RV dealers are running out of RVs. Service centers are jammed

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By Nanci Dixon

This is RVing during COVID-19. As summer approached, it became clear to many, many Americans that travel by RV was a much safer way to go than airlines, hotels, cruises or any form of public transportation.

At the beginning of the year, economists were forecasting that the 20% downturn in RV sales indicated an imminent recession. That was true in 2007 and 2009. When the COVID-19 Pandemic hit, however, and the economy crashed, RV sales soared. People who still had a job or discretionary dollars realized that RVs provided a safe haven for traveling, social distancing and a home away from home for essential workers.

Some sales lots are empty (literally) of pop-up campers, trailers, fifth wheels and motorhomes. One dealer we talked with usually has 100 to 150 units on his lot and is now down to 3. Many units have been selling as soon as they hit the lot. Some people are even putting money down on types of units they have never seen.

Another dealer, in northern California, reported he also normally had 150 RVs on his lot this time of year. Two weeks ago he said he was down to 10. A New England dealer reported that he would normally have 500 units to sell, but now has 180. A live video by a YouTuber searching for an RV to review showed an almost empty sales lot at See Grins RV in Gilroy, California.

Camping World is running ads telling RVers “We need your RV,” and offering to pay top dollar. “Your RV will never be worth more,” it says.

Major RV manufacturers shut down for a short time, while others reduced the number of employees to help cut the spread of the virus. That brought down the number of RVs available even as dealers were ordering more units to keep up with the demand. Some RV parts manufacturers also shut down for a period of time and resumed with shortened hours and fewer employees, causing a domino effect in the RV service industry.

As any RVer knows, seldom does an RV come off the lot without needing some minor tweaks or major service work. And a slowdown in parts manufacturing has meant that some RVers are waiting weeks for a part to fix their RV, as well as waiting for a spot in a service bay. Inventory that was supposed to last through the end of the camping season is gone, and dealers and customers are left waiting for the supply to catch up.

In what is supposed to be the slow season at RVForce LLC, a premier RV service center in Winter Haven, Florida, Mark Gorrie states, “Our service bays are full and our road crews’ schedules are filled out. Our slow season is generally the end of March until end of October and it’s still busier than during our busy season.” Josh Gonzalez, VP of Operations at RVForce, said, “I would reiterate what Mark said. We offer mobile service and we also offer shop service. Normally we are in our slow season right now for the shop and for the mobile side. Our shop is busier now than it is during our busy season.” 

Jim Cook, the General Manager of Carpenter’s Campers in Pensacola, Florida, noted in an interview with WEAR-TV that “They (RVers) were sitting home for a month and now that the gates are open they are getting their RVs serviced, getting their maintenance done.” 

Another swamped service center mentioned that people who have been hunkered down with nothing to do have decided that it is a good time to have their motorhome serviced.

Not only has the RVer stood in line for toilet paper during this strange COVID-19 year, but they are finding themselves again in line to get a spot in a service center and in line waiting for parts.

##RVT961b

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John T
7 hours ago

RV sales lots are empty because of months of lost production due to the virus. That reveals absolutely nothing about sales numbers. As for maintenance bays being full, your article admits that it’s due to deferred maintenance from the time when employees and customers were home due to the virus. It says nothing about work on new RVs fresh off the lot with problems.

Denny
21 days ago

It would be interesting to see the actual numbers that show the types of RV’S that are selling and the prices ranges that they are selling for.
The RV’ers that traveled from Florida to WA State. When did you travel and did you have problems finding CG’s to stay in?

Kacy
18 days ago
Reply to  Denny

Go to RVIA.ORG for industry info

Mark Thiel
1 month ago

The only reason they are running out of RV’s is from not ordering when they sell one. I was in Elkhart, IN. and all the RV Manufacturing companies had lots full of RV’s. I talked to an employee of one of the manufacturing companies. He told me that except for a few days, they worked through the shutdown.

Kacy
18 days ago
Reply to  Mark Thiel

I’m in the industry (supplier) and live in the area and I can tell you they did shut down for several days and in some cases for weeks, except for the really small OEM’s that couldn’t afford to.His statement does not apply to the industry. Suppliers also shut down. The industry continues to have issues with obtaining components globally, finding labor, and dealing with COVID cases and employees who have to quarantine (Elkhart County is a hot spot). Dealers are ordering constantly, we just can’t all keep up. The demand in the industry is like nothing I’ve seen in my time in this industry. The question is, what happens when people can fly/cruise again and decide they don’t want their RV?

KEN D
1 month ago

Going to be a buyers market in a couple of years

Ron Barbour
1 month ago
Reply to  KEN D

I hear that! One or two nights of YouTube video watching and these folks are ready to take the plunge. I’ll be ready next year for my first purchase, but may just wait to snag one of these barely used motorhomes from a buyer who got sucked into a 20 year payment plan!

Dennis W
1 month ago

My local CW is full, but I wouldn’t buy there.

I’m looking to buy in about a year, though and am hoping one of these New Millennial Homers will already be tired of their new toy. I can’t find the Model I am looking for within 300 miles.

Lyn
1 month ago

I have my 2014 Montana Mountaineer 5th wheel for sale at $30,000. When new, the price tag was just under $65,000. It’s in excellent condition and has been lovingly cared for since new. I checked with a local dealer that takes consignments, but he said the high-end units are not what’s selling right now. Folks are buying the units that are under or around $20,000, and they’re gone within hours of arriving on the lot. This is on the central Oregon Coast. LOL, anyone want to buy a beautiful 5th wheel?

Stuart
29 days ago
Reply to  Lyn

Hello,
Where on the Oregon Coast are you located?

Diane
1 month ago

We’ve been preparing to go full-time for a year and a half. We’ve done our research, we knew what we were looking for. This time last year we would have had no problem finding what we wanted but inventory is so low in southern California there isn’t a rig of the make/model within 200 miles of where we live. We went to about seven different lots that are usually full with between 150 – 300 rigs and found that they each had, at most, 10 RV’s on site. I can’t speak for other areas of the country, but southern California has been cleared out. We ended up finding a model similar to the one we wanted but we’re finding that parks all over CA are packed. Well, they are packed for 42ft RV’s, I can’t speak for smaller sites.

Wayne
1 month ago

Where are all these new RVs? I have been traveling throughout the western states since March and everywhere I have stayed has never been more than half full. I don’t understand. They can’t all be boondocking or waiting on service departments.

Robert Hugh Hoy
1 month ago

Having trouble getting an appointment for repairs or routine service? I use our local Cummins truck (18 wheeler) repair shop in Normal, IL. They seem to have room for my 23 ft Thor motorhome. I have been pleased with the service they provide.

Jeff
1 month ago

Passed by what I call RV city in Ocala, Florida Friday. 4 dealerships in just a few miles. All lots appeared full.

Captn John
1 month ago

A couple never left home for over 4 months. Their only outside contact was with Walmart grocery delivery and both had the virus. You cannot hide, why live in fear? Get a grip and move on. Americans have turned into easily lead sheep.

Richard B
1 month ago

Same is true of bicycle shops. Maybe the RVers are taking bikes with them!

Bill
1 month ago

I sort of agree. Americans confuse safety with fear. Safety is quantifiable, and airplane travel is the safest means of travel and I have not heard of airplanes or airports being hotspots for COVID. Fear is not quantifiable, but is amplified by news reports (and it is news precisely because it is unusual) so that the most sensational things become the most feared, and thus are perceived as unsafe.

Erinn
1 month ago

I too, feel Bull’s missing the point – No one’s talking about air travel being safer due to less fatalities than highways, they’re talking about NOT contacting Covid-19 by being too close to someone who may be infected.

MORE IMPORTANTLY, center seats are NOT always open! I’ve talked w/THREE ppul in the last mo, who’ve flown, so MY info is firsthand/factual. Center seats are NOT open, at least NOT on United or American! IF they can make the extra buck, they’re selling those seats! (A physician taped a PACKED United flight, a couple of months ago & posted it on YouTube – it went viral in a day.)

And… the airlines who do leave their middle seats open, there is NOT “six feet of space” or any sort of “social distancing” between passengers on ANY commercial flight – That’s what is FOOLISH!

Before YOU post that other folks’ assertions are “LAUGHABLE and just plain WRONG,”
YOU need to get YOUR facts straight, thus I find your assertion LAUGHABLE and WRONG.
(SORRY, CHUCK!)

David Allen
1 month ago

The point was that airline safety as it pertains to Covid, not flying in general. Even if you sit in a plane with all first class seats, you would still be in a closed environment with a lot of other people. Your chances of becoming infected are substantially higher. Your chances of being killed in a plane crash are substantially less that in an RV crash.

David Allen
1 month ago

Its comical in a way. The dealers sell everything new on their lot and the customer drives them around to the service department where they sit and sit. The forums are full of new RV’ers who have no clue, and never spent a day researching. The statement above and repeated elsewhere that “RVs provided a safe haven for traveling, social distancing and a home away from home” is a crock. Just go back and look at the RV’ers who were crying and complaining that they had no where to go and no parks to stay in. Now with hundreds of thousands of new users, there is going to be an even more severe shortage.

Gene Bjerke
1 month ago

I think you are applying more logic to the situation than the average consumer.

jim westfall
1 month ago

Recently talking to a service manager. He said, “There are so many people who don’t seem to know how to use a screw driver, that he is worried. There are many service calls to tighten screws that he can’t keep up.”

Norris Bryan
1 month ago

Go to Spokane, Washington or Coeur d’Alene, Idaho the RV dealerships are loaded with RV’s

Sink Jaxon
1 month ago

Ok, first hand experience here…Yesterday we were at a dealership in Colorado that sells Lance and OutdoorsRV, both are higher end better quality TT’s and TC’s. It was a ZOO! Tons of shoppers there, and inventory pretty thin. But driving by another dealership off I25 near Co. Springs, that dealership sells Forest River, Keystone, and Jayco…dead. And packed to the gills with inventory. Could it be people are doing their research with the help of sites like RVTravel, and are staying away from the junk?

Admin
Chuck Woodbury (@chuck)
1 month ago
Reply to  Sink Jaxon

Sink, not all dealerships are out or almost out of inventory, but the RVs are going fast.

Sink Jaxon
1 month ago
Reply to  Chuck Woodbury

Yeah, I understand that…The article states a FEW dealerships that are nearly sold out…It would be interesting to know what information the RVIA is collecting on this trend.