Tips for Retaining Resale Value When Renovating an RV
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Ashley Mann spent three years living full time in a 38-foot, 5th-wheel RV with her husband Josiah and their cat, Kitty. Her favorite thing about RV life is the challenge of finding the perfect way to organize a space, and she loves seeing all the creative and clever ways people come up with to customize their RVs.
Many RV owners are interested in remodeling their rig but worried about making changes that could lower the value should they ever decide to sell. To help people better understand the effect changes might have on resale value, I asked Rob Tischler, owner of luxury RV rental company Allstar Coaches to weigh in with his opinion based on his years of experience with buying and selling RVs both professionally and as an RV owner himself. Following is an article he wrote in response to that question.
It’s only natural to want to pour every ounce of love and effort into the RV we call “home” or “home-away-from-home.” While it might be fun to infuse it with our own personal touches and style, sometimes we must curb the impulse to go overboard when considering resale values. Now, if you’re sure you will never need to sell your RV, then by all means, remodel your camper or motorhome in any way that suits your fancy, but if you’re like me you always have one eye towards a changing future and you want to play it safe.
In general, RVs are only worth what a buyer is willing to pay for it. This is a straightforward way of saying that resale value is dictated by the market. The year it was made, the floor plan, and overall size are the main factors going into pricing an RV through Kelley Blue Book, which should give you a fairly accurate range. But when you’re competing with the latest and greatest RV models, how you’ve maintained your RV could make or break a sale. A ship-shape condition will shine through.
Beyond the required maintenance, below is a list of what to keep in mind when renovating your RV for top dollar (while Allstar Coaches is primarily an RV rental company, we also assist our customers with sales, repairs and renovations).
Stay modern, contemporary and neutral
The most important thing to remember is this: keep everything modern with a contemporary design. This means you must resist the temptation to put your personal flare on everything. While the Aztec teal blue tiles may speak to you, they won’t resonate with everyone. It may sound boring but electing for neutral, impersonal choices is generally the safest bet when resale comes into play. Just as you’d remove personal trinkets before selling a house, you’d do the same in an RV, aiming to make it appear like it came straight off an RV dealership’s floor — clean, neutral, and looking new. Moreover, be careful about blatantly mismatching colors if you end up tweaking color palates.
Coaches that sleep-the-most, sell-the-most
Always keep this general rule of thumb in mind. The more people that can spend the night in your RV, the better for resale value. For example, you could replace standard chairs into bench seats that convert into a bed. And if you can’t fit two bench seats, one regular bench seat paired with a jackknife bench seat will do the trick. Benches are an example of ways the floor plan can be adjusted to allow for versatility, appealing to a broader customer base.
Stray from creating “dead spaces”
Every inch of your RV must serve a useful purpose. For example, do not remove an easy chair and render the space useless, otherwise known as “dead” in the industry. You could add a desk to the free space, but if you can manage to fit both a desk and an easy chair, that would be considered a helpful upgrade.
Incorporate modern updates and replacements
Anything that’s not working should be repaired or replaced. The main upgrades to consider for resale value include: replacing the carpet and updating the TV and other appliances and electronic systems such as thermostats. But don’t remove anything you won’t be replacing. An old TV is better than no TV! This sort of thinking requires you to know your customer. Many potential RV buyers are of older generations who aren’t excited by your wireless mini blinds controlled by Bluetooth. In fact, they could be turned off by over complicating things, costing you precious resale dollars.
If embarking upon any of the above sounds too costly or prohibitive, here are some interesting DIY projects to consider:
- Restore Corian countertops. After awhile the Corian countertops outfitting many RVs appear dull. The good news is that restoring Corian to shiny and new is easy. Using very fine sandpaper, called Micro-Mesh, restore countertops in a series. For example, sand counters for 15 minutes at 1,500 grit, then go down to 2,400 grit for another 15 minutes, then go down to 3,600 grit another 15 minutes and so on. Resurfacing them in a series is key because if you don’t the counters will become even duller.
- Clean the carpet. You can either clean the carpets yourself or professionally, however we recommend using a dry cleaning approach on carpets, rather than wet cleaning, so that water doesn’t get caught in the padding and subfloor.
- Cabinets. Touch up wood cabinets yourself—if you’re so inclined!
- Tile. Re-grout the tile yourself—if you’re so inclined!
- New blinds. Installing new blinds is easy to do after measuring windows carefully.
At the end of the day, none of this matters if you’re planning on keeping your RV forever. If you don’t have to compete with all of the other coaches on the market also vying for top dollar, go crazy with as many personal upgrades that suit your fancy, relish the dead spaces and sleep the least amount of people as possible in order to avoid hosting sleepovers!
However, always remember to keep your RV in good working condition. Think of it like an apartment on wheels and maintain it as such. These big metal boxes have engines and systems that must integrate with each other. Since they move at high speeds, things are bound to shake loose and come apart. If you put forth some proactive maintenance effort, your RV will not only last longer, it will likely sell for more if it ever comes down to that.
About the Author:
After spending years on the road touring with his band discovering new places, cultures and cuisines, Rob Tischler now owns RV rental company, Allstar Coaches. This role matches his desire to help people experience places, rather than just seeing them. He is happily married with two kids and a Golden Retriever, Cody, who excels in his role as CCO (Chief Canine Officer).
These are really great tips.
We bought our RV from some people who had done their own remodeling, and the RV is basically functionless as a “camper”. It’s 36′ but only sleeps 2, and they removed all the cabinets, shelving and functional furniture! In every room.. We didn’t realize how functionless it was when we purchased it, we were just excited because it looked ‘pretty’. We actually had our RV appraised once while considering a trade-in, and we were SCOLDED by the dealership! Even though we told them we didn’t do it, they were major jerks.
I hope anyone who is considering remodeling their RV sees this post – it’s really not great to hear a low valuation after a remodel.
Wow, that’s really good to know, and crazy about your dealership experience! I often wonder why people do things like remove the cabinet doors and replace the cabinets with open shelving. I agree that it looks pretty, but personally I believe an RV can remain functional yet still look good!
WILL PAINTING OUTSIDE OF A OLD 5TH WHEEL ,LOSE ITS RESALE VALUE?
I can’t tell you how painting might affect trade-in value, but if you’re selling to a private buyer, it will likely just depend on whether people interested in buying your RV feel your paint job was an improvement or not. I would suggest looking at websites like RVTrader.com to see what RV’s similar to yours are selling for unpainted. For example, I’d probably be more inclined to paint a $10k RV than a $75k RV. I know that’s not a definitive answer, but at the end of the day, it will probably come down to what people are willing to pay.
THANK YOU YOU, THAT MAKES SENSE, IT WOULD BE ALOT OF WORK IT’S 45 FEET LONG, I’M JUST PAINTING THE BUMPER AND FRONT TONGUE THE TOP EDGES SEAMS ACTACT PAINT COLOR, REPLACE SOME PEELING OFF DECALS, BUT, THANK YOU.
I’m curious if it would increase the value or decrease the value by removing the window boxes on the interior of my 30 ft 2012 Keystone travel trailer.. I’ve already replaced the roof with the new PVC membrane, replaced any water damaged wood, new ac, new canopy and basically any attachment that can be replaced in the outside. In starting on the interior and in kind of lost? Any suggestions would be appreciated!
Removing the window boxes is a popular project and would almost certainly not hurt resale value on an older RV as long as you fill the holes and still have some type of window covering. Take a look at my article about window treatment makeovers for ideas. For more general RV interior ideas, my article with Before & After photos of interior makeovers is a great place to start. Good luck! 🙂