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How to Avoid Getting Stuck With an RV You Can't Sell

Updated on April 12, 2017
TIMETRAVELER2 profile image

I am an avid RV enthusiast who has traveled, lived, workcamped and volunteered nationwide for more than 50 years and am still going strong!

Consumers need to be careful when making RV purchases so that down the road they don't get stuck with a unit they can't sell.

This is a problem that has become common, and happens as the result of buyer ignorance about the recreational vehicle market place.

  • I have been an RV enthusiast for more than 50 years, and I also have professionally and personally sold travel units over the years.
  • As a writer, I also have made it my business when doing my research to talk to sales people, parts dealers and mechanics about current trends within the recreational vehicle business.

As a result, I am seeing serious financial consumer issues within the industry that need to be addressed.

The average guy who wants to own a unit these days is

  • paying much more than in the past,
  • getting less for his money and
  • finding later that selling his coach is almost impossible.

As a result there are thousands of beautiful motor homes, campers and travel trailers sitting vacant while their owners desperately try to figure out how to save themselves financially.

If you don’t believe this is happening, do some Google searches to see what’s for sale.

What you will find is a bevy of coaches that are being offered private sellers at unrealistically high prices.

Many have been on the market for years and keep depreciating and deteriorating while their owners keep hoping that someone will buy them.

Many never get sold, and the financial losses are staggering.

A warning for all RV consumers about what they may be facing when it comes time to sell their coaches.
A warning for all RV consumers about what they may be facing when it comes time to sell their coaches. | Source

How Uneducated RV Buyers Cause Their Own Problems

It used to be common for people to start camping in tents, then move up to fold out trailers or pull trailers and eventually to motorized units.

By doing this, they were able to learn the pros and cons as they went so that they could make good buying decisions.

Today, however, the public has been hyped into starting their RV adventures with large fifth wheels or motor homes.

These units promise luxuries buyers think they need, and manufacturers are happy to provide them.

However, they do so at prices that are far more than they are worth.

Big fancy motor homes are great for travel, but may be impossible to sell when the vacationing ends.
Big fancy motor homes are great for travel, but may be impossible to sell when the vacationing ends. | Source

Inflated RV Prices Are Bad for Consumers

As new prices rise, so do those of previously owned coaches.

The result is that people who used to be able to purchase a 6 year old luxury coach for about half the price of a new one, now will pay that same amount of money for one that is 12 or more years old!

This is a bad deal for buyers.

A coach that old has generally deteriorated and depreciated to the point that it’s true value is far less than its asking price.

It may look great, but buyers should remember that it now has 12 or more years of normal wear and tear on its appliances, furniture, wiring, tires, chassis, engine, generator, inverter and other systems.

On the surface, buying it may seem to be a smart move because the unit looks good and is affordable, but when it comes time to trade or sell it, owners are going to have problems.

Why Selling Newer Used RVs Is Difficult

Few consumers ever think about selling something when they are in the process of buying it, but when it comes to recreational vehicles, this becomes an important issue, especially if you paid a good deal of money for the coach you now own.

If you purchased a new unit, you paid top dollar for it. You probably also financed it, which means you also are paying interest on your loan.

Since the biggest depreciation occurs in the first year of ownership, your RV is almost immediately worth far less than what you paid. Worse yet is the fact that the longer you own it, the less it is worth.

The result is that you soon owe more than what your vehicle is worth.

  1. You may think a potential buyer will pay off your loan, but this will never happen because he won’t want to pay more than the coach is worth.
  2. A dealer may be willing to buy it from you, but he will only give you half of what your coach is worth. He may also be willing to trade, but to get him to do this you’ll have to buy another coach that is worth more than the one you are trading for because dealers never “trade down”.

In the end, you will find that you will either be stuck with your purchase or will have to take a major financial loss in order to sell it.

Think carefully before buying an RV so that you don't throw your money away.
Think carefully before buying an RV so that you don't throw your money away. | Source

Selling Older RVs Can Also Be a Problem

If you purchased a much older RV, selling it will be somewhat easier because it will already have mostly depreciated by the time you bought it.

However, if you financed it, you will need to pay off your loan so that you can have a clear title.

Furthermore, you’ll run into the same selling problems as those mentioned above, except for the fact that your buyer may have problems finding a bank that will finance his purchase.

The good news is that you paid less, so you will lose less. However, selling will be tough unless you can find a cash buyer.

Even at a lower price point of $20,000 or less, few people have enough cash to make a buy.

The RV marketplace has become glutted with units that sit languishing and vacant while awaiting buyers that may never show up.

There Is No Easy Answer

The ugly truth is that it does not matter whether you decide to purchase a new or pre-owned coach because selling or trading it in the future is going to cost you a good deal of money unless you get lucky.

It’s also going to be difficult to do because

  1. dealers no longer have to negotiate because they know they’re in a “seller’s market” and
  2. they now concentrate on selling the most expensive units, which leaves consumers little choice in terms of what they spend to buy.

Buyers Need to Be Vigilant

The whole point of what I’ve discussed here is to warn consumers that they need to pay close attention to what they are doing before they make a purchase, because the dream they buy can easily turn into a financial nightmare when it comes time to sell.

You never want to become the person who

  • is never able to find an affordable travel unit,
  • can never sell the one you already own or
  • loses thousands of dollars because you made a buying mistake.

How to Avoid The Worst of These Problems

Only a very astute individual will be able to sidestep the pitfalls I mentioned here. Even then, there will be financial losses at the point of sale, but at least they will be minimal.

The trick is to

Make sure that you purchase a coach that

  • is in excellent condition,
  • you plan to keep for many years,
  • meets both your present and future needs and
  • is affordable.

It will take time and a good deal of research to find a coach that meets these requirements and you'll protect more of your financial interests if you pay cash for it.

In the end, you may lose a few thousand dollars when you sell, but that will be better than losing a king's ransom!

Remember that once you buy an RV, you own it...possibly forever!

Become an Informed Consumer

Salesmen and dealerships want you to think that everybody is buying the most expensive new and used RVs. They finance them for you to make things easy and offer perks to make you think you’re getting a good deal.

Just remember that once you sign your contract, you own your vehicle and you most likely will only use it a few months out of each year.

Therefore, making a good decision on the front end of your deal will help you to cut your losses at the point of sale.

Know that you can avoid the pitfalls of buying a motor home, travel trailer or camper you may never be able to sell by arming yourself with the knowledge you've gained by reading this article and using it to your advantage.

Good Luck!

Where many unsold RVs end up: a Recreational Vehicle Auction

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  • TIMETRAVELER2 profile image

    TIMETRAVELER2 5 months ago

    Janda Raker: Good for you! You're doing it the right way and will save yourself a ton of money and many headaches as a result! Thanks for stopping by!

  • Janda Raker profile image

    Janda Raker 5 months ago from Amarillo, Texas

    Good points! I especially agree with your suggestion that the buyer should purchase the least elaborate rig they can tolerate. Even if the RVer spends many months of the year in his/her rig, the Taj Majal is NOT required! Our simple pickup and camper has sufficed nicely for many years now.

  • TIMETRAVELER2 profile image

    TIMETRAVELER2 6 months ago

    Blond Logic: No doubt! It's a problem that kind of snuck up on the public but is now rearing a very ugly head and clearly is heartbreaking. Many people jump into RVing without realizing the financial consequences or doing any research whatsoever, and usually they are the ones who face these problems. We never think there will come a day when we have to sell, but it always arrives...often with a hefty price tag. Thanks for reading and commenting. Nice to see you again!

  • Blond Logic profile image

    Mary Wickison 6 months ago from Brazil

    This problem must be heartbreaking form many people. Especially at a time of life when they thought they could be without a care in the world. I could see this causing health problems and possibly marital problems as a result of the stress.

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