Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Will you buy at an RV show this spring?

The reports out of the Tampa SuperShow this week were very encouraging for the RV industry. The industry looks to Florida to set the tone for the RV shows that will be held throughout the country the next few months. As the New England RV Dealers put the finishing touches on their 2011 event that will be held Feb 3-6 at the Boston Seaport World Trade Center, their is optimism in the air.

For many years RV shows were "buying" shows. You went to the show to find the right unit, get out your checkbook, and walked out the proud owner of a new RV. Then two things challenged the logic of this process: 1) the Internet and 2) the recession. Sales slowed down as consumers did a lot of their initial research on the web, went to the show to narrow down their choices, and then visited a few dealerships to make their final deal. The recession certainly didn't help things and many people didn't even bother going to the show because of financial challenges presented by factors outside their control.

So, the question of the day is this; Is Florida an anomaly or have we finally turned the corner and will buyers return to all the shows this spring?

We certainly hope that is the case but want to hear from you if you plan on attending an RV show in the coming months and if you will be "buying" at the show. You can still do research on the web and narrow down your choices, but once you have that information will you pull out the checkbook on the show floor or will you wait a little longer?

The sudden impact of the Internet and the recession may have changed buying patterns - or so we thought. Florida seems to repudiate that notion and we think it has. I hope every spring show enjoys the success being reported from Florida by dealers, manufacturers and the trade press.

I spoke with Fran Roberts of LongView RV up here in New England this week. Fran told me he had his best show in 51 years! Now that's an amazing statement from a man who has survived the many ups and downs of the RV industry over ten decades. Several manufacturers I spoke with this week say it was their best show in years.

Terrific! Let's hear from you and what you think. By the way, if you are in New England and want to learn more about the big Boston show, check out the show Facebook page at:

Hope to see you there. I'll be presenting a First Time Buyers Seminar each day of the show.


  1. I've being trying to do research for over 2 years and the main problem is you experts won't mention brand names even when you know there is a basic problem or lack of quality. I can only surmise that it's a fear of lawsuit or loss of advertising dollars.

  2. Would love to go to RV Show and buy a unit at the show price, but the thought of $5 gas by 2012 is a deal stopper !

  3. In support of your 1-2-3 premis, I almost followed the pattern.
    After determining that a better rig was needed I followed the sequence.
    1. Searched the MFG Web sites I knew compiling a table of models that met our criteria. I added MFGs from magazine reviews.
    2. Attend shows and contacted dealers to learn more about the features of leading (my list) models. The hard part was finding a knowledgeable sales person who gave accurate answers.
    3. Chose a model and made purchase. The "almost" part is that the transaction was closed at a show because that's where the dealer folks were at the time.

  4. Note to all: It would be easier to respond to comments if you would at least use your first name or even a made up name.

    Having said that - to the first Anonymous - it is neither fear of a lawsuit or loss of advertising revenue. This is my own personal consumer RV blog and I don't sell advertising for just that reason. I don't like to single out any particular manufacturer because there are so many models that some could be good and some could have issues. If you have questions about certain models I will be happy to discuss them with you one-on-one and you can reach me at zagami(at) Another source that does rate RV's and publishes books and reviews is the RV Consumer Group at

    Anonymous #2 - Please don't let higher gas prices keep you from your dreams - just drive less. RVing is still the most affordable vacation and the enjoyment an RV will deliver far outweighs another dollar at the gas pumps. Let's say you did 5000 miles a year in your RV and you got 10 mpg - that's 500 gallons of gas or $500/year more than you might pay today. At 365 days a year that works out to $1.37 a day and probably less than you would pay for a cup of coffee - think about it!

    Anonymous #3 - Most dealers will have an open house at their facility shortly after exhibiting at an RV show. In most cases you will be able to buy at the same, or very close to, the show price at the open house event. One other recommendation, and very important: if you can visit the factory where your choice of RV is being manufactured then I highly recommend it. Try to see first hand how the product is made from the ground up and ask additional questions while on a factory tour.

    Thanks for the comments.

  5. I won't be buying at a show, because I bought from a private seller last summer. Having recently been through the shopping process, here are my observations.

    (1) The knowledge gap between 'dealers' and customers is shrinking fast. Most people don't like or trust vehicle dealers. It doesn't help when a prospective buyer walks on the lot and already knows more about what they're interested in than the salesperson. I can stand on your lot with my smartphone and see inventory for similar models within 500 miles. I can also find info like rvdirect pricing while sitting in your showroom.

    (2) The universe of choices has expanded. Instead of being limited to what I could find locally or at a winter show, my universe was every make and model produced in the last 10 years. It's hard for any one dealer to carry enough inventory to compete with that.

    (3) There will be a flight to quality. Buying decisions aren't going to be made based just of how a new product looks on the showroom floor. Decisions will be made with input from RVers who have owned the companies product for years. Build something that attracts a loyal base of customers, and they will sell product for you.

    (4) Pricing has to become more transparent. People are scared to make a decision without checking the collective knowledge they can find on the internet. Jacking up MSRP and offering steep discounts doesn't fool anyone anymore. It just makes the process take longer.

    (5) Factory direct will be more popular, for those manufacturers willing to give it a try. It's common knowledge that the factory--dealer--customer model has a lot of frictional cost. Customers don't see the value. It's easier than ever to market directly to the customer and be responsible for your own brand experience.

    (6) People will go to shows to determine between a few specific models they have narrowed in on. They will avoid eye contact with salespeople, and will already have a tremendous about of product knowledge. They're at the penultimate step - deciding which model to buy. The final step, when the show is done, will be deciding who to buy from.

    If I'm right, the industry has a problem. How do you keep shows vibrant when the actual dealers working the shows are less and less likely to get the sale? I think shows are still important for (a) buyers just starting the process, and (b) buyers who are making the final decision between 2-3 models. The industry is going to have to find a way to track the benefit of shows over a longer time scale.

    My prediction - local and regional shows will slowly waste away. Dealers will decide that the investment isn't worth the payoff. Large multi-state shows will continue to drive sales, _if_ manufacturers are smart enough to realize that their products need to be there. Brands who don't take direct responsibility for their own marketing will be left behind.


  6. My wife and I were fortunate enough to be in Florida at the same time as the recent Tampa RV show. What a tremendous experience! I highly recommend anyone seriously considering a purchase to try out the annnual show. The show hands down beats the annual Chicago (Rosemont) show and where else can you walk around looking at RV's in a short sleeve shirt and shorts surrounded by every manufacturer and model. From pop-ups to "lottery style" Motorhomes. Congrats to the organizer's of the Tampa show.
    Joe & Sue


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