Yesterday we went to the 2014 Florida RV Supershow at the Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa. We always enjoy RV shows as they give you a chance to look at hundreds of different RV models in a low sales pressure environment.

In a sense it’s like home shopping, except the homes are lined up next to each other which makes it easy to compare them. I also love that you can go back and forth between models, as your impression will change over the course of the day. An RV that looked pretty impressive at the start of the show may not look that great after you’ve walked though a hundred other models.

RVs at the show ranged from very modest T@B Teardrop Trailers (less than $10,000) up to Marathon Prevost Bus Conversions. The Liberty Conversion Prevost I walked through was listed for $2.4 Million!!!

$2.4 Million Prevost!
The Liberty Conversion Prevost I walked through was listed for $2.4 Million!!!

While we had a great time at the show (read my tips for getting the most out of an RV show), there were two things that caught my attention:

#1 – Every RV at the show is for sale. As one salesman said to me, “The dealers DO NOT want to drive these RVs back to the sales lot.” Consequently, Every RV at the show has a large sign or sticker advertising Show Special Pricing.

#2 – Show Special Pricing in many cases is still thousands – and sometimes tens of thousands – more than you should pay for an RV.


How Much Should You Pay For an RV?

First of all, how do I know that show special pricing is inflated? Simple, I found a new Winnebago Aspect that had the same MSRP as our Aspect ($116K). The Show Pricing was listed at $99K – a modest 15% discount. We bought our Aspect directly from a dealer in California and paid many thousands less than the $99K Show Pricing we saw advertised.

An even better example was the pricing on a model we really liked – the Tuscany XTE 40GQ. The retail price of that model is $294K and the show pricing was $235K (picture at the top of this article). That may seem like a solid discount at $20% off. That would be wrong!

RV Show
View inside the RV Super Show in Tampa

I checked online at RVTrader.com. I found a listing for the same RV – a 2014 Tuscany XTE 40GQ – from the same Florida RV dealer that had the RV Show Pricing of $235K. What was their RV Trader Price? Try only $220K – an additional savings of $15,000, or a 25% discount off MSRP. (I suspect that there’s another $5K – $10K discount in there too as large RVs typically have a large markup from invoice.)

Note the difference between a markup and a discount. If the dealer buys an RV at invoice for $100,000 and the retail markup is 40% that equals $140K. A 30% discount from retail equals $98,000 ($140K x 70% = $98K) – or less than invoice. In this case a 25% discount is more reasonable as that still gives the dealer some profit and gives you a fair price.

Clearly RV dealers want to give themselves additional room to negotiate at the show. I completely understand that, however I suspect that many of the people at the show aren’t aware that the show special price is a starting point that’s many thousands of dollars higher than what they should pay.

I’m also not trying to single out any RV Dealer which is why I photoshopped out the dealer information. In my experience every RV Dealer uses this tactic, both at RV Shows as well as on the dealer lot. I’m also not suggesting the Dealers are trying to rip you off. They have a right to make a living just like anyone else, and if the consumer doesn’t do their homework and is willing to pay more, well that’s capitalism for you.

What I am suggesting is that if you are planning to purchase a new RV, make sure you’re as informed about the specific model you’d like to purchase as possible, and find out how much you should be paying before you step on a dealer lot. Fortune favors the prepared.

How to Get The Best Possible Deal on an RV

I learned this method from buying cars, but it works just as well when buying RVs.

First, it’s only fair that you’re 100% sure that the model you’re negotiating on is the model you plan to purchase. Don’t go through the effort of getting the best price only to change your mind at the last moment. You’ll weaken your ability to negotiate the next RV – at least with the RV Dealers you worked with the first time around, and it’s a complete waste of your time to boot.

RV Listings

Once you know the model, then you need to find several dealers that carry that brand and model. The best way to do this is to go to RVTrader.com and enter the year, make, and model you’d like to purchase. While it’s helpful to target dealers that are close to you, it’s not necessary for the first step. You can also find dealers by simply searching for the make/year/model using Google or Bing or both – the more the merrier.

Next, contact the dealers through either their website or their RV Trader listing so that you’re in touch with the Internet Manager. Most dealers have a specific person that deals with all the internet traffic, as internet buyers tend to be more savvy and almost always start negotiating at a lower price point because the dealer assumes (correctly) that they’ve already compared prices online.

Now the fun part begins. Ask all of the dealers individually what the best price is they can give you on the model you’re planning to buy. Some of them will tell you that the RV Trader or Internet price is their rock bottom price, and others will knock off a few thousand dollars or more. You might be surprised by how much some of them are willing to drop their price just from asking.

Next take the lowest price you receive and contact each of the other dealers and ask them if they will beat that price. If you have an emailed quote then you can forward that email to other dealers for verification, but usually a call or email referencing the lower priced dealer is just fine as well. [box_right]Note that some RVs will have options that raise or lower the price by anywhere from hundreds to thousands of dollars, so make sure you take that into account.[/box_right]

If one of the dealers is willing to beat the price you then go back to the first dealer and ask them if they’ll beat THAT price, and you can rinse and repeat as long as dealers keep dropping their price.

This method is what I’d consider ‘grinding’ dealers. Don’t feel bad about it! Note that the dealers don’t have to give you anything they don’t want to, and that on the flip side they’re more than happy to charge people far more than they need to pay. Don’t feel bad for trying to get the best possible price – and yes, some dealers will try to guilt you or cry poor. This is just a sales tactic, so ignore it and move on. Once you take possession of the RV the only thing that will matter is that you saved the most money possible.


Alternatively, if you find an incredible price on RV Trader from a dealer, and the dealer is either too far away or already sold the RV you can ask a closer dealer if they’ll match the price on that model. Some will and some won’t, and that’s fine. Sometimes the crazy low prices are only on a demo RV (used at a show or for demo drives). If that’s the case you can’t expect a dealer to match that price on a brand new rig (but it doesn’t hurt to ask).

$2.4 Million or Bust!
This Luxury Prevost goes for $2.4 Million!!!

Long story short, do as much negotiation BEFORE you step on a dealer lot as possible for the best results and the lowest purchase price.

It usually makes the most sense to buy the RV from a local dealer. If you can save $1000 but will need to fly to your destination and drive the RV home, that will cost you more than what you’re saving (obviously).

We found our Aspect 30C listed for less at Lichtsinn Motors – the Winnebago dealer that’s located in Forest City Iowa, only one mile from the Winnebago plant. By purchasing through Lichtsinn we would have saved a couple thousand dollars. I figure because they’re in Forest City and one of the largest Winnebago dealers they get the best pricing from the factory and have relatively low overhead compared to the California dealer we purchased from.

The problem is it costs as much as $300 for a one-way flight, and then it’s about a 2,000 mile drive to the west coast. That’s another $1000 for fuel, not to mention a 3 or 4 day drive, plus the cost of campgrounds, etc… We opted to buy from a local dealer that offered us a solid price instead.

If you have the time, energy, and inclination you may want to travel to get your RV and have it’s maiden voyage be the long drive home. Honestly I would have preferred to do it that way as I would have liked to put the first miles on our rig, but we simply didn’t have the time or flexibility back then. Of course now thing are different. 🙂


Good Preparation Will Save You Money

To be fully prepared when you negotiate the price on your next RV, I recommend you get a copy of the RV Buyer’s Survival Guide.

Author Bob Randall is a 25-year industry veteran, and he worked at both an RV manufacturer and RV dealer. Bob clearly explains how industry markups and discounts work. He covers all RV types, including pop-up trailers, travel trailers, fifth wheels, Class B/C, and Class A. This is important as each type of RV is marked-up and discounted differently.

Bob even shares how to get the best deal when you trade in your RV. This type of financial information is invaluable when sitting at the dealer’s office – it can literally save you thousands.

If you haven’t yet decided to purchase an RV, the author also discusses other topics that will help you while you’re starting your research. These subjects include: how to determine your ‘real’ RV needs, a glossary of terms (which can get confusing), the pros and cons for each class of RV, and even the best time to buy.

This book is easy to read at just under 100 pages long and we think it’s an essential resource for any and all future RV buyers.

View the RV Buyer’s Survival Guide On Amazon.com →


Final Thoughts

I really enjoy visiting RV Shows. Not only are they a great place to get ideas for your own RV, but there are also thousands of RV accessories for sale, campground membership information from dozens of different campground networks, and you can even tour super high-end RVs like the Prevost I walked through.

Florida State Fairgrounds
Parked outside the Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa, FL

It helps to plan ahead by targeting specific models that you think you’ll be interested in. That said, stay flexible. As great as an RV may look in the brochure, it’s a whole different animal when you’re actually walking through it. Pay attention to things like fit and finish – especially the way drawers, shelves, and cupboards open, close and line up with each other as well as what parts are built using real wood, tile, or granite/Corian, vs. what’s laminate, linoleum, and formica. Some manufacturers cut corners in obvious and unacceptable ways, so pay attention to the differences from make to make and model to model.

If you haven’t been yet, we hope you have the opportunity to visit an RV show soon. They really are fun, and they’re educational too (RV classes!). It’s also interesting to walk through dozens – or hundreds of RVs. There are so many unique models and options that there really is something for everyone.

Our best advice is do your homework before you go to the RV show and (of course) don’t get pressured into buying anything you don’t really want. RVs are expensive and they lose value quickly, so if you buy the wrong RV you may get stuck with it for a while. Take your time and know what you’re getting into ahead of time, and you’ll be much more likely to have a good experience – and to get the RV you and your family really want. Good luck!

Author

Hi, I'm Rich - Perpetual traveler, photographer, writer, and web designer. Thanks for reading, and happy trekking!

98 Comments

  1. Dean Swift Reply

    More of a question on a towable camper it is a 2015 White Hawk 20mrb is sells for about 19,000.00 to 21,500.00 new they are asking 17,500.00 with no warranty it was only used a couple of times I would take it for 15,000.00 do you think that would fly?

    • Rich Reply

      Hi Dean – is the camper technically used? If so I’d think $15K would be very attainable. Even if technically new you should still get very close. Good luck!

  2. We have rented several Rvs over the last three years. We are looking to purchase a travel trailer this fall or winter. Any thoughts on either a Keystone Bullet 220RBI, Northwood Nash 23d, or Cruiser Rv View Finder 21KS all are 2015. Is this a good time of year to purchase?

    Thanks, V

    • Rich Reply

      Hi Virg – In general Winter is the best time to buy an RV, and the closer you can get to Christmas the better. RV sales are slow around the holidays, so dealers are anxious to deal. Unfortunately I know very little about travel trailers. We looked at them briefly before we bought our RV, but as full-timers a travel trailer wasn’t a good option for us, so I haven’t looked at them in a while. Sorry I can’t be more help – and good luck!

  3. daniel blount Reply

    Hello Rich,
    Very helpful site! Thank you. We are trying to get more serious about buying a coach rv in prep for retirement. My response to the budget question would be about $120k, but could fluctuate a bit. My main question is…is the quality of prevost, and especially the detroit diesel 60, sufficient to justify buying say a1996-2000 xlii for $140k -$200k with say 120k – 200k miles…versus a 2011 allegro red 36qsa with 12k miles for $140k? I like durability. And I am just seeing that I probably need to create an account to post a question correctly…will do next next time if thats ok. Thank you

    • Rich Reply

      Hi Daniel – I simply don’t have enough experience with Prevost to give you a good answer on the Chassis/Engine vs. a Tiffin. The main things to look for when buying an older coach are roof condition, leaks (around windows, doors, storage bins, etc..), and how well does everything work on the inside (fridge, A/C, microwave, heat, wiring) – not to mention how does the interior look after 20 years? It’s easy to spend huge amounts of money renovating an older RV, so if you’re just starting out I’d lean toward something newer – but that’s me. Oh – this site doesn’t have accounts, so you’re good. 🙂

  4. Dennis Lubrano Reply

    Hello: I really appreciate all the useful information you furnish in here, thank you. We are considering a smaller B Class so we have it as a 2nd vehicle. Considering Road trek as we want it to fit in driveway as garage door too low to put one inside. Any feedback on the brand? We like the Chevy chassis, yet see more of the MB Sprinter and Ram Pro Master being entered into the line. The Ranger RT is lighter and less expensive. I asked a dealer and they said they are not discontinuing the Ranger RT, yet wondered if a Popular model might be better. When you get to a smaller RV and the lower budget model of the lineup do you still feel a 25% discount or more is possible? especially if by at end of model year? What if the 2016 models are out and a dealer still has a 2014 Roadtrek Agile SS on the lot, what sort of percentage discount would you expect would be viable? For instance, there is the actual discount for the RV and then what would it be per year Thank you i advance for your feedback.of depreciation discount on a new older one still on the lot?

    • Rich Reply

      Hi Dennis – from what I’ve seen, the MB Sprinter Chassis RVs have a lot less wiggle room than Chevy/Ford Chassis class Bs and Cs. The Ram Pro Master units should have similar discounts to Chevy/Ford, however, as they’re using a gas engine and are much less expensive for the manufacturer. I’ve already seen Ram Pro Master units priced at 25%+ off.

      No, I don’t think you’ll get a 25% discount on the MB Sprinter models as a general rule. For the 2014 sitting on the lot with 2016 models I would think you’d be able to get close. I can’t give you specific numbers as it depends a lot on the dealer, but you always have more negotiating power on an older model.

      For payments you can use the calculators on BankRate.com – click here. RVs can be financed for up to 20 years (depending), so the term and interest rate have almost as big an impact on payment as the amount financed.

      I hope this is helpful, and good luck, Dennis!

  5. Sharon Dixon Reply

    Hi, Rich,
    Thanks for all the great information. I bought a 1999 Rialta a couple of years ago and just sold it because the repairs and maintenance were killing me. However, there were a lot of things I liked about the Rialta – its low profile, ease of driving and parking, and convenience in a compact size. Now I’d like to get an Aspect or Cambria but my budget is very limited. What is the earliest model year and highest mileage I can consider to avoid my previous folly? I’ve seen some 2005 models for about $45,000. Is 57,000 miles considered high mileage? Thanks for your help.
    Sharon

    • Rich Reply

      Hi Sharon – I wouldn’t consider 57,000 high mileage as far as the engine and chassis are concerned. The bigger issue is how was the RV used and/or abused? If it was lived in full-time (unusual for these models), there can be a lot of wear and tear on furniture and appliances that you may not notice. Alternatively if it was neglected there could be issues that won’t pop up until later.

      A big consideration is if the RV was covered or stored inside, vs. sat out in the sun for the past 9 years. In general, an RV with 10 years worth of sun and weather on the roof will need a roof replacement sometime soon. Definitely get up there and take a good look. If it’s really dirty or has visible cracks, then I’d stay away. Considering that a roof costs five to ten thousand (depending on what you do), you may be better off to spend a bit more on a newer model.

      Another big consideration is tires. If the RV has the original tires they probably need to be replaced. I’ve heard every 7 years, regardless of tread life the tires should be replaced due to sun/light damage and dry rot (check the sidewalls). A complete set of tires (7 including the spare) will cost around $2500 installed FYI.

      Other things to ask – are the brakes original? How often have they changed the oil? Have the tanks been cleaned anytime ever? Look for current leaks and water damage EVERYWHERE, especially around windows and doors and in corners – plus everywhere there’s something mounted to the roof (AC, fridge vent, TV Antenna, etc..).

      I hope this is helpful, and Good luck, Sharon!

      • Sharon Dixon Reply

        Thanks so much for your help. I’m assuming that if a dealer doesn’t know a lot about the history of the coach and can’t answer some of these questions, to steer away. Your advice will help me be a more informed buyer.

        • Rich Reply

          Hi Sharon – unless a dealer is including a pretty solid warranty on an older coach, I’d hesitate to buy a used RV from a dealer. You’ll pay more for what you get, and you’ll know less about the RV as the dealer is just a reseller. That said, I’d definitely have an RV mechanic give any RV you’re looking to buy a once over. It will be well worth what they charge to avoid buying someone else’s problem RV!

          Ideally you’ll find a one-owner RV that was minimally used and stored indoors or covered. Something like this: http://www.rvtrader.com/listing/2009-Winnebago-Aspect-30C-114262150 – a 2009, so only 6 years old, and driven less than 20,000 miles – only 3000 miles a year or so. Add in the hydraulic leveling jacks (awesome!), flat screen TVs, 4K Onan Generator, etc.. and that’s a nice coach listed at a reasonable price ($53K). I have no doubt that number could be negotiated down as well. Good luck!

  6. Pat Ramirez Reply

    Hi Rich

    What class b unit would you consider the best regardless of price and the best bang for your buck out of these 3
    Airstream Interstate-Roadtrek Adventerous-Winnebago ERA

    Also, Are you familiar with RV financing??? What are the known best companies that deal with Rv funding.

    Thank you

    • Rich Reply

      Hi Pat – Funny that you ask, as my wife and I recently looked at all 3 models. We were most impressed by the Airstream Interstate, then the Roadtrek, and the ERA was last. I think that’s about the order of cost as well, and we both felt that it showed in the quality of construction. Note that we haven’t lived in any of them, so I can’t speak to any of the 3 in usage. That said, I’d make an effort to buy the Airstream over the others if I could afford it. I’d also check some of the forums and see what they have to say first – I like IRV2.com.

      I don’t know much about RV financing – sorry!

  7. How do you feel about the FR3 25 DS by Forest River? I am waiting for them to tricke into used market. We have a 2008 Winnebago Outlook now for local beach trips in SoCal but spots are small and 32 feet is too big. We have two kids and love the space and kitchen counter in outlook but when we cannot get spots it’s not worth it!

    • Rich Reply

      Funny you should ask as we just walked through a couple FR3s two weeks ago. At first glance they look nice, but when I started to pull/push/wiggle things, I found a lot of fit and finish issues. On one of them the entry door grip bar was only attached at the top, cabinets and drawers weren’t lined up well, etc.. This can happen to any RV of course, but make sure you give it a really good once over and have them fix everything before you drive it off the lot. For a weekender I’m sure it would be fine. Good luck Susie!

  8. What are your thoughts on the Entegra coach? They seem well built but pretty pricey. We have owned 3 5th wheels in the last 25 years…….currently a 33ft Heartland Landmark that we bought in 2007. It’s a very nice unit and well built. We are doing our homework on motorhomes which will be our next RV and looking at the Tiffin Phaeton and the Entegra Aspire ( not the Aspire TK).
    Thanks
    Julie

    • Rich Reply

      Entegra makes some really nice coaches – but I’ve only been in a couple and it’s been a while. If the price is pretty comparable, then it would come down to floorplan/layout and how it’s decorated between the Entegra and the Tiffin. Both are quality, well-built coaches. Sorry I can’t be more help – and good luck, Julie.

  9. ray sigler Reply

    thank you for the great information,i am deep in shopping mode for a 45 foot diesel pusher and have been learning tons about quality of workmanship, what we need, what we can do without,ect. Started by being jazzed about Winnebago. Then got excited about Tuscany, seemed nicer and lower priced. As i moved on i started paying attention to things like, heated floors using water instead of electric,not a great idea. the radiator being in the back instead of on the side, big mistake. pulling a trailer, a steep grade, 15 mph, hot pavement= shoulder time. for that matter 60 mph, trailer, hot weather, hope we make it to the rest area. its narrowing down between, Tiffin, American Coach, and Newmar, with Newmar having the edge. and of coarse the sales guys are at their best, but thanks to you and your advise, and soon the Survival guide i feel like i might have a fighting chance. THANKS AGAIN. We will be full timers, hope to see ya’ll out there. keep doing what you do.

    • Rich Reply

      Hi Ray – I’m glad you found our take on RV buying useful. Newmar makes a really nice coach – lots of attention to detail, and lots of handy built in features, too. I recently watched a video on Newmar’s mechanical slide lock mechanism and thought – why don’t all RV manufacturers do that? Newmar has a lot of these types of features that just make sense that no-one else uses for some reason. Tiffin and AC are also excellent, and of course we like Winnebago, but recognize that the 3 brands you’re looking at are all a step up (in our opinion). We hope to see you on the road soon – good luck!

  10. Keep in mind, you are often not comparing apples to orange with online deals. Some dealers, especially for shows, order units filled to the brim with options. If you’re looking at an identical model online with less options, that could account for thousands of dollars right away. (Second AC, generator, full body paint, etc.) Also, the cheaper units at dealers near the manufacturer have nothing to do with overhead. It’s about shipping. Shipping a unit from Indiana to a show in Florida can cost thousands of dollars, especially for fifth wheels or hiring drivers to bring down buses. Show units typically come straight from the factory. Logically, they will be cheaper a few miles away from the factory. Just keep these things in mind before discouraging people from buying at a show. Yes, the price may be higher, but there is always another side to the story and room for negotiation. Shows are often the best place to get a deal because what matters are the number of RVs sold.

    • Rich Reply

      Hi Aly – I wasn’t discouraging people from buying at shows – just pointing out that ‘RV Show Special Pricing’ is usually much higher than the price you can pay for THE SAME RV. Not one with less options. Our RV came fully loaded and we saw the same RV advertised at a show with the same options for $8,000 more than we paid – just for example. The Coach in this article was the same situation – same RV and same options, much higher price. You seem knowledgeable, so I assume you’re an RV Dealer – or work for an RV Dealer, and therefore you also know all too well the pricing ‘games’ that RV Dealers play with customers. You also know that ‘RV Show Special Pricing’ is a starting point – not the real price a customer should pay.

  11. We are in the market for a new class B. Roadtrek and Pleasure Way are at the top of our list. My wife likes the Roadtrek RS but I like the Pleasure Way FL where you can leave the bed set up and still have a seating area in the front. The only issue with the Pleasure Way is that it only sleeps 2 where the Roatrek has the option to sleep 4. We plan on taking our Grandson with us on a few trips. My question is: have you seen anyone convert the front driver and passenger seat into a makeshift bed?

    Also, what is your opinion of the macinator system in the Roatrek. Any problem that you heard of? I know Pleasure Way uses the old fashion gravity system.

    Is 25% off retail a good starting point for negotiations?

    Thank You in advance for your response.

    • Rich Reply

      Hi Ed, I haven’t seen a driver/passenger makeshift bed, although I’m sure it could be done. Either that or an air mattress and a sleeping bag on the floor can work.

      I haven’t used the RoadTrek macerator, although we do carry a macerator pump with us. I can ‘dump’ through a 50′ garden hose I carry (never a drinking water hose of course), and it works great when you’re visiting family as you can literally dump your tanks through a toilet – I think the RoadTrek as a ‘fixed’ hose though. Probably not as long? It’s important that you use thin/fast breaking down TP though. Thick stuff – like Charmin – will clog the impeller in the Macerator quickly and you don’t want to have to clean it out/unclog it mid flush! We use Scott 1000 TP and have never had a problem.

      From what I’ve read – and we looked at Roadtreks and similar in detail because we almost went that way – Roadtreks are more difficult to negotiate a discount on than most RVs. Especially the Mercedes Chassis RoadTreks. I’ve heard 15% – 18% is as good as you’re going to get, and I’ve also heard that some dealers won’t deal. I’d definitely shop it around to as many RoadTrek dealers as you can – and I know the dealers are often few and far between. Pleasure Way may be the same. I think it has a lot to do with the cost of the Mercedes Van Chassis – they don’t have as much room to work with as a result. Let us know how it works out, and Good luck!

  12. Hello Rich! We are looking to upgrade our 5th wheel to a full time 5th wheel. We are looking at the DRV Designer Suites, Redwood, and Heartland Landmark. There is a big difference in pricing! What 5th wheel maker would you recommend and what are the things that we should be looking for in a Full Time 5th wheel? Thank you!

    • Rich Reply

      Hi Vicki – before we purchased our Winnebago, we spent a LOT of time looking at 5th Wheels. They’re the best bang for the buck in terms of features and living space assuming #1 – you’re ok taking day trips in a big diesel truck, and #2 – you’re ok traveling from park to park in the truck, and not having easy access to food, bathrooms, couches, etc…

      Regarding your question, I think Designer Suites makes the best quality 5th Wheels hands down, but as you note, they’re very expensive. They’re also very heavy! Note the dry weight, and then add on gear, clothing, and assume you’ll carry some water in the fresh tank as well, and it’s a heavy rig in all but the shortest models.

      How much Truck do you currently have and are you open to upgrading? Most full-timers that have Designer Suites and even Redwood and Heartland Landmark models use minimum F-350 Dually, and you’re better off with an F-450 or -duty trucks like the Freightliner Sports Chassis. All those trucks are expensive, but the Freightliners last forever and can safely pull a 20,000 pound plus (loaded weight) 5th Wheel and then some. A $100K Designer Suites plus around an $80K (for good condition used) Freightliner would be an excellent full-time setup – and give you tons of room for a lot less expense than a 45′ Class A. I’ve even seen setups with golf carts or smart cars tucked between the cab and the 5th wheel, which is nice for getting around campgrounds and/or day trips.

      I think Redwood and Heartland Landmark have slightly dated interiors compared to the Designer Suites – although I haven’t been in either since the Tampa show last year. Note that the Redwood and Heartland models are also very heavy – 15K+ dry weight, so my comment about the truck still holds true.

      Note that even a new F-350 Dually Diesel is still more than $60K! What I wouldn’t do is use a single-rear wheel truck to pull any but the smallest models. I see this far too much, and it’s dangerous both for the driver as well as other people on the road. Stick to manufacturer ratings and don’t max out those ratings for best results.

      Short version: Your truck will determine what you can tow. If you have enough truck and enough cash, DRV Designer Suites are the nicest 5th wheels I’ve seen!

      • We upgraded to a 2013 F350 Dually which we love! It can easily pull up to 25Klbs and I have no problem helping with the driving. All we need now is a Full time 5th wheel and we are good to go! Thank you for your response. Maybe one day we will see you all on the road! 🙂

        • Rich Reply

          Perfect – I know the newer F350s can pull a lot more than the last generation. We see a lot more Fords pulling 5th Wheels than any other truck, so I take that as a good sign. It’s good that you’re looking at full-time models. They tend to be better designed, and better insulated. We’re in Texas right now, and it’s dipped into the 20s several times – a bit more insulation would have been nice!

          We’re planning to stay on the road indefinitely (we love this lifestyle!), so drop us a line when you make the transition. We all end up crossing paths sooner or later – especially during the winter. 🙂

      • We’ve been RVers for many years and have found that a 5th Wheel is what we like best. We’ve always bought used 5th wheels and have had great luck with them. We are looking to buy our first new one this year or next, in preparation for retirement and more RV time. We have been very interested in the Grand Design brand, and particularly the Solitude line. We’ve been watching it since it came out about 3 years ago, and comparing it to others. We aren’t planning on being full-timers, but using it 3-4 months a year and camping with our kids & grands. We are looking for a good value for our money & use case Can you tell me what your opinion is about this brand & the lines?
        Thanks!

        • Rich Reply

          Hi Denise – As long as you’re ok with driving a big truck, you really can’t go wrong with 5th Wheels. I agree they’re the best bang for the buck. That said, I haven’t looked at or been in a Grand Design Solitude, so I can’t be much help. I’d recommend asking your question on one of the RV forums. My favorite is IRV2.com. Good luck!

  13. Pam Steinacher Reply

    What is your opinion of the Keystone brand? We recently bought a used 2009 Challenger and like it prettywell. I think the model number is 34CKQS. The only thing I don’t like is the furniture; it’s not very comfortable. When we start our retirement travel, the furniture has got to go! And the mattress will have to be upgraded too.

    • Rich Reply

      Hi Pam – I know very little about Keystone unfortunately. I have heard a LOT about uncomfortable RV furniture in many brands, however! We got lucky in that department, as our Rest Easy sofa is one of the most comfortable sofas I’ve owned. I definitely hear you on the mattress. Ours is very basic and fairly thin, so we put a good quality 3″ memory foam topper on it and it made a huge difference. Unless the mattress is completely shot – or you don’t like memory foam – it’s a pretty inexpensive upgrade. I think we spent a little more than $100 on ours.

  14. We bought a travel trailer at Boston show last yr,,,already looking for the lol bigger however our salesman told us nit to buy at show cause they r as use the price to pay for the floor space

    • Rich Reply

      Hi Tina – they may use the price to pay for floorspace, but they’re also able to ‘turn’ (sell) more models at a show and that usually makes up for it. RV Dealers also have to account for space on their lots, as they don’t pay for inventory up front but do pay after a certain amount of time. Therefore lot space is still at a premium and still costs the dealer money – especially considering RVs sit a lot longer on the lot than they do at a show. You can negotiate good prices at either a show or on a lot – it’s all in how you go about it. Good luck looking for your new RV!

  15. Thanks for the great write-up. The wife and I are just beginning the research for fulltime RVing in a couple of years. We are attending the Florida RV in Tampa in a couple of weeks (Jan. 2015).

    We’re looking at Class C’ s – what brands would you recommend for full time RV living?

    Thanks

    • Rich Reply

      Hi Robert – that’s a great show! We were there last year and really enjoyed it. I still like the Winnebago Class C’s – particularly the Access and Aspect (ours), and they’ve upgraded some things, like nicer counters and sinks for example, although I noticed a few cut corners here and there too. The Forest River Lexington is a nice choice – model 283TS is a very similar layout to ours but with a bigger freshwater tank and bigger waste tanks too. I’ve heard some complaints about quality from Forest River so check the forums (IRV2.com is great) to see what others say. The main things to focus on for fulltiming in my opinion are layout and interior space. The 2 or 3 slide models give you the most space in a shorter RV, and I’d recommend a model with less kitchen space than you’ll think you need. I LOVE to cook, and I can make do with surprisingly little counter space. I’d rather have more couch/dinette space as we use that a lot more – especially when we have company. Good luck Robert!

  16. Love your site — very helpful, and very interesting (clean and professional as well). I’ve been looking at a lot of RVs… and I’ve noticed a lot of “cut corners” in most all of them. I like to touch all the air vents to make sure they’re “in there” good and tight (I’ve seen several that are in very loose — one even fell out when I touched it with one finger). I also like to lift the mattress up and see how the boards under it are secured (in one recent Class A Gas I saw screws that looked like they went in every possible direction except for “straight”… some of them not even screwed in all the way). And I’ve seen long, loose screws rolling around on the floor (who knows where it came from, or what it goes to), stainless sinks that were ‘bowed’ on all the corners (none of the corners were flush against the counter tops) and lots of other odd things that you might not see from a standing position, or if you’re whisking through quickly.

    I was in the passenger seat of one Class A Gas and put my hand on the USB charger (which turned out to be an inexpensive adapter in a cigarette lighter) and the entire fixture turned freely in the dash ‘hole’. The other cigarette lighter plugs were all secure, but it was still a bit of a bummer to run across one that obviously wasn’t installed correctly or securely.

    When I go through a motorhome I’m always looking at the faceplates — to the control panels, outlets, or anything else with a faceplate. It’s amazing just how many of these things are NOT square or level. It’s like the assembly workers just put the faceplate on there and screwed it in place however it sat — not caring if it was straight or crooked. If it is just a lone faceplate it might not be too obvious — but when it’s near or next to other faceplates it becomes a quick eyesore. It may seem like a small item to gripe about… but when I see something like that — that is obvious and visible (part of the “finish” of the unit) — it makes me wonder how bad the attention to detail is for the parts of the motorhome that are covered up that I can’t see.

    And I’ve seen these things with new Gas and Diesel Class A units ranging from $140,000 – $230,000 (I don’t often walk into more expensive models, as my wallet doesn’t allow me to dream that big).

    All that said — I’m curious if you would be willing to give your personal experiences with various models you’ve seen. Models you might pass on, or avoid, or models that make you question a manufacturer’s quality control. I can also understand if you don’t want to “dog” any particular company or product line — as it might be bad for business. But anything you can share would be greatly appreciated.

    • Rich Reply

      Hi David – sorry for the delay in getting back to you. I completely agree with you – there are TONS of cut corners in RVs. Anywhere the manufacturer thinks you won’t look there are unfinished edges, boards that don’t line up, stuff that hasn’t been caulked correctly, etc.. It helps if you’re handy, as I’ve fixed many of these issues on our RV – including a shower surround that was missing caulk in a corner and leaking into a storage bin. Trust me when I say that when you live in the RV full time all of these things start to jump out at you that you’d never notice when doing a quick walk through.

      I don’t mind sharing my thoughts – I don’t make any money from this website nor are we sponsored by anyone. Here are the manufacturers I’ve noticed good or bad –

      Fleetwood – Of the big brands I think Fleetwood cuts the most corners. Lots of things that don’t line up – even corian stove covers that interlock poorly which would lead to rattling. Everything you can’t see at first glance is misaligned or unfinished – all woodwork on top of the slides, in drawers, and especially bathroom doors. Most of their models cost a little less than the competition and I think this is why.

      Thor – Pretty solid, but some of the same cut corners as Fleetwood. I do think Thor has some of the better interior designs. They tend to use lighter chassis and smaller engines on their bigger rigs than the competition, and the lower price reflects that.

      Tiffin – One of the most common full-timer brands. I’m not a fan of most of their layouts or interior styling, but the coaches appear to be well made. They have better attention to detail than most.

      Winnebago – Pretty solid overall, but like I said, they missed some caulk that would have saved me an afternoon of removing my shower surround to recaulk it, plus I’ve had other small issues. That said, Winnebago has been around a long time for a reason. I’d avoid their new ‘Minnie Winnie’ line though – very cheaply constructed throughout to get the price down in the $50K – $70K range.

      Forest River – Some of their models are decent. The Lexington’s I’ve looked at are pretty good, although not up to Winnebago standards. That said, their Class As that I’ve seen leave a lot to be desired. Very mediocre fit and finish.

      Newmar – Some of the most expensive, and also some of the nicest and best built RVs I’ve seen. Newmar could use a little work on their interior design – a bit more modern would be nice, but they overbuild most of their RVs. Better chassis, bigger engines, better air suspensions, etc.. A lot of full timers have Newmars and for good reason.

      If you have a question about a brand I didn’t list here let me know. Good luck, David!

      • Davis Dunn Reply

        Thanks Rich for all the information. I learned a lot!

        What are your thoughts on the Coachman brand? I’m interested in a Class C at about 24 feet. Until I read your post above, I was considering the 25B Minnie Winnie. My budget is around $50,000. I may have to go used.

        Also, considering used, what do you think about purchasing a used class C form a RV rental dealer? Generally 2 years old with about 25,000 miles. Coachman at about $50,000 in the Denver area.

        Thanks.

        • Rich Reply

          Hi David – glad you found it useful. At $50K I’d definitely go used, and if I had to do it over again, I’d go used anyway. RVs lose so much money in the first 3 years – plus most of the ‘bugs’ get worked out in the first year. Buy used and give it a really good deep clean (or hire it out), and your RV will be as good as new for a lot less money.

          Coachman is owned by Forest River, and in my experience they’re on the cheaper end of the market. Take a good look at the fit & finish of everything. Open every drawer, every cupboard, every storage bin, etc.. and really inspect the quality of craftsmanship. I think you can do better in your budget.

          Regarding RV Rental Dealers, I would stay FAR away from those RVs. In general they’re used by inexperienced RVers, so the engines and transmissions get overworked, the tanks get abused and are likely full of ‘tank cake’, plus the models rental agencies use are usually stripped down basic models – no slides, only sometimes leveling jacks, limited options.

          You’re best bet in my opinion is to look at used models either through a dealer or private party on RVTrader.com – or even craigslist. If you can find an RV that was minimally used and covered then you probably have a winner. Lots of people buy RVs because they think they’ll use it a bunch – after a few weeks during the first summer and a few weekend, the RV sits on a storage lot for a couple years then they sell it = a big win for you.

          I’d target something that’s 3 years old with a good layout, then make sure everything works. Test the slides, jacks, fridge, microwave, TVs, Generator, etc.. Run water through every faucet, test electrical plugs, inspect the tires for wear, cracking, and dry rot, Get up on the roof and really inspect it – make sure it’s been cleaned sometime recently and that the caulk looks good. If the roof is cracked or has visible problems, then move on. Also look around the windows both inside and out – make sure there’s no signs of leaking or water damage. I’d also recommend having an RV mechanic or RV repair guy give it a good once over before buying. In the end, you’ll save a lot of money and have a nicer coach this way. Good luck!

        • Your article was very informative. We are switching from a Southwind to a diesel. Winnebago/Itasca Journey/Meridian was our top choice until we looked at a Newmar with Comfort Drive. That is amazing! When we went to a Newmar dealership and discussed discounts, they said you might get a 25% discount on a Winnebago and up to 40% on a Thor, but Newmar’s rarely came down more than 20%. Is that true? I don’t know anyone who owns one to ask. However, Newmars are more expensive than Winnebago to begin with. It sure would be nice to pick up a better discount. They had only two 2015’s left on the lot and 2016’s coming in. However I didn’t see much of a discount at all. He told me the 2016’s would be 8% higher in price. What are your thoughts. Thanks.
          Joann & Mark

          • Rich

            Hi Joann – unfortunately as Newmar’s are significantly more expensive than most (as you mention), there are fewer Newmar dealers, and a little less information about them. I’ve read on forums that it’s still possible to get around 25% discount on Newmar. If your dealer only has two of the 2015’s left, then they may be holding the price as they’re getting closer to what they’re asking for, and it’s worth it for them to wait. I’d recommend contacting a few other Newmar dealers and asking about pricing. As mentioned in the article, you can do this through RVTrader.com. I’d also recommend going to an RV owners forum – like IRV2.com – and asking other Newmar owners what they paid and how much of a discount they were able to negotiate.

            Regarding 2016’s going up by 8%, I’ve heard that it’s closer to a 5% increase on some models. This is because Newmar is adding some significant improvements for 2016 – improved ‘Chassis Framing’ etc… I’d recommend comparing the build sheets between 2015 and 2016 and seeing if the improvements are worth it to you. If not, you should be able to find plenty of 2015’s if you don’t mind traveling a bit. You can read more about the updates on this forum. I hope this is helpful – good luck, Joann!

      • Fernando V Reply

        Thanks for all the useful information, very helpful for people that are just starting to look into RVs. Do you have an opinion on the Jayco rigs?

        • Rich Reply

          Hi Fernando – The only Jayco I looked at was a lower-end model, and there were a few pieces either not connected (trim, a valance, etc..) or falling off (the handle next to the door), so I wasn’t very impressed. It may have been the dealer – or it could have been a demo that got beat up, but I still think an RV should be in better shape than that when ‘new’ regardless.

  17. I have being researching motorhomes for a while on the internet and found all of your information very informative , especially about pricing. Thank you so much!!!!

  18. Dave & Nadine Reply

    Hi Rich,
    Nice write up…we just had our RV Show in Minneapolis last weekend….we could not believe the “Show Specials” and how outrageously high they were…uneducated buyers will pay too much. It seemed like our foot traffic was down this year…How was it in FL?

    • Rich Reply

      Thanks Dave – The show in Florida was busy, but not as busy as the RV show we went to in Pomona, CA a couple years back. We did go on the last day of the show (a Sunday), so that probably had something to do with it being a little less busy.

  19. Rich|

    One more question for ya, would you say that a used coach would then depreciate about another 10% per year after that initial 30% drop on day one? So a 2012 Aspect that had an MSRP of $116k would only be worth $69k?

    Chris J.

    • Rich Reply

      This depends a lot on the Brand. In my experience nicer brands (Winnebago/Itasca, Tiffen, Monaco, Newmar) hold their value better than volume brands (Fleetwood, Thor, Forest River, Jayco, etc..). If you look on RVTrader.com, you’ll find our 2012 Winnebago Aspect 30C listed for around $75,000. There’s a little room there I’m sure, but I doubt you could buy one for $69K unless it has high mileage. I also see a 2010 Aspect 30C listed for $68K, and a 2009 for $65K, so it’s fair to say the depreciation tapers off over time.

      That 10% a year figure is an industry average, and applies more heavily to volume/discount brands as they’re built on lighter chassis/frames and tend to cut corners on construction. That stuff shows up pretty quickly when you full-time, which is why most full timers stick to the better brands. They really do last longer.

      A good example of this is the Thor Tuscany XTE 40GQ we looked at. The comparable Winnebago – the 40U Journey – does cost more, but also uses a heavier chassis – 47,320 GCWR vs 42,400 – and more importantly uses the Cummins 8.9L ISL Turbo Diesel vs the Cummins 6.7L ISB in the Tuscany. Add to that Winnebago uses a steel structure in all their RVs (they literally drop them from a crane upside down to test the structure – whereas most manufacturers don’t even put a steel cage around the cockpit area (in a class A).) I’m not knocking Thor, they make a nice coach, but if you look a little deeper you can see why the Winnebago is a better option, and why it holds its value better too.

  20. Rich:
    This is great info for a future buyer? I’ve researched the heck out of this. Ive also read/heard that RV’s depreciate 30% off of the msrp the minute theyre driven off the lot. How would a salesperson then knock 25-30% off the MSRP? There goes all theyre profit! Are you saying that a good middle ground would be a 25% discount leaving the dealer with a 5% profit to split between the house and the salesperson? I cant see any salesperson honoring that number but then again, I havent done it yet? Like car dealers! Im sure there is more $ such as dealer incentives and other spiffs for the salesperson… i guess thats where they end up making up the difference…

    Also, as I mentioned to you in a past blog, this is why Id still rather buy a 1 or 2 year old used coach with low miles…

    Chris J.

    • Rich Reply

      Hi Chris – The 25% off MSRP is a good target number, and yes they will negotiate down that far and sometimes even farther. Keep in mind that the dealership stands to make a bunch of money on the back end. They get incentives from the manufacturer based on volume, they get ‘special’ buys, plus they make money from financing, selling extended warranties, selling ‘toughcoat’ and so on. Also keep in mind that if they make 5% that’s a big number – more than $5,000 on our RV and on a big diesel pusher that can be $15,000 or more. A salesperson only needs to sell a few RVs a month to be very successful at those numbers.

      • HI Rich,

        I don’t know why you feel that $5000 profit is a fair number. This is not money in the pocket of the dealer!…this is gross profit before expenses on a $100000 investment.
        I’m sure if you were the dealer your tune would sound a lot different.

        H.

        • Rich Reply

          Hi H – We all know that dealers make a lot of money on the back end – from financing (a lot from financing), back end bonus points based on sales volume, extended warranties, service contracts, body coating, etc.. Even when you factor in lot fees, salesman commissions, etc.. that’s still plenty of money from one sale. I’m fine with a dealer maximizing their profit – but I also do my best to help other buyers get the best deal possible. That’s all part of living in a capitalist society in my opinion.

          • I am glad the dealership I work at, we do not do this. We try to give a fair price from the start. Why we call ourselves a wholesaler. We might make a couple grand on a camper here and there. The small ones lucky if its $500 after paying sales, and fees to get camper to our lot. We do not charge any destination or prep charges like most dealerships either. No hidden fees and to be honest, we do not make a whole lot on the back end. We do not force you to use our financing. Better then most dealerships like the RV Wholesalers who force you to use their financing and you end up paying a little higher so they make more on the back end. Some of the larger campers you pay more interest in the 1st year then they save you when buying from them and using their financing.

          • Rich

            Hi Michael – Good info. What dealer do you work for? Feel free to include a link.

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