Buying and Selling an RV: Private Party Deals

RV’s purchased private party: 2

RV’s sold private party: 1

These statistics don’t quite qualify us as experts, but we do have a thing or two to say about buying and selling an RV through a private party. If you never read our tale of selling Trudy and buying the Fox, it was quite an ordeal. Just like with anything in life, it’s all about what you learn from the experience – now we know for next time. We’d like to share some of the things we learned along the way, maybe you can avoid some of the headaches we had.

One of Trudy’s “For Sale” listing pics. Doesn’t she look sharp?

What is considered a private party?

A private party is a person (or people) who currently own the RV. These individuals are not associated with a dealer. So, when Tim and I chose to sell Trudy directly, we were a private party seller. The people we bought both the Fox and Trudy from were also individuals.

What are the benefits of a private party sale?

1.Cash Money

The #1 benefit, IMHO, is the vast price differential for both the buyer and the seller. It truly benefits both parties in a massive way financially. When we got trade in estimates for Trudy, we were shocked at how insultingly low they are. We have heard exactly the same story from other RV’ers. The price difference was so great that we knew we had to sell Trudy privately.

With what the dealer offered us, they would turn around and easily make $30-$40k on the sale. This means that the buyer is also paying an inflated price for the RV, and when they go to sell it or trade it in someday, they will lose lots of money. If you buy from a private party to begin with (like we did with Trudy) and then sell privately, you will still lose money (RV’s do nothing but depreciate) but it will be a lot less than if you bought from a dealer.

2. Avoid Dealers

We visited over a dozen dealers. We never found one that we felt great about giving a big chunk of our money to. They ranged from “Okay” to “Slimy”. Your mileage may vary.

3. You can talk to the previous owner of the RV.

When we sold Trudy, we were extremely candid about everything that was wrong with her. By the same token, we also bragged about all of the improvements we did! I hope her buyers could sense our honesty. Of course, you never know if the person selling to you is being honest, but you can usually get a sense for it after spending some time with them. And you can find out way more about how the RV was cared for/maintained than any RV dealer is ever going to have knowledge of.

4. Free/Low Cost Accessories

Another benefit – the previous owner might also include a lot of the accessories you need for free or for a reduced cost. We ended up selling our TPMS and our towing equipment to Trudy’s new owners for a fraction of what it would have cost them new. And it was already installed! A brand new RV or a used RV from the dealer doesn’t come with anything. And believe me, those accessories add up in cost. And if you don’t know how to install them yourself, labor costs are sky high.

The TPMS (Tire Pressure Monitoring System) we had for Trudy. Sensors on all tires of the motorhome + toad.

Buying an RV Private Party: Things to Be Aware Of

Trust: The process requires some level of trust on both sides. This is why you need to be comfortable with the person you are buying from. If they say or do anything that sets your warning bells off, do NOT proceed. You will be wiring this person money or giving them a cashier’s check or a huge wad of cash (don’t forget to draft up a sales agreement first!). Make sure you are dealing with an honest person. This is probably the biggest hurdle of the whole process. It’s very hard to trust a stranger.

It turns out that the person we bought Trudy from was actually not a very trustworthy individual. We found out later he lied to our faces about Trudy’s original purchase price. Thankfully he didn’t do anything else shady (that we know of), but it made us wonder if all of the stuff he told us about maintaining Trudy was a lie. All you can do is your best to gauge someone’s trustworthiness – you can’t know it all.

Loan: If the current owners have a loan on the RV, it will need to be paid off before the title is released to you. The sellers need to be certain of exactly how much money is left on the loan (down to the day). Make sure they give you ALL of the information needed if they ask you to wire money directly to the loan. When we bought the Fox, the sellers forgot to give us one of the numbers and we had our money in limbo (gone form our account, but not where it was supposed to end up) for a terrifying 24 hours before it was resolved. Ask for proof that it is paid off.

Title: It may take awhile to get the title if the owner doesn’t have it in-hand at time of purchase. When we bought the Fox, the title was released from the loan company to the previous owner, then they forwarded it on to us. When we bought Trudy, we had a similar situation and Trudy’s former owner mailed us the title then, too. This is basically another exercise in trust.

The Fox, before she was ours. Sandwiched in between 2 other RV’s at the storage facility her previous owners had her in.

Steps to Selling an RV Private Party

Much like selling a house, selling an RV is a big undertaking. It’s more than worth it for the end result of getting a decent price on your RV, but yes, there is work involved. You need to:

  • Clean it and put all yo’ junk out of the way, like staging a house
  • Take pictures
  • Choose a price (we looked for other 2006 Intruders for sale and priced ours fairly, we wanted to move it fast)
  • List on the web. Include at least 10 pictures. Here are the sites we used:
    • Craigslist (any time we moved cities, I changed the location on the ad and bumped it as much as possible)
    • Facebook Marketplace (I changed the location on FB, too)
    • RV Trader (I think it was $79 to do an ad here? We got $10 off by being Escapees)
    • Instagram
  • Put a “FOR SALE” sign in the window
  • We also did a video tour of Trudy
  • Deal with all of the non-serious inquiries that come in (50%)
  • Deal with all of the spam inquiries (45%)
  • Deal with all of the serious inquiries that come in (5%)

Obviously, what goes on once you start pursuing a deal with an interested private party is up to you. You have to gauge how serious they are, if they will try to low-ball you, etc. That part of the process is not fun. My only words of wisdom here are to not get excited and think you have a buyer until the day you actually cash their check!

A Note on Consignment Lots

A consignment lot is where people bring their RV to sell it. Many RV’s sit on the same lot, kind of like a dealer. This way it gets in front of a lot more eyes than it would from your driveway. It sits on the lot until it is sold. The consignment dealer doesn’t buy directly from the seller, instead they facilitate a transaction between the buyer and seller. They usually take a fee of 10-20% of the sale price. If we weren’t able to sell Trudy, trying a consignment lot would have been our next step.

Conclusion

Is selling an RV private party worth the effort?

Absolutely, yes. Unless you can afford to throw away tens of thousands of dollars. For this reason (the benefit to both the buyers and the seller) we will continue to buy and sell our RV’s via private party in the future.

Our 2 rigs, side by side

 

 

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