The first thing you need to know is that the online valuation guides for RVs are usually much higher than the values in the dealers copy of the NADA guide. In other words, what you think your RV is worth is probably much, much higher than what the dealer will actually allow for it.
This is the same for the automotive, boat or RV industries. The dealer MUST take trade-ins at or below wholesale to ever hope to eventually make a reasonable profit. He must allow for interest payments on his used inventory, commissions to sales people, overhead, and much more.
A typical mid-sized RV dealer will have a monthly overhead of $50,000 to $150,000 or more per month. Believe me, it's not an easy game. He has laid out millions of dollars to allow you to browse a decent selection of RVs, so please don't think of him as the bad guy.
Online RV Valuation Sources
Let's take a look at the online RV valuation sources and how to use them in order to place a realistic wholesale and retail value on your RV. The best place to get fairly accurate online values for RVs is at: www.nadaguides.com. Go to the RV section and select the appropriate letter that corresponds to the make of your RV.
Now is where you'll have to grit your teeth and do something completely against your nature. Don't add for any options! The dealer won't, so in this case we won't either. Understand that we are only trying to determine what the dealer will allow for your trade-in. This doesn't mean that you have to take it. In fact, you will be many dollars ahead if you decide to market your RV on your own, and then approach the dealer on a cash only basis. But that's another topic for another article.
At the bottom of the NADA page, click on the "Get Price" button. Now, let you your jaw drop as you look at the value for: Low Retail.
Now emit a mild groan, because it gets worse from here. Deduct another seven to 10 percent of that figure to establish the wholesale value in the dealer's copy of the NADA book. This is the value that the dealer will be looking at. If your RV is an upper-line or luxury RV, or if it's a specialty RV you will need to deduct even more -- 10 to 15 percent. Since the online low retail prices do not match the wholesale prices in the dealers NADA guide, this is an educated guess for you. It will however, get you close enough to decide whether or not you are willing to trade your RV, and accept the actual cash value the dealer will allow.
Remember not to add options! I know you tried to sneak a few in there didn't you? Remember The dealer never adds for options when determining an ACV on a trade-in. In some rare cases such as hydraulic leveling jacks or other options that are very expensive, he may allow a little more, but nowhere near the actual cost of the option.
Your best bet in determining what the dealer is allowing you for your trade-in is to take the Low Retail figure minus 10 percent. (More for upper-line or specialty units.)
Certain factors such as mileage, condition and unit popularity and saleability may influence the actual cash value allowed for your vehicle. Remember that we are dealing with an inexact science. We are simply trying to establish a guideline for estimating the actual amount allowed for your trade-in. Whether or not you decide to trade, is completely up to you. Now you have a way to weigh one against the other. The final decision of course is up to you.
Barry Wilder has been associated with his family RV business for over 25 years. He is currently the president of Best Rate Financial Services, providing loans and refinancing for RVs, boats and aircraft. The company also provides RV and boat warranties.
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