Don has been an avid traveler and motorhome owner for most of his life and he shares his experiences along with valuable tips for RV owners.
What Is Your RV’s Real Value?
Eventually every camper owner will have to either trade or sell their RV.
Many RV owners doing this for the first time really don’t know what their RV, or in fact any RV, is really worth.
Sure, when you sit down with a dealer, they will fire up their computer terminal and within minutes they will tell you what they will allow you for your Used RV.
But when you hear their numbers you immediately start to wonder if that number is what your RV is actually worth on the RV market, or is it just the lowest they think they can get away with in the proposed trade agreement.
NADA and KBB
The two most popular tools used by RV dealers to establish an RV's present value are NADA (National Automobile Dealers Association) and KBB (Kelly Blue Book).
You may have heard of these two companies because they are the very same ones who establish the present value of automobiles across the US.
Remember one important fact about these two companies: these tools were developed for automobile dealers, and not for you and me, the consumers of America.
Initially, if an automobile dealer wanted to figure out the value of an automobile, they subscribed to NADA and received a monthly booklet. Each booklet listed what the other dealers in a region of the country were actually allowing owners for their used car in a trade and what they were actually getting for their used cars.
So, using this tool, dealers, from the largest to the smallest, were able to look up any commercially manufactured used automobile and see its average “Trade In Value” and its “Retail Value”.
Of course, these booklets were only sold (for as little as $100 a month) to real dealers and not to consumers, which gave dealers a real edge in their trade negotiations.
Over time these two companies evolved their data onto their web sites and formalized their pricing structures to the point that they even listed variations in pricing for certain popular automobile options.
And, as they evolved their systems, they even added a consumer section that allowed the average owner to see some of their product pricing. They were so popular that other products were added to their sites including Recreational Vehicles.
In this article, I will describe the terms and procedures used by NADA. I have also used KBB's site, and their site and pricing is very similar to NADA's.
How to Use NADA
This is how to log into the NADA site on the web. Along the way, I will explain some of the terms used.
First, log into the NADA site using www.NADAguides.com.
On the first page, the "CONSUMER" page, select any option to get to the next page, which has a header with selections for the different products for which they provide pricing to Consumers. You will see "RVs" as one of the options so select this tab to get to the RV section.
On this page, you can select the type of RV you are interested in getting pricing data for, such as;
- Travel Trailers
- Fifth Wheelers
- Camping Trailers
- Park Models
- Truck Campers
- Tow Vehicles
Once you select one of these categories then you will be directed to the specific pages of data about that type of vehicle for refining your pricing search.
These pages are free for everyone to use.
If this is your first trip to this site, then a window will pop up and you need to enter your Zip Code. As I mentioned, they have different pricing for different parts of the country on the exact same RVs so you will see what the average pricing is for your area, and not somewhere on the other side of the country.
At this point, you can search for an RV by a manufacturer's name, to get a quick check of the different year models and see the values. Enter the manufacturer's name, and after the page updates, enter the specific model name, model number, and length of the RV you are interested in pricing.
You will be shown another page that lists ALL of the particular options and accessories that were available on your rig when it was new.
But at this point you will see a warning. Because some of these options came on certain RV’s when they were manufactured, you should not select an option twice, as this will artificially increase your RVs actual value.
But you do need to go through this list and carefully select each option that exists on your rig and was not on a standard model. Once you have finished with this list, it will be used to determine the five prices of your rig that NADA provides to dealers.
Five RV Pricing Terms Used by NADA
Once you enter the details you will be given access to the next listing of data which is the specific Product Pricing page.
This page will list five very important numbers that you need to understand and use in your trade negotiations or as part of your selling strategy, and these are:
- Suggested List Price
- Base Low Retail
- Base High Retail
- Accessory-Loaded Low Retail
- Accessory-Loaded High Retail
By the Way, MSRP Is Not a Real and Firm Number
You will see the MSRP price listed on all new RVs. This is the same MSRP as that you see on that pretty sticker on the windows of new automobiles.
As the name implies, this is a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price—with the emphasis on Suggested.
Each model year, the manufacturers produce a new version of their products, and each year they provide this “suggested” price to the dealers, generally in the hope people will just walk up and write a check for that MSRP number.
And RVs have an MSRP number that all RV dealers try to get. But, we all know that as the model year heads toward the next year's new model releases, the dealers (and manufacturers) start accepting lower and lower pricing to try to get rid of last year's models.
So, the MSRP for an RV never changes. That’s probably a good thing when you just use it as a reference number.
You see, over time, it becomes a number that the owner can use to brag about what their old RV was supposedly actually worth at one time. Because we all know that, like automobiles, RVs depreciate from the date they are manufactured and will continue to do so every year.
1. Suggested List Price
This Suggested List Price is the NADA name for the MSRP value of your rig.
No one uses this number in dealing, except really crooked dealers trying to take advantage of an unknowing Newbie who is looking for an RV.
And of course many RV owners will use this number for bragging rights ove who has the most "expensive' RV.
You don't know how many times I have heard some RV owner brag, after a couple of beers, in front of their friends who don't know any better and say something like: "Hey, the list price on my rig is $250,000" (or whatever number they got from NADA at one time or another).
2. Base Low Retail
This Base Low Retail number is, as it says;,the lowest possible retail price for an RV. You can find the exact definition of this price on the NADA site, but let's just say this is the Retail value of an RV in pretty bad condition.
A dealer will rarely ask for this low price for their RV even though it may be what their RV is really worth.
They will always ask for a significantly higher price than this number in the hope that an unknowing potential buyer comes along and pays what they are asking, even if it is not at this price.
At one time, dealers would offer at least this number for your RV in a trade-in negotiation, but in today’s market they actually try to take advantage of potential traders and offer a trade-in price much lower than this, often referring to it as the “Wholesale Value.”
3. Base High Retail
The Base High Retail pricing is the expected base retail value of an RV, if it is in Very Good Condition.
The condition of all RVs can cause significant variations in this and all of the other standard average pricing provided by NADA.
This Base High Retail price is often used by dealers to establish what they will accept for the used RVs on their lots; but in an active market they may ask a significantly higher number for a popular model of RV.
4. Accessory-Loaded High Retail
There is another price in NADA and it is called the “Accessory-Loaded High Retail" pricing for an RV. This is the High Retail Price including the values of all of the accessories and options on an RV when added to the base price.
This number is rarely used except by dealers who are trying to kick up their asking price for the RV they are trying to sell you.
You should never pay this price for a used RV.
Wholesale Price, the secret number
As a Consumer, you need to know that there is one other important RV pricing number that exists on NADA. This is the Average Suggested Wholesale Price and it is only available to RV dealers who are members of NADA, and not to Consumers..
Dealers throw this term around a lot when they are in the middle of a deal with a potential buyer but you as a Consumer have no way to know what this number actually might be.
From experience, I can say that this Wholesale Price was often around 80% of the Low retail Price for many RVs, but to get the actual number you must be a NADA member.
Remember the name includes the word “Suggested”, just like the MSRP does, and the reason I mention it is because ,in a good market, many dealers are now only offering this mythical ASWP for your used RV when you try to work out a trade deal.
How to Use These RV Prices
So, you have an old RV and you are now wondering; what are these numbers for and how do you use them?
Well, theoretically, If you are trying to sell your RV yourself, you want to use the "high retail" price that is what your Rv is selling for in your your area of the country.
But at the same time you set this as your asking price you should also expect any potential buyer that knows anything about Rvs to offer you something lower than your asking price
Realistically, I suggest that you should start your negotiations expecting an offer for your RV to be at a price somewhere between the "Base Low Retail" and the "Base High Retail" price, depending on the condition of your rig.
And accept the reality that if your RV has;
- any visible body damage,
- any scratched-up paint,
- any clear-coat damage
- worn carpet,
- ceiling and wallpaper areas showing water damage,
- major appliances that don't work,
- worn or aged tires
then you will need to adjust your pricing accordingly if you want to get a fast sale or trade and you will need to expect a lower offer for your RV.
Many of the dealers tend to offer trade-in pricing that's even below the Low Retail price listed to start with.
And condition problems will allow them to lower their offered price at least enough to give them a larger margin on what they pay for your RV and what they will be selling it for, once they spend the money necessary to clean it up.
So, you need to know these methods of RV Pricing, and even if you do not like what you see, they are the reality of the RV market for your specific RV in the local area where you live.
The good thing is that you will go into a sale or trade knowing the actual and realistic numbers on your RV and your deal will then depend on your negotiating skills.
In a sense, you may be at the mercy of the local RV market, when you want to trade your used one in on a new one., but you will be confident in whatever deal you end up making.
How to negotiate a Lower Price on an RV
© 2019 Don Bobbitt
Don Bobbitt (author) from Ruskin Florida on August 04, 2019:
Carolyn - Sorry!
National Automobile Dealers Association.
Have a Nice Day,
Carolyn Fields from South Dakota, USA on August 04, 2019:
Did I miss it? What does NADA stand for?
Don Bobbitt (author) from Ruskin Florida on August 03, 2019:
Liz - I'm glad you like the article. And, one thing you can count on, dealers everywhere will do all they can to increase their profits, and the consumer needs to stay educated themselves to make sure they are not taken advantage of.
Have a Nice Day,
Liz Westwood from UK on August 03, 2019:
This is a very useful tool for anyone looking to sell their RV. In the UK I have come across car dealerships that base their part exchange offers for your old car on a national car aution site's valuations.