Adventures in RV Shopping: Hello Gender Stereotypes and Sexism

Buying RV Camper Van Motorhome as a Solo Woman Traveler

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RV Shopping for our upcoming Wanderschool 50 States USA Tour Adventure has been interesting to say the least.  For weeks, if not months, now, all I’ve wanted to do is plunk down cash on the right RV for our homeschool travel adventure.  Finding the right RV–one with the right specs, right condition, right miles, right price, right possibilities–has presented a bit of a challenge, but researching and checking out rigs is tons of fun, and it seems like only a matter of time before I’m sitting behind the wheel of the ideal rig.

I’m sitting behind the wheel.  That’s the part that seems to make shopping for the right RV tough.  Now that I’ve been to several dealerships and talked on the phone or in person with dozens of salespeople, it’s abundantly clear that gender stereotypes and sexism are alive in the RV sales industry.

Not All Women Care Most About the RV Color Scheme

Routinely, salespeople (except for one woman, I have dealt exclusively with men at this point, though three men have had female assistants), push RV cosmetics and flaunt cupboard space, storage, color schemes, and cook space.  Yes, even the woman, who acted surprised that I wasn’t out of bed and cooking breakfast for my family when she called at 7:30 a.m. one morning, reassured me that I would love a particular layout and big bright windows.  But what about the condition of the engine, signs of water damage, generator hours, rusty screws under the molding, and underbody condition?  My family’s safety and health is on the line here.  I want to know that when I drive off the lot, my rig is safe and functions properly.  I want to know that the dealership isn’t hiding any knowledge of mold or rot.  I want to know that all the systems have been tested or will be tested.  I want to know that there aren’t any leaks or broken connections or parts that could cause me problems sooner than later.

Not All Women Need Their Husband’s Approval to Make the Right Selection  buying an RV roadschooling

Choosing the right RV for my family is primarily, if not exclusively, my decision.  My husband wants my choice to be safe and reliable, and he wants me to be happy with the rig, but he’s hands off on the RV nitty gritty buying details.  I’ve had two salespeople insist on my husband’s involvement. One salesperson demanded that I give him my husband’s contact information ‘just in case’ he needs to talk to him or my husband answers the telephone should the salesperson call us.  When I told him I wasn’t providing that information, he got a little huffy.  Another salesperson at a different dealership suggested in post-visit correspondence that I should talk over a particular RV with my husband, even though I indicated that I was not interested in the model.

Not All Women Will Sit in the Passenger Seat

Surprise, surprise, a woman who drives?!  Without fail, salespeople seem surprised when I tell them my plan, which involves me as the primary driver.  I am most definitely not the first woman to drive an RV.  I am definitely not the first woman to buy an RV.  I would like to test drive the RV, too!  Only one salesperson has beat me to the punch and asked me if I would like to test drive a rig.  I can only guess that if my husband was standing next to me, he would be routinely asked if he wanted to ‘give ‘er a spin.’

Knowledge is Power

In my experience, though gender stereotypes and sexism seem to permeate my RV shopping experiences, knowledge is power.  The more I research RVs, specs and systems, the more I understand how motor homes and engines work, the more YouTube videos I watch on how to spot lemons or score deals, the more prepared I am to cut through salespeople’s biases and preconceptions.  The more prepared I am to ask tough questions that show salespeople–especially men with deeply ingrained gender stereotypes–that I may have long hair and carry a sweet purse over my shoulder, but I know what I’m looking for, what questions I need answered, and when I’m going to be ready to buy.

I’m certain that it was because I had done so much homework and had good questions about spotting water damage, that one salesperson/owner (who didn’t seem to cast judgment that I wasn’t a guy shopping for an RV) took the time to take me up on a ladder to check out roof rot on the biggest 5th wheel I’ve ever seen.

I think I’m closing in on the right rig.  Off to research a bit more, so I’m ready for any stereotyping or sexism an RV dealership throws my way….

Have you encountered gender stereotyping or sexism at the RV dealership?

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