The high cost of finding a pickup truck to tow an RV


If you’ve tried to find a heavy-duty pickup truck to tow an RV you no doubt have experienced severe sticker shock. But the situation has become so alarming that I’d call it scandalous. Too many truck dealerships are adding on bogus charges way above MSRP.

In fact, the situation has become so outrageous that auto manufacturers have been warning their dealers to stop the practice because they are damaging their brands!

That’s one of the topics we talk about in great detail in this week’s episode 391 of the RV Podcast.

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Our experience in trying to buy a pickup truck to tow an RV

In short, it’s been very disappointing.

I’ve spent the better part of two months calling auto dealerships all across the country looking to buy a 3/4 ton pickup truck to tow the new Fifth Wheel we will be getting at the end of the month. (What? News to you? Check out last week’s podcast where we tell you all about it!)

I’ve searched for new trucks made by Ford, Dodge Ram, GMC, and Chevrolet.

It’s been eye-opening, to say the least.

It’s no secret that trucks are in short supply. Blame it on the supply chain and the chip shortage but the production of new trucks has ground to a stop. GM and Ford have glumly told their investors that they expect that the chip shortage alone will have cost them one billion dollars in profits this year.

We started looking for a used truck to haul an RV

The high cost of finding a pickup truck to tow an RV

It’s always better to buy used, right? That way the original owner takes the huge depreciation hit as soon as the vehicle rolls off the dealer’s lot.

But my initial search found lots of used trucks listed but those used prices we found were often as high as what we see listed as MSRP for new trucks! The first used truck I looked at, a loaded 2017 F-250 Limited, was priced at $70,000!

And that for a five-year-old truck!

If used trucks were that much, I figured, I might as well buy new. I expected that I’d have to pay full MSRP.

But, man, was I wrong.

New trucks are selling for way above MSRP at most dealers

I began my search at the local Ford dealer in Fort Walton Beach, FL, where we have been based most of the winter and spring. Right on their lot, I found what I was looking for. A beautiful new 2022 Lariat 4×4 diesel.

Its sticker MSRP was $80,000.

Reluctantly, very reluctantly, I realized that if I wanted a pickup truck to tow an RV, I was going to have to pay MSRP.

Again, I was wrong.

The salesman told me that I would have to pay what he called a “diesel surcharge” of $22,000 OVER MSRP.

In other words, to buy that $80,000 truck I would have to pay $102,000!

This couldn’t be, I thought. I tried another salesman. Same thing. Then another salesman. Again, the same thing. It was, they tried to explain, a supply and demand thing, a temporary price adjustment because of the chip shortage and the lack of new truck inventory.

I told all three salesmen that I thought a $22,000 upcharge was exploiting the situation and that I would take my business elsewhere.

The story is the same nationwide

The high cost of finding a pickup truck to tow an RV
The high cost of finding a pickup truck to tow an RV.

While the $22,000 price hike above MSRP, I found many other dealers taking on extra fees well over and beyond MSRP.

It made no difference what brand or what state. While the salespeople may have called it different things like a “market adjustment fee” or a “demand price increase,” those fees were added to almost every unit we found that was in dealer inventory, meaning on the lot and available.

The extra fees ranged from $5,000 to $15,000 above MSRP.

The one exception was if I wanted to order a truck to be built. Several dealers told me that if I did that they would not charge above MSRP. But then I’d have to wait. Typical wait times quoted me were four months. The longest was a year.

Then, last week, a Ford dealer in Troy, Michigan told me that Ford had just notified dealers that new orders for the rest of the year were not being accepted, because of the automaker’s difficulty in meeting demand.

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The high cost of finding a pickup truck to tow an RV 1
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I do understand the dealer’s predicament

As I called around looking for a new truck and learned more and more about the situation, I came to understand the hardships the chip shortage was also placing on dealerships (it’s not just heavy-duty trucks in short supply…so are many automobiles and SUVs.)

Those dealerships are hit hard in the pocketbook when they can’t sell new vehicles. They have employees whose families depend on the dealership making a profit. So while I was not pleased to have to pay above MSRP, I came to understand why it is happening.

Yes, there are some dealers that are charging way, way over MSRP. Most of those who do were tacking on maybe $5,000 or a bit more.

In the end, I found the truck to tow my RV

the pickup truck to tow an RV we chose
This is our new (used) truck – a 2021 Ford F-250 Lariat 4×4 diesel

With new, in-stock trucks so expensive and hard to find, I went back to looking for a used vehicle.

Eventually, through a friend, I was referred to Perkins Motor Plex, which owns a series of used vehicle dealerships in Kentucky and Tennessee. There, salesman Scott Kingsbury patiently helped me find a very clean white 2021 Ford Lariat 4×4 Diesel with 28,000 miles on it.

The price? A little over 76,000. Just about what it sold for new a year and a half ago before the chip shortage became so bad.

The truck is at one of their Kentucky dealerships. Assuming it is as we expect (with no tobacco smells) and in the excellent shape we’ve been assured, we’ll drive off with it next week.

And then, the week after, pick up our new Fifth Wheel and start a lot of new adventures.

Our experience in looking for a truck to tow our RV seems pretty typical, based on the feedback we’ve received from our followers in recent weeks. Here are some samples:

We finally got our new truck in February after waiting 8 months. We ordered it in early July because we wanted to make sure we got what we needed to pull our 5th wheel. At that time there was nothing new or used on the lots – Cindy

It’s not just trucks that are hard to find. We’ve been looking for an SUV to tow the Casita that we’re going to take delivery on in Feb 2023, and we’ve had to travel to several dealerships just for a test drive. We decided on a Toyota Highlander and wanted to order one, but they’re not taking orders – Rose

Our local Ford Dealer tried to sell me a 2020, F 450, dually, Platinum edition with 25,000 miles on it for $100,000. Crazy prices for trucks these days – Lee

I just tried to buy a new Dodge Ram. The dealer told me they have tacked $5,500 on to the MSRP and they have a waiting list to buy it. He said if it was legal to auction it they would get a lot more but the next one they get in will have a price of $10K over MDRP. When I said that was ripping us off they laughed and said not when people willingly will pay that much more. Needless to say I won’t be doing business with that dealer EVER!!! – Jon

I bought a used 2018 F-250 diesel with 76,000 miles on it for $70,000. And when I went to get it the salesman said he had a dozen people who called after I bought it. He said used HD trucks are like gold! – Sean

Mike. Don’t complain about the prices. That’s capitalism at its finest. The dealers are charging more because they have fewer trucks. Better they charge more than lay people off. Think of it as an investment. – Fred

I am a Ford dealer in Alabaster, AL, have been in business over 39 years, and never charge over MSRP, regardless of how “hot” the vehicle is, This is true for Bronco, Mavericks, the retro TBird in the early 2000’s, GT40, Shelby Mustangs; no matter what. While we do ask for MSRP on hot vehicles, we absolutely will not go over MSRP, regardless of market conditions. Please do not let the rogue actions of some dealers paint a broad brush picture of all dealerships. The press has been focused on the bad business practices of dealerships but it is certainly not true of all. – Chris

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Each of the 7 Days of the ebook has:

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  • Places to Eat in each area of the 7 sections
  • Campground descriptions and links
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