Wednesday, September 27, 2023


Correct figures shed new light on industry shipments

By Russ and Tiña De Maris
Last Sunday we published a piece comparing wholesale shipments of RVs to actual registrations of RVs. We covered a six-month span, March through August, comparing statistics for both 2020 and 2021. The title of the story suggested that the RV industry might be blowing some hot air. If you poke somebody with a stick, you can expect a reaction. On Monday, an official from the RV Industry Association (RVIA) requested we take a closer look at our statistics and print a correction. It took a lot of time and number crunching, but the correct figures have shed new light on our premise.

Mea culpa

Please consider this a formal apology to you, readers, and to the RV industry. This is truly a case of, “some people, when they mess it up, really mess it up big.” I, Russ, admit to being no statistician. But with my trusty 10-key, I labored through stacks of industry-provided numbers and, well, bottom line, really messed up my addition and subtraction. The information we provided you was just plain wrong. I’m embarrassed, to say the least. The thought of misleading readers – even though not in any deliberate way – troubles me deeply.

So to set the record straight, I’ve gone over the whole thing again – double and, in some cases, triple-checking. The correct figures shed a new light on the matter of wholesale shipments versus retail registrations. In the end, they’ve left us with plenty of questions, as we’ll show you.

2020 – a most unusual year

We’ve taken a six-month run of figures, beginning with March and ending with August. The latter is the most recent month that we have full figures for both shipments and registrations. Our first chart, comparing month-by-month, year-over-year comparisons for 2020, is a bit of an eye-opener.

It’s not hard to recall that 2020 was a most unusual year for everyone, including the RV industry. COVID-19 came calling, and the industry was virtually shut down in March. Less than 7,400 rigs were shipped out of RV plants to dealers. At the same time, that month saw better than three-and-a-half times that number of RVs registered with licensing agencies. That trend continued right on through August 2020 – far more rigs registered than shipped.

Compare 2021

Now take a look at those same months of 2021. The RV industry came roaring back in terms of production. However, the number of RVs registered continued to outpace the number of rigs shipped to dealers. That ran from March through July, but August turned the tide. Then the number of rigs shipped out to dealers actually exceeded those registered. What will happen next month remains to be seen.

But comparing those same six months, totaled together and looking at 2020 next to this year, is where things really are apparent. Less than 200,000 units shipped in those six months of 2020, while a whopping 316,000 plus NEW RVs were registered. No, these figures are NOT showing RV registration renewals. The folks who produce these stats, Statistical Surveys, assure us these are new rig registrations. Correct figures shed new light, indeed.

When 2021 is brought to the table, things look a little more realistic. Nearly 303,000 new RVs go to market, but only 40-some-thousand new rigs are registered. What’s the explanation? We can only hazard a guess. Perhaps in 2020 dealers had been “sitting” on unsold RVs from earlier production months. People across North America got some sort of bug to buy a new rig, and snatched up the existing inventory.

So what’s the explanation?

Looking at 2020 on a month-by-month basis, another hypothesis rises: June through August saw a huge difference, oh-so-many-more registrations. Could it be folks bought RVs during the height of the pandemic, but figuring they couldn’t go anywhere, simply sat them in their yards and waited to register them until later? Maybe their DMV offices were shuttered, so registrations had to wait. We just don’t know.

In any event, the RV industry is indeed shipping a lot of RVs. And apparently, they’re selling once they hit the dealerships. Will the situation hold? Shipped numbers are sliding down. Wholesale prices for many categories of used RVs have likewise slipped. We’re living in interesting times. We’ll try and stay on top of it to keep you informed. Thanks for your patience with our imperfection.


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Russ and Tiña De Maris
Russ and Tiña De Maris
Russ and Tiña went from childhood tent camping to RVing in the 1980s when the ground got too hard. They've been tutored in the ways of RVing (and RV repair) by a series of rigs, from truck campers, to a fifth-wheel, and several travel trailers. In addition to writing scores of articles on RVing topics, they've also taught college classes for folks new to RVing. They authored the book, RV Boondocking Basics.


  1. I don’t think the RVIA is worth a darn. They supposedly certify the electrical and gas integrity of any RV showing their RVIA certification by the door, which you happen to pay for by the way upwards to $1000 added to the price of your rig. My 2011 Georgetown motorhome came with the hot water tank totally unsecured. This problem was well documented on the Forest River Forum. The only thing holding the tank in place was the outer skirting trim panel which was only fastened with two self-tapping screws into the panel angle iron framing. Since the water heater is electric and gas, this thing was a ticking bomb if would have ever broken free. It pushed the skirt panel out about an inch. Lucky for me (and other Georgetown owners) I had a very mechanical brother that was able to permanently secure the tank etc. and reinforce the trim panel with pop rivets and additional screws.

    It galled me every time I walked into that rig seeing the RVIA sticker by the door knowing when the rig was new it

  2. Question, is the registration of used vs new separate? If not that could be the reason of more registered than manufactured. Individuals may be selling because of it being a sellers market and taking advantage of the markups.

  3. It’s nice the RVIA gave you the opportunity to correct your figures. Mistakes are easy with calculators and computers. I think it would be good If RVIA would educate us on how they enforce quality on RV manufacturers. Or do we have a false perception on what we feel they’re doing. Is our perception correct and there isn’t any quality enforcement. That’s the perception you get when I read Jayco’s forum, other forums and this news letter. Another possible issue with using RV registrations as a way to validate the number of RV’s. Two and a half years ago I bought a travel trailer in New Jersey which the dealer temporarily registered in New Jersey and issued a title. I had it brought to Pa. Then after about six weeks I registered it in Pa. Would this show up as two RV’s since it was registered and titled in a 2nd time in two states. Not sure how many people do what I did.

  4. I’m confused along with Michael. The figures don’t support the explanation. As he said the 40K is the difference (roughly) between shipped and registered in 2021. Please explain, again!

  5. I’m confused. You say, “When 2021 is brought to the table, things look a little more realistic. Nearly 303,000 new RVs go to market, but only 40-some-thousand new rigs are registered.” But your 2021 graph shows 302,906 units shipped and 343,948 units registered this year. What does “40-some-thousand new rigs are registered” refer to? I see that approximately 40,000 more units have been registered than were shipped this year. So what?

  6. We bought our used 2016 Class A on March 5, 2021. Due to DMVs in Arizona (state of purchase) and Colorado (state of residence), and dealing with two different banks (previous owner’s bank holding the title took forever to transfer to our bank providing our loan), our registration wasn’t complete until September 16th. That’s over 6 months from date of purchase to date of registration. And that was just to get temp tags while waiting for our actual plates to arrive in the mail, which actually only took a couple of weeks. Granted, our circumstances were made more difficult by buying the RV out of state. But my DMV said registrations that normally take 45 to 60 days are taking twice as long if not longer. There are more vehicles on the road in Colorado right now with expired plates and temporary tags than ever before. So DMVs are definitely part of the issue.

  7. In the jurisdiction I live in the motor vehicle branch cannot tell you when a vehicle is registered whether or not it’s an RV. All camper trailers, boat trailers, snow mobile trailers, utility trailers, etc are all licensed as “trailer”. If they did a computer search using every known make or model of RV, ie: Bighorn, which they won’t do, you can then come close to the number that are registered. Unfortunately by searching “Bighorn” you can also come back with a Dodge product truck or by searching Montana you can include Pontiac vehicles. It’s a very poor system. I wonder how many other places are doing the same thing. That would drive up the registration numbers over and above what’s coming off the factory line.

  8. This may have been already addressed but, shipped means a newly manufactured unit I assume. Does registered also count only newly manufactured units being registered for the first time or is it a count of ANY RV (new, old, used, sold by owner, etc) being registered? If it does, comparing shipped and registered wouldn’t have much meaning.

  9. We live in SE, and every single RV Dealear we pass, lots are full, no shortage based on visual as we drive pass. I would not buy RV now for love or money. QUALITY, before pandemic was problematic at best, now it’s horrible, warranty don’t make no difference, no tech to fix, no parts to use to fix. Appointments months out in advance, forget it, their success is actually going to kill industry in couple years. Used market is going to increase, then the whole thing is going to collapse due to prices in CG’s and fuel. (bleeped)

  10. I can’t speak for the numbers given by the RV Industry, but a wise man once told me “Figures lie and liars figure”. I can only speak for what I see. I do a lot of traveling and due to the reported RV inventory shortage I take notice when passing RV dealerships. Their lots all appear to be flush with inventory. I must be missing something or is this reported shortage a way of selling at top dollar?

  11. Numbers, schmumbers!! RVIA acts like big numbers are some measure of worth, while bigger numbers = poorer quality, long waits, incomplete units and increased campground pressure. At the end of the day, RVIA is simply a cheerleader for big business.

  12. I see perhaps two things, existing lot inventory was depleted, so more were registered, than delivered. Next already people were doing a lot of selling of used and all those were registered. It seems more used RVs are sold person to person, not a dealer and their inventory was high going into 2020, and 2021 as people decided it was not for them. There numbers make sense to me. I am shocked by how many people are selling their 2o21 and 2022 RVs. I guess it was not what they thought it would be or need is over. Just as fast others not wanting to wait for the backlog are scooping gently used up. All those need to be registered.

    • I believe it’s a combination of younger generations thinking this is all fun and games without realizing how much work has to be done to be a RVer and the fact most of them have been waited on since they were born and don’t like the work involved. They would rather go to motel/hotels and restaurants where they get the treatment they’re used to. Momma and Daddy never even required them to mow the lawn or take out the garbage so that’s the kind of adults they’ve become.

    • I don’t know how they get their numbers, but it was made quite clear that they only counted new, first time registrations. Regarding the quick turnaround in resale, it seems to me that people are realizing that they can resell a 1 or 2 year old B Plus for more than they paid.

  13. Wait, when you purchase an RV, new or used, don’t you pay for the registration at time of sale and isn’t it automatically registered through the DMV by the dealer? I can see if it’s a “sale by owner” and you transfer the pink slip in your name but forgo registering it with DMV till your leisure. Is it different from state to state? This is a response to “What’s the explanation?”, first paragraph.

    • Every state I’ve lived in you had 10-20 days to register a new purchase, buying through a dealer the dealer submits the paperwork. In a private purchase I have been asked not to put the date on the bill of sale meaning the buyer would fill that in when he decides to register it. I’ve never refused that request because I’m selling something I don’t want any longer, what the new owner does is his business.

  14. Where do you get 40 some thousand rigs registered in 2021. Your chart says 343,948 were registered. In general can’t the higher number of registrations per month than manufactured be at least partially explained by dealers selling inventory faster than the new rvs arrive?

    • I think what the author was trying to say is that there were only 40,000 “more” rigs registered in 2021 than shipped, compared to 2020, when the difference was 127,000. If he had inserted the word “more” after “some thousand” it would have made sense.

      • having just opened this issue and having the same thoughts as you, Fred. Generally a very confusing work of writing.
        Through it, I deduce the writer is somehow trying to say and show there is a discrepancy between the number of units shipped and the number of “new” registrations over that same period of time. The article only leaves more questions with no real answers.
        Also, I too agree with the impressions gained by those driving past RV lots crowded with presumably new units.

        • We have been hearing about shortages of RV’s for quite a while. yet all the dealers I drive by have their lots packed. Anybody who drives I95 above Richmond sees this everyday. Two large dealers right next to each other and their lots are full and have been for the past few months.


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