Sunday, January 16, 2022


Is it safe to leave a deposit with an RV dealer?

By Dave Helgeson recently posted a message from a reader which was titled, “Is novice RV buyer being ‘taken’ by dealer? Your input requested.” To view the article you can click here.

As the writer alluded to in her question: “I think I’ve been reading too many horror stories on the internet, because now I’m worried they are trying to take advantage of my naïveté in this situation despite getting a good review about them from one of you.” While those that responded to her question basically told her to “run away,” I believe they either misinterpreted her question or have never purchased an RV through a dealership, as dealers typically request a deposit before readying an RV for delivery.

Following are four reasons why it is safe and in your best interest to leave a deposit with an RV dealer when looking to purchase an RV:

Type of deposit – Typically there are two reasons why you would want to leave a deposit with an RV dealer:

1) The dealer offers you the opportunity to leave a fully refundable deposit to hold the RV and pricing, giving you time to consider the RV and purchase terms.

2) You have agreed on the RV along with pricing and are ready to set the delivery date.

In both of the two above examples the deposit is guaranteeing both the unit and agreed pricing while keeping the RV dealer from offering the RV to another customer.

Dealers are licensed and bonded – By law your deposit goes into a trust account until you take delivery of the RV. If the dealer doesn’t live up to their end of the bargain you can go to the state licensing department that oversees the dealer, file on their bond or both.

Proves your good faith – Here’s the definition of a good faith deposit: “A deposit of money given by a buyer to show that he or she has the intention of completing a deal. Good faith money is often later applied to the purchase, but may be nonrefundable if the deal does not go through.”

Dave Helgeson photo

Think about it. If you were selling your RV privately, you spend time and energy to clean it up then place an ad listing it for sale. Once listed, a total stranger comes and looks at the RV and wants to buy it; however, the buyer needs several days to arrange financing, get a hitch on the vehicle, find somewhere to park it, etc., and asks you to “hold” the RV for them. You are likely to ask for a deposit as a good faith gesture from this “unknown-to-you person” that wants to buy it, as you are likely to continue to receive requests from other interested parties and would hate to miss a sale based on the “buyer’s” insincerity.

It’s not much different for a dealer. He or she has to take a mechanic off a paying job in the shop to PDI (pre-delivery inspection or prepping) the unit as noted in the newsletter entry. A PDI typically takes about 3 hours (the hourly labor rate in Western Washington exceeds $100 per hour), which includes purging and filling new LP tanks, performing an LP leak test, flushing the water lines, checking all appliances for proper operation, etc. Paid office staff spends time putting the paperwork together and the title clerk fills out forms along with the temporary license the dealer purchased from the state (which becomes worthless if the buyer doesn’t take delivery).

If you were to cancel the sale, the dealer would need to drain the water, possibly re-winterize the unit, remove the propane tanks (as they can’t be displayed for sale in some locations with propane in them), etc. The deposit basically covers the dealer for the costs they incurred getting the RV ready for you to take home.

Finally, regarding the new owner’s acceptance of the unit – When you come to take delivery of your RV from the dealer, a representative will start by walking you through the unit showing you how everything works, if is cleaned to your satisfaction, etc., and take care of anything the mechanic missed while prepping the unit (cabinet catch that doesn’t latch quite right, bed prop that needs adjusting, missing sink stopper, etc.). Once you are satisfied that your RV is ready, you will be directed to the office to complete the paperwork and pay the balance owing (after deposit) or sign the loan documentation.

Always perform due diligence when making any large purchase like an RV by checking online reviews for the model, manufacturer, and dealership, and talk to others. But don’t assume a dealer is trying to “take” you by simply requesting that you leave a deposit assuring them you will return to take delivery of the unit as you promised after they have spent time and energy getting it ready for you to enjoy.

Read the original story the author is referring to by clicking here.

Dave Helgeson is a former RV dealer and avid RVer. He is also the show director for three popular Northwest RV shows including the Seattle RV Show.



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James Shoe
5 months ago

“The deposit basically covers the dealer for the costs they incurred getting the RV ready for you to take home”

So if I decided to not purchase said RV you are saying it would be OK for dealer to charge me for the PDI?

Bob M
5 months ago

I put a deposit and bought a used two year old travel trailer from Scott RV in NJ. It was non refundable and once I paid it. They would not tell me simple things like how to winterize, bring the slide in if it stopped working, ect. Had issues with the ground fault and Dometic refrigerator. Employees were hiding from me. Put down as little money as possible so if you have issues like I had you can walk away.

5 months ago

Obviously written from the dealer perspective. I’ll promise you anything, just gimme your money. This article does not help dispel the lousy legacy that RV dealers have developed. Could a car dealer sell a new car this way? Maybe, but not for long. The manufacturers wouldn’t allow it.

Bob Godfrey
1 year ago

RE: the dealer preparation the author mentions that shop labor rate around $100/hour but that dealer is certainly not paying his employee that amount per hour so the dealer’s cost is not that high whether the customer buys the rig or not.

Concerned Buyer
1 year ago

The salesperson will tell you what you want to here until to sign the ppwrk, then its is all about the ppwrk and not what they told you or alluded too.

David Hagen
1 year ago

I have purchased 4 new and 1 used RV from 5 different dealers and have never been asked to leave a deposit. Of course, I have never asked them to hold a unit for me. When my wife and I chose the unit we wanted, were ready to do the PDI and close as soon as everything was working. When you go seriously RV shopping, you should have your financing in order and your research done.

5 months ago
Reply to  David Hagen


1 year ago

MHSRV has very fine print at the bottom of the page – “Deposit Is Not Refundable”. They will not point this out when asking for deposit.
Cost us $3000.00.

M. Trivic
1 year ago

Deposits should always be refundable and “contingent” upon an inspection.
I have purchased 2 motorhomes over the last 4 years, 1 used and 1 new, both at dealers in different parts of the country. For both RVs, I hired NRVIA certified inspectors to do very comprehensive inspections on both. Things were found on both that I would have never thought of to look at. I will NEVER buy without an inspector working for me to thoroughly inspect it 1st. The inspections were a real eye opener for me! In both cases I was able to get items fixed and had additional price reductions based on the inspection reports.

5 months ago
Reply to  M. Trivic

M. Trivic is spot-on with their comment. Always have it contingent on getting an inspection. It they won’t do that they then walk away.

1 year ago

Actually I think it’s the author of this article who missed the point. In the original article, the buyer was asked to leave a non-refundable deposit, not a refundable one. This whole article seems to be discussing refundable deposits, which are commonplace with many large purchases. I have bought four RVs from dealers and have never been asked to leave a non-refundable deposit. I would run away from that deal.

1 year ago
Reply to  Paul

Paul is correct! Who in their right mind would leave a “Non-Refundable” deposit, this is not rocket science people.