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The top ten RV dealerships in America, rated four stars or more by Google and named to the RV Business top fifty dealers of 2018 list, are as follows in alphabetical order; Affinity RV Service, Sales & Rentals in Prescott, AZ – Bill Plemmons RV World, Rural Hall North Carolina – Curtis Trailers in Portland, OR – Guaranty RV Super Centers in Junction City, OR – Hartville RV Center in Hartville, OH – Mount Comfort RV in Greenfield, IN – Princess Craft in Round Rock, TX – United RV Center in fort Worth, TX – Veurink’s RV Center in Grand Rapids, MI – Walnut Ridge Family RV Sales in New Castle, IN.
Denotes Blue Ribbon Winner *
Before we identify why each of the dealerships mentioned above qualify as one of the Top Ten RV Dealers in America I’d like to take a minute and revisit a blog we wrote recently regarding what makes a quality RV dealership and a little about what makes a dealership one to avoid. The previous blog, The Best Deals Start With The Best Dealership, has a handy bullet point list of both the qualities of a reputable dealership and the qualities of a questionable dealership that is a quick way to illustrate the differences in the two.
• Treat customers as transactions and practice shoddy or dishonest operations
• They do not sell new inventory, only used (carrying new vehicles means that the manufacturers and financial institutions trust a dealer enough to extend them credit)
• They are unlikely to stay in business for long, but may reappear under a different name at a later date
• Has a large and varied selection of new and used vehicles
• Abides by fair advertising and business practices
• Understands that the best way to stay in business is repeat business
• From the sales process to after sale service a reputable dealer is trying to earn your business, even if they already have it
• A reputable dealer knows that NO vehicle is built to perfection and that they will all have an issue from time to time. When these issues arise it’s an opportunity to prove to the customer they made the right decision in buying from their dealership
• A long standing dealer with a quality Google review
• Recognized by industry publications, distributors, and manufacturers with awards and commendations
• A dealer that services what they sell
As you can see a reputable dealer has a longer list of positive qualities than the questionable dealer does negative. In other words it takes much more effort to become and remain a quality dealership than it does to run a questionable one. All of that effort is designed to affect the consumers experience both at the time of sale and during ownership in a positive manner. In fact, according to Brad Worrell of RV Pro Magazine, this is the hallmark of a reputable dealership.
“I will tell you that, from my perspective, a truly top-notch dealer is one who attempts to form a relationship with a customer — rather than simply make a “sale”. That means helping the customer pick the right RV based upon their needs/ wants, taking the time to answer questions and address concerns prior to the purchase, stocking the parts and accessories customers need, and being able to service the RV as the need arises.”
Brad Worrell – RV Pro Magazine
Since you are still reading you are probably aware by now that this blog is published by Guaranty RV, and I have written some previous blogs that promote our great dealerships, both RV and Chevrolet. What you don’t know is that I was given this topic months ago and had difficulty finding a starting point. My dilemma was how to be impartial as an employee of Guaranty while writing a blog about great dealerships. Impartiality being the key here, we decided we would use two independent sources that we would have no way to influence and then cross reference those lists to sort out ten dealerships nationwide.
The RV business Top Fifty list for 2018 gave us a list of dealers to start with and their Google rankings were the final qualifier. As a blogger here at Guaranty; trust me when I tell you it is a scientific formula worthy of Einstein to try to influence Google in any manner, and the application process alone to be included in the Top Fifty field probably eliminates a good percentage of fly by night dealers. Seriously, the Top 50 application is 40 pages long and it’s not multiple choice. We’re having a little fun but even being nominated for the Top 50 list is quite an accomplishment and says volumes about a dealership.
“RV manufacturers nominate dealers whom they believe consistently promote best practices in all aspects of their businesses from sales to parts and service, tech training, civic and charitable involvement. Most of all, the Award committee looks for dealerships that place a high priority on customer care both before and after sale regardless of size and volume. Therefore, each and every applicant is a quality dealership; they wouldn’t be among the nominees otherwise.”- RV Business
Now that we have established the criteria and how we arrived at our impartial list, let’s start looking at some particulars for the Top Ten RV Dealers in America.
So I am not the biggest fan of things being touted as family style or a family business. I refuse to eat at any restaurant that has family style food, that’s often code for lots of brownish gravy over well, something sort of edible. And a family business can mean you deal with Mom and Pop and maybe a couple offspring and brings to mind the Clampetts. So why then will we tout the majority of the Top Ten RV Dealers in America being family run, and in some cases multi-generational family ownership? Because in these instances family run applies to the dealerships philosophy, not how they actually run the operations. This philosophy is at the core of a reputable dealership during the sale and after sale service. When I talk about a family business it is because I struggle to define the philosophy in another manner. What it means to me is that customers are appreciated and treated like people; family treatment.
A quick tour of Affinity RV’s website tells me they are a full line dealer that services what they sell. They have a list of industry awards and their stated philosophy, summed up in the motto “Bringing Family and Lifestyle Together”, is explained in their words as, “spending time with family and friends creates the most meaningful memories, and to us, that’s what RVing is all about.” They employ RVDA and ASE certified technicians and they are very active in their local community, supporting dozens of charities and organizations. So in review, Affinity is a full service dealer who believes the consumer experience is the best way to gain business.
Bill Plemmons RV World is a multi-generational, family owned dealership that has been in business since 1951. Started by Bill Plemmons and now run by his son, Steve, the dealership offers some of the best known brands in the industry and carries RVs of all classes. They service what they sell and offer an extensive parts inventory on-line and in their store. They pride themselves on customer service and have received the RV Business Top Fifty award consecutively since 2015.
Curtis Trailers is a family run business that has three generations of the Curtis family “committed to making your RV adventure fun and rewarding for you and your family.” They have been in the RV industry since the late 1940’s, claiming the title “The Northwest’s Towable Leader Since 1948.” They service what they sell and feel that “value and trust will keep our customers coming back.”
Guaranty RV Super Centers is a second generation RV dealership that sells all classes of RVs from folding campers to highline diesel pushers. Guaranty has been selling RVs from the 1970s and has the distinction of being the first Monaco dealer partner as well as being one of the first to sell Country Coach Class A motorhomes. Guaranty RV is the largest dealer in Oregon and has recently added a full hook up 55 site RV Park to their facilities. They service what they sell and their motto, “We Don’t Just Sell Fun, We Guaranty It,” is a promise that they will provide the best RV experience available through quality RV brands and superior customer service. The commitment to superior customer service is summed up in a secondary slogan, “We Do Whatever’s Right.” You’ll find it on their license plate holders and in the day to day operations around the dealership.
Hartville RV Center is also a second generation family business that offers new and used RVs for sale as well as a full service department, parts, and a storage facility. Started in 1971 by John and Nancy Pastore, Hartville RV Center was started and still operates as a “place where families could shop in a hassle-free, no pressure environment. A place where the golden rule was practiced as part of the business culture.” On their home page Hartville RV Center also states that for their nearly fifty years in existence they have strived “to create a place where customers are family, not numbers.”
Only halfway through our list and the pattern is pretty obvious, but we do have five more dealerships to review so let’s see how this pans out. I have a guess, but let’s go through it anyway for the sake of fairness.
Coming in next alphabetically is Mount Comfort RV, located in Greenfield Indiana. The dealership sits on 17 acres and they offer RVs from folding campers to Class A motorhomes, parts, service and rentals. The property is adjacent to the Indianapolis KOA Campground making a convenient neighbor for RVers. Owned and established by Ken Eckstein in 2006, Mount Comfort RV has been named a Top 50 RV Dealer by RV Business for six consecutive years and are known for their, “Friendly People, Friendly Prices”, motto. Per the Mount Comfort website their mission is to “ensure that we offer clients a wide array of products and professional services that large companies provide but with the attention and personal touch only a small, local store offers.”
Princess Craft RV sells new travel trailers and truck campers, as well as used inventory. They offer parts, service and rentals and are capable of working on what they sell as well as all types of RVS and they honor all warranty work. Their website is pretty straight forward but leaves a bit to be desired when it comes to finding much history on the dealership. Considering most folks coming to their site are looking for RVs to purchase, parts, or service it isn’t that detrimental. They are owned and run by Richard Buerger and PJ Buerger, respectively, and have been since 1996. Richard attributes the dealerships success to,”our down-home, old-school-type attitude.”
They say everything is bigger in Texas and at twelve plus acres, United RV meets those Texas sized standards. Family owned and operated for over forty years, United RV has a simple goal,” to become your full service RV dealer.” They sell a wide range of RVS from new Gas and Diesel Class A motorhomes to travel trailers and fifth wheels. They have an extensive service department, a 12,000 square foot parts and accessories department, and they even offer RV storage. Not only is United RV people friendly, they’re pet friendly too.
Veurink’s RV Center in Grand Rapids Michigan has been, “Family Owned & Operated, Serving West Michigan Since 1954!” Veurink’s is the oldest Holiday Rambler dealer in the county, having proudly offered the line for over 63 years. They’re motto is “Go RVing With Us,” partly because their name is on every vehicle they sell and partly because they believe, ” Whether it’s camping, traveling, hiking, fishing, biking, hunting, motocross, NASCAR full time living, or reconnecting with your family; the RV Lifestyle offers the freedom and flexibility to do all of this and more.”
So there is no confusion, Walnut Ridge Family RV Sales in New Castle Indiana put Family right in their name. In case the pattern is not as obvious as I think it is or you skipped ahead, Family plays a big role in the operations and philosophies of the Top Ten RV Dealers in America. Being family owned is an important and celebrated aspect of this 66 acre, wow, RV dealership and campground. They have been the #1 fifth wheel dealer in the state on Indiana for the past 17 years and they sell towables as well as motorized new and used RVs. (As a side note Indiana is the nation’s RV center with much of the industry having facilities in and around Goshen, so being the #1 fifth wheel dealer in Indians is impressive. 17 years in a row is stunning.) They offer not only top notch service and parts departments, they also offer an RV Learning Center and free winter storage.
In keeping with the now glaringly obvious theme Walnut Ridge Family RV Sales’ “About Us” section on their website sums up their philosophy but could easily be cut and pasted into any of the Top Ten dealership’s websites. I could paraphrase but I think a direct quote is better, “Being a Family Owned and Operated RV Dealership makes a Big Difference. We think it creates a better experience for you – the RV enthusiast. We are connected to the communities we serve. Being a family owned and operated business, we clearly understand the importance of our one-on-one relationships we build with our customers every day!” Again, this could be from any of the dealerships that made this list.
As our handy bullet point list above states a reputable dealer is dedicated to the customer experience from the first time you step on the lot. They know that to be in business for the long term that they need to earn new customers and retain existing ones, and the best way to do this is to treat the customer as a person rather than dollar signs. In a bit of a pithy comparison this is where a reputable dealer makes friends and a questionable dealer makes a single sale. Many ways exist to attract and retain customers, but there are some basics that the Top Ten Dealers in America all employ.
First they have a large inventory of RVs with a quality reputation in the industry, so you start or renew your RV ownership experience with confidence in the brand and the dealership. Even the most lauded and trusted RV brands will have some issues, remember any time you use your RV it experiences an earthquake all the way from where you start to where you end up. One of the prerequisites to be a RV manufacturer with a solid reputation is that their warranty is comprehensive and that factory repair parts are readily available. Timely parts delivery to a dealership is always an issue in our industry and some lesser brands will have limited repair parts in stock, and if that part is needed to complete an RV on the assembly line it will most certainly not go to fill a warranty claim.
A reputable dealership will have the most common warranty items in stock to avoid this, and as an old parts guy I can tell you a reputable dealership can have the kind of relationship with a manufacturer that allows the dealership to stop the assembly line for a warranty part to be removed and shipped to satisfy a claim. As a savvy consumer you can buy a quality RV from a ” questionable ” dealer and you might even get a better price, but what happens when your RV needs repair?
I have touched on this before in this blog, but a reputable dealer really earns their high marks with their service after the sale and nothing can make or break a relationship in this industry like a dealership’s service department.
“What makes a great RV dealership? Well, you can go through a lengthy list of factors that generate positive reviews – from quality products to astute inventory management to aggressive pricing, a quality sales staff, commendable warranty support and a clean and well organized facility inside and out. But at the end of the day, if it’s one thing more than anything else, a top notch service department is generally where the rubber meets the road as far as how an automotive or recreational vehicle dealership – no matter how modern and attractive its facilities are – builds a solid, long-term reputation. That’s what generally earns accolades like an “RVBusiness Top 50 Dealer Award.”
Sherman Goldenberg – RV Business
Again all RVs will eventually need to be repaired and how the repair is handled can be a test of sorts. If a repair, warranty or otherwise, is done in a timely manner to the customers satisfaction a dealership generally passes the test quietly. This continues the relationship with the customer and allows the opportunity for both sides to benefit from said relationship. If the repair is not handled in the proper manner the dealership fails the test, and loudly. To paraphrase poorly the saying goes that if you’re happy you tell your friends, and if you’re unhappy you tell everybody. Normally this spells the end of a relationship at worst, and sours it at best.
So what does it take to be one of the Top Ten RV Dealers in America? It takes a business philosophy that is less about dollar signs and more about first names. It takes a concerted effort to make the consumer’s experience feel effortless. It means that customers are appreciated and treated like they have known you forever, even on your first meeting. It takes a commitment to infrastructure so that the dealership has the right brands, right parts, and the right people to make all the moving pieces move together like a Swiss watch. It also takes a willingness to grow and improve, even if the impetuous for the growth and improvement comes from short comings. But what it really takes is you, the enthusiastic RVer. Without demand there is no need for supply, so works capitalism. This means that the RVer is the most important component of the RV industry and without you, reputable or questionable dealerships will soon go by the way side. Of course a Top Ten Dealership knows this and has for a long time, sometimes for several generations. So if you’re looking for your first, or your next RV, start with one of the Top Ten RV Dealers in America to ensure you get a quality RV and a quality experience.