Thursday, September 21, 2023


The sneaky white lies and tricks some RV salesmen use when selling an RV

“Five, ten, fifteen, twenty!” If you watch television, you’ve probably seen Camping World’s plethora of end-of-summer advertisements. “See America for less!” That’s Camping World’s most recent boast, and many folks get excited at the thought of owning an RV. My thought? RV buyer beware! RV salesmen always have tricks up their sleeves…

Caught up in the hype

Advertisements work. The proof? Camping World’s recent ad campaigns motivated younger friends of ours to visit their local showroom. The salesman pitched this idea to them: “Just give up that one latte a day and you can travel in your very own RV this fall. Go east and see the vibrant autumn colors. Go south and escape the snow and cold of winter! And next summer? You and your family can go anywhere you like and do it all for less!” It sounded fabulous to our friends! And very doable financially—skip just one latte a day? Pay as you go. Easy, right? Not exactly. Buyer beware.

It’s not difficult to get caught up in the hype. Salespeople know how to engage your emotions and when the only thing that stands between you and a brand-new RV is a latte, purchasing a rig can seem like a no-brainer.

Don’t just trust the RV salesman: Think carefully

When our young friends approached us for advice, here’s how we dissected the salesman’s spiel.

  • “It’s only $5 per day!” The question you must ask is “For how long?” Purchasing an RV should not be confused with buying a stix-n-brix home. While a permanent home likely will increase in value, the exact opposite is true for RVs. Typically, an RV quickly loses value—with depreciation as high as 20% in just the first year alone! Some folks say that rigs manufactured during the Covid years have even less longevity because of poor workmanship. You do not want to end up owing more than your RV is worth! Be sure to research the cost of insuring and storing an RV. These not-often-considered expenses can derail a budget, even if the monthly payment won’t. Many experts advise people to pay cash or forget it.
  • “Travel more because you spend less!” Hotels and motels used to cost much more per night than staying in an RV park. However, with the heightened interest in RVing since Covid, many campgrounds have also raised rates, with some places increasing their fees significantly. It will cost more to travel in an RV when it comes to fuel consumption, too. Fuel prices have not returned to pre-Covid prices and may not ever. Finally, repairs and upkeep on an RV can be quite costly—especially if you’re not a do-it-yourself person with the necessary tools. Add all these considerations together and that motel room might look significantly more alluring.
  • “Get a great deal on a 2022 model!” Many dealerships currently have a glut of RVs. While businesses daily receive 2024 model RVs, they’re trying to sell off the many 2022 and 2023 models that still remain on their lots. Salespeople may have incentives for folks who are willing to buy an older, but still brand-new, RV. Proceed with caution. Ask questions like: Will the warranty on a 2022 model begin from the production year or the year of purchase? Are interest rates for a 2023 model higher than the interest on the 2024s? Is the manufacturer of the 2022 RV still in business? If not, how are issues addressed?
  • “Your truck should be able to handle the load.” Never take just the RV salesperson’s opinion on towing. Talk to your mechanic or truck dealership. Do your research. There’s not much worse than purchasing an RV only to find that your tow vehicle cannot safely handle the weight.
  • “Our technicians check all RV systems. Don’t waste money on your own inspector.” Erm, no! Hire your own knowledgeable RV technician to go over the RV you are considering purchasing. Reputable companies will allow an independent tech this courtesy. Accompany your chosen tech as s/he inspects the rig. Information from the check may help you bargain for a better deal or disqualify the deal altogether.
  • “I can only offer you this deal today.” Don’t be rushed into a decision by the RV salesman. This is true for all major purchases, but especially when considering an RV. As I mentioned, many companies have a glut of RVs on their lots, with 2024 models arriving daily. Look around. Take your time. You might find a floor plan or a price that’s better for you. Or you may decide to rent first, just to see if an RV lifestyle is for you. Regardless of what the salesman says, RVing is not for everyone.

Wait and plan

Our friends decided to do more research before purchasing an RV. They also plan to save money in order to buy rather than finance an RV. I think these are good decisions.

Do you have any additional advice for potential RV buyers? Let us know in the comments below.

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Gail Marsh
Gail Marsh
Gail Marsh is an avid RVer and occasional work camper. Retired from 30+ years in the field of education as an author and educator, she now enjoys sharing tips and tricks that make RVing easier and more enjoyable.


  1. Camping World was correct in saying our 1500 Ram could pull our 26 ft BUT not over the steep skyway bridge or through the mountains of GA and TN. Luckily our dad got another 3500 Ram and gave it to us.
    Never trust them about what your vehicle can pull. Also they don’t know if your vehicle needs a special tow package to do so.
    My other advice is to take it on a wind trip near home or dealership and completely test it out from top to bottom and front to back.
    With our first camper we found out our shower pan wasn’t properly supported and our gas water heater wasn’t working properly.

  2. I read an article a few years ago that stated that MOST rv salespeople can’t afford an rv.
    I can believe it.
    They NEED the sale, so will say what they have to to make the sale.

  3. After a year of research, we decided on a used class a. I have to say, our salesman was great. We were lucky though. We didn’t buy from a major dealership, but large enough. An extended 3 year warranty on a 15 yr old rig was great. Used it once, and they took care of everything. Like I say, we were lucky. 35,000 miles later, including the drive to Alaska, we’ve been very happy. Full timers for almost 5 years now in that class A. We walked away from many dealerships and pushy salesmen though in our quest.

  4. Thank you, Gail. I am relieved to hear your friends did not succumb to the siren song of the CW sales person. 🙂

    Check out Neil’s suggestion in the string of comments. It is an excellent suggestion. 🙂

  5. My very intelligent Father gave me some great advice a long time ago, “Son, always pay cash for your adult toys!” Unlike the advice from the salesman at CW, “Just go buy an F-150 and you can tow anything on this lot.” I knew then to never darken their lot again. I brought a 10 page PDI with me and told the sales manager it would be completed to MY satisfaction before leaving his lot. It took two days, but the very patient and knowledgeable tech and I were both pleased – he got a very good cash tip too. Research, research and research some more before buying, and you’d better be able to do much of the maintenance yourself or your RV will be in the shop more than you’ll spend camping in it. Sad, but true.

  6. We live in the far north. We winter in the far south. 1700 road miles between. After towing down to the south, and when the north was buried in white, my mother-in-law died. We took the same route back using mid-range hotels near our RV stops (albeit most ‘pet friendly’ hotels charge extra for the service). Pump prices were relatively stable in the 4 weeks between trips. I added up our travel costs for the two versions of the same trip and found it cost us about $200 more to hotel it.

    Sure fuel cost was higher towing. But we pre-make our meals and freeze them when towing (I included the food cost). No extra charges for the pets. Only one RV stop was in my opinion excessive (a KOA resort that has already shut all the ‘resort’ features down when we stay overnight). And it sure is a LOT less hassle than moving pets in/out of hotels and finding a decent (more expensive) take-out dinner to eat at the hotel.

  7. The only thing keeping RV dealers going are the repairs they have make on the crap they’re selling. Ever wonder why people can’t get an appointment for repairs.

  8. That latte is just a smoke screen. When we buy we use two spreadsheets that we created. One is the actual costs to purchase and outfit the rig and the annual cost to own it. The second one calculates the daily cost to operate the rig on each trip we plan. Our latest purchase, our first class A rig, involved having to get a new daily driver that could be used as a toad, a tow bar and braking set-up, and a plethora of small stuff that was either not needed with our travel trailer or was undersized as a result of moving up. Our experience is that most salespersons will carefully avoid talking about this part of the cost to purchase a rig. The spreadsheets gave us a very accurate idea of what the final cost to us would be, and our operational spreadsheet gives us a very good idea of the daily cost to operate on our trips.

  9. Hp,
    My wife and I just bought a new camper. Wanted the dealer to install our old hitch and sway bars. Dealer said he could not install are old sway bars and hitch due to liability issues. Dealer install new sway bars and hitch. I talked with another camper dealership and this dealer said if there’s nothing wrong with your old sway bars and hitch we would have installed it. Needless to say I should have done my research. Now I’m stuck with my old sway bars and hitch. No follow up from the camper dealership where we bought our camper from. We’ve had this camper for a month.

  10. We purchased a “RV Ratings Guide – Towables Report” from RV Consumer Group for about $75.00 and was worth every penny. This unbiased report helped us immensely to decide what brand of travel trailer to purchase for our use criteria. They have other reports for other types of RVs and travel trailers by year.

    We ordered/purchased our travel trailer from what we believed to be a reputable authorized dealer of the brand that we chose. We also decided to hire a third party inspector to go to this dealer to do an inspection for us. The article above states “Reputable companies will allow an independent tech this courtesy”. The dealer gave us resistance at first stating that they have their own PDI so why would we need a third party to do the same? We told them this is what we want and they did allow our inspector to look at the trailer, however the dealer did not prep the trailer in advance with electrical and water hook up as we requested so when our inspector showed up he could only do 50% of the inspection for which we still had to pay for 100% of the inspection price. The dealer said it was not clear of the electrical and water hook up prep for the inspection for which I believe was a lie as we told them explicitly of this requirement. This incident has tainted me on the RV dealer and I have removed their sticker from my travel trailer as I will not endorse or recommend them to anyone. I also reported them to the RV manufacturer. We found a major issue with the auto leveling system the next day for which I believe the dealer was trying to hide because their technicians were not trained/capable of fixing prior to the time we took possession of the trailer. Don’t trust dealer PDI EVER.

  11. I think you can get a pup tent for maybe $5 a day but that’s about it. Toss in insurance, interest, fuel, maintenance, depreciation, repairs, storage, winterization, site fees, licensing/registration and the litany of associated costs and that number is much, much higher.

    RV’ing is neither cheap nor easy and not all sunsets are viewed at the lake’s edge on a perfect climate day. Getting cut off in traffic, finding a fuel stop you can fit, roads littered with pot-holes and dodging low overpasses is a more accurate statement.

    Cripe, it costs us $6.25 a day JUST for storage of our coach whether it’s in the barn or not.

    But the insanity of it all is worth every penny.

  12. We took a full year to research buying an RV and going full-time. We made a spreadsheet of all the existing fifth wheels analyzing them for price and value. We went to many RV shows and dealers. The more RVs that we looked at, the more informed we became. We saw some horrible floorplans, flimsy shelving, and even a floor plan that had you get out of bed and literally step into a toilet on a level below. There were showers way too tiny and kitchens that were poorly planned. Don’t be fooled by eye candy such as etched glass or stained-glass windows or fireplaces. Concentrate on a floor plan that works for you. To get the best deal, we bought our fifth wheel in Illinois on Christmas Eve when there were several inches of snow on the ground. The RV dealer was thrilled to sell unit in the middle of winter and as a result we got a screaming deal only a few hundred dollars over his cost. Do your homework.

  13. And don’t trust the truck dealers either. They very often do not know all that needs to be considered when determining whether your truck can tow this trailer. If you are reading this article, then you are already on a site that has plenty of good information. Go up to the home page of the site and do a search.

    • I have walked out of three dealerships because I knew more about the truck than the salesman, and always remember this, salespersons and politicians are cut from the same cloth, if their lips are moving they’re probably lying.

      • You and Gail are painting ALL salespeople with a pretty broad brush. There are salespeople who will not misstate or mislead potential customers, that provide a valuable service for the clientele they encounter. I made my living in sales and never allowed my principles to be compromised for the sake of a sale. I refused to work for any company that expected me to operate outside those principles, sometimes at a cost to me and my family. I believe that there are many other sales people cut from similar cloth and they do not deserve the black eye you have given them.

        There are bad sale people, but then we can say that is true of any profession or group of people.

        • You may be the exception to the rule. I’m sure there are honest people both in sales and politics, but the majority are like I said, it’s their way of surviving.

  14. It’s not just the camper price you need to be concerned about. What about the cost for the anti sway bars, and heavy duty hitch (which can run up to a thousand dollars after installation by the dealership) sewer connections, leveling blocks, insurance, property taxes. Keep in mind, if you buy your hitch and sway bars from somewhere other than the dealership, they WILL NOT install them for you due to liability issues. My best advice, take an experienced camper owner friend with you when looking to purchase. They know things the dealer may not want you to know.


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