I’m always surprised when people say they wish they could make some change to their RV so it would better suit their lifestyle but won’t because they are afraid of reducing its resale value. I always tell them not to worry about that because whether they bought their rig new or used, it lost a lot of value the minute they drove it off the dealer’s lot.
When you sell or trade an RV in with a dealer, unless it is totally trashed he doesn’t really care if you pulled out the sofa and replaced it with two recliners or if you installed a desk or computer workstation where a chair was. He’s going to give you the lowest amount you will accept based upon the RV’s wholesale book price. And by the way, that also applies to anything you have added to an RV. Did you put $5,000 worth of solar panels on the roof, enlarge the battery bank and install a pure sine wave inverter? I hate to tell you this, but the dealer usually isn’t going to give you one penny extra for all of it. In his mind, book value is book value.
Given all that, what do you have to lose by making any changes to your home on wheels that will make it work better for you? Not a thing, except at trade-in time, if you ever plan on trading the rig for something else. And then the upgrades, such as a solar power system, can be moved to your new RV.
So what are some of the most popular RV upgrades? I already mentioned solar panels, an inverter/charger, and a battery bank. If you are going to do a lot of dry camping they are nice to have, but be aware that at best, solar is an expensive supplement to a generator. Unless you plan to spend a lot of time living off the grid, there are better ways to spend your money, in my opinion.
A desk or computer workstation is a very popular upgrade and more and more RVers are pulling out sofas and chairs to install custom made units. When we got our Winnebago Ultimate Advantage it had two recliners and a small cabinet on the curb side behind the passenger seat, and a wall-hung dining table. We removed them and had Caryle Lehman at Focal Wood Products in Nappanee, Indiana build a pair of workstations, a bookcase, and a table that pulls out to seat four people but can also be pushed in for more room.
Some RVers desire convenience features that didn’t come with their rigs. Recently our friends Charles and Chris Yust of C&C RV Insurance installed a Fisher Paykel dishwasher in their diesel pusher and love it. Actually Chris insists that Charles got one. She says she didn’t want it, but since he is the dishwasher….
Another very popular upgrade, and one that is on our “To Do” list, is replacing our motorhome’s fluorescent lights with LEDs. They provide a brighter light, do not create heat like fluorescents do, and use very little electricity.
Several people we know have replaced their RV’s carpeting with laminate flooring, which is easier to maintain and keep clean. It’s another project we’d like to do one of these days.
A couple of years ago we replaced our motorhome’s original window shades with Levolor wooden blinds from Lowes, and we love them. No more broken cords, no more sagging blinds, and the Levolors do a great job of keeping out the light. We were afraid they might be noisy going down the road, but that hasn’t been an issue.
A more expensive upgrade, but one that is still a lot less expensive than buying a new RV, is a new paint job. Our friend Michele Henry at Phoenix Commercial Paint turns out some amazing work. Here are before (top) and after (center) pictures of a Travel Supreme fifth wheel she worked her magic on, and the bottom picture is our friends Mike and Elaine Loscher’s 2003 Winnebago gas powered motorhome after it left Michele’s shop.
Yet another popular RV upgrade, and another one on our wish list, is replacing our Norcold RV refrigerator with a residential unit. A lot of RVers we know have done the swap and every one of them is glad they did.
Terry also keeps threatening to replace the original cooktop in our rig with a range/oven combo, but then she thinks about how much storage space she would be losing and second guesses herself. Time will tell on that upgrade.
What are some of the upgrades you have done or are considering for your home on wheels?
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This blog post could not have come at a better time for us. We have a 2001 Winnebago Journey that my wife’s dad bought new and we really like but it needs some things before we start our fulltime RV travels in a few months. I love the look of your desk units and the window blinds are perfect. All of our day-night shades have broken cords and don’t work most of the time. I was dreading putting new ones on and looked at the MD shades but they are really expensive. I’ll be doing some measuring and making a trip to Lowes very soon. Thanks for all the good ideas Nick.
It really isn’t that hard to restring day/night shades yourself, and a heck of a lot cheaper than replacing them. We are in our 11th year of fulltiming, have 8 day/night shades, use them every day, and have only had one string break in all of that time. I think that maybe the amount of tension on the strings may have something to do with how long they last? Maybe we have just been real lucky? 🙂
For a fifth wheel, we added the 6 point level up system and disc brakes.
All of the upgrades we make to our RVs won’t help us one bit at trade in time, but the dealer will still hype them to potential buyers.
Nick & Terry,
Sandy and I both commented this morning as to what a warm and inviting home you have. As was your old MCI bus. You show what a little imagination can do.
Instead of trading in, folks might consider selling it themselves. They could get more than blue book and the new owners could get it for less than from a dealer. Both would be happy.
What is the cost of a paint job? Is that a full body paint job? What a difference it makes!
We have not made any major changes like a new fridge and take out the couch and sacrifice seating for more “STUFF” room. Convenience is my motto. We added a central vac system, a Santi flush system, just hook up to sewer and flip a switch. The other 2 items were for “just for me items” . I’m a big guy and a new steering wheel that was smaller than the bus wheel so that I was closer to the business end of the steering job. When traveling west bound I always wanted to be at a campsite before the sun started it’s decent. Not now, travel along into the night with my new electric shades that take the glare out of the equation of sunset and sunrise driving. The bonus when we are at camp I can now chase my bride around the coach with the privacy blind down also electric.
We will replace the fridge, couch, ect when it breaks, tears, or ceases to operate.
We got tired of the shades breaking all the time, so we found a RV company that would make drapes, we went out and picked the color that would blend in and for $200 had the drapes made. So easy to keep up, throw them in the washer on gentle cycle air dry and hang. They are heavy enough to keep some of the heat and cold out. The other thing we are saving for is to have the carpet torn out and another floor of some sort put in, this part we have not decided on yet. Just no more carpet
Replacing the stock shocks with Koni units and adding metering valves to the air bag suspension system made our ’04 Fleetwood Revolution handle better than new. It also eliminated the “Walmart wobble” and minimized sway from side winds. And regarding solar systems, yes, they are expensive, however one added benefit was battery life. We got 8 years from our 4-6 volt battery bank and 9 years from the 2-12 volt starting batteries. Bob
AS fulltimers we like our motorhome. We repaced the carpet with tyle, all three TVs with flat screen,reinforced the chassis to eliminate twist and popping windshields, we replaced all the awnings getting rid of the electric one. We replaced the RV Fridge with a 25 cu ft samsung and had the entire 2002 Travel Supreme Select repainted in 5 colors plus 7 coats of clear coat. It shines like a diamond now. All this was done over a two year period for under 45k, Not much when you think about the price of a new one. All the work except the TVs was performed by Precision Painting of Breman, IN
Upgrading your RV with solar panels and/or a battery bank is maybe an investment which you will not get back. It does however could provide a lot of comfort. And when you are camping in the wild without power supply it could be a good alternative.
You inspired us to move ahead with our remodel. We now have Carlton at Focal Wood build a desk and table unit where the dinette bench was and after having Bradd & Dunn remove the couch we purchased two Lambright chairs with the optional table. Best investment we ever made – looks nicer and has more space.