Friday, September 22, 2023


We did the one thing we never thought we’d do…

We did the thing we NEVER, EVER thought we would do – buy an RV online AND buy it new. Boy, was that a learning experience!

First, if the fully paid for and running fine gas motorhome could barely make it up the infamous hill from Phoenix to Flagstaff, I probably should have thrown our overweight stuff overboard before nodding happily when my husband said: “We need a diesel!” 

No problem, Dear! A week later, my sister and I are at an RV show in Phoenix looking over the brightest, newest and most expensive RVs. Showing interest in a brand I had done speed research on, I soon found that salesmen were stalking us with the “Just sign here” clipboard! The only way we could get a price was to give our name and phone number, information that I would later come to regret. Why oh why didn’t I just make up a name and number? Okay, not a nice idea… Some other unsuspecting person would be harassed and perhaps unwittingly buy an unwanted RV.

I had prepared by having a list of must-haves, nice-to-haves and don’t-wants. While being followed at every step was rather irritating, actually looking at different RVs and brands was very helpful in seeing manufacturing quality, finishes, details, layouts and comparing them all against my list. 

I ended up dismissing some brands because of obvious poor quality and cheap finishes.  I also ended up dismissing one of the dealers for not fixing some items before showing. They stated that they never fix anything unless a customer points it out. What, the customer needs to mention that the entire tile wall has fallen off? Yikes!

Having narrowed our choices, I then called several manufacturers to see if they could make a few changes from their standard plans. I was impressed when one of the manufacturers actually brought in their engineers to determine if a gas refrigerator could fit in the slide out of the unit I liked. Unfortunately, it could not, but they not only explained to me why it would not work but suggested other layouts that they could convert to gas/electric rather than residential. 

After looking at reviews of the RVs decided on brand, type, layout, size, finishes, and paint, I began to search online. I also Googled reviews of different dealers (make sure to always do that!) and contacted them via email and their online forms. 

Questions to ask:

  • Firm price?
  • Any additional discounts available: flight costs, hotel costs, other incentives?
  • Sales tax and any other unlisted or “surprise” purchase expenses?
  • Financing, payment terms?
  • Exterior color and interior finishes?
  • Confirm that photos online are of the actual unit.
  • If not actual photos online, ask that real date stamped photos be provided.
  • Miles on odometer?
  • Number of previous owners if used?
  • Record of work done?
  • Manufacture date?
  • Amount of time on their lot?
  • Training provided?
  • Pre-purchase inspection?
  • Warranty and where warranty work can be completed?
  • Availability and price of extended warranty?
  • If a dealer is a considerable distance away from home base, are there dealers closer that will do warranty and non-warranty work? Contact those dealers before purchase to confirm that they will honor warranty work if not purchased at their facility.

Having found the unit of our dreams, we made an offer over the phone. They counter-offered and we agreed on a price. We wanted to see the unit in person and drove about 350 miles to the dealer in California. I was happy we did as our detailed inspection revealed several issues to be fixed before we would accept delivery. We opened every drawer, tested every outlet, pulled out the couch, the L-shaped sofa, open and closed doors, checked basement storage, AC, furnace, heaters, windows, locks and, of course, we drove it.

I wrote the list out and asked for a copy and an estimated time to be completed. As it was an out-of-state purchase, the dealer would deliver it to Arizona, enabling us to pay the sales tax for the state we are registering it in. We returned to do a final walk-through after repairs before the final purchase.

Lessons learned:

+ Check all costs, title transfer, state paperwork and sales tax.

+ Stay on top of the dealer to send the paperwork and title to your home state. Ours was left to languish on someone’s desk.

+ Contact home state early in the process. We could not transfer our license plate from our previous motorhome until they had the new buyers’ information on file.

+ There will be things that need repair sooner or later. Contact repair facilities to check on warranty policies. The dealer closest to us refused to provide warranty work when we did not buy it from them.

+ Don’t walk out without feeling comfortable with how everything works on the RV. We should have had more training before we drove away. Where is the circuit breaker, and what does this button do? Where are all the lights? Still haven’t figured out how to sync the surround sound through Bluetooth on the radio…

All in all, we got the unit we liked at a great price. Best of all? We had the ability to search for the RV on the World Wide Web from the comfort of an armchair. Would I do it again? Absolutely!

Nanci Dixon is a full-time RVer living “The Dream.” She works and travels across the country in a 40’ motorhome with her husband. Having been a professional food photographer for many years, she enjoys snapping photos of food, landscapes and an occasional person. They winter in Arizona and love boondocking in the desert. They also enjoy work camping in a regional park. Most of all, she loves to travel.


Nanci Dixon
Nanci Dixon
Nanci Dixon has been a full-time RVer living “The Dream” for the last six years and an avid RVer for decades more! She works and travels across the country in a 40’ motorhome with her husband. Having been a professional food photographer for many years, she enjoys snapping photos of food, landscapes and an occasional person. They winter in Arizona and love boondocking in the desert. They also enjoy work camping in a regional park. Most of all, she loves to travel.


  1. Buyer beware. Excellent article. Purchased current RV from builder, traded in by 1st owner on new one. So far, only one problem in 4 years of ownership.

  2. Let me show the other side of the coin. After much online and RV show research, we decided on the 5th wheel we wanted and got a price from 2 local dealers. At the urging of a friend, we got an online price from RV One that the locals couldn’t come close to. So, with much trepidation, we ordered the unit. It was delivered to their Buffalo RV store where it was prepped and ready in about 10 days. We’ve had the unit for 6 years and haven’t found one thing the dealer didn’t prep properly. Maybe we just got lucky but, given our experience, I’d do it all over the same way.

  3. The sales guy comment that “we don’t fix things unless the customer points them out” really shows the contempt some in the RV industry has for the consumer. Doubt many want a recession to hit the economy, but it might be a good thing to happen the RV industry and bring these idiots back to reality.

  4. I’ve never understood a dealer turning away warranty work because the RV was not purchased from them. I understand repair facilities can be backlogged, and it can take weeks or months to get a repair completed. But, we buy RVs to travel in. Why would someone think the RV is always going to fail close to where it was purchased? It certainly doesn’t say good things about a dealer with this policy. They get paid the same for the warranty work whether it was purchased at their facility or not.

    I’ve learned to contact the manufacturer when an authorized dealer refuses to provide warranty work. Regardless of where you bought the RV, manufacturers expect authorized repair facilities to take care of their customers. Most will get involved, if necessary, to make it right.

    • It works like this; the RV season for the majority of units is June till September. That being the case, if dealers took warranty work on units they didn’t sell direct, then the customer who bought direct gets even madder. So, that’s why. This is what I did.

      Made a list of all the items that needed to be done, cut a deal with the best service dealer in my area to bring it in March of the following year, and he was tickled, because it’s a slow time for his business. He did such a bang up job, I went out and bought the service guy, and his wife a dinner gift card.

    • Unlike the auto industry who are watched by congress and they make laws to protect consumers. The RV industry can pretty much do what they want, the auto industry requires any dealer of that brand to honor the warranty, the RV industry is not regulated the same way. They should be but I guess because RVs are not considered essential vehicles they’re not regulated like cars and trucks. Buyer be ware. We were looking at a TT that a dealer in Ohio had priced several thousand $ below any local dealer would come close to, upon checking about warranty issues I found local dealers would eventually honor a warranty claim… but we would be placed at the bottom of the repair list and they would only work on our unit when no other work was in the shop. Also warranty work pays much less than customer pay, and that’s why dealers don’t like warranty work.

  5. My wife and I did research for over a year before finding a 5th wheel with the right floorplan, with good construction, a two year warranty, and a price that really was unbeatable. Having said that we plunked down the $30k for the down payment, and made plans for the PDI after it arrived at the dealer. Found several problems which the dealer said would be fixed before delivery, and we excitedly awaited the upcoming moment of possession of our new 5th wheel. After a whirlwind moving from our previous RV into the new one, and traveling 1500 miles to our work gig in Houston, we tried using the washing machine only to find it didn’t fill up with water. I found the spigots and turned them on, only to find the drain hose wasn’t correctly installed in the drain stack causing the floor of our bedroom to be flooded. We hurriedly called the dealer to complain, and were told by the service manager that the washing machine had been tested and everything ran perfectly. There was NO WAY that could’ve been done!

    That started the decline of our dream rig, which included a water leak in the basement of the rig affecting the living room floor which had to be replaced, axle hangers which failed during transit on the way to have them fixed due to a recall on them, and having both opposing slides in the living room fail at the same time due to really poor engineering to begin with. The manufacturer was good enough to replace the sidewalls at the factory several months later because of the two year warranty, but we had to move out of the trailer to get it done. When asked where we wanted the trailer brought back to us at when the repairs were made, we told them to keep it, and we were done with it. After conversing with the claims department of the manufacturer for several weeks in which we never let them know where we were or where we wanted the trailer brought to us at, we came to an agreement where the loan balance was paid off by the manufacturer so we no longer have to deal with the trailer. And although we weren’t responsible for the remaining balance of the loan anymore, because of our mistake in getting this rig, our meager resources of time and money were lost for almost three years, and we had to endure a BUNCH of stress that we shouldn’t have had to had we made a better decision earlier.

    I urge anyone reading this that proper research be done not only on the brand, but the dealer so mistakes like what we made won’t be made again. That means seeing a rig on a dealers lot that is in stock already rather than ordering it and having it brought there, and having to take possession of it shortly thereafter.

  6. Boy did you hit it on the head! We have spent the last 3 months looking for another coach (new/used). It is amazing the things that aren’t fixed before showing a unit! For goodness sake – at least clean out the refrigerator! We experienced the “picture switch”, as well as evasive answers to our questions regarding service history (used units), recalls, and a host of other common sense things. You’d have better luck getting the launch codes than get a straight answer. Like you, we persevered and finally made the deal (over the phone) for a new unit we had seen in our travels.
    The moral of the story is to be a informed as one can be and filter through the sales talk. We have to be our own advocate.


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