The changing look of camping from Arizona to Alabama: The sales lots are full and the campgrounds are empty. We’ve been traveling this January and February from Arizona to Alabama, and we’ve seldom seen another RV on the road. Granted, it is the mild winter season from the Southwest to the Southeast… but we have traveled in January and February consistently and this is different.
RV dealer lots full
Every RV sales lot we pass is a field of unsold RVs. Most of the lots are selling pull-behinds and fifth wheels. Occasionally we’ll see a motorhome that was obviously a trade-in. We only saw one major sales lot with a number of new motorhomes.
Two years ago we traveled this same route. Back then, a number of RV sales lots spaced apart whatever slim inventory they had to “fill” the lot. Now there is a glut of RVs in all shapes and sizes for sale. Car lots, I noticed though, remain relatively sparse. They seem to space out the cars and put them near the front.
Camping looks different with full-timers and permanent workers
The campgrounds are virtually empty except for full-timers and permanent workers. The only totally full RV parks seem to be the ones around the oil fields and pipelines. From a distance, there are some that look great and others that are housing folks that must be down on their luck.
Yesterday we stayed in Abilene, Texas, at a nice park that was about half full. All the occupied sites had a relatively new fifth wheel. In the late afternoon, like clockwork, pickup trucks pulled in and all the workers came home.
We are seeing that the majority of RV parks, at least on our route from Southwest to Southeast, are catering to full-time permanent RVs. The one we are in now in Texas is probably 80% permanent with 10% to 20% short-term. Even the signage is directed at “The residents.”
Campgrounds are empty
No problem getting a camping spot, though. As a matter of fact, the reservation office sometimes chuckles when I call for availability.
Increasing camping costs
Diesel varies in price between $3.19 and $5.05! It is tremendously higher than the last couple of years. Of course, fuel prices will contribute to higher prices at the stores, i.e., fueling inflation (pun intended).
There are a number of factors for this change: the mass purchases of RVs during COVID, return to in-person work, fuel prices, increasing cost of everything, housing costs, companies downsizing and some folks just becoming disenchanted about RVing.
Whatever the reasons, there appears to be a shift. We’ll see what the summer brings.
What are your thoughts? Are you noticing similar things? Leave a comment and tell me, please.
Just the opposite. You can’t get into campgrounds or RV parks without reservations way in advance. Fuel prices are way down from the last 2 years and there are a ton of RVs on the road.
Yes I totally agree unless all n private.i do not use them.cost too much or run down.
Update on my first post. We have seen a difference in camping. I know that , because of gas prices, food prices, etc., we didn’t camp as much. We usually camp in Corp of Engineers campground, and being seniors, camping fees are affordable.
We winterize our camper from Oct. to about March or April..older pull type and don’t want to have to replace broken pipes. Plus we don’t travel much in the winter.
We’ve been camping since we got married in ’75. We’ve seen a lot of changes over years, most notably, the cost to camp in a private cg…which has become outrageous, some cgs over $100/night. Seriously? Those same cgs pack people in like sardines! No thanks.
Consequently we’ve been camping at state and national parks these past few years. Sites are spacious and prices are less than $50/night. We’ve even been doing cg hosting where, for a few hours a day of volunteer work, our site is free.
I’m not sure the “down on their luck” linemen making $80-$120 per hour would agree they are down on their luck. More like “making bank and living light”. Winning.
If even 10% of the covid come lately RVers fall in love with the lifestyle, that’s a great thing for the industry. People that worked remotely for a year or so with a spouse and children in an RV campground and are now back in the office. They either found a passion for camping, or not, and will become the next generation of weekend warriors.
A lot of good deals on used, badly built equipment ahead. From the ashes….. a buyers market emerges and quality improves (hopefully). Time your next purchase/sale around the market and win.
Campgrounds jacked the prices up exponentially due to the increase in campers during covid. Now regular families are going back to their regular vacations and the campgrounds aren’t lowering their prices back down for the true campers, hence, making them empty.
I run a popular RV resort really close to Lake Tahoe California/Nevada. We have a record snow drop and our park is only half full. We were full last year but price’s in this area is high, for gas and lodging. I really see it making a difference.
Texas State Parks are booked solidly. You may be able to get a spot during the week especially if some of that northern weather dips down. There is still a huge problem with those campers who book far ahead and then “no show”. I guess they are used to the ridiculously high prices at places like Camp Fimfo so they just blow off what they paid in advance for state parks. As for layoffs in the RV industry, the manufacturers need to keep them on to repair the falling apart RVs they put on the market the last few years but I guess if they couldn’t build them right, they probably couldn’t repair them any better.
We are hosting at a state park in East Texas and are almost empty during the week and 50% on weekends.
I agree, I’m seeing the same pattern as you as far as availability from CT through TX. I am surprised that there so many full-time residents living in RVs in tiny parking lots type RV parks in TX. Although I should not be surprised, because between rising housing and rentals costs and short term rental conversions, there are no where for people to go. SMH.
I am not noticing the influx of a glut of RVs in dealerships and I am looking to purchase something new but am not finding what I want. I’ll be playing the waiting game hoping I can pick up something at a better price.
Splash Rv is claiming it’s fully book from March 2023 till October 2023 .Even though the place is setting on the side of I-10 in Milton Fla . Which makes it 24 /7
Loud with traffic passing. It’s also not completed full construction of all it’s amenities it claims to offer . So you pay full price for partial offerings. But campers are still filling it up.
Then every camp ground you contact in
The panhandle of florida has no availability coming up…
I know you had stated Arizona to Alabama , look empty…I quess everyone is in Florida this year.
We are in the Gatlinburg / Pigeon Forge area of Tennessee. All the campgrounds are at least 50% full during the week and 70-80% on weekends, and this is the slow season.
The Springville UT KOA is 80-90% full. The sales lots being full will be a good thing if NESARA starts on Feb 24. I need a new 33-foot bumper-pull.
The campground situation here in FL is very different right now. I can’t find an open reservation at any of the state parks for the next few months, nor at commercial parks along the space coast. I took my motorhome cross country Aug-Nov, though, and found it easy to get sites in most locations after Labor Day. I was very surprised by the high percentage of campground occupants who are permanent residents, in all 20+ states that I camped in. It made me sad to see so many working families unable to afford permanent housing, and it made the camping experience different. Having your neighbors starting up their diesel trucks at 5 AM every day to head to work is not the same as having campers next door.
After you’re done complaining you can thank the men and women that get up early every morning and work 7/12’s 8 months out of the year to keep America running. We’re the ones keeping the powerhouses, dams, roads and infrastructure running so you can enjoy your time wherever you decide to call home. Have a nice day.
Thank you for your service. I do fully appreciate what you do for our country along with our service men and women, our fire men and women and our police force men and women.
Thank You and God Bless You!
A good chunk of FLs campgrounds are still closed in parts of the state due to hurricane damage from 2 major hits 30 days apart this fall on each side of the state. It’s pushed those still open to capacity with all the snowbirds.
Most people that purchased in the Covid rv wave were never destined to be rv users.
I snagged a nice little rig from someone that let the dealer cram every bell and whistle in (thank you)
So glad those jerks didn’t hit the road!
The rv “market” fluctuates wildly…. Rv usage remains on a steady curve.
It’s not for the average citizen. If you own one you know that.
Btw…. Working people who are living in their rv are not necessarily “down on their luck”
Rather an “elitist” comment don’t you think.
Sorry your park was full of the people maintaining the infrastructure you enjoy.
We will try to keep them out of you path.
Most definitely, sales lots are packed! We live in Florida. Many of the parks we visit in Ohio during the summer are booked already, or have very limited spots this year! As of right now, we don’t have a reservation for our summer trip north.
Hey Bill! I have a country home with 8 acres.
You can camp here for $25 a night + utilities.
I have no amenities. Just a peaceful wooded area and historic town to wander.
Guaranteed not to be crowded!
Southwestern lower Michigan.
90 miles from Chicago.
More details please… MItch
On a recent trip from central Florida north on RT 95 north to Massachusetts I observed ALL the RV dealers lots were jammed full of new inventory. A month later all the same observations during the trip south on Rt95. The manufacturing is outpacing the sales of units. I’m in the market and have found that new 27-30 foot towable priced @ 25-30k in 2015 are now 40-45k. OUCH
Ahhh…the hangover after the drunken orgy……
Our fall travels did not look like that at all. This is the time to pay off the Christmas spending and wait for the tax refunds. The snowbirds are settled in for the winter. The kids are not yet out of school. Many workers have been called back into the office. And camping is still a seasonal activity in many areas. To paraphrase: “They’ll be back!”
We are near the crossroads of Dixie, Gilcrest and Levy counties of Florida, by the famous Suwannee River.
Every few days my wife and I drive on route 19, 27 & 98 (all one road) to eat out or shop. During our 5 to 20 minute one way drives, we count RVs on the road. We get anywhere between 5 & 15 rigs of all sorts. So that’s 10 to 30 RVs on our round trip.
In our short drives we found 10 campgrounds within a 15 mile perimeter.
Since curiosity gets the best of me at times, we drive through the RV parks just checkin them out. Our observation reveals campgrounds size ranged from 50 to 400 sites. Quality (in our opinion) from 2 to 4.5 stars.
Another observation was that a couple of the campgrounds, at 2 to 3 stars, might have 50% full time residents, the rest is open to snowbirds.
So all is not lost to folks living permanently in RV parks in this part of Florida.