RV shopping? Some trends to be aware of

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Steve Savage submitted this article to RVtravel.com when he was a Master Certified RV Technician with Mobility RV Service.

If you’ve attended an RV show recently you already know that sales are strong. We did the walk recently at a Florida show and tried to take note of the trends we think will be on the radar screen for the next several years. This list is not all-inclusive. I am sure there are things we may have missed, and there are several on our list that have been gathering steam for a while, but we think the ones that follow have gained enough momentum to believe they are more than a passing fad.

rv-show-736As you know, appearance is everything when it comes to RV sales, so the first thing on our list is color. To put it mildly, the days when you could have any color you wanted as long as it was white are history. Be it entry-level travel trailer or tag axle diesel pusher, colored exteriors are the hot ticket and – strange as it seems – black, particularly in Class A motorhomes, is one of the hot exterior items (pun intended).

It seems strange that while Dicor is pushing products to reduce roof temperatures, at the same time exteriors trend toward colors that are likely to boost interior temperatures. But it is clear buyers want them, so expect them to continue. Since the exterior is the first thing buyers see, even though white may seem a more logical choice for sunny time camping, if you are RV shopping now, expect to have an easier time selling a used RV that’s left its white dinner jacket at home.

And, of course, the contest continues among manufacturers to see who can install the most buttons and, if they work something remotely, so much the better. This means a master control board somewhere and, ultimately, phone apps to put this technology not only at hand but right in your pocket. I expect this trend will prove to be a boon to RV technicians and dealer service centers, but again “lots of buttons” sells, so expect them to exponentially increase.

An example of push-button technology that has proven particularly popular is auto-leveling for fifth wheels, which has become almost an essential for many buyers. Not only is it available in new units, but it’s also available as an after-market add-on (though certainly not cheap). Auto-leveling is one of those features that is so much in demand that even if you don’t think you need it (and you’re probably right about that), be assured the next person buying your rig will want it, so put it on the must-have option list when buying new.

When it comes to floor plans, perhaps the biggest change is the increasing popularity of locating the living room where the bedroom used to be in fifth wheels. Go in the door and take a right-hander up the steps and you’re as likely to find the living room as you once were to find the boudoir. In most units with the living room forward, you are also likely to find larger-than-life flat screens and electric fireplaces. Nothing new about flat screens, but fireplaces are leapfrogging up the must-have list. If buying new, you may as well get ahead of the curve.

Forward placement of the living room has been around for decades, but finally seems to have become commonplace – perhaps simply because manufacturers have pretty much exhausted the list of floor plan possibilities. This layout is one of those “you either love it or hate it” features, and it does impact livability, so be sure to think over this choice carefully. Yes, it is unique, but there is a reason the traditional “bedroom on the upper level” has stood the test of time.

Brown furniture and trim looks like it will be the dominant interior color for the next few years. Coupled with vinyl floors that imitate plank flooring, and interiors of late look a good bit darker. Make sure to sit on the furniture in anything you’re considering, as reading the Marquis De Sade may have served as the inspiration for some of what we saw and sat on. You’ll also find interior designers are stretching the boundaries when combining textures. Some of what works in homes works well in RVs, some not so much – so if something catches your eye, try to decide whether it does so because it is unique or just plain weird!

I’m not sure how to classify this next item, but perhaps in deference to the increasing size of the folks who own them, we walked through countless RVs which seemed to be keeping score based on how open their floor plan was. In a couple of units it was almost as though the manufacturer had forgotten to include furniture, although we did speculate whether the inclusion of a pin-setter might make bowling a possibility.

Usually this is done with opposing slides – the one on the driver’s side opposite one on the passenger side. If you put a couch on each, the amount of open floor space in between is impressive, but it often results in outside living space that used to be under the awning reduced to almost nothing. If the “wow!” factor inside grabs you, be sure to go outside to insure the “Oh, no!” factor doesn’t kick in the first time you use that new RV in good weather.

In addition to remote control and auto-leveling fivers, you’ll find household-model refrigerators in virtually all high-end models, taking the place of Norcold and Dometic four-door models. This change should finally match refrigerator reliability with size. You will still find traditional two-door, six- and eight-cubic foot RV refrigerators in less expensive or smaller RVs, but as household models become increasingly commonplace in higher-end units, I wonder how much longer it will be before they become standard equipment in all RVs. Perhaps electric/gas refrigerators will eventually be offered only as an option.

The last items on my list are tankless water heaters that rely on propane to heat water as it passes through the heater. These heaters are much more complex than traditional water heaters, and their reliability has not yet been established. If you’re on the fence with this appliance and can live without it, it may be better to wait a couple of years to see how things go in the field. If you want to move ahead with this appliance now, I’d suggest opting for one with the highest output as measured by BTU input to the burner. Tech friends have told me output is not always adequate in units with smaller burners. Also remember, these heaters do not operate on electricity.

So another year of “More color, more bells-and-whistles, and more space than ever before.” Just as before, the same rule applies: If a component is being introduced for the first time, it might be best to wait a year or two to see how it pans out before jumping in.

##RVDT1279

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Dan

Looking for a new TT or 5-ver rig that doesn’t have a dark black walnut interior since 2018 for 150K or less is next to impossible to find. It seems that almost all of big manufacturers all use the same trim, flooring, furniture, and flooring in every model size and price point they build. As the price goes up so does the bling, again with dark walnut trim. Profit is the key word, not being different in building a brand. Just follow the herd. Guess they all want to play it safe with the newbies. Us old folks know what a softer wood color can do for an interior that doesn’t look like a dungeon. Will have to keep what we got.

Margaret Coffey

The one thing I noticed when we were looking for our new coach is the bath and a half. I couldn’t imagine why I would want the half bath, didnt think we would use it much. But when we took our 3 grandkids on a summer trip it was invaluable. Now I couldn’t imagine living without it. Its come in very handy.

Philip H. Wood

Demand water heaters have been around for over 40 years and are fairly common. Most people do not use them because of cost but they are incredibly reliable and long lasting and easy to repair (assuming that they ever need repair) and dirt cheap to operate. They come in both electric and gas (both natural gas and propane) models, however, only propane models are suitable for RV use because of the electric draw. Refrigerators. In my last two motorhomes, on one of them the absorption model went out and was replaced with a household model which never gave me any problems. The other was a Norcold and I have had to replace the cooling unit because the tubes corroded through because they were fabricated with very light weight tubing. My experience is that there is no reason to have a absorption unit because a compressor model cools quickly and will most likely last longer than you will. They are lighter and cool so much faster and are better insulated and you can buy one with an ice maker for about $800(instead of $3000+) at Lowes that actually fits the space where the Norcold was. The household model will move around 1000 btus per hour which is 2 or 3 amps on 120VAC. Probably not the best for boondocking but I have only known two people that did that.

Rory R

Each to his own, I embrace the “new fangled” upgrades, as it makes life easier and gives us more time to enjoy what we are RV’ing for.As far as maintenance and costs, you have to maintain what you have anyway, and the older the unit gets, the more the costs go up, and finding parts sometimes gets more difficult. So it is six in one hand and a half dozen in the other….

Kevin

These new rigs will need 50 AMP (at least). I hope that parks, public, private and membership, will be ready for the influx of demand for 50 AMP sites!

Jim Langley

From the looks of the new rigs at the campground last weekend, I think the manufacturers have forgotten how nice it is to have lots of big windows in RVs. LED lighting pales in comparison to views outside and sunlight filling your rig.

Warren G

I guess I fall into the K.I.S.S. camp of keeping it simple. We’re not full time, but usually spend around 50-60 nights out in a year, with a preference to state parks, national parks, COE campgrounds, and places like Harvest Hosts, using private campgrounds when these other choices are not available in the location we’re traveling. Without hurrying, we usually have our 26′ TT set up in around 30 minutes, including hookups, leveling, everything on and tested. If we’re just overnighting somewhere and not unhooking, probably 15-20 minutes. The few minutes saved with auto-leveling wouldn’t be worth it to me, knowing that I’ll likely have to have it serviced at some point. Same on large electric only refrigerators, as they would be a problem without an electrical hookup. We don’t use a generator, but if we have no electrical hookup we get by very well on a 120 watt portable solar suitcase that we could probably go on indefinitely as long as we had at least partial sun. We have no need for anything larger than the 8′ refrigerator we have.

Impavid

Auto-leveling, for me, is not really an option. My 5th wheel has it and I wouldn’t be without it. Gone are the days on getting down on my snapping, crackling knees to lower the back stabilizers. As Fred says one button and the RV is level and when hooking up the king pin returns to the exact height where you unhooked. Better than sliced bread.

Joe

The large household refrigerator are nice until it breaks down and you find out it won’t fit through the door. Removing a complete slide can be the only way out for those massive 2 door units. We purposely bought a single door household unit and compared the measurements to the exit door, with the refrigerator door removed we have a 1/2 inch clearance.

Tankless hot water heaters have been around the U.S. for more than 20 years

TravelingMan

There is a real downside to front living if you full time…You lose so much garage and overhead storage. A couple of lawn chairs, mats, folding tables, and 1 or 2 small boxes in the garage and you’re done. The kitchens that we have seen so far lack usable pantry space for storing more than 1 or 2 day’s food stock in many cases. And often times, you have to have a step stool to get to any of them. We researched heavily to get the largest kitchen, bedroom, living and storage area that we could with the intention of full timing. If you don’t full time, we love the front living concept. There is a lot of fold down beds in the living room if you need it. Many times, you can find one with a front window for extra light. Head clearance can be an issue with some models. With taller units, you get more wind resistance while driving which lowers fuel economy. To many though, they do like this unit. I respect that.

Fred

Automatic levelers for fifth wheels is nothing new. It was an option on my 2008 New Horizons & probably the best investment I made in the rv. After I unhook the truck, I just press one button & the rv is level in about 1 minute, regardless of how unlevel the site is. And when hooking up the rv to the truck, I can raise or lower the rv to line up the king pin with the hitch while backing up from inside the truck with my remote key fob control. Set up & take down is so much easier & quicker.

Bob Godfrey

Since we call Florida home we know from experience that black is not a happy color for any vehicle in our state. When we searched for a used motor home years ago and found a Newmar Mountain Aire (by mistake actually) which was off white on the outside and we opened the door and saw a light, bright interior with maple cabinets etc. we decided that was the rig for us provided it was mechanically correct. 11 years later we still like the coach have enjoyed full timing in it for all those years. Additionally, we have a gas/electric refrigerator and I wouldn’t trade it for the household style either.

Bob Palin

With residential fridges becoming the norm are these people never visiting places without electric hookups? So many fantastic state and national parks that they will miss plus many wonderful national forest sites and just plain boondocking in the wild. More room for me I suppose.

Josephine

I like a lot of light so I’m interested in the white cabinets. I can’t imagine dark cabinets that show every spec of dust. We are full timers. My current rig has hickory cabinets that are light.

Ray Leissner

More bells and whistles equates to more systems to maintain. Those that provide benefit warranting such maintenance, like the auto level, are prudent. Those of little or no real benefit are not. I believe most seasoned RVers are reaching for simplicity in their lives. Glitz appeals to the newbies who do not yet realize this. Glad to see people waking up to a front living.

Ed D.

About the only thing I think I actually like in your list is the “Auto Leveling” feature. We have the Bigfoot leveling system in our Class C and in our fiver. I see nothing wrong with pushing a button and watching the unit level itself, as opposed to taking a half an hour to “manually” level it. If you can afford that particular option, I would highly recommend it!

Terry

I can’t understand about the black or dark exterior paint,absorbing heat from sun and harder to keep clean, as the colors of choice. Never wanted a black car because of it. Black shows dust and road grime quickly as well as light scratches from basic washing. We all know a CLEAN VEHICLE always rides better.