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16 Tips for Visiting an RV Show

Published on December 21st, 2023 by Dave Helgeson

For enthusiasts of exploring the open road, visiting an RV show is like stepping into a wonderland of recreational possibilities. Whether you’re a seasoned RVer or contemplating the idea of embarking on your first adventure, RV shows offer a unique opportunity to explore the latest models, gather invaluable information, and immerse yourself in the vibrant RVing community.

In this comprehensive overview to RV show shopping, we delve into the top tips for making the most of your visit to an RV show.

Four Key Takeaways

  • Know your numbers. Are you RV shopping for a travel trailer or other towable? Know your vehicle’s towing capacity before visiting an RV show. Also, know your RV budget. If you need financing, check with your own bank first so you can compare their loans to what on-site vendors may offer.
  • Arrive with a plan. Know what features you want in a trailer, and which companies make your ideal model. Then review the RV show guide to determine if those manufacturers will be present. Also, are there seminars you want to attend? Plan to be there for those times.
  • Take notes. Write down your rig impressions on your phone or in a notebook. Note your favorite vendors, features of specific RV models, features, and pricing details.
  • Ask questions and network. Don’t be shy. Talk to vendors, show speakers, and guests. You’ll learn more about your potential new RV, and even pick up RV travel tips for better adventures.

Now that you know what to expect at an RV show, you can navigate the shopping experience with confidence and excitement.

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1. Research and Make a Plan

Before visiting an RV show, take time to research the RV models and brands that will be featured. Consider your specific needs and preferences, whether you’re looking for a compact travel trailer, a spacious fifth-wheel, or a luxurious motorhome. Make notes on which dealer carries these lines and use the online show map to determine where to locate them when you arrive.

researching using a laptop computer. Image; Shutterstock
Do your research before the show. (Image: Shutterstock)

Next, review the seminar listing for topics that interest you. Make notes on when and where they take place and plan accordingly. You might even consider setting an alarm on your phone 15-20 minutes before they start.

Finally, review the booth vendor list to see if there are any products or services you wish to learn more about. Often you will find very knowledgeable company representatives that can provide information you won’t find anywhere else. Having a plan before you arrive at the show will make your time there more productive and enjoyable.

Pro Tip: If there is a specific make and model you hope to see at the show, we recommend contacting the dealer ahead of time to make certain it will be on display.

2. Create a Checklist of Must-Haves

As you research, create a checklist of must-haves for your ideal RV before visiting an RV show.  Consider factors such as sleeping capacity, cargo carrying capacity, kitchen amenities, storage space, tank capacities and overall floorplan. Having a checklist will guide your exploration and ensure you don’t overlook essential features that are important to your RVing lifestyle. This proactive approach will save time and help you make informed decisions during the show.

Hand,With,Black,Pen,Marking,On,Checklist,Box. Image: Shutterstock
Know your “Must Have” RV features. (Image: Shutterstock)

3. Attend With an Open Mind

While it’s beneficial to have a checklist and a plan, attending an RV show with an open mind can lead to unexpected discoveries. Be willing to explore different types of RVs and brands that may not have been on your radar. You might come across innovative features or layouts that resonate with your preferences and enhance your overall RVing experience.

4. Wear Comfortable Clothing and Footwear

RV shows often involve a significant amount of walking as you navigate through various models and booths. Wear comfortable clothing and sturdy footwear when visiting an RV show. Consider the weather conditions as well; if the show is outdoors, bring sunscreen, a hat, and other weather-appropriate items to stay comfortable during your visit. If you are limited to how long you can be on your feet, check the show’s website to see if it offers a scooter or wheelchair for those who need one.

Fifth wheel RVs with crowd shopping at RV show. Image: Dave Helgeson
Remember to wear your walking shoes—and plan on using them quite a bit! (Image: Dave Helgeson)

5. Beat the Crowds

Whenever possible, plan to attend on weekdays. Even at famous RV shows like Quartzsite, weekdays typically experience smaller crowds, allowing you to explore the vehicles more freely and engage with exhibitors without long waits. As RV shows typically open on a weekday, you will be among the first to explore the show, giving you a head start in discovering the latest RV models, limited production units, and exclusive promotions or discounts.

PRO TIP: Many RV shows offer discount admission on weekdays. Check the show’s website to see if this is an option for the show you are looking to attend. Better yet, follow the show on social media or sign up for its email alerts, where it’s most likely to announce discount options.

6. Take Notes

With the abundance of information at an RV show, it’s easy to become overwhelmed. Before visiting an RV show, create your own version of this RV Show Shopping Worksheet. Take notes on your smart phone or bring along a notebook and pen to jot down highlights of specific RV models, features, and pricing details. Take note of the exhibitors you interact with, and write out any questions you want to follow up on later. This organized approach will serve as a valuable reference when comparing different models and making decisions.

7. Ask Questions

Visiting an RV show is not just about seeing the vehicles; there’s also an opportunity to connect with industry experts and representatives. Don’t hesitate to ask questions about features, maintenance, warranties, and any other concerns you may have. Seek advice from knowledgeable exhibitors who can provide insights into the best options based on your specific needs and preferences.

PRO TIP: Seek out factory representatives for RV brands that interest you. They typically have more product knowledge than the dealer’s salespeople who represent multiple product lines. Manufacturer reps are likely to know about new models, interior color options, and what modifications can and can’t be made to a factory order unit to meet your needs.
A buyer asking a salesman questions about a new RV. Image: Shutterstock)
Be nosy, ask questions! (Image: Shutterstock)

8. Take Your Time

Once you step inside an RV, take your time to explore every nook and cranny. Sit on the furniture, check the accessibility of the kitchen appliances, lay on the bed, make sure the interior is tall enough, and envision yourself living in the space. Pay attention to details such as storage solutions, the quality of materials, and overall craftsmanship. This hands-on exploration will give you a genuine feel for the RV’s livability and functionality you can’t get from a sales brochure or viewing the manufacturer’s website.

9. Know The Numbers

If you’re interested in towable RVs, it’s crucial to consider your vehicle’s towing capacity ahead of time. Arm yourself with the tow vehicle’s weight limits, hitch requirements, and other specifications. This will guide you in selecting an RV that is compatible with your existing setup, ensuring a safe and efficient towing experience. If you are considering a motorhome and plan to tow a dinghy or some type of trailer, you will want to learn whether the motorhome comes with a receiver and what it is rated to tow.

10. Money Matters

As you explore different RV models when visiting an RV show, take note of pricing details and any show-exclusive discounts or promotions. Compare the pricing of similar models from different manufacturers to ensure you’re getting the best value for your budget. Additionally, inquire about financing options and payment plans, as some RV shows may offer special financing deals or incentives.

PRO TIP: Compare the financing options presented at the show against what your bank or credit union offers to make sure you are getting the best deal.

11. Attend Seminars and Workshops

Many RV shows feature seminars and workshops conducted by industry experts. These sessions cover a variety of topics, from RV maintenance and travel tips to lifestyle considerations. Attend relevant seminars to gain valuable insights and expand your knowledge about the lifestyle. These educational sessions can be particularly beneficial for first-time RVers or those looking to enhance their RVing skills.

visiting an RV show seminar attendees. Image: Cheri Helgeson
RV show seminars are a great way to learn from the pros. Image: Cheri Helgeson

12. Explore RV Accessories and Services

RV shows aren’t only about the latest and greatest RVs; they also showcase a plethora of accessories and services that can enhance your RVing experience. Take the time to explore accessory booths and learn about the latest innovations in RV technology, camping gear, and travel services. You might discover gadgets or accessories that make your RV adventures more comfortable and enjoyable.

13. Network with Fellow RVers

RV shows provide a fantastic opportunity to connect with fellow RV enthusiasts. Strike up conversations with other attendees, share experiences, and exchange tips and recommendations. Networking with seasoned RVers can provide valuable insights and recommendations for destinations, campgrounds, and RV lifestyle resources.

14. Check Show Policies for Pets and Weapons  

If you plan to bring pets or any type of weapon to the RV show, check the event’s policies regarding their attendance. Some shows may have restrictions or specific guidelines to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience for all attendees. Be mindful of these policies to ensure that everyone can make the most of the RV show experience.

15. Take Time for R & R

Walking through an expansive RV show can be both exciting and tiring. Plan for breaks to rest, hydrate, and enjoy refreshments. Some RV shows have designated food areas or vendors offering snacks, meals and seating. Taking breaks allows you to recharge, digest what you have seen, and maintain your enthusiasm throughout the day.

PRO TIP: If allowed, take your own snacks and choice of hydration with you. Food at RV shows can be pricey, and you may experience long purchase lines.

16. Capture First Impressions and Take Photos

When visiting an RV show, document the experience by taking photos or videos of the models you explore, your favorite interesting features, and any RV accessories or innovations that catch your eye. This documentation will serve as a visual reference when you reflect on your visit later. Additionally, share your experience on social media to connect with the larger RVing community and gather insights from fellow enthusiasts.

PRO TIP: Take photos of the “yellow” sticker listing the dry weight of the RV, along with the cargo carrying capacity (CCC) typically located on the driver’s side front exterior of the RV. Alternate locations are the back of an overhead kitchen cabinet. On newer RVs you should also find a sticker on the inside of the entrance door frame along the hinge side that lists the true overall length of the RV along with other pertinent information. The true length seldom agrees with the model number implied length; for example, a 26BH may actually be 30 feet long.

The information on the RVIA stickers often contains crucial decision-making information you won’t find in sales brochures or on the manufacturer’s website.

Yellow RVIA Dry weight sticker. Image: Forest River
Look for the RV’s yellow sticker for important information on that particular model. Image: Forest River

Conclusion

Visiting an RV show is an exciting and informative experience that opens the door to a world of recreational possibilities. By approaching the event with a well-thought-out plan, an open mind, and a sense of adventure, you can make the most of your time. Whether you’re a prospective RVer looking for the perfect model, or a seasoned enthusiast seeking the latest innovations, RV show shopping is a treasure trove of inspiration and information.

There’s so much more at an RV show than new vehicles. Check out the accessories, concepts, and seminars as well!

By incorporating these 16 tips into your RV show visit, you’ll navigate the event with confidence, make informed decisions, and leave with a wealth of knowledge.

This post may contain affiliate links or mention our own products, please check out our disclosure policy here.

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