Buying an RV from a Private Seller
By Barry Wilder
Just as the RV Dealer isn't your enemy - the Private Seller can be your best friend. They don't have ANY
appreciable overhead built into the sale, other than the cost of their advertising, and/or any repairs or
refurbishing to be done to the RV.
The private seller is usually much more motivated than a dealer. They only have ONE unit on which to concentrate
their efforts. Many times their sole intention is to rid themselves of the burden of their no-longer-needed RV.
In RARE cases, they are WISELY selling by owner so they can move on to a unit more suited to their present needs
and desires. This allows them to sell their RV for a higher price than a dealer would allow them on trade-in, while
still offering a bargain to their potential buyers.
Purchasing from a Private Seller can work to your advantage in many ways:
1. Lower overhead = Lower selling price.
2. Higher motivation = Lower selling price.
3. No over-pricing to allow for trade-ins.
4. More complete vehicle history.
5. A more personal transaction.
Because of these benefits, buying an RV from an individual may allow you to save thousands of dollars over
buying a similar unit from a dealer.
You MUST however do your due diligence prior to the actual purchase. Any faulty systems left unchecked or
untested will likely become your own burden unless discovered PRIOR to your purchase. In other words: "Caveat
Emptor"... or "Buyer Beware".
For now, let's take a look at some of the advantages of buying an RV from a private seller.
Lower or NO Overhead Costs
Most individual sellers will incur minimal selling costs when selling "by owner". Most of these costs will come
from advertising in local newspaper classifieds, Internet advertisements or other forms of marketing.
When compared to the costs incurred by an RV dealer, the individual has a major advantage. First of all, they
have no commissions to pay upon the sale. Commissions in the RV industry are commonly set at approximately 20% of
the gross profit.
In other words, if a salesman sells an RV for an average profit of $5,000 - Then $1,000 of that is going to the
salesman as commission. This is not a concern for the private seller, therefore sales commission ALONE can be a
potential gain of $1,000 or more to the buyer. (Not to mention the other $4,000 the dealer gained over his
Also, because of the minimal or nonexistent overhead of the individual seller, profit is commonly NOT a motive
for selling. In MOST cases, the sellers simply want to rid themselves of the unit. This usually translates into
THOUSANDS of dollars in savings.
While most private RV sellers will try to achieve a RETAIL sales price when the unit is initially offered, they
rapidly tire of the stresses of the sales process and lower their "perceived" value of the RV. In other words, when
they start the sales process, they have an unrealistic impression of their RV's value. After dealing with
prospective buyers for a minimal amount of time, they rapidly become educated on the true value of their RV.
Seriously, think about your own experiences. How many times have you tried to sell something for a premium
price, only to accept a lower, yet HONEST offer for much less than your original price? It all goes back to the old
saying: "One in the hand is worth two in the bush." In other words, fatigued sellers WILL accept a bargain price if
the offer is GENUINE. It ends their suffering - so to speak.
The key is to FIND these fatigued sellers when they are weak. Just as the predator on the African Plains seeks
out the weaker and slower prey, you must find the weary seller - and strike when they are at their weakest point.
Ruthless -yes... Unethical - no. It's the law of the urban jungle. Live and prosper by the law, or live and pay a
higher price... still by the law. (I can't believe I just wrote that)
Higher motivation = Lower selling price
Most private sellers are very IMPATIENT. They easily tire of the phone calls and missed appointments. Many times
they tire of NO phone calls or ANY appointments to view their RV. This quickly motivates them to consider any and
all GENUINE offers.
Many times these sellers have found an RV that they wish to purchase upon the sale of their present unit. They
worry that if their RV doesn't sell quickly they'll miss the opportunity to buy their TARGET unit. This also makes
for a very motivated seller.
Most of these sellers realize that if they can sell their RV for a little more than the RV dealer is offering on
trade-in, they will come out ahead. This is a win-win situation for both buyer and seller. They are willing to
accept a little over wholesale for their RV, and you able to purchase the same unit for MUCH less than if it were
for sale by an RV dealer.
No Over-Pricing to Allow for Trade-Ins
Hopefully you realize that an RV dealer will ALWAYS take a trade-in at, or even BELOW wholesale. Also, that same
dealer's "sale price" will nearly ALWAYS be set HIGHER than the actual RETAIL price of any particular unit. This is
done to allow room in the price to show the buyer a retail price for their trade-in.
We know that there was a time you may have traded a car, boat, RV or something else to a dealer (of any kind)
and thought you actually received RETAIL on your trade-in.
You DIDN'T - EVER! If you don't accept this for ABSOLUTE truth, then we have failed in our efforts to educate
you in the dealer/individual sales process.
Complete Vehicle History
Most RV dealers DON'T want you to contact the previous owner of a used RV. Go ahead and try it... Next time
you're looking at a used RV, ask the salesman if you can contact the previous owner. You'll be amazed how the
salesman can come up with excuses NOT to contact the previous owner... at least not until the sale has taken
It may be reasons of privacy; it may be against company policy... it will, however be very entertaining.
Private RV sellers normally have a much different philosophy. They're TRIHILLED to provide complete records of
service work, maintenance, storage information, etc. If they don't... you might want to ask a few more questions.
This is a good indication of a negligent RV owner. They may be passing their headache on to you. Do your homework
and ask for as many details about the unit's history as possible.
A more personal transaction
One of the most gratifying aspects of buying a used RV from an individual is the personal aspect of the buying
process. As a result of your investigation of the RV, you become intimately involved with the seller.
Hopefully, the RV you are considering has been the seller's prized possession. They have loved it and taken care
of it. They have (hopefully) kept complete records on each and every repair, improvement and service work done on
Selling their prized RV is practically the same as losing a child to college. In many ways, these conscientious
sellers may seem to be sizing you up as a potential owner of their pre-loved RV. However, at the right time, and
for the right price... They'd more than likely sell it to a carnival.
President - Best Rate, Inc.
Barry Wilder has been associated with his family RV business for over 25 years. He is currently the owner of
Best Rate Financial Services, providing loans and refinancing for RVs, boats and aircraft. They also provide RV and
Best Rate Financial Services RV Loans and Financing
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