Recently, RVtravel.com conducted a readers’ poll that asked: How far did you travel to buy your present RV? Turns out, most of the folks who participated in the poll drove between 25 and 100 miles. You can see the poll results here. Surprisingly, many, many folks (22 percent!) traveled more than 500 miles to buy their rig! To me, that says if an RVer locates a rig s/he wants, the miles don’t matter all that much. Or, as reader Kenneth said, “When you find a terrific deal on exactly what you’re looking for, you jump on it!”
My own story
We drove more than 1,800 miles round trip to purchase our current RV. Prices have skyrocketed in the two years since then, both for RVs and for fuel. I wonder if we’d still make the trip today. In any case, we were willing to go that far for two reasons. First, we wanted another Vilano. (Read how our first Vilano was destroyed in a windstorm here.) The RV manufacturer, Vanleigh, produces the Vilano. We were so impressed with the build quality, service reps, and model features that we wanted another Vilano.
The second reason we were open to driving so far? The price. Even with the fuel costs added in, we knew we’d come out ahead. Local prices for new RVs were steadily rising, as the pandemic was underway. Our local dealership had new Vilanos, but they were more than double the price of the previously loved RV we found for sale by a private individual. So, we drove from our home in eastern Missouri all the way to Castle Rock, Colorado. Was it worth the trip? Yes. No regrets!
Dealership as determiner
Several poll responders cited reasoning similar to Susan’s. She said, “We drove around 765 miles…. The RV we traded in had been purchased at the same used RV dealer.” Susan discovered what many RVers know—an honest, fair dealership is often worth the extra travel expense.
And then there were comments like Roy’s: “The problem we have is that no dealership within 500 miles sold the model we wanted, nor could they order one. The closest dealership that had it was a Camping World, and I won’t buy anything from them….” As I said, an honest, fair dealership earns customers’ loyalty, while the reverse may be true, as well.
Lou said, “I drove almost 300 miles from Arizona to the Lance factory in Lancaster, CA, and purchased the trailer from the local Lance dealer. … It was the best price I found, and I stayed for two nights at the Factory Service Center to check everything out.” If you plan to buy from a dealership far from home, it’s great to have the overnight-stay option. I imagine Lou’s time spent at the Factory Service Center gave him great peace of mind about his purchase.
Solar Steve said, “Went to the Coach House factory in Florida to purchase our current RV. They pay airfare in that case.” Wow! That is certainly a perk I hadn’t expected! Good for you, Steve.
Close calls and upside-down sales
Bill narrowly escaped what might have been a disastrous purchase. He commented, “The closest dealer changed the price during the closing, was aggressive, and had a bad service reputation. I took a break from the closing desk to get water. Near the water was a service writer. I asked how long it would take to get warranty items fixed. He did not know I was in the buying process, and replied with ‘two months.’ We canceled the order, got a deposit refund, and searched for the best dealer in the Pacific Northwest. We decided that driving 275 miles for good service was better than waiting two months for service.”
Depending on when you purchased the RV, you might have been okay, Bill. In recent months, dealerships routinely have long wait times. We waited five months to have a fix performed last year. On the other hand, who wants to deal with aggressive people with a reputation for bad service? Not me!
Scott chimed in with a similar story, “Found the model we wanted with everything … but the only dealer for the brand [was awful]. Bit the bullet, bought it, and have been fortunate with no serious issues…. Found a local, family-owned dealer … where I can get service done if needed.”
When buying a new or new-to-you RV, it’s good to have a trusted local team to work on it. The problem we face is one local shop here has a policy to only perform service on units they have sold. I guess I can understand it from the dealer’s perspective. But I wonder if their policy may change as the industry cools.
Then there was Don, who wrote, “On our way to Arizona a blowout took the lower side of our fifth wheel off. Traded it in Columbia, MO, at Camping World on a 20-year loan. Are we upside down? Oh, yes!” Oh, no! So sorry that happened, Don.
Finding the RV
Poll respondents were all over the map as far as how they located RVs to buy. Several folks mentioned buying an RV from a sales event or organized RV show. Others named Craigslist and private dealerships as places where they discovered their RVs. Still others simply happened upon their new purchase.
Like Kathryn, who responded that they drove “3,000 miles…. We were on vacation on the opposite coast when we found it.”
Or, Don, who traveled “about fifty feet.” He explained, “I was cleaning out my A-liner at Allstar RV in Plano when a new Airstream with a ‘For Sale’ sign in the window appeared about fifty feet away.”
Keep responding to our polls, everyone! And be sure to comment, too. Happy travels!