This post has been updated for 2021 to reflect the unique challenges of buying and selling renovated RVs for profit in our current market.
Buying and Selling RVs for Profit
Our family makes extra money, buying and selling renovated RVs for profit on Facebook Marketplace! We search for great deals on ugly, outdated RVs and breath new life into them. I love taking something that is broken and disgusting and turning it into a fully functional, stylish home on wheels. We’ve learned a lot over the years through trial and error. I’m going to share all my tips and tricks for buying and selling a used RV on Facebook Marketplace.
Update – Please Read
I originally published this several years ago, before the RV flipping craze hit and before the RV market went crazy. At the time, I was getting numerous questions about buying and selling and I was so excited to be doing something that helped our family out financially. I wanted to share what I had learned. If I were to go back, would I have published this information? Maybe, maybe not. But I would have worded it differently knowing what I know now.
We’re living in a world now where everyone I talk with wants to start an RV flipping business, regardless of their experience with RVs or lack of.
While I do want to encourage and empower everyone to fix up an RV for their own personal use, I don’t believe everyone has the skill or knowledge needed to go into business. I am seeing so many people begin their first renovation, with zero camping experience and zero knowledge of how unique an RV is compared to a sticks and bricks home. I am urging you, if are considering buying and selling renovated RVs for profit, to do your research.
The market is now flooded with renovated RVs that look pretty in the pictures, but may or may not have been completed by someone who knew what they were doing. If the renovator didn’t use proper painting technique, the paint job will not hold up. If they didn’t know how to look for water damage, you could have a major problem hidden beneath the surface. Whether you are on the buying or selling side, please know that a proper renovation is messy, hard work that requires knowledge of camping and the unique ways an RV is manufactured.
Step One: Purchasing a Used RV at a Great Price
My first tip is to check Facebook Marketplace and check it often! When we are on the hunt, we will check the Marketplace several times a day. Some might call it creepy, but I love that Facebook catches on and starts to notify me when RVs have been listed in my area! Be ready, RVs that are priced low will sell fast.
Do your research, know what you want and have your finances in order. Use key terms to search for the type of RV you want. Do you have a particular year in mind? Are you interested in a travel trailer or a motorhome, a Class C or a Class A? Because RVs tend to sell fast, a seller may be dealing with numerous inquiries a day. Your goal is the be the first one to contact them and the first one to show up with cash in hand.
Making an Offer
Gather as much info as you can through Messenger, then schedule the earliest time you can go see the RV in person. Do not negotiate over the phone or via Messenger. Wait to assess the situation in person. Inspect the RV as best you can to determine how much money you’re going to have to put into it. Based on the amount you will need to spend on repairs, make an offer that allows for lots of profit margin.
Use this formula: Selling Price – (Purchase Price + Cost of Repairs + Your Time) = Profit
If your goal is to resell this RV, do a quick search for this particular model. Research what this model is normally selling for in it’s current condition compared to one in better shape. What features does this RV have that will be appealing to potential buyers? Once you have renovated this RV, will you be able to price it competitively and still make a profit?
If you’re new to the world of old campers, knowing what to look for can be tricky. Here are a few of the general things we look for when inspecting a potential RV to buy and sell for profit.
These are specific things to look for regarding drivable motorhomes.
- Engine problems
- How many miles are on the engine?
- Listen and inspect belts, oil level, exhaust, look underneath, look for damage, etc.
- Ask questions about the history of maintenance. Was it driven frequently or did it sit for a long time?
- Take it to a mechanic or have a friend that knows a lot about cars come along to inspect!
How to look for hidden water damage in an RV.
- Do you see visible cracks or holes in the siding or roof?
- Check for water damage!
- Do you see ripples in the wallpaper or ceiling?
- Inspect all interior walls and ceiling, be sure to open cabinet doors and look inside!
- Walk all over the interior and check for soft spots on the floor
- Water damage can travel! It may be hard to tell how far it has spread, but if there is a clear source of the damage it might be easier to fix.
Here are the things to look at on the interior of your RV.
- Outdated décor – Make a note of what will need to be changed and how much you will need to spend.
- Ugly wallpaper – RV wallpaper can be painted over!
- Old/outdated toilet or faucet – These will be around $100 each to replace.
- Smoke detectors
- LP gas/Carbon monoxide detectors
- Appliances can be quite costly to replace! Do they all work? Check them!
- Hot water heater
- Water pump
- Cushions, Mattress, Couch
- These are things that can really add up in price!
- Do they smell? Can they be cleaned?
- Can they be recovered or will you need to buy new?
Here are things to look for on the exterior of an RV.
- Frame damage
- Is it rusty or cracked?
- A damaged frame can get incredibly costly and sometimes impossible to repair
- Are they in working order?
- Are they intact?
- Check skylights and vent coverings too!
- Are screens in place?
- Tires can be quite costly depending on the size of your camper, but you want them to be in great shape!
- How old are they? They should have a date on them! Even if they look new, if they have been sitting for several years it’s probably time to change them out.
- Is the tread good? Are there cracks or signs of dry rot?
- Do all exterior and interior lights work?
- A problem with lighting can either be a quick fix, or a sign of something more complicated
- Pipes and tanks – Annoying and time consuming to fix. Check to see if they have caused water damage.
- Gas tanks
- Sewage hoses
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Titles and Registration
This is something I have learned through trial and error. Every state has different laws regarding titling and registering a motorhome or a travel trailer. Some states do not require a title while others do. Some state may require you to weigh your trailer and if it is under a certain weight, they will register it without a title. Finding info on this topic can be tricky, but I would recommend you go straight to your state’s website, DMV or Secretary of State office for answers.
After a lot of hassle and several bad experiences, I have decided never to purchase a camper again that doesn’t have a title. I’ve also learned how important it is to make sure you take your license plate off before selling!
Here’s a summary of these points to remember:
- Check Facebook Marketplace often
- Know the key terms to narrow your search (Class C, Class A, travel trailer, motorhome, fifth wheel, rear living, bunk house, etc.)
- Be the first to contact a seller and the first to show up with cash in hand
- Asses the damage and price of repairs in order to make a reasonable offer
- Do a quick search to see what this RV is selling for in it’s current condition and in better shape
Step Two: Renovating Your RV
If your goal is the flip this RV, you will want to fix things up with your buyer in mind. There are certain things that are sure to be selling points, and others you should skip. Is it worth investing in expensive artwork, or is the buyer going to want their own? Should you spend additional money on new cushions, or will recovering them work out fine? You want to create a beautiful reflection of your own style and skill, but don’t get too caught up in the details. In my experience, a buyer will appreciate the work you put into preparing an RV to a certain extent.
A buyer that is not a DIYer will be happy you cleaned out the mouse poop and replaced the toilet. They will be happy that you spent hours, painstakingly painting every nook and cranny. If you have spent time to make sure everything is in working order and safe for travel, great! Once you have completed your renovation and taken amazing before and after pictures, the messages will come pouring in. However, I would caution you not to put too much time and money into details that they buyer may or may not care about. It’s a fine balance to learn.
Here’s a video I put together that summarizes everything in this post!
The Ugly Truth
RV Renovations may look glamorous. What you see on Instagram may make it look easy. You may be motivated by the “before and after” pictures you hope to post, but be prepared for the ugly middle. I started years ago, doing most of the work myself and have slowly adding in the help of my teenage kids and husband. If you were to add up the total hours we spend on a single renovation, it would easily be over 300. How much is your time worth? If your renovated RV wont sell for enough to cover the cost of your time, it’s not a sustainable business model. Be prepared for surprises, things to go wrong, things to break, hidden water damage, lots of grunt work and sore muscles. If you’re doing it right, it will take work.
You may be motivated by the “before and after” pictures you hope to post, but be prepared for the ugly middle.
Step Three: Sell, Sell, Sell!
Once you have completed your renovation, it’s the moment of truth. Will your potential buyer appreciate all the time and energy you put into this project? What if it doesn’t sell? How do you price this amazing labor of love? I’ll cover all this and more, believe me!
How to Price a Renovated RV
I’m going to give this to you straight; pricing a renovated RV is a panic-attack-inducing mind game. As a creative, hands-on person, numbers and selling strategies might not be your game. If you’ve poured time, money and a little bit of your soul into this project, it’s going to be hard to put a price tag on it. Let’s be honest, your buyer really doesn’t understand how much work went into this project. They appreciate it to a certain extent, or as much as they can without experiencing it themselves.
The truth is, not everyone is a DIYer. This is where you have the advantage. Not everyone wants to tackle an RV renovation project, but they also don’t want a new model with zero personality. That’s where you come in.
Here’s what I take into consideration when pricing a renovated RV:
- At what price are (non-renovated) RVs like this one selling for in my local area and nationally?
- What are renovated RVs selling for in my local area and nationally?
- If I’m selling a motorhome, is the engine in good shape? What have I done to ensure it will work well for my buyer?
- What is a brand new RV like this one selling for?
- How old is this RV? Will the age scare people off?
- What modern features does this RV have that will be appealing to a buyer?
- Do I want to price it for a quick sale or am I OK with waiting a while for the right person to come along?
- What is my bottom-line selling price that I’d be OK with?
- If my selling price is over $25K, most buyers will need financing. But, banks will not take renovations into consideration when establishing the value. They will refer to nada.com
Different Categories of Buyers
In my experience, there are different categories of buyers. It will serve you well to know your audience. If you are trying to sell a bunkhouse or RV with lots of beds, you are most likely marketing to large families. A large Class A RV with only one bedroom will be appealing to retirees. If you’re selling a large fifth wheel, you may attract the attention of a couple that is planning on going small and hitting the road full-time.
There are also different price brackets to be aware of. If you have purchased a small vintage camper for $3,000 and are able to sell it for $8,000, you can expect a quick sale. Anything under $10,000 will be easier for people to buy with cash. In my experience, anything over this might have to be financed through a bank and will take longer to sell. Anything in the $25,000+ range will appeal more to people who are planning to RV full-time or have already experienced camping and want to upgrade. Under $15,000 will appeal to new-comers who aren’t sure they’re going to love camping, or to those on a tighter budget.
Creating an Eye-Catching Marketplace Listing
I cannot stress how important your pictures are! If you have spent time and money fixing up a camper and making it awesome, then take awesome pictures! The pictures will attract attention, but you also need to include details. Do not leave out info on the weight, mileage, number of beds, model number, brand name, etc. Include as much detail as possible!
Here are some of my favorite tips that relate to Marketplace specifically:
- If you panic and think you have priced it to high, delete your listing and start over
- By lowering the price too soon, you might raise red flags
- After 4-5 days of interest and messages from potential buyers, lower the price by $200. This will trigger Messenger to send an update to anyone that has contacted you, notifying them of the price drop. If you have given them several days to think about your listing, this notification might be just the nudge they need!
- If your RV hasn’t sold within a month, delete the listing and wait a week or so to list it again
- Consider paying to “boost your post” – this will give you the option of targeting specific people in specific areas
- If Winter is upon you and you feel that your local market has declined, consider storing your RV and waiting until Spring when you might get a higher price
Finalizing Your Sale
I highly recommend having your buyer sign 2 copies of a bill of sale, one for you and one for them. Take pictures of licenses as well for added measure. Accept payments in the form of cash or a cashiers check from a reputable bank. Additionally, you may want to arrange a meeting at a bank so you can go in together. Sign over your title only after payment has been cleared. Remove any forms of insurance, registrations or paperwork with your information on it. Do not leave any of your personal items behind. Don’t forget the license plate!