We have covered the topic of RV show shopping in the past, but wanted to update our tips for the current shopping environment in 2024. The red hot RV market of 2020 and 2021 has softened quite a bit, and consumer friendly pricing has returned for many makes and models. Many dealers are even overloaded with inventory that needs to get moved. When it comes to RV show shopping in 2024, the advantage is returning to consumers. Simultaneously, there are more options for RV shoppers than ever before. Several independent manufacturers are making a splash, and the big three (Thor, Forest River, and Winnebago) each boast an incredibly diverse lineup of products.
If you are RV show shopping in 2024 for the very first time, chances are you may get completely overwhelmed. But thankfully, the RV Atlas is here to help you. After attending RV shows for over a decade here are our 18 best tips for success. These expert and hard won tips for RV show shopping in 2024 will help you navigate the shopping process like a complete champ.
1. Trading in Your RV? Consider Selling it Privately BEFORE the Show
Trading your rig in at an RV show may not be your best option to maximize the price you get for it. Consider selling your rig privately (or to another dealer) before the show and heading to the show with that part of the deal done. This will provide clarity of mind and simplify the already complex process of RV shopping at a crowded and hectic show. This way you can take your time and get the best price possible instead of potentially accepting a bargain-basement price from a dealer at the show who thinks that they are your only good option for a sale.
2. Understand the Difference Between a National, Regional, or Local RV Show
There are only a few truly national RV shows in the country. The Hershey Show, and the Florida RV SuperShow are the two that dominate the landscape. These shows are terrific places to get to see as many RVs as possible. Virtually every manufacturer in the country brings rigs to these shows. Only the smallest and most niche manufacturers in the country are not present. So if you can, get yourself to Hershey or Tampa! These shows both have a carnival like atmosphere (especially Tampa) and they are loads of fun. Stay overnight if you can, so you can patrol the show for at least two days.
Regional shows are often excellent as well, but are very dependent on what dealers are attending, and what manufacturers those dealers carry. So if you want to see something specific, like an Airstream, or a Winnebago Motorhome, then you might be out of luck. Local shows are often nothing more than a single dealer or two renting out a minor league stadium and selling hot dogs and popcorn. We tend to avoid local shows and go camping on those weekends instead.
3. Consider Shopping at an RV Show, But Purchasing Elsewhere
RV shows are definitely the best places for shopping. You get to see tons of RVs and take your time looking at them. But are they the best way to actually purchase an RV? That is a very debatable question here at RV Atlas headquarters. Many people get caught up in the madness and emotion of an RV show and make regrettable decisions. Others score great deals and will only buy at RV shows. So it depends on who you ask. It also depends on your mentality when visiting a show. If you can stay cool, calm, and collected, then by all means–go buy your next rig at a show.
4. Do RV Show Reconnaissance Before You Attend the Show
If you are going RV Show shopping in 2024, then make sure you do some serious research before you go. If you want to get focused and only look at Class C motorhomes, then find out where they are on the show map, and go look for them. At a big show like Hershey, if you don’t have a very intentional mindset, then you will end up wandering aimlessly and looking at a lot of rigs that are completely irrelevant for you. Shop with a purpose and don’t get distracted by shiny objects. You can always go look at the teardrops at the end of the day if you like them, but know you will never buy one for your family of five.
5. Consider Packing Lunch Instead of Eating at the Show
RV show food is typically terrible and overpriced. If you are making one of the biggest purchases of your life, why not eat something a little less greasy and gross? Heading back to your car for a lunch that you packed in a cooler may be a good time to gather your thoughts and take a little break. We understand that your car may be parked far, far away at the huge national shows, but this tip always works well for the local and regional shows–and sometimes for the big ones if you get there early and nab a good parking spot.
6. Go to the Show on the Quietest Day Possible
RV shows can be absolute madhouses on Saturdays and Sundays. If you can go on a Thursday or Friday instead, you will have more room to look through rigs, and more space to relax when you need a break. It’s possible that you might get better pricing on a slower day as well.
7. Test Out the Entire RV for Comfort
It can be awkward to sit on the toilet and stand in the shower at an RV show, but it is incredibly important to do so. You should also sit in every chair and walk around the kitchen etc. Mimic the everyday activities that you would do in the RV if you owned it. Walk past your spouse in areas that are tight and make sure you won’t drive each other crazy in a space that could become your home away from home.
8. Have a System for Recording Information
It is incredibly important to have an organized system for recording information about each rig that interests you. Otherwise it will all become a muddled mess in your mind when you get home. We recommend taking pictures with your smart phone in an organized way. Take the first picture of the model number outside of the front door, then take the exterior photos, then interior photos of each model. Then when you get home you will be able to “tour” each of the rigs again in an organized fashion.
9. Speak to the Manufacturer’s Reps, Not the Salespeople
This is one of the best tips we have for RV show shopping in 2024. If you have questions about an RV always try to find a manufacturer’s representative instead of a dealer salesperson. Manufacturer’s reps will typically have on a t-shirt with the manufacturer’s logo on it (Jayco, Airstream, Keystone, Winnebago etc…). The dealer salespeople will typically have on a shirt with the dealer’s logo on it (Colonial Airstream, Camping World, White Horse RV Center etc…). So why look for the manufacturer reps first? Because they are more low pressure, and more knowledgable about the products than the salespeople.
This is because many of them are actually involved in designing and building the rigs that you are looking at. They are also completely focused on that brand so their knowledge runs much deeper. Salespeople often have to sell 10 or more brands and their product knowledge can be very diluted. They are also under tremendous pressure to sell. The manufacturer’s reps want to sell rigs as well, but they are typically salaried employees that are not working for a commission.
10. Watch Out for the Show Dogs!
Dealers at the larger regional and national shows often bring in their show dogs! These are not your average salespeople. These are super salesmen and saleswomen that excel at selling RV’s at shows. We have nothing against salespeople trying to earn a living, but we also want you to get a good deal and not walk away saddled with a ridiculous payment and an RV that will soon end up underwater and difficult to unload. Keep your sense about you at an RV show and do not get pressured into a purchase that may not be the right thing for you or your family.
11. Consider Leaving Your Kids at Home
We love our kiddos just as much as anyone else does. But that doesn’t mean we want them with us at an RV show. RV show shopping in 2024 requires complete focus and attention (there is money at stake here people!) and the kids can be a huge distraction to say the least. They may be good for torture testing the quality of a rig, but if you are seriously negotiating, keeping them busy and out of trouble can be quite a chore. Get a babysitter or ask the grandparents for help if you can get it.
12. Stay Hydrated and Bring Your Own Water
As crazy as it sounds, people get dehydrated and exhausted at RV shows. We often see exhausted shoppers sitting on the curb and looking like they are about to pass out. So bring you own water and stay hydrated! If you are exhausted and thirsty you are not exactly in the best position to negotiate a large purchase. So keep drinking water FTW! Bringing your own water will also save you a ton of money.
13. Attend the Non-Sponsored Seminars
The better RV shows often have excellent seminars by industry experts on all kinds of topics. These seminars can be educational and enlightening. They can also be a great place to take a break and catch your breath during a hectic day of shopping. However, be on the lookout for seminars that are nothing more than sponsored content by a company. During these seminars there is often something for sale, and the entire purpose of the seminar is to sell you that something. Not very relaxing or educational, right?
14. Don’t Buy the Wrong RV Just to Save Money!
If you go to an RV show with the mentality that you simply must buy something, then you very well might make a huge mistake. Don’t buy the wrong RV for your family just to score a deal and save some money. In short time you will be looking to trade that RV in and you may feel significant financial pain doing so. There are finally lots of RV’s out there on the marketplace again. The right RV is out there waiting for you somewhere–it just may take some time for you to find it.
15. Stick to the Budget! (Don’t Borrow More Than You Should)
Spend less travel more! That has always been one of our mottos here at RV Atlas headquarters. If you go RV show shopping in 2024 with a budget in mind–then stick to it! It is easy for a salesperson to talk you into raising your budgeted price by 5K or 10K. They will often point out that your monthly payment is only X dollars more if you jump up another 5K. But what happens when you go to sell your rig in two years and you owe far more than the rig is worth? Then you will surely regret not making a more modest purchase.
16. Getting a Good Dealer Matters Just as Much as Getting a Good RV
We would never purchase from a dealer at an RV show if we have not first visited their dealership. Yet thousands upon thousands of consumers do this every year. If you fall in love with an RV at an RV show, then consider taking an afternoon to go visit the dealership. Or, better yet, go scope out a few dealerships before the RV show so that when you start negotiating with them, you will already know if they have a quality storefront. What makes for a quality RV dealership? For us, a quality RV dealership is one that is capable of serving the products that they sell in a timely and professional manner. So go see for yourself if they have one service bay, or twenty of them. Also make sure they have a well-staffed service center. If there is only person there and the phone is ringing off the hook–then you might want to stay away.
17. How To Figure Out if You Are Getting a Good Price
When we started RVing it was a truism that the consumer should get 30 percent off the MSRP of an RV for it to be a good deal. Well, that changed dramatically during the pandemic when dealers where getting full MSRP for many rigs on their lot. But deep discounts may be back in 2024 because RV sales are a bit stagnant right now.But the only way to know that you are truly getting a competitive price for an RV is to shop around. You can’t just look at the MSRP sticker anymore and feel like you are getting a good price if they lower it by a certain percentage. Good deals can only be found by comparison shopping. So yes, RV show shopping in 2024 is very hard work. But you can get a great deal if you do your homework!
18. Always Be Willing to Walk Away
If the show dogs sense desperation, and they know that you simply must make a deal and purchase an RV, then you have already lost. You should always be willing to walk away. And they should always know that you are. How can you let them know that you are willing to walk away? Quite simply, by doing so. You can always leave them your number before you go.