The best time to buy a camper is in the fall and winter when dealerships offer better prices and incentives due to lower sales. It’s also when private sellers tend to offload their RVs after the camping season. And on a more granular level, try to buy on a weekday for the best deal!
Let’s look at these three points in more detail. Plus, I’ll show you where to find the best deal!
1. Avoid Spring and Summer
Typically, people think about hitting the road in their RV when the weather gets nice in the spring or summer. 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.
2. 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 miss 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 will arrive on the lot. Then, try to time your next motorhome purchase slightly before then. Your savings will be significant.
3. 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 be 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.
I 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. This should help you narrow down the best purchase option for your circumstances.
Private RV Sellers
Private sellers are individuals passing along their 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.
You can often find a great deal on a low-mileage RV when buying from a private seller. 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 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 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 cared for 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 higher 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 an ideal place to purchase a camper if you need special financing or want the comfort of a warranty. Remember 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 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. You’ll often find special RV sales, upgrades, or packages available only during the show.
Plus, you can see a wide variety of options and walk through many different models, making it easy to find a reduced-priced camper that meets your needs and budget.
One of the best opportunities at an RV show is the chance to purchase 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 thousands of people have walked through, 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. This is important to keep in mind for individuals planning to finance their purchases.
Related: How to Buy an RV With Bad Credit
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.
Wait! Before You Buy That Camper…
Along with timing your camper purchase to save money, there are two important general rules we want to cover first when buying an RV or camper:
- You want a mechanically sound RV 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 be unhappy with your camper.
- 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. 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).
Tip: Try renting before buying your first RV to better understand 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.