The Black Book wholesale price survey of RVs for August showed an astonishing motorhome price drop. As they passed under the gavel, motorized unit prices fell 13.3% compared to July 2022 figures. Towables, which had already been on a decline, fell 3.2%. What does the motorhome price drop signify? Before we get to analysis, let’s zero in more on the stats.
Buyers at wholesale auctions were far tighter when it came to their checkbooks, reflected in the motorhome price drop. The average sale price for motorhomes was $69,003. Compare that to the July average of $79,668. A year ago, the average wholesale motorhome price stood at $69,953. What a difference a few months make! Motorhome prices have been jumping like a bronco.
On the towable RV side of the fence, wholesale sale prices in August stood at an average of $20,532—down $689 from July. Again, a year’s worth of price difference shows volumes. In August 2021, the average towable price rang in at $24,280. A year and a difference of nearly 17% down in price.
While prices might be down, the number of RVs at auction went the other direction. Some 23% more motorhomes were sold compared to the prior month. Travel trailers didn’t trail that by much, with 10% more units sold. In terms of average age, motorhomes were 11 years old, while towable units were six.
What’s behind the motorhome price drop?
So what’s behind the major motorhome price drop, and the not-so-insignificant slide in towables? Eric Lawrence, Black Book’s Principal Automotive Analyst, Specialty Vehicles, writes, “Various RV organizations reported that both manufacturer shipments and retail sales are down on new units, so it is very likely that as they become more available and dealers begin to discount once again, used RV values will follow suit.” That’s got to be good news for RV buyers looking for something “tried and tested,” as opposed to running the risk of assembly line bugs that make their way onto dealer lots in new units.
What else could be behind the price drop? Lawrence said his feeling is that the American consumer is hearing the “gloom and doom” message of a possible or real recession bandied about by talking heads. While not all consumers will understand what they’re hearing, the “constant negative will take some of the wind out of the sails of recreation items,” including RVs.
What’s the future hold?
Should we expect something more in the near future? We asked Black Book’s Lawrence that question. Eric told us he’s not willing to “second guess—this is just the average.” He pointed out that market quirks can appear in a month’s worth of data. It could just be a coincidence that in any given month more high-value rigs make it to auction, or a flurry of low-value units come under the gavel. He pointed to the two months’ spike in motorhome prices in June and July. Black Book folks were caught off guard by this increase, but say, “It was unexpected, but now it’s back down, giving back what it brought us earlier.” Again, the caution to avoid looking at a small segment of time to make projections on.
As to projections, Lawrence was willing to make this: He expects prices to decline on a seasonal basis, at least in areas of the country where there are well-defined seasons. For those more “favorable weather year-around” areas, we’ll have to see. While last month’s motorhome price drop may really be a bellwether for the future, time will tell.