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Selling your RV: How to prepare it before listing it for sale

By Tony Barthel
Having looked at thousands and thousands of RVs for sale on the internet, I’ve noticed that a lot of people don’t do a great job of telling their RV’s story. In real estate, they use a few tricks to help make a house look more inviting. I thought I’d share the things I did when selling RVs to present them on the Internet. 

Be honest

The first thing I can tell you is to be honest. Whatever the condition of your RV, you should be upfront with prospective buyers. Also keep in mind that few people have vivid imaginations. It will be helpful for others to imagine the potential of the RV for their adventures if you stage it.

Staging is something real estate agents sometimes do when selling houses. This is where they take an empty house and actually rent furniture temporarily to help tell the story of that house. Many people only see an empty house when they are shown just that and can’t imagine it with their own furniture. 

So it’s a big empty space instead of a home, and what they’re buying is a home. 

We experienced exactly this with a banquet hall I owned in LA. At first, we were just showing the big empty space and telling people who wanted to rent it how they could decorate it themselves to their own taste. One time the hall was still decorated from a previous wedding and it became much easier to sell the space. So we bought fake flowers and some table cloths and that sort of thing and decorated the hall for a wedding all the time. 

The space almost sold itself because it told a story that people wanted to be part of. Again, we never lied to people, we just helped them see the picture they had in their mind’s eye. 

What are you selling?

When you look at the brochures and websites for RV companies, they generally aren’t selling a box full of appliances and sleeping surfaces. Instead, they’re telling a story about all the adventures you and your family are going to have. 

You’re selling the same thing. So be as fluid and descriptive as possible when telling the story of your RV in any places you have it listed for sale. 

Make sure to tell the prospect about any issues you are aware of, of course. But then the rest of your text should focus on what can be done with the RV. Talk about a capability and purpose. 

For example, it’s not just a refrigerator or bunk model. How about sentences like “Bring your family – sleeping for six and an 8-cubic-foot refrigerator to fuel your adventure for the whole weekend.” That’s much better than “Bunk model with RV refrigerator.” Remember, you’re not selling a rolling box full of appliances and beds, you’re selling adventure and the great American journey!

Mistakes people make when selling an RV

The first thing I can recommend is to take anything that doesn’t belong in the RV out. Just about everybody is bothered by clutter and disorder. So any clutter in your RV should be taken out and donated or whatever. Just get rid of it. 

If there are minor repairs that need to be made, make them. I’ve always said that if you’re at a restaurant and the tables are dirty, you question how bad the kitchen is since they can’t even keep the most obvious things clean. 

If things like counters, windows and especially the refrigerator and toilet are dirty, those are huge detractors in your pictures. Make sure the surfaces at least look clean. 

Of course, you’ll want to clean the RV to the best of your ability and it might even help to have it professionally cleaned if you’re not up to the task. Did you know cleaning services will come in and make the interior sparkling clean? 

I’m also surprised by how many people have blinds half-drawn or drawn at odd angles. This is such a minor thing to resolve. Pull the blinds all the way up or all the way down. Do not have them half-drawn, especially halfway down and not straight. It’s displeasing to the eye. 

Lighting

A lot of people also do not light their RVs when taking photos. At the very least, turn the lights on inside the RV. But you can go even further. 

The human eye is a pretty incredible thing and can sense light better than many cameras. What we see with our eyes when we’re in a place like the inside of an RV is very different from what the camera sees. So your objective is to make the interior of the RV look as much like what your eyes truly see as possible. 

Start by turning the lights on inside the RV, since RVs are small spaces as it is. In addition, the wood used is generally pretty dark. So that makes a bad situation even worse. Turn on all the lights inside the rig when you’re taking your pictures. 

Time your picture taking for the best (or least) daylight

You can also take pictures at a time of day where there’s not extreme sunshine coming in from one window. It may make sense to wait until after dark and then take the interior shots of your RV with all the lights on. 

You can also bring in additional lighting that wouldn’t be on camera to brighten up dark corners and such. If your eyes are telling you one story and the camera is telling another, you’re not being dishonest by shining some extra light into a corner or using other lighting tricks.

I have used work lights and shop lights to actually wash an area with light to make it be more accurately representative of a space than what my camera was able to capture. 

Other tips when selling an RV

You almost never see an RV brochure that doesn’t have an overview floor plan. Most of these are available online. Do a search for your specific RV and you should be able to find a floor plan drawing. Include this in your ad. If you can’t find the actual one, find one that’s the same and use that but acknowledge that it’s a different RV’s floor plan but with the same layout as yours. People really like to see these. 

Use things like accent pillows and throw rugs to make the RV feel more “homey.” While you’ll want to use these sparingly, they still can make a difference. Another little trick is to put a couple of place settings on the table or a coffee pot on the stove. This takes it from being just a cold space to somewhere inviting. 

Selling your RV as an adventure

Since your RV is all about the adventure, you can also stage the exterior for the “hero” shot of your ad. If you have a great exterior picture of the RV at a campsite with a couple of chairs in front of it and the awning out, use that. Otherwise, perhaps you can bring some chairs and put them in front of the RV with the door open. This is a more inviting shot than a static exterior with everything closed up. 

When you take the exterior of the RV, you should try to include one where the awning is extended but not such that the awning shadows the RV. This might mean very early morning or right before sunset in some cases. 

Also, when taking photos, take one of each side of the RV on the outside – front, back, driver, passenger. If you feel comfortable doing so, you should also take a photo of the roof to show the condition. Here’s a hint: If you don’t like going up on the roof, you can use a selfie stick (remember those?!) to accomplish this shot. Or take the RV to a two-story apartment building or house and take the shot from a second-story balcony or window. 

On the interior shots, take pictures both with the cabinets and doors closed and then open. Make sure to include an interior shot of the refrigerator. When shooting the bathroom, however, leave the toilet lid closed. 

You can also use photos to highlight especially unique features of the RV or to detail any damage. They’ll see it in person anyway, so you might as well start with the truth. 

Your camera

We all have cell phone cameras and they’re getting better and better. But so many photos I’ve seen used are just terrible. Try to get as far back as possible and capture an entire space, which can sometimes be difficult in the small space that is an RV. 

Some of the newest smartphones have wide-angle lenses so you can grab more of a space. Alternatively, I’ve used my GoPro camera to take still photos of an RV, as it’s such a wide-angle lens.

You can use the phone’s built-in photo editing to adjust the photos to make them look better. There are adjustments for lighting, contrast, focus and much more. 

The bottom line when selling your RV

Remember, you’re telling a story here. That’s the important thing. While it’s not difficult to sell a used RV in today’s market, you still want to have a leg up on the competition. Telling a story that people will want to be part of is the key to having the best success in selling your RV. 

If you’re ready to sell your RV, read Nanci’s story on the best places to sell it, and why. She breaks down all of your options.

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Leslie Wagner
4 months ago

It’s just like selling a house. Take out the clutter. Keep it looking and smelling clean. Keep it properly maintained and make repairs as needed. Make it move-in ready and it will sell quickly!

Roy Kahl
6 months ago

Be sure to take your interior pictures with the slides out. Our RVs have all been used and nothing turns me off more than dirty clothes, unmade bed and clutter.

Drew
6 months ago

Personally, I prefer daylight shots or the interior with shades at least half open. You can turn on lights in addition. Taking nice camping photos can be a good sales tool also as mentioned. I don’t like depictions of people or scenes that have nothing to do with the rv for sale and offer no help to the buyer. Also factory and/or brochure photos obviously don’t represent the rig being sold- I wouldn’t use them.

Mike Sherman
6 months ago

In a hurry with no spare time? Use the manufacturer’s listing if available, they do good work with their photos. If you consign it to a sales lot, remove your propane tanks.

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