Sales of RVs are booming. Why? What does it mean?

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By Chuck Woodbury
EDITOR
The RV Industry Association (RVIA) is reporting that sales of RVs have increased 170 percent since this time last year. Coast to coast, the media is reporting that dealers are doing a booming business. RVs are more popular, it seems, than ever before.

Mike McLaughlin, the general manager at TravelCamp in Savannah says it has a lot to do with the coronavirus pandemic. “Business is pretty busy at the moment. A lot of it has to do people just wanting to get out of the house, especially with this pandemic that is happening. People are getting cabin fever.” He says his dealership is having a hard time keeping its lot full.

Sales at Mike Regan’s two RV dealerships outside Austin, Texas, are up 30% compared with last May. Regan said business has been so brisk he may not have enough trailers and motorhomes to meet demand. “The minute the campgrounds opened on May 1 and the governor turned everyone loose, our business went through the roof,” said Regan, whose sales at his dealerships were down about 50% just last month.

I BELIEVE IT’S ALSO BECAUSE RVs are the only way to travel now and be safe, or at least as safe as one can be while traveling. Who wants to get on a cruise ship or even stay in a hotel room where a stranger slept the night before? With an RV you bring along your own kitchen, bathroom and bedroom. Any germs are your own.

A few months ago, when the pandemic hit “official status” and people starting losing jobs in a big way (now more than 40 million lost), I would have thought people would be trying to get rid of RVs they could no longer afford, not buy them. Right now, it doesn’t look that way.

It sounds bad that 40 million Americans have lost their jobs. You might think that would spell disaster for any industry. But what I conclude is that the people who lost their jobs could never afford an RV to begin with. They are service workers. Many, if not most, earned the minimum wage or close to it. The people who could afford RVs before can still afford them.

On April 5th, we asked our RVtravel.com readers how badly they needed the federal stimulus money coming from the government. Of the 2,279 readers who responded only 3 percent said they desperately needed it. Two-thirds of the respondents said they did not need the money. I am not sensing a whole lot of financial pain from the audience of this website.

HERE IN THE RV PARK where I’m staying, it’s routine to see the RVers paying $500 to have their coaches washed and waxed. A husband-wife team is doing a booming business. People who are hurting financially do not pay that kind of money for a non-essential service.

RV manufacturing plants have opened up again. But some are having problems getting parts to build the RVs, some from China. And the factories are practicing social distancing. I wonder about that: How can workers on a mostly human-intensive assembly line crank out RVs without bumping into each other?

Elkhart County, Indiana, where 80 to 90 percent of all RVs are built, currently has a 29 percent unemployment rate (second highest in the state), and COVID cases are rising. Just a few years ago, the unemployment rate was among the very lowest in the country. So production today is far from what it was. Where will it be in six months?

How long will those factories be able to continue if workers test positive in the weeks ahead and/or decide it’s too dangerous to come to work?

But, if in fact, sales continue to boom, then demand for spaces in RV parks will go up, too. Where will that leave you and me, when it’s already difficult to get a reservation in a popular location? In our reader poll yesterday we asked our readers about their favorite type of campground. More than half of the first 2,000 respondents reported they prefer to stay in an “RV park with full hookups.”

So get ready for more company in your favorite RV park.

Sales of RVs may be good headed into June, but I have a gut feeling that there’s something ahead that nobody is seeing right now that will toss a big ol’ monkey wrench into everything and all the happy talk of industry leaders and cheerleaders will disappear.

Your comments are welcome, but be civil, respectful and don’t call people names because they believe differently than you.

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William Johnson
17 days ago

You can’t trust all RV salesperson. Many times it is what they don’t tell you. There is an RV TV show on every week and the show listens to what buyers want and shows them three RVs and at the end of the show the buyers choose one. When the buyers tell the salesperson that they are going to live fulltime in the RV you would think that a good salesperson would tell them that the RVs that they show are not rated for fulltime living
They are rated for occasional use only.

MargaretB
3 months ago

I don’t believe these numbers at all, just another ploy from the slowed down RV industry trying to boost sales by saying everyone is running out buying new RVs when in fact the opposite is true. Complaints all over the internet at poor quality control and the poor after sales of trying to get any warranty issues fixed is still rampant. Ask any RV dealership right now and sales are slow and low still and that’s not going to change anytime soon until they smarten up and stop manufacturing junk!

Kim Lockwood
3 months ago

When my husband and I started UpClose-RV, we thought our primary customer base would be vacationers. We have been in business just over a year and vacationers are not even a consideration right now. We have a team on the West Coast and on the East Coast. We are seeing business from budget-minded full-timers. Because of Covid, vacationers don’t even know we exist yet. Something to ponder is this. At the opposite spectrum of $500 wash and wax jobs, are the folks who can’t afford $300 a month for a campsite. The affordable housing crisis is not just in sticks and bricks. But at the same time, campgrounds need to make a profit. That is what entrepreneurs do.

John T
3 months ago

40 million jobs have not been lost. 40 million people have been furloughed; most of them will return to work.

David Totten
3 months ago

I think we are seeing the next wave of “yard ornaments “ blooming up. In my neighborhood alone I know of four RV’s that were bought when the last recession was ending, remember there was a boom in sales then, and all four have only been used once or twice since being purchased. It’ll be busy this year in the campgrounds, but things will soon be back to normal.

Mike Donnelly
3 months ago

My friend drove back to Missouri from Arizona and stayed at a couple of Motel 6 for the night. He sprayed down the rooms for fear of the virus. Next time he is bringing his small rv to Arizona.

Mopar4wd
3 months ago

Used rvs have become very scarce near me. Prices are way up too. The new dealers seem a bit busy but inventory seems to be at normal levels. I think sales were slow until the last month, so plenty of inventory. Back when I worked at a dealer we had placed most of our orders for stock by March.

Who has been affected by this economically seems to be very different then past recessions. Curious to see how that plays out long term.

Jeff Schwartz
3 months ago

Dear Chuck
Writing from outside my coach in a park in central Florida.
I agree with you, there is going to be a surprise for many of the Newbies. Between the “20” year mortgage’s and quality issues on new coaches to say nothing of the campground overcrowding many of these folks will have driveway or storage space ornaments that they will soon dislike.
As we all know it’s not all fun and games out here.
Anyway I hope you and Gail are healthy.
Love to read you outside my 2012 a Newmar MountainAire.
See you on the road.
Jeff Schwartz
Florida

Darlene Kolinski
3 months ago

I disagree with the representation that typical RV owners can spend $500 for a wash & wax. I do not stay at private or luxury sites. I enjoy nature and space out my door at state/regional/ county parks. I only need electric/water and a dump station. I can’t afford discretionary purchases. I can use the stimulus money. Most of the vehicles I see are not motorhomes, and I see increasingly smaller but new trailers. Please take the rest of us into your commiserations. We are out here traveling the best we can.

TravelingMan
3 months ago

$500 for wash & wax?

Head for the Trucker’s Blue Wash…Around $60 and done in about 15 minutes or less. Most are open 24 hours.

Wax yourself twice a year. Use a good wax. Scratch Doctor is a miracle maker removing scratches beyond belief. NuFinish is my favorite.

If you have full body paint, it might be worth having a aircraft professional with a rotating buffer complete the job every other year or so. Those buffers are incredible. If you use aircraft waxing methods, be sure to use the polish, wax and sealant for the best shine ever. It’s expensive and there are limited people that do this. But if you intend to keep a rig in like new condition, its worth it.

Steve
3 months ago

I did not take Chuck’s comment about the $500 wash as what is normal, but that there were people who were still able to spend money and they were not affected in a major way by the economic issues. Most people who are retired will still have the money as before.

Steve F
3 months ago

If RV sales are booming, where are all the units coming from? Same RV Travel issue states that deliveries are down 80% and more. Dealers had that much inventory?

Allan Newcomb
3 months ago

If I had the money, this would be the perfect time to buy a decrepit roadside motel. Knock down the buildings except for one, and turn it into a huge parking lot. Then rent out spaces like motel rooms with the single remaining building used as the office & owners living quarters . People come in not to camp, but just to sleep. No setting up camp, unhook only to level the trailer/RV. All pull thru spaces. Like the motel it replaced, the RV motel is somewhere to sleep en route to another destination. If the property is large enough, a separate area could be made for longer term guests. It would be a low maintenance enterprise, people bring their own rooms so parking lot repairs would be the only real recurring expense. Inventory turns…ie the number of times a space can be rented in a 24 hour period would be critical to long term business viability. With RV sales going thru the roof, there could be an opportunity for enterprising people to add another sector to the floundering hospitality industry. And make a good living.

TravelingMan
3 months ago
Reply to  Allan Newcomb

I like your thinking outside the box. Keep it up!….BUT…

Have you priced demolition costs? There is the environmental impact study, permits, demolition crew and equipment costs. Then, the materials have to be disposed of in the proper landfills. This is if you are lucky enough not to have to deal with lead or asbestos abatement costs. Then you better hope that the proper land fills are close by. Trucking fees are expensive.

There is also the cost of re-installing the electric, plumbing and sewer connections. None of the existing utilities will be configured properly for RV’s. There is also the remodel cost of the remaining office area you propose to leave.

I’ve been in construction and maintenance for a very, very, long time. If you follow the rules, it costs. If you don’t follow the rules, it will cost you more.

As an idea that I explored (thanks to Chuck’s previous comments on the matter), I’ve thought about blank land purchases and providing nothing but a place to park. Parking lots of asphalt or concrete would be best as weather can be a hard factor on bare land (mud, sinking, etc). Put a post out front with a small list of rules and regulations. Stay close to main roads. It would be designed strictly for those passing through and don’t need utilities. $10 a night. But the insurance and mowing fees would eat the $10 made and nothing would be left for profits to improve the park as you go. The price of land along highways is ridiculous. Title, Realtor and Closing Fees are insane. At best, one would break even. At worst, it becomes a money pit as many RV’rs are pigs. Many are good. But many are pigs littering your property. Who’s going to clean that up? How many will try to set the property on fire with a make-shift fire pit? Too much liability risk for this to be profitable. No one works for free.

I did see one outdoor mall owner do something unique…The outdoor mall has been shut down for a few years. They maintain it and it shows. But, they took an opportunity to lease the land area around the parking lot and it has been converted to RV spaces. They are a typical mall charging too much for the lease, but the idea has merit. I suspect that they are trying to keep the mall viable for a restart one day. The RV management lease company basically pay the mall for the grass areas which may at least pay or partially pay security on the property. Personally, I would think it was an ideal location for an RV Super Center to include parts, an RV wash, Repair Center, Sales Center (including new, used and consignment). It’s on a major freeway where traffic frequents (and I mean RV traffic). Restaurants are already there including Cracker Barrel, Applebee’s and the mall eatery. There is also a Ford and Ram Truck Dealer across the street. There is a hotel and movie theater next to it. It’s an extremely impressive opportunity. But I don’t own the Mall. And I would not need all of it. And, to set up something that elaborate will take a lot more than I have access to.

Travis
3 months ago

In a year or two there will be a lot of used RV’s for sale that only got used a few times.

Bob M
3 months ago

People aren’t flying this summer, they’re not heading off to anywhere outside the US, so they need an alternative. Add to that an RV giving you personal space that isn’t going to be infected by others.

Combination means increased sales and there will be more on the road this summer.

But it might not necessarily lead to more crowded parks. It could be busier than normal during the week and less of a difference with weekends.

rollin
3 months ago

A friend got a spectacular deal on a two year old 32 foot travel trailer……..guy needed the money NOW!!!

That is probably more the exception than the rule, because I agree it’s a seller’s market right now.

Thanks to ***** COVID19. [bleeped by Diane]

Hey, Chuck, how much are RV Park rates going to be going up, and will we be able to even find reservations these days? From what I hear, it’s getting to be a really tight market in the RV Parks, too.

Wayne Sasser
3 months ago

It’s always good for “newbies” to read such articles by “experienced rvers”, but you guys are real downers. Many of these folks are wanting to get out and enjoy all there is to enjoy, yet some of you run on endlessly about how crowded it will be, how d.”ifficult it will be to find a spot, Give us a break, let us try to make a difference in your world without treating us like “those people

Captn John
3 months ago
Reply to  Wayne Sasser

For many years RV sales have set new records. The number of sites available has remained fairly static. Few sites being built due to high costs and difficulty in getting permits. Many CGs are being sold for housing development or other purposes. Many devastated by hurricanes or floods are not being rebuilt. Try to get a spot now near either FL coast for the winter, try to find a spot near any tourist attraction, surprise. Many other sites are available Sunday through Thursday with weekends reserved as far out as policy permits. You are only being given honest facts! Believe the beautiful sites with a lot of grass and or water in the ads, don’t as they do not exist.

TravelingMan
3 months ago
Reply to  Wayne Sasser

OK….You were warned…You will find out the hard way.

If you think that its not a problem, why do so many post their experiences here? A few negatives, sure. But this many? It says volumes.

If you are one of the younger folks here, consider a tent or rent an RV and go try it for a while until you can see and experience it for yourself. There’s no hurry to impulse camp. Ask RV owners (the most friendly folks you’ll meet) about their experiences. You may find out that your money is better invested in your 401K account or your emergency fund first. OR…just dive in and find out the hard way. It’s your money. We are just sharing what we know.

rollin
3 months ago
Reply to  Wayne Sasser

Hey, Wayne, shed the thin skin and cut us some slack……..we’ve had it less crowded for a long time, which is part of the attraction.

You will yourself appreciate this as you get out and about.

The only difference in our world more crowds will make is……more crowds.

Still, it’s a wonderful way to get away, regardless of your level, your road distancing, your time length of travel, your luxury or poverty of RV, and so on.

Enjoy, we live in an incredibly beautiful world that God has made, and RVing is one of the very best ways to see it.

Keep your smile on in the crowded RV parks, don’t forget to check the state parks and the more esoteric hunter campgrounds, military camp grounds, town squares and similar rarities……and the very best of all, Bureau of Land Management (BLM) boondocking opportunities out west!!!

And being self contained, during the right times of year when you don’t need AC, you can hit Wallmarts and Crackerbarrels for quick overnight stays…….MOST allow it. Two rules here: Go in and verify the one you want to use allows it, and be sure to patronize their business while you’re there, aka provision in Walmart, Breakfast in CBs.

You can even join camping clubs that allow you to camp on farms, vineyards and such, for a more unique camping experience.

For the kids, beach front campgrounds, KOA’s, Jellystone, and more, so many campgrounds cater to the families and the kids.

I’ll close with our best camp experience ever…….20 miles south of Moab Utah, a draw at a bridge, a rather rough trail to the east, and we were dumb enough to go up it pulling our 28 foot or so used Conquest bunkhouse. It was used with hail damage, we didn’t sweat a little rough treatment getting up the trail. I should have hiked it first though. We ended up at an old genuine cowboy camp…….no buildings or such, just firepits, tool and horse set-ups, and the ghosts of cowboys past. No campground fees, hardly any baths in the rv to conserve both water and wastewater space, saw only ONE couple for three days, they hiked in to go on up the draw into uncharted territory. It was a special spot and we felt special for having been blessed to enjoy it. We left it with only tracks in the sand and a few scrapes along the trailer from the bit sagebrush bush at the turn. Yippie kai ye!

PS: I have alos had WONDERFUL adventures within 50 miles of home in some of our incredible state parks. You WILL be surprised how many are out there. Book early, THEY’RE FILLED THESE DAYS!!! Eeeee Hawwww!

rollin
3 months ago
Reply to  rollin

Need an edit function. BIG sagebrush bush at the turn…….

Still remember that screeching sound, fortunately it the bite was not as bad as the bark.

Bounder
3 months ago

How can you tell when an RV salesman is lying? His lips are moving!

I’m having a hard time believing RV sales are doing as well as they claim. There’s 7 large dealers in about a 40 mile radius where we live where I’ve tried to buy parts but all have been closed for at least 6 – 8 weeks and I’ve not seen very much activity that would verify the claimed sales increase.

TravelingMan
3 months ago
Reply to  Bounder

I drive by several lots and none of them “look” like inventory has moved.

Maybe it’s happening in another region of the country? Certainly not so much here.

rollin
3 months ago
Reply to  Bounder

You’d be surprised what goes on online anymore.

I’m old school, gotta see it, get in it, test the seats and the beds, etc.

But in Covid days, people take virtual tours and call their bank.

Joe Sesto
3 months ago
Reply to  Bounder

I contacted my well know truck camper CEO yesterday (June 5) about a mod I’m considering. He said he is sold out thru next January. I can’t park anything over 25′ on my acre property due to its 400′ long drive that ends in a circle. I’ve paid $400 to wash, wax and detail my rig…but I make it up getting 13.9 mpg with diesel and have a literally go anywhere 4WD unit that even can find parking in the French Quarter. Yesterday’s market results and the growing medical anecdotes that the virus is weakening are adding more confidence.

Joan Richardson
3 months ago

My first thought was if workers were unable to pay rent and was afraid of being homeless them an RV isn’t too bad of an alternative. I just wonder when disparate people do desperate things if they realize the expense of fuel, insurance, licensing, and the highest of all is upkeep….all the unknowns!

rollin
3 months ago

Not that simple. Gotta have a place to put it. They are increasingly expensive and rare.

You are quite right about the incidentals.

David Binkley
3 months ago

As soon as everybody and their brother starts to get into something, in this case RVing, then it is time to take a step back.

I agree with Chuck: There is something out there that will throw a wench into things. In my mind, the economy is on a money printing high and I believe that will be the monkey wrench that will cause some tough times ahead. This goes for RVs, the real estate industry and many others.

Our country cannot have 40 million unemployed without severe consequences.

Finally, over 3 million people have done a “forbearance” on their home mortgages. This is not good and it is all coming due in the July and August timeframe. That is my guess as to when things really take a digger.

We are not out of the woods yet….Not even close.

TravelingMan
3 months ago
Reply to  David Binkley

Just a point….You keep hearing about the 40 Million and growing unemployed. I ask…Are these numbers skewed? You never hear about how many went back to work (even at a different job), how many went part time instead of full time (by choice or not), how many entered retirement or about how many just don’t want to work. I suspect that the real number is NOT 40M….So do we really have 40M TODAY that are unemployed? I’m in the camp that I doubt it. I don’t know what the real number is. No one will ever find out. Many just want everything to continue to look bad. Look out for political agendas.

rollin
3 months ago
Reply to  David Binkley

****** [bleeped by Diane]
Pray the Good Lord and our great American system will allow us to rise above.

The Coronavirus has been VERY unevenly applied by whatever forces.

We came this close to bankruptcy in the 08-09 crisis.

This time around we’ve been spared……SO FAR…….and we give praises for it, we were/are NOT up to another near miss……..

Pray to God that we ARE getting out of the woods.

Richard Chabrajez
3 months ago

Could the rise in RV sales indicate those who couldn’t buy during 3 months of lock down are now all buying at once (indicating a false positive)? Also while Camping World / Gander stock price is up with this surge, what happens when all those RV’s go into the shop for the inevitable post – purchase repairs? RV quality issues will likely roar back with a vengeance!

Michael MCcracken
3 months ago

I question the truth that RV sales are booming? However if true, I don’t see where spaces to park them will be found with RV Parks already full. I have been fulltiming for seven years and have found available spaces in RV Parks have tremendously diminished over the years. It seems that all you read from the RV Industry is how sales are increasing substantially over the previous year. Where are the RV Parks to accommodated the increased demand? I sincerely hope that all these buyers have a place to park their RV or the monies to pay the high costs of storage.

Kimberly Lockwood
3 months ago

Michael, we saw this coming and we are trying to offer an alternative. We have just started yet we are in 11 states. https://upcloserv.com/