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NADA RV Guide: Is It THE Source for Used RV Pricing?

NADA RV Guide: Is It THE Source for Used RV Pricing?

It’s that time of year again when many people are considering upgrading their RVs ahead of the new camping season, and consulting the NADA RV guide for assistance with pricing, both to sell their RV and to buy a new one.

But is the information in the NADA guide all you need to consider when figuring out what an RV is really worth?

As it turns out, while the popular guide is certainly helpful, it won’t give you all the information you need.

In this post, we’ll take dive into what you can expect from the NADA RV guide and how best to use it.

We’ll also provide some additional information that you need in order to price an RV for sale effectively, and/or find the true value of an RV you’re looking to buy.

What Is the NADA RV Guide?

The NADA refers to the National Automobile Dealers Association. Their car price guide is among the most-consulted ways to establish reasonable automobile resale values. The RV guide covers similar information for motorhomes, travel trailers, and even park model rigs.

As we noted in our post on RV values, the NADA guide is very helpful in assessing what you should expect to pay at a dealership, and what you should expect to pay in a private party sale. For determining RV worth, it’s a good place to start.

However, the NADA values are based on the national value of a rig of a specific brand, year, and model. This means that the values found in the NADA guide are based on purchases and sales of the same or similar brand, model, and year RVs across the country over a specific period of time.

The values shown in the guide are an aggregate. So, those values will give you a general idea of the average retail prices and the average private party selling prices of recreational vehicles of that brand, model, and year.

The NADA RV guide offers an average retail trade-in value and private party value on used RVs, so that people buying and selling RVs have a general sense of what a rig is worth on the current market.

Note: The guide was sold back in 2015, so it’s now the J. D. Power/NADA RV Guide.

Does the NADA RV Guide Tell the Whole Story?

No. Most people who have either bought or sold an RV can tell you that the NADA value of a rig is not a complete reflection of the value of that rig on the market.

This is particularly true of the used RV market. In fact, a lot depends on the market itself.

The condition of the RV also plays a big role, as does the type of RV, the time of year when you’re buying or selling, and even your location.

Two Class A motorhomes side by side

While two RVs of the same type, year, brand, and model may look similar, their conditions could be very different. Their location can also factor into the market for the rig.

For example, an RV of a particular year, brand, and model that hasn’t been well kept, has rust, has some appliances that aren’t working and has evidence of current or past leaks isn’t going to command the price that an RV of the very same year, brand, and model in excellent condition.

Likewise, a used RV put up for sale in the State of Maine in November isn’t going to command the same price as a comparable RV in the State of California in November. And, of course, there’s a huge variation in options and upgrades, not all of which can be accounted for in the guide.

So, there are lots of factors to be considered when pricing RVs. But rarely is a specific and accurate market price reflected in guides such as the NADA RV guide or the Kelley Blue Book.

As a matter of fact, these guides often show prices considerably lower than the prices commanded by the market. And keep in mind that it’s a guide, not an absolute.

Tips for Using the NADA RV Guide

When using the NADA RV Guide, you’ll have the opportunity to browse by RV type (motorhome, travel trailers/5th wheels, campers, truck campers, park models, etc.) to find prices and values for the type of RV you’re interested in buying or selling.

A screenshot of the NADA RV browse page

When you consult the JD Power NADA RV guide online, you can start by browsing by RV type, and then you can enter more specific information such as year, make, model and other details.

Next, you’ll have the opportunity to research the make/brand of the RV, or you can enter or select your year, make, and model to begin your search.

A page on the NADA online guide where you can research motorhomes by brand

Once you’ve chosen the TYPE of RV you’re interested in researching, you can select the make/brand, year, and model, as you continue to narrow down your search parameters.

Along the way, you can add additional information about your rig to help determine book value before listing your RV for sale.

The NADA RV Guide also allows you to take a look at dealer pricing on both new and used RVs if you’re interested in buying through a dealer as opposed to a private party.

Following are four important tips to keep in mind when using the NADA RV Guide to obtain trade-in or retail values for an RV:

Tip #1:

If you’re looking for a trade-in value, that is, you want to determine what a dealer would offer you on your RV as a trade-in on purchasing another one, don’t add in any “Options.”

The reason for this is that dealers don’t typically consider options when determining trade-in value. This is part of the reason why trade-in values are so low, but it’s also the way dealers leave room to make money when they sell your trade-in.

Tip #2:

For retail pricing, (for example, when you’re selling privately or through an online site like RV Trader or RVT), be sure to add in the options that weren’t included as standard features for your year, make, and model of RV.

They won’t be exact, and it’s possible that not all of the options you may have added to your rig will be available to select, but it will get you much closer to having an idea of its market value.

Tip #3:

NADA values factor in calculated depreciation. But they don’t account for less-tangible factors, such as how desirable a particular type or model of RV is. Other factors, such as inflation, aren’t accounted for either.

So, there’s a lot of missing information in determining NADA RV values. Remember… it’s a guide!

Tip #4:

Keep in mind that banks and insurance companies may use NADA RV values to determine the value of an RV. So if you’re planning to obtain a loan to purchase your new rig, you’ll likely need to keep that in mind.

A couple meeting with a banker

Banks and insurance companies may rely on information from the NADA RV Guide to determine the value of an RV without considering other important factors.

Since the NADA value may not be close to the actual market value of a rig, when you purchase your RV insurance, you’ll want to consider asking for your rig to be insured according to actual value rather than book value.

If you pay $40,000 for a used RV, and the NADA book value of that RV is $20,000, you certainly would want to insure the rig for its actual value rather than its book value.

As we write this post, the market for used RVs is still strong, and it’s quite likely that the NADA values won’t accurately reflect the market value of many (if not most) RVs. During a strong re-sale market, the guide is more likely to undervalue, at least by a bit.

Whether you intend to sell or buy an RV, it’s important to remember that NADA RV values provide only one piece of the equation in determining the actual market value of an RV.

The guide will provide you with important general information, but it won’t answer the questions that are specific to the condition of your RV, or the options you may have chosen at the time of purchase or added later.

Is There a Blue Book Value for RVs?

No. There is no blue book value for RVs, so although you can consult something like the NADA RV guide to inform yourself about what the NADA “book value” is, it’s important to do sufficient research to gain an understanding of what the market value of a rig is, and then assess conditions.

What to Use in Conjunction with the NADA RV Guide

Consulting the NADA RV guide is a good idea because it’s important to know what the so-called “book value” of a rig is.

For one thing, you’ll want to know what a bank will be looking at, and you’ll want to be able to request sufficient insurance for your purchase.

But there are a number of other important factors to consider in addition to the book value of a rig.

Most important is the market value. What is the market willing to pay for your RV?

If you’re purchasing a rig, you’ll want to know if the seller is asking a price that’s reasonable or far too high. You’ll also want to know how much room you have for negotiation.

So, the best way to determine the market value of an RV is to look at the market.

You can do this by looking at sites like RVTrader, RVT, Craigslist, and Facebook Marketplace.

You’ll want to consider everything from the type of RV to the year, make, model, options, mileage, and condition of the RV, as well as the seller’s location in order to make a fair comparison.

How many owners have there been? Has the rig been properly maintained, and are there records to demonstrate that? A well-maintained (and documented) 1-owner rig is almost certainly worth more than an RV that’s been through 4 owners and has no maintenance records.

Once you’ve determined what the general market value of an RV is, you’ve got a great ballpark starting point to work with in valuing an RV that you want to sell, or in determining what you should expect to pay if you’re in the market to buy an RV.

From there, you’ll want to evaluate the overall condition of any particular RV that you’re considering (if you’re a buyer).

When considering the condition of a rig you’re buying or selling, you’ll want to consider such things as:

  • How old are the tires? (Check the tire DOT dates.)
  • Do all of the appliances work?
  • Does all of the plumbing work?
  • Does the generator start right up, remain running, and run the RV’s AC?
  • Is there any rust on the rig?
  • Are there any signs of leaking, past or present?
  • If there’s an awning, does it extend and retract properly?
  • Does the RV appear to have been well maintained?
  • Does the current owner have service records?
  • Are there any signs or records of accidents or bodywork?

And, if you’re a buyer, getting a qualified RV technician to check out the rig is always wise. A pre-purchase inspection is a key part of proper due diligence.

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