We shared a few weeks ago that we are planning to go to a regional RV show. I had the opportunity to attend last year, but this year Kristin wanted to check it out, so we’ll have the kiddos in tow. Hopefully they find it as interesting as we do or else it might be a short trip!
If you’ve never attended an RV show before you may be wondering why you should go. I have found there are four main reasons you don’t want to miss visiting an RV show. I highlight those reasons below along with some suggestions to make it a profitable experience.
Reason 1: You’re window shopping for a new RV.
Given the number of dealers, brands, and types of campers featured, there is no better place to look for a camper than at an RV show. Depending upon the size of the show you attend there will be all sizes, makes, models, and price ranges. This can make the visit a bit overwhelming, so here are a few things that you should consider:
- What type and size camper can yourtow vehicle pull?
- Pay attention to the dry weight (the trailer weight alone), but more importantly the gross weight (the trailer weight plus your added gear weight). Your tow vehicle needs to be able to comfortably handle the gross weight to ensure safety and avoid preventable wear and tear on the vehicle.
- What size camper can you store?
- Some housing developments have restrictions against parking recreational vehicles on streets or in driveways. While a pop-up camper could easily fit in a garage, for larger RVs you might have to rent a spot at a storage facility–and that means an added monthly fee.
- How often do you plan to camp?
- If you only plan to camp a handful of days or times a year, then purchasing an entry level camper is a great option. However, if you are going to spend more than a few weeks a year in the camper, we have found that buying a higher quality and better built camper is worth the investment.
- How many people will typically be sleeping in the camper?
- Most campers’ sleeping capacity includes breaking down the couch and dinette to reach the max sleeping capacity. While this is great in a pinch, it can get really annoying to have to do this every night! My suggestion is to make sure there are enough beds for the people who will typically be camping with you, saving the dinette and couch for the occasional guest.
Reason 2: You would like to capitalize on special offers by buying an RV at the show.
You can get some really great “RV show prices” that you would not normally get at the dealer’s lot. When you are visiting an RV show, you will notice some associates have dealer shirts and others have manufacturer shirts. One of the dealers told me that dealers are provided with extra incentives from the manufacturers to sell campers during the shows. That means they can offer you a better, lower price.
Here are a few tips if you are planning to buy an RV at the show:
- Do online research before you arrive so you know which brands and models you want to view at the show.
- Be open to dealer suggestions about comparable models, but don’t settle for something different just because they don’t have the model you were most interested in.
- If you are looking for a specific model and the first dealer does not have one on site, chances are another dealer at the show will. Manufactures try to work with dealers so that many models are represented somewhere in the building.
- Campers at the show are not organized by size or type, but by dealer. This means that you will have to walk the ENTIRE show to see all the models that are available in your size and price range.
- For example, last year our friends were looking for a 19 to 23 foot, two-person lightweight camper. After walking most of the show and talking with two dealers (who had given offers on their best prices), we were getting pretty tired. With only two rows left we almost called it quits, but we decided to just “finish it out,” and boy were they glad we did. In the very last row they found a model that was similar to what they were looking for, although it had not originally been on their list. The dealer was great to work with and gave them a great price (beating the other dealers by $2,000). They bought that camper at the show and then traveled a few weekends later to trade in their old camper for the new one.
- Just because you buy at the show does not mean you get to tow a camper home that day! Most dealers will still take the camper back to their lot where you will go to pick it up. Some dealers will charge a storage fee if you do not pick up the camper by a certain date.
- Not all dealers are created equal. Make sure to ask about dealer services and fees including dealer prep, hitch set up, propane tanks filled, etc. This is where dealers can seem like they have the same price but in fact do not. Many dealers will offer you an extended warranty. Make sure you know what you are paying for and who does the service (i.e. only at that dealer or any certified dealer). Having service coverage only at your local dealer will not do you a bit of good when the toilet on a brand new RV malfunctions on its maiden voyage in another state. (This happened to our friends–but fortunately they had a good service plan.)
Reason 3: You want to check out the latest RV-related gear and services.
In addition to lots of campers, most RV shows also feature a slew of vendors for campgrounds, vacation resorts, product suppliers, and even completely unrelated products (i.e. leaf guard systems for gutters). Some shows will have boats, golf carts, and other ATVs as well. Additionally:
- Most booths will have an opportunity for you to sign up to win something. The trade-off is that I got junk mail and telemarketer phone calls for months after the show, so make sure that freebie is really worth giving out your phone number and mailing address.
- Our camper was previously owned by a couple who won it at an RV show. So I guess some sweepstakes are worth it!
Reason 4: You want to beat the winter “no camping” blues.
I am a bit of a camping nerd and this time of year many of our summer trips are planned but still way too far off in the future. The RV show was a fun way to be around a bunch of people who are passionate about the same thing as me!
Some final helpful hints for attending an RV show:
- Check the RV show website prior to going for coupons to reduce your admission price.
- If you can, go on a weeknight when the show will be less crowded and usually offer cheaper entrance fees.
- The RV show I went to did not have a lot of food options, so take a snack with you.
- Be prepared for pushy salesmen … know what you are there for and stick to your plan.
- Many RV shows are in large cities in areas that you may not be used to parking a big towing vehicle. If possible take a smaller car that will comfortably fit in the parking garage (oops, lesson learned!).
- Have fun, dream a little, and get excited for the upcoming camping season!