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Going to my first ever RV show -- what should I look for?

Naio
Explorer
Explorer
So I've never been to one of these things and don't know what to expect. Is it just like a poke your nose in and look around thing? Or can I crawl under the rigs?

I'm not shopping, or not right now. Sometimes I toss around the idea of buying a little trailer or tiny toyhauler.

More likely, if I were to spend money it would be on another van and a bit fancier homebrew. Or a Sportsmobile :). But I could get some ideas!

What should I look at? What should I pay attention to?
3/4 timing in a DIY van conversion. Backroads, mountains, boondocking, sometimes big cities for a change of pace.
28 REPLIES 28

Jim_Shoe
Explorer
Explorer
Go to several shows without your wallet, but with your S.O. Take note pads instead. Each if you take notes on must haves, nice to haves, don't needs and don't wants. Then discuss when the two of you get home. Better to buy what you both want the first time.
Retired and visiting as much of this beautiful country as I can.

tatest
Explorer II
Explorer II
I've crawled under, opened utility access (a good place to see construction methods), used measuring tapes. I made notes of what I was finding.

It took us about eighteen months of looking, three major RV shows (starting with Florida Supershow) and at least a half dozen others, and four RV factory visits before we settled on the RV that met my wife's needs and satisfied me with its construction. That one worked for us for ten years, and it is only now that she is gone that I am thinking about what might better meet my needs, alone and doing something different with it.

RV shows are great for looking, tricky for shopping. It is too easy to find the "I gotta have this today" RV that turns out later not to work for you at all. Sales pressure is high with "show specials" that might actually be priced higher than what you might negotiate at another dealership, or even the same one.

At least two other couples in our RV club shopped more impulsively, each went through three RVs in that same ten years, trying to find the one that worked for them. Three more couples figured out within their first two RVs that this was something they didn't really want to do. Others, however, in the club are still using the RV they bought carefully 10, 15 or 20 years ago. One is just now selling the Class A she and her husband used for 25 years, he is gone and she can no longer drive.
Tom Test
Itasca Spirit 29B

philh
Explorer II
Explorer II
i was surprised at the range of prices. One of the better layouts was also one of the least expensive. We did take flyer on our fav units, and 3 received a star or two on the paper.

ramgunner
Explorer
Explorer
We shot a ton of photos too. One trick to use is to shoot a photo of the plaque or sheet showing the model number and show price first (often by the front door or on the kitchen counter), then you know what the subsequent photos are, and you have the pricing for reference. Do that for each unit you are interested in.
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RVcircus
Explorer II
Explorer II
RV shows are a great place to find new ideas. Bring a camera and notebook...there's just too much to see and remember later. When we went to the Hershey RV show this year I attached the Go Pro to my backpack strap and let it run the while time (filled up 2 32GB SD cards).
2000 KZ Sportsman 2505 (overhauled & upgraded 2014)
2016 Chevy Express 3500 15 passanger van
6 humans, 2 cats, and a dog
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Our trailer re-build thread

OutdoorPhotogra
Explorer
Explorer
philh wrote:
My trip was a bit more successful. Learned what we don't like and also learned we're boderline 1/2 v 3/4 ton on almost every thing we liked.


Yep. I don't want a huge rig but want I want either leaves no margin on a 1/2 ton or is just over. Still loved going to a show last year. Wish I could have went to Hershey but bad weekend for work (and college football :B)
2008 Rockwood Signature Ultralite 5th Wheel
F-250 6.2 Gasser

Former PUP camper (Rockwood Popup Freedom 1980)

philh
Explorer II
Explorer II
My trip was a bit more successful. Learned what we don't like and also learned we're boderline 1/2 v 3/4 ton on almost every thing we liked.

Naio
Explorer
Explorer
Welllllll.... I went, but the report is not very exciting.

It turned out to be a SMALL show. Like, maybe a hundred rigs. And I was having a tendonitis flareup and couldn't get around hardly at all. I stuck my head in about 10 of them, didn't climb the stairs on any.

There wasn't a single class B, nor any small toyhauler, the two things I'd be most interested in.

I did see a few layouts, and get a sense of how surprisingly wide the range is, of what different interiors FEEL like. Now I see why people here talk so much about floorplans :).
3/4 timing in a DIY van conversion. Backroads, mountains, boondocking, sometimes big cities for a change of pace.

philh
Explorer II
Explorer II
Perfect timing... our first show is coming up in a couple of weeks 😉

Not buying anything. At least one more year with what we have.

GMandJM
Explorer
Explorer
Quid pro quo: Gonna tell us all the cool stuff you saw after you've gone to your first show?
G-half can always find a way to do things upside-down, inside-out or backward.
It's his Super Power!

Naio
Explorer
Explorer
Thank you, everybody :). Very helpful suggestions!
3/4 timing in a DIY van conversion. Backroads, mountains, boondocking, sometimes big cities for a change of pace.

myredracer
Explorer II
Explorer II
If a trailer, crawl underneath and check out frame details. I did that at a show once along with my camera. One sales dude came running over all freaked out like I was planting a bomb or something. :E

Look inside cabinetry and see how well they are put together. Look at how things like dinette seating and trim is installed. Are hinges and latches properly aligned. There is some pretty atrocious stuff out there.

Some RVs have what *looks* like adequate and functional storage space and cabinets, but after you buy one you can find out they're awful. You can find dead spaces in cabinets with a blank panel covering them for ex. Or lack of a middle shelf in upper cabinets or an empty cavity that could have been used if it had a door (under bath vanities is an ex.) No place to hang a bulky jacket. Difficult to reach upper cabinets. TVs mounted in locations that are difficult to view very well.

Some RVs (thinking of trailers) have better constructed floors than others. Some have floor joists too far apart and too thin subfloor material and the floors will flex a lot when you walk back and forth. Friends of ours have one like that and you can see the floor move up and down when someone walks across it. You should be able to gently hop on a floor and it should feel reasonable solid.

Don't talk to dealer's sales guys. As long as you know what you want to ask, look for a factory rep. Sure they'll be biased, but will know way more than a dealer on tech. stuff.

There's a lot of things to look for and could go on for pages.

After a while, they just all seem to look the same though (sigh).... Also, it's not just the RV itself to consider, it's how good the factory or dealer support warranty work.

vic46
Explorer
Explorer
Wear your BS protector!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
[COLOR=]Never argue with an idiot. You will be dragged down to their level and then beaten with experience.

DutchmenSport
Explorer
Explorer
I go to RV shows just for the fun of going. I never have any intentions of buying anything (especially a new rig). I may pick up a new gadget, but it's much over $25, I'll leave it alone.

I think it's fun to see how the RV industry has changed since the last time I explored new RV's. I'm always looking for a new idea on my current camper (although I haven't found anything that beats my current set-up yet.) It's fun to dream, and think how fun it would be to travel around with one of these new units. It's also fun trying to vision where I'd put all my current camping "junk", where everyone would sleep, how we'd get along in "there" if it were a rainy day. AND .... what does this unit actually look and feel like if ALL the slides are pulled in? Is it still functional.

If this is your first time, I suggest going with absolutely NO expectations. And then be pleasantly surprised at everything that grabs your attention and have fun dreaming!

And ... as stated by another poster above .... do keep your check book and credit card at home! (at least in your pocket).

Oh, my favorite about RV shows ... FOOD! They always have some food! I love to eat! (expensive, yea! But sooooo good!)