NADA RV Values:
The Price is Right, or is it?

In this article I will show you how to get the most out of using the free NADA RV online services.

Next, I'll enlighten you on how the quality of the recreational vehicle is not taken into account with the RV appraisal guides and why this is important - Lastly, I'll discuss how to calculate RV values for buying and selling new and used RVs.

The good news is you won't even have to open your pocketbook. All of the methods described here for obtaining RV values are free of charge.

Using NADA RV Online Services

NADA RV valuesWhether you're buying or selling, you'll want to know the wholesale price and the retail price of the travel trailer, 5th wheel, or motorhome. Here's the catch: You can't get the wholesale price from the free online NADA RV values, right? Well, we're going to anyway. Actually, we'll get a pretty good estimate of the wholesale price, along with the retail price.

Here's how:

  1. Go to nadaguides.com.
     
  2. Go to the RV section and click on the Start Here button.
     
  3. Select the manufacturer, then select the year and model.
     
  4. Enter the mileage, if a motorhome.
     
  5. Choose to calculate either the Wholesale or Retail price:

    NADA RV values for mini-motorhomes Wholesale Price: Do Not select any options if you wish to calculate the wholesale or RV trade-in value. The dealer will not take options into account for trade-ins, so we won't either. Click "Continue".

    Take the "Low Retail" figure and subtract 10%. This will get you close to the NADA RV book value. You now have the wholesale, or trade-in value for the camper. This figure will usually be close to the actual cash value (ACV), which is the amount a dealer would pay you, in cash, for the RV.

    There you have it, a pretty good estimate of the wholesale price without having to shell out a couple hundred just to get the NADA RV blue book.

    Retail Price: If you want to know the retail price, go ahead and select your options - but only those options which do not come standard. Click "Continue".

    Take the figure for "Average Retail" and subtract 10%. The online NADA values have been inflated to satisfy dealers. Subtracting 10% will compensate for the difference between the online and paper book values. Now you have the average retail price, or MSRP.

About NADA RV Appraisal Guides

NADA stands for National Automobile Dealers Association. The NADA RV Appraisal Guides are used by most RV dealers and RV owners.

One very important fact to keep in mind is that the NADA RV values do not take into account quality. Whether the RV is a poorly built "crackerbox", or a top quality product made to last several decades, the NADA RV appraisal guides are not concerned.

These guides are all about one thing: price. The NADA RV values are calculated based on demand and selling prices at RV dealerships, RV auctions, and RV sales websites.

You shouldn't be interested in a low quality camper, and paying too much for one just adds insult to injury. Avoid low quality RVs and don't take the appraised value for them in the NADA RV Guides (both online and book editions) or the Kelly Blue Book for RVs, seriously.

Low quality motorhomes or travel trailers can be poorly constructed, unbalanced, and unsafe. They aren't worth the risk. I highly recommend using an RV rating service such as that provided by RV Consumer Group before purchasing any camper. RV Consumer Group will tell you how a unit rates on 3 factors: reliability, value, and highway control.

Get RV Values For Buying & Selling

NADA RV values for fifth wheels

Are you interested in getting the best price on a new or used camper? Or, are you selling a travel trailer or motorhome and deciding on a selling price?

Obtaining the NADA RV values is important, however there is more to it than that if you want to make the most out of your hard earned cash.

Thankfully there isn't much more - just 2 more steps:

Step 1: Calculate Fair-Market Value

Step 2: Take all other factors into consideration 

Step 1: Fair-Market Value

Fair-market value for recreational vehicles is halfway between wholesale and retail. Retail is the manufacturer's suggested retail price (MSRP) for new RVs, and average book retail price for used RVs.

The fair-market value serves as a benchmark when calculating how much you should pay, or sell an RV for. If you want to get the best deal possible, make it a goal to pay as far below the fair-market value as the dealer or seller allows.

Fair-Market Value for New RVs

To calculate fair-market value for new RVs you'll first want to get the MSRP. This is the base price + total options price + freight. The dealer may stack on additional charges and label them as "other services". Look over these additional services carefully, before adding them to the total. You can also obtain the MSRP from the NADA RV values either online or with the book.

The dealer cost is typically about 70% of the MSRP. So, to calculate fair-market value you will take 85% of the MSRP (which, again, is halfway between wholesale and retail). Don't pay more than this figure. In fact, RVs can often be purchased at 75% to 80% of the MSRP.

Fair-Market Value for Used RVs

Calculating fair-market value for used rigs is almost as easy as for new. First, you will want to get the average retail and wholesale prices from the NADA RV Appraisal Guide and the Kelly Blue Book RV edition. Commercial editions of these books can often be found at public libraries. Find the average by adding the prices from each book and dividing by 2. If you only have one book, you can use the values from that book.

You can also get the NADA RV values on the internet from the NADA website (use the instructions at the beginning of this article). Unfortunately the Kelly Blue Book RV values are not available online. If you get the NADA RV values on the internet, subtract 10%, as mentioned in the instructions above. This is the typical amount inflated from the paper editions.

Now, subtract the average wholesale from the average retail. Next, add half of this figure to the wholesale. This is the fair-market value.

Actual Cash Value

It's also good to know the actual cash value (ACV). This is what a dealer will pay, in cash, for a particular unit. The ACV is usually close to wholesale. However, the ACV could be 10% to 20% below book wholesale. The ACV usually depends on the dealer and the region. Knowing the ACV can give you an advantage when haggling for the best price.

NADA RV values for Class A motorhomes

Step 2: Other Factors

You've calculated the RV's fair-market value using the NADA RV values and/or the Kelly Blue Book RV values right? Great. Now you are ready to fine tune this number. You will want to take the following into account:

  • What kind of condition is the camper in? If the travel trailer or motorhome has normal wear for its age, no adjustment is needed. However, if the RV shows substantial wear you'll want to lower the value - in contrast, if it's a real cherry, you can raise the value.
  • Does everything work on the RV? If not, the value will be lower.
  • What is the camper selling for online? You'll want to find the same make, model, and year. You can compare prices on RV Trader, RVT.com, eBay, and Craigslist.
  • Check your local newspaper for asking prices.
  • Any bank offering RV financing will be able to look up the value. This is a great way to find out the maximum amount you should pay for an RV. You certainly don't want to pay more than a bank would loan on a unit.
  • Ask an RV dealer for advice. They should know what a particular model is going for.

Once you've taken the above into consideration, you should have a pretty good idea of the RV's value. If you're selling the camper, you'll want to allow some room for bargaining. Raising the price by 15-20% is a good place to start. You can always lower the price later if you're not getting many calls.

Conclusion

As you can see, there are several factors to consider when determining an RV's value - however, it's not rocket science and the NADA RV values will get you off on the right track. You'll now be much better informed "price-wise" when buying and selling an RV - and that should put some extra change in your pocket!

References

  • How to Select, Inspect, and Buy an RV - by JD Gallant
  • NADA Guides

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