EDITOR’S NOTE: RVtravel.com is regularly invited to participate in nationwide conference calls with large RV dealers and others involved in the sales and servicing of RVs. We won’t be directly naming those on the call, nor the dealerships involved. While the situation is unusual, we feel the value of the candid comments and information that we can share with you outweighs the lack of the usual attribution. This time, you’ll just have to trust us that the quotes come from trusted, vetted sources.
Longtime RVers have speculated for months that many of the millions of new RVers would soon tire of their new outdoor toy and put them back up for sale. Now we’re hearing that the long-anticipated flow of slightly used RVs back to sales lots may have begun.
“I’m getting phone calls from people who want us to buy their RV back,” said one RV dealer during a recent nationwide conference call of RV dealers and others connected with the RV industry. “We don’t know how many of those calls are coming from actual newbies, and we really don’t even know how many of our recent customers are new to RVing, but I’d guess about half of our customers are new.”
Why are the new RVers giving up?
Those on the call didn’t speculate as to what may be driving some new RVers to give up on the lifestyle. They may be exhausted from the effort involved to find available campsites in popular locations. They may also be disenchanted that they can’t seem to find the bucolic, secluded camping locations that may have drawn them to purchase rigs in the first place.
“There are definitely fewer first-time buyers lately,” said one dealer on the call.
On the upside for the RV industry, dealers said they are starting to see more experienced RVers return to dealerships looking to upgrade their equipment.
“I’m getting a lot more trade-ins,” said one dealer. “The rate of customers with trade-ins a few months ago was about 13 percent. Now, about 50-60 percent of customers have a trade-in RV. We are starting to see our core customers come back. We haven’t seen that in a long time.”
Traffic is great, inventory is not
One East Coast dealer said while traffic at his dealership was “great,” his inventory of RVs on the lot was about 40 percent of what it should be at this point in the year. “The product mix is all over the board,” he said.
Even with low inventory, the dealer said sales margins on rigs that do move are good. “Consumers are still willing to pay an awful lot,” he said. “But if there is a bump in the economy, it will be a different story.”
Many in the industry lamented the fact that wait times for factory deliveries of back-ordered RVs seems to be getting longer. “The good news is that retention rates after the sale are good,” said one. “People seem to be willing to wait.”
One New England dealer said while sales volume at his dealership was down 20 percent year over year due to a lack of inventory, his margins were more than double those of a year ago. “Everyone is making more money than before,” he said. “We just can’t get inventory.”