Buying an RV at a Show: A Guide

Contributor

Carl Corder

Favorite Trip

Indiana to Montana

Home Base

Indianapolis, Indiana

Favorite RV

Thor Sequence

About Contributor

Carl is the written content manager here at Camping World. He’s a book-hoarder, gardener, and enjoys all things outdoors, especially near rivers.

Surrounded by countless new RVs, product releases, dealers, brands, industry reps, influencers, and fellow RVers — not to mention some of the best deals available —  attending an RV show puts you at the epicenter of the buying experience, with everything you need to find and buy your perfect RV in one location.

But all of those elements squashed together in a maze of RVs lined in a convention center or parking lot with sales personnel readily available? It’s tough to know where to start and where to invest your time, which is your most valuable resource at any RV show. 

Preparation is the key to attending an RV show with the intent to buy. This RV buying guide for RV shows will help you use your time efficiently before, during, and after the event to find your ideal RV at a good price.

Before the RV Show

Photo by Camping World

Attending an RV show is a great way to learn about the latest RV models from manufacturers and dealers in every available RV category. At most shows, you can tour a wider selection of brands and models than you would at a dealership to compare units side by side.

Get the most out of this all-in-one event by narrowing your search. Identify categories and features of interest beforehand, and learn about the dealers, vendors, and models likely to be at the show. Most major RV shows will offer information prior to the event — exhibitor lists, event maps, activities, and more. Use these resources to prepare and develop a preliminary plan. 

Know What You’re Looking For

Photo by Camping World

But first: Do you know which RVs or RV types you’d like to see at the show? 

If the answer is no, there’s nothing wrong with casting a wide net. Use the RV show as a general learning experience to tour units and learn what you like. In the meantime, take a look at this primer to learn which RV type might be best for you. 

If you, like many, have a general idea of what you want — a new Class C, say — use the show to explore select units and narrow your search. The best strategy is to learn about the model-year selection beforehand. Explore floorplans, RV roundups, and brand overviews, reading about as many units as possible. Then, use the RV show to explore units in person.

Here are a few items you can research and then inspect in person:

  • New, notable features mentioned by the brand or manufacturer
  • Bathroom size, including shower door, stall height, shower head, toilet, and storage
  • General storage, including pantry/kitchen, bedroom, living area, and outdoor/passthrough
  • Appliances: refrigerator size/capacity, microwave, washer/dryer prep, etc.
  • Hide-a-bed, Murphy bed, bunk-size, or other non-standard sleeping areas
  • General layout: door type and locations, closet placements, kitchen setup, slide-out locations
  • Control panels, cockpit (if applicable), any notable tech or digital features
  • Details like lighting, cabinetry and hardware, materials used

At the very least, attend RV shows with a set idea of your requirements and limitations, such as:

  • Must-have amenities
  • Required sleeping capacity 
  • Size limitations or needs
  • Price limits
  • Your towing capability

It’s still fun to peruse the latest releases in other RV categories and see concept models when available — so build out time in your schedule for general exploration. 

Know the Value of Your Trade-In

If you currently own an RV, its trade-in value is a key factor in getting the best price for a new RV at a show. It’s can be a primary negotiation tool, so having it in your back pocket before attending a show is especially helpful. Use an industry-trusted tool like the Good Sam Valuator to present any dealer with an approximation of your vehicle’s value. This easy, free tool is a great resource, and, at shows where Camping World and Good Sam attend, you’ll generally find a Valuator portal available to use.

Bring the Right Documentation & Information

Remember to prep for an RV show how you would to visit a dealership, keeping in mind you might want to buy a unit. Knowing the value of your trade-in is a great place to start, but here we provide a general checklist of documentation and info to also bring with you. 

  • A valid driver’s license.
  • The information from your existing RV if you’re interested in trading in for a new model. This includes the year, make, model, condition, and trade-in value using a tool like the Good Sam RV Valuator.
  • Pictures of your trade-in RV (if applicable). Bring at least 3-4 photos of the outside and another 4-5 of the inside.
  • Tow vehicle information (year, make, model, and/or vehicle identification number – VIN). Use Camping World’s Towing Guide to check towing capacities before visiting an RV show.
  • A credit card to put down a deposit on your new RV.

Don’t forget that the process may vary slightly from dealer to dealer, show to show.

Learn more about preparing your RV for sale and maximizing its trade-in value.

At the RV Show

Photo by Camping World

At a multi-day event, it helps to make assignments for each day. Split the days up by your overall RV list. Use the first day to explore and the following days to narrow your choices and possibly purchase. Models at RV shows are typically organized by brand or dealer, so organizing your visit by these categories can help you browse more efficiently. But if you don’t have an agenda, you’re more likely to waste time deciding where to start. 

How To Tour Multiple RVs

With a plan in hand, take your time to tour every RV you want to see. It’s easier to narrow down your choices after a thorough first pass instead of needing to revisit units again and again. You risk missing important features or concerns when rushing through units. Trust your first impression, but do some digging afterward. Plus, walking back and forth takes time.

Here are some other helpful tips when touring: 

  • Take notes of your first impressions, even if it’s a voice recording on your phone. 
  • Take pictures to help you remember layouts and features. (Just label the units correctly). 
  • Make note of prices, price asterisks*, or other notable selling information. 
  • If a unit is especially busy, skip it and come back. That’s easier than rushing a tour. 
  • Collect contact information from reps and dealership personnel.
  • Don’t get stuck in conversations with reps – the goal is to see as many units as possible. 

What to Bring With You 

Again, the more preparation, the better, which includes the items you bring to the show. Every expert attendee’s setup is different, but consider equipping yourself with some core show items: 

  • A pen and paper (or smartphone or tablet) to record your favorite makes, models, floor plans, stand-out features, and locations on the show grounds.
  • A tablet or smartphone app to take pictures, notes, access online reviews, and check RV values. 
  • A portable battery to charge your phone or tablet. (In areas where Wi-Fi is in high demand, your phone battery may drain faster than usual). 
  • A backpack with plenty of room for RV literature (and water, snacks, rain jackets, etc.)

How To Evaluate An RV

Photo by Camping World

You can learn a lot about an RV with a physical inspection. And that’s key: physically explore every part of the RV. Walk into the bathrooms and closets, sit on the couches and chairs, stand at the sink, open multiple cabinets, shift your weight, run your hand over fabrics and laminates, and stand in the shower. 

Evaluate your general impressions: colors, layout, feel, lighting, and comfortability. Inspect for details: room heights, damage or cosmetic issues, possible manufacturing mistakes, and small design details that often don’t get as much attention. Be hyper-critical so that you see the details.

You will also find at least a couple of manufacturer or dealership representatives inside or around the RVs as you tour the show. Don’t hesitate to ask them for more information about units of interest, as these reps have prepped to speak to the features and specs of those units and can be a valuable resource as you learn more.

Other important tips:

  • If any literature is available on the unit, grab copies!
  • Take pictures of your favorite amenities and features.
  • Consider interior and exterior storage and amenities.
  • Identify unique, new, or even strange design or layout features.

What Is Special RV Show Pricing?

Photo by Camping World

You’ll hear much about special show pricing at most RV trade shows. You will see and hear that all RVs are on sale at many shows, which is true in many cases. Be sure to inspect the mark-down on these RVs and compare them with information you’ve found online prior to the show, if possible.

Not all mark-downs are created equal, and you should have a wealth of knowledge about the lowest possible price available for a given unit, depending on where you are in the country. 

Extra Fees? – When touring RVs, use the listed mark-down prices as a ballpark guide. But be sure to investigate further to find out if any extra fees are associated with purchasing at the show. These don’t necessarily mean a bad deal, but you shouldn’t be surprised by them. The overall goal is to make informed decisions based on having all the facts straight — especially if something seems too good to be true.

Transportation Costs – Dealers pay transportation costs to get their RVs to a show, and there’s a bit more urgency to sell units at a lower price later in the show. This increases the likelihood of your favorite unit getting bought before then, but it’s a tactic many use to get lower prices on show RVs. 

Negotiation – The more research you’ve done, the better you’ll do at the negotiating table. Again, what you do before the show helps you have the most success when buying an RV at a show. You’ll be prepared to make informed, level-headed decisions despite the show’s high energy. Shows are exciting for attendees and dealer personnel alike. No harm in that. But you will benefit by having done pre-show research. 

Take A Break 

Photo by Camping World

Anyone who has attended an RV show will tell you there comes a point in the day, weekend, or week when you’ve toured so many RVs that they all begin to blur. A tell-tale sign is when features and layouts cease to impress. You’ve likely reached your saturation point, and it’s typically not helpful to continue browsing RVs after that.

But the day is not lost. Simply take a break. 

RV shows shouldn’t be all business. Whether you’re shopping for a new RV, upgrading an old model, selling your RV, or learning about the latest innovations in RV design and camping gear, don’t forget to have fun. RV shows often include live auctions, RV giveaways, kid’s play areas, product demonstrations, educational seminars, food trucks, live entertainment, community areas for meeting fellow RVers, and more. 

Other General Suggestions

Attending RV shows is a craft. The more you do it, the better you’ll get. Whether you’re buying, trading in, or exploring RV retail products, here are a few additional recommendations to keep in mind.

  • Plan a route. Even if the first time you see the show map is at the event, plan your route to avoid backtracking and to make efficient use of your time.
  • Wear comfortable shoes. You will walk a fair amount!
  • Bring snacks and water. Food vendor lines get long, and you don’t want to miss out on seeing all the RVs on your list because you were waiting in line for food. 
  • Take precise notes and photos. Include the exact model and configuration, length, price, and what you like.
  • Collect contact information. Business cards are still useful for following up with sales representatives or vendors you connect with.
  • Keep it fresh. Did you spend the whole morning looking at travel trailers? Take a breather and look at high-end luxury Class A motorhomes, just to change it up.

Is Financing Available at RV Shows?

Pay attention to the tents set up near a batch of units or within a manufacturer’s allotted space. These hubs typically house members of a dealership’s financial team set up to sell those specific units and offer additional information. They come prepared to bring the dealership to the RV show — including RV financing.  

Wrapping Up

Whether you decide to buy an RV at the show or not, the experience is beneficial days or weeks later. You get a great lay of the land regarding RV options, trends, and models. You see first-hand what features and layouts you prefer. And you gain valuable experience researching and often negotiating various RV prices. The information you’ve gathered will be important to build upon and reference as you continue your search.

Where Can You Find Camping World at RV Shows in 2024

Photo by Camping World

As you prepare your 2024 RV shopping calendar, here’s an overview of the events where Camping World reps will be waiting to help you find and purchase your dream RV:

Ultimate RV Show 

This year, Camping World and Good Sam again present the Ultimate RV Show, hosted in multiple locations. Check out the latest Ultimate RV Shows at a location near you!

Syracuse, NYJanuary 4 – January 7
Pittsburg, PAJanuary 11 – January 14
Nampa, IDJanuary 11 – January 21
Denver, COJanuary 25 – January 28
Minneapolis, MNFebruary 1 – February 4
Chantilly, VAFebruary 8 – February 11
Escanaba, MIFebruary 15 – February 18
Detroit, MIMarch 7 – March 10

Upcoming Multi-Dealer RV Shows

As well as the Ultimate RV Show, Camping World will join other RV dealers at shows nationwide in 2024, with our representatives at the ready to help you tour and learn more about new and used RV inventory, including but not limited to the shows listed below.

Indianapolis RV ExpoJanuary 6 – January 14
Ohio RV SupershowJanuary 10 – January 14
Louisville Boat, RV & Sport ShowJanuary 24 – January 28
Green Bay RV and Camping ExpoJanuary 25 – January 28
Cincinnati Boat, Sport and Travel ShowJanuary 19 – January 28
Atlanta Camping & RV ShowJanuary 25 – January 28
Colorado Springs RV and Travel ShowFebruary 1 – February 3
The Utah Sportsman’s Vacation & RV ShowFebruary 15 – February 18
Seattle RV ShowFebruary 15 – February 18)
Indianapolis Boat, Sport & Travel ShowFebruary 16 – February 25
RV & Boat ShowFebruary 23 – February 25
Portland Metro RV Dealers: 66th Annual Spring RV ShowMarch 7 – March 10
Orlando RV ShowMarch 14 – March 17

More shows to come in 2024. Stay tuned here for upcoming events.

Manufacturer shows — like the Florida RV Supershow and the Hershey RV Show — are renowned for their scope and offerings. Not only are these excellent places to see fuller lineups from manufacturers but they will also often present RV models and prototypes new to the market. These are busy, packed events. Plan ahead if you decide to attend, and make sure you prioritize the RVs you’ve researched prior to attending because there will be plenty of other options to turn your head.


Are you getting excited to see what the RV landscape looks like in 2024? Wet your whistle and begin preparing with some of these collections of new models to look out for in the coming year: 

Which RV show are you most interested in attending this year? Tell us in the comments below!

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