RV Dealership

An online RV Newsletter recently contained an entry entitled, “Is novice RV buyer being “taken” by dealer? Your input requested”. To view the entry you can click here or it is reprinted at the end of this entry along with some of the responses from readers of the newsletter. As the writer alluded to in her question: “I think I’ve been reading too many horror stories on the internet, because now I’m worried they are trying to take advantage of my naïveté in this situation despite getting a good review about them from one of you.” While those that responded to her question basically told her to “run away”, I believe they either mis-interpreted her question or have never purchased an RV through a dealership, as dealers typically request a deposit before readying an RV for delivery.

Following are four reasons why it is safe and in your best interest to leave a deposit with an RV dealer when looking to purchase an RV.

Type of deposit – Typically there are two reasons why you would want to leave a deposit with an RV dealer:

1) The dealer offers you the opportunity to leave a fully refundable deposit to hold the RV and pricing giving you time to consider the RV and purchase terms.

2) You have agreed on the RV along with pricing and are ready to set the delivery date. In both of the two above examples the deposit is guaranteeing both the unit and agreed pricing while keeping the RV dealer from offering the RV to another customer.

Dealers are licensed and bonded - By law your deposit goes into a trust account until you take delivery of the RV. If the dealer doesn’t live up to their end of the bargain you can go to the state licensing department that oversees the dealer, file on their bond or both.

Proves Your Good Faith – Here’s the definition of a Good Faith Deposit, “A deposit of money given by a buyer to show that he or she has the intention of completing a deal. Good faith money is often later applied to the purchase, but may be nonrefundable if the deal does not go through.” Think about it, if you were selling your RV privately; you spend time and energy to clean it up then place an ad listing it for sale. Once listed, a total stranger comes and looks at the RV and wants to buy it, however the buyer needs several days to arrange financing, get a hitch on the vehicle, find somewhere to park it, etc. and asks you to “hold” the RV for them. You are likely to ask for a deposit as a good faith gesture from this “unknown to you person” that wants to buy it as you are likely to continue to receive requests from other interested parties and would hate to miss a sale based on the “buyers” insincerity.

It’s not much different for a dealer – They have to take a mechanic off a paying job in the shop to PDI (prepping) the unit as noted in the newsletter entry. A PDI typically takes about 3 hours (the hourly labor rate in Western Washington exceeds $100 per hour), which includes purging and filling new LP tanks, performing an LP leak test, flushing the water lines, checking all appliances for proper operation, etc. Paid office staff spends time putting the paperwork together and the title clerk fills out forms along with the temporary license the dealer purchased from the state (which becomes worthless if the buyer doesn’t take delivery). If you were to cancel the sale, the dealer would need to drain the water, possibly re-winterize the unit, remove the propane tanks (as they can’t be displayed for sale in some locations with propane in them) etc. The deposit basically covers the dealer for the costs they incurred getting the RV ready for you to take home.

Finally, regarding the new owners’ acceptance of the unit – when you come to take delivery of your RV from the dealer they will start by walking you through the unit showing you how everything works, it is cleaned to your satisfaction, etc. and take care of anything the mechanic missed while prepping the unit. (Cabinet catch that doesn’t latch quite right, bed prop that needs adjusting, missing sink stopper, etc). Once you are satisfied that your RV is ready, you will be directed to the office to complete the paperwork and pay the balance owing (after deposit) or sign the loan documentation.

Always perform due diligence when making any large purchase like an RV by checking online reviews for the model, manufacturer, dealership and talk to others, but don’t assume a dealer is trying to “take” you by simply requesting that you leave a deposit assuring them you will return to take delivery of the unit as you promised after they have spent time and energy getting it ready for you to enjoy.


Taken From the RV Newsletter - A reader named Esther Jenkins posted this on our RV Buying Advice Facebook group. We believe she (and other RVers) would appreciate your comments. We suspect what she is expressing here is a concern shared by others when buying an RV from a dealership.

Esther wrote:

“I’m looking to buy my first RV. The dealer is asking for a $500 non-refundable deposit (called it a deposit, not a down payment), despite my not financing. They are telling me they do three days of pre-sale testing to check for leaks and to make sure all the systems work, etc., but won’t start without the deposit. Is that normal when buying from a dealer? I thought I’d read posts in the past about people going to a dealer and taking a unit home that day. Also, I was previously given advice that I shouldn’t pay any money until after they fix anything that was discovered during the PDI. I think I’ve been reading too many horror stories on the internet, because now I’m worried they are trying to take advantage of my naïveté in this situation despite getting a good review about them from one of you. I also expect them to try to sell me stuff I don’t need or charge me too much for things I do, so am taking an experienced RV owner with me. I think I’m just being paranoid because of spending so much.”

A few of the comments:

 - A non-refundable deposit is not either normal or necessary. The RV should have been “tested” before the dealer put it out to sell. I would run, not walk, away from the dealer.

 - The unit should come already with a PDI completed and what if any problems were noted and FIXED with NO PAYMENT of any kind till you sign the papers. RUN as fast as you can and report this dealer to a state agency for consumer fraud.

 - RUN, don’t walk, away from this dealership!!

Dave Helgeson
Author: Dave HelgesonEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Dave Helgeson is the MHRV Show Director. He and his wife love to travel across the west in their RV. Dave writes about all things RVing but loves to share destinations and boondocking advice.

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