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RV Financials, Part 4: Understanding How to Sell Your RV Yourself

Updated on December 16, 2016
Don Bobbitt profile image

Don has been an avid traveler and motorhome owner for most of his life and he shares his knowledge of motorhomes and other RVs.

This article is Part 4 of a five-part series on what an owner needs to understand about buying, trading, and selling an RV.

You Can Sell Your RV Yourself

RV Financials, Part 4: Tips on how to sell your RV yourself
RV Financials, Part 4: Tips on how to sell your RV yourself | Source

What I have shown you so far does look rather dismal, doesn’t it? Your RV depreciates so fast, and the typical RV dealer wants to essentially rob you (without even using a gun) of what little remaining value you have in your older RV.

Well, in the first three articles in this series, you have learned all about the world of RV values and depreciation and how dealers manipulate pricing when you try to trade your older RV for a newer one.

So, relax; a little, anyway. Your older RV can be sold for more than what most of the dealers want to give you; but to do so you need to decide which path you want to take in selling your existing RV.

Just to give you a perspective on potential savings, look at the numbers I presented in Part 3, where I showed the Low Retail value, Average Retail Value, and the List Price of a 5-year-old (2012) Fleetwood Bounder, model 35K as of November 2016;

  • Original List price: $140,567
  • Average Retail Value: $80,550
  • Low Retail Value: $66850
  • Wholesale Value? (assumed at 80% of Low Retail?): $53480

What you can see is the difference between Average Retail, which is what you really want to get for your Used RV (and by the way, what the dealer is going to ask for your RV when they re-sell it) and the other listed values that you might be offered by a dealership. From my perspective, selling your RV yourself is a viable option for any owner.

You’ll be happy to know that here are several popular ways for you to sell your RV and not allow the dealers to make such a large profit off of you with their extremely low price offering.

These methods of selling your RV might seem a little complicated, but honestly, many RV owners are quite successful in getting the NADA Average Retail Value for their RV, if it’s a popular model and is in good condition.

So, let’s look at the most popular methods of selling your RV yourself.

Consignment Sellers

Consignment sellers are people who will sell your RV for you for a percentage of the sale price.

A consignment lot is usually owned and managed by a local individual and a consignment business will keep your RV on their lot, list it on their personal web page and even occasionally place it into an advertisement in the local and regional newspapers.

Usually, as specified in their contract, they will “show” your RV to customers, negotiate a sales price that’s higher than your minimum specified limit and close the deal for you. They will even handle all of the paperwork.

But, that’s about it.

Most of these consignment sellers are good for a few things that makes them popular to many RV owners.

  • They take that big RV or yours off of your property and place it on their lot, which gets it out of your way, while it’s for sale.
  • Because your RV is on a sales lot and not in your backyard it gets a lot more exposure to the public for a potential sale.
  • The business will generally have a sales person on the lot daily who is always ready to show your RV to any potential buyers who are shopping.
  • They will not only show your RV, but they will also handle the negotiations and finalize the sale of your RV for you.
  • Usually, their lots are well lit, and many are even fenced in for added security and safety; mostly to prevent break-ins.

These consignment sellers will typically charge you a 10% fee for handling and selling your RV, without any charge for how long they have to keep it before it finally sells.

This might seem to be a large amount of money, but they do take a lot of the burden of selling off of the individual owner.

And, to help you with your perspective on their fee, if your RV stays on their lot for several months, or longer, you should consider the potential RV storage charges you are avoiding.

NOTE: Do not be surprised if these Consignment sellers don’t come to you with some very low offers, after a while, for you to consider.

You should accept the fact that you might have given them a minimum price you would accept for your RV, but they know, as you should, that your RV is dropping in value every month.

In fact, when your RV doesn’t sell quickly, you need to keep checking on NADA for the changes in its value. And of course, you should be using these shrinking values in your decision-making when a low offer is made by a potential buyer.

Web Reseller

The top and most popular web re-sellers are a cheap way to get national exposure for your used RV.

“Web Re-Sellers” are a very different breed of people. They are web sales experts and they want to expose your RV to the RV market across the USA, for you.

These web sellers operate by offering large numbers of RV’s for sale and they just want to take “a little bit” of your money.

They will all have a very nice web site where they have hundreds, even thousands, of RV’s owned by individuals from across the country, exhibited on their site.

Typically, these guys will allow you to provide them with a dozen or so pictures, along with a custom description of your RV. You can write this information yourself, describing every good attribute of your RV, and you can then add your personal contact information for interested buyers to get in touch with you.

They place your pictures and descriptions onto their site, which is designed to efficiently display your RV pictures and description. These sites will also have some good search criteria that allows any interested buyer to search and find the best match RV on the site that meets their needs.

Their forte is the fact that they advertise themselves (not specifically your unit) in small ads on hundreds of sites that RV owners popularly use, such as RV magazines, RV club sites, and even on trade magazines and web sites frequented by RV owners.

Their theory is that interested RV buyers will see one of their ads and go to their web site. Then, while scanning through the many offerings on their site the reader will contact you for more information, or hopefully, make you an offer.

These Web Resellers will typically charge you what they call a “lifetime fee”, which generally ranges from $95 up to $200, just to list your RV on their site.

And, of course each of them “guarantees” your RV will sell (they leave out the word “eventually”).

I have used a couple of the more popular ones and I did get the occasional interested contact, but I never made a sale through these any of these sites. As with other public sites, most interested buyers will try to offer you a lower price.

A few of the most popular ones are RV Trader, RV Registry, and RV Search. They will usually even help you write your description and tell you if your pictures are good enough.

I should note though that, from my perspective, you should look at the money you spend with these web site sales people as money you have thrown away. That way, if you do get a contact and a follow-up offer, you can be pleasantly surprised, and if not, its not a large loss.

Selling on eBay Can Be Expensive

eBay is, of course, a very popular site for people to use for listing their RV for sale. They have some very good seller and buyer restrictions that provide both people with a certain level of security and confidence in the sale process.

Using eBay gives you a more secure experience when selling your RV, but it is relatively expensive, considering you are doing all of the work.

And honestly, I have used eBay for over a dozen years to buy and sell a wide variety of items, and I even tried using it to list several of my RV’s in the past, but to me eBay has several drawbacks.

  • Their fees are high (often in excess of 10%) and are based on the final sale price which; with the high values of the typical RV, can be significant.
  • And, as a seller, you need to be aware that the audience using eBay is always “looking for a great deal” and will invariably give you a ”low-ball” offer, at best.
  • It’s the rare shopper on eBay who is willing to pay a reasonable (retail) price for an RV even one in very good condition.
  • So, be prepared to drop your price or hold your position and convince the potential buyer to accept you original price or, most likely, a price only slightly lower than what you listed your RV at.

On the plus side, if you use eBay to list your RV, you are getting access to a very wide audience of both potential buyers and the occasional dreamers.

So eBay can be a good tool for you to just pay the listing fees and check out the market for your RV for a few weeks. Doing this, you can get a good feel for what is selling, what isn’t selling, and how much they end up selling for.

Be Cautious When Using CraigsList

Craigslist is a good way to list your RV locally, but the seller should take certain precautions to avoid scammers and outright crooks. It's considered by many RV owners to be the “Wild West” of selling.

Sure, it’s free and it’s useful to a lot of people for finding or getting rid of a lot of “Yard Sale” types of items. Its even a good means for dumping that old car, or boat you’ve had sitting in your driveway for the past couple of years.

But, remember an RV is worth a significant amount of money, and when you’re only allowed a couple of pictures and a short amount of text for descriptions, you can’t really advertise everything about your RV.

On the other hand, a serious RV buyer wants to see lots of pictures and read about all of the great accessories in your RV before they even contact you for a potential inspection.

So, with an RV, the more information you can provide to the potential buyer, the more interesting your RV will be.

And with CraigsList, even though anyone can search for what they want in the local listings for pretty much any zip code in the country, it’s still a service that invites abuse by both sellers and potential buyers.

Sure, it’s essentially free to use, but remember, because its so easy to use, there are far too many crooks and scammers out there that try to use CraigsList just to find new “suckers.”

For these reasons, many RV owners stay away from this option when they want to sell a motorhome they on their own. So, if you do advertise your RV on this web site you should take a lot of precautions, such as:

  • With your first contact, ask enough questions to try and weed out any dreamers or potential scammers.
  • Make sure they have the finances to purchase your RV. If they say they have cash, be wary and tell them you will need to close the sale in your banker's office.
  • Do not have people come to your home to see your RV. Show your RV in some large shopping center parking lot, if possible.

If get to the point where they want to purchase your RV and they want to pay you with a check or even a cashier’s check, make sure they understand that you will keep the RV and give them a receipt for their money, but you will not sign the title over until their check clears at your bank, which can take up to 10 business days.

Personal Sales

Another low-cost option for you is to just park your RV in your driveway, put a For Sale sign on the windshield, place an ad in your local paper and wait for that mysterious person who is looking for an RV like yours, to find your ad and contact you.

I’ve never had any success selling an RV this way. And, I don’t suggest letting something worth so much money just sit for months or maybe even years before you finally get an offer.

If this is the way you want to handle selling your RV, that’s fine, just be aware that when you only list your RV locally, you have limited yourself to a very small potential audience, and I recommend that if you do not get a contact within a couple of months, you should explore other ways to sell your RV.

Another thing you should do is go onto the web and print out the necessary forms such as; a Bill of Sale, a receipt for any down payment and a Warranty statement.

Look out for Scammers

With all of this advertising you do, on web sites, on eBay, and even CraigsList, there will, of course, be the occasional scammer who might contact you. Scammers and crooks are everywhere, and are watching every selling tool you might use.

Over the years, I have run into my share of these crooks, and let me just list a few things you need to do to make sure you are not taken advantage of:

  • Some scammers will offer to send you a check for the cost of an inspection, by an inspector they have chosen, and ask you to send the excess money after the inspection to them. The check will usually bounce.
  • If you have an existing loan on your RV, you should go to your Bank and ask to speak to their loan officer and follow that person’s instructions on how to close a deal, which usually includes having both you and the buyer doing the paperwork in your banker’s office.
  • Never accept a check, even a cashier’s check. There are too many ways to get these things written and there not be money in the bank account they are written on.
  • Again, do the deal in your bank’s loan officer’s office. That way they will check and confirm that any check is truly backed by real funds.
  • Never meet any potential buyer at your home. Always meet in a very public place, and if you can, take someone with you.
  • If possible, never meet your buyer except at your bank, and ideally you should do all of your communications via texts. Pretty much everyone has a cell phone today and can text. One reason a scammer will not do this is that they do not want to give you a real cell phone number that can be tracked.
  • If at any time, anything the buyer says or does seems strange, you should get away from them as quickly as possible.
  • An honest buyer will understand your demands, but a crook won't.

Summary

So, hopefully you have now seen that you can handle the sale of your own RV yourself. There are risks, costs and a certain level of work involved when you use any of these options mentioned.

But, you do have options and with a little persistence you can get the "Top-Dollar" price for your RV. Then you can go to those dealers, with more money in your pocket to work out an even better deal on the purchase of another RV, than you would have gotten in a trade.

© 2016 Don Bobbitt

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