How I Negotiated for my RV

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Let me start – I HATE (yes uppercase, bold, italics and underlined HATE) negotiating prices. I don’t enjoy it like my mother did; talking people down on price was a game to her! She once tried to argue with the cashier at Taco Bell that her beans-instead-of-meat tacos should be cheaper because beans are less expensive than meat. I didn’t inherent the trait and actually loath the process. In fact, I think the Grinch sums up my feelings on negotiating the best:

But, it’s a necessary evil.

Fighting Dirty – use online “wholesale” dealers

My plan was to order a camper. My wife and I are far too picky to pick something off of the lot. The nice part is that I was able to pit multiple dealers against each other and were comparing exact apples to apples RVs instead of two RVs that were mostly the same.

The first thing that I did was worked with the factory rep at my manufacturer to find out the exact options that I wanted. Fortunately Sabre was incredibly helpful when it came time to deal with them – in fact, they shared pre-production pictures since our camper was the first model year for it. It also helped me decide what dealer-installed options that I’d want (stabilizers, vent covers and slide toppers).

Next, I went to a few of the big online dealers that sell at rock-bottom prices with the expectation that they’ll never see you again. You can be assured that this is typically the lowest price that you’ll find (though, friends of mine pitted RV Wholesalers against a local dealer and RVW came down a bunch to get the sale).

Once you have the wholesaler* pricing, you can approach your local dealer(s). I used the dealer finder on the Palomino/Sabre site to find the 3 closest dealers to me. Unfortunately, they were 60, 145 and 250 miles away. Pickiness has a price, of course. For each one, I emailed each and said:

  • I was looking to order a camper with these exact options (showing both factory + dealer-installed separated from each other)
  • My order timeframe was within the next 2-3 weeks
  • I was contacting my local dealers (i.e. you aren’t the only dealer I’m getting pricing from)
  • I don’t haggle and they get one chance to give me their best pricing
  • I was looking for an out the door price that had to include all fees, prep, walk-through, etc.

One dealer responded and came within a couple of hundred to the RV Wholesaler. (250 miles away)

One dealer called and asked what price I was looking for. His quote was, “I’d rather eat peanut butter than not get a sale.” (145 miles away)

One dealer came back with a price that was $2,500-3,000 more than the others. I did ultimately continue emailing them and told them that they were a bit higher than the other dealers. After some pushing and a couple of days after an in-person visit, they did agree to come down on pricing. (60 miles away)

I ultimately went with the 145 miles away dealer. The 250 miles away dealer would have been my preferred dealer, they were just a bit too far. In towing miles, that’s a good 5 hours of travel. The 60 mile away dealer made me feel like I had to work too hard to get decent pricing.

Hidden Costs

As I indicated above – my price was to be quoted as an “out the door” price meaning that what they quoted me on day one was going to be exactly what I brought a cashier’s check for on the day that signed papers. I don’t care what made up that price (there’s a laughable $5.00 “online fee” because we did everything over email, I guess!?).

BUT- bear in mind, you have to also keep the distance the dealer is to you in mind for comparing prices. You’ll have at least 1 trip to go pickup the camper and, unfortunately, one or more trips for warranty work after picking it up. I didn’t plan the return trips at $90/roundtrip to/from the dealer (times two for each time it was dropped off).

Why Didn’t I Just Buy From a Wholesaler?

I had a hard time deciding to go with a wholesaler or to buy locally. When I was comparing prices, I did include the cost of delivery or pickup into a spreadsheet for comparing prices. Being that I was such a newbie with campers, I felt better having a local dealer there to support me if anything came up. Turns out I was better prepared than I expected and my dealer wasn’t great when it came time for warranty work anyway (sad face).

Additionally, Forest River and the factory rep at Sabre strongly encourage buying locally. A little known fact about RVs is that the warranties are different than automobiles – not all dealers have to perform warranty work if they didn’t sell the unit. And they’ll commonly put their own customers first before working on a unit that they didn’t sell. If you buy from a wholesaler, know this!

That said next time I will likely buy from a wholesaler- specifically RV Wholesalers. I’ve watched and have been impressed with the interactions of ddurnell (RVW owner) on the Forest River Forums.


*wholesaler is a misnomer- they want you to believe that you’re buying wholesale but the truth is, unless you’re a dealer, you’re buying retail.

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