As a prospective RV buyer, you may be torn between attending RV shows or visiting dealerships to find the perfect RV.
This guide lays out the pros and cons of buying from RV shows vs. dealerships, helping you find the best option to purchase your dream RV.
Important: Before we continue, it’s important to understand that at an RV show, you typically deal with dealerships. It’s just in a different setting with many competing dealerships, vendors, etc., under one roof, creating a few distinct advantages and drawbacks to each.
Buying an RV at an RV Show
RV shows are large-scale events where manufacturers, dealers, and other industry experts come together to showcase a wide range of RVs and related products and services.
These events are an excellent opportunity for potential buyers to walk through various models of RVs from different manufacturers, learn about the latest industry trends and innovations, and even benefit from exclusive show promotions and discounts.
Let’s look at the advantages and disadvantages of purchasing an RV at such events.
Tip: Find an RV show near you with our full show list schedule for 2023.
Pros of Buying at RV Shows
- Wide variety of RV makes and models: One of the main advantages of RV shows is the opportunity to compare different RVs side by side. With numerous manufacturers and dealers in one location, you can easily explore a wide range of options, find the latest innovations and trends, and determine which RV best suits your needs and preferences. Whereas at a dealership, you’re limited to what they sell.
- Exclusive show promotions and discounts: Manufacturers and dealers often offer special deals and discounts during RV shows to attract buyers. These incentives may include lower prices, additional features, or better financing terms. That said, it’s still a good idea to shop around as the “special” show price might still be higher than what you can find locally or online.
- Educational seminars and workshops: Many RV shows also offer educational seminars and workshops to help attendees learn more about the RV lifestyle, maintenance tips and tricks, and popular camping destinations. These sessions can be invaluable for both new and experienced RVers, and I highly recommend looking into them if you plan to attend a show.
- Networking opportunities: RV shows provide an excellent opportunity to connect with fellow RV enthusiasts and experts. You can share experiences, gather recommendations, and even join clubs and associations.
Cons of Buying at RV Shows
- Limited negotiation power: Due to the special show pricing and limited-time offers, your ability to negotiate may be reduced at an RV show compared to buying from a dealership. However, it’s essential to weigh the potential savings from exclusive show promotions against the lack of negotiation power.
- Impulsive buying: The pressure to make a quick decision at an RV show can sometimes lead to impulsive buying. This can result in buyer’s remorse, as you may not have had the time to explore all available options thoroughly. Remember, this is a large investment and not one to take lightly. Here’s a little tip I stumbled upon – talk to the dealer and see how long the special price will be offered. If they truly want the sale, they’ll extend the offer for you.
- Deals might not be better: As mentioned, the special show deals might not be as great as they seem. Before pulling the trigger on a new rig, check online or at local dealerships to see what the same model costs (factoring in any extra warranties, financing deals, etc.), and you may be surprised that the show deal is not the best deal.
- Crowded and overwhelming environment: With numerous attendees, RV shows can be crowded and overwhelming. This can make it difficult to thoroughly explore each RV or spend quality time with sales reps there to answer your questions. If possible, plan to attend on a weekday and get there early to avoid the worst crowds.
Tip: See our guide Are RV Shows Worth It, for more info on whether attending a show is right for you.
Buying an RV at a Dealership
RV dealerships are specialized retail outlets that sell new and used recreational vehicles. You can expect to find a variety of RVs, as well as experienced sales reps who can guide you through the buying process and help you find the perfect RV for your needs.
Pros of Buying at Dealerships
- Personalized attention: When you visit an RV dealership, you’ll receive dedicated attention from a sales representative who can provide tailored recommendations based on your preferences, budget, and needs. In other words, you’re not fighting large crowds for the rep’s attention which often happens at expos.
- Negotiation opportunities: Dealerships may allow for more negotiation when it comes to pricing and financing options, as opposed to at a show. That said, it really just depends, and you should always try to negotiate for the best possible deal, whether at a dealership or a show.
- Easier trade-in process: Trading in an RV is possible at both a dealership and a show. However, a dealership typically makes the process a bit easier, logistically speaking, compared to RV shows.
Cons of Buying at Dealerships
- Limited inventory: Dealerships may not have the exact model or features you’re looking for, which can require visiting multiple dealerships to compare options. At an RV show, you have multiple dealerships under one roof.
- Potential high-pressure sales tactics: Some dealerships may employ high-pressure sales tactics, such as upselling and hidden fees or pushy sales reps. That’s not to say you won’t encounter that at a show, but in my experience, I’ve never had an issue with pushy sales reps. Just remember to be aware of these tactics and be prepared to stand your ground (or walk away).
The choice between buying an RV at a show or a dealership ultimately depends on your preferences and priorities. RV shows offer a wide variety of options and potentially better deals, while dealerships provide personalized attention and better negotiation opportunities.
There’s no reason not to utilize both to their full potential for the best buying experience:
- Attend RV shows for research, education, and networking with other enthusiasts. See our tips for attending an RV show to get the most out of the experience.
- Test drive multiple RVs at dealerships to find the best fit for your needs.
- Consult online reviews, RV forums, and communities for additional insights.
- Set a budget and stick to it.
- Take your time and avoid impulsive decisions, ensuring you make a well-informed decision.