In the age of the internet most shopping has gone online. In some industries there’s no other way to purchase a particular product except online. What is more of a surprise are the industries that have resisted the trend toward online sales, most notably the automotive industry.
Notice you still can’t buy a car direct from the factory in most states? That is not an accident and it’s not because car makers haven’t considered the idea. Many people are surprised to find out that most states have laws on the books that mandate sales of cars through a dealership. While there are some good reasons to keep dealerships in the mix, those reasons are less relevant in the modern world and can be accommodated other ways. Dealership laws aren’t meant to protect consumers, they’re meant to protect the dealerships.
Having a dealer in the mix may add to the convenience of a large purchase but it also adds to the cost. Take a look at a car dealership and mentally add up the overhead. That electrical bill doesn’t pay itself and all those people standing around in the showroom are getting a commission on the purchase price, which ultimately comes out of your pocket.
While auto manufacturers may be prevented from selling cars direct to consumers by state laws to protect dealerships, in the majority of cases RV dealers were left out of the protection racket. RV manufacturers can sell direct to consumers and many are adopting that strategy.
Factories are not only selling directly to consumers but they’re offering more options for customization by making floor plans and interior features more modular. At the recent RV show more than one manufacturing rep told me that if I didn’t like the way a particular coach was put together, they would be happy to build one to my personal specifications, a service few dealerships are willing to provide.
The biggest issue most people have buying factory direct is where to get warranty service, but manufacturers can solve that problem by contracting with service centers. When we bought our 5th wheel it went back to the dealership one time for service and then we were on the road. Our dealership did a great job for us but they were little use when we were out on the road. If you use your RV for occasional trips and recreation, then living near the dealership has advantages. For full-timers it’s not a priority. You’ll more likely be getting your warranty service on the road, so where you bought it is less relevant.
Do be cautious that the term “factory direct” has little meaning in advertising. Any online dealer can claim that title and the only way to be sure you’re dealing with the factory is to call them directly.
Maybe one of these days state laws protecting car dealers will get overthrown by popular pressure or simply the inevitability of time. In the meantime, cut out the middleman on your next RV purchase.
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