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How to Check What an Rv Is Really Worth?

Updated on June 7, 2021
Don Bobbitt profile image

Don has been an avid traveler and motorhome owner for most of his life and he shares his experiences along with valuable tips for RV owners.

Everybody's Dream RV

Everybody has a Different Dream RV.
Everybody has a Different Dream RV.

Do You Really Want An RV?

At one time or another almost every couple will want to travel and experience the Great Outdoors in America, and a surprisingly large number of them want to do it in a camper that' loaded with all of the luxuries and amenities they can get to make their travels luxurious events.

Lately, there are so many of RV owners who travel and camp in luxurious Recreation Vehicles, that there is a new name for this lifestyle. It's called GLAMPING, or glamor camping.

To make sure you are being offered one at a great price, you will need to be able to find what the RV industry says is a fair price, and not necessarily the price hat the dealer might ask you to pay.

First, Know What You Can Afford

Every RV owner will tell you that you need to take the time necessary and sit down with your spouse or significant other; and do a serious analysis of your family finances.

Doing this is critical before the smart shopper makes any potential RV purchase; because once you do this you will know just how much money your financial situation awill allow you to spend on a new or used RV.

Even before you go out, shake a salesman's hand and have him walk you through his inventory of new and used campers, you need to be financially honest with yourselves, because both You and your Spouse need to determine your "Financial Limit" for purchasing any RV.

Two Numbers You need to know

An RV is not a cheap item to purchase for most of us, and you need to know just how much CASH you want to use for a down payment. Once you have figured this out, you need to make the calculations on your personal finances to determine just how much you can afford to finance for any RV that you may try to purchase.

Once you determine these two numbers, you need to firmly stick to them as your potential RV purchase limits. Do not let any sales-person talk you into deviating from your true financial limits.

I recommend that you actually write these numbers onto a piece of paper and keep that little piece of paper with you at all times while shopping for an RV, as a reminder of the reality of your personal financial limits.

Your Dream RV may or may not fit your financial reality, but remember that you have already calculated what you can afford and any higher cost is likely going to put a long term financial stress on your family's future lifestyle.

How much is that New or Used RV worth?

Don't let those numbers you calculated as your financial limits scare you off from your quest for an RV yet; remember there are more USED RVs out there on the market than there are NEW ones; just be a smart and make yourself a dedicated shopper. with a realistic end goal.

You Can Learn a Lot On The Internet.

There are so many RV dealerships with their own websites and they mane it easy for you to find and then examine their available products. You can examine each advertised RV right on the web, and check out the amenities on each one along with the specifications as well as the dealer's desired price.

Using the web beforehand can save you a lot of time in your search, and it can save you a lot of money.

Here are some generalities about what you can expect to see on these RV Dealer sites, as far as pricing is concerned.

Do not be that wealthy person who will just walks in and writes a check for anywhere between $200K and $500K (or more?) and purchases what can be an average to high quality motorhome. While this may be the average motorhome market price, if this person had tried to deal a little, they will most likely have gotten that camper for lot less.

You should know that the vast majority of first time RV purchases are for travel trailers, fifth-wheelers, and small motorhomes who's price can run from as low as $20K for a small travel trailer, to $50K for a small Fifth-wheeler, to $75K-$150K for a small Class-C (or small Class-B) motorhome.

Of course, with the luxury versions of motorhomes and other RV designs, you will find that they have much higher prices depending on which the luxuries and amenities are actually included in the RV.

There are so many things that can make an RV more or less expensive than another, that I'll just mention a few of these variables here, such as;

  • manufactured quality,
  • manufacturer brand reputation,
  • included amenities and luxuries installed,
  • age of the unit,
  • mileage on the drivetrain
  • and other such variables.

Use both NADA and KBB

You may already know this, but there are two sources you need to utilize when you are looking at used RVs, and they are NADA (national Automobile Dealers Association), and KBB (Kelly Blue Book).

The sites for both of these sources have a section that includes RV pricing.

Dealers pay for using the monthly updated pricing that these companies provide to them.

Essentially, these two companies collect local dealers actual sales over the past and then they provide this data for other dealers to reference, so that they know just what they can use as actual recent pricing when a customer wants to purchase an RV.

Pricing Data You can also Use

The great thing is that anyone can log onto these two sites and get the top level data on pricing for just about any used RV ever manufactured.

Of course, the dealers get more detailed data, but if you want toe top level pricing information on an RV you see listed for sale, you should always go onto these two sites and get the latest pricing numbers.

Make a List of Questions for the Dealer

I highly recommend that anyone searching for an RV, make a list of questions before they talk to any Sales person; whether you are going to talk about generalities on the phone, or if you are finally at a dealership, looking at which RVs they have to offer.

Some pertinent questions for you are;

  • What is the Retail price of the RV - You can check their numbers against the Retail Price you will have seen yourself on KBB or NADA.
  • What discounts are they offering - Never pay the retail price, if they really want to sell you an RV, and they think you are a good potential buyer, they will significantly discount their pricing below this number.
  • What is the mileage on the RV -The higher the actual mileage, the lower their price should be. You should get a motorhome type RV with Low mileage on it.
  • What is the warranty they are offering - Make sure the dealership provides you with some type of Warranty. If a particular RV is in as good a condition as they will tell you, then they should not have a problem providing you with some level of guarantee.
  • What problems are there with the RV they are offering you - Always ask about potential problems and make sure that you note any they mention on your sales contract.
  • What accessories are coming with the RV - You should make they give you the hitch and hitch accessories for you to tow a car if you are purchasing a motorhome. You should also get fresh water hoses, sewage hoses, and other such hookup campsite equipment with the RV.
  • Do they perform Serice on the RVs they sell? - Find out what services they performed on the RV - Your RV should be fully serviced, inside and out before you finalize your deal.
  • How much will the RV worth after you purchase it. - New RVs depreciate by as much as 20% after they are purchased, and this could be tens of thousands of dollars, so you should fight for more of a discount than what they will typically offer.
  • And More.

The Reality of RV Values and Loans

An RV's value depreciates regularly over its useful life, so be prepared for this annual loss in value, especially if you think you may trade it in for a newer one in the future.

Even though you may be offered a loan that is for as long as 20-years, the reality is that once an RV gets into the 15-year-old age range, its value is going to be down to where it is considered to only have what they call a "Scrap Value".

All Banks do not loan money on RVs, so you will often have to count on the dealer using one of their select loan companies. Be aware that even these loan institutions rarely finance an RV over around 5 years old.

Interest rates on RVs will often be several points higher than the going rates that you may see for automobile loans with your local bank.

The financial institutions that will loan money on an RV will typically ask for at least 20% of their price as a down payment.

Make Your RV Search Simple

In Summary, once you know what you can afford to purchase an Rv, the search for that perfect unit can be a much simpler process. And you will get an RV that suits your lifestyle and you can afford.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


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    • Don Bobbitt profile imageAUTHOR

      Don Bobbitt 

      14 months ago from Ruskin Florida

      Liz - That's the great thing about having an RV; you can load up and go when you want to and your travels can be very economical when you have your "home on wheels" with you. LOL!

      You have a Great Day, Liz,


    • Eurofile profile image

      Liz Westwood 

      14 months ago from UK

      This is a very helpful article for anyone thinking of purchasing a used RV. I suspect that there could be an upturn in sales post pandemic, as vacations in RVs grow in popularity. Those with RVs in the UK will find it much easier to get away than others who are dependant on the hospitality industry.

    • Mr Archer profile image

      Mr Archer 

      14 months ago from Missouri

      LOL Don! We literally, this week, bought a used pop up. We purchased a new travel trailer in early 2016,then sold it a year later. We bought this pop up because of the shutdown due to covid, We moved back to where our house was that we were trying to sell. Rather than pay both rent and house payment, we eliminated the rent and are living in our house for now. With no job, it really doesn't matter where you live!

      My job will call me back first, most likely, and when that happens I will move back three hours away and live in this little camper for as long as I need to. It has a bed, a fridge, a two burner stove and microwave. There is A/C and heat and if a storm comes I will just sleep in our Trailblazer truck!

      I will tell you this: right now is a seller's market! We looked for a while, called numerous times and every one we tried to get (from 5th wheel to pull behind to pop up) sold before we could get to even see it! Finally we found this one and were the first to see it, and we paid full asking price for it. There were others waiting on us to decide. I think we overpaid for what it is, but at least I will have a place to lay my head when the time comes. After that, we will do a little weekend camping sometime and get some use out of it.

      Great read and very informative, Don. Good going Sir!


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