How to Determine the Right Price for a Used RV


It’s getting to be that time again, and the weather is looking pretty nice for camping and RV adventures. Looking to get a new RV for yourself, but you’re willing to try out the gamble of the used RV market?

It can be pretty tricky finding the right price for a used RV when people might consider different RVs to be at different values, and it’s important that you don’t get swindled when getting ready to purchase that used RV.

Well, you’ve come to the right place. I’m going to help you to get the best out of that gamble for used RVs and help you to find all of the best prices.

Do Your Research

The most important part of the process of buying anything used is doing your research. You don’t want to buy a nice looking RV only to find out later that it wasn’t exactly what you were looking for. Research all of the different types of RVs, how they might fit your camping style, the different places that you can buy a used RV, and what makes a good quality, used RV.

There are plenty of options out there to get a used RV, but you want to be able to find the cheapest price you can get but still a great quality. Do your research to figure out what places will be able to get you the best bang for your buck.

It’s easy to immediately think of local RV dealers and maybe some listings in the newspapers or that you’ve seen floating around the neighborhood or on Facebook, but don’t be afraid to reach out a little further with your search, including online options. Some good options include online RV forums, different RV sites, and even searching out of state.

Visiting the RV Forums

I don’t know about you, but when I first started out in the RV world, I thought that I must be too good for the forums; that’s for all of the RV-obsessed people, and I definitely haven’t reached that level yet.

Want to know a secret? I was wrong.

The RV forums are probably the most reliable place to get information about RVs just because the posts are and comments are usually from experienced RVers. They’ll be able to give you all of the tips and secrets that you might have never considered otherwise about RVs.

Sure, there might be some forums where you have to dig a little bit to find the real gems, and it will be obvious when you’re dealing with someone experienced compared to someone who just started out on the RV life, but forums are easily the best field of easy information out there.

Anyways, finding a good RV forum could help you find some great ideas for where to look for used RVs, what to look for in a used RVs, and also things to look out for when buying a used RV. One that I’ve come to love specifically is RV.net

RV Trader

Another great place to search is RVTrader.com to find great prices for used RVs. This is honestly one of my favorite sites to use when I’m looking into pricing information for RVs in general or when I’m ready to sell an RV.

You can also use the site to see if you have the best price out there for the RV you’re planning to buy before you go through with the sale, but we’ll get into more of that later.

With RVTrader.com, you can search by specific brands, models, or even by location; and they’ll give you the best price they can find and ensure for you that it will be the best quality as well. But… you still will want to check on that quality for yourself as well just to be sure.

Try changing around the location or not even putting in a location when you use this site. Most likely, you’ll end up finding a much cheaper option in a different state even with the added expenses of having to travel a bit to go pick it up. Believe me, the travel will be worth it, and really, who doesn’t love a road trip?

(Note to reader: If you just answered no to the question about liking road trips, are you really sure that buying an RV is right for you? Or maybe you’re just going to be using it for camping trips that won’t require a lot of driving and you prefer to limit the time behind the wheel as much as possible. If that is the case, please ignore this note entirely and continue reading.)

Try Out the RV Trade Shows

Now, it’s going to be really tempting to buy the RV new, right from the trade show just because they look so new, shiny, and exciting; but I promise that the trade shows will not have the best prices for you.

No, I’m not suggesting that you go to buy an RV from an RV trade show, but it will help to give you a good idea of what exactly you want in an RV and the specific models that you are most interested in.

If you go into the RV trade show just to scout it out a bit, it will give you some great ideas. It also helps to talk to some of the people around the show, maybe bounce ideas off each other, and make some lists (at least in your head) about the pros and cons about each model of RV that interests you.

How to Tell if You Can Trust The Seller

Not only is it important to research the best places to get an RV as well as what to look for in a used RV when trying to make sure you’re getting the right price for a used RV, but it’s important to research the seller or dealer as well. Doing a little bit of background searching could do as much as saving you from a sneaky swindle or overpaying for something you had expected to be slightly better quality.

Not that it happens often. There really are a lot nicer and honest RV sellers or dealers than dishonest, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

Check to see if the seller or dealer might have any bad reviews or if people might have any tricks for that specific dealer or seller for when it comes to negotiating the price.

Feel free to get to know them a bit and see if they have a good personality or more of a sort of slippery personality. Is it easy to contact them, and do they seem straightforward with their replies or do they seem to be hiding something?

Check if they have a lot of experience with RVs or just a little. Ask them why they’re selling the RV and what they plan to do afterward.

If you’re planning on buying the used RV from a dealership, look up the dealership on Better Business Bureau and see how they’re rated and whether anyone has left any comments or reviews about that specific dealership.

Doing the background research on your RV dealer or seller can really help you to fully ensure that you’ll be working with an honest person who only wants to make a good deal on selling the used RV without trying to pull any tricks on you with the sale. It will also help ensure that you really are getting the right price, rather than an overpriced, on the used RV.

Your First Option Isn’t Always Your Best Pick

Now that we have gotten through the research part of finding the right price for a used RV, we can move onto the big boy rules and tips of making sure you get the right, and best, price.

Rule number one of finding the best price you can get for a used RV: remove those excitement blinders. Do not let the excitement blind you from seeing the reality of exactly how “used” your used RV is going to be.

One of the most important things I can tell you about buying any form of RV is that you should never go with “love at first sight,” especially if you’re only going off of what you see of it online (we’ll get into why it’s important to see it in person later).

It’s a good idea to shop around when searching for a used RV to buy to make sure you know all of your options and you aren’t missing out on a really great deal that you might have never known about otherwise. A good way to do this will be to compare the prices and values of used RVs.

Sure, you can make a list of favorites as you look around, and maybe the first one you look at will end up being the number one pick, but won’t it feel good to know that there wasn’t some magical deal just lurking in the background for you to spot it the entire time?

But don’t be worried if you do end up picking out a completely different RV from a different seller or dealer then you had originally planned. Just be sure to do the price comparison process before completing or confirming the purchase.

Comparing Prices and Values

Like I just said, a useful thing to consider when trying to find the best price for a used RV is comparing prices and values. This will help ensure that you are definitely getting the best price out there for a used RV instead of sticking yourself to the very first price you find and assuming that’s the best you’ll ever be able to get.

A good tool to find what the average price of your ideal RV should be is the NADA Guides, which will tell you the best fair market value and price for the specific make and model of RV that you’re looking for.

What is Fair Market Value?

The fair market value (FMV) is different from the intrinsic value, or the personal value, of the RV, so try not to get that confused when you’re working on finding the right price for a used RV.

As that is, both the FMV and the intrinsic value will help you determine whether or not the seller or dealer is really offering the right price for the RV or if you should be able to get it for a lower price.

Basically, the FMV is the basic value of a used RV in good condition that would be agreed upon if it was being sold by a reasonable seller who doesn’t absolutely need the money and being bought by a reasonable buyer who can be comfortable with any price and doesn’t absolutely need the RV.

Translation: Fair market value is the price that would be set and agreed upon if both buyer and seller were entirely un-pressured.

Typically, the FMV is calculated by comparing the prices of what others have paid for something comparable, but that can get messy really fast, so the NADA guides have prepared all of that information for you already to make things more convenient for RV buyers and sellers.

Now, one thing to keep in mind is that the NADA guides are good at giving you a pretty good starting price for what you should be looking for in terms of pricing and value in an RV, but you can usually find better deals elsewhere, and don’t be afraid to negotiate off of that price.

It’s also important to consider other factors like the overall condition and age of the RV when determining the value of the RV.

But Don’t Stop There

Another tool that I mentioned earlier is RVTrader.com, which can be a great site for comparing prices for different options for used RVs. As long as you know the exact make and model of the RV that you’re looking into, you can use that information to see who else might be out there selling the same RV for a better price.

Sometimes, you could even end up saving a few thousand dollars just from comparing other prices. Would that be great or what?

What to Expect Out of a Used RV

Now that you’ve done your research and have found one or two likely candidates for your next used RV, it’s a good time to consider what exactly to look for and check out when you go to pick it up. Hint: always check it out in person before finalizing the purchase when possible.

I don’t know about you, but I get pretty excited when I’m going to buy an RV, or pretty much anything really.

I remember the first time I went with my brother to pick up a used pop-up trailer we had found on eBay, and we were both so excited to get our first trailer ever–granted we were both pretty young adults at the time–that we didn’t even think to take a look at the inside and just assumed that we were getting a great trailer for a super cheap price.

We realized once we got home that there were some pretty good reasons for that super cheap price and that the pop-up trailer was going to take a little more work than we had been first expecting.

Please, learn from my mistake and take the time to inspect the entire RV before you buy it and know exactly what to look for. Sure, a used RV might have a few dings and scratches, but unless you’re looking for a fixer-upper, make sure that the possible issues and signs of age aren’t more than you can handle.

Be sure to check out both the exterior and interior. Does there seem to be anything that has been hastily fixed or covered up that could end up being a problem over time? Is there any structural damage? Are there any wiring issues? Is there any water damage?

For further information on what to check out on the RV when you’re buying it used, you can take a look at this helpful video that will tell you all about what to look out for when purchasing a used RV.

As you might have been able to tell with the video, it is very important to pay attention to the smaller details in and around the RV. Most likely, the person you’re buying it from would have been expecting you to inspect it at least a little bit and won’t give you any weird looks when you ask to check it out.

Honestly, they’d have to be pretty new at the whole RV life and business if they did otherwise, and if that’s the case, be sure to pay close attention to the condition and value of the RV and how well it matches the price.

Anyways, another great benefit of checking out the smaller details is that it will give you a good reason to stick with your choice or walk away as well as a good list of support behind your negotiations. We’ll get into that in a little bit.

You should also be sure to ask the seller or dealer whether or not there might be any issues you should be aware of as well as any recent repairs or upgrades they might have done to the RV. Really, this question can also serve as a test of the seller’s honesty, and an honest seller is definitely something you’ll want when trying to find the best price for a used RV.

Don’t Be Afraid to Negotiate the Price

Alright. Now, we have come to my favorite tip for finding the best prices for a used RV: negotiating. Actually, to be completely honest, I’m pretty bad at negotiating, myself, just because I’m afraid of going too far, but I can truly tell you that negotiating will definitely help you to get a better price for the used RV.

Did you know that some RV dealers will mark up their prices as much as 50% (not that that high of markup is super common) and get away with the higher price just because the buyer wasn’t brave enough to try to negotiate? Of course, they don’t do this because they’re relatively sneaky people, but they do it because they’re looking to negotiate with the buyer.

If you learn anything from this article on how to find the best price for a used RV, let it be this. Don’t be one of those schmucks who fall for those high prices without even trying to negotiate.

I know it can be scary and a bit intimidating, but it will most likely end up being highly beneficial for your wallet when you’re done. So here’s what you do:

  1. Do your research (does this sound familiar?): RV dealers and sellers will be able to tell the difference between a buyer who has no idea what they’re talking about and just wants a ridiculously low price and a buyer who knows a lot about RVs, how to tell their value, and how to justify the low price they’re trying to get the RV for.
  2. Be friendly: Really, this should be a rule for you in general, but an RV dealer or seller is more likely to be willing to negotiate and give a better deal to someone who feels like a friend.
  3. Don’t be afraid to take risks: Bravery and confidence are key in negotiations. Start low in your negotiation, not so low that the seller gets offended, but maybe as low as half or three-quarters of the price if you want. Just be sure to justify your numbers with real information and be willing to go back and forth and be flexible.
  4. Be realistic in your negotiations: If you are trying to buy a used pop-up trailer, you probably won’t have much room to negotiate, but larger RVs will tend to have a bit more wiggle room. Also, if the price is already pretty low, there’s probably not much need for negotiation.
  5. Don’t be afraid to walk away: If it doesn’t feel like the deal is right for you or you don’t feel comfortable, just walk away from it. Maybe you’ll come back to it later, maybe not. More often than not, though, if the dealer or seller sees you starting to walk away, they’ll try to lower the price for you to make you stay.

What to Do Once You’ve Finalized the Purchase

So, you’ve found your dream used RV, you have a good plan for negotiating the price to something low enough to fit your budget, but what do you do now?

Okay, disconnected note: do you remember those days when back to school shopping was a thing, and it was important to get only the best sales and deals? Well, if you ever looked at the bottom of your receipt where it said “total saved,” and it had a great amount, it was always the most exciting thing ever…. Or at least, I always loved seeing how much money I saved at the end of a huge shopping trip.

Why does this matter? Well, this is exactly what you should do once you’ve finalized your purchase. Remember those RV trade shows and RVTrader.com that I mentioned earlier?

Now you can go back to those notes that you took when doing your initial research and take a look at the prices of all of the new RVs, especially the specific one that you purchased.

Next, you’re going to find the difference between the amount you could have spent with buying a brand new RV and the amount you actually ended up spending. Instead of simply getting excited about all of that money that you were able to save, you can set it aside (either mentally or in reality) in a separate bank account that you could save specifically for RV repairs and upgrades.

That way, you have a specific RV fund that you can pull from whenever necessary without feeling bad about it because it’s from the money that you would have spent on an RV anyway had you splurged and bought a new RV.

Seriously, how nice would that be? Doesn’t it make the idea of buying a used RV sound so much more exciting than it already was?

Honestly, though, this is an important step to take when buying a used RV because most likely, you’ll be needing to do some repairs along the way anyways just because you’re basically buying the RV at its half-life. This way, you’re more prepared for those repairs in the future.

Extra Tips

For more information on how to find the best price for a used RV without burning through your wallet, you can look through this book on Amazon.

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