In 2017, I purchased a 1997 Fleetwood Bounder. Unlike some RVers my plan was not to travel, but I was looking to live in an RV. Why not? I could pick up and go on vacation and not have to pack a bag, not have to unpack when I got back. And, most important, I could sleep in my own bed at night, and could cook my own meals, have my coffee, watch TV and relax if I wasn't in the mood to go out.
But that was 3 years ago. I love my Bounder. But have also wanted to purchase a newer, bigger, better motorhome or fifth wheel. The problem for most of us then is just how to sell our RVs. So I did some research and want to share with you what I found.
How To Sell My RV
By Bob Gummersall
[Ed Note 04/20: While this article was originally written several years earlier, with but a few amendments we believe it is now as complete and accurate today as when first written by Bob. We've noted from our web traffic stats this article is extraordinarily popular with our readers.]
I recently sold a four year old diesel pusher myself and sold another less expensive pusher four years ago. People tell me I am a good salesman and with over 30 years experience with IBM in sales and marketing before retiring. I have to say that I am probably better at this process than most people. It is reported by RV associations that over 55% of the RV sales during each year involve private parties. Lots of you will go through this process so Tom Gonser asked me to consider sharing my experience by writing a “How to sell your RV” article. With that said, I believe that describing my recent experience privately selling a coach worth over $100,000 and experiences of close friends will benefit some of you, so here goes.
SETTING THE PRICE – This is the most important part of the selling process. It is very difficult to decide exactly what anything is actually worth because it is only worth what some will pay for it. If you set the price too high, you will have very few prospects and perhaps a long sale and missed opportunities. I have a good friend that is still trying to sell his pusher, because he turned down a good offer at ‘fair market price’ over a year ago. He thought his coach was worth a lot more than that. He is now seriously considering accepting an offer at least 15% less that the first one. This means that he has suffered one years cost of ownership, depreciation, interest, insurance, etc along with getting way less for his coach that his original assessment. I don’t think you want to be in this category.
Setting the price too low will ‘leave money on the table’, because that will generate lots of prospects and a quick sale. So the trick is to find what the ‘fair market price’ is for your RV. The NADA Web Site at http://www.nadaguides.com allows you to plug in some features and numbers and get a high and a low retail price. This is a good place to start. If you go to a Bank, Library, Insurance Company or RV Dealer, you can probably get information of NADA and Kelly Blue Book printed price guides. Those books will show a Loan Value and in most cases a Wholesale Value. You will now have a range of prices to contemplate. The Wholesale Value is the lowest price you should consider, but depending on the specific condition and features of your RV, you should start higher, but not as high as the NADA High Retail Price.
In my case, the NADA High Retail Price was $145,000 and the Wholesale Price was $105,000. I sold the coach for $112,000. In my friend’s case, his High Retail Price was $125,000 and Wholesale at $95,000. He turned down $118,000 and is now seriously considering $102,000. By turning down that good ‘fair market price’ a year ago, he has suffered all the costs of one year’s ownership and the $16,000 difference between offers.
I have written other articles showing the actual cost of ownership of our ‘depreciating’ assets (RV’s) and some of you have emailed to me about not realizing how much it really costs to RV. I have written other articles describing lots of ways to get these costs down, for example by buying older RV that has already depreciated significantly. We all have a hard time admitting that our shiny ‘newer’ RV is not really worth what we would like to get for it. However, setting the price ‘right’ to start with is the most important part of privately selling your RV.
PREPARING YOUR RIG – It is obviously important to have your rig in the best presentation possible. It should be clean, repaired and maintained to the best of your ability and ‘ready to show’.
MARKETING THE RIG – Marketing is the process of getting prospects for your product. It starts with deciding on a strategy for selling considering how much time you want to invest in the process. You can decide to spend lots of dollars in advertising to cast your net wider. You can decide to consign your RV to a dealer and not do any work yourself. You can decide to find ways to get people to look at your rig by parking it somewhere that lots of traffic passes. You can decide how much to spend on cosmetics to get your rig presentable to prospects.
Advertising in most local large city classified pages costs from $50 to $200 for a two week ad of several lines. This will obviously get large coverage in your city, but will not get coverage around the county. You can spend $200 to get an ad into a national RV publication, but that takes several weeks to set up and then maybe a month to actually get the ad in front of prospects. The Internet offers a way to significantly widen your coverage at a reasonable cost. I have posted a list of Internet RV Classified Ad Sites at the end of this article for your use in marketing your rig. They cost form nothing to $150 or so for multiple months of advertising. I sold both of my coaches this way to people that live at least a thousand miles from where I live. I would not have found those prospects without the Internet. Four years ago, there were very few sites, but now there are many. My first sale took about one month, but my second sale took six months. This longer process was partially due to the price range, $55,000 for the first one and $112,000 for the second. It was also caused by the negative economic conditions existing at the time, etc. Most of the marketing on the Internet involves getting some very good photographs to post. The more detailed and complete the better. Drafting the accompanying words is very important also. The ad needs to convince a prospect to take the next step and contact you. A well written ad describes all the features and condition of your rig accurately. You don’t want to waste time with people that are not real prospects for your rig. So the ad needs to do the initial qualification of the prospect. You want to attract prospective buyers of your product so accurate and complete photos and description should describe the basic floor plan, color, model, feature and condition questions. Leave a little unsaid as a way to get the prospect to call. The ad does its job, if there is a phone call or an email.
THE SELLING PROCESS – Selling starts at the first contact. The first email or phone call is the most important contact you will have. Especially if you are asking a person to come a long distance to see your coach, you need to qualify them effectively. The prospect needs to be sold on the next step, and that is to come and see your rig. The eventual buyer of my recent sale spent time to write over 20 emails getting lots of information from me on my coach. A trust has to be created in these first contacts and your selling skills are an important part of trust building. Do not come on too strong, but be proud of the product you are selling and let that show in your voice and words. Answer questions completely and concisely. Listen for the prospects response. Let them talk so that you can identify the items that are the most important to them. Use silence as your tool. Wait for them to tell you the information you need to qualify them as a real potential for your rig. Send additional photographs, maintenance records and descriptions in a professional way. Be concise, accurate and truthful in your answers to the prospects questions. When you feel the time is right, start asking the prospect to take the next step and that is to come and see your rig. Offer to let him ‘camp’ in the rig overnight and take him on a long test drive. This offer will tell your prospect that you are confident he will like the rig.
At this point, it is important to get the prospect to commit to spend the money to come and see your rig. You should indicate to the prospect the kind of price you are looking for with statements like “I need to get near $XXX for my rig”. This will simplify that actual negotiation. When the prospect arrives for the demonstration night and test drive, your closing process will begin. The toughest question to ask is “Is there any reason why you can’t make an offer?” It is important to have the confidence to get the closing process started. Ask “Is there any reason why you don’t want to buy my rig?” Take each objection that the prospects states and answer it and then ask the question again.
PAPER WORK – Have a clean title available at closing. If you owe money on your rig, you need to have documents prepared by an escrow company or lawyer to process the sale. I recommend using a escrow company if the price is above $50,000. If you own it free and clear, then have the proper bill of sale ready along with understanding your own States laws regarding the transfer of a vehicle to another State if that is involved. Do not give possession of your rig to the buyer until you have secured funds or cash in hand. Bank Wire Transfers are the safest in my opinion. Cashiers Checks are the next best money transfer vehicle. If you take a personal check, you must allow it to clear the banking system and have verification from your bank that the funds are actually in your account, before you give the buyer possession. If the seller is arranging financing, make sure that that is done on a provisional basis before he travels to see you rig. Do not be talked into letting him return to his home state with your rig, until you really have the money. Do this work before the potential buyer comes into town. Make sure he realizes that he must pay before he gets the rig.
SUMMARY – This process of selling you rig can be enjoyable but it can also be a very negative experience. All aspects of the process are important. If you have the right price and do the preparing, marketing, selling and closing correctly, you will do well and feel good about your disposing of your rig. You are competing with RV Dealers who can offer more services like taking a trade in or arranging financing so you must set a realistic price before any of this will happen. I hope this will help you have a good time selling you rig.
[Ed Note: Because of the huge popularity of this topic we've now added an additional analysis that looks at this issue from a different perspective. See what is essentially "Part II" of this article, "RV Selling Tips Revisited".]
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