Barter Trade And The RV Lifestyle

Barter trade is something that every RV full-timer should understand and practice.  You can get just about anything you want, without money, if you know how to barter!  I realize that’s a bold statement so here are a couple of examples to show what’s possible.

1)   Teen barters a cell phone into a Porsche via Craigslist.

2)   Canadian barters paperclip into a house.

The dictionary defines barter as:  To trade goods or services without the exchange of money.   In a nutshell, you are trading value for value instead of paying cash for what you want.  There is an old saying in business, “You have anything you want if you help others get what they want”.  Bartering at its best is creative problem solving.  It’s creating a win-win situation.  It’s getting what you want by helping someone get what they want.

Let’s say you have recently been bitten by the wanderlust bug.  You want to buy a fixer-upper RV, fix it up and hit the open road.  The problem is you have no cash.  If one were to look up the word “hella-broke” in the dictionary they would find a picture of your face.  What do you do now?

Here is what I would do:

Step 1)   Educate myself on the types of RV’s, and what folks are asking for them.  I’d know what I was looking for and what I should expect to pay for that. 

Step 2)   I’d sit down with a friend or two (don’t forget the margaritas) and make an assessment of what I have to offer in trade instead of cash.  What do I have to work with?  What do my friends think I’m good at?  Do I have any special skills or talents?  Lots of free time?  Do I have any valuable contacts—who do I know or have access to?  What do I own that could be traded? 

Step 3)   I’d start looking for an RV problem to solve.  On any given day there are thousands of RVs languishing in driveways, backyards, industrial areas, and RV storage lots.  Often, they haven’t been moved in years.  Time and the elements are taking their toll on them.  They may have roofs that need to be resealed.  There may be dry rot from where water has leaked in.  The fuel system may need to be cleaned out.  Carbs may be gummed up.  Tires could be sun damaged and batteries have long ago bit the dust.

The owners may have gotten sick or too old to maintain them.  Or they may have run into serious financial problems and simply can’t afford to keep them up.  The managers at many RV storage lots will happily point them out to you.  They will even help you get in touch with the owners.

What you and I know is that these RVs are still costing their owners money and probably a little stress as well.  The monthly storage fees can add up.  On top of that there may be registration fees and insurance costs.  I would find some of these RVs and approach their owners with a trade offer.  If they are elderly or have limited mobility there is a good chance they may need work around the house done.  Gutters cleaned, windows washed, yard work, painting, fence repair, carpets cleaned, and so on.

I would explain to them that by trading with me, we would be creating a win-win situation.  They would get much needed work done around the house and at the same time see a financial gain from eliminating the RV storage expenses.  They would get a little more piece of mind because they would no longer have to worry about dealing with the RV and watching it slowly turn to junk.  They could take heart knowing that their beloved RV was going to a good home and would be well taken care of.

In short, I’d show them how they could get a better value with trade (work around their property) than  just hanging a for sale sign on the RV and selling it at a much discounted price.   Yes, they could sell the RV for $1000 and then spend it on contractors and get $1000 worth of work done.  Or they could trade with me and get $2000 worth of work done.  Since I have no cash but I have lots of free time, it would still be a fair trade to me.  I get an RV with no cash.  They get twice the value that they would have gotten using cash.  A win-win situation.

What if they wanted something I couldn’t provide?  What if they wanted a new fence or their driveway paved?  The answer is to get a third party involved.  I’d find a local fence or paving company willing to barter.  Maybe it’s a small mom & pop paving company that needs a website.  “I will build you a website that will result in you getting more business if you will pave a driveway, during your slow time, for me.”

Maybe you’re thinking that all sounds good on paper but do people really barter like that in real life?  The short answer is yes.  Commercial barter is a $16 billion per year industry in the U.S..  Your only limitation is your imagination and finding someone to barter with.  The main reason more people don’t barter is it has never occurred to them.  Also, trading takes a little more imagination and work than using cash.  Cash is king because it’s universal and convenient. 

Barter/trade clubs are a great way to get your bartering feet wet and meet others who you can trade with.  Some clubs have thousands of members and are international.  You can get access to just about anything you can buy with cash.

Trade clubs work a lot like a bank.  When you provide a product or service to someone in the club, you earn trade dollars that you can spend on products and services from others in the club.  Some clubs will issue you a plastic card that you can use at member’s businesses.  The club will send you a monthly statement showing your activity and balance.  Just like a regular bank.

Think about the folks who wanted to trade their RV for a new fence or having their driveway paved.  As a member of a trade club, you could use your trade dollars to hire a fence or paving company from within the club.  You wouldn’t have to go looking for someone willing to trade. 

If you’re thinking about joining a club, do a little research first.  Find out how long the club has been in business, what kind of reputation they have, and take a look at their member list.  Make sure they have members that can and will provide what you need.  Call or visit these folks to make sure they will trade.

Years ago I looked into a trade club that had recently opened in my area.  The membership was mostly businesses like hair and nail salons, massage parlors, tarot readings, etc..  There were only a few businesses offering hard products like tires or printing services.  When I spoke to those business owners they told me they were no longer trading until the club had more members who could provide what they needed.  You only need so many haircuts in a year.

Here are two links with lots of info:




Barter Trade And The RV Lifestyle  Part 2

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