How Do RV Dealers Determine Trade-In Value? (NADA, KBB?)

It can get complicated. Tarding in an RV is not as simple as the dealer rushing out to you with open arms and taking whatever you are driving into their lot. There is a long list of criteria that dealers can use to ensure they get the best deal possible. That is not a mis-typed sentence.

The age and condition of your RV is just two criterion RV dealers use to determine the the trade-in value of your RV. The older your RV is the lower the value, especially if it is in really rough shape. Take care of your RV so you get a better return on your investment.

To learn more about this process, just continue to read our article. It has the information you want to know about so you do not get surprised when the dealer returns with a low-ball figure. It happens all the time as dealers are looking out for their business’s bottom line.

How do RV Dealers Determine Trade-in Value?


One of the places dealers turn to is the RV blue books that are available to everyone. One is the NADA Blue Book and another is J.D. Power. There are different online options that you can use directly but the value you are given may not equal what these blue book options say.

One of those websites is called RV Blue and they will send the valuation directly to you and not show it online. JD Power will give you a value online. But all of these sources may not be accurate as they may be listing value under ideal condition of the RV.

Dealers use other criteria like age and condition of the RV or travel trailer, etc. Other criteria include the location of the dealer, model, brand, and current market conditions. That last one can be a killer as if the market conditions have a low price for similar RVs, you are not going to get a lot of trade-in value.

Other items that influence the value of your RV will be the number of features you included when you purchased it. Keep in mind that dealers work with wholesale value NOT retail value. So what you think your RV, etc., is worth is not what the dealer is thinking.

How Much is My RV Worth on Trade-In?

To get to a realistic value, you have to drop the sentimental value from your thinking. Your memories do not count in estimating the value of your RV. The dealer will not include that factor in his estimation of your RV’s value.

What you can do to get an idea of the RETAIL value of your RV is to go to the JD Power website and start plugging in details. Just so you know, JD Powers and NADA Blue Book are one and the same now.

What makes this task tedious is that you have several steps to go through. First, you select the type of RV you own, then the manufacturer, the model, the year, and so on. Finally, you will get to a list of motorhomes or trailers and you select the correct one.

When you have done that, you put in your zip code and press continue. You are then taken to a web page that has you adding features or if you want a base price. We did this for the 2015 Airstream travel trailer model M-19 and got the base price of a low retail value of $41,000 approx., and a high retail value of $49,000 approx.

To get an actual value for your RV, etc., you have to list a lot of features, etc. Every motorhome, trailer, and pop-up camper is going to have a different value depending on features, condition, age, and so on.

How Much Should I Trade in My RV vs. Retail Value?


Your best option to get the most out of your RV or trailer is to sell it yourself. While this can take time and can be a hassle, you will get the most for your RV, etc., and pretty much close to actual retail value.

Again, sentimental value plays no role in determining this figure nor does it play a role in your trade-in value. Please try hard to exclude that from your calculations. No one else will factor it in.

As for trade-in value, it is not going to be done at the actual retail value level. The dealer will have costs to consider- how long it will sit on his lot, what repairs need to be done, what safety checks and repairs need to be done, condition, year and so much more.

Then the dealer is looking at the wholesale value as the difference between that and actual retail value will cover his costs and help him make a little profit. Never expect to get a high trade-in value for your RV, etc. The dealer is looking out for his bottom line and that is the most important factor in this transaction.

RV Blue Book Trade-In Value

These blue book options will only give you an idea of what your RV or trailer is worth. Sometimes they are very accurate and sometimes they are a little off in their valuation. But they give you a starting point to work with and an idea of what your RV, etc., is worth.

Keep in mind that these blue books have valuations for just about every model of RV or trailer you can buy. Those values are not usually going to be the same from year to year even if it is the same model and brand.

The reason for that discrepancy is that different owners order different features, among other items, and that changes the value. We gave you an example of the 2015 Airstream M-19. Here is the value for a 2020 Jayco Alante Series M-29 S Ford V10. We dressed it up with a variety of features.

Each feature has its own monetary value and the suggested list price was $137,000 approx. Then the low retail value was $95,000 approx., and the high retail value was $114,000 approx. (We rounded down).

The Blue books will help you find the retail value for all your features as well as the model of your RV but it may not give you the dealer’s wholesale value. A GPS system can add between $2500 and $3300 in value, while cruise control adds just under $100.

NADA Guides RV Trade-in Value


When we looked up the NADA blue book we were sent directly to the JD Power website. There is a NADA book guide and that seems to be tied to the Kelly blue book system.

What this all means is that you can ask for the NADA Blue Book value but you will be betting the values of one or both of those other options. We had a lot of difficulty navigating NADA’s website.

It did not bring us to any web page like the JD Power website did where you could plug in the information and get a value. According to one source, there is no Kelly Blue Book for RVs but that does not make sense since NADA’s website talks about this book.

Their website just has posts of different articles so getting a valuation may be a bit difficult. These books used to be on sale in different bookstores and other outlets so that may be your best hope of finding and using their information.

It is said that a blue book for RVs only works if there is a limited set of variables and RVs have too many to be effective. But that is the opinion of that one website as JD Power’s website seems to have met that challenge and overcame it.

KBB RV Trade-In Values

After the debacle in the last section, we did finally find a Kelly Blue Book URL and the news is still not good. You can check their website at this link but it won’t help.

In accordance with what we wrote in that previous section, there is no Kelly Blue Book for RVs. The website did not explain why this aspect of the travel industry was excluded. There was no information in the FAQs either.

The KBB covers everything from motorcycles to electric vehicles and all vehicles in between but gets bigger than a pick-up truck and you are out of luck with that valuation service.

We did suggest you could pick up a Kelly Blue Book at different outlets but that has ended as well. After 40 years of print publication, the company decided to not do that option anymore. They stopped publication in 2017.

Even if they did continue to publish their book, it would not include any valuations for RVs or trailers. What this all means is that you either use the JD Power website to get your RV values or you use one of the lesser-known websites that approximately do the same thing.

You can also check the used outlets like RV Trader and get an idea of the value of your RV or trailer. These outlets will get you close to retail value but not even close to dealer wholesale value.

Is There an Advantage To Trading in an RV?


Yes, there is an advantage if your RV or trailer has no liens or loans attached to it. In this situation, you can lower your down payment for a new RV. That cuts down on the amount of money you need upfront to complete your purchase.

Or it can help lower your monthly loan amount. But these only happen if you get a good trade-in value. On new RVs, etc., dealers have more room to negotiate than they do with used RVs they have taken in on trade.

That means you may get a good trade-in value for your RV but it is hard to say as all dealers act independently, use the criteria that work for them, and other factors. They are not going to pay any more than they have to when they are making a trade deal.

This means that what you value your RV, etc., at, even using those blue books, will not be the amount you will get in trade. It will be much lower.

How Can I Increase My RV Value?

There are many steps you can take to increase the value of your RV> The first step will be to pay off your existing loan so the RV, etc., is free from all liens, etc. You get more value if paying off your loan is low enough to consider doing this step.

Step two would include maintaining your RV and making sure all mechanical and electrical components are in top shape. The less the dealer has to pay for repairs, the more value you should get.

Then make sure the interior and exterior of your RV remain in good shape. Not always an easy thing to do but it will help if you want to trade it in and upgrade to a newer model. This includes keeping it nice and clean.

Don’t forget to inspect and repair the seals. These small but vital parts of your RV are very important when it comes to trading your RV. One good option to raise your RV’s trade-in value is to shop around.

Since dealers use their own criteria to value your RV or trailer, you may get a better deal down the street. You just never know until you do some comparison shopping.

Some Additional Words

When it comes to trading in your RV or trailer, dealers operate on a very different level than the owners of those vehicles. They use the above mentioned criteria and they may have some additional ones you may not know about.

But keep in mind that the dealer is going to offer you their wholesale price as they are looking to cover costs and make a profit. It is just the nature of this industry.

Leave a Comment: