There’s not a simple formula for assessing the value of a renovated RV. Much like selling a home, the value comes down to condition, buyer demand, and to some extent even location.
In the current post-pandemic market, prices can fluctuate week to week in the RV industry. And of course RV sales always change with the seasons. RV season is typically during the summer, so values tend to be higher in the spring when potential buyers have vacation plans on their mind. Similarly, if you try to sell your RV in the fall, there might be an increase in supply. But that doesn’t mean there’s an ideal time to sell. You can find RV buyers year round. It just requires patience and some prior planning.
Last year we were shopping for a used RV to renovate and we didn’t pull the trigger on a couple options because we thought prices would go down. But within just 6 months those same used RV prices increased a whopping 35%!
If you’re just starting your renovation project, it makes sense to start tracking selling prices of RVs similar to yours. This can help you with budget considerations as you decide furnishings, appliances, or other hard costs you’re putting into your project. Consumer demand is a hard thing to forecast so keeping track of current prices while you’re renovating will help when it comes time to sell your beautiful RV.
We put together this pricing guide to help you estimate the value of your renovated RV.
NADA (National Automobile Dealers’ Association) Guides is a service by JD Power, the same marketing firm you’ve likely seen when searching reviews and data as you shop for a car of truck. JD Power has been in business for more than 50 years analyzing consumer data to produce rankings, reviews, reports and pricing guides. And their guides are basically considered the gold standard of RV blue book values.
Start your search on the NADAguides website by entering your RV year, make, floorplan and zip code into the pricing tool. You may not find your specific floor plan or model if you have an older or less common RV. If that’s the case, select a similar model.
You can then select specific options related to your RV (such as appliances, number of air conditioners, axle options, etc). You can also just get base pricing if you want to skip the options.
The guide will show you Suggested List Price, Low Retail, and Average Retail prices. With these prices in hand, it’s time for the next step in your research.
2. Search for comparables
You can search Google for the exact year/make/model of your RV and you might find some good results. Search results are sometimes out of date, though, so it makes sense to start with these services:
One of your first stops when shopping online for an RV will likely be RVTrader.com. With more than 220,000 private seller and dealership listings on the RVTrader platform, there’s a good chance you can find at least a few listings compared to your RV you’re trying to sell.
If you can’t find your specific year or model, try to find a similar year, model or floorplan. You’re just trying to verify the data you received from NADA guides to see what the current market value is for your RV even if they aren’t renovated.
Another great tool RVTrader offers is their Price Checker. Much like the NADA guides, you can enter your year/make/model and the tool spits out a High, Low, and Average price for that specific RV.
There are a number of other options online for buying and selling used RVs. Here are a few reputable sources you can search:
Local classifieds can give you a good idea of local supply and demand:
And of course you could also search nationwide dealers like Camping World or General RV. But those websites will try to steer you to buy new RVs so you won’t find as many listings for used RVs comparable to the RV you’re trying to price out.
Ask a dealer
This might seem counterintuitive if you’re trying to sell your renovation by yourself without involving a dealer or consignment, but if you’re in the market for your next RV (as a flip project or something you want to keep long term), you could certainly get the dealer’s opinion on what they think it’s worth. You may even get an offer you’d be willing to accept for a quick sale.
Be aware that dealer trade-ins will start with a trade-in value that is 10-20% below NADA’s Low Retail price so that they can profit on the resale of your camper. So be prepared to negotiate if you want to sell to a dealer. Like a used car, you can generally get more for your RV if you sell it yourself.
Some dealers also offer professional appraisal services. Packages typically range from $250-1,000+. These appraisals are generally reserved for high-end motorcoaches since your buyer may require the appraisal.
If your buyer or bank insists on a professional appraisal, sometimes you can split the cost of the appraisal with the buyer. It never hurts to ask!
You may have noticed while you searched NADA guides or RVTrader that they asked for your Zip code.
One benefit to selling an RV is that it can be moved to any location pretty easily, but it still might require travel for a buyer to inspect the RV before purchase. Pricing for RVs located centrally in the country or near population centers will be a different than those located in remote locations.
You may also find that toy haulers, fifth wheels and larger trailers sell better out west, where more compact campers make more sense for people back east.
Remember that you may need to factor in transportation costs when negotiating the final price with your buyer if they want you to transport the RV to their location. And hey, who doesn’t like a good road trip anyway!
3. Price of a new RV
It’s more common to see renovations completed on used RVs, but the price of a new RV can be helpful in setting a ceiling or the high benchmark value of your renovation. It could be hard to justify pricing a renovated RV higher than a new RV, especially if your used RV is more than a few years old.
Potential buyers may question why pay more for a used RV than a new RV, even if the used model is completely renovated. A new RV has the latest gadgets and generally comes with a factory warranty so buyers may have to weigh the pros and cons of having something new and shiny vs something old and shiny.
If your renovation adds significant upgrades from the old condition, you could make the argument that it’s similar to buying a new, cookie-cutter house compared to a custom renovation with high-end finishes. There are certainly buyers willing to pay more for something that suites their taste without having to do the renovation themselves. So if you’re confident in the design and quality of your workmanship, you could charge a premium above the price of a new RV.
The buyer’s perception may come down to the perceived value of the renovations. Which brings us to our next point…
4. Renovation quality
The RV might look good in an Instagram post online, but what happens when the buyer shows up for an in-person inspection?
The quality of your work matters. You don’t have to be a professional to make an RV look good (and quite frankly, not all professionals do good work), but the workmanship and attention to details makes a big difference in the perceived value of the finished product
You may have found a steal of a deal on the décor or furniture you chose, but is it too cheap to hold up over time? Did you spend time caulking the baseboards or backsplash? Are there obvious brush strokes on the painted walls? Do the cabinet doors close tightly?
And then there’s the actual aesthetics of the design you chose. Does the wallpaper match well with the cabinets? Did you bring in bold, quirky furniture? You may have designed the RV according to your own style and taste, but modern, neutral color schemes with high quality appliances appeal to a wider range of buyers.
Evaluate the complexity of the renovations you completed. If you simply painted or added some wallpaper, that doesn’t likely command a premium price. The more unique your renovation (and the harder it would be for a buyer to complete themselves), the more likely people will pay your asking price.
It can be hard to step back with an objective view after you spent many late nights and weekends working on a renovation, so it might be worth inviting over a friend you can trust to give you an honest opinion. Don’t let your emotional attachment to your renovation project get in the way of pricing your RV correctly. If you set the price too high, you could scare off potential buyers.
RV photos and renovation by the RV Family Renovators.
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5. RV condition
You can slap lipstick on a pig with some paint and wallpaper, but are you still left with a lemon under the hood? Quite literally, the engine under the hood of a motorhome makes a huge difference in the final RV’s value.
Engine – Most buyers will request some sort of mechanical inspection prior to completing the sale that will evaluate the belts, oil levels, filters, exhaust, damage to the frame, etc. Buyers may request maintenance history so it’s useful to have that handy.
Age – Unlike homes, RVs don’t appreciate in value (with the exception of some vintage campers like Airstreams). RV stands for recreational vehicle, and we all know that vehicles depreciate over time. Even if the renovation was a complete gut down to the studs, the value of your RV could take a pretty big hit the older it is.
Some experts suggest that RVs lose about 15-20% of their value the first year after leaving the dealer lot. Subsequent years slow down in depreciation a little bit, but you could be looking at 50% in depreciation by the time an RV is just 6 years old. That’s where your NADA guide and comparable research will come in handy.
Mileage – The mileage makes a big difference whether it’s a motorhome or travel trailer. If the RV has been primarily stationery at RV parks for the past couple years, the age of the RV isn’t as important and you have a strong argument that the value hasn’t depreciated significantly. But if the RV has been bouncing down the road for thousands of miles the past couple years, that wear and tear adds up.
Tires – Check your tire tread and the age codes on your tire sidewalls. Tires can be costly to replace, especially on larger RVs that require heavy duty tires.
Appliances – Do the appliances all work?
- Hot water heater
Furniture – Is the furniture upholstery worn out? Do the couch cushions need to be replaced?
Flooring – Take a close look at the flooring. Any tears in the vinyl? Does the carpet have stains? Does it look worn from foot traffic? Water stains certainly don’t look good, but more importantly, they might indicate a leak or hidden mold.
Exterior – Most renovations are done to the interior of the RV, but the buyers will closely inspect the exterior as well. Are the vinyl decals cracking and peeling? Has the gel coat started to discolor? Do the awnings function properly? Are there soft spots on the roof or holes in the roof membrane? Dents and dings on the exterior should be repaired as much as possible prior to the sale.
As you can see, there’s a lot more to selling a renovated RV than just how it looks. So take close inventory of all mechanical and electrical systems along with the physical appearance.
6. Time and materials
Insurance companies, banks and dealers all use NADAguides and comparables to look up the value of an RV. But services like NADA don’t really account for renovations and upgrades. Assuming your renovations actually added value to the RV (as discussed above), you can use your NADA research as your base price before you start calculating the value of renovations and upgrades.
A common pricing technique in many industries is to base estimates and final price on time and materials.
Start with your time. Even if this was a one-off project you completed by yourself on weekends, you should be compensated for your time. If you did this as a hobby without much experience, it likely took you longer than someone else who flips RVs for a living. But you should still keep track of your time so you know if this type of work was worth the effort.
Keep receipts and add up the costs of all materials that went into the renovation. Every trip to the hardware store adds up (including fuel costs!) so use a spreadsheet to help add up the final tally. Paint supplies, sandpaper, baseboards and trim pieces, tools, flooring, equipment rentals, nails and screws, basically anything you used to complete the actual renovation.
After you add up the costs of time and materials, it’s time to consider the hard costs related to upgrades. If an RV owner wanted to add these things (even in a new RV), they would have to pay the same amount as you (plus the time and cost to install them), so add the cost of your upgrades to your base price.
Here’s a short list of common renovation upgrades:
- Solar panels
- Tankless water heater
- Satellite TV
- New furniture
- Décor (plants, pillows, artwork, etc.)
- WiFi booster
- Bike rack
- Sinks and faucets
- Cabinet hardware
- Light fixtures
- Electric levelers
- Aftermarket mattresses
- LP quick connect
- Upgraded entry steps
If you added appliances, did you simply replace an existing appliance with a similar unit or did you upgrade to a better model?
RV Photos and renovation work by professional designers and renovators RV Family Renovators.
8. Final price
If you’re keeping score, here’s the final tally for the primary factors that go into pricing your RV renovation:
How to price your renovation
Base price = NADA guides and comparables
Highest price = price of new RV
Your price = likely somewhere in the middle
Deduct value for high mileage or wear and tear
Add value of cosmetic changes
Add costs of time and material
Add costs of upgrades
In the end you could spend all day researching and estimating the perfect listing price, but timing and the market ultimately dictates what sells.
Do your best to find comparables, trust in your renovation skills, and just list the RV and see what interest you get. You can always lower the price if necessary.
If you have questions about the valuation and pricing process, feel free to reach out to our support team.