By Nanci Dixon
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.
+ 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.