Sunday, May 28, 2023


RV trade-in or sell – How to prep RV and get the most money

If it’s time to move your existing RV along, you’ll want to get the most value from it that you can. Will you trade-in or sell? How you prep the RV and how much you invest in that preparation can be quite different. We talked to industry insiders to get the lowdown on what you need to do.

Best foot forward — RV trade-in or sell

Putting your rig’s “best foot forward” is a given, whether you trade-in or sell privately. First impressions will make a huge difference. If your rig looks ratty and uncared for, don’t expect much value, or in some cases, any value at all. So cleaning is a must. First point, clear out any personal items from the rig. What appeals to you and makes it “homey” may not feel the same to a potential buyer, be it a dealer or individual.

Pay attention to detail and start cleaning


  • RV trade-in or sellWash the outside thoroughly
  • Roll out awnings and clean them if dirty
  • Small scratches? Try and buff them out
  • After the rig dries down, double check for spotless windows
  • Look at the wheels, tires, and wheel wells. Are they clean?
  • Clean out storage compartments, and include a vacuuming, if appropriate


  • Clean air conditioner filters and vents—they can ooze dust
  • Check for dirt and bugs in light fixtures
  • Wipe down cabinets inside and out
  • Clean oven and stove top
  • Thoroughly clean the refrigerator, and keep propped open to air
  • Shine up sinks and faucets
  • Scrub the shower and look for dirt around non-skid pads
  • Pay particular attention to the toilet—spic and span!
  • Odiferous carpet? Rent a carpet cleaner and use it
  • Vacuum day/night shades. Use a brush head on the vac
  • If possible, wash, dry, press, and re-hang curtains
  • Make sure the inside of the windows are spotless
  • Sweep and vacuum all other floors. Shine up with appropriate cleaners or wax

Special attention for motorhomes

  • Bring up fluid levels
  • Clean engine compartment

RV trade-in or sell?

How much you spend on “fixing up” your RV can vary depending on whether you want to trade it in or sell it to a private party. Here’s where the “insider” information comes in. Just what does a dealer look for when you bring in your trade?

“Most dealers, myself included, will just look at the exterior and interior of the rig to see if it is ‘as advertised’ by the customer,” confessed one insider. “If we find exterior damage or visible water damage inside that we weren’t told about in advance, when they bring in the trade we might reevaluate the deal.” Mind your P’s and Q’s when you talk to a dealer before showing the rig. But with that in mind, here’s the other side of the equation.

Another industry insider told us that many dealers simply give a trade-in a cursory look-over, then make an offer. In some instances, he told us, the dealer doesn’t even bother to check to see if “major” problems like a bad refrigerator cooling unit or kaput water heater existed. The dealer we contacted agreed. “We never checked operational systems.” We wanted to know, how could a dealer act in such a seemingly cavalier way? “In the end you get some good trades and some not so good trades, but in the end it all works out,” was the answer.

Of course, after the deal is consummated, the dealer may find some sour grapes. “I suspect some dealers check the trade after it comes in and try to get some more money out of the customer,” he told us. “If they pay it just sweetens the deal. Not sure the dealer would have much legal recourse after the customer takes the new unit home.”

Got big problems? Bottom line

RV trade-in or sell? Does your rig have a serious issue? A refrigerator that won’t keep cool is a spendy proposition. You could replace the cooling unit, which is expense enough, but could save you some money if you did the labor yourself. A whole new refrigerator is even more money, but easier to deal with. Options? Some would spiff out the rig, leave the “bad apple” problem right where it is, and check with dealers to see how much they’d give as a trade-in. If the value offered by the dealer as a trade-in outweighed the expense and trouble of fixing a big problem, they reason they’re playing the game by generally accepted rules. We don’t recommend someone lie about the problem, if asked.

Our insider dealer had this opinion, at least as far as reasonably serviceable RVs is concerned. “Just like buying a new motor vehicle—the customer will almost always come out better if they sell their trade themselves. Just a bit more work and having the down payment for the new RV.”



5 2 votes
Article Rating
Subscribe to comments
Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Sign up for the

RVtravel Newsletter

Sign up and receive 3 FREE RV Checklists: Set-Up, Take-Down and Packing List.