Why the Sudden Uptick in Used RVs for Sale by Owners

Even before the pandemic was in full swing, a lot of people went out and bought new and used RVs. But now, those RV owners are finding there’s more than meets the eye of owning an RV. This leads us to ask, “why are there so many used RVs for sale NOW?” We’ve outlined the reasons people are selling their campers fast and furious.

Now that life is getting back to normal post-pandemic, seasonal and weekend campers are finding that RV ownership isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. But does that give good reason to sell their camper or motorhome? Let’s take a look to see why there’s an increasing inventory of used RVs for sale.

Why There’s a Sudden Uptick in Used RVs for Sale by Owners

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“A lot of people bought RVs during the pandemic not fully realizing the realities of ownership. Many are probably bailing out now trying to catch the tail end of the hugely inflated market that happened.”

Life is back to normal

At least in America, life has pretty much returned to pre-pandemic normal. People are back at their brick and mortar jobs. School is back in session. Kids are back to playing soccer and t-ball. Homework, activities, backyard parties and celebratory events are back on the calendars taking up valuable weekends.

All of these leave less time for those RV vacations and even weekend camping. Which means now those campers and motorhomes are sitting idle. So, many RV owners are unloading them as we speak while there’s still a decent profitable market for preowned RVs.

High Fuel Costs

Used RVs for Sale By Owner - Fuel Prices

Inflated fuel prices are keeping people and families closer to home. As I write this (May 2022), according to AAA Gas Prices, the national average cost of gasoline is over $4 a gallon and diesel is over $5 a gallon. Considering that the average motorhome or truck pulling a fifth wheel gets only 8-10 miles per gallon. After calculating miles per gallon, owners are finding they’ll have scrimp on other things to pay dearly at the pump.

Even towing a small camper with a gas-powered car or truck, they too, are feeling the suckered at the pumps. Let’s add in that RVs and campers also need fuel to run their generators. Even propane costs have skyrocketed to the point of deeming RV camping as unaffordable.

 Looking for ways to save money at the pump?  Check  out our RV Fuel Saving Tips

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Cost of living inflation

It’s not hard to notice the drastic increases in general livings. Inflation has hit families to the point of having to make difficult financial decisions. Some families are trying to find ways to pay for even basic necessities like groceries, electric bills, and fuel to get to work and school. Let’s add in the increased taxes and home expenses, people are seriously prioritizing expenses. This is causing some RV owners to sell their RV to just be able to keep their heads above water.

Camping is no longer cheap

After 8 years of being on the road as full-time RVers, we’ll be the first to tell those interested in seeking the RV lifestyle that camping is no longer cheap. Like everything else, inflation has even tainted the camping and outdoor recreation. From renting a campsite, stocking your camper and taking care of their camper, it seems there’s very little left over. 

Also, RV park and campground owners have cashed in on the  Covid Camper movement. They seemed to have taken advantage of the demand by increasing their campsite fees. But in reality, it’s really not the campground owner’s fault due to campground operating costs as their expenses are increasing too.

And even if you could get a campground reservation, campsite sticker shock is scaring away budget-minded families away.

I read one account of an RV owner who takes his family on an annual camping trip to the same campground that cost $900 in 2021. Just a year later, that same campsite and length of stay has increased to a shocking $1300!

 Don’t understand why campground fees are so  expensive? Read:  Camping Fees on the Rise! Why  are Campgrounds Rates So Expensive?!

RVing and Camping is a lot of work

Those 30 second Go RVing commercials only show the carefree and romantic side of RVing. But, what they don’t show are the hours of planning, making reservations and preparing for their RV vacation or camping weekend. Or, the hour it takes to setup a campsite. And the hour or two to take it all down…in the rain.

They certainly don’t highlight the messy jobs like emptying the black tank, RV maintenance and repairs, all while keeping some as semblance while their family of five lives in a 25′ camper. And let’s not forget the extra work of cleaning it, inside and out, and extra laundry once you get your RV home just to repeat the process all over again. Who has time for that now that their back to work and life is back to normal?

In other words, RVing is tedious work. Some of those RV owners are now finding the work time doesn’t equate to the camping fun time.

RV Maintenance & Upkeep

Used RVs for Sale By Owner - RV Maintenance

Regular RV maintenance and upgrades are an expensive yet necessary evil. While we have carefully budgeted these transactions due to our full-time status, seasonal RV owners who bought their camper to use part-time are feeling it in their wallets more.

Even if you do your own maintenance and installs yourself, RV component parts are expensive. And that’s if you can even get them in time for your next camping weekend. When seasonal campers only have so much time to enjoy their camping season, who has time to sit and wait around for parts and repairs?

If RV owners are mechanically-challenged, they most definitely will be paying even more. They’ll need to hire a certified RV tech or professional installer to complete the repairs or upgrades.

In other words, Covid Campers (RV owners who bought campers during the pandemic) are now realizing just how much it takes to properly maintain their RV. In a nutshell, they’re realizing they bit off more than they could chew. Especially seasonal or part-time RV owners are finding they, neither have the time or money to upkeep their camper or motorhome. Did I mention that camping is not cheap anymore?

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Can’t Get Campground Reservations

Getting campground reservations has been one of the biggest challenges amongst RVers even before the pandemic hit. But now, it’s almost impossible to even get a campground reservation weeks or months in advance. And they can just forget about hooking up the RV to go camping for the weekend.

Due to the influx of new and used camper sales, they are realizing there are more campers than campsites. And, they’re learning it’s not worth the aggravation of trying to get a campsite, especially during the busy camping season.

So, unless they’re in a position of booking a campsite a year in advance, A lot of Covid Campers are being forced to sell their camper instead of looking at a $40,000 lawn ornament.

Overcrowded outdoor venues

RV Camping - Crowded Campground

It’s no secret that the pandemic has also caused a monstrous surge in outdoor pursuits. People have taken to camping, hiking, kayaking, bicycling and every other form outdoor recreation to curb boredom and get out of their homes.

Because of it, National Parks are busting at the seams with tourists. The National Park Service is now resorting to a reservation system for the most popular parks. State Parks are also bearing the brunt of the outdoor movement. And that means more people to contend with, lack of etiquette, and waiting in line is all an impatient reality. Really, what fun is it to go enjoy nature when the campgrounds and hiking trails look like the mall at Christmas?

RV build quality at an all time low

This is a very generalized statement and not directed at any RV manufacturer in particular. But, it’s no secret that the RV build quality, even before the pandemic, is subpar at best.

Because of the sudden demand of campers during the pandemic, RV manufacturers were pushing out camper production in record numbers. In doing so, those RV manufacturers were sacrificing build quality to meet those demands. 

RVs are, quite literally, ‘rolling earthquakes’. RV builders and component manufacturers aren’t taking into account the severely degrading roads and highways their RVs are subject to. So, it’s no wonder RV owners, especially newbies, are none too happy with spending so much money on an RV that falls apart every time they go camping. Now, they’re having to pay for repairs with time and money.

So, after buying their campers to escape the pandemic, some camper owners are realizing how much money and labor they are having to put in just to make their RVs even road-worthy.

Cost to store an RV

Used RVs for Sale By Owner - RV Storage Lot

A lot of RV owners are not permitted to store their camper on their own property due to municipal ordinances and HOA restrictions. So, they are forced to store their RVs at a storage facility when they’re not using them.

Because of the influx of camper sales, trying to find suitable RV storage is a problem in itself. It bears repeating that even storage facilities are increasing their storage fees. Depending on the state they want to store your RV in will dictate the monthly storage rental costs. So, that $50,000 35′ camper is costing the owner upwards to $200-250 a month just to have it sit in storage.

Some storage units offer less expensive outdoor RV storage. Those looking for climate-controlled storage spaces for motorhomes or campers are going to obviously cost more…MUCH more. And due to the over-population of campers, that’s even IF they can even find a place to store their RV. 

And then, let’s add in the fact they all need to winterize their RV and prepare their camper for storage. Again, time and money is making them thinking twice about RV ownership.

Air travel restrictions lifted

Now that life is getting back to normal, people are back to hitting the friendly skies for more distant vacation destinations. Cruises, Disney World and other large resorts are open for business again. And, VRBOs, Air B&Bs and hotels are back to renting to meet those demands. This is also causing an uptick in used camper sales so they can finance those vacations and getaways.

Upgrading or Trading RVs

On the flip side, now that there’s a surge of available used RVs, many RV owners are actually looking to upgrade to a larger (or smaller) or more suitable RV. It is reasonable cause for selling their own RV before buying another.

We’ve also noticed, especially amongst solos and couples, some are downsizing RVs. They are selling their big rig motorhomes, fifth wheels and trailers for much smaller Vans and Class C motorhomes. Or they’re giving up their big rig RV lifestyle for smaller and simpler overlanding vehicles.

Because campgrounds are busting at the seams, these RV owners aren’t necessarily giving up RVing or camping. They’re simply shifting gears and seeking a different way to enjoy the camping lifestyle, albeit boondocking and overlanding.

 Good Read: What is Boondocking? Why It’s  Better than Campgrounds & RV Parks

Selling before the bottom falls out

A good number of RV owners are selling their campers and motorhomes while they still can make a profitable sale. Also, there are some RVers selling their campers before they end up upside down in payments. Selling their used RV at the beginning of turn one of this surge may get them the best bang for their buck.

Interested in buying a used RV?

Used RVs for Sale By Owner - Buying RV

Going completely in the other direction, let’s talk about buying one of these preowned RVs. If you’re one of those in the market of buying a used RV, you’re in luck. Sadly, their pain will become your pleasure. Due to this sudden surge of used RVs for sale, there’s going to be a good supply and selection of preowned RVs. Sorry to say, those faced with those ownership dilemmas above are coming to terms with unloading their campers. Let their loss be your gain.

Basic tips for buying a used RV:

    • Take your time in your search – There’s a lot of inventory. Research RV manufacturers, build qualities, options, floor plans, etc. Join social media groups to get first hand experiences with brands and all that goes with it.
    • Be willing to travel – You may find the RV of your dreams two states away. 
    • Have financing ready – Remember, cash is king.
    • Be of scams – Pay particular attention to seller’s profiles. See if that a particular RV shows up for sale in multiple states. Never accept payment from a seller trying to send you a payment or hold money. There’s shady practices being used to get your money. When in doubt or a used RV looks ‘too good to be true’, 99.9% of the time, it is.
    • Always have a friend or family member look everything over – Before sending any money or binding a contract, have a second or third set of eyes look it over. You may not recognize a scam.
    • Be ready to make a reasonable offer – At least for the better quality and smaller campers, they won’t last. That said, don’t rush into making an offer until you’ve done your research on that particular RV.
    • Verify the VIN# and title – Make certain the used RV you’re vying for has a clean title and not been stolen.
    • Verify the RV’s worth using J.D. Power’s NADA Guide for RVs – Find the suggested list price, along with low-end and high-end estimates of the used RV or camper you want to buy.
    • Never go to a seller’s home alone  – Take a friend or family member for safety but also, for a second set of eyes to spot something that doesn’t look right with the RV OR seller.
    • ALWAYS get an RV inspection before handing over money – Many campers and motorhomes have been abused, trashed or lived in by people who had no idea how to take care of them. This is why you need to spend a little money to have a fine toothed comb gone through the RV. Two of the biggest issues with buying a used RV is water intrusion and clogged black tanks.
    • Make your offer contingent upon the RV inspection – This includes to both private sales or used RVs for sale at RV consignment stores or RV dealerships. You don’t want to make an offer and owner agree to it and then find it needs $10,000 in repairs.
    • Get everything in writing – This includes any maintenance and repairs, upgrades, modifications, agreeable price based on RV inspection, how it will be financed, etc.
    • Never leave without title in hand – Make it clear that in no uncertain terms that you’re expecting to leave without a clean title. No title? No sale!

Those are just a few tips to get you on the road to buying a used RV. So, if you’re in the market for a used RV, you’re at the vantage point. Now that RV sales are simmering down, it’s slowly becoming a buyers market.

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Final thoughts on why there are more used RVs for sale by owner

As you’ve just read, there’s a plethora of reasons why there’s a sudden surge in owners selling their RVs. If you’re one of those who’s finding that your dream of RV ownership is becoming a logistical and time-consuming nightmare, I suggest to sell NOW while you can still make a profit or at least not have to take money to the table. But if you’re in the market of buying a used RV, there’s plenty of used RVs for sale to choose from based on the reasons above.

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