Looking to sell your RV camper? Don’t contact a dealer! Here’s Why…

We all know times are tough, and looking through my crystal ball, things are not likely to get better anytime soon.

What does this mean to current RV Camper owners who want to sell or trade?

Travel has become VERY expensive and your camper may become something you need to sell to remain afloat financially.

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Why are RV dealers the LAST to contact to sell your camper

RV dealers are ALL (by now) VERY well aware of the fact that the used RV market “bubble” has burst. Yes, during the plandemic, sellers were getting obscene values for their campers. Those days are GONE and I see no sign of their returning.

When a RV dealer establishes a value for your camper, they factor in how long its going to take to sell it once they put it on their sales lot. Further, they have anticipated expenses in order to run it through their service center, check it out and perhaps fix some things. Lastly, they also have to account for the current RV market to potentially turn MORE sour than it already is. And of course when all is said and done, the dealer needs to make a profit on your camper when he sells it.

More and more RV’ers are looking to SELL their Campers

All this means is the dealer will offer you “actual cash value” (ACV*) for your camper – and in today’s environment, ACV won’t be much. All dealers use JD Power (formerly NADA) as a guide to establish a value for your RV. *I define ACV in the next section.

JD Power and Used RV Camper Values

I learned how powerful JD Power (NADA) is when I discovered that virtually all lenders use it to determine how much they’ll lend on a given camper, therefore dealers pay close attention to JD Power values. If you try to use JD Power to establish a value for your camper, you need to know this:

  • When you visit JD Power, you’ll see two figures for used RV’s (of ALL types) – average retail and low retail – and right now most campers are NOT selling for average retail no matter how “like new” they are
  • JD Power enables you to add value to your RV by selecting “options” – BE CAREFUL with this feature! You can only add REAL options if you want an accurate value. These are things beyond what ALL campers of that model come with. For example, generally air conditioners, fiberglass walls, and refrigerators are NOT options.

When I value a camper for a client, I ask about things like solar panels, fireplaces, and in SOME cases generators. Often these are legitimate options that add value to your camper. Knowing this allows me to arrive at a reasonable value for the average and low retail for your camper. We then have to consider other factors.

RV Parks are still near full – but – how much will YOU get for YOUR camper?

Understanding the Mind of a Dealer… (Explaining ACV)

When a dealer checks the value on your camper on JD Power, they see an additional figure – wholesale value. That figure is where a dealer will start in establishing a value for your camper and they’ll DROP the value from there to get to actual cash value (ACV.)

The ACV value is based upon the dealers experience. For example, if the dealer expects to sit on your camper for several months to sell it, he’ll establish a lower ACV as JD Power updates their camper values six times each year (every two months.) Or if he knows your camper is not widely sought after for one reason or another, that will also factor into his decision. Further, if there are condition issues, that will further lower your campers ACV.

Want to establish the value of your camper? Help is here…

If you would like help establishing a value for your camper, feel free to contact me. I will gladly give you an estimate on both the average retail, low retail and wholesale values. If you elect to sell the camper yourself, typically you’ll end up selling it for close to the low retail figure in this current market. This is of course a real kick in the teeth to RV owners who were getting WELL OVER average retail just a few months ago (and those figures were MUCH higher earlier this year.)

Incidentally, I can go well beyond just giving you an estimate on the value of your camper, I offer a Concierge RV Buying AND SELLING service where I will work to get your camper sold without going through a dealer. This means you’ll get the most you can get for it, and I write the ad for it, organize and post the photos, take the initial calls to sift out the tire kickers and scam artists, and work to ensure you don’t get taken advantage of until the check is in your hand. Full details about my service are HERE.

Selling your camper? It pays to have a guide by your side.

Thinking of TRADING IN your RV Camper to a dealer? Beware… here’s why –

If you’re looking to a dealer to trade your camper to them for one that they have, there’s an ADDITIONAL pitfall for you. In addition to the process detailed earlier for the dealer to establish an “ACV” on your camper, he now has the opportunity to HIDE his ACV from you.

Here’s how… lets say you own a 2019 Forest River Rockwood Signature 8329SS travel trailer. Let’s assume it is in “like new” condition. JD Power values its average retail as $35,000. If I were selling it for you through my service, in this current environment, I’d list it for the low 30’s and advise you to accept any offers of about $28,000. or greater.

In contrast, a dealer is going to offer you about $19,000. (or just under) for it. As discussed earlier, this gives them the “cushion” they need to account for costs of servicing it, time to sell it, and dealer profit.

Now… you want to trade it in – here’s how it plays out: The dealer knows that if he “shows his hand” and tells you your camper is worth about 20k to him, you’ll likely walk right out of his store! Instead, he “pads the value” by $10,000. and tells you he’ll give you 29k for it. He does this ONLY AFTER he knows what camper he has that you’ve settled upon. He then holds back discounting his camper by $10,000. that he would have gone to had he not inflated the value of your camper.

Here’s a specific example to help you see how this plays out…

To get specific and clarify: Lets say, you see “Camper XYZ” on his lot that is priced at $50,000. Without a trade, he’d sell you that camper all day long for $35,000. (IF you’re a good negotiator), but with your trade (that he has overvalued), he offers you his camper for 45,000 (10k more than he normally sells it for) and values your trade at 29k (10k more than its REALLY worth.) Does this all make sense?

The bottom line is this – when buying a camper from a dealer, you’re ALWAYS better off selling yours privately first (with or without my help) and then coming in ready to deal with a dealer WITHOUT the need to trade your camper.

IF you must trade your camper, learn to focus on the “difference”. In other words, using my example here, he’s offering you 29k for yours and charging 45k for his, the difference is 16k – THAT is what really matters in the transaction with a dealer.

In contrast, by selling your camper privately, lets say by selling it in the open market, we get you $28,000. We then contact the dealer to buy “Camper XYZ” and buy it for $35,000. (which I can also negotiate for you and advise you as to whether the camper you want is built well!), your “net” out of pocket “difference” is just $7000. because you received 28k for yours and spent 35k on the new one. In other words, you come out $9000. ahead of having traded in yours to the dealer! (You received 28k for yours instead of the 19k the dealer valued it for.)

An important note on dealer valuations for full timers

If you’ve been living in your camper (and they WILL know), the dealer will drop the “ACV” even further for your camper as dealers know that living in a camper is ROUGH on virtually all campers.

A few last thoughts on RV Dealers and more…

Interest rates are another challenge being faced by all in the RV world – both buyers and dealers. Currently, with top flight credit on a NEW camper, you’re looking at about an 8% rate – that makes for EXPENSIVE payments, and worse if your credit score isn’t 800+.

Dealers are facing continually declining values on their used inventory. This means the longer they hold onto a camper, the less likely they will make a profit. Further, anything they brought into inventory earlier this year is going to be very difficult for the dealer to turn a profit. What does all this mean? Some dealers will likely close their doors in the next year or so if things don’t turn around soon – and – in the interim, a smart manager at a RV dealer will be looking to buy any campers at “bottom dollar.”

Closing thoughts on getting the most for your camper when selling it

Looking forward, I don’t see the rv sales environment improving. This doesn’t mean that you won’t encounter ‘tone deaf’ sellers (private and dealers) who are trying to get top dollar for their camper. The bottom line is YOU control your wallet and decide whether to accept any offer (whether selling or buying a camper.)

Check out my recent posts on Kayaking and the lakes around Vernal Utah (and a review of my new inflatable kayak) AND an Early Start to Winter in Draper, Utah – and winter RV life in the Salt Lake City valley. (Solitude is OPENING on November 11th!)

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11 thoughts on “Looking to sell your RV camper? Don’t contact a dealer! Here’s Why…”

  1. Hello,
    Looking to sell our Forest River 2021 Forester LE 2551dsle it is in excellent clean condition.
    What is a good price to sell it for?
    Thanks for your time.

  2. I had Alan assist us 2.5 years ago selling our trailer and purchasing a 5th wheel. His sales prep tips were spot on and his final negotiations with the dealer got us a lower price. Totally pleased with his service and the results. When the time comes to change rigs, Alan will be my first call; I wouldn’t dream of going it alone without his help. Thanks, Alan!!

  3. Well the dealership’s are going to hate you. After spending more than 10 years behind the finance desk I can tell you everything he is saying is spot on. If you can sell it yourself do it. Then negotiate your best deal on the new one. Or if you don’t like the process have a pro do it for you.

    • I’d prefer an arctic fox over a fox mountain, but the fox mountain is still quite acceptable – as long as it doesn’t have any “issues”. If you are interested in having me work with you to make this happen, my Concierge Buying Service is detailed here – rvacrossamerica.net/buysell


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