Many Farragut businesses are facing uncertain times as the pandemic keeps shoppers at home, but Buddy Gregg RVs and Motor Homes is not one of them. Sales have doubled in the past two months, says general manager Eric Bivens, as more families than ever embrace camping as a way to escape from the turmoil of 2020.
The dealership, located next to I-40 on Snyder Road, has been in existence since 1986. Shopping for motor homes and trailers has changed since Bivens came on board in 2010. Years ago, motor homes were high-end, and customers traveled to shop for them. Now, most sales are made online. Customers find the model with the features they want and dealers make bids. The winning bidder gives up the most money, he says.
“It’s like eBay in reverse.”
The bulk of the sales at Buddy Gregg has shifted from motor homes to trailers. While the price for a motor home ranges from $200K to $800K, the cost of a high-end fifth-wheel or bumper-pull trailer can be less than $100K, and models in the $10K-$20K range are especially popular right now.
Today’s trailers offer the same luxury amenities as motor homes, including designer kitchens and baths, big screen TVs and fireplaces. Some have interior space for cars or golf carts, and cabin trailers feature hydraulic frames that lower to the ground for stability. Fifteen to 17-foot “bunkhouses” that sleep up to six are in especially in demand.
“If I had 10, I could sell 10 this afternoon,” Bivens says.
The latest wave of customers is mostly young families, and he enjoys working with them. They bring children who are excited to peek inside the trailers and ride around the dealership on a golf cart. Small trailers provide a safe, affordable way to vacation when other trips just aren’t possible.
“This pandemic has definitely increased sales and services as people do not want to fly or stay in hotels. When you have an RV, you can set your own schedule, travel at your own pace, and experience time together as a family.”
Another reason Bivens is happy to add young customers is that many will return for an upgrade. Trade-ins are common, and customers are often searching for their next purchase soon after the initial one. Plus, most customers return to the dealership for maintenance. Once they purchase, they join the “Buddy Gregg for Life” club. Perks include service without an appointment in one of the dealership’s 26 service bays and free stays at an on-site campground. Customers use the campground when they come for maintenance and when they just need a break from the road.
There are hundreds of recreational vehicle dealerships in the U.S., and Buddy Gregg is one of four in the Knoxville area. The dealership utilizes TV and radio ads, along with a robust website, but Bivens thinks word of mouth advertising is the best way to reach out-of-town customers. When people visit at campgrounds, they share their dealership experiences, good or bad. He hopes Buddy Gregg’s high level of service will keep the chatter positive.
While the craze for recreational vehicles was born during the pandemic, Bivens doesn’t think it will end with the virus.
“I don’t see it letting up now that it’s so affordable.”
Town of Farragut public relations and marketing coordinator Wendy Smith is your reliable Farragut Insider.