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How to Sell an RV for more


I’ll admit right from the get-go that writing this article was a strange experience for me. My daily role at historically involves a singular goal: helping people find and buy the best RV for them for the least amount of money. But here I went against the grain and offered some noteworthy tips to help people sell an RV. It just didn’t feel right. If you’ve ever found yourself behind the wheel of a rental car in England and driving on the wrong side of the road, you’ll have an idea what I had to deal with. Chances are you adapted quickly and simply employed your existing skills in an unfamiliar way. Hopefully, you reached your destination without any mangled metal or traumatized passengers. On a much lesser scale that’s what I attempted to do here and I hope I’ve succeeded.

Part One: Take a good, hard look at your RV.

siesta-motorhome-reviewThere is an old joke that says the two happiest days of an RV owner’s life are the day they buy their RV and the day they sell their RV. This quip is often employed in relation to other possessions, too: boats, Porsches, time share condos, and so on.

If you’ve already managed to buy an RV and are now considering your other happiest day -selling your RV- then the following may be of interest.

There are usually only three reasons to sell an RV: 

  1. Your usage of this luxury item has dropped for a variety of reasons and now you want to reclaim the considerable space it takes up in the garage, driveway or yard. Or, the amount you spend on insurance, maintenance and storage no longer justifies the amount of pleasure you get in return.
  2. You’re ready for an upgrade -or downgrade, if you’re downsizing. You still like the RV lifestyle but want to do it in another vehicle that better meets your current needs.
  3. Financial concerns necessitate a sale.

Typically, the first two reasons will result in a higher return on investment. It may take longer to find a buyer, but you will be negotiating from a position of some power and can hold out for the best offer. The third reason often finds the seller at the mercy of a potential buyer and may end with a seller accepting a cringe worthy low-ball offer out of desperation. Hopefully you’re in one of the first two categories, but for those in the less than ideal number three, take heart, there are ways to limit the damage, which we’ll discuss in more detail a bit later.

First of all, let’s go back in time to the theoretically happiest day of your life: the day you bought your RV. Obviously, you had an unlimited number of RVs to choose from, and yet you chose this one. Chances are there were a few key features that drew you to this specific unit. What were they? Reputation of the manufacturer? Interior décor? A great price? A perfect floor plan? Detailed maintenance records? Some nifty features or amenities? All of the above?

Whatever led you to buy this RV from a choice of thousands should be used to entice the next owner. Spend a few minutes jotting down the things that appealed to you originally. If you can plumb your own depths and determine what lured you to this particular RV, you can make sure to bait the hook accordingly. 

While you’re chatting with your former self, ask yourself if there was anything that gave you pause before the purchase? Stained upholstery? Worn tires? Fading front caps? Uncomfortable mattresses? Cheap appliances? Shoddy fit and finish? Were these addressed during your ownership or do they persist? Have they worsened? If so, spending the money to rectify them now may pay off when you sell. Understanding that the next buyer will travel the exact same path you did is an important point to remember. Ideally you want to remove as many cons (or obstacles) as possible –especially if they have become more significant during your tenure. Turning a drawback like sketchy tires in to a selling point (new tires!) can prove to be money well spent and an easy fix. 

Some things, though, like fading front caps, tend to degrade to a certain point but then don’t get any worse. They also don’t affect the safety or use of the RV in any way. A full re-spray can be very expensive if done properly (especially if large stickers or graphics are involved) and the benefit will be merely superficial. A re-spray done cheaply or by an inexperienced painter will usually look worse than the original faded patina and may turn a minor con in to a significant turn-off.

Proceed carefully with major repairs if they’re of a strictly aesthetic nature. As odd as it sounds, sometimes it’s to your advantage to leave the deficient item as it is and just lower your selling price. People love to get a deal and if they can get a bargain price on a nice RV because of some faded exterior finish, there’s plenty of buyers who will leap at the chance. Let the buyer decide if they want to address a paint re-spray (and the resultant headaches if it’s not done correctly) or just take advantage of the discounted price and leave it alone. Sometimes leaving an obvious defect alone is the way to go. You’ll have to consider both sides of the coin. If you have some time (i.e. winter isn’t closing in quickly) you can also list the RV with the defect for a few weeks. You may fix the defect and re-list it at a price that covers the cost if no one bites.

If you determine that a professional paint job will cost $1,000 and enable you to ask (and get) an extra $2,000, it might be worth your time to have the work done on your watch. However, if a paint job is going to cost $1,000 and an honest appraisal reveals it may only result in an extra $1,000 when you sell, it may be prudent to leave it alone and let the next guy deal with it. True, you’ll get less, but you’ll also have spent less. You may get an idea on how much your RV is worth on NADA Guides.

More on How to Sell an RV for more

There are a few things that should be addressed no matter what: Leaks of any kind, nonworking A/C, stained or very worn fabrics or carpeting, or an engine or transmission issue. While this may seem to be an odd assortment of issues (including both minor and major concerns), these are the top turn-offs we’ve received from our customers over the course of the past ten years. We know of many RVs that have sold with a non-functioning heater (and buyers who shrugged at the news), but we can think of very few RVs that sold in the summer months without a working air conditioner. A broken A/C will turn off buyers in droves and a broken heating system may not even require a lower selling price. People are funny sometimes but they do tend to follow the same patterns. 

Next week: Selling an RV in 10 seconds or less.