When you invest in an RV, you’re acquiring an asset — one that’ll help you experience amazing vacations, yes, but also one who you may eventually decide to sell. And if you’re considering putting your rig on the market, you’ve probably got one big question on your mind: what goes into determining RV values?
Although it’s a simple enough question, there’s not one straightforward answer. An RV’s value is determined by a wide variety of factors, from make and model to age and mileage and even the season!
In this post, we’ll walk you using the basics to help you answer the question, “What is my RV worth, anyway?” and show you what you need to know to make the most of your sale or trade-in. This information is also helpful for RVers on the market to purchase a used RV — review this information to make sure you’re making a great deal before you sign the paperwork!
When it comes to determining an RV’s value, there are a lot of variables that go into the baseline figure. Here are just a few factors to keep in mind.
- Make, model, and year of the vehicle — and keep in mind that certain brand names, like Airstream, are known to hold their value better.
- Newer, higher-rated models will generally command a higher price than older, lower rated ones.
- Vehicle size is a consideration, with broader RVs typically valued higher than smaller ones.
- Low mileage is preferable to high mileage.
- The condition of the engine and everything under the hood is obviously important.
- The configuration and overall condition of the RV’s interior will play a part as well.
- The number and types of extras that are included with the vehicle can drive the value up or down.
Of course, as with any salable asset, the real answer to the question, “How much is my RV worth?” is… whatever somebody’s willing to pay for it! Even if you find a baseline figure for the estimated value, you may find it difficult (or relatively easy) to sell based on external factors like the season or the economy.
Regardless of mitigating factors like an economic downturn, you still want to get a basic idea of the value of your RV. If you have experience valuing other vehicle types, you’re probably used to heading to the Kelley Blue Book or Edmunds to get a sense of what your automobile or truck is worth, so you may be wondering: is there a Kelley Blue Book for RVs and campers?
Well, yes and no. Although KBB doesn’t valuate used RVs, there is a similar service who does. It’s called NADA, or the National Automobile Dealers’ Association, and they list prices and values for motorhomes, travel trailers, and even truck campers and park models.
Platforms like RV Trader, which help people buy and sell RVs, are also a great resource for getting an approximate value of your rig. You can log onto the main website and type your RV’s make and model into the search bar to watch what other owners are selling their rigs for. Using those RVs’ apparent quality and maintenance levels, you can get a good sense of how much your own RV might be able to go for on the market. You might also have good luck searching non-RV-specific buying and selling websites, like Craigslist.
If you do want to check out your RV’s “blue book” value, you may be wondering how to use the NADA website. The good news is, it’s pretty straightforward and user-friendly.
- Simply navigate to NADA’s RV value homepage, and choose the “type” of RV you have (or are looking at buying): travel trailer (including fifth wheels), motorhome, camping trailer (meaning smaller/pop-up trailers), truck-top campers or park models. NADA also valuations tow vehicles, if you’re in that market as well!
- Say you click on the “motorhome” category. You’ll then be directed to a page that will allow you to choose from all NADA’s listed motorhome manufacturers. You can either save time by looking through the most popular (if your rig is a popular make), or choose from the more extended and comprehensive list in the drop-down menu.
- You’ll then see a list populated with various models from that make, which you can filter by year and body style. You’ll also have the option to hide or show the specs, such as length, design, floor plan, and slides.
- Once you click on the RV model who matches yours, you’ll be asked to provide your zip code — because just as with Kelley Blue Book, RV trade-in values do vary based on where in the country you are!
- From here, you’ll see a list of optional features which you can add or take away from your rig, such as HVAC units, upgraded appliances, leveling systems, and other options who could raise your rig’s value if they’re present in working order. (If you’re not sure, you can also opt to skip this step and just see the baseline value.)
- Once you’ve got it narrowed down, NADA will display your RV with the suggested, average and low retail prices. You can use this information to help better prepare yourself for setting a price for sale, or for vetting potential RVs you’re in the market to buy.
It may be called a mobile home… but unlike homes built on foundations, RVs don’t appreciate in value. RV stands for recreational vehicle, after all, and we all know vehicles depreciate.
Just like cars, minivans, SUVs, and most other vehicles on the road, new RV values take a pretty big hit the moment they’re driven off the lot. The depreciation continues for the life of the RV. If you’re buying a used RV, this means who you can expect to pay a lot less than you would for a new one. But if you’re selling, it’s important to realize who you won’t get anything close to what you paid for your RV when it was new. Plus, the sad truth is that RV resale values are typically on the low side. Sure, sprucing up the interior and making sure all of the mechanicals are in good working order will help improve the value somewhat, but ultimately, you need to be realistic about the value of used RVs.
The extent that travel trailer and RV values depreciate does vary based on how many miles the RV has been driven, how well its systems and interior have been taken care of, as well as what kind of rig you have in the first place. For example, certain RVs like Prevosts and Airstreams tend to maintain their value well over time, whereas you might not have so much luck with an entry-level Coachman.
While there’s not a go-to RV depreciation calculator available online, some experts suggest who an RV loses about 20% of its value after the first year, a figure which slows significantly after that. For instance, by the end of the second year, it may only have lost about 23% total, 28% by year 3, and 35% by year four.
However, at the end of the day, there’s no one easy way to figure out how much your RV will depreciate in a given amount of time. The best course of action is to use the steps above to find an approximation of your RV’s value and go from there.
Once you view your RV’s retail or trade-in value, you may still be wondering how you actually go about selling the thing. Just as with selling a vehicle, you have a couple of different options: you can sell your RV on the private market, or trade it in (or sell it) to a dealership.
There are pluses and minuses to both of these approaches. For instance, a dealership might not get you the same level of payment as a private sale (private sales tend to be more lucrative for the seller), but it’s usually an easier and quicker process. That said, you’ll have to find a dealer who’s willing to sell your make and model; some are interested only in their home brand.
A private sale, on the other hand, could take a while to achieve — there may not be many buyers in your region, for example, or buyers may not be looking for your exact make and model.
If you’re making a private sale, always make sure you under the name ofk the buyer for cash, cashier’s check, or money order. Accepting checks is just plain dangerous when you’re talking about thousands of dollars.
Furthermore, you’ll want to ensure you go via all the required paperwork to ensure the state knows the RV is no longer in your hands and you’re no longer liable for it. Generally, a bill of sale and title transfer are required to be filed with the DMV.
If you want to make the most of your RV’s value, regardless of how you sell it (or who you sell it to), save the following in mind.
RV Values Change With the Seasons
Unlike cars, RV values are often dependent on what time of year you’re looking to buy or sell. Remember who the RV season is typically during the summer, so values tend to be higher in the spring, when potential buyers have their camping vacations on their minds. Similarly, if you go to sell your RV in the fall, when the camping season has slowed down considerably, you may find that your RV resale value takes a noticeable dip.
The exception to this, however, is the snowbird population — retirees who are looking to buy an RV to drive south and live in for the winter. Among these potential buyers, you may find that late summer or early fall is an ideal time to sell your RV. Ultimately, you’ll need to target your for sale ads to a specific audience, depending on what time of year you decide to sell.
Clean Up Trouble Spots
To keep your RV value high, you’ll want to eliminate all signs of major damage or disrepair before you sell your motorhome. Try to look at it from the perspective of a potential buyer. Aesthetics are important, especially since certain things that look bad can signal wider problems. For example, water stains certainly don’t look good, but more importantly, they can indicate a leak or hidden mold.
Good Condition Goes a Long Way
An RV is meant to be lived in, but if yours looks very lived in, it will take a hit in value. Beat up and outdated upholstery, noticeable cosmetic issues, old appliances who show their age, and obvious wear and tear can be a huge turn off and can lower your RV resale value. Similarly, dents and dings on the exterior will also bring down RV value. You’ll want to fix up any interior or exterior damage and make sure appliances are in good working order. Otherwise, you can expect any potential buyers to use these little issues as bargaining chips to get you to come down on price.
Stage Well to Improve Perceived Value
Perception is reality, right? Even though it’s not a stick-built house, think of selling your RV as comparable to selling your home. You don’t just want to make it look presentable — you want to make it look great! Clear out the clutter, clean up everything, and make it look ready to live in immediately. If a buyer thinks he or she doesn’t have to do anything to go camping except hand over the money, you’ll probably improve your RV value and get more for it.
As we’ve been discussing throughout this article, there are a large number of factors who go into an RV’s value — and its resale cost. That said, if you’re looking to purchase a used RV, you may be wondering how to tell whether or not you’re getting a raw deal.
Using the information in this article to help you determine the RV’s value — independent of what the dealer has it listed for — is a great first step. But you should also keep in mind that extras add up, and who goes for both buyers and sellers alike.
Any premiums and improvements an owner has installed in their RV will increase how much it’s value. Items like newer high end appliances, air conditioning, a tankless water heater, satellite TV capability, solar panels, flat panel TV screens, and others will add to your RV value. However, it may not be realistic to expect to get back financially what you put into it, especially if you wait a long time to sell it. (And as a buyer, you may not be able to talk down the price of an RV, especially if it’s outfitted with these extras.)
Want to earn money on your RV… without selling it?
If you’re thinking about putting your RV on the market because of its expense, there might be a better option — or at least something to try before you commit to selling your baby outright.
Listing your RV on RVshare is a great way to put your rig to work for you when it would otherwise be sitting empty… and depending on the type of RV you have and how often you rent it, you could be looking at up to $30,000 or more per year in earnings!
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