Can you buy an RV directly from the manufacturer?
It sounds like a shrewd strategy: Cut out the middleman. Strip the fluff. Save some money. Plus, maybe you’ve heard some horror stories about dealership service, and you want something different.
Generally, no, you cannot buy an RV directly from the manufacturer. Big brands such as Forest River, Heartland, Jayco, and Winnebago sell only through dealerships.
Even RV brands that offer build-your-own tools, such as Tiffin, Crossroads, and Monaco, aren’t truly factory-direct. All orders must be submitted through an affiliated dealership, even for customizable floorplans.
There are only a handful of truly factory-direct RV manufacturers. Most sell panel van Class B conversions; luxury full-time 5th wheels, astronomically expensive Class A coaches, slide-in truck campers, or teardrop campers.
Some popular factory-direct manufacturers include:
- New Horizons
- Coach House
You can see the full list of factory-direct manufacturers by clicking the jump button below!
However … the full story of buying an RV or camper factory-direct is a little more complicated.
- There are “Build-Your-Own” campers, which are custom orders issued through dealerships.
- There are “Factory-Direct” RVs, which are purchased from mainstream RV manufacturers who build to standard floorplans
- And there are truly “Bespoke” or custom RVs, which are built (almost) from the ground up to satisfy your desires.
This post focuses on factory-direct RVs, the second type.
Table of Contents
Context: What’s the “Typical” Dealership Model?
Most RV brands sell through a dealership network.
The RV manufacturer-dealer relationship is quite complicated.
- Dealerships must be approved by the manufacturer. Bob’s Bargain RV Dealership, for instance, can’t just arbitrarily order Rough n’ Ready RVs from a catalog. Rough n’ Ready, the RV manufacturer, has to approve Bob’s Bargain’s dealership application.
- If the manufacturer accepts too many applications, it won’t be able to fulfill orders. Too few dealers, however, and the brand will struggle to gain market share.
- The manufacturer may insist a dealership blacklist “Competitor X;” they don’t want to be sold alongside their competition!
- Money is governed by floor plan financing, usually offered by big 3rd party financial institutions. Contracts vary, but usually dealers have a certain amount of time to sell an RV before interest on their credit loan kicks in.
- Dealerships commonly mark up an RV by 30-50% over invoice cost as “MSRP.” Then, they’ll throw on “discounts” so the final sale price is 20-40% over invoice, somewhere around the Fair Market Value.
- Dealerships are responsible for warranty service, inspections and walk-throughs, but warranty claims must be pre-approved by the manufacturer. This can create long customer service delays when the two disagree!
The relationship can be tenuous and tense, at times. But it allows both parties to focus on what they’re best at: Sourcing and manufacturing vs. Sales and service.
Also, because RVs and campers are considered Motor Vehicles under U.S. law, there’s Big Government and bureaucracy to contend with. Many states require that commercial sellers of motor vehicles be licensed as motor vehicle dealerships. This means bonding insurance, permanent office space, customer parking, commercial zoning, FBI fingerprints, etc. These are things many RV manufacturers don’t have (or don’t want to mess around with).
Most RV manufacturers build their production schedules off of “hard” (with PO) or soft “(no PO) orders. To get ahead of the queue, dealerships often order months or years in advance, just to ensure they’ll always have inventory.
So, that’s the background context of the RV-dealer relationship. We’ve only covered the basics! Confusing, isn’t it?
Where does that leave you, the customer who wants a factory-direct RV?
Can You Order a Custom RV From a Dealership?
Why are you interested in a factory-direct RV?
- Is it because you’re seeking out savings?
- Or because you want a custom floorplan?
- Or do you expect exceptional levels of customer service?
If you’re looking for savings, try RV shopping at the end of the year! Dealerships are often desperate to unload inventory before inventory taxes hit the books on the 1st of January. Show up ready to buy that day. Dangle the “close” in front of the salesman; he’ll bite!
If you want a custom, “build-your-own” floor plan, then you might be pleasantly surprised!
Most RVs are available in multiple floorplans with dozens of optional packages and a la carte features. As a rule, the bigger the RV, the more options are available.
You might be surprised what level of customization you can get:
- Solar power packages
- 4-season/Arctic packages
- Gel-coat/full-body paint packages
- Extensive interior decor options: countertops, cabinet color, floor material/design, upholstery, valances, etc.
- Onboard generators
- 2nd air conditioner
- Home theatre systems
- Upgraded refrigerator
- Electric stabilizer jack systems
In premium motorcoaches, like Tiffin, you can even order hydronic heating systems, radiant floor heating, automotive safety features, leather upholstery – even an electric fireplace!
RV manufacturers don’t usually allow structural or capacity customizations. You’re stuck with whatever tank sizes and axle GAWRs come standard. If you’re demanding a deeper level of customization, then your journey continues.
Build-your-own RVs can be financed the same as regular dealership inventory.
Are There Disadvantages to A Build-Your-Own RV?
There are some trade-offs for ordering a “build-your-own” RV from a dealership.
- Don’t expect significant discounts. You’re special-ordering a camper, for Pete’s sake!
- Delivery will take several months. The manufacturer typically builds RVs in the order the POs are received (although certain dealerships, normally the top sellers, may receive preference).
- Repair service may be restricted. You can often expect top-tier warranty service directly from your manufacturer. However, other dealerships may not prioritize your service because you didn’t buy from them.
Can You Order a Wholesale RV?
This is a common question from new RV shoppers. Everyone wonders if there is a Sam’s Club or Costco of the RV world.
Unfortunately, there isn’t.
“Factory-direct” RV dealerships are wholesalers in name only! These companies, such as RV One Superstores (RVDirect.com), are just dealerships. They use similar language as wholesalers just as a marketing ploy. “Discounts off MSRP” is just a sales tactic; most RV manufacturers don’t even issue MSRPs.
There are almost no true RV wholesalers. And almost all of them, such as Camper Liquidators, sell scratch n’ dent, dealers overstock, or discontinued models.
As of 2022, there are no major RV wholesalers that purchase new, overstock RVs at wholesale prices and sell them at below-retail markups. Some dealerships may choose to exchange margin for volume, but since RV manufacturers typically build to order, there just aren’t any “overstock outlets.”
Where Can You Order a Factory-Direct RV?
Now that we’ve run through all the ways you can’t order a factory-direct RV … here’s how you can!
There are two buying experiences when it comes to factory-direct RVs.
- Buying for savings
- Buying for service
Factory-Direct RVs: Seeking Savings!
If you’re interested in a factory-direct RV because you don’t want to pay the middleman … then your options are limited.
The big manufacturers have all the buying power. Smaller, custom builders easily pay 50-200% more just in materials! What you save in dealership markup costs gets quickly consumed by the higher cost of materials (and generally higher quality materials) from a factory-direct builder.
Secondly, talking to customers takes a lot of time. And just because you’re a reasonable person who doesn’t send 122 emails to your salesperson asking about the color of the shower pan, height of the faucets, width of the entry door, total square footage of the window areas, brand of the roof fans, and type of door catches doesn’t mean the customer before you was. Factory-direct manufacturers have to charge extra because of the cost of making the sale.
RV Brand Spotlights
Most affordable factory-direct manufacturers build smaller RVs, like mini travel trailers and teardrops.
You might look at the following brands:
- Hiker Trailer
- Escape Trailers
- PeeWee Campers
Factory-Direct RVs: Questing for Quality!
If you want a factory-direct RV because you won’t compromise on quality or service … then you have many options!
Most factory-direct manufacturers specialize in custom builds. They’re used to building for experienced RVers who typically want a full-time rig, usually with higher quality than what comes out of Elkhart.
They forge a personal relationship with their customers.
- They’ll sit down with you for several hours.
- You’ll receive updates through the production process (which usually takes at least 4-6 months, even not a year or more!)
- And several manufacturers will even host free RV training days or encourage you to take the RV for a weekend spin before finalizing your purchase.
You’ll be strolling down the red carpet. It’s a wonderful feeling. It’s also not particularly cheap – at least, not upfront. But most of these manufacturers argue (and rightly so) that the higher purchase price is more than offset by the lower Total Cost of Ownership.
How Much Does a Factory-Direct RV Cost?
How much does a factory-direct RV cost, you ask?
- You can get a factory-direct camper for as little as $5,000 – if it’s a teardrop.
- You could also spend $2 million – for a high-end custom Prevost coach.
There really is no rule of thumb.
But many times, the higher upfront cost is offset by lower costs of ownership.
Besides teardrop trailer builders, the most popular premium factory-direct RV manufacturers are truck campers. Next in line are Class B conversion vans and travel trailers. But you can find a good factory-direct builder for just about any type of RV – toy haulers and Class A’s included!
RV Brand Spotlights
You might look at the following brands:
- The RV Factory (Luxe, Weekend Warrior brands): Luxury 5th wheels and toy haulers
- New Horizons: Full-timer 5th wheels
- Coach House: Class B/B+ motorhomes
- Escape Trailer: Fiberglass trailers and mini 5th wheels
- Midwest Automotive Designs: Luxury Sprinter vans
- Phoenix: Pop-up truck campers
- Taylor Coach: Lightweight travel trailers
- Newell Coach: Luxury Class A motorhomes
List of Factory-Direct RV Manufacturers
Since 2006, Changing Gears has maintained the internet’s Original, No. 1 listing of RV manufacturers! You can view our entire (and growing) list of RV manufacturers by clicking here. We also maintain a list of teardrop and mini camper builders here.
Below is a list of RV manufacturers that offer factory-direct RV and camper sales. By visiting the RV manufacturers master list, you can search these brands by type of RV, location, etc.
You can read more about the individual manufacturers at the RV Manufacturers Spotlight page.
Factory-Direct RV Manufacturers: Stats-at-a-Glance
- 39 total manufacturers!
- 12 offer custom travel trailers
- 10 offer custom truck campers
- 7 offer custom molded fiberglass trailers
- 6 offer custom Class B vans
This list only includes more mainstream RV manufacturers. It does not include custom-only coachbuilders, such as Space Craft Manufacturing, Midwest Automotive Designs, Taylor Coach, Advanced RV, etc.
- Adventurer Manufacturing
- Americana RV
- ATIA RV
- Armadillo Trailers
- Casita Travel Trailers
- Chalet RV
- Coach House
- Embassy RV
- Ember RV
- Escape Trailer Industries
- Hallmark Manufacturing
- Holiday House RV
- Holiday Rambler
- Host Industries
- Journey RV
- Kimbo Campers
- L’air Camper Company
- Lazy Daze RV
- Living Vehicle
- New Horizons
- Northern Lite
- Oliver Travel Trailers
- Outback Trailer Mfg
- Outfitter Mfg
- Panoramic RV
- Playmor Trailers
- Rugged Mountain
- Scamp Trailers
- Scout Campers
- Sylvan Sport Trailers
- Taylor Coach
- Weekend Warrior
- Western Range Camps
- Xplor Campers
Andy Herrick is a blogging nerd, #8 Enneagram, wannabe bread baker, INTJ, RV industry professional, and small business entrepreneur. He can be found hanging out with his lovely wife and family, skiing, cycling, climbing, hiking, and convincing anyone who will listen why dogs aren’t really that great of pets. Also, he runs this website.