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RV Dealers vs Private Sellers: Where’s The Best Place To Buy An RV?

Published on September 17th, 2021 by Peggy Dent

RV dealers have a large inventory, but not necessarily a broad selection.

RV Dealers vs Private Sellers: Where’s The Best Place To Buy An RV?

The debate surrounding buying an RV from an RV dealer vs buying one from a private seller has been raging since the inception of RVing. Some people are passionate about one option over the other.

We have personally purchased two RVs. Both were from dealers. Both were new. None of the reasons listed below for purchasing an RV from a dealer applied to our situation, but the reasons listed below are why many people might prefer RV dealers over a private party.

Pros of buying from RV dealers

RV dealers may be the best place to purchase a new RV. They have a large selection of RVs, all conveniently located in one place for you to “touch and feel.”

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They can manage your trade-in, help you find financing, and include an extended warranty all in one convenient transaction. Because the RV is new, there are warranties on the entire rig, so if something does go wrong, the manufacturer of the RV (not the dealer) is responsible for the repairs and presumably the dealer will help you get those issues fixed. There are few other alternatives for buying a new RV, but dealers also sell used RVs, and that is where this comparison becomes more relevant.

Cons of buying from RV dealers

RV dealers do have a large inventory, all in one location for your convenience, but it’s still a limited inventory especially in the used RV category.  They may not have the brands or the floor plans that appeal to you. They’ll work hard to sell you one of the vehicles they have in their inventory, not the specific RV you want.

RVs are not like cars where one dealership will trade with another if the color or model you want is located on a different lot.  Another negative of buying from a dealer is the price may be higher than you would pay if you buy from a private party. They will help with financing and an extended warranty, but you might be able to find better financing on your own, and wrapping your extended warranty into your RV payment might be convenient, but it could also cost you much more in the long run.

Typical RV For Sale ad in a digital publication
RV dealers list new and used RVs in the same digital database as private sellers. But if it’s the right RV, at the right price for you, does it matter?

Pros of buying from a private party

When you’re ready to purchase an RV from a private party, you can find almost any RV make, model, floorplan, length, and year that you’re interested in purchasing. With publications like RVTrader, you can find almost any RV, and the prices are typically much better than what you would pay for the same RV on a dealer’s lot.

There are typically over 150,000 RVs listed in that one database. You should be able to find what you are looking for, although not all the RVs listed in RVTrader are used and being sold by private parties. Dealers also use that database to list products in their inventory.

Another positive of buying from a private seller is you are in a better position to negotiate the price. You can take your time, inspect the rig, obtain your own financing, or pay cash for the rig. You can add an extended warranty as a separate purchase later on, so you won’t be paying for the warranty years after it is no longer applicable.

Many private sellers have taken excellent care of their RVs, they’ve worked out all the bugs, and they know every single thing about it. Many of these deals are priced to sell and are listed well below their market value. We have talked to several people who have purchased from private sellers and they love the RVs and the prices they paid for their RVs.

The cons of buying from a private seller 

One of the biggest disadvantages of buying from a private seller is distance. If you’re using RVTrader or a similar database to shop for your new rig, the one you like the most might be thousands of miles away. That can significantly complicate the transaction because you want to know if the pictures on the internet accurately depicted the condition of the RV. 

It might not be prudent to spend the kind of money it takes to purchase an RV without knowing the exact condition of the rig. Even if you can find an inspector to examine the RV on your behalf, you still don’t know what the vehicle is like until you see it for yourself.

Additionally, you’ll still need to secure financing or be prepared to pay cash for the RV. Finally, you’ll need to transact the business of paying for the rig in exchange for the title and the vehicle.  The greater the distance between the buyer and the seller, the more difficult all this can be.  

Of course, you can drive or fly to the location of the RV to do an in-person inspection and to transact the business, but if something is wrong with the RV, the current owner doesn’t really have a clear title, or there is something else impeding the sale, you’ve committed a lot of time and money to the process and that’s not something you would want to do multiple times.

Another way to buy an RV

There is a third option that incorporates some of the pros of buying from a dealer with the pros of buying from a private seller. It’s not a perfect solution, but it might serve some RV buyers perfectly. There is an organization, National Vehicle, that handles all the details of selling an RV, but they do it for private sellers for a small fee. They offer a host of services to the private seller for a very small fee, which makes them an attractive alternative.

To understand how National Vehicle will help you as a buyer, you need to understand what they do for the sellers. First, they appraise the value of the seller’s RV to help them price it competitively. Then they design and publish ads in all the digital places people shop for RVs. They field inquires about the rig, and if needed, they help the buyers obtain financing. They will arrange to have the RV professionally inspected by a third party so the buyer and the bank know the exact condition of the RV. They assist in the transfer of the money from the buyer to the seller and the transfer of a clear title to the buyer.

If the rig is too far away from the buyer, National Vehicle will even arrange for the delivery of the RV.  National Vehicle does not receive a price-based commission on RV sales, so there is no incentive for them to encourage the seller to list the rig at a higher price. 

The pros of National Vehicle

The pros of this option is that you can find the right used RV that is priced to sell, and National Vehicle takes the anxiety out of the process. With help for the buyer in securing financing, a professional RV inspection, the secure transfer of the funds and title, and the deliver of your new acquisition, National Vehicle helps RV buyers overcome the difficulties of purchasing a used RV.

The cons of National Vehicle

The cons of using National Vehicle is that they don’t represent every used RV in the market.  They have a huge selection with over 4,000 RVs for sale, but it’s still a much smaller subset of all the RVs for sale and you simply might not find the exact vehicle you are looking for in their inventory.

Final thoughts

The final thought about National Vehicle is they don’t sell new RVs.  If you’re looking for a new rig, there really are only three options:

  • Buy from the inventory on a dealer’s lot
  • Buy directly from an RV manufacturer (limited brands only)
  • Have a van conversion built to your specifications

But if you’re looking for a used RV and you want private party prices, with the extra services of help with financing and a professional RV inspection, then check out the inventory listed on National Vehicle’s website before you look at RVTrader’s broader inventory selections.

One of the best parts about RVing is engaging with the community of traveling enthusiasts. iRV2 forums allow folks to chat with other RVers online, and get other perspectives on everything RVing, including products, destinations, RV mods, and much more.

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5 thoughts on “RV Dealers vs Private Sellers: Where’s The Best Place To Buy An RV?”


  2. The warranty for leaks is the where the new rv dealer will try to not fix the issues. They will say it was not inspected and maintained every 3 months. A warranty is only as good as the fineprint.

  3. Con to buying a used RV from a dealer even if it is a consigned unit is the dealer will polish and clean in hopes of hiding known defects and other items the purchaser will not notice. Too bad the buyer doesn’t have someone with integrity to watch their interests.

  4. As a professional RV instructor One of my recent client advised me the success of purchasing the RV from a dealer and picking it up directly from the factory. This enabled any problems to be resolved at the factory before they left, The caution statement is be prepared to stay one or more days to get the items resolved that you find unsatisfactory. From my past employment at the largest United States RV dealer my suggestion is have any new RV you purchase inspected by an RV inspector on site first, then before any papers are signed at the dealer you inspect it again to make sure everything is in order and resolved. Once you sign for it it’s yours and dealerships just want the sale and subsequently you and the RV off the lot in any shape. Also if any parts are missing or broken don’t allow the dealership to order the parts and have you come back; rather have them pillage the parts of another unit on the lot as they do behind the scenes everyday.


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