How I Sold My RV and Made An Extra Ten Thousand Dollars


This is not a how to article because I am no expert in buying or selling RVs.  Since it is my belief that many who own RVs are not experts either I thought you might find my experiences to be interesting and possibly useful. 


The RV that met our needs from August 2003 no longer provided the excitement or comfort that we want.  The 22 foot Rialta is a great RV for seeing the country but not staying anywhere too long.  Flexibility and economy describe the Rialta, but alas we had no room for the grand kids and even our dog made us feel a bit crowded.  So while the decision to sell was made over a period of months, it was clearly time to make a change.


We first ruled out a trade-in assuming that the dealer would offer us a wholesale price and we owed more on the unit than wholesale.  While RV dealers could likely play with the numbers so much that it would be hard to tell what we paid, somehow I knew we would lose about ten thousand dollars and not be in a good bargaining position for the new RV.


I next tackled getting the unit ready for sale.  My objective was twofold.  I wanted every system on the RV to be in working order and I wanted the RV to look as close to new as possible.  Since I had chosen to sell it myself I also needed to get any benefit of sweat equity.  In testing all the systems I did such things as running the generator, furnace, refrigerator on LP, water heater, lights, drain pump, water faucets, outside shower, TV, TV hookup, exterior lights, and anything else I could find.


When bringing the unit over to my home I checked air pressure in the tires.  Once at the house I washed and waxed the unit including the wheels.  There was some rust showing on the rear wiper so I removed it and sanded the rust off then spray painted it.  Inside the unit I shampooed the carpet, dusted, waxed, used leather care on the seats and generally cleaned it to the best of my ability.  Now while this may sound like nothing more than common sense I urge you to spend several days completing this task.  Every time I entered the RV there would be something I missed the last time.  This is critical to getting a good price.  Looks sell.


During this process I contacted the lien holder to determine proper procedure for making a final payment and obtaining the title.  I also stopped by the motor vehicle office to see what I should do with the tag.  Of course it was also important to check out the Rialta price range which I did on the Internet.  What I found is that the Rialta generally holds value a little better than the traditional sources (NADA and Kelley) would have you believe.


Once the RV was prepared I took pictures, lots of pictures.  I eventually had about 50 photographs of the inside and exterior of the unit for interested parties to view.  One of the pictures I took was the mileage and another the hours on the generator.  This eliminated any chance of being accused of fudging.  So I had a 2004 Rialta with 79 thousand miles and an asking price of $32,900.


I posted pictures on my web site and used Shutterfly to store another 30 or so.  My first effort was to place an ad on Craig’s List.  This is free and there’s a good chance of getting a local buyer.  I also posted on a free web site, Motorhome Classifieds,com.  Upon being contacted by an interested party I would make certain they had the web site address with the pictures and then forward them the remaining pictures via Shutterfly.    


While I received inquiries from both of these sources it became clear that the mileage was a problem so I placed an ad with RV Trader Online and also noted the unit came with one year of coverage under the Good Sam Extended Service Plan.  Though this cost a little over $800 I felt it would be a good selling point.  I had obtained a quote from them that was good for about one month and did not finalize the coverage until the sale was imminent.  This gave the buyer the most coverage and saved me from incurring additional costs for no reason.


Eventually a lady from several states away showed great interest and we exchanged numerous e-mails.  One problem faced by both buyer and seller was protecting our financial interests when dealing with strangers.


I obtained a standard vehicle Bill of Sale form in the Word program on my computer and filled it out and e-mailed it to her.  She did the same and we eventually agreed on the wording.  She requested an additional year of the Good Sam Extended Service Plan coverage.  That amounted to a total of about $1,600 off the sales price of $32,900.


She wanted to fly in on Friday afternoon and spend a night in the RV and drive it home on Saturday.  I searched for a way to make certain I had received the funds before she drove off.  One possibility was using an attorney as an escrow agent, but that fell through.  Eventually, working with my local banker, she arranged to open an account at my bank and transfer the funds to it.


So on the Friday in question I picked her up at the airport, praying the snow wouldn’t cancel her flight, and took her to the RV which I had previously set up in the RV Park.  This also gave me one final chance to test all the systems.  We spent about two hours going over all the inside features.  (That was not enough time for someone buying their first RV.)  She spent a comfortable night in the RV and I met her at the RV first thing the next morning and we continued the instructions by unhooking.  She then drove the RV and we headed for the bank where she wrote a check and we signed the bill of sale.    


The next business day I electronically transferred funds to the lien holder and several days later received the title.  We signed it and mailed it to the buyer via registered mail.  By turning in the RV tag I got a nice refund and also a refund on the insurance, though I waited a couple of weeks just to be safe.


It wasn’t easy.  It was a lot of work.  In the final analysis the effort netted me close to ten thousand dollars.  My advice is to make your RV look as good as possible and make absolutely certain all systems work.  Price your unit a little on the high side, but not so high that you scare away serious buyers.  Be willing to compromise, but also take necessary steps to protect yourself from unscrupulous individuals. 


It is now time for the fun to begin with my search for a new RV. 


Jack Kean



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