It all started with us thinking that we would simply trade in our 2015 Free Spirit SS when we were ready to purchase a new motorhome. That’s what we’ve always done when purchasing a new car, and the entire transaction would be done at one location with one set of negotiations.
After a few discussions with dealers and some online research with the NADA RV price guide, my viewpoint was a lot different. The trade-in value of our meticulously maintained Free Spirit turned out to be much lower than I expected, and it was hard to contemplate that sort of loss after less than two years of ownership. It also became obvious that the aftermarket modifications I had made – including the installation of an expensive new navigation/audio system – were not going to help the trade-in price.
But a big part of the problem is that I was thinking about our motorhome like a vehicle instead of like a home. When you’re ready to move to another home, you don’t trade in your old one – you sell it, either on your own or with the help of a real estate agent. Naturally, I assumed that I would be the best salesman, since no one knows our RV better. I would be able to talk about my favorite driving and camping features, explain the advantage of every mod, document all the maintenance, and cite all the specs about torque, tanks, and tinting.
It’s not that easy. Online advertising certainly helps get the word out, and those tools (especially RV Trader and Facebook) generate a lot of inquiries. But responding to those emails takes a lot of time, and arranging meetings and test drives takes even more. It quickly became clear to me that this would be incompatible with my work commitments, and I had not even thought about how to handle negotiations, deposits, paperwork, etc.
The biggest obstacle to arranging a private sale should have been obvious to me: cash. It is actually very difficult for people to arrange an individual loan for an RV. Only a small subset of prospective buyers would be able to hand you a cashier’s check for the full amount. What are the chances, living in central North Carolina, that I could identify a regional buyer with that kind of cash-in-hand?
That’s when we decided to let a professional handle the sale for us, not unlike contracting a real estate agent to handle the sale of a home. We chose Howard RV Center (in Wilmington, NC), one of the newest Leisure Travel Van dealers, to sell our Free Spirit on consignment. By selecting an LTV dealer, we thought we might attract walk-in customers that are interested in that brand and become intrigued by a late model Free Spirit that they could drive off the lot (rather than wait up to 9 months for a new model to be built). The dealer did research on comparable sales and advised us on pricing; took care of all the paperwork, advertising, showings, and test drives; offered customer financing; provided pre-delivery inspection and walk-through training; and even offered an optional warranty.
A few days ago, The Silver Box met its new owners. They were able to arrange financing through the dealer; it is hard to know how long we would have had to wait to find a buyer who could have managed this without a loan. Importantly, having professionals deal with the entire transaction was a genuine relief, and the 8% commission seems like a good investment once you realize that the final selling price was substantially higher than our best trade-in offer.
I admit that I’m sad to see the end of our small motorhome travels . . . even after 28,000 miles, it seems like we were just getting started. Cheers to that lucky couple who will be full-timing in their new motorhome – a true adventure worthy of the name Free Spirit.