Do you know how to shop for an RV?

By : RVCG Staff March 31, 2019

Recreational vehicle consumer advocate JD Gallant has some advice on shopping the Kingdome RV Show: Shop, by all means, but there's only one reason to buy.

Seabury Blair

(This article is reproduced with permission by The Sun. It was originally published in The Sun on January 24, 1994)  Editor:  We have taken the liberty of updating some of the numbers originally given for a more current view.

Quilcene resident JD Gallant says he doesn't have very many friends in the recreational vehicle industry.

In fact, they probably wouldn't let him rent a booth at the Kingdome RV Show when it runs Feb. 2-6. He'll be there, for sure. But over there, he'll pay $6 to get in the door, just like most of you.

The reason is that JD -- he doesn't use periods, as in Harry S Truman  -- does not have kindly things to say about most RV manufacturers. Dealers aren't particularly fond of Gallant, either, although he says most dealers are merely reflections of the products they sell.

Gallant says he thinks that West Sound RV dealers are as good as they get, and that local shoppers who know how to negotiate can get good deals without leaving home.

He says that buyers should be aware that Manufacturers Suggested Retail Price tags from most RV manufacturers have gross profits of 28 to 32 percent built into them. Through negotiation, some dealers may accept as little as 8 to 12 percent gross profit, according to Gallant.

The man knows RVs. He's built four of them, worked on them, sold them, served as a sales advisor and written four books on America's homes on wheels. There aren't many people who can tell you what kind of a toilet you'll find inside a Winnebago 28-foot Class C rig, but he can.

Now, you may be arguing that not a lot of people care about what kind of toilet is in a recreational vehicle. You might be right. But several hundred thousand people will be spending several billion dollars on RVs this year. Gallant says they deserve to know about RV toilets, and a whole lot more.

Gallant estimates that the RV buyer will overpay an average of $1,600 for every RV bought.

"That comes to $800 million lost, mostly by retired people, and that is a lot of money," said Gallant in a telephone interview. "It is a very lucrative business."

His most popular book -- No. 12 on a best-seller list of small-book publishers -- is "How to Buy an RV Without Getting Ripped Off." (Editor:  At the time Seabury Blair wrote this article, that was JD's best selling book - it is now the RV Buying Trilogy.)  It is even possible to do that, Gallant insists, at an RV show. Remember these three rules:

  • "An RV show is designed to dazzle you with glitter. It is designed to get you excited so that you will open your checkbooks."
  •  "An RV show is profit-oriented. One dealer will pay up to $10,000 for his space. Salespeople at every show will try to convince you that the show has a special price that will never be offered again, and that is false. Totally false."
  •  "Finally, and most importantly, those who buy at the show rarely get what they need. The RV is the wrong type, the wrong size, and the wrong price."

So why go the show? Gallant says there are excellent reasons to visit as many RV shows as you can.

  • "An RV show is a wonderful place to be entertained and educated. It is an opportunity to get ideas by collecting brochures and taking notes."
  • "I always tell my students to take their notes in the brochures. Always mark the Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price in the brochure and the asking price (show price). From this, shoppers can tell the discount rate to use when they negotiate.
  • "When they negotiate, they should know that whatever the dealer does at the show, they can do at the dealership."
  • Now, if you've got between $20,000 and $30,000 burning a hole in your pocketbook, or you've just won the lottery -- Gallant says there IS a way to buy an RV at the show.
  • "If you know exactly what you want. You need to know the model's fair market value, and if you know the minimum and maximum negotiating value, it is relatively safe to buy at the show."
  • And if you decide to buy at the show, Gallant has this advice for you:
  • "Leave a minimum deposit of not over $500 to lock up a model at a specific price. Do not leave a trade-in title at the show or with a dealer. Do not order any preparation services.
  • "Always mark the purchase order with the following words: 'This agreement is subject to buyer's satisfactory inspection of the RV at the dealership, and acceptable financing terms.'
  • "They may say that they can't get the special show rates or terms, and try to get higher financing terms."

If you seek information outside of the brochures at an RV show, ask to talk to a factory representative. Gallant says that most of the salespeople at the shows are not widely knowledgeable about their products, but RV makes represented at the show usually have a factory representative on hand.

RVCG Staff

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