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Maximize Your RV’s Value: Expert Tips For Selling Your RV

Published on July 14th, 2023 by Peggy Dent

RVs in site, image for selling your RV

The Ultimate Guide to Selling Your RV for Maximum Profit

When you’re finished with your RV, it’s time to decide what you’re going to do with it. Selling your RV can be confusing, but there are steps to get the best price possible. These tips will guide you in pricing and selling your RV.

Get a valuation in today’s market

The first tip for pricing and selling your RV is to get an accurate valuation in today’s market. It doesn’t matter how much you paid for your RV ten years ago or what a dealer thought it might be worth as a trade-in last year. You need to know the value of your RV today, in its current condition.

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There is no Kelley Blue Book for RVs. The only resource where you can do any research is JD Power. But (as you know) RVs have many different features, and the current value of every feature changes constantly. So even if you use JD Power’s RV valuation platform, you still won’t know what your RV is worth right now because their database can’t keep up with the day-to-day changes or regional variations.

The current value of your RV will help you decide your next course of action. But there is virtually no way to accurately determine your RV’s value on your own. Fortunately, there is a company that can help.

Get a free valuation from National Vehicle

National Vehicle is a firm whose only job is to assist for-sale-by-owner RVers value and sell their campers, vans, travel trailers, fifth wheels, and motorhomes to private buyers. Over the years, they have helped thousands of RVers do just that. This gives them an intimate knowledge of the used RV market and the current value of every feature and every type of recreational vehicle. In fact, they’re experts at knowing what the private market conditions are at any given time and in every region of the country.

If you want to know what your RV is worth today, contact them through their website. After interviewing you regarding your RV’s make, model, age, floorplan, condition, features, and upgrades, they’ll send you a written valuation so you can confidently put a price on your RV when you’re ready to sell it. Additionally, they’ll provide free tips for pricing and selling your RV in the private marketplace if that’s the right decision for you.

vans and trailers are popular choices in the secondary market follow these tips for pricing and selling your RV
Camper vans are a popular choice in the secondary market. Photo by P. Dent

Take the time to prep your RV 

The next step to maximize your profit is to take the time to prep your RV for sale. That means you will need to spend some time (and possibly some money) to clean, detail, and repair minor defects.

Take all your personal belongings out of the RV, so it’s not cluttered when you take pictures. Clean it thoroughly, from top to bottom on the inside and outside. If the outside is oxidized, then so be it, but you can still wash and wax it to minimize the impact of the oxidation.

Also, while you’re cleaning your RV, make a note of all the little things that need extra attention or minor repairs, then circle back and take care of those issues. If a window shade string is frayed, replace it. Take all the window screens off and wash them. Recaulk the roof vents and seals. Scrub the tires and wheels and vacuum out all the basement compartments.

photo of the galley in a motorhome that has been decluttered and prepped for photography
Remove clutter and prep the area for good photos. The more light in the shot, the better. Photo by P. Dent

Make your RV look like new

Keep in mind that most people will not buy a dented can of olives in the grocery store if an undented can is available. It’s human nature to want to buy things that look like they’re brand new. That’s your goal when you’re prepping your RV for sale. Clean it, detail it, and fix anything you can afford to fix.

In the photos, it needs to look as close to brand new as possible, but that’s not enough. When a prospective buyer finally does inspect your RV in person, it should look as good in reality, as it does in the photographs.

There’s a buyer for every kind of RV

As a side note for those of you who do not have a classic RV product for sale, be assured that there is a buyer in the private marketplace for virtually every kind of RV. Even if yours is not a premium model, there are still potential buyers who may be interested in it.

One woman I know bought a 40-year-old Airstream trailer that was full of cat feces and dead rats. The window shades had rotted away to shreds, and none of the appliances or fixtures worked. She bought it as a project, and she and her husband took it apart, all the way down to the frame, then rebuilt it from the frame up.

You might have a busser (a converted old school bus) that you customized into a motorhome, or your RV has some obvious damage that has never been repaired. These rigs are like the dented can of olives. Most people will not be interested in them, but in the vastness of the whole country, there are some folks who are looking for something offbeat, or they’re searching for a great value on an RV fixer-upper.

There’s always an opportunity to sell an offbeat RV in the private marketplace, but it may take longer, so you’ll need more patience, and you may need to lower your price to make an offbeat RV more appealing. The people at National Vehicle can advise you regarding your best course of action.

A semi truck engine towing a huge 5th wheel trailer.
There’s a buyer in the secondary market for every type of RV including the big ones. Photo by P. Dent

Note all upgrades and features

Another tip for pricing and selling your RV is to make a note of every upgrade in your RV, whether you installed the upgrade, it was done at the time the RV was purchased, or it was a feature included in your model by the manufacturer.

For example, if you bought your RV with an all-weather package that includes a fully enclosed and heated undercarriage, then be sure to include that in your written description. If it has an outside entertainment center, or lithium batteries, or a heavy-duty stabilizer bar, or an invisible bra, or anything else that increases its value, be sure to list it in the description and take a picture of the upgrade if possible.

In fact, you need to carefully list every detail of your RV in the written description because every detail counts. The size of the water heater and generator, and whether the air conditioner unit includes a heat pump, can be a deciding factor for some buyers. All the details matter.

Every detail counts

There is an anecdote about a man who was shopping for a refrigerator. He was shown a particular model in one store, and he really liked it, but told the salesman he wanted to check one more place. A couple of hours later, he returned and informed the salesman that he really liked that model, so he bought that very same one at the other store. He said the reason he paid a little more for the same model at the second store was that the refrigerator came with a light that illuminated every time the door was opened. Of course, we know that all refrigerators are equipped with this feature, but the first salesperson took it for granted and neglected to make it a selling point.

For this reason, you need to describe your RV completely because every detail counts. Don’t generalize, don’t assume, and don’t take anything for granted. If you’re not sure what equipment to include in this list, read the manufacturer’s descriptions of your type of RV. In fact, it would be wise to make this list of features before you reach out for your free valuation because all the extras add value to your RV, and the staff at National Vehicle will be relying on you to fully inform them of how your RV is equipped.

the stainless sink in an RV
Prepping for good photos and fully describing all the features will help you sell your RV faster and for more money. Photo by P. Dent

Have service records available

Along with a list of all the details of your RV, be sure to gather up all your service records and have them available for a prospective buyer. If your RV was (or is) covered by an extended warranty and there’s still time left on the warranty, find out if it is transferable. If it is, be sure to list how much time is still available on the warranty and include it in your description.

Your service documentation will inform a prospective buyer if there were any unique problems with the RV and how those problems were rectified. They will also want to confirm that while you owned the RV, it was properly maintained.

Take excellent photos

This tip for pricing and selling your RV is so obvious it seems like it doesn’t need to be mentioned until you start looking at RVs for sale in publications like RV Trader. It is amazing how horrible and incomplete the photos are in some of the ads. Many of the photos are dark and gloomy, out of focus, upside down, sideways, or the pictures are of a dirty, cluttered RV. In some ads, the photos are such a limited representation of the RV that you’re left wondering what the seller is trying to hide.

You don’t know what a prospective buyer may want to see. Perhaps the basements, or bathroom, or the hitch, or the outdoor kitchen are of particular interest to a buyer. If you don’t bother to provide photos of those features, the buyer may wonder why you didn’t.

a huge stuffed toy on the dashboard of a motorhome
It could be a good idea to grab the attention of RV shoppers with an off-beat photo. Photo P. Dent

Stage your photographs

When taking pictures of your RV, always err on the side of too much information, rather than too little. Remember the man who bought a refrigerator because it had a light? Don’t assume buyers are familiar with the appointments and features of your particular RV brand and model. Instead, you should assume they know nothing about your RV. The burden is on you to show them with well-lit, in-focus photos.

Stage every photograph to be clutter-free, well-lit, centered, and in focus, with an uncluttered background. Don’t leave anything out. You can even provide pictures of the wastewater cleanout valves, the roof, inside the refrigerator, the tires & wheels, and inside the water heater compartment, etc.

Take photos of every side of the RV with the slides in and out, with the awning extended and retracted. Take pictures of the dashboard and controls if it’s a motorhome or van. And always take pictures on a bright sunny day, just like the kind of day your prospective buyers are dreaming about when they finally go camping in their new RV for the first time.

A puppy sleeping in front of a fireplace in an RV
Show all the features of your RV, and remember you’re selling to a private person, so be relatable. Photo by P. Dent

Sell in the private marketplace

When it comes to selling your RV, there are basically only three ways to sell it. Two of them will cost you a significant percentage of the sales price.

Method 1

You can sell your RV outright to a dealer or use it as a trade-in on a different RV. That option may be the easiest way to get rid of your RV, but it will cost you roughly 20% of its total value. If your travel trailer or motorhome is a high-end, relatively new RV, that 20% fee could cost you $20,000, $30,000 or more.

Method 2

The second way to sell your RV is to put it on a consignment lot, but that is a slower option and will cost you 7% to 10% of the total selling price. The consignment lot staff will handle most of the advertising and negotiation with prospective buyers, but they don’t have an intimate knowledge of your RV, and their goal is to sell any RV on the lot, not necessarily yours. Additionally, having your RV on a consignment lot exposes it to vandalism and theft, and you won’t be able to sell it yourself or use it while it’s under a consignment contract.

Method 3

The third way to sell your RV is through private marketplace to a buyer, but there is a correct and incorrect approach to this.

The wrong way

The wrong way to sell your RV in the private market is to park it on your property with a “for sale” sign in the window and wait for a passing motorist to call you. This is such an ineffective method to sell an RV to a private buyer that it’s hardly worth mentioning, but unfortunately, many people don’t know any other way. They think this is their only option if they don’t want to forfeit the 7% to 20% commission. They guess what price to use, only advertise locally in free publications, don’t document all the amenities of the RV, don’t prep it for sale, aren’t readily available to discuss it, and slowly develop a bad attitude as their frustrations grow.

At least these frustrated private sellers are right about one thing. The private marketplace is the best place to sell an RV, but they’re going about it all wrong. 

a for sale sign in the window of a motorhome
Putting a sign in the window and hoping someone will see it is the worst way to sell an RV. Photo by P. Dent
The right way to sell your RV privately

Private sales provide the greatest return, and if you do it correctly by following these tips for pricing and selling your RV, it will sell more quickly because it will be seen by the maximum number of prospective buyers.

The quickest and easiest way to take advantage of all that the private marketplace has to offer is to utilize the expertise of National Vehicle. For a small fee, they’ll walk you through the process, create compelling visual ads for your RV, and place the ads in all the national RV publications where people routinely search for RVs. They help and guide you through every step. Their free accurate pre-sale valuation lets you confidently price your RV for today’s market conditions. This helps sell your RV quickly but still maximize your return. They even provide tips to guide you through the negotiation process with prospective buyers.

To help you quickly sell your RV, National Vehicle even helps buyers secure financing and/or a vehicle inspection, if needed.

When you work with National Vehicle, your RV is exposed to buyers across the country. This will greatly increase your chances of selling it. You can receive calls from eager buyers nationwide, not just locals passing by your driveway.

Use the fair market price

The final tip for pricing and selling your RV is to negotiate in earnest. That starts with listing your RV at its fair market price. Your free valuation will inform you what that price range should be.

It doesn’t matter what you paid for it, how much you still owe, or how much you need to get out of the sale. The only way to quickly sell your RV in the private market is to list it at its fair market price.

Your RV will be competing with thousands of other RVs for sale. Listing it at an exorbitant price will simply disqualify it from further consideration in the minds of prospective buyers.

Negotiate in earnest

The next step is to be readily available to talk with prospective buyers. When you do talk with them, be candid and honest. Your candor will go a long way towards building a trusting relationship. Remember, people buy from people, and more specifically, they buy from people they like and trust.

On the flip side of that, they don’t buy from people they don’t like and don’t trust. Therefore, you need to work hard to build a trusting relationship from the very beginning by being polite, helpful, truthful, and courteous. You don’t need to share your personal life story, but you do need to openly share all the details about your RV’s history, use, condition, features, and defects.

Prospective buyers will appreciate your candor. Coupled with your comprehensive photos and written description, and National Vehicle’s buyer’s services (i.e., help with a vehicle inspection and financing), they will be ready to buy your RV because you’ve eliminated all the pre-purchase roadblocks.

a unique European motorhome
The unique style of this imported European motorhome will generate a lot of interest in the private marketplace if it’s presented correctly. Photo by P. Dent

So, when you’re ready to sell your RV… 

  • Take your time to prep, document, and photograph it.
  • Follow all these expert tips for pricing and selling your RV.
  • Contact National Vehicle for a free valuation.
  • Then follow their well established procedures that have helped thousands of for-sale-by-owner RVers just like you.

If you follow these tips, I’m confident you’ll sell your RV quickly and safely, at the best price.

Get tips from other RVers

RVers looking for valuable how-to information have learned to go to the experts. Forums such as iRV2.com provide all the information you need to enjoy your RV. You’ll also find brand-specific information on additional forums like Air Forums, Forest River Forums, and Jayco Owners Forum.




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