We all know that RVs depreciate in value. The question is, how quickly do RVs depreciate in value.
This is an important question when buying an RV and it’s a really important question when selling your RV.
In this guide to RV depreciation, I’ll try to answer this question as best as possible. I’ll give you actual examples of RV models that have been bought and sold over the years so you’ll know what to expect. I’ll also give you some tips you can use to help increase the resale value of your RV.
Depreciation Numbers For Each Type Of RV
Here are the numbers in a nice table.
|Type of RV||3 Years||5 Years||10 Years|
|Travel Trailers||40% lost||55% lost||74% lost|
|Fifth Wheels||38% lost||52% lost||71% lost|
|Class A RVs||43% lost||66% lost||75% lost|
|Class B RVs||33% lost||49% lost||62% lost|
|Class C RVs||26% lost||49% lost||61% lost|
|Pop-up Campers||38% lost||75% lost||88% lost|
We will dig into the details for each category below in the article.
Depreciation Basics For RVs and Motorhomes
Before we get into actual numbers, we have to define the term depreciation. There are two types of depreciation that one might want to consider. The first type of depreciation is the one the government regulates.
If you bought your RV for business purposes, you may have to depreciate your vehicle according to the IRS’s rules and regulations on depreciation.
In most cases, they’ll have you depreciate this by a certain percentage each year until the RV hits zero. At this point, you can’t write the RV off on your taxes anymore.
The other type of depreciation is the type that is dictated by the market. For example, you paid $10,000.00 for your RV two years ago and now nobody wants to buy it for more than $8,000.00. In this case, your RV has depreciated by $2,000.00 or 20% of its original value.
Depreciation According to The Tax Man
The IRS dictates that RVs used for business use should be depreciated over a five year period. The simplest way to do this is by using the straight-line method. With the straight-line method, you take the cost of the RV and you divide it by 5.
The number you get here is the number that you’ll use as depreciation for each year over the five year period.
For example, you purchase a $10,000.00 RV for your business. You can deduct $2,000.00 a year off your taxable income each year for the next 5 years. We arrived at this number by dividing $10,000.00 by 5 which gives us $2,000.00.
The “Market-value Depreciation”
Market-value depreciation is often about the perception of the market and what it feels a particular RV is worth after a given period of time. Some types of RVs depreciate faster than others and some brands depreciate slower than others.
Hold onto certain brands for a long enough period of time and you may even be able to take advantage of appreciation rather than depreciation.
For example, some of the early Airstreams are selling for higher prices than they were originally sold for. (even though they have lots of problems)
This being said, most RVs will depreciate over time and you should expect yours to do so as well. In the next section, I’ll give you actual examples of RVs that have depreciated so you can see how depreciation works first-hand.
I’ll use RVtrader.com and Nada.com pricing guides to help give actual prices for new and used RVs to help demonstrate the depreciation on each one of them.
6 Examples of RV Depreciation (6 Types Of RVs)
1) Travel Trailer Depreciation Example
Jayco Jay Feather 17 Series Travel Trailer – These campers vary slightly from year-to-year but they are all around 18′ long and between 3,000 to 3,300 pounds dry. They have kitchens, bathrooms, and dinettes in the center with bedrooms that fold down at the front as well as the back.
Most of these campers also have sofas across from the dinette as well. Because the beds fold out, these campers have enough space inside of them to have separate showers, sinks, and toilets in the bathroom as well as a small oven in the kitchen.
Buying one of these today will cost you over $20,000.00.
- 3 Years – If you bought the same model three years ago, you’d only be able to sell it for around $12,000.00. In three years, this travel trailer has lost 40% of its value. If you took out a long financing term on the camper, it may now be worth less than what you owe on it.
- 5 Years – If you bought this model five years ago, you’d now be able to sell it for around $8,900.00. This travel trailer has lost 55% of its original value. Although it has lost over half of its value at this point, it did depreciate slower through years 4 and 5 than it did through the first 3 years.
- 10 Years – If you bought this model ten years ago, you’d be able to sell it for around $5,300.00. This travel trailer has now lost about 74% of its value. While it only took 5 years to lose 55% of its value, it took another 5 years to lose another 19%.
As you can see, these trailers lose most of their value within the first few years. This, of course, assumes that regular maintenance has been done and that there aren’t any serious issues with the camper.
If you owned this travel trailer for 10 years you may have had to have spent money on repairs and maintenance.
2) Fifth Wheel Depreciation Example
The Palomino Puma 25 Series – These fifth wheel campers are 28 feet long and they typically have a living room area with sofas or recliners on one end and a bedroom on the other end. In between, you’ll find a dinette a kitchen and a bathroom.
The kitchens aren’t very large but they do offer double sinks and ovens. Bathrooms are spacious for a camper of this size and the sink, toilet, and shower all stand alone.
Buying a new one today will cost you around $24,000.00.
- 3 Years – Selling your three-year-old Palomino Puma 25 Series might get you around $15,000.00 today. This is a 38% loss in value from when it was originally purchased. This isn’t quite as bad as the depreciation on the travel trailer which was 40% after three years but it’s still a big loss.
- 5 Years – The same fifth wheel purchased five years ago will now sell for around $11,600.00. At this point, the fifth wheel has lost more than half of its value and is worth 52% less than what you originally paid for it. It has lost another 23% off of the value it had just two years before.
- 10 Years – If you bought this camper ten years ago you could now sell it for around $7,000.00. This is 29% of what it was worth ten years ago meaning you’ve lost about 71% of its original value. It lost another 40% of its value over the last 5 years.
3) Class A Motorhomes
For this one, I chose the Winnebago Vista. This is a popular class A camper that has been around for a while now and it sells for about $150,000.00 new. It is about 32 feet long which makes it a large motorhome but certainly not the largest you can get.
The camper comes in a few different floor plans with slide outs to suit each floor plan. The bathrooms are large and the kitchen has a big refrigerator inside. There is a double sink and an oven in there as well.
There is a king or queen size bed in the bedroom and there are also sleeping options at the dinette and sofa. A couple could easily spend their retirement in this motorhome and a family could have many great vacations in it.
- 3 Years – If you bought this motorhome three years ago, you could sell it now for about $65,000.00. As you can see, you’ve already lost more than half of the value of the motorhome. In fact, your motorhome is only worth 43% of what you paid for it. For people buying a used motorhome, this may be a good year to start with.
- 5 Years – After five years of ownership, a Winnebago Vista owner can sell his or her motorhome for about $51,000.00. This is 34% of the original cost, meaning a 66% depreciation(!) The depreciation here is much faster than what it was with a fifth-wheel camper.
The motorhome may not be worth nearly as much as it was when it was first purchased but at least it only lost 10% of its original value over the past 2 years which is much better than it faired over the first three years.
- 10 Years – Ten years after purchasing this motorhome, it is only worth $38,000.00. This is 25% of what you would have originally paid for it. That’s a 75% depreciation. Surprisingly enough, this amount of depreciation isn’t really any worse than the amount of depreciation you would have experienced with a travel trailer or fifth wheel.
Personally, I would have thought that the depreciation would have been even worse considering how quickly driving technology has changed and how often transmissions and other expensive car parts wear out over a ten year period.
4) Class B Motorhomes
For class B motorhome, I chose Airstream’s Interstate. Airstreams hold value extremely well in travel trailers so I wanted to see how they’d fair with a motorhome.
These motorhomes are small and usually run about 22 feet long. In 2009, there weren’t many options to choose from so I chose newer models that were similar to the old one for comparison. The Interstates are built on van platforms and since they are made by Airstream, usually have a small but luxurious interior.
Based on these assumptions, a new Interstate will cost you around $150,000.00.
- 3 Years -After three years, you could sell your Interstate for about $100,000.00. You’ve lost about 1/3rd of its original value to depreciation which means the RV has depreciated by 33%.
- 5 Years – You could sell your five-year-old Airstream motorhome for about 51% of what you paid for it. This is 49% depreciation. This is probably the best point at which to buy a used Interstate as the original owner has taken the bulk of the depreciation for you.
- 10 Years – Selling your Airstream Interstate after 10 years of ownership will get you about $58,000.00. This is a depreciation of 62%. As you can see, the Interstate faired much better than the Winnebago did at this point in time.
5) Class C Motorhomes
I chose another Winnebago for this motorhome so that we could see whether or not there was any difference in depreciation between class C and class A motorhomes. We’ll take a look at the View series as this has been around for quite a while.
This motorhome comes in a few different floor plans and it measures about 25 feet. Base models of these campers sell for around $120,000.00
- 3 Years – After only three years, this motorhome is only worth about $77,000.00. This means if you bought one three years ago, you’d have lost 26% of its value to depreciation. It is now worth 64% of what you paid for it. This depreciation is less than it was with the class A motorhome we looked at.
- 5 Years – If you’ve kept this motorhome for five years, you can now sell it for about $61,000.00. This is a little more than half of what you originally paid for it: 49% depreciation. That is still much better than class A which was only about 34% of what you paid for it at this point.
- 10 Years – 10 years after owning this motorhome, it is worth about $47,000.00. This is 39% of what it originally cost to buy, meaning that the depreciation is around 61% here. It would seem with these numbers that class C motorhomes depreciate less than any of the other motorhomes we’ve reviewed at the ten-year mark.
6) Pop-up Campers
It was tough to find a pop-up camper model that kept the same name and the same dimensions in this type of camper. Instead, I chose a brand and then looked for pop-up campers with the same dimensions and similar amenities. I felt like this would be more accurate than choosing a particular model that has changed in size over the years.
A new twenty-foot long, seven-foot-wide Starcraft pop-up camper currently sells for around $16,000.00.
- 3 Years – If you bought one three years ago, you could still get about $10,000.00 for it. This means you’ve lost about $2,000.00 a year or 38% of its value. The loss falls right in line with most of the other types of campers but since the overall cost was less, you’ve lost a smaller dollar amount.
- 5 Years – After five years of ownership, the camper is worth only $4,000.00. This is only 25% of what you originally paid for it. I can only guess at the dramatic drop in price but my assumption is that the canvass on a pop-up tent camper just doesn’t hold up very well after 3 years.
This canvas is expensive to replace and many people do not wish to do it. Also, the lift mechanisms can fail which is also a costly repair to make.
- 10 Years – Ten years later, I’m finding that these campers are only worth about $2,000.00. This brings them down to about 12% of what they originally cost to buy. I’ve seen many people giving their pop-up campers away shortly after they’ve passed the 10-year mark so I’d say that popup campers probably depreciate faster than any other types of campers you can buy.
Conclusions on Depreciation and RVs
Based on the numbers it seems that travel trailers have the slowest depreciation rate between all of the towable campers. Pop-up campers depreciation the worst and fifth-wheel campers tend to depreciate at a rate that is closer to standard travel trailers.
Luckily, pop-up campers also cost the least so, in the end, you end up losing fewer dollars than if you would have purchased a different kind of camper.
With motorhomes, class C RVs tend to depreciate the lowest with class B motorhomes coming in a close second. Class A motorhomes depreciate the fastest out of all three of the types of motorhomes you can buy.
Unfortunately, they are also the most expensive motorhomes to buy so you lose out on both fronts.
With all this being said, there are ways to increase the resale value of your camper or motorhome. This reduces the effects of depreciation on your RV and helps you get the most out of your sale. Some of these steps can be taken as soon as you buy your RV and others can be taken right before you sell your RV.
6 Tips to Increase Resell Value on Your RV
There is a multitude of steps you can take to help increase the resale value of your RV. Here are a few of the steps that can help you avoid some of the effects of depreciation.
- Stick to the preventative maintenance schedule.
- Keep detailed service records for your RV.
- Update the appliances and finishes when necessary.
- Refinish the inside and outside of your camper when needed.
- Clean the camper so that it looks unlived in.
- Take great pictures.
- Make sure you have the title.
1) Preventative Maintenance
There is a lot of preventative maintenance that must be done on an RV. This is especially true for motorhomes. Motorhomes need to have regular oil changes as well as part changes and fluid changes.
For example, a motorhome might have to get its transmission fluid drained every 100,000 miles and it might need to get its oil changed every 6 months or 3,000 miles. If you’re traveling around the country in your RV, you can put 3,000 miles on it very quickly. Conversely, if you don’t use your motorhome that much, you could forget to change the oil two times a year.
Towable campers also have maintenance schedules that they need to abide by. The wheels and axles of a trailer have special maintenance requirements and these can often be time-consuming to do. Make sure you do them anyway as they’ll help to keep you safe and will ensure that you retain the most value from your camper.
2) Detailed Records
Doing preventative maintenance is a great way to keep your camper or motorhome running well but you’ll get an even greater benefit from it if you keep detailed records. Every time you get the oil changed, parts replaced, and wheels lubricated, ask for a detailed receipt. Keep your receipts and you’ll be able to show any potential buyers that you kept good care of your RV.
Not only will this help get you more money from the sale of your RV, but it will also help you to sell your RV more quickly.
This is because people like to see that the RV they are considering purchasing was well taken care of. If you ever want to sell a vehicle, this advice will apply there as well.
Will you be changing the oil yourself? No problem! Just buy a notebook and a local newspaper. Right down the mileage and the date that you changed the oil in your notebook and staple a copy of the paper to the bottom of the page. This will show people that you didn’t just write everything in the notebook the day before the sale. Feel free to use complimentary local newspapers to save money.
Nobody wants to camp in a severely outdated camper. Unless you’re selling a vintage RV, you may want to think about changing out your appliances, cabinet hardware, and flooring. Many manufacturers have switched from using carpeted floors to using vinyl or laminate floors.
Replacing the carpet with tile or vinyl flooring will not cost much money in a small camper and it will make a big difference in how new and well-cared for your camper looks. Cabinet hardware is easy to replace and painting over old cabinet doors can really bring an old RV kitchen back to life for a small amount of money.
After you’ve done this, you may want to consider refinishing or replacing your appliances. Just be smart about it as RV appliances can be expensive and it isn’t always worth replacing them. If they still work and they look good then keep them. Also, if the camper is very old you may also consider not even replacing broken ones as the new buyer may be looking to do this himself anyway.
3) Refinishing and Repairing
I see so many people attempting to sell RVs with cracks and holes in them. Why try to do this when you can just patch the hole before the sale? Patching some small holes and cracks in the sides of your RV will not take much time or money and it can make a big difference in what people think your RV is worth.
You may even want to paint the outside of your RV or replace old siding or Filon. Making these repairs can mean the difference between you making the sale and having to keep your old RV for another year.
You wouldn’t try to sell a dirty and run-down looking house, would you? Why then, do so many people try to sell their RVs without even bothering to clean them first? Clean your RV until it is spotless and remove any personal items you have inside of it.
This will help to give your RV a new appearance and will attract more potential buyers to your listing.
You can also choose to have it detailed by a professional.
Your listing photos determine whether or not someone will even want to come to take a look at your RV. Take great pictures using a DSLR camera with a wide angle lens.
This will help capture tiny rooms and will ensure that the potential buyer knows what they are coming to look at.
If you can, take it a step further and take a video-walkthrough tour of your RV. Videos offer an even better perspective than images and they also give you the chance to verbally speak to your buyer before you even meet them. Take a great video and narrate it so that you can tell the buyer all about the great features your RV has to offer. Make them feel like their actually inside the RV with you and you may get to sell your RV without having to give a physical tour afterward.
6) The Title
The lack of a title is the biggest turn-off to potential buyers. Without a title, you can’t really prove that you still own the RV and the new buyer won’t be able to either. Getting a new title is a lot of work and it can take a lot of time so most buyers won’t want to deal with this issue.
If the potential buyer does decide to buy the RV from you, he’ll want a substantial discount for doing so.
If you’ve lost your copy of the title, get a new one before listing your RV for sale. As the actual owner, it will be easier for you to get the title than it would have been for the new buyer. Having the title establishes trust and increases the chances that you’ll get top dollar for your RV.
No matter what RV you buy, you’re going to have to deal with depreciation. The newer the RV is that you buy, the more money you’ll lose to depreciation. Regardless of whether or not you plan to eventually sell your RV, it is a good idea to take steps to increase the value of your RV.
This will help you enjoy your RV more and will help to keep it running safely and smoothly. If you really can’t stand the thought of losing money on a depreciating RV, you might want to consider buying used.
Typically a three to five-year-old RV will have lost much of its value already so you’ll get to miss out on about 50% of the depreciation. The only exception to this is with pop-up campers as they tend to depreciate so quickly that you may want to wait until they hit ten years and just pick one up for free.
Christopher Schopf is an avid camper, hiker, and an advocate for a better environment. He likes to write about alternative lifestyles and small spaces.