During the recent recession, the RV industry suffered greatly. There were suppliers, manufacturers and dealers who had to shut their doors due to declining sales. The good news for the industry is that the RV experience is now taking the country by storm and those that survived are seeing the fruits of their patience and hard work.
Couples and families are flocking to dealers with the hope and dream of having their own RV for long, comfortable vacations, easy weekend get-aways, or even a permanent “mobile” home for their retirement years. And, of course, there are those who have been RVing for years and are looking for a newer, improved model.
Regardless of your reason for buying an RV and whether you are new to RVing or a seasoned veteran, there is one rule of thumb that should never be ignored, forgotten, or overlooked; one that passionate, loyal RVers take very seriously. And that is the dealer you choose is just as important, if not more important, than the model you choose.
Why does this “unspoken” rule exist? Because RVers know or learn that it is what happens after a purchase of an RV that really matters. You can choose a dealer and even travel far distances just to save a few bucks on the purchase price. Just keep in mind that buying an RV is not like buying a car. The relationship between the dealer and buyer really matters. Just ask any loyal, caring dealer or customer, and they will tell you that the other is like family. They are committed to one another and do all they can to protect and nurture the mutual relationship. It is an experience worth a little research upfront.
So the question is: How can I be sure to choose this type of dealer; one that will not cause buyer’s remorse? There are several factors to consider when choosing your dealer but here are a few of the most important ones:
How long has the dealership has been in business? It is not to say that a dealer who has only been around ten or twenty years is not a good choice. However, when you see that a dealer has been around fifty, 60 or even more years, you can be certain that they have been doing many things right in order to be in business that long, especially if the ownership has been family-owned and operated through multiple generations. And it is a good bet that they have created a lot of happy customers and friends along the way.
#2 On-site maintenance & service
Many RV dealers claim they offer great service. What you may not know is that many dealers actually outsource much or all of its maintenance and service. In fact, one of the most common complaints from RV buyers is that RV dealers are only interested in selling you a product and not in keeping it serviced afterwards. This is often true with some of the larger dealerships because they have inventory to push off the lot. They do not have time to “waste” on servicing the units they sell; that is not where the money is made.
A reputable dealer, however, understands that it is the post-sale service that establishes integrity and trust. If you want to know how seriously a dealer treats service, take a look at his service bay. If they have a service that is in proportion to their sales lot, they put an emphasis on service and they are the ones who have happy customers who keep coming back.
#3 Customer Service
Finding an RV dealer with a proven track record and a reputation for providing exceptional customer service is extremely important. When you spend thousands of dollars on an RV, you want a dealer who will provide outstanding customer service. After your RV breaks down or needs maintenance is not the time to learn of a dealer’s careless customer service. Selecting a dealer with a good reputation does not mean that your RV’s life will be maintenance-free. It does, however, ensure that your needs will be met with the sincere desire and practiced capability needed to resolve issues and exceed the expectations of a satisfied, valued customer.
One way to be proactive in determining if an RV dealer values customer service is by asking if they have earned any manufacturers’ customer service awards; pay close attention to the Top 50 in this category.
If you want to know if you are at the wrong dealership, the first sign will be the approach and technique used by the sales staff. You should not leave a dealership feeling like you just tried to buy a vehicle on a used car lot. Yes, every salesperson wants to make a sale and earn a living, but quality salespeople who work for a quality dealer understand that it is the sales experience that sets the foundation for establishing trust and a long-term dealer-buyer relationship.
A salesperson should not only be friendly and polite. He should be very knowledgeable about the models on his lot as well as have a strong understanding of the industry. Furthermore, the salesperson should be more focused on what you want and need from your RV and your reason for investing in an RV, than on making a sale or pushing a particular brand or model. They understand that it is the experience of RVing that draws people; so make sure that you find a dealer that has salespeople who are passionate about the RVing experience and not just about putting cash in their pockets. If you feel the positive vibe from the front line, you can almost guarantee it will continue throughout the entire dealership. And that is a good thing for RVers, because experienced RV owners will often tell you that picking your dealer is just as important, if not more so, than picking your RV.