Goldilocks and the RV Salesmen

Through visiting at a number of RV dealers we’ve met a variety of characters in the form of RV salesmen (yes, men…so far we have not encountered a woman sales person) and we have started to develop a game where we identify the type of person we’re dealing with. It’s sort of like “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” only not. In this installment, I want to share some of the types we’ve encountered and what we’ve learned about them. These are not confined to the RV industry, of course, I think anyone who has made a big ticket purchase has encountered these characters in one form or another.

Before I go further, I want to make a disclaimer as well. We know we are greener than grass. We have zero experience. We’ve done a lot of research online but we have no real world experience at all. What we have are lots of questions so our only guide is how our questions are received and how we are treated for asking them. Now, let the game begin!

The Expert

Every sales pitch begins by asking what your needs are and this first type starts just like everyone else, but, as the conversation progresses they will subtly or not so subtly discount everything you’ve said and tell you what your needs are. They usually answer your questions with some version of the question, “why do you think you need that?” And, they usually pepper the conversation with their vast experience in a rig exactly like the one you happen to be standing in. Any item we asked about, if it wasn’t already installed on the coach on the dealer’s lot, we were told we didn’t need it including solar and, in one case, a convection microwave. One Expert looked positively stunned when I pointed to a recognizable lighting control and asked if the rig had multiplex wiring.  Unless you actually buy something that day the visit usually ends with “Well, come back when you know what you’re talking about” though somewhat more gently worded, of course.

Mr. Matter-of-Fact

This second type is the one who starts his pitch with “Let me level with you…” or “let’s be honest” then he will go on to tell you everything wrong with buying an RV. He’ll point out that they are a depreciating asset and that they all arrive from the factory with problems that can take multiple visits to the service department while reminding you of the saying in the RV industry that the dealer is the last fifty feet of the assembly line. But, all of that will pale in comparison to the amazing adventures that await and he will tell you stories of his own adventures. Then, with no hint of irony he tells you that you should buy your last RV first which is, coincidentally, the one you’re sitting in where he just spent the last few minutes pointing out problems.  If he is really good, you will walk away thinking it is not only okay to purchase a rolling house that will have to go back to the dealer for numerous fixes during the first year, but that it is a part of the grand adventure and charm of the process.

Mr. Smooth

This type has been parodied in every sitcom. He calls everyone “friend” and works hard to ooze charm from every pore. Here in Tennessee, that means the southern accent gets dialed up to “Dukes of Hazzard”. He’ll tell you that you can have it any way you want. He’s glad to point out the special touches and should you find anything wrong, it can be fixed good-as-new in no time. Like the old Burger King jingle, you can “have it your way”. My experience, having worked in other industries with this type, is that “your way” ends once you’ve closed the deal.

The Unicorn

We’ve been incredibly lucky to meet this last type twice. We left both experiences feeling like we could trust the information we’d been given. This type takes time to answer your newbie questions, show you different types of rigs and explain the plusses and minuses of each. He may even take time to explain the basics of financing and what kind of training they offer a buyer when they come to pick up their rig. He will leave you feeling that you are truly on the path to figuring out what is right for you.

Looking at rigs that are too long, too high, too overdone, or too dark inside can make you feel like Goldilocks trying to pick a bed. But, it’s all too easy to be treated like “The Princess and the Pea”.  And since one of the issues that causes people to trade in their RVs after a purchase is an uncomfortable sleeping experience, stick to your guns.  Keep in mind that you may be choosing your next home so it only makes sense to do all the research you can. Go online, talk to RV owners, read blogs, and join an RV Facebook group. There is a LOT of information available on almost any kind of rig and YouTube is full of people sharing their stories from the road.

Find opportunities to walk through as many different rigs as you can because nothing beats actually sitting in a rig, laying down on the bed, opening drawers, pushing on the walls and getting a feel for it.  Then talk to the dealers. Listen for clues that will tell you the type you are dealing with and really listen to the information they are giving you but always trust your gut. If it doesn’t feel right to you, leave. You may only learn that you would never want to do business with them, but that’s more than you knew before your visit.  In fact, purchasing an RV is not a single visit experience.  Buyers remorse is very real and in the case of an RV, very expensive.  One salesman (Mr. Expert) mentioned that it was normal to trade in the first RV for the second within 2 years.  Perhaps it is normal, but it is not for us.  With a payment as large as a mortgage, doing the research before purchasing can save a lot of money.  Money that we can better use running away.

If you’re out shopping for an RV or have made a purchase, let us know what you have learned in the comments below.  We would love to learn from your experience.


Born the same day Gemini 7 launched. I love to travel and photograph new places.

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