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Brooke is a previous full-time RVer and long-time freelance writer and editor. Although she sold her motorhome to travel internationally, she has remained active in the RVing community through her client work and friends. In addition to two self-published books, Moving Away and Home Flexible, Brooke shares her travels, nomad tips, and other insights on TrailingAway.com.
There are some stunning and extremely unique RV renovations out there that are sure to inspire a remodel of your own (like this bus conversion or these paint-focused renovations). However, you may be wondering is renovating an RV worth it? And do RV renovations reduce resale value?
As with most of life’s pressing questions, the answer is: it depends! If you are a skilled renovator or plan to hire a professional, maybe it won’t substantially affect resale.
On the other hand, if you love how your DIY RV renovation turned out because it better fits your needs, it may be worth risking a lower resale value!
In this article, let’s explore some of the top considerations to keep in mind when renovating your RV and what renovations to avoid if protecting resale value is a priority.
Which RV Holds its Value Best?
Before we dive into assessing the resale value of renovated RVs, let’s look at the resale value of unaltered motorhomes and travel trailers.
It is no secret that new motorhomes and travel trailers go down in value as soon as you drive off with them from the dealer’s lot. Unlike a traditional home, RVs will not usually appreciate in value over time. (Read more about RV values here.)
The reality is: your RV is probably going to depreciate no matter what (although there was a spike in higher sales during and after the pandemic). Aside from extreme scenarios, getting what you paid for a brand-new RV would be nothing short of a miracle. So, it is important to be realistic when thinking ahead to a potential future sale, regardless if you are making renovations.
While an RV sale has many variables that can affect the price, some RV brands and types do hold their value better than others.
RVs that tend to hold their value better than others:
- Older, pre-owned rigs are less likely to experience a dramatic price drop since they’ve already depreciated. An RV will depreciate the most in its first year, and depreciation will slow over time. Older RVs without major damage are often a target for RV flippers.
- Travel trailers, in general, tend to hold their value better than motorhomes. There aren’t as many components that can cause issues in a towable RV.
- Airstreams hold their value more than other RV brands due to their reputation for high-quality products and having that iconic look.
- Other recognized brands, like Winnebago and Jayco, tend to sell better than brands fewer people are familiar with.
Reasons an RVer May Choose to Renovate
When considering making changes to your RV, the first question that may come to mind is whether or not it will be worth the time, money, and effort.
Top reasons RVers make renovations:
- Update the style to make it feel more like their own personalized home.
- Refresh an old, worn-out rig to have a better look and feel.
- Create more sleeping and living space for family members (human and pet).
- Turn a room into a mobile office, classroom, nursery, or other functional space.
- Something was damaged in the RV that needs to be redone to be fixed. (Carpet ruined, a leak warped a wall, etc.)
- The goal is to “flip” the RV to sell it for more, hopefully.
So, is renovating an RV worth it? That’s really a personal preference. It is a standard risk vs. reward scenario. Is risking a more challenging sale down the road worth making the RV better suit your needs and style now?
There are some RVers who actually make a living “flipping” RVs. It seems as though the key to selling a renovated RV close to your asking price is starting with an older RV that has already depreciated and being able to do really high-quality work that looks professional and cohesive.
What to Consider Before Renovating an RV
If you want to get started with a renovation, consider these factors first:
Oftentimes, renovating an RV that is still under warranty will void that agreement. Check before making any permanent changes if this is a concern. This article shares insights on whether a renovation will void an extended warranty.
Consider how much you want to budget for the renovation and how much you expect to get back when you sell the RV later. Simple is probably best if you are a new RV renovator who hopes to resell for a high value. A lot can be accomplished with paint and decor!
Being able to resell a renovated RV comes down to how good the RV looks. If you are an experienced renovator and can produce high-quality results, that RV will sell much faster than one that looks like an amateur DIY project.
It is unsafe to drive an RV over its weight recommendations. This can lead to an accident and potentially even legal consequences. Flooring alone could add hundreds of pounds if you aren’t choosing lightweight materials! Keep weight in mind while remodeling.
Potential RV Damage
If you don’t know what you are doing, you can really mess up your RV. If you start with major modifications and don’t have the right skill set or knowledge, you could create electrical, plumbing, structural, and/or mechanical damage. Don’t take on any projects you aren’t confident about to avoid issues.
Availability of Supplies
Before getting started on your RV renovation, make sure the supplies you need are readily available and within your budget. There have been major shortages in recent years, so confirm you’ll have what you need first.
Remember that a renovation gets messy. Having a space to spread out while working on your RV is a huge help. If you live full-time in your RV, consider how you will manage that while renovating. Also, note that most campgrounds will not allow you to renovate on-site.
If you plan to keep the RV for many years and the renovations will improve your quality of life when camping, it is probably worth doing. However, renovations are often a risk if you’ll only have it for a short period and want to resell for as much as possible. That is, unless the RV was already dated when you bought it and a refresh can make it more appealing to buyers!
Keep in mind the value you will receive from getting to live in the renovated RV. If planning only to use it for a short time, taking on an expensive remodel may not be worth the risk.
Potential Problems with Reselling a Renovated RV
A huge concern when buying a renovated RV is how the alterations affect the safety and whether the changes will have short- or long-term negative consequences.
Also, note that it is unlikely to be able to sell or trade in your RV to a dealer if you’ve made extensive structural or mechanical changes. In that case, you’d likely need to lock in a private RV sale.
What type of RV renovations reduce resale value?
- Adding heavy items that could put the RV over its weight recommendations.
- Using dramatic colors and patterns that can limit potential future buyers. Neutral is thought to be the best choice to attract the most buyers. Although, many RV sellers have found excited buyers who love their bold choices!
- Choosing style and ambiance over functionality. If the remodel makes the RV more difficult to live in and drive, it will likely pull down the value.
- Mechanical changes or extreme modifications. Unless you are a professional, future buyers likely won’t feel comfortable that the mods you’ve done are safe.
RV renovations reduce resale value when they are a downgrade rather than an upgrade.
From what others have experienced, buyers (even dealers!) won’t subtract from the value as long as the renovations are appealing and desirable.
Consider the next buyer as you make renovations if you plan to sell in the next year or so. Some buyers may be afraid of what is hidden under all the paint. Or they won’t want to re-design an RV with a specific aesthetic.
Is Renovating an RV Worth It?
Depending on your skill level, how much you dislike your RV’s current setup or appearance, and your future plans for the RV, a renovation may be a great idea!
If wanting to sell a renovated RV, it isn’t so much about if your changes reduced the resale value; it is about whether you can find a buyer who likes the renovations. The more dramatic and unique your remodel is, the smaller your potential buyer pool will be. Yet, you may also find the perfect buyer who loves your style!
Most RVers concerned with if RV renovations reduce resale value stick to “safe” renovations that won’t limit the number of interested buyers when it is time to sell. However, if you are a skilled renovated, you very well may be able to boost the value of an older RV to get more than you paid!
When you are ready to sell your renovated RV, it can be a huge help to list it on sites like RenovatedRVsforSale.com that specialize in selling renovated RVs. Everyone browsing is actually looking for a unique space, so that will make the process much easier!
Ready to consider a renovation? Check out these RV remodels for inspiration!