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New Season, New RV – But What do you do with your Old RV?
It’s a New RV Season, and for many, that means a new RV – the time of year when people head to RV dealerships across the U.S. to purchase a brand spanking new recreation vehicle before the busy travel season hits.
But what do you do with your old RV? Some folks will decide to trade it in on a new one; others will decide to sell it themselves. If you opt for the latter, the experts at
offer the following tips to get the most bang for your RV resale buck.
What’s it worth?
The age old question of ‘price’ is always a hot topic for folks looking to remarket their motorhomes, fifth wheels, camping trailers or toy haulers. And rightly so, according to Lenny Sims, Vice President of Operations at NADAguides.com, determining your RVs fair market value is the most important step in getting it prepped for resale.
But there are some things you need to know ahead of time – factors that could impact its overall value.
“For starters, you have to account for mileage because it can impact value significantly,” says Sims. “But that doesn’t mean a unit with higher miles will always bring less money than a comparable model with lower miles. There are many contributing factors to take into consideration.”
So just what are those factors?
Sims says it’s important to know your RVs equipment and accessories. Things such as air conditioning and heating systems, appliances, engine and suspension systems, entertainment systems, generators, jacks and leveling equipment – even awnings can impact a recreation vehicle’s value.
“Once you know the unit’s mileage, equipment and accessories, getting a value at
is the easy part,” said Sims.
He says that once you’ve arrived at a value, it’s important to assess the RVs condition as a baseline for determining whether to use the
Low Retail or Average Retail value.
The condition criteria for Low Retail includes extensive wear and tear, body dents or blemishes, and taking into consideration the fact that the buyer will probably have to invest in some cosmetic or mechanical work. However, the unit should be in good running condition.
On the flipside, the condition criteria for an Average Retail unit includes a vehicle without glaring defects, with tires and glass that are in good condition and matching paint with a clean and smooth finish. The interior should have wear in relation to its age and the carpet and seat upholstery should be clean, with all power options in working order and an acceptable mileage range in relation to the model year.
“Don’t kid yourself when it comes to condition,” said Sims. “No matter how difficult, be realistic and look at your unit with an unbiased eye. Put yourself in a buyer’s shoes. What will he or she see? That’s the best way to approach assessing its condition – and ultimately – its fair market value.”
Next up, it’s time to inspect your RV from the outside in. The exterior is the first thing a prospective buyer will see, and the old adage ‘you only get one chance to make a first impression’ rings especially true. Since a recreation vehicle’s overall condition directly impacts its value, Sims suggests detailing it inside and out to help restore its original beauty.
For starters, a clean exterior goes a long way in enhancing a potential sale. Be sure to detail your RV by washing and waxing the exterior first. There are a variety of products on the market designed to bring paint back to a shiny luster, including paint restorers that remove oxidation and return color.
Wash the wheels thoroughly and use a dressing on the tires to restore sheen. And don’t forget to wash the windows and polish the chrome. A good detailing can dramatically increase a unit’s value. If you have some extra money, a comprehensive professional detailing can enhance its exterior appearance significantly, and at the end of the day, you might net a higher sales price as a result.
Your RVs interior condition is just as important as the way it looks on the outside. Start by wiping down all inside surfaces with a quality cleaner. Be sure to vacuum the upholstery, including the carpets and the mats and spot clean any dirt or food particles stuck to the fabric. Use a dressing on the dashboard and any other vinyl components to return luster and don’t forget to clean out the glove box and any other storage compartments whenever applicable.
Finally, pop open the hood and take a look inside. If the engine is dirty, greasy or coated with grime, spray on engine degreaser and hose the motor clean on the topside and the underside if possible. There are a variety of degreasers available on the market for purchase. Battery deposits can be cleaned with a solution of baking soda and water.
“The best advice is to have a qualified, certified mechanic inspect the engine prior to resale,” said Sims. “Change the fluids when necessary or top them off if they’re running low. Have belts, hoses and filters checked and replaced if necessary.”
The Mathematics of Repairs
If your RV is in need of repair, Sims says it’s important to determine whether or not the repairs will increase its value. If so, you also need to take into consideration whether an increase in the selling price will help you recoup the money you invested into the repairs in the first place.
“Repairs are costly, bottom line, and I think there’s a great portion of the population who assumes that when they buy used – especially from a private party – there will be some legwork required in getting the RV back to peak condition.”
When it comes to safety or emissions requirements, he suggests having a certified mechanic inspect the vehicle to make sure it meets or exceeds state requirements for roadworthiness.
However, if the RV needs extensive bodywork or if certain features aren’t working, such as the radio or CD-player, air conditioning, heater or other similar components, be sure to research what those repairs would cost, determine whether or not you can increase the price of the vehicle enough to cover those repairs and make your decision accordingly. Sometimes it’s better to knock money off the asking price, inform the buyer of the needed repairs and sell it as-is.
The Importance of Paperwork
If your RV has received routine maintenance and service during the time you owned the vehicle, it’s important for you to demonstrate this fact to a prospective buyer when it comes time to sell it.
Following is a checklist of maintenance documentation Sims suggests you should provide to a potential buyer at the time of resale, whenever possible.
1. Fluid change documentation
2. Tire rotation records
3. Paint or body shop receipts
4. Engine repair paperwork
5. Engine service documentation
6. RV detailing receipts
7. Inspection reports
8. Smog check verification
If your vehicle has been routinely serviced at a dealership and you don’t have the corresponding receipts or documentation, you can call the dealer and ask for a copy of the RV’s service history. If a local mechanic serviced the vehicle, you might be able to contact the facility to obtain the necessary inspection reports and service paperwork if you don’t have the documentation in your possession. Maintenance records are important because they demonstrate to a potential buyer the care the vehicle received during the time you owned it.
Finally, it’s time to market your RV and that involves determining where you plan to advertise it and developing an ad that gets noticed. For starters, the Internet has quickly become an excellent RV selling resource where you can reach hundreds of thousands of potential customers from the convenience of your home or office – for about the same price of traditional advertising, such as a newspaper classified advertisement.
When it comes to developing an ad, Sims says it’s important to include the following information whenever possible:
- Engine size
- Transmission specifications
- Maximum weight and maximum towing capacity
- Equipment and accessories information
- Asking price (firm or negotiable)
- Full color photos (inside and out)
- A detailed description of the vehicle, including floor plan information and interior and exterior colors
- Any other positive attributes a prospective buyer might find appealing
Finally, if you want, place your ad in a variety of locations, including online listings and traditional classifieds to extend your reach to as many prospective buyers as possible.
“If you have the time and you’re willing to do the legwork, selling your RV on your own can be a fun and rewarding process,” said Sims.
To research pricing and specification information for virtually every RV on the market today, visit
and click on the RV’s link at the top of the home page of the company’s website.