Buying a new or new-to-you motorhome is a big deal. You want to be 100% sure you’re purchasing the best setup for you, your family, and your travel style.
The number of options on the market can feel overwhelming. Luckily, there are a large variety of campers, from campervans to pop-up campers to Class A motorhomes and more, that are available at any price point.
To avoid gouging your wallet and potentially saving thousands of dollars, it’s essential to strategically time your purchase.
So, let’s look at the different purchasing options and the best time of year to approach each one.
General Buying Advice
It’s easy to get excited about purchasing your new camper and hit the road, but you should never rush the process. If you don’t take your time, you risk buying an RV that’s either just “good enough” or a downright lemon. If you plan on buying used, check out our guide on what to look for when buying a used pop-up camper (it even includes a free checklist).
You want an RV that’s mechanically sound with a layout that meets your lifestyle, storage, and travel needs. If you compromise on the setup or jump at the first option that fits your budget, you’ll likely find yourself unhappy with your camper. When you don’t enjoy traveling in your rig, it becomes nothing more than a costly lawn ornament.
Tip: Try renting before buying your first RV to get a better idea of the size, layout, and amenities you will need. This could save you thousands of dollars (and a lot of stress) in the long run! Assuming you’re old enough to rent an RV, check out our guide on how much it costs to rent an RV to get started.
When you finally find a rig that’s comfortable to drive that you can afford, hire a private RV mechanic to inspect it. Many serious issues with motorhomes are invisible to the untrained eye. You want to buy your new ride with the confidence that it will run well for years to come.
Now, with that said…
When Is the Best Time to Buy a Camper?
Timing is everything when purchasing an RV. It’s important to consider when demand is highest and when sellers are desperate to get rid of their campers.
The weather where you live and the type of motorhome you’re purchasing can potentially change our advice listed below. Nevertheless, these recommendations hold true for most people in most buying situations.
Avoid Spring and Summer
Typically, people think about hitting the road for a camping adventure when the weather gets nice in the spring or summer. They plan family road trips and weekend getaways. That’s why you should try to avoid buying an RV in the spring or summer.
You’re much more likely to get a good deal on your motorhome in the fall and winter. Dealerships often have sales due to the drop in onsite customers. Similarly, many private sellers will be looking to get rid of their RVs to avoid dealing with winterization and off-season storage.
Regardless of where you live, check listings in the northern parts of the United States during the winter months. You’re guaranteed to find many RVs for sale, both new and used. It is, as they say, a buyer’s market during that time.
Time Your Purchase With the Next Year’s Model Release
One of the best times to buy a car is toward the end of the summer, right before the next year’s models arrive on the lot. The same trend holds true with campers. You’re likely to see the best deals from dealerships in the month before the next year’s model is released.
Often, there isn’t much of a noticeable difference between model years of the same motorhome. The upgrades and design shifts affect neither the usability nor functionality of the setup. You won’t find yourself missing out just because you bought a 2020 model instead of the latest 2021 version.
Call your local RV dealers and ask when the next year’s models arrive on the lot. Then, try to time your next motorhome purchase slightly before then. Your savings will be significant.
Shop on a Weekday
It takes time to make a deal when purchasing a big-ticket item. When dealerships find themselves packed with people or private sellers have many potential buyers scheduled in the same afternoon, no one has the time to bargain. As the purchaser, you’ll find yourself forced to choose between taking the deal presented to you or missing your opportunity.
It makes sense that weekends are more crowded and have more buyers on the hunt for their new vacation home on wheels. As a result, you’re less likely to get a personalized deal on a Saturday or Sunday. Try to rearrange your schedule or take a day off to buy your camper on a weekday.
Choose the Type of Seller Wisely
You can purchase a camper through a dealer, a private party, or at a trade show. Each option has its unique benefits and challenges. Your budget, desired RV, and knowledge of motorhome mechanics will decide which type of seller is best for you.
We’ve put together a list of each RV seller type’s pros and cons, along with a description of what you can expect while interacting with them. Read on to begin narrowing down the best purchase option for your circumstances.
Private sellers are individuals passing along their personal motorhomes without the help of a dealership. These individuals often realize that camping isn’t for them or decide to upgrade to a different model.
The best time to buy an RV from a private seller closely follows the trends described above. Private owners tend to sell their old motorhomes right before the newest models hit the dealers’ lots or list them at the end of the camping season to avoid storing them for another winter. Winter sellers often wait until the following spring to purchase their next travel rig.
When choosing to buy from a private seller, you can often find a great deal on a low-mileage RV. Campers don’t have high resale values. Private sellers will be grateful to get back anything from their investment.
If you don’t find your perfect camper during the fall or winter, don’t despair. People sell high-quality, affordable RVs year-round if you know where to look.
We suggest checking websites like Craigslist, RV Trader, and online forum communities for motorhomes listed by private sellers. These resources help you see what’s available both in your area and across the country.
There are two major downsides to purchasing a motorhome from a private party. First is the lack of a warranty. Second is the lack of credibility when it comes to caring for the RV.
When you buy a motorhome, you should ask for confirmation that it is safe and has been well taken care of throughout its history. If the seller promises you they performed routine, preventative maintenance, and drove carefully, they should have some paperwork to prove it.
But you still don’t fully know how well they took care of the camper. That’s why it’s crucial to have a certified RV mechanic check the entire rig before purchasing. Because campers sold by private parties don’t come with warranties, you must do your due diligence before signing the papers.
Repairs to a used camper can sometimes bring your costs up to a more expensive price tag than a new RV from a dealership. Protect yourself from buying a money pit you won’t be able to enjoy.
An RV dealership is the ideal place to purchase a camper if you need financing or want the comfort of a warranty. Keep in mind that dealers are salespeople with quotas to meet, so they don’t always have your best interest in mind.
If you have access to multiple RV dealers close to home, we suggest visiting all of them. This will allow you to see all of the options available and not feel stuck with the first choices presented to you. You might also find that quotes from other dealerships give you bargaining leverage in your negotiations.
The purchase of a new or certified used RV from the dealer comes with a warranty. You won’t be financially responsible if something beyond your control happens to your camper.
Dealerships also bring options for customization. You can mix and match features to design your perfect RV. In the used market, you must choose from what’s available.
RV dealerships don’t always offer the lowest prices. You’ll find yourself paying a premium for the warranty and a more extensive selection of campers.
You also risk facing high-interest lending options, so be sure to shop around for financing in addition to your perfect camper.
RV shows are giant expos where various dealers, mechanics, component manufacturers, and camping enthusiasts gather to share their love of adventure vehicle travel. These shows happen year-round in convention centers across the country. They provide excellent opportunities to see all of the options available on the market and connect with dealers or other service providers.
If you’re new to motorhome travel, these conventions provide educational opportunities to better understand how to use all of the components in your vehicle, what to look for in a campground, how to drive a large RV, and more. You’ll have opportunities to get answers to all of your logistical questions and concerns.
In general, salespeople love to pass along trade show deals to attendees. They’ll often include special upgrades or packages that are available only during the show. You can see a wide variety of options and walk through many different models.
One of the best opportunities at an RV show is the chance to purchase the floor display vehicles. Companies don’t want to pay to ship their demo motorhomes back to their sales lot. If you’re willing to take home a camper that thousands of people have walked through, then you’ll find extremely low price options.
The downside to buying an RV at a trade show is the time limit. You can’t go home and think about the purchase for a week. If you want the weekend deals, you must decide to sign the papers almost on the spot.
If you’re unsure of your ideal budget or are on the fence between two different setups, a trade show may not be the best purchasing location for you. However, it is an excellent option if you’re confident in what you have to spend and the features you need in your perfect RV.
Paying for Your New Camper Purchase
Interest rates for RV dealership loans are comparable to car loans. If you have less-than-stellar credit, the interest rates will likely be high. For individuals planning to finance their purchase, this is important to keep in mind.
Sometimes, a personal loan or RV loan from your bank will have much better terms. Shop around for rates before you’re sitting in the hot seat at the dealership about to sign an agreement that’s more expensive than it should be. Cash sales will always be the cheapest option. Dealers and private sellers alike are willing to negotiate deals for cash-in-hand offers.