Over the last two years the RV market has been incredibly busy. In 2018 the Canadian Recreational Vehicle Association (CRVA) and the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA) of Canada reported that there were over 2.1 million households in Canada that owned an RV, and with the emergence of the pandemic that number has grown exponentially.

As the demand for RVs increased, many dealers were faced with low inventory levels caused by an industry-wide supply shortage. With important components in short supply, manufacturers shutdown their factories temporarily which lead to longer than normal build schedules.

Due to increased manufacturing costs, consumers have had to adjust to a new reality where the cost of owning a new RV is much higher and entering the RV market requires a larger investment than it would have just a few years earlier.

All these factors have contributed to the incredibly hot used RV market. Dealers had very little used inventory and most of those RVs would be sold before they hit the lot. RV consumers began looking at buying a used RV from private listings on websites like Kijiji, Auto trader and Facebook Marketplace because that was the only option for immediate purchase.

In this type of market, people sell their used RV because the demand is so much higher than the supply. Sometimes buyers will find a great deal on a used unit that is being sold privately, and sometimes unknowing consumers can pay way too much, depending on the circumstances.

So as a consumer, what is better? Should you be buying a used RV from the owner privately, or should you be going to a dealer to see what they have to offer in used inventory? As with many things in life, there are pros and cons to both options.


Buying a Used RV – Private Sales

Let’s start with why you would want to buy a used RV privately rather than from a dealer. The most obvious reason is you may save some money. When a dealer makes an offer to purchase or trade in a used RV, they are going to offer them a wholesale trade in value. This value allows the dealer room to inspect the used RV, repair some existing issues with the unit, clean the RV and pay for all the costs of reselling it. RV dealers must pay people to do all these things, so they must be able to make a profit on the used trailer they are selling to pay for these costs. If the person selling the RV privately wants to do that work themselves, then they can sell the trailer for more money than what a dealer would offer them, and they may sell it for less than what you would pay for it from a dealer.

The other reason is timing. Often buyers want to buy an RV and pick it up within a few days of when they initially purchased it. A private seller can usually give you the RV faster than an RV dealer, which may have a longer pre-delivery inspection (PDI) process. Although there is great value in having that PDI process, you may need to wait a couple weeks to get your RV because you are in line with all the other buyers that the dealer must accommodate.


Buying a Used RV – Dealers

There are a lot of reasons why buying a used RV from a dealer may be a better plan, especially for inexperienced RV customers.

The first reason is the same reason as why people buy privately – you may save some money. The assumption is that someone selling an RV privately will be cheaper than the dealer. However, that is not always the case. Over the last two years, I have noticed used RVs advertised on different websites listed for significantly more than what the RV sold for when it was new. This is due to two main causes:

  1. The seller is trying to make a profit off the current market conditions.
  2. The seller is pricing the trailer in a way to pay off the loan that is secured by the RV.

Both could mean you end up paying way too much for an RV you could have paid less for at a certified dealer. Most certified RV dealers price their used inventory based on current market values, and they understand the need to competitively price the used units they are selling. For this reason, you know when you are buying a used RV from a certified dealer that you will always be getting a fair price.

The second reason for buying from a certified dealer is the RV condition. Dealers have a reputation to protect, and most dealers will only sell used RVs that are in good condition. If an RV has major issues like water damage or major structural problems, they will not retail this unit. Certified RV dealers will sell these types of RVs wholesale to buyers who may sell more as is or handyman special type of units. As a rule, if a dealer retails new trailers, they will only sell good, inspected and approved used RVs. This way you have confidence that if you are buying an RV from a reputable dealer, it has been inspected and it does not have any major issues or unwelcome surprises.

The final reason why you may consider buying a used RV from a certified dealer is the access the dealer has to competitive financing and purchase options. When buying privately you have two options of payment: cash or line of credit. When you purchase from a dealer you can tap into all the resources the dealer has to offer for financing and other purchase options. The RV dealer can offer things like paint protection, under coating, extended warranties and other products to enhance your RV ownership experience. There is something to be said for supporting your local dealer and establishing a relationship with them. This way you have a support network that is passionate about helping you and your family make those RV memories.

As a consumer you have the choice as to how you want to purchase your next RV. It is true, there are some great deals to be had out there in the used RV market. No matter where you buy, make sure you do your research, ask the right questions and purchase from someone you trust. Whichever way you choose to purchase, I hope you find the RV of your dreams to make new memories with your family this season.

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