget is also a key component. You can use sites like NADA or RVshare to gauge the average selling price of your desired rig. These sites will also list the high average price, the retail price, and the low average price.
Understand that dealerships need to make a profit. Dealerships use NADA too, just like consumers. However, they receive a different version and will, therefore, see a different price, sometimes known as a Blackbook price. The price they are given takes into account that they still need to make a profit and numbers are raised accordingly.
When they are looking at used travel trailers they first take into account the wholesale number which is how much the vehicle is ultimately worth when they go to sell it. It usually takes into account age, popularity, model issues, etc.
They will then look at a number lower than the wholesale number or value called the average wholesale price. This is what they could sell a rig for with a buffer for their profit margin. This buffer could be as large as 25%. Many times the price they offer you is much higher than the actual value of the RV.
Beating the Odds
In order to find the best price, you will need to shop around, be flexible, and take a few risks. Whether you are going to a private seller or a dealership having these tools in your toolbox will equip you to secure the best deal.
- Visit Plenty of Dealerships
Or do lots of perusing of private sellers online. Taking your time to shop around will help you find the best deal. Even if you have an acquaintance selling a rig privately or always buy from the same dealership, don’t bank on them having the lowest price.
Visiting multiple retailers will give you a good idea of the range of prices at which RVs are selling. If you see a low price you could always return to your favorite seller to see if they can price match.
- Be Flexible
There are multiple ways in which you should be flexible when purchasing an RV. One way is by not visiting only your favorite retailer as mentioned above. But there are other ways too.
Consider buying used. New rigs can be quite expensive. The idea that a new RV will last you longer, have top of the line quality, and result in fewer issues and maintenance requirements can be a fallacy. Sometimes new RVs end up having a lot of problems that can cost you lots in repairs.
Instead of being tied to new RVs only, consider a used option. When you buy used it can be easier to stay within your budget. Most times any issues are listed in guides like NADA or consumer reports so you know upfront what you are getting into. With the money you save you can invest more into customization, or maintenance over time.
You may also want to consider other brands. Just like dealership loyalty, brand loyalty can leave you paying more than necessary. Many brands are quite comparable and it is worth it to check out a few different ones.
The top brands may produce models that aren’t so great but will remain on top due to customer loyalty. Even if you have only ever owned one specific brand, your budget may thank you for shopping outside of your bubble.
Finally, be flexible with your features. You may be able to swap out appliances, add upgrades, or just customize it to suit you later down the line. Base model RVs are usually very affordable and can save you a great deal of money compared to the pricier upgraded models. With all the cash you save you may be able to customize your RV for less.
Buying a fixer-upper may seem like a very scary proposition. However, it could be well worth your time and money. Some models are very popular with those who love to restore RVs such as Airstreams. But a handful of other models and brands have fared well over time.
Additionally, purchasing an RV at a base price allows you to completely customize it as you fix it up. It can be daunting but if you buy it at a low enough price and plan your restoration properly you can save big bucks.
Consider an RV share group. Just like timeshares you can pool your resources with friends and form an RV timeshare. If everyone contributes to the purchase you may be able to afford a more expensive model than was possible on your own.
It might seem risky to make such a large purchase with others but it can be done safely. Just draw up a contract and create an agreed-upon schedule.
Don’t be shy about negotiating. Haggling isn’t for everyone but in truth, many RVs at dealerships are marked way up. They may advertise a great deal, but remember they are padding the suggested retail price so that they can make a profit.
Don’t be afraid to lowball them. If you have done your research and can prove to the salesperson that you are an educated buyer, you will be surprised how much they can afford to come down in price.
Waiting and Walking Away
Finally, don’t be afraid to wait or walk away. Most times, an RV is a luxury item. You probably aren’t facing a huge time crunch to purchase your rig. Therefore, you have the ability to walk away and wait for the best deal.
You can secure a loan or financing from a third-party and present it to the dealership. They will typically be able to beat it but not without some pressure from you. Don’t be pressured into accepting the first number they give out; you can leave and return at a later time.
When you do return, the dealership may have special promotions or sales to offer you. Letting a private seller know you would like time to think about the sale can sometimes pressure them into giving you a better price. However, private sellers are usually less flexible in price.
Walking away is also always an option. This can be very hard to do when you have been working extensively with a salesperson and you feel that they have made special concessions for you. But know that if something feels off or if you are feeling too much pressure, you can always find the nearest exit.
A better deal may pop up down the line. There is never any reason you should be forced into purchasing no matter what the circumstances are.
Here is how to get the best price, simplified.
- Do your research. Know if you want new or used, look at multiple brands and models, and research pricing in your area
- Wait for the right time of year, winter is the optimal time followed by the fall
- Consider multiple different dealers and be flexible with the condition of the RV and the manufacturer
- Don’t be afraid to take risks in negotiating, trying out an RV timeshare opportunity, or walking away and waiting for the right deal to come along
Buying an RV is an expensive purchase, often more costly than buying a car or a boat. Therefore, take your time and be wise about how and when to but along with who to purchase from. If you do your research and equip yourself with the proper tools you may be able to secure a once in a lifetime deal!
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