When you’re thinking of making a major life change, it’s best to take things slowly and to throughly research each of your questions before making a decision. Our “major life change” was the decision to sell our home, buy and RV, and spend as long as we can traveling. Naturally, we dove in head first and went straight to Portland’s Fall RV & Van Show, thinking this would be the answer to all of our questions and then some. While we may have left with more questions than answers, we sure learned a lot along the way.

Before the show, we knew very little about RVing other than there’s typically a campfire, smores, and a campground. Boy were we wrong! We were blown away during the show as there are a gazillion possibilities when it comes to RVing. RV’s aren’t just for camping and campgrounds. Some were literally palaces on wheels, and some were small enough to tow with a Prius. Looking back, we didn’t really have much of a clue what the heck we were doing. But in the end, I think we went to the right place for the quickest crash-course to learn if RVing would fit our lifestyle. There were many experts at the show willing to teach guests how certain products worked, and there were also PLENTY of salesmen (and saleswomen). It didn’t take long to see that the underlying purpose of the show was to unload RV’s on whatever fresh meat showed up. I will note, however, the salespersons weren’t pushy and the vast array of RV’s open for everyone to see was worth the trouble.

Now for some good stuff, my favorite part actually, numbers. Before you assume this video doesn’t apply to you since you aren’t planning to buy a quarter-million dollar home-on-wheels, think again. We aren’t planning to either! We hope to buy a used diesel pusher in the $50K or less range, and here’s where the data we collected at the show totally helps. When we sit at home, scouring the web for used RV’s, how can we know what is a deal and what’s not? There are some great tools (such as NADA RV guides) which I highly recommend, but knowing the current value only gives us one piece of the puzzle. To truly know what’s a good deal we need to know how much the RV would cost to drive off the lot. The most common measurement is MSRP, but if you notice at the show not a single one of the RV’s were selling for MSRP! Like car buying, RV dealers use all sorts of “smoke & mirrors” to complicate what should be a simple process and I feel this bogus MSRP data is just that. Let’s pick a nice big, easy number… say, $100,000. WAY more than we plan to spend, but let’s say our imaginary 2006 class A motorhome had a MSRP sticker price of $100K. Today, now ten years old, that same RV is being sold for $65K. She’s a little more than we planned on spending but boy is she pretty! It wouldn’t be hard to assume that by purchasing this RV ten years used we’re saving $35,000 dollars. Think again! Most RV’s at the show were marked down 20-28%, and many articles online claim some manufacturers MSRP’s are off by 35%. Back to our example, let’s assume there was a markup of 25% (well within the price deviation we personally encountered at the show). If so, a savvy buyer would drive her home for $75,000 brand spankin’ new. Then proceed to use the RV for ten years and sell her to us for $65,000 (a small loss of $10,000). Is it just me, or did we get hustled?

A really smart guy once said, “don’t bring a knife to a gunfight”. When you start comparing RV’s or looking to see if one you like is actually a good deal, do your due diligence. Armed with the facts you can drive your used RV home knowing you didn’t just send the dealer’s kid to another semester at Harvard at your expense. A quick visual:

UNICORN LAND:                                                              

  • MSRP $100,000
  • Used $ 65,000
  • Saved $ 35,000


  • MSRP $100,000
  • Actual $ 75,000
  • Used $ 65,000
  • Saved $10,000


Leave a comment below and let us know what you do or don’t like about this video. If you have any personal experience to share, feel free to share that as well. We’d like to say “Thank you!” to the very helpful coordinators of the Portland Fall RV & Van Show. We highly recommend that if you are able to attend one of these shows, do it!