A row of rv's for sale at a dealership.

Ever Wonder What Happens to RVs That Don’t Sell?

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Despite the ever-increasing demand lately, there still are some RV models that are not being sold. These unsold units are typically older models that weren’t sold during their release or were almost immediately replaced by newer and better versions. You would usually find these units sitting on dealers’ lots, gathering dust, and just waiting for someone to buy them.

What happens to RVs that don’t sell?

RVs that don’t get sold are either force sold by manufacturers, returned to the dealers, written off as “bad debt”, or get sold at auction.

So, what will happen to RVs if they aren’t sold in the year they’re manufactured? Keep reading to find out.

For other burning questions about RVs, check out some more of our blog posts:

How Many RVs do Manufacturers Make?

A row of rv's for sale at a dealership.
RVs on a sale lot.
Image source: MCCAIG via Canva.com

The number of manufactured RV units made depends mainly on who the manufacturer is, what brand has a steady or increased demand, and what class the RV belongs to.

How many RVs do manufacturers actually have to produce for there to be unsold units?

According to a December 2022 article from the RV Industry Association (RVIA), they recorded a total shipment of 493,268 RV units last year – the third best year in their records.

This was a decrease of about 18% from 2021, which just so happened to be the all-time high with a total shipment of 600,240 RVs from manufacturers.

The record high of 2021 RV demand was actually anticipated. This was due to many travelers preferring the solitude and convenience of RVing as pandemic protocols and restrictions were still rampant in many areas. 

How Often Do RV Manufacturers Release New Models?

Generally speaking, RV manufacturers release new model-year RVs in the final two months of the year.

However, they give out RV release dates around the spring, so buyers can get a peek at 2024 RVs as early as the spring of 2023.

Therefore, the best way to know which RV models are coming out is to attend a few RV trade shows in your area.

This schedule gives prospective buyers time to look around and decide on which new model they want to purchase. The trade shows also give buyers a no-pressure environment. They can leisurely look around and ask representatives about a certain RV model’s features. It also gives manufacturers the data they need to decide which models should be produced more and which models they should cut back on. 

However, since RVs are released frequently, it doesn’t always give older models enough time to go around the market. This can result in some older models being forgotten about and marked down to discounted prices. Sometimes, these older RV models don’t even get sold.

This can be a disappointment for RV dealers, but a gold mine for buyers who are okay with purchasing outdated models at great prices.

Related articles:

How Do Manufacturers Determine RV Demand?

Demand for RV models is determined by a few factors.

RV manufacturers look at the number of people seeking out the product, how much they’re willing to pay for it, and how many RV units are available to consumers.

In most cases, however, market demand can fluctuate in the long run. That is why manufacturers always look at the market and make hard decisions on which models they should focus on and which they should cut back on.

Manufacturers can ship specific RV models to places where the demand is high while retaining a few units for local sales. Dealers that buy the models also serve as another determining factor. If there are more dealers who order the model, this means there are more people looking for that product.

Where Do Unsold Camper Vans Go?

Campervan on the side of a deserted road on the South island in New Zealand

Now that we know a bit more about the supply and demand of RVs, let’s circle back to the original question. We generally assume that unsold campers would go back to the manufacturer, get written off as bad debt, or get scrapped. We’ve all seen the signs posted by people looking for scrap metal. Another big thing these days is the vintage remodeled RVs – is there a market for upcycling old models?

Let’s find out what happens to these.

Manufacturers Force Dealers to Sell Old Models With Various Incentives

The most common occurrence for these unsold models is actually pretty interesting.

Generally, RV manufacturers will force unsold models – often unpopular ones – to dealers when they order new, popular models. The dealers will then receive incentives from the manufacturer on these unsold units, along with additional co-op advertising funds and discounts to help sell them.

Manufacturers will also help dealers with financing – which is called a floor plan – and may pay for all interest charges. Unsold RV units remain in the dealer’s inventory, sometimes for years, until they’re sold. Older models often sell at a significantly lower price due to very deep discounts.

Dealers Return Unsold Campers

You may be wondering why RV dealers don’t just give back the unsold camper models to manufacturers.

Sometimes, they can actually do that.

On occasion, RV dealers are able give unsold units back to the manufacturer since they’re just losing money and space on the lot. After all, dealers can’t buy and showcase new RV models if they don’t have space for them.

However, in most cases, these unsold units are the dealer’s property until a prospective buyer comes along. Hence, some dealers get pretty creative on how they try to sell these older models.

Unsold RVs Get Written Off as “Bad Debt”

In the rare instance that manufacturers do take back unpopular models, these units will get written off as bad debt. A write-off as bad debt means the manufacturer has given up on being paid by the dealer.

These cases happen when there are too few RV models sold, or when the model just doesn’t attract people. Instead of forcing the dealers to sell the models for steep discounts, they give up entirely and focus on bouncing back from the monetary loss.

Unsold RVs Get Auctioned

Another option manufacturers and dealers have is to sell the old RV units at auctions.

An RV auction is a great way to find a model that is new to you for a nice deal. RV auctions are the real deal – you can’t just walk up to the dealer and settle the money. You have to participate in “bidding games” to get the RV model you’ve got your eye on.

Unsold RVs can be Recycled or Destroyed

The last resort? These unsold units get destroyed since there is absolutely no market value. The useful parts either get recycled and used in future RV models, or sold to people wanting better rigs for their RV units.

If the whole model is unusable, they just get thrown away.

Final Thoughts About RVs That Do Not Sell

New motorhomes for sale on lot.

Although it’s not the ideal situation for dealers, most unpopular RVs and campervans eventually get sold at deeply discounted prices. Sometimes, customers who buy the older models even get an incentive because, technically, they are helping the dealer empty out the lot for newer, better-selling RV models.

Most likely, RV production will continue around its current rate – at least for a while – despite the skyrocketing demand. If RV demand increases more than their predictions, manufacturers have the tendency to produce extra RV models for stock inventory. Instead of letting these gather dust in their storage, it’s preferable to let a dealer figure out how to sell them.

Furthermore, new RV models are released on a yearly basis. With these frequent releases, there will always be models that would turn “old” before they’ve really had time to gain appreciation in the market.

Our Suggestion: Try Before You Buy

With new RVs being manufactured every day, it can be hard to decide what to buy. Our suggestion has always been to try renting first. Look for a listing of the RV model that you have been eyeing and then rent it.

With that, you will be able to take your anticipated purchase for a literal test drive and try out all the features first. For starters, I suggest you try RVEzy or Outdoorsy.

Now that you’re armed with knowledge, I suggest that you check our Etsy Store. In there, I have lots of planners and journals that will placate any camping travel worries.

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    Shauna Kocman founder Family Travel Fever
    Shauna Kocman founder of Family Travel Fever

    Hi, I’m Shauna – Welcome to Family Travel Fever.  We are a large family, that was bitten by the travel bug!  I take the kids by myself because I don’t mind flying or driving solo with my crew to discover the coolest places.

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    One Comment

    1. The dealer’s should donate or give to who is in need
      of shelter ( non purchase units)Here alone all over the USA are so many homeless. Right here in downtown Detroit Michigan, people sleeping in the streets, no where to go, freezing in the winter time. If the homeless had a decent place to stay in, then they would be able to get the rest they need and shower, get cleaned up. Would give them the confidence to go out and get a job. Help them feel good about themselves to provide for their family!

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