How to Know What an RV Is Worth

Updated on January 21, 2019
TIMETRAVELER2 profile image

I have had a great deal of experience both buying and selling RVs and think people should understand the mechanics of doing these things.

You can only price a coach correctly if you are able to determine its true value.
You can only price a coach correctly if you are able to determine its true value. | Source

The best way to find out how much a recreational vehicle is worth is to try to determine it's Fair Market Value. However, doing this is easier said than done!

What Is Fair Market Value?

Fair Market Value is the amount of money a knowledgeable, willing, and non-pressured buyer would actually pay for a product that is being sold by a knowledgeable, willing, and non-pressured seller.

What this means is that a rational person who wants to buy something but does not have to do so and a rational seller who wants to sell but does not need to sell should be able to come up with a price that is fair and reasonable for both parties based on specific circumstances.

What Is the Difference Between Fair Market Value and Intrinsic Value?

Fair Market Value differs from intrinsic value, which is the worth an individual may place on a product based on their own situation, attitudes, and interests.

These differences between fair market value and intrinsic value matter greatly when it comes to buying and selling RVs because a good number of people have absolutely no idea how much a coach is really worth!

For this reason, price is rarely a mirror of value, although most people assume it is. As a result, either the buyer or the seller loses money when a travel unit is sold.

Why Knowing RV Value and Using It Properly Matters

Knowing how much an RV is worth is what allows people to buy and sell coaches in a way that allows both buyer and seller to be treated fairly.

However, this rarely happens because

  1. people either have no clue about fair market value pricing
  2. or they try to get as much as they can, regardless of what the market says is fair.

Either of these issues can create problems for sellers because

  • if they ask too much, people will not buy, and
  • if they ask too little, they could lose money.

On the other hand, buyers who also don't know fair market value or who simply want to buy as cheaply as possible without regard to it will rarely find anybody who wants to sell to them!

Misguided Pricing Attitudes Ruin Sales

In the two scenarios mentioned above, the problems are both based on the concept of intrinsic value.

  1. In the first case, the seller simply is not knowledgeable, thinks his coach is worth more than it actually is or is pressured, for a number of reasons, by the need to get as much money for his coach as possible.
  2. In the second case, the buyer may not have done any research, thinks, for a variety of reasons, that the coach is worth less than it really is worth or simply wants to buy as cheaply as possible to save himself some money.

Unfortunately, using intrinsic value as the basis for negotiating a deal rarely works.

As a result, you have a seller who cannot get rid of his unit and a buyer who is never able to make a purchase!

When there is a large difference between the asking price of a coach and its real value, it is impossible for a successful negotiation to take place.

A roof that is in good condition definitely makes a travel unit worth more.
A roof that is in good condition definitely makes a travel unit worth more. | Source

Factors That Determine an RV's Value

There are many factors that feed into the determination of value, but asking price is not one of them.

In fact, it is the total value of the other factors that should determine price, and not price that should determine value.

Unfortunately, most people simply go by price, which is the worst way anybody can approach the buying or selling of a recreational vehicle.

Since the cost of coaches, even those of the same year, make and model, can vary significantly, one should always examine issues such as

  • current market conditions,
  • supply and demand,
  • geographic location,
  • physical and mechanical condition
  • and mileage

when trying to discover the how much one is worth.

For example, you can purchase a unit that is in mint condition and has low miles, or another one of the same model, year and brand that has many flaws and has been used and driven hard. Yet, sellers will ask the same price for both!

If you take the differences between the two into consideration, you will always be able to see that one of the two units clearly does not have the same value as the other.

This is why it is important to look at many similar vehicles and check their asking prices.

  • If you do this, eventually you will be able to figure out which units are worth more.
  • However, if you only look at just one, you have no way of knowing if the asking price is fair.

Figuring out how much an RV is worth is tricky.
Figuring out how much an RV is worth is tricky. | Source

Other Factors That Determine Value

When you are investigating an RV and want to determine its worth, there are other things you can do in addition to those that have been mentioned here. For example, you can:

  1. Compare similar types, brands, models and years of a particular RV so that you can focus just on that and not become overwhelmed by trying to compare "apples to oranges."
  2. Pay particular attention to how well these units have held up over the years,
  3. Use VIN numbers to check accident and damage records so that you can discover problems that may be hidden.
  4. Review maintenance records carefully to make sure a coach has been cared for properly,
  5. Find the point of origin for an RV you wish to purchase. Those that come from northern areas are much more likely to have rust and other forms of damage from salt exposure, especially on the undercarriage.

The Importance of Depreciation

Just as with automobiles, recreational vehicles depreciate. The higher the initial cost, the bigger the first-year financial loss. It is permanent and continues to reduce for the life of the unit.

The chart shown below gives four examples that show how coaches of various types lose value over a five year period. Looking at it may be shocking, but it is very important to understand what happens and why it matters so much.

Every RV seller (and buyer) must take these figures into account when negotiating a deal. Those who try to sell for more or buy for less without substantiation from other value factors will never be able to bring closure to a potential sale.

One often hears sellers complaining about the fact that buyers are trying to "cheat" them, when in reality their coaches have depreciated to a level that is far lower than what they are trying to sell them for.

The country is littered with units that never did sell for this specific reason!

Five year RV depreciation chart for four different travel units.
Five year RV depreciation chart for four different travel units. | Source

True Value Should Always Determine Selling Price

Estimating future financial returns on the sale or trade in value of a recreational vehicle is not as simple as it may seem because they are always based on the original Manufacturers Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) plus any additions or upgrades that were made to a travel unit.

However, it takes more than this information to determine real value.

A five year old motor home that has been well maintained, has all of its records and paperwork, is clean, has no odors and has appropriate mileage for its years should bring considerably more money than a similar year, type and model that is all banged up, has peeling paint, smells, is dirty, is lacking records of any kind and has inappropriate miles for its age.

How much more is subject to the knowledge and experience of the individuals involved in the sale.

It takes a lot of time, effort and research to figure out the how much a coach is worth, but it's well worth the effort.

If you own an RV, do you know its true value?

See results

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

Questions & Answers

  • How can I find the real value of a new RV?

    Divide the MSRP by 1.5. This is approximately what the dealer has to pay the manufacturer when he sells the coach.

  • We purchased a 2017 Grand Design Solitude 377MBS last year. We are now moving across the country to live with our daughter. Things have changed, and we need to sell our RV. How do we determine the price to ask?

    I checked the NADA prices for you. The basic list price for your unit was $86,199, low retail is $52,700 and average retail is $63,500.

    If you borrowed to buy this coach, you likely will be upside down on your loan and will also have a lien on it. If you check my profile page, you'll find an article that explains what you can do about this situation. Bear in mind that the asking price will depend on the condition of the coach, and that selling it will be difficult if there is a lien.

  • I am looking at a 2006 Alpine Apex FDTS. The clear coat is peeling and it appears the owner has not had the money to maintain it. They want $76,200 for it, I estimate we would have to put approx $12-15 in it to make sure all systems are working. The low retail is approx $92 - What are your thoughts on the price?

    I would never buy anything that has not been well maintained because there likely are more problems than those that are visible. You are asking for problems no matter what the price!

  • Why is my new RV worth so much less than what I paid for it, even less than a year after I purchased it?

    New RVs lose about 20% of their value very quickly after purchasing. For example, a unit you paid $100,000 for will only be worth about $80,000 if you try to sell it shortly after buying it.

  • How much should we ask for our 2004 Keystone Outback 28 BHS we purchased new? How do we determine the price to ask. Clean, never smoked in, new tires, well maintained.

    I searched the website but was unable to find a model called "outback", and therefore cannot help you. The only thing I can tell you is that you're talking about a coach that is 14 years old. Therefore, a good estimate would be to subtract 20% of the original sales price for the first year and then 5% of the remaining values for each of the following 13 years. Another option is to search for your year and model on the internet and see what sellers are asking for them. Without accurate data, pricing is impossible, but it is likely that your unit is not worth anywhere near what you paid for it. You can also take it to a dealer to see what he will give it for you, and then divide that figure in half.

© 2012 Sondra Rochelle


Submit a Comment
  • TIMETRAVELER2 profile imageAUTHOR

    Sondra Rochelle 

    7 months ago from USA

    This is a difficult question to answer without being able to see the unit as there are many things that determine value. Your best bet is to check for similar coaches on sites such as RVT and see what people are asking, ask dealers what they would charge, etc.

  • profile image


    7 months ago

    We are looking at purchasing a 2018 Forest River Salem Villa Classic 402QBQ. What is a reasonable price to offer for it? Thanks in advance.

  • TIMETRAVELER2 profile imageAUTHOR

    Sondra Rochelle 

    11 months ago from USA

    $10,000 would be your best price.

  • profile image

    Kelli Hashey 

    11 months ago

    Looking to sell our 1995 Southwind Storm. We are only the second owners and have all original paperwork and maintenance records. Non smoking no pets. Generator works but has a "miss" every now and then. The water heater needs a celluloid? 73000 miles had a leak but has been fixed and leak free for 4 years. wondering what we should be asking?

  • TIMETRAVELER2 profile imageAUTHOR

    Sondra Rochelle 

    11 months ago from USA

    Ask a dealer what it would cost to fix the deck then subtract that amount from the asking price.

  • profile image


    12 months ago

    We are looking at purchasing a sought after unit, 2016 Road Warrior 420 with side patio. It is well maintained, they bought the upgrades, took precaution to brace bathroom floor. However, common issue with deck rot is starting to happen and will need to be replaced which is common in this unit $2500. Happijac needs fixed $2000.00. We are great DIYers and very handy. How do we figure value to start the negotiating. They are asking for $74K and brought it down to $67K when they noticed the decking issue. This just seems way to high.

  • TIMETRAVELER2 profile imageAUTHOR

    Sondra Rochelle 

    16 months ago from USA

    Newmar manufactures a quality product line, which is one of the reasons their coaches cost so much. If you check my profile you'll find an article that discusses the financials with regards to general pricing. This info came directly from a man who worked in a big dealership for many years. It will tell you all you need to know. If I were to offer one piece of advice it would be to not buy new. You can find great units for considerably less money that are two or three years old, so look at some of those, also.

  • profile image

    Susan Warren Pitts 

    16 months ago

    Great article Sondra. We've been doing our homework on a class A for about 2 years now (previously owned a class c) and plan on making a purchase this upcoming Fall or Winter. Your formula for actual RV cost to dealership (MSRP / 1.5) fits the 30-35% number we've read elsewhere, and in conversations with salesmen, we've found they drop very quickly & sharply from MSRP. However, from our research it seems that our manufacturer of choice, Newmar, isn't as generous or willing to abandon MSRP altogether. Obvioulsy a very good product with consumer confidence on their side. We of course feel that a dealer and manufacturer needs to earn a living and pay their bills......but we don't want to be taken advantage of either.

    What are your thoughts and experiences with the pricing and purchase of Newmars? Thanks.

  • TIMETRAVELER2 profile imageAUTHOR

    Sondra Rochelle 

    8 years ago from USA

    A.A. Zavala: If you get serious about buying an RV, it might be a good idea to ask a friend who's been RVing for awhile to go with you when you start looking around for one. You also should read a few of my other RV articles to help you get a better picture of buying used or new, the different types of equipment that are out there, etc. You are right, though, you'll save thousands if you take your time and follow my advice. I've been at this a looooong time! Thanks for the read.

  • A.A. Zavala profile image

    Augustine A Zavala 

    8 years ago from Texas

    I'm wondering about buying an RV. This is a helpful guidline, and could ave me thousands of dollars. Thank you for sharing.


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