Always the big question, its one of those inevitables that everyone wants to ask whether they want to buy or sell a GMC. We do not call ourselves a coach sales company in that we do not take coaches for consignment, do not buy or sell coaches and do not charge a commission to help folks buy or sell them but I do (I guess from the interest generated from surfing around the net and our site) field many questions from would be owners and have many people looking to sell their coach look to us for help. We feature many coaches on our “for sale” page and am gratified to hear we have been able to help many look for and sell of their coach.
So, how much IS a coach really worth and how much should you expect to pay for one? When flipping channels on cable TV, I will inevitably stop for at least a while on the “Antiques Roadshow” on PBS. Its great to see the different trinkets people feel have value and watch how the “experts” react to the item and to the enthusiasm of its owner. One guy brought in an Indian blanket that had been in his family for generations. He had documentation that it was a gift from some western historical person, he was proud of it and stood there listening to the expert with a protruding chest. The expert went through an explanation of the Indian blanket market and the significance of this particular item. Then he asked if it had ever been appraised, the owner affirmed no, then the expert said with a smile that he would like security to escort him through the rest of the crowd in that the blanket would “fetch” at auction $150-225,000. You could see the people in the background clutch tightly the doo-dad they had brought, a hush filled the room and the owner of the blanket all but lost his breath. He had a true valuable thing there and everyone was turning green as they watched. If that were me, I would have yelled out, “the bids will start at $50K. Family air looms are one thing but folding money is another! I don’t know what the guy did but I would not hold a blanket worth that much money, it should go to a museum or somewhere that others could appreciate it and the value of it needs to go into my bank account!
The guy may have kept it, taken it home and hung it back on the wall along with the 12 other priceless Indian blankets he had but for me, its up for sale. The value of these classic coaches are in many ways the same. To some people they are a priceless member of their family and to others they are hard assets looking to get liquid.
Any vehicle (other than a 1929 Auburn boat tail super charged speedster) should not be looked at as an investment like stocks or bonds. Sure you can buy low and sell high with anything but if you invest money into a classic vehicle over and above the initial investment cost, it must be looked at as an investment in your own wants. Some people do make a good living off of buying and selling Antique vehicles — even GMC’s but they do not get attached to any of them, do not spend money making one the way they want it with the intention of keeping it for personal use. No, they will do a few things to add some additional value to the unit in the eyes of the “masses” then offer it up and see if they can turn a profit.
In comes a GMC owner who has driven, maintained and loved his coach say for 10 years. The coach has been pretty good to him, it has taken him places and allowed him to do things he could never have done without the coach. Sure it has cost him a bit in on the road repairs, preventive maintenance and renovations but each time it was far cheaper to repair or update the coach than selling it off and starting new with some other unit. He looks back at the money he has spent on the coach and turns a few shades when he finds he has spent a considerable sum over the years. Lets say he has receipts of $30K spent on the coach over a 10 year period and he originally purchased the coach for $15K. He figures he has $45K in the coach, right? So, for purposes of determining the sale price he wants for the coach, he uses the $45K number and figures since the coach is a “classic” it should be worth more than that– right?
Wrong! He may get very lucky, but if a coach was a good deal 10 years ago at $15,000, you cannot look at the maintenance as investment capital. He should not look at that money as increasing the value of his coach, if you think about it– he has spent an average of $3,000 per year for the privilege of having a 26ft. long heavy lift classic vehicle to use. Thats less than $300 per month– so what else can you rent for $300 per month that will do what a GMC will do? I’ll answer that in one word— nothing!
Now, if he had spent some of that money on a new motor, a nice paint job, roof AC units, a new frig or stuff like that, he may have added to the initial value of the coach and it is true that when comparing a GMC to any other “RV investment” that the GMC will not devalue on the scale the other units do so– what should this person ask for their coach?
Here we are, back to that “Watz’it Worth” question. Well, the value of anything is based on what someone is willing to pay for something like it. You can compare the coach to other GMC’s in similar condition, compare it to other RV’s that will perform the same function or you can go back and look at the money you have spent on it and look to get it all back with a profit. Whatever you price it at, remember its worth nothing until someone comes up and plunks down the money to purchase it and that is truly what that item is worth — that day — at that place– to that person. Your happiness in the sale price is determined on what you perceived the coach was worth to you, you may look at the new owner as a saint or a crook– thats all up to your expaecations.
Then there comes the guy that buys a coach, has visions of outfitting it in the likeness of his dreams and spends the money to create that “perfect machine”. Perfection is in the eye of the beholder so what one person sees as the only logical decision may be hideous to another and that my friend is a trap you want to guard yourself from getting snared in if there is even a chance that you may not want to realize the value of the coach by using it yourself. The problem is, many things are not worth to others what you think they are. You may have gone out of your way to design a kitchen that is state of the art with appliances that are top in their industry. You may have gone to great pains to incorporate them into a seemingly logical design that is everything to you. Then someone comes in and says, “I eat at Taco Bell and would never even want to know how to set a convection/microwave oven– where is the value of your kitchen to this guy– nowhere thats where. Then Julia Childs walks up and pays you 1/2 million for the opportunity to bake a cake in your “custom kitchen”. What happened to the value of the kitchen? You see what I mean, doing custom things to your coach needs to be tempered (if you are looking to add the cost of that improvement to the value of the coach) with what the “general” coach buyer would be interested in.
A custom audio/ video system may or may not add to the value of a coach, what if the prospective buyer is stone def? What if you airbrush pink poodles on the side of your coach and a guy pulls up to look at buying it with a truck full of pit bulls? What if you have a beautiful square rigger depicted on your back window and the guy who looks at the coach can’t swim– what’s the money spent on the design worth to the new owner- it will be a liability which he will have to spend money to change to a desert scene.
Now that I’ve destroyed the value of your coach and have you crying in your beer, what should you look at your coach as being worth? Well, lets go back to some basics. Why is the person who will set the value of the coach by purchasing it looking for and what is it worth to them to find what they want? Say this guy wants a vehicle to carry his family around the country, could care less the color of the unit, the style or classic status of it– he just wants to invest some money in something to drive and carry the “herd” in. On the surface it looks like a great deal to buy a 5 year old SOB (some other brand) cab over box, load up the clan and hit the road. Hey, and on the surface, out of the pocket that day, it may look like a deal. Then there comes the repair, maintenance and depreciation. He had better use that thing because the longer he keeps it the less it is worth and the more parts break and fall off to the point that one day in the future he will look at his unit as nothing more than a leaking, rotten chicken coop. RV’s in general are not to be confused with an investment, they will devalue at a tremendous rate putting them ahead of boats, motorcycles and old fish as the mother of all “money pits”. This condition multiples if the coach sits and is not used. The value of any unit like a motorhome is in the opportunity to use it at will and often. Back to our $45K motorhome 10 year investment, if that coach was only used on vacation every 6 months, you could have rented a coach and not had the boat anchor of maintenance and insurance around your neck but if you had used the unit every other weekend, carried parties to the game, taken Grandma to the beach and used the coach to find that romantic spot to rekindle your relationship– you would have made a fantastic investment for the @ $300 monthly expense.
Again, what is my coach worth? If you used it, realized value from the money you invested you should look at that money as well spent and should have no problem offering and feeling good about taking less than the $45K you had put into the coach. If the coach sat and all you seem to have done over the time was replace batteries & tires, chase leaks and pay storage fees, selling the coach could be a traumatic experience. You will have gotten nothing for your money spent and will probably look at the offer made as robbery! There is no tooth fairy and unless you luck out and find someone who loves everything about your coach (you can try and wait for that person but remember the longer you wait the more the coach will cost you in upkeep) you will not get out of the coach the total money you have in it if that money was mainly spent to build up the coach to your spec.
OK,ok, so you’ve now got your eyes open— How much is the coach worth? How much can you get and how much should you be happy with? OK, now lets talk about that, where the market is and where it is going. Market value is predicated on demand, how many people want it and how much would they be willing to pay for it. There are 2 basic categories of buyers, “hobby or specialty” buyers and “general use” buyers. Believe it or not, the GMC has more actual value to a general buyer, one who has looked at the RV market and wants a specific use unit. If someone is looking for a smaller RV, one that is very well engineered, one that can be worked on, has good driving characteristics and can be outfitted exactly the way they want it— a fully renovated GMC is THE most cost effective, logical choice. A GMC can be outfitted any way someone would like, with every new technology and feature they could want for a fraction of what any other quality vehicle would cost them. I have customers who had never seen or would have considered outfitting a GMC, after intense investigation purchase a coach and go about outfitting it in their image of perfection. They end up with a useful, comfortable cost effective addition to their life. The GMC has a bright future if you look at this owner and what they are looking for. It is not unreasonable to invest upwards to $100K and still have a better investment by far than anything else they could put their money in and if they keep in mind the (one day) resale of the coach and invest money in features that others would identify as value, they will realize some level of return on their investment– may not be all but a good portion of it. What other RV can boast of that– in a word again —NONE!
Then there is the hobbiest and their perception of the value of the GMC. If you are looking for some object for your attention, something to piddle with, give you something do do and something to work on– you may not look at a $100K investment in a 25 year old coach as prudent. You may be looking to buy a “fixer-upper” cheap and whip into something you can use but not have big bucks in it. It may not bother you to have a boom box sitting between the seats because the 8 track take deck in your dash doesn’t work. The color of the coach and the fact that the most obvious striping on the exterior of the coach is the rust residue from the broken TV antenna on the roof. Is this person wrong for looking at a GMC, absolutely not! You can purchase a “core” GMC coach for under $10K, and in that the coach will not collapse in on itself as you take it apart, this owner can rebuild the coach using his labor for cheap. The great thing about the GMC is it was not designed by the early RV industry. In those days, the order of the day was 2×2 wood frames, 1/2 plywood floors and tall over weighted boxes on truck chassis. Those coaches drove worse than the trucks they were made of, designed by sales guys and would not usually last long enough for the mortgage to get paid out. The GMC was designed by the automotive industry, with none of the preconceived ideas that made motorhomes what they were– crap! You can buy an old looking one and have something you can use and fit up- no other unit can say that!
For the hobby buyer, a GMC is also the cheapest investment on the block when it comes to anything else out there to buy and invest time and money into. You can buy a “core” coach for somewhere around $10-20K, put some sweat equity into it and come out with a unit that will take you places reliability cheap. Keep track of what you spend your money on and sell the coach down the line and get some of your money back and isn’t that about the best you can expect to do?
Ok, now, what is the coach worth? What do you have? Is your coach one that has had much renovation with the direction being to have a quality, reliably functional heavy lift vehicle, one that is to date and state of the art to today’s standards? That coach should fetch, “in today’s market” compared to other units in the RV industry somewhere between $50-100K depending of course, condition, maintenance and options. If the coach is an original condition “core” or a coach that has been personally updated to be comfortable and useful but not necessarily up to date on technology, style and convenience– your coach would fall into the hobby class and would start its value from the original condition core of @ $10K and value up or down with what it has or what it needs.
The hobbyist looks at the professionally renovated coach as really expensive while the general use buyer says its too cheap compared to other units so there must be something wrong with the logic of buying one! I see all sides of the equation come in here. I have those who have done an exhaustive investigation looking for that perfect unit to carry them around, many had never even heard of a GMC and would not have thought before their investigation that investing money in a 25+ year old piece of American iron would be worth the trouble. I have also had folks that could never afford putting any considerable sum into a coach. Banks are less apt to loan money to put into an old coach, they want you to blow your money on some new thing. Consequently, the higher dollar coaches go to those with the cash to invest, people who can afford to plunk the dollars down up front for the “better investment”.
I’m asked often, “is this a good price”, for a coach someone has found. I hesitate and start asking them about what they are looking for. I let them tell me where their head is at before I can tell them whether the coach is right for them. After listening a while and forming a picture as to what their expectations are, I venture an opinion based on what they have told me. I can look at a coach and pretty much tell you how it should be perceived. The frustration comes in when the 2 categories of buyers gets confused with their expectations. A hobbyist wants to buy the best coach he can of course but cannot justify spending the dollars to get a professionally renovated unit. The guy with the larger investment because its what he wanted and wanted out of his coach is offended when the hobbyist offers him what he sees as a pittance when compared to his investment. You see, they are both expecting too much, don’t try and buy a T bone steak for the price of a Whopper! Sure, they are both food sources but one has a greater value and represents more than the other.
So, if you have a “high dollar” coach, should you expect to only sell it for big bucks? How fast do you want to sell it? If you can wait and do your best to expose the coach to as large an audience as possible, someone should recognize the value of the unit and pay you for it– those folks are out there and are becoming more prevalent as our coach gets more exposure as the rediscovered classic value they are.
If you have an original condition coach that works well but looks a bit dated, do you give it away and lick your wounds? No, if the coach is restorable, in that I mean its all there, the frame is good and the mechanicals are sound, you should offer your coach as a great :core” coach ready for a cost effective “soup to nuts” renovation.
If the coach has been sitting behind the barn for 5 years, tires are flat and the air bags look scary, you may want to consider cutting it loose in that there will have to be money spent to bring the coach back to even run able condition. I have seen coaches go for $2000 and the investment was a bust, many times there is too much to be done to a coach to bring it up to a high dollar renovated beauty. Thats not to say its junk, I purchased a coach for $1005 and sold it 3 years later for descent money. Of course there was much work on it in between and no matter how much I did to the coach it would need much, much more to bring it to a “grade A” state but it did have a purpose and a value at the end of my work.
OK, and for the last time, what is your coach worth. The answer is truly what someone is willing to pay but as a guide, a rebuild able core should go for @ $10,000, an original condition unrestored but nicely usable coach should fetch up to around @ $20,000 or so and a professionally renovated up to date coach can be had for @ $30,000 and above depending on how much it tickles your fancy.
We have seen and built coaches in the $100,000 range that belong to very satisfied owners, we have also repaired the brakes or replaced worn out wheel bearings on coaches that its a wonder how they passed inspection to again very happy owners. The GMC in any useful state has a value and a purpose to someone, the trick is to find the right person for the right coach. All I can tell you is that goodness I don’t sell motorhomes for a living! Thanks goodness also that what I do is a good deal if you sit back and think about them, whether you have a silicone covered pea green original or a sleek road rocket, the GMC can fit the bill and be a good deal. How much does a GMC cost and what are they worth? They are cheap any way you look at them!.