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Despite the ever-increasing demand, 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.

So what happens to RVs that don’t get sold?

For starters, RVs that don’t get sold are either:

  1. Force sold by manufacturers
  2. Returned to the dealers
  3. Written off as “bad debt”
  4. Auctioned

What will happen to unsold RVs if not every one of them gets sold in the year it was manufactured?

How Many RVs do Manufacturers Make?

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

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

RV manufacturers make an average of 482,389 to 565,848 RVs per year. The latest projection shows that RV shipments for 2021 will range between 565,848 to 586,281 units, with the year-end total most likely reaching 576,065 units.

This figure would represent a 33.8% increase over the 2020 year-end total of 430,412 units. It would also represent a 14.1% gain over 2017’s record high of 504,600 units.

This skyrocketing 2021 projection is due to more people looking at RVs as the go-to vacation since there are still protocols and restrictions to be followed in some places. 

How Often Do Manufacturers Release New Models?

Generally speaking, 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 see some 2021 RVs for sale as early as the spring of 2020.

That’s why the best way to know which RV models are coming out is to attend a few RV trade shows in the area.

This time frame gives prospective buyers all the time to look around and decide on which new model they want to purchase. The trade shows also give buyers a no-pressure environment, where 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 give older models enough time to go around the market. It would result in more older models being put on the back burner, forgotten, and left to be sold at discounted prices. Sometimes, these older RV models don’t even get sold.

How Do Manufacturers Determine the Demand?

Demand for RV models is determined by a few factors. Manufacturers look at the number of people seeking out the product, how much they’re willing to pay for it, and how much of the RV is 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 factor. If there are more dealers who order the model, this means there are more people looking for that product.

Where Do RVs Go if They Don’t Get Sold?

A row of new RV's at a dealership.
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Let’s go back to the original question! You would think unsold RVs either go back to the manufacturers, get written off as bad debt, or get scrapped. Maybe some people reuse these parts to make a better unit?

Manufacturers force dealers to sell old models with various incentives

The most common occurrence for these unsold models is:

Generally, manufacturers will force unsold, previous year’s models—often unpopular models—to dealers when they order popular models. The dealers will then receive incentives from manufacturers on these unsold units, along with additional co-op advertising funds and discounts to help sell these units.

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

Dealers Return Unsold RV Units

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

Sometimes, they can actually do that.

In fact, some dealers give unsold units back to the manufacturer since both of them are just losing money and space on the lot. After all, dealers cannot buy new RV models if they don’t have space for it.

However, in most cases, these unsold units are the dealer’s property until a prospective buyer comes along. That’s why you can see some dealers getting pretty creative on how they could 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 just 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 get these old RV units auctioned.

An RV auction is a great way to find a model that is new to you for a nice deal. However, you should be aware that RV auctions are not your typical auction houses where you simply walk up to the dealer and settle the money. You have to participate in “bidding games” to get the RV model you’ve been eyeing since you came to the venue.

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

Although it’s not the ideal situation, most unsold RVs eventually get sold by dealers for very low prices due to deep discounts and more-than-necessary sales talk. There are cases where 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.

Yes, most likely, things are going to stay the same despite the skyrocketing demand. Just in case the demand increases more than their predictions, manufacturers have the tendency to produce extra RV models for stock. Instead of letting these gather dust in their storage, it’s better to let a dealer think of 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 go “old” before they have truly been appreciated in the market. There are also models that would be unappreciated, and those that just don’t meet the standards when compared to other RVs with better features, appliances, or rigs.

With new RV models getting manufactured everyday, it is hard to decide what to buy. My 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 try the features of what you are planning to buy. For starters, I suggest you try RVEzy or Outdoorsy.

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    Shauna Kocman founder Family Travel Fever
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    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!  We travel with kids and extended family.  I take the kids by myself sometimes because I don’t mind flying or driving solo with my crew to discover the coolest places.

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