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Over the years we’ve been to lots of RV shows in the US, so we’ve got a good handle on how those are run and what you’re likely to find there. But we just recently returned from our first Canadian RV show, the Earlybird RV Show in British Columbia, and couldn’t help but notice a few key differences between that show and our usual US fare.
We went to the Canadian show to do seminars on healthy RVing…
…but us being us, we couldn’t help but check out the show and the rigs. Here are some things we found interesting:
1. Private Sales and Used Rigs
We don’t know if all the RV shows in Canada are like this, but this show allowed used rigs, and even crazier, private sales during the show! Private sales is something you would NEVER see in the United States. I can’t picture any dealer at any US RV show being OK with it. But up in Canada, this worked out just fine.
The privately-owned used rigs were outside. In talking with the owner of one of the rigs (in the pic above), we learned it wasn’t cheap to have his rig at the show.
But you didn’t have to go to the private sale area to find used rigs. Some of the dealers themselves were showing off gently used rigs in their main displays! Most of the ones we saw like that were coming out of dealer rental fleets. Apparently, Europeans renting RVs in Canada is HUGE – and when those rigs get a year or two old, they sell them as used on the dealer lots.
2. More Canadian Brands Highlighted
We expected to see more Canadian RVs and were excited for the opportunity to check out brands we can’t easily see in the states.
One example, Safari Condo.
Safari Condo is a bit of a “unicorn” in the US van world. It’s one of those brands we van lovers know well, yet most of us in the US have never seen in person. We happen to have a friend who has a Safari Condo so it wasn’t our first time seeing one, BUT! It was our first time seeing both floorplans AND getting to chat with the factory rep.
3. Healthier Food Options
We’re THE FIT RV for cripes’ sakes, we couldn’t NOT notice this!
If you’ve been to an RV show in the US, you know the drill when it comes to food. You wait in a ridiculously long line and pay $12 for something fried. Now, James loves a mini-donut as much as the next guy, but even he won’t make an entire meal out of them.
We were delighted to see much healthier options at the Early Bird RV show. Salads, hummus, fresh veggie cups, yogurt parfaits with fresh fruit, non-fried wraps… all things we purchased over the 4 day course of the show! Surprisingly, they were NOT very expensive (although admittedly, the exchange rate was working in our favor). Even better, the longest we waited in line to order was about 5 minutes. Compare that to the Hershey show’s notoriously long waits, and yeah. Come on, US shows, do better!
4. No Show Dogs
This one may take some explaining if you’re not used to the RV Show circuit. You see, at most of the larger US RV shows, the dealers will bring in “show dogs”. These are RV Sales people who are *not* regular dealership employees. They’re people they hire on just for the show and might have no experience with RVs. I’ll never forget the time I overheard a show dog point to a Truma Combi (a space-saving water heater and heater combo) and exclaim, “Now THIS is a generator.” To amuse himself, James worked as a show dog once!
But at this show, there were none.
5. The Canadian RV Salespeople
I know we’re speaking in generalities here, but RV Sales in Canada seems more of a life-long career than it does in the US. We had some in-depth conversations with the crew in this picture from Traveland RV.
They had an insane number of years of combined experience, and the “new” guy almost has a decade under his belt. For the most part, you cannot just walk into a job selling motorhomes in Canada. It’s a position with some prestige, and you have to work your way to it after many years. One of the salesmen, Drew (on right in pic) told us he worked at the dealership for something like 8 years before he was allowed to move up to sell motorhomes.
That kind of longevity and dedication from an RV sales team is commendable. If they’ve been working at the same dealership for nearly a decade, I’d bet they didn’t last that long by trying to pull things over on their customers.
The way they explained their selling philosophy, it sounded like they had their own version of James’ 8 Step Program for Choosing Your First RV. They genuinely want to guide their customers to the rig that would work best for them. (Granted, the best rig they had among their own portfolio of brands… but still). And if you are making a career of it – you can afford to guide your customer slowly and intelligently to the rig that works for them. We found the whole conversation with the Traveland crew fascinating and a huge eye opener. Interestingly, some of the manufacturer’s reps who were at the show (and attend shows regularly in both countries) backed it up that there are big differences in US and Canadian RV sales cultures. In fact it was a manufacturer’s rep who told us that in Canada, motorhome sales positions are prestigious, hard to come by, and are commonly positions held for life. We had no clue!
Those were the main things we noticed about our first Canadian RV show. Well, that and there was a Tim Horton’s nearby which also never happens at US RV shows. We love the rare chance we get for Tim Horton’s coffee!
Those of you who have been to RV shows on both sides of the border, let’s hear from you!
Do you agree with our observations? Was the Earlybird Show unique or the Canadian norm? Was there differences we missed?
Would love to hear your own experiences and thoughts. Leave comments below (and then go exercise)!!!
My wife and I did RV shows for a few years both in the US and Canada. We sat up a display to give away Camp Ground Brochures, a business a friend had. I can tell you that all of the bigger major city shows in Canada do not allow and used or private sales.
Two things, guys, from the many US shows and the one I went to in Toronto several years ago.
1) The dealer show in Pleasanton (Northern California), held every January, almost always features many used rigs from dealer’s lots. You can see everything from tent trailers to diesel pushers and everything in between that are nearly new to a few years old.
2) The Canadian show I visited had lots booths featuring many different kinds of RV-related items. Battery manufacturers, RV housewares, RV painting and many different dealers of RV “stuff”. Most of the US shows I’ve attended seem to have more “fluff” on display and for sale-membership campgrounds, banking services, general purpose cookware and the like.
My $0.02 on the differences in US-Canadian shows.
Huh, how interesting. We mostly do the big manufacturer shows which don’t do used. Even the smaller shows we’ve done, we’ve never come across used in the states. Good observation on the vendor booths, too. That wasn’t on our radar, but now that you mention it, I do recall the booths being more “RV” specific stuff at the Canada show.
Great feedback Tom, thanks!
We bought our Travato59K from Voyager in Winfield B.C. which is a family owned company and that matches our experience. They were thorough but absolutely no pressure. Also, the generator that was working the night before when they tested everything, decided to fail. This required taking the van to an Onan shop 2 hours away which they took care of immediately and thoroughly. So we would say that all the employees are skilled and very helpful!
The food looked good but exactly what we would expect at a trade show of any sort:)
PS We’ll see you soon at the Sea Otter and really excited to get on the road.
So glad you had such a great buying experience, Tracey! Thanks for your feedback, and also I’ll look forward to seeing you at Sea Otter! Safe travels!