If you own an RV, you have access to an affordable means of travel and entertainment. It can be your road trip vehicle, your camping destination, and the place where the family can safely stay when visiting in one investment.
The financial requirements of RV ownership are the sticking point for most households. With the cost of some vehicles reaching levels similar to single-family homes in some markets, the price isn’t practical to buy a new one.
Used RVs can provide the same benefits for a lower cost, but how can you access the most affordability?
RV auctions can be an affordable way to buy an RV. Instead of paying the middleman through a dealership for a used recreational vehicle, it might be worth exploring the idea of an RV auction.
When you attend an RV auction, the best deals tend to happen near the end of the day. Most people spend their energy and money early, which means you’ll have less competition later for the RVs you want.
What Is An RV Auction?
When you attend an RV auction, either in-person or digitally, you purchase vehicles by bidding. You’ll need to outbid other potential buyers instead of going to the dealership to sign a contract.
If you have ever bid on items on websites like eBay, the experience is similar. When you attend an in-person auction, the RV goes to the highest bidder.
That means you must set a budget limit, bid strategically, and hope that your price is better than someone else in the room.
When you have an online RV auction, the process involves submitting bids in higher increments until the listing expires.
This process lets you find a fantastic deal on a new-to-you RV that can meet your needs. Most listings at these auctions come from repossessed vehicles and used older models. It’s not quite a liquidation sale, but it also isn’t like the hassle of securing credit and managing the in-person negotiation experience.
Although some used RVs can be 15+ years old, it is not unusual to see models that are only five years old. You can sometimes find newer models than that when dealerships are unable to move their inventories.
If you pursue an RV auction for a newer model, you’ll need to be prepared to bid big. When the vehicle is only a couple of years old, it has more value than one that’s been on the road for more than a decade.
One of the largest online RV auction websites is CrankyApe.com.
How To Start The RV Bidding Process
Should you decide that an RV auction is worthwhile for meeting your needs, the first step is to register for it.
You cannot bid at an auction without submitting your personal information. This step registers you as a valid bidder while providing safeguards against someone walking off the street to inflate prices artificially.
Every auction follows a different registration procedure. You might need to submit your personal information only to offer a valid bid or prove you have the financial resources to pay for an RV if you win.
The registration process also offers the information you need to know the different signals or expectations at the event. When you know the rules, it’s much easier to bid competitively for the RV you want.
Some auctions provide insights or reviews about the RVs offered for sale, including data about the vehicle’s condition.
If you didn’t register before the RV auction, some might allow on-site registration at the beginning of the event. You’ll want to call ahead to see if this option is available before making an effort to attend.
How To Maximize Your Time At An RV Auction
As with any significant purchase, you’ll want to come to an RV auction armed with facts. That means you’ll want to do some research about the various classes, sizes, and types of recreational vehicles available today.
This issue is especially relevant for large families who require six seat belts or more in their RV. You would need to review your preferred vehicles’ layout and plans to see if extra installations are legal or possible.
If not, you would need to purchase an RV with the seat belt installations already in place.
Several other unique examples can fit into this category.
- Does the RV have enough room for your pet to come along safely?
- Is the bathroom large enough to fit the tallest member of your family?
- Can everyone fit into the sleeping areas for those times when you park?
When you have the answers to your specific questions ready before attending the auction, it’s much easier to find the right vehicle.
Once you have your personal needs met, these additional steps can help you maximize your time at an RV auction.
1. Arrive at the auction early to inspect the RVs.
It is easier to see what to expect on an RV when you can inspect the vehicle in-person. Although most auctions provide an overview of each make and model, your eyes can often pick up details that don’t get included in those materials.
An early inspection can let you know what RVs could be the best deals to pursue. This time can also help you weed out the listings that aren’t worth your time.
You won’t get to start the engine or drive the RV before the auction in most situations, which means your inspection is the best way to avoid a lemon.
If you attend an online RV auction, it helps to look through any posted pictures to see if there are problem listings you’ll want to avoid. It might be beneficial to pull mechanic’s reports, manufacturer details, and the owner’s manual before bidding to see if the vehicle is a good deal.
2. Think about the wear and tear on the RV.
Excessive wear and tear on an RV can indicate the vehicle led a hard life. That doesn’t mean the previous owner necessarily abused it, but this result can predict you’ll have more maintenance work to do if you win the auction.
As a general rule, excessive interior wear and tear often translate to less care for the vehicle’s standardized maintenance. There are usually fewer oil changes, less service performed, and less attention paid to the tanks and connections.
You can find some great deals at RV auctions when you see this issue. Try to balance your cost savings with how much time you’re willing to work on things if you have the winning bid.
3. Research the best RV deals.
An RV auction should get you a better deal than what you’d receive at a dealership. If you don’t review the various makes and models available, it could become the opposite result.
It helps to know what you’re getting into with an RV before placing a bid.
The best question to ask is this: how did the RV end up arriving at the auction in the first place?
If the vehicle is there because it is excess inventory, you might get to grab a great deal. When it has numerous accident reports, an extensive repair history, flood damage, or neglect problems, you might want to skip ahead to the next listing.
4. Understand how to bid successfully at an auction.
Bidding on an RV at an auction is an art form that many attendees neglect. Not only do you need to meet your budgetary expectations, but you also must win against others. If you don’t stick to a budget cap for each vehicle you want to purchase, the bidding fever can cause prices to spiral out of control immediately.
Understanding yourself and your strategy is only one step. Here are some of the others you’ll need to consider.
- Check on the payment terms at least one day before the auction. Some of them may not accept credit cards or checks.
- Some RV auctions might require a refundable deposit to qualify as a valid bidder.
- It is not uncommon to have a buyer’s premium added to your winning bid, which is called the “hammer price.”
5. Dress for the occasion.
An RV auction can be an all-day event. If it is held outdoors, you’ll want to dress in layers to prepare for what you might face during the day.
You’ll want to be prepared to walk across uneven or muddy ground.
Most auctions provide seating, but it is a benefit that fills up fast. If you pack a folding chair for the day, you won’t need to worry about the issue.
One Final Truth About RV Auctions
Are RV auctions worth it?
The answer to that question depends on what you hope to purchase, your overall patience, and a little budget flexibility.
Auctions move quickly. If the RV is up for bid, get in on that action! Any hesitation could cause the hammer to strike before you’ve raised your hand or bidder’s card.
If you end up winning an RV auction, you may want to think about some extra RV equipment. Read, “11 Awesome Products To Make Your Camper More Stable,” for some great ideas.
And if you’re anything like us, you’ll want to give your new RV a great name. How about, “Inappropriate Camper Names,” for inspiration?
As a final step, think about the possession terms if you win the RV you want. If you must drive it home immediately, having a plan to manage those logistics can save you a significant headache later on that day.