10 Tips for RV Show Shopping

RV shows are great places to explore a wide selection of new models. Photo: Stephanie and Jeremy Puglisi
RV shows are great places to explore a wide selection of new models. Photo: Stephanie and Jeremy Puglisi

The secret to RV show success is being prepared and having a strategy. Here are 10 things to know before you go:

Do some online reconnaissance

Go to the RV show’s website ahead of time and download a map of the show onto your smartphone along with any available coupons. Check out the parking guidelines and cash policies, since some shows do not accept credit cards for admission fees. Also look into food options and vendors.

Attend the show on the quietest day possible

Not everyone has a flexible schedule, but if you can avoid the Saturday crowds, the RV show experience will be exponentially more enjoyable. Other options include Friday before the after-work crowd and Sunday afternoons.

Bring water, snacks and perhaps even lunch

Check show policies in advance, and fill a backpack with refreshments if allowed. RV shopping can be surprisingly exhausting, so stay hydrated and prevent blood-sugar crashes. If food is not allowed inside the show, consider packing a cooler of sandwiches and eating tailgate-style in the parking lot.

Agree to a shopping plan

If you are attending a show with a friend or significant other, chat about a general strategy ahead of time. Some people want to look at every rig on display. Others want to curtail window shopping and stay focused. Talking in advance will manage expectations and limit frustrations.

Have a system for recording information

It’s very easy to lose track of which rigs you liked after a long day of RV show shopping. Some folks use their phone to take pictures of the model number, specs, exterior and interior. Others prefer writing the information in a notebook or on a clipboard. To limit confusion, take a brochure only if you are seriously considering a unit. No matter what, do not rely on memory.

Talk to the manufacturers’ representatives

At the larger shows, RV manufacturers send representatives to support the dealers. They are a great resource of information since they usually know the models much better than the dealership’s salespeople. If you have specific questions or concerns about a model or want help comparing two units, ask to chat with a rep.

Don’t get rushed into an impulse purchase

An RV may be one of the larger purchases you ever make other than your home. Don’t get pressured to buy something without due diligence on pricing, financing and towing setups.

Check out dealers’ online reviews and service centers

The dealer you purchase from will be responsible for handling all warranty work during the coverage period. Building a relationship with a reputable dealer that runs an efficient and effective service center will make all the difference in your RV experience.

Don’t be embarrassed to check out the entire RV

Some shoppers feel awkward spending too much time in an RV with so many other people around. If you are seriously considering a purchase, lie on the bed, sit on the toilet, stand in the shower and pretend to cook a meal in the kitchen. Test out all the couches to make sure they are actually comfortable. And, yes, ask the salesperson to bring in the slideouts to see if you can access the refrigerator and bathroom while traveling.

With a little advance planning, you may get a deal on your dream RV at an RV show. Photo: W. Scott Mitchell
RV show strategy: With a little advance planning, you may get a deal on your dream RV.

Attend seminars

In all the excitement of shopping, some people miss out on one of the best opportunities available: educational seminars. Many RV shows offer seminars by leading industry experts. Schedule a break and take the opportunity to learn about towing safety, RV maintenance, travel tips and more.

RV shows can be the perfect chance to compare a variety of different manufacturers, models and floorplans, all in one place. They can also offer the opportunity to get a great deal on your first or next RV. Preparing a little in advance and developing a game plan will help you conquer the RV shows this season.

See Related Story: RV Shows Are Great Places to Find the Perfect RV

GS Media & Events, a division of Good Sam Enterprises, operates 23 recreation-focused consumer shows throughout North America. Visit the website to find upcoming RV shows near you.

Headshot of authors and podcasters Jeremy and Stephanie Puglisi.In addition to contributing to Trailer Life, Jeremy and Stephanie Puglisi are writers for RVFTA.com and hosts of the RV Family Travel Atlas podcast. They are also the authors of Idiot’s Guides: RV Vacations. The couple spends as much time as possible exploring the country in a toy-hauler travel trailer with their three very energetic sons and Maggie the Camping Dog.


  1. I liked the show strategy article, and I read your reviews in the magazine, but a quick review isn’t enough to tell me who makes a good, reliable trailer. A coworker bought a new trailer that he loved, and that I thought was a really good brand. He did “a little post-purchase fix-up” in his words after the first couple of weeklong trips. This included removing all windows and doors to reseal them against leaks and a fair amount of rewiring. I’d have taken it back, but he liked it just the same. A search online showed these issues to be typical of this brand! Is there such a thing as long-term tests of RVs or some sort of reliability/durability rating someone does? Thanks!

  2. The biggest takeaway from this article is, never buy an RV from an RV show! You could be facing a huge disappointment. RV shows are put on all over the U.S. by dealers and manufacturers in order to sell their existing inventory and get it off their lots! The dealers and manufacturers will tell you anything to make a sale. And if you were to take one of their Show Specials, chances are, it won’t be the one you looked at! Unless the dealer is willing to sell you the unit right there, you won’t get that unit when you go to pick it up. Do your research at RV shows, ask questions about the units you are interested in, and then walk away and do more research. Talk to owners online who have the units you are interested in and do more research!


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