Motorhome buying advice: What’s your motorhome or campervan worth?
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Words by Peter Vaughan
Type 'Ford Fiesta’ into the search function of a well-known website and it brings up over 15,000 used cars for you to consider. At the time of writing, that same site listed 742 Aston Martins.
In contrast, despite being one of the best places to search for a used campervan or motorhome, Out&About Live's Motorhomes for Sale section currently has 17 used Auto-Sleeper Nuevos (one of the longest running and most popular UK coachbuilts around).
The difference is the size of the market compared with the number of makes and models available.
In 2018, there were 2.37 million cars sold in the UK. However, in the same year only 14,655 motorhomes were sold here. That’s one motorhome for every 161 cars.
Put another way, Ford of Great Britain sells nearly three times as many Fiestas as the whole British motorhome market.
Despite the relatively small numbers of motorhomes sold, there’s a mind-blowing amount of choice.
For example, the 2021 range from Auto-Trail numbers 42 different models, while some imported brands give you even more choice – Dethleffs, for example, offers 54 coachbuilt motorhomes in 11 ranges.
When you consider that many marques will sell only a few hundred vehicles in the UK each year and many campervan converters make only 50 to 60 vehicles per annum, it’s easy to see that the exact motorhome you’re seeking might only number a handful of sales each season and even the most popular models are still relatively rare.
It’s hard to argue against the VW California as the UK’s best-selling leisure vehicle and yet even that managed ‘only’ 1,465 sales in the whole of 2019.
So, finding comparable motorhomes to your own on the used market to ascertain a value is very, very difficult.
Finding the right valuation for buying or selling a motorhome
If you’re buying a second-hand motorhome and want to be sure the price is right, or you’re selling and want to achieve a good, realistic price, you’ll be disappointed to find that there isn’t a reliable price guide you can turn to as you would with a car.
There are just too many motorhome models, of which too few are sold, and too many variables for a guide to be accurate.
However, there are several key ways you can define the value of your motorhome, with one of your best friends being the internet.
Type the whole name of your motorhome including any number and/or letter suffix into a search engine adding ‘for sale’ and then narrow that down to the relevant year of registration if you get a good selection of results.
If you have a rarer model, though, you might have to try a more generic search, without the model number, or with just the brand, for example.
With older motorhomes, it can get even more difficult, so you could elect to search by year only, entering ‘[reg year] motorhome’ into the search box.
This will bring up a selection of motorhomes of the same age. You could then find something similar to yours, but as motorhomes become older remember that condition is (almost) everything.
Consider, too, that popular brands and models usually attract a higher price, while marques that are defunct can be harder to sell and a one-off built to your specification may not appeal to anyone.
Next, talk to a few dealers. In 2021, with stocks on forecourts at a record low and demand high, you could find that you’ll be offered a good price, but you’ll usually do better if you’re trading your motorhome in against another than if you just want to sell up and quit motorhoming.
Remember that the trade-in value of your motorhome will be different to what it would cost to buy an equivalent model – the dealer has to have a profit margin to pay staff, run workshops and showrooms, etc, and, of course, give you the aftersales service that you expect.
Note, too, that some dealers specialise in specific types, ages or brands of campervan or motorhome and you’ll usually get a better price for, say, a Bürstner from a dealer with that franchise than one who doesn’t, while your Auto-Sleeper campervan might not be so desirable to a retailer focusing on imported A-classes.
Meanwhile, if you own a campervan from a smaller-scale producer that sells direct from the factory, then going back to the maker is a good course of action as it is likely to have potential buyers who can’t stretch to a new motorhome.
MMM’s adverts are also a good place to look for used motorhome prices and the owners’ club for your brand of motorhome or campervan might be able to give advice, too. There is a list of clubs here.
This past year has been unlike any other and Covid has seen many first-timers turn to motorhomes for safe holidays, but no one knows how many of these buyers will return to package holidays or cruises in the future.
Right now, though, supply and demand will be helping the residual value of your existing motorhome, even if it is also making it harder to find the next motorhome you really want.
Motorhome and campervan depreciation
Buy a new car and you can expect it to lose between half and two-thirds of its value in the first three years.
Purchase a new motorhome and the rate of depreciation is much slower but you can still expect the biggest fall in value to be in year one.
Steve Hayes of Hayes Leisure suggests a figure of 15% to 16% in the first year on a popular mainstream model, gradually reducing thereafter, but he cautions that vehicles that are too close to the price of a new motorhome are hard to sell as buyers usually find the extra cash for the latest registration plate.
The rate of depreciation should be much slower over a longer period of ownership and it may prove quite small on some pre-owned purchases.
Steve says that prices are often high for models from 2008 to 2012 because new motorhomes sales were relatively poor during that recession, so there’s now a shortage of used vehicles from that period.
Buy a used campervan and look after it, and depreciation can become the envy of car buyers – my own experience with a 2010 VW T5 campervan bears this out as it lost little more than £1,000 in value over three years of ownership! And with demand up post-lockdown, it would probably be worth more now than when I sold it in February.
Don’t think that loading your motorhome with options and accessories will significantly increase its value.
A roof air-con unit costing £2,500 might add little to a vehicle’s used value, while items such as roll-out awnings and reversing cameras have become features that buyers expect to see on almost every motorhome.
One feature that can add a decent premium, though, is an automatic gearbox. Although now widely available new, used campervans and motorhomes in automatic form are still quite rare – and yet they are very sought after by an increasing number of people used to driving automatic cars.