How do you know the price on the new RV you’re considering is reasonable? How do you know the trade value you’re getting is reasonable? The answer is to have an independent market reference you can compare to. The best RV market reference available today is the NADA Recreational Vehicle Trade Appraisal Guide available online at

This big yellow book makes an excellent guideline reference source to determine the Actual Cash Value (ACV) of trades, as well as retail prices for new and used RVs. Nearly all RV Dealers have it and use it everyday. That means the book is accessible. Ask to see it before you make a deal. Another handy alternative is the website. Here you can get retail values for RV makes and models going back well over 10 years.

How To Know The Real Manufacturer’s Suggested List Price

Be sure the starting price before any discount is legitimate and not inflated. If the top price is real then any discount is also legitimate. The NADA Recreational Vehicle Appraisal Guide (and includes original suggested list prices that make an excellent reference to check prices.

Compare the dealer’s list price to the NADA list price on the web. If you are looking at a new model, you can compare to the suggested list for the most recent listing for the same model. The dealer should be able to justify any difference. If he can’t, shop somewhere else. Don’t get started at an inflated price.

How To Know The Real Cash Value Of Your Trade

If you have a trade, your RV has an Actual Cash Value or ACV. The ACV is the amount the dealer is actually buying your RV for when you trade. This value may vary from dealer to dealer based on the market they serve and the inventory they have.

The fact is ALL dealers buy at wholesale and sell at retail. The ACV represents the amount of value the dealer will allow against his best price. Use the NADA Guide to estimate the ACV of your trade. Look up the year, make and model in the book and look at the used wholesale/value. This is the used wholesale value. This value is a good guesstimate of the actual amount the dealer is buying your RV for when you trade. Remember, the dealer is buying your RV to resell it at a profit, and dealers buy at wholesale and sell at retail. If a dealer is offering you a trade value well above your trade’s ACV, the difference is likely discount you would get anyway.

How To Know The Real Price You Are Paying

The real price is the discounted price the RV actually sells for. It is not the sticker price, the list price, or the starting price. The real price is the price the dealer actually sells the RV for after all discounts. It should be the dealer’s best no-trade cash price. When a trade is involved, most dealers add the discount to the trade ACV to make the trade value look better. You can still determine the real price by adding the ACV of your trade to the difference or “out” as in out-of-pocket money. To determine if the real discounted price is reasonable, look up the used retail value in the book for the most recent version of the new model you are considering. The dealer’s real discounted price should be less than the original list and as close to the used retail value plus the value of any options as possible. Again the dealer should be able to justify any difference. If he can’t, go elsewhere. Always compare to the NADA Guide to be sure the price you are getting is reasonable and legitimate.  Obviously a NEW RV for far below the USED NADA retail value should raise a big question in your mind . . . What’s wrong with it?  Why would a dealer sell a NEW RV for below the USED value?  If you don’t get a really good explanation – BEWARE.

How To Know The Product You Are Buying

Most of us know a Cadillac is more expensive than a Chevy; and a BMW costs more than a Hyundai. But how many people know how a Prowler, a Dutchmen, a Coachmen or any other RV brand compares? Research shows that most people don’t know. RV brands are not well defined in our minds or experience. Adding to the confusion are different series, sub models, upgrade packages, special interiors, and a wide range of available options. It’s almost impossible to really know where you stand without an RV market reference. Are you looking at a dressed up Chevy or a Cadillac?

Here’s how to tell:

Read the brochure

Know what is standard equipment and what is optional and what options are included in the RV you are buying. The difference between a standard model with no options and the same model with every possible option added can be extreme. Compare specifications, weights, capacities, construction specifics, and features. The brochure should be a wealth of information. If it’s not, be concerned. The manufacturer should want you to have the specifics.

Get an independent opinion


Use the NADA Guide values (or as an independent RV market reference to help you know the product you are considering. Compare relative values between all the models you are considering to be sure they are in the same general class. It is not unusual for a dealer to switch a buyer to a lesser quality RV with more equipment. This is done to fool the buyer into paying more for a lesser model.

Read the warranty

Know exactly what warranty coverage you are getting. It should be in writing and explain specifically what is and what is not covered and for how long. Quality RVs have comprehensive warranty programs. Some manufacturers still give their dealers up – front discounts in place of paying warranty claims. What incentive does a dealer in Wyoming have to fix your “on vacation” warranty problem when the dealer back home received the discount? The answer is NONE!