<%@LANGUAGE="JAVASCRIPT" CODEPAGE="65001"%> Finding the right RV Dealer
Little Log


By Tom Gonser [updated 10/2011]

Since we began publishing this site in the mid-90's (yes, that was in the last century!) we've had a tremendous volume of email from our readers. Some of it was suitable for publication in our "Mailbox", while another sizeable portion for a variety of reasons was not. One issue that consistently surfaced was a category of problems that related to RV dealers. Many complained of bad dealer experiences. These included such concerns as "high pressure sales"; lack of product knowledge; not matching RVer needs with the right type, style or brand of RV; and especially -- not following through with after-sales assistance.

For some years I chaired the Good Sam RV Owners' Advisory Council, a group established to identify major RV issues and concerns. The Council received a flood of email as well -- and the issues were many of the same RV dealer concerns described by our readers. In evaluating the comments received, it seems that RV purchasers in some cases bear part of the responsibility as well, because far too often they fail to do the research necessary to make an informed purchase decision. In too many cases it appears they have not exercised common sense and sound judgment in the purchase process. Often motivated solely by getting an RV at the lowest dollar cost, RV purchasers give little thought to how well a particular dealer will provide after-sales support. RVers might consume considerable (uncompensated) time of a local dealer's sales representative, only to use the resulting proposed deal to "shop" that price through the internet or via the 1-800 options. When they end up saving a few dollars by purchasing from a distant dealer, should they be surprised to learn the local dealer is not anxious to be stuck with the after sales support?

These types of failings are often part of what will contribute to an unhappy dealer experience. And while the options for RVers to collectively "do someting about dealers" is limited, the opportunity for RVers to exercise greater responsibility is something we can and should do.

There is a commonly held belief among many RVers that RV dealers, and the comissioned sales persons they employ, will always be wearing black hats. The reality may well be that there are far more black hats out there than is acceptable. However, to paint everyone with the same brush is not only misleading, but lacks in accuracy as well.

We don't pretend to know more than one RV dealership, because we've made both of our major motorhome purchases through the same dealer. Guaranty RV is a sprawling operation headquartered in Junction City, Oregon. Just about anywhere you drive in and around Junction City you'll find the Guaranty presence -- both in RVs and in automobiles. Even with the major reshuffling of stores and selling locations that was occasioned by recent downturn in fortunes for the RV industry, they remain a very large and visible operation.

When we first decided to purchase our first motorhome, we did considerable research. It was not confined only to what "brand" of coach we'd purchase. It focused as well on identifying what dealer we should purchase from -- and even what sales person within that dealership we could feel comfortable in working with. Through articles at our website we were in effect "advertising" the fact we were looking for positive recommendations. And we had the benefit of a number of reader suggestions -- both positive and negative, about where we might want to pursue our RV purchase. Based on a number of very specific reader comments, reporting on personal impressions and experiences, we selected Guaranty as the dealer with whom we would work on that initial purchase.

In 2006, when we decided we'd upgrade to a new coach again (having logged some 80,000 miles on our first coach) we returned to Guaranty. Just why we would go back to the same dealership was an interesting story -- and one we believe is worth telling in light of the many anecdotal stories on hears about unhappy RV dealer experiences.

Since our initial purchase from Guaranty, we had numerous points of contact with them. Shortly after acquiring our first coach we joined the Guaranty Travelers' Club, a group of RV owners that had in common only the fact they had purchased from the same dealership. There are a variety of brands represented among Club members, representing different sizes, models and styles. The Club is managed by Barbara Nil, who is the wife of Shannon Nil, General Manager of Guaranty RV. Barbara and Shannon are both professionals, and have excellent interpersonal skills. The rallies that Barbara arranges have been, in our experience, the best organized and truly "fun" experiences we've enjoyed as RVers. We owe a number of valued personal friendships to our participation in the Guaranty Traveler's Club. We've had occasion to be in Junction City for reasons wholly unrelated to Guaranty, and have always felt most welcome stopping by just to visit with the folks there -- simply to see how things were going from their interesting perspective on the world of RVing.

Our subsequent purchase of an Alpine coach was done with complete confidence. The level of commitment and after-sale support we've seen from these folks has always been a net positive experience. The sales representatves have continuing contacts with RVers to whom they've previously sold units. And all are keenly interested in making sure that their buyers are and remain "happy campers" -- because that's where a significant portion of their future sales will be coming from. They know that there will be times when their purchasers might need some assistance. Perhaps they'll need some help in dealing with the manufacturer on a warranty issue; or perhaps they have other time sensitive needs that might be facilitated by the intervention of the selling dealer. By providing that level of continuing support they know they'll earn the future patronage of those to whom they've sold units in the past.

What a refreshing difference when compared to a dealership where the philosophy seems better described as "close the deal and watch the tail lights go down the road". But based on reader reports we're confident there are other dealerships out there that have a similar positive corporate philosophy. And it's the responsibility of any prospective RV purchaser to identify one that is suitable to their needs -- understanding that some of the most crucial needs will not arise until after they've taken delivery of a new unit.

RVers should also have a keen interest in both the capacity and capability of an RV dealer to offer competent RV service for all the units it sells. In the rush to find just the right RV to purchase, RVers tend to forget that after the sale their primary concern will not be what brand to buy, but where they can find timely, qualified service at a reasonable rate. In the Good Sam survey referenced earlier, the two highest ranking concerns of RVers were (1) RV Quality; and (2) RV Service. Clearly the two are related, because to the extent RV quality is lacking, the demand for RV service increases.

Our regular readers know that we do not "endorse" any company, product or service -- and we do not intend to do so here. Our personal experience is only with this one dealership. However it seems to us to be a illustrative of the primary point we're trying to make here: That with proper research, RVers can make themselves much more informed purchasers, and avoid many of the pitfalls they will otherwise experience if they fail to do their homework. Finding the "right" RV dealer, and surely of equal importance the "right" sales person, are fundamental to that effort.