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How to Save Money Buying a New RV: Tips from an RV Industry Pro

Published on April 24th, 2024 by Dave Helgeson
This post was updated on May 15th, 2024

Looking to save money buying a new RV? As a former RV dealer, I know the ins-and-outs of how a dealer makes a profit. I am also an RV owner, author and seminar presenter who loves to share my knowledge with others on how to best enjoy the RV lifestyle which includes how to save money buying a new RV.

Please join me as we journey through the buying process.

A former RV dealer shares how to save money buying a new RV 

For years, the allure of RV travel has captivated retired seniors, adventure-seekers, and families alike. The freedom to roam, the flexibility to explore remote destinations, and the comfort of a home on wheels have made recreational vehicles (RVs) a popular choice for vacationing and even full-time living. However, the initial cost of purchasing a newer RV can be daunting for many aspiring travelers. Fear not! With a bit of savvy and careful planning, you can navigate the RV market and find ways to save money without compromising on quality or comfort.

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How to Buy the RV You Want, at a Price You Love

First, let’s take a look at what you need to know before you sit down to sign paperwork and hand over money.

1. Know What You Need and Want from an RV

Before diving into the market, take some time to assess your needs and wants. Will a motorized or towable RV fit your needs best? If you are a new RV buyer who already owns a pickup truck or SUV capable of towing a travel trailer or fifth wheel, this saves the cost of buying a motorized RV with a “second” engine, and all of the maintenance expense that come with it. Therefore, a travel trailer, fifth wheel, tent trailer or truck camper will be your best choice to save money buying a new RV.

Also consider factors such as the size of your travel party, desired amenities, and intended usage. Are you planning weekend getaways or extended cross-country trips? By having a clear understanding of your requirements, you can narrow down your options and avoid overspending on features you won’t use.

2. Do Your Research

Knowledge is power when it comes to making informed purchasing decisions. Take advantage of online resources, RV forums, and reviews to educate yourself about different RV models, manufacturers, and pricing trends. Pay attention to user experiences, reviews, reliability ratings, and resale values. The more you know, the better equipped you’ll be to spot good deals and negotiate effectively which will help you save money buying a new RV

3. Know the Cost of Purchasing Out-of-State

Keep in mind that most RVs are built in Indiana. You might find a great price from an RV dealer located close to the factory. Sure, you might possibly save money buying a new RV in that area. But if you’re considering it, always calculate whether you will really save any money once you travel there, take delivery, and return home.

Another problem and potential expense of buying an RV out-of-state: where will you have it serviced? Your local dealer is under no obligation to service your new RV under If warranty. You may find yourself traveling far from home to have it serviced. Even if they do agree to service it, you will likely receive an appointment many months in the future, after they have taken care of customers who purchased their RV from the dealership.

save money buying a new RV
Buying “factory direct” isn’t always the cheapest option. Facebook photo

4. Consider Pre-Owned RVs

While the allure of a brand-new RV is undeniable, don’t overlook the potential savings offered by pre-owned models. Modern RVs are built to last, and many pre-owned units are in excellent condition with low mileage. By opting for a slightly used RV, you can enjoy significant cost savings without sacrificing quality or amenities.

Just be sure to thoroughly inspect any pre-owned unit for signs of wear and tear. If you are not mechanically inclined and don’t understand how RVs operate, I would suggest you hire an RV inspector to scrutinize the unit before committing to purchase.

PRO TIP: Many people bought RVs during the Covid pandemic. Now that things have returned to normal, some discovered RVing wasn’t for them and have returned to flying or cruising. Since they no longer have a need for an RV, they are often willing to sell at steep discounts.  

5. Shop Smart

When it comes time to hit the dealership or browse online listings, approach the shopping process with a critical eye. Don’t be swayed by flashy features or extravagant upgrades that push the price beyond your budget. Instead, focus on finding a model that meets your needs and offers the best value for your money.

Keep an eye out for sales, promotions, and special financing offers that can further sweeten the deal which can save money buying a new RV.

Timing is Everything: Know the Best Time to Buy an RV

Just like any other big-ticket purchase, timing can play a significant role in if you want to save money buying a new RV, or a pre-owned rig from a private party.

Dealerships often offer discounts and incentives at the end of the model year to clear out old inventory. Buying during the off-peak season when demand is lower can also result in better prices.

Keeping an eye on market trends and timing your purchase strategically can lead to substantial savings. Multi-dealer RV shows can also be a good time to negotiate a good price. With multiple dealers competing for your business, you can pit one dealer against the other for the best price.

Don’t like the price one dealer offers? Just walk across the show aisle to another dealer, and ask for a better price.

When the market is soft due to high fuel prices, high interest rates, RV dealers with too much inventory (and aged inventory) can be a great time to score a great deal. This is when RV dealers are most anxious to move aged inventory Their “flooring and curtailment” costs are high, which makes it the time for you to buy and RV.   

Thinking of buying a pre-owned RV? Fall is often the best time to buy and save some money.

There are fewer people looking to buy RVs in the fall. This is often the time when current owners begin to winterize and put their RVs in storage. It is at this time of year that many RV owners ask themselves if they utilized their RVs enough through the spring and summer to justify the expenses of owning, maintaining, and storing their RV. Some decide it’s not worth owning their RV any longer and list it for sale. With few others in the market for an RV in the fall, it is your opportunity to negotiate a great price.

Now let’s review what to do once you’re sitting in the RV sales office. Or, if you’re meeting a private party ready to talk about buying their RV. This information can give you the confidence to know that you aren’t being taken for a ride.

Don’t Feel Pressured to Buy an Extended Warranty

The “protection” of an extended warrant sounds great. But, keep in mind that it is just a service contract covering only specific items. It does not necessarily extend the manufacturer’s warranty that covers practically everything.

Based on my personal experience as a dealer, if you really want to save money buying a new RV, I recommend saying no to the extended warranty offered by the dealer at the time of sale. You can always get one after you buy, before the factory warranty expires.

Use that time to thoroughly research and understand what a service contract is, the cost, deductibles, and what is covered. RV dealers often mark up their cost of a service contract two or three times. This adds considerable profit to the deal for them. In most cases you would be better off putting what a service contract would cost you in an interest-bearing account and drawing from it when you need repairs.

If you still feel the need to purchase a service contract from the dealer you can do so at any time prior to the factory warranty expiration date. You may also want to consider purchasing a service contract directly from a service contract provider. This will save money when buying a new RV.

Note: service contracts are available for pre-owned RVs too. Learn more about service contracts here.

Don’t Trade in Your RV

Do you currently own an RV and are thinking about trading it in? Don’t, if you want to save money buying a new RV. An RV dealer will never give you the true retail value of your current RV. Remember, they need to make a profit and pay a salesperson when they resell it. While not as convenient as trading it in, you will always do better financially, in the long run by selling it yourself.

Always Explore RV Financing Options

If you’re unable to pay for the RV upfront, don’t despair. There are plenty of financing options available to help you spread the cost over time. Shop around for the best interest rates and loan terms and consider getting pre-approved for financing before you start shopping. A lower interest rate can save you thousands of dollars over the life of the loan which will save money buying a new RV.

Note: The financing offered by the RV dealer may not be the best option. Many RV dealers will raise the interest rate offered by the financial institutions underwriting the loan and share in the profit gained from the inflated interest rate.

Beware of Hidden Costs

When budgeting for your RV purchase, don’t forget to factor in additional expenses such as insurance, taxes, registration fees, storage, and maintenance costs. These hidden costs can add up quickly and eat into your savings if you’re not prepared. Be sure to budget accordingly and leave yourself some wiggle room for unexpected expenses.

Be Ready to Buy When the Opportunity Presents Itself

If you have done your research, you will know a good deal when it presents itself. Have your full or down payment ready. Get your RV financing pre-approved so you will be ready to buy it quickly before someone else does.

Negotiate Like a Pro

The sticker price isn’t set in stone. There’s often room for negotiation, especially in the current world of RV sales. Since MSRP is typically 140% of the dealer’s invoice, don’t hesitate to haggle with the seller or dealership to secure a better deal. Come prepared with research and comparable listings to justify your offer.

Also be certain dealer prep and PDI (Pre-Delivery Inspection) are part of the negotiated price. Many RV dealers will add these to the agreed sales price after you sign a sales order to increase their profit margin. Be polite but firm in your negotiations. Don’t be afraid to walk away if the terms aren’t to your liking. 

Two More Considerations Before Buying Your Perfect RV

Doing your homework before buying an RV also extends to your abilities to maintain an RV, and what you hope to get out of owning one. The last two most important things to know about RV purchase include:

DIY Maintenance and Repairs

Owning an RV comes with ongoing maintenance and repair costs. But you don’t have to break the bank every time something goes wrong. Learn to perform minor repairs and maintenance tasks yourself, This can save you a significant amount of money in the long run.

  • Invest in a good set of tools. Educate yourself with online tutorials and RV maintenance resources. And tackle simple repairs yourself with confidence.

Also keep in mind that many motorhome chassis are very specialized. If you don’t possess the skills to maintain or repair one you will be at the mercy of the shops that do. And you will pay accordingly.

Plan for the Long Term

Finally, think about the long-term implications of your RV purchase. While it’s tempting to focus solely on upfront costs, consider factors such as resale value, depreciation, and future upgrades. Choosing a reputable manufacturer with a strong track record can help preserve the value of your purchase over time. Additionally, investing in quality accessories and upgrades can enhance your RV’s functionality and resale appeal when it comes time to sell.

Buying a Newer RV Doesn’t Have to Drain Your Bank Account

With careful planning, research, and smart shopping strategies, you will save money buying a new RV without sacrificing the joy and freedom of RV travel. By knowing what you need, exploring all your options, and negotiating effectively, you can find the RV that fits your budget and your lifestyle. So, what are you waiting for? Hit the open road and start making memories that will last a lifetime!

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