The ten biggest mistakes RV buyers make and how you can avoid them.

Buying an RV is often the start of one of the most positive family experiences most people
will ever have, but for a few, it can turn into a disaster.

Hello, My name is Bob Moore.  I have been in the RV business for almost 40 years, doing just
about everything that can be done in an RV dealership.  In that time, I have learned a lot
about what makes for a great RV experience and how to avoid the other kind.  Buying an
RV is not something you do every day so please read what I have to say and use this
information to help you make a smart buy and start your family out on the RV adventure
of a lifetime.
 

Mistake #1: Verify the honesty of the seller.
Mistake #2: Most buyers believe that all brands are alike.
Mistake #3: Most buyers believe that big out of state dealers can sell for less.
Mistake #4: All dealers are NOT alike.
Mistake #5: "The dealer gave me everything I paid for my 4 year old trade."
Mistake #6: "The 'Blue Book' says this unit is worth X dollars, so that must be what it is really
    worth."
Mistake #7: "I just bought a tent camper that is so hard to
    set up that we used it twice and won't ever go camping again."
Mistake #8: I just returned from a trip in our new motor home and I am so
    exhausted from fighting the wheel that I could just cry.
Mistake #9: My truck will not go more than 30 MPH up a hill with my new trailer, now I need
    to buy a new $35,000 Suburban.
Mistake #10: I just saved 1/2% on my RV loan by going to my credit union.
Final notes:  Best Regards, Bob Moore

 
 

Mistake #1
  All too often, I hear this statement from a new buyer.  What a great deal I got on
an almost new trailer from a family traveling through, who had to sell because their
Grandma got sick in Florida.  Good grief!  This is the oldest scam in the books.  Three
thousand years ago, Abdul bought a camel from a wandering Gypsy who had to sell his
favorite animal because his Great Aunt was sick in Istanbul.  The same people are playing
this same scam today, but it is trailers they are selling, not old camels.  There is a factory
in Elkhart Indiana that builds trailers especially for these people.  They can build them
cheap because they use surplus material, shoddy construction and do not warrant them.  A
family buys one, goes to a campground or motel, puts an ad in the paper with a story that
will bring tears to your eyes.   Bingo! another sucker is born!   The next day, the family is
back in Elkhart to do it again.  Only later, after a six month hassle to get the title, the unit
starts to fall apart and the sucker finds that no one will repair it at any price.  No repair
center will touch one of these dogs (or are they camels?) because every time they do,
something else falls apart and they get blamed for it.  I estimate that more than 9 out of 10
RVs sold by people who are traveling are scams.  If you are interested in more information
read the book Scam! Inside Americas Con Artist Clans by Don Wright.  Cottage
Publications 1-800-272-5518
 Buying from a reputable dealer would save you the problem.  But, there are some
great buys that can be made from private sales and you might like the thrill of the hunt.  So
what can you do to avoid the scams?  Do not buy a one or two year old unit from
someone in a campground or a motel.  Visit the seller at his home and confirm that he
lives there.  Then, have a mechanic you trust go over the RV before you buy.  Only hand
the seller a check when he hands you a good title with his/her name and address on it
 

Mistake #2
 Most buyers believe that all brands are alike.  After all, they all use the same
appliances dont they?  Sure everyone uses the same appliances, but that is only a small
part of what makes each RV a great value.  The quality of the materials used, the
engineering, and careful construction are far more important than the brand of the
appliances.  I have seen RVs that were so poorly planned as to be almost unusable, others
that were balanced so badly that they were almost impossible to tow and others that
started to fall apart after a few years.  Recently one major manufacturer of motor homes
spent over $6,000,000 to design a new line of motor homes using a modern CAD system.
A smaller manufacturer spent $300,000 to try to do the same thing with pencil and paper.
Which one do you think did it right?   Also, the major manufacturer got all of his money
back in reduced construction costs due to his excellent design.
 Protect yourself by buying name brand products.  Yes, you may pay a few hundred
dollars more for a name brand unit, but you will get it all back many times over in resale
value, lower maintenance, your own safety and comfort and freedom from hassles.
 

Mistake #3
 Most buyers believe that big out of state dealers can sell for less.  Please think
about it!  How can he sell for less, after paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to
advertise, when he pays the same as any other dealer does for the product.  Yes that is
right, no RV dealer can buy for less, no matter what his volume, unless he buys off-brand
or distressed merchandise.  (If you dont believe this, just call any name brand
manufacturer and ask them.)  What out of state dealers are good at is high pressure and
bait-and- switch selling.   Also, most states have a huge body of consumer protection
laws, none of which will protect you out of state.  Have you ever tried to sue an out of
state dealer for non-compliance?  It almost cant be done.  Further, while traveling to that
big out of state dealer make special note of the route since you will be traveling it about 2
more times for a name brand or 4 more times for an off brand.  That is the average number
of times a new RV needs to go back to the dealer for warranty repairs and despite
assurances to the contrary, most dealers will not service what they dont sell because they
loose money on warranty work.  To verify this, just call any local dealer and ask for
warranty work on a unit he did not sell.  You have never heard such fancy excuses.
 Buy close to home.  You will not pay more and you will get safety, fewer hassles
and better service.
 

Mistake #4
  All dealers are alike, so who cares where you buy.    An RV dealer is far
more important to your long term satisfaction than any other type of retailer you are likely
to buy from.  Over the years you own an RV you will need your dealers help in many
more ways than you can imagine.  Things like help finding a dealer in Florida to fix your
hitch or that last minute repair that will make or break your vacation.  I know of 2 dealers
for a certain brand of trailer who seem very similar.  Yet, the manufacturer for the product
told me he gets 30 times the complaints from dealer #2 than he does from dealer #1.
Why?  Dealer #1 has 6 technicians (2 of which are certified master technicians) that
average  more than 10 years servicing RVs, gives them 3 weeks training a year, has a huge
parts inventory and  maintains a toll free number you can call for advice from anywhere in
the country.  Dealer #2 has 3 technicians with less than 1yr experience, does no training,
has a small parts inventory and limits his toll free number to sales calls.
 Check out dealers before hand.  Ask your RV friends for the advice.  Call the
better business bureau.  While at the dealership ask questions about employee turnover
and experience.  Visit the parts and service departments and look around.  Spotting the
difference between good and bad dealers will be easy.
 Shopping tip.  Shows can be a great place to shop for an RV but only buy from a
dealer you have previously checked out.  Even a terrible dealer can make a good
showing at a show.

 

Mistake #5
 The dealer gave me everything I paid for my 4 year old trade.  This comment
usually follows these actions.  The customer shops a dealer selling a name brand unit with
a reasonable asking price and is disappointed in what the dealer offers for his trade.  They
then go to a dealer selling an off brand unit for about the same price and are offered far
more for their trade.  Wow what a great deal!  Wrong, it is probably a very bad deal.
What happened is that the off-brand dealer just marked his unit way up so he could give
an artificially high trade value.  Buyers often make the mistake of being more concerned
about selling their trade than they are in making a good deal.  (Dealers call this being
married to your trade)

 To avoid this problem, go to the library and get a copy of the NADA-RV
Appraisal Guide or the Kelly Blue Book and look up your unit.  Be careful, see mistake #
6.  Then call two or three dealers and offer to sell them your unit and ask for a rough
value over the phone.  You should now have a good idea of the wholesale value of your
trade.  Are you shocked?  You probably should be, but at least you have the facts and an
opportunity to sell to a friend or relative at a realistic price.  Dealers always trade at or
below wholesale no matter what you get on paper.  If they show you more on paper, they
are just making it back on the new unit.  A side note, the dealers reaction to your request
to sell him your RV may give you an idea of how good his after sale service will be.
 

Mistake #6
 The Blue Book says this unit is worth X dollars, so that must be what it is really
worth.   Wrong!  I have seen book values that are thousands of dollars high or low.   It
is hard enough to accurately evaluate a car with a Blue Book where there are only a few
dozen brands and the books are printed weekly for each state from auction results.  RV
books are only printed 3 times a year for the whole nation and there are no reliable RV
auctions.  Worse yet, since there are over 500 brands of RVs listed, over half of the values
are based on fewer than 5 sales.
 Call a few dealers for a value or call me and ask for the paper How to evaluate a
used RV  we will mail or fax it to you at no charge and no commitment.  This changes
frequently, so dont use one older than 2 months.  By the way, I am always willing to help
you evaluate a used RV, just call.
 

Mistake #7
 Another statement I often hear is:  I just bought a tent camper that is so hard to
set up that we used it twice and wont ever go camping again.  Not all campers are as
easy to use as they should be.   Protect your self by asking your dealer to let you set
the camper up.  Set up should take less than 10 minutes and be easy enough for the kids to
do it.  This is very important for used since they dont get easier as they get older.  If the
dealer puts you off maybe he knows something you dont.  Take your business elsewhere.
 

Mistake #8
 I just returned from a trip in our new (or new to us, used) motor home and I am so
exhausted from fighting the wheel that I could just cry.
 See #7 you should always try before you buy, in this case a test drive will work.
Any new motor home will be a little scary at first, but you should be comfortable driving it
within the first 1/2 hour.  By the way, there may not be anything wrong with the motor
home.  Some people do not like the closed in feeling of a Mini while others do not like the
wide open feel of a Class A.  A few test drives will find the one that will give you a great
driving experience.  Most people find the right motor home easier and more fun to drive
on a long trip than their own car.
 

Mistake #9
 My truck will not go more than 30 MPH up a hill with my new trailer, now I need
to buy a new $35,000 Suburban.
 To prevent this financial disaster, ask your dealer to guarantee in writing that your
vehicle will do a good job of towing your trailer or he will buy it back.  Any dealer should
be willing to do this if he is given the opportunity to inspect your tow vehicle first.  Your
vehicle owners manual will list your maximum towing weights.  Please watch for two
other traps.  First, your tow vehicle may not have a towing package or other options
needed to tow its maximum listed weight.  Second, the weight of an RV as listed in the
brochure does not include options or your personal good.  Play it safe and assume your
RV will weigh 800 to 1400 pounds more when you are ready to travel.   Safety tip!   If
you are buying a trailer that weighs more than 1/2 of your vehicles tow rating, install an
equalizing hitch with a sway control.  Always use extensions on your mirrors so you can
see down the side of the trailer.
 

Mistake #10
 I just saved 1/2% on my RV loan by going to my credit union.
 Unless your credit union or bank rate is very low do not arrange your own
financing, let the dealer do it.  I know this goes against conventional wisdom so here are
the reasons.  Reason #1, The RV may not be used as security on the loan and if it is not,
you can not deduct the interest.  Yes, Virginia, there is still a tax break for interest!  An
RV will usually qualify for a tax deduction on the interest because it is a second home.
For most of us, this is like getting a 6% loan in stead of a 9%   Reason #2, If the dealer
has arranged the financing, the bank is a Holder in Due Course this little known clause
means that if the worst should happen and your unit does not perform as promised, you
can stop paying the bank while you settle your legal differences.  As you can guess, this is
a real convenience and further, the bank will put a lot of pressure on the dealer to satisfy
you quickly.
 

Note, Buying does not need to be a win / lose situation.  A few dealers understand that a
fair price and customer satisfaction are in their best interest too.  Here is how to find one.
Ask your RV owner friends who gives a good deal and great service, then visit those
dealers.  Go in with a few prepared questions to test the sales persons honesty.  Questions
such as How many miles per gallon will this class A get?  (No gas class A gets more
than 10 MPG)  How big a trailer will my car pull?  (The weight your car will tow is in
your owners manual.  The dry weight of the trailer should be at least 15% below that.)
Also tour the parts and service departments to see if they look capable.
While at the dealership ask your self these questions
 Are they more interested in me or my money?
 Will they educate me?
 Will they take the time and effort to find out what I want, rather than just sell me
what they want?
 Can I talk to the owner of the dealership?

All of this is my opinion.  Opinions based on a lot of experience.  But, anything can be
improved by more input.  Please help me make this report even more useful by sending me
your tips and experiences for inclusion in later versions.

Best Regards,
Bob Moore
Moores Travel Trailers Inc.
34155 Lorain Rd., N. Ridgeville, Ohio 44039
1-800-523-1904