My wife and I have been backpacking since we moved to Virginia five years ago. We absolutely love the mountain countryside up here. As our kiddos have grown a little older (still in the single digits), we’ve enjoyed taking them for one or two night backpacking trips. Whether it is hiking one mile to a waterfall, hiking the Appalachian Trail, or hiking five miles to stay on Mount Rogers, spending time with the family in the countryside never gets old.
In mid 2019, my wife and I began to discuss the idea of purchasing a travel trailer in order to travel this lovely and magnificent country. Although our plans were delayed due to COVID-19, we continued to research off and on between February and June then seriously picked back up on the idea around June-July. During that time we settled on a few factors:
- We wanted a travel trailer. No 5th wheel.
- We wanted something at or under 30 feet in length.
- We wanted something that could be towed by our F-250 after factoring in available Cargo Carrying Capacity once the hitch weight was added in.
- We wanted to build a unit that would give us a leg up for boondocking.
After visiting a few local places, we settled on a 2021 Jayco Jay Feather 24BH. Our custom build included:
- Modern farmhouse interior
- Solar Power Package
- JayCommand TPMS
- A/C 15K BTU roof mounted air conditioner
- 50 amp service w/2nd A/C prep
- Heated tank pads
Once we knew what we wanted, we switched gears and started to hunt for a good price. My wife, she is the negotiator. If it drives down the road, she will negotiate for it. Don’t even talk to her about “sale price”, MSRP, taxes, trade in value, or fees. She wants an out-the-door price negotiated on the phone or via email before we even show up to buy something.
Knowing how she works, I set her up for success by doing the initial leg work. I created an Excel Spreadsheet that tracked quite a few factors. I then set out to contact every dealer listed on Jayco’s website between Virginia and Louisiana to begin the conversation on pricing a custom-built Jay Feather 24BH.
It was easy to go to Jayco’s site, plug in a state-specific search, then copy-paste the returned results to my spreadsheet.
Once I did that, I then emailed each dealer using a canned response that I saved in the same Excel workbook. Copy-paste-send. Copy-paste-send. Copy-paste-send. This process went on 63 times (because I contacted 63 dealers).
- “We’re looking at pricing for a customized 2021 Jay Feather 24BH. I can provide a Jayco build form with the options selected. Thanks!”
The first dealer contact was made on 06 July.
Once a dealer responded to my canned response and asked for the options, I replied back with a PDF version of a Jayco build sheet. I digitized the build sheet in Adobe Acrobat from a local dealer and included that in my response. I didn’t care about the pricing in each option as we were negotiating an out-the-door price (not an upcharged or sale price).
Once we received a response confirming our build sheet specs, we then waited for pricing to start flowing.
How do you maintain sanity when you contact 63 dealers? Microsoft Excel! I love Excel and I live in Excel Workbooks daily. I broke the spreadsheet up into two parts: the main section (who, what, when, where, and why) and then a secondary section that included travel trailer information from a different spreadsheet that we were using to help us narrow down our ideal travel trailer.
- Preference – This was our dealer purchase preference. Obviously we wanted to go with dealer #1 but we had two other backups in the event that a deal fell through (and it did… twice: we ended up going with preference #3 that turned out to be the best price).
- Note – These were notes that I wanted to jot down. I also had some “codes” to help filter results:
- NR = No Response = this means I reached out to the dealer, at least twice within 14 days, and never got a follow up response.
- NFU = No Follow Up = this means I reached out to the dealer, had a conversation, but they never followed up with me.
- NFS = Not For Sale = this means that the dealer doesn’t sell Jaycos (even though they are listed on the Jayco website), they won’t custom order, or some other reason (like the sales person was a jerk).
- Dealer specific information like Address, State, and Phone Number
- Email and Point of Contact – this was the sales rep that I was working with, not the dealership’s generic contact info (unless that is all I had to work with).
The next few columns were the meat and potatoes of the buying process.
- MSRP and “Sale Price” – these numbers were used as part of the standard dealer haggle.
- Tax – Formula that takes Column J and multiples by our state Motor Vehicle Sales and Use Tax (4.15%).
- The actual Excel formula used is = “J4*0.0415+J4 “. Take the sale price in column J, row 4, multiple by 0.0415 then add that amount to the sale price to give us the tax “up charge”.
- Contact date – since we contacted dealers a lot, we needed a way to track our time between messages.
- Incentive price for financing – some dealers would knock down the price if financing through the dealership
- Counteroffer date – if they countered our request, the date that contact was made
- Counteroffer date 2 – same as above
- Counteroffer amount – these numbers changed during the negotiation phase
- Counteroffer w/tax (if applicable) – some dealers just did not understand what “out the door ” pricing meant and would tell us an “out the door price” then tell us that tax wasn’t included. It is the same formula used in Column J but multiplies by the counteroffer amount. For the very few number of dealers that actually knew what “out the door” meant, I overrode the cell data and keyed in a direct counteroffer amount.
Everything past Column R was ported over from another worksheet I had created when trying to narrow down brands. I left that data in just in case we needed to use it.
Once I had keyed in all of the dealer information across 16 states, and my build sheet was provided to the dealers, offers started coming in within two days. My wife began the negotiation process by telephone. She would call, state our out-the-door price, add the number to our spreadsheet, then move on to the next dealer. Once she moved on to another dealer, I would pick up the process again, via email, and continue the conversation with the dealerships.
All in all, my wife and I had a total of 442 emails between dealers from 06 July and 28 August.
Once we were comfortable with the 35 offers that we had, I did one last BCC email blast to every dealer that did not respond back. We are shopping for the best price so the wider I cast the net, the better chances we have of getting a good price.
- “Hi, I reached out last week but I wasn’t sure if my message was sent. If this is a duplicate, I apologize. We’re looking at pricing for a customized 2021 Jay Feather 24BH. I can provide a Jayco build sheet with the options selected. Thanks!”
We let that message soak for about two days then marked all remaining dealers as “NR” (No Response) and filtered those dealers from the sheet.
Next, we wanted to REALLY narrow the playing field. It is just too difficult to negotiate with 35 dealerships. My wife and I, having a pretty good idea what rock-bottom pricing was on the 2021 Jay Feather 24BH, threw a curve ball in a BCC email to all 35 dealerships. With the options we had originally requested, we intentionally low-balled the dealership with a crazy out-the-door price. We knew this would narrow the playing field a lot… and it did!
- “As you may be aware, my wife and I have contacted quite a few dealerships regarding the 2021 Jay Feather 24BH with customized options. We have been researching the 2020 (now 2021) model for exactly one year now. We have spoken with the factory a few times on this travel trailer and have done a considerable amount of research. To put our research into perspective, we’ve contacted 63 dealerships and your dealership is on our “short list”. As it relates to offers, we have received a few offers which we consider to be good, but would like to bring the out-the-door price down to something within our target budget. Our target out-the-door price for this unit with our specified options is $23,000.00 and we are willing to put down a deposit this week if the right offer comes in. If you are willing to entertain or discuss this offer please let us know via email and we can schedule a time to talk. Our schedule is tightly regulated so we’ll need to setup a time to talk. Thank you for answering all of our questions and I hope that we can do business in the near future.”
Oh my gosh did it narrow the field. We went from 35 dealers to 9. It was exactly what we wanted to do. We had no issues negotiating with 9 dealerships.
(As an aside: I had one dealership call me then “yelled” at me via email. I had another dealership say that they can’t compete with that price. One dealership told my wife that he wouldn’t negotiate any more unless we sent over the quote sheets from his competitors (yeah, that didn’t happen) and another dealer who thought I was crazy:
“Well I wish you luck. We are not even close. I have been in sales and management for 37 years and have never had anybody contact 63 dealers to check a price. At least you are buying the right unit! I hope you pick one close that can better service your needs! Take care and be safe!”
Of these final 9 dealerships, we competed for the best price in an attempt to drive pricing down. We did this mainly with our local dealers because the best price that we received, that we didn’t even have to negotiate for, came from a dealership in Alabama. The folks at the Alabama dealership responded to my “crazy” email with a simple:
“We can’t do $23,000 but we can do $24,xxx, out the door, with all of the options you selected. Let me know if this works.”
The offer that we received from them was straight and to the point.
After attempting to get our local dealerships to flex on pricing, which they didn’t, we pulled the plug and signed a build order with the Alabama dealership. That night, I contacted our bank and sent a teller’s check to the dealership to seal the deal.
Now we wait. We are hoping to get a delivery time from the factory this week with an ETA on the custom built unit. I spoke to the factory twice, most recently earlier this month, and there was a back order of refrigerators that causing production backlogs up to December (if ordered in August). That may have been corrected, but we don’t know yet.
I hope you enjoyed our journey into the RV life and feel free to use our RV Research Spreadsheet if you are hunting for a good deal. In the mean time, the family is still hiking the Virginia back country and looking forward to the next chapter: RV life.