We enjoy camping in our RV. As a result, I spend a lot of time on RV-related message boards. This week I saw a sad story. A family wanted to get into the camping lifestyle, so they went to the local dealer to see what they could or should get. They planned on towing the camper with a minivan. After looking at the van and noting that the towing capacity was 3,500 pounds, the dealer smooth talked the couple into a full sized travel trailer which weighed in at 3,400 pounds. Sounds like it should work, right?
Wrong. What the family didn’t realize or understand (because they were new to the camping life and didn’t have the experience) was that the trailer they were looking at was cutting it too close to the van’s towing limit. That trailer weight was based on a completely empty trailer. When hooked up to go camping, the trailer will be full of clothes, kitchen equipment and bedding, and other necessities. It will also have water in the tank, the propane tanks will be full, and there might even be some sewage in the holding tank. In other words, it’s going to weigh a lot more than the 3,500 pounds that the minivan can safely tow. But they bought it because they believed the salesperson.
Well, the family happily loaded and hitched up their new acquisition for their first trip and it wasn’t too far down the highway when the transmission on the minivan blew out. It just couldn’t handle the load. (In a way, the family was lucky that the transmission was the only thing to go wrong. Towing overweight vehicles is dangerous and can lead to serious accidents.) So now they have no van until it can be repaired. They also have a trailer that they cannot use because all of their free money plus a loan went into buying the trailer and there is none left now to buy a proper truck that will safely tow the trailer. And they have to pay a good chunk of change to have the van repaired, as it is their primary commuting vehicle and they cannot be without it.
So now this couple is in a real mess. They have a loan payment on a trailer they cannot use. They have a large repair and towing bill for the van (and to get the trailer back home). They have no extra money to buy a truck, and they will have to scrape up the van repair money from who knows where. All because they wanted to go camping.
The moral of this story is that you have to do your own research when it comes to large purchases and you cannot trust the salesperson. Remember that they work on commission and want a sale. While not all salespeople are bad or unethical (I have met a few great ones in my time), there are a few and you have to go in to any purchase situation armed with your own knowledge to avoid being taken. This applies to houses, cars, campers, boats, and anything else where a commission and a large sum of money is on the line. You cannot trust the salespeople to look out for your interests because they are too busy looking out for their own, in many cases.
Had this couple read just one or two books or websites on RV’ing, they would have known about the weight issue. (Within minutes of posting this story on the message board, they had numerous responses from other campers. Had they posted before buying, five minutes would have told them all they needed to know.) They wouldn’t have trusted a salesperson’s word that the van could tow the trailer. (Incidentally, they can’t even sue the salesman for lying. Technically, the trailer did weigh under the van’s posted towing limit. That he didn’t mention the loading factor is sleazy, but not illegal.) Instead, they naively trusted the salesman to help them choose the right camper. And he chose to sell them the biggest, most expensive one he could talk them into buying. And now they’re stuck.
Always research your big purchases before you ever walk into a showroom, realtor’s office, or dealer’s lot. Know what you need, what you want, what you can afford, and any other information you need to know to make a good purchase. You can listen to the dealer’s advice but when you’ve got your own information, you’ll know if what he or she is telling you seems odd or wrong. And if it does, don’t hesitate to walk away. You’ll be better off financially if you don’t trust what a salesperson tells you.
(Photo courtesy of scriptingnews)
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