The dream of RV ownership often takes new buyers to the door step of a RV dealer. As I mentioned last week, we have purchased four RV’s; two of those have been through dealers. An RV Owners relationship with a Dealer does not end at the purchase of the RV, thus making it a very important relationship for any RV Owner.
A point came in our RV ownership that we wanted to upgrade from a small pop-up to a larger one. I spent a lot of time researching on the intranet. We knew we liked the convenience of storing in our garage so I first focused on what our options were for that size. After we decided that, I started looking for available units. My search lead to a dealer in Davenport, Iowa. They had brand new pop-ups at unbelievable prices. We took a three-day weekend and drove up to the Quad Cities to purchase and brought home our new pop-up camper.
Since we had a lightweight, easy to tow unit, we began traveling the state with our new camper. On the way home from one of our longer trips (500 miles round trip) we encountered one of those weird things that you think could never happen to you. We were less than 10 miles from home, recounting our weekend, making plans to unpack when all of a sudden we felt the truck pull and I saw simultaneously a tire bouncing into the sky and sparks engulfing the pop-up. When we got pulled over and stopped it was apparent we had lost a tire, lost the step and we were not getting the camper home without a tow truck.
Normally, you would have the camper towed to the dealership you purchased the camper from. This was not possible in our case because we our dealer was 5 1/2 hours away from home and additionally, there were no local authorized dealerships for the pop-up that we had purchased. I made a split second decision to have the camper towed to a nearby dealership, the same dealership that The Todd family used to purchase their camper. Can you imagine their surprise when they arrived for work on Monday morning to find a broken pop-up camper on their door step!
After evaluating the damage, the shop told us that we were going to need a new tire, wheel, stairs and other miscellaneous parts. On the surface it looked like the damage to our camper was caused by loose lug-nuts but the seasoned service men saw through that and noticed that our brand new lug-nuts sheered, likely from defective parts. Although this particular dealership didn’t handle the brand of RV we had, they called the dealership where we purchased the camper from, reached out to the manufacturer and after many phone calls and an appeal or two they got the entire repair covered under warranty.
It took a couple of weeks for the manufacturer to send the parts and another week or so to for the shop to get the parts on to the camper. The whole ordeal took a little over a month. We did not even miss a single scheduled camping trip! That being said, we couldn’t have been happier with how the local shop went to bat for us and got the repairs cover under warranty. When we picked up the camper, one of the owners of the dealership showed us the work that was done and while he was getting us the paperwork, I made sure he knew how much we appreciated his shop manger working with the manufacturer to get the repairs done under warranty. I also told him that the next time we were in the market for a new camper, they had earned our business. I mean if they work that hard for you when you didn’t even buy the camper from them, how hard will they work for you if you if you do?
Fast forward several months… The wife and I just stopped by the dealership to just “look around” and BAM! We found ourselves the proud owners of a brand new Keystone Bullet with two slides, a bunk house and an outdoor kitchen.
Since then, we have returned to “our” dealership a few times: once to get our hitch adjusted, to buy tools to winterize, and once to get some minor repairs made to our new camper. Every time we go in, we feel more at home. The salesmen and the owner know us, maybe not by name, but they knew who we were and what camper we bought. It was really nice to be recognized and we loved being ask about how we like the new camper and where we have taken it camping and about future plans. Of course we love talking about camping nearly as much as we love camping!
Let me be very clear, not everything was roses with our purchase from the local dealership. We did have some issues that arose that did not settle with us. In fact, we were pretty annoyed a few times. However, they recognized the errors, they apologized, and made efforts to compensate us. In the end, our positive experiences have by far outweighed our unpleasant experience.
This past January, attempting to take the edge off of the cabin fever, we attended our local RV show with The Todd’s. After we got there we also ran into other friends we often group camp with. Of course our favorite dealership was there, their sales team exited to show off their latest models and shiny new campers. They made huge efforts to introduce us to the manufacturer representatives so that we could ask any questions we had about the new models, but they also wanted to make sure we had the opportunity to give them our opinions and feedback. Again, we left feeling as though we were valued customers. The owner of the dealership also made sure our daughters were well taken care of by supplying them with snacks and water. I think he might have earned the business of a couple of future RV buyers!
We’ve purchased campers from private sellers, from a dealership that was located a long way away, and now from a local dealer. A dealership is more than just the sales department, or finance department, or service center, or parts department. It is all of those things at once. So, if your path to RV ownership leads you to the doorstep of an RV Dealership remember that you are embarking on a relationship that will last the life of the camper not just the duration of the sale. And just like any other relationship, there can be positives and challenges. Try and look at the totality of the entire relationship. Over the past year, “our” local dealer (Liberty RV in Liberty, Missouri) has defiantly earned our trust and loyalty.