Soapbox: RV industry continues to disappoint


    By Chuck Woodbury
    Soapbox: RV industry continues to disappointIt’s Friday. Gail and I drove yesterday (my usual writing day) from Wichita Falls, Texas, to Ponca City, Oklahoma, for a quick stay before heading on to Missouri. We are on our way to the RVillage Rally in Elkhart, Indiana, in mid-May, where several RV Travel staff members and I will speak to the estimated 1,000 RVers on hand. I believe there are still some hookup sites available if you’d like to attend.

    The big news this past week is that once again monthly RV shipments to dealers have hit a new high. A total of 51,607 RVs were delivered last month to dealers around the country, up about 10,000 units from last March. It was the first month ever that shipments exceeded 50,000. I’ll take a wild guess at how many new RV park spaces were added that same month: 100? 200? Or maybe zero?

    Soapbox: RV industry continues to disappoint
    Neighbors. Kids’ bikes in “front yard”

    The last RV park where I stayed, which was in Wichita Falls, had 84 spaces. Twenty-nine were occupied by long-term pipeline workers. The smaller park I am in today in Ponca City — a clean, pleasant place — is about 90 percent occupied by oil workers. Every third or fourth site has a child’s bike or two outside. We had planned to head down to the Branson area next week but every park there that looked decent is booked. Such is the life of an RV drifter these days.

    I didn’t want to get on my soapbox again this week, but I have matters on my mind I can’t ignore. First, I will tell you that I did not hear back this week from Recreational Vehicle Industry Association President Frank Hugelmeyer, who I wrote to Monday in response his statement to a industry magazine that “Camping obviously is what everyone in an RV is doing. . .”

    Camping? Obviously?

    In my email to Frank I said, in part: You think someone in a 40-foot diesel pusher; or a two bedroom, two bath fifth wheel with a wine cooler, residential fridge, built-in vacuum, dishwasher, heated floors, washer-dryer, cell phone booster, four TVs with a satellite receiver on the roof, stereo system. . . etc. — you really believe they are “obviously camping.” 

    Soapbox: RV industry continues to disappoint
    Tiffin “camper.” Ah, the joys of roughing it.

    I did hear back from RVIA PR person Kevin Broom, who said he would talk to Frank to see if he’d like to respond. Well, it’s Friday and no response. So does Frank think those of us with our nice, comfy rigs who travel a lot or full time are out having an ongoing “meaningful relationship with nature?” 

    THE TRUCKING INDUSTRY is having its issues but is responding far different than our own RV industry. I was given a report recently about how dozens, maybe 100 or more trucking companies, associations, individuals, and related businesses were joining together to learn how to create more places for long-haul truckers to stay the night. It’s a big problem. Isn’t it interesting how members of the trucking industry realize there’s a serious problem and are coming together to find solutions? In the RV industry, nobody (except us) talks about anything but how many RVs they can sell and how much money they can make. 

    Soapbox: RV industry continues to disappoint

    Honestly, I’m tired of using this space to complain, but a guy’s gotta do what a guy’s gotta do. Nobody else is  addressing the question of “Where will you, me and all the new RVers stay in the years ahead?”

    Look at this graph from KOA. It shows very clearly how the popularity of RVing has grown in the last three years. Where will this lead? I don’t know, but my gut feeling is it’s not a good place.

    We are adding new writers to our staff, covering a wide range of topics related to RVers, but what we really need is a good investigative-type reporter who can dig into a subject to help us influence the creation of more quality places to stay, establish decent RV lemon laws, and pressure RV manufacturers to quit turning out so many crappy vehicles. Read the horror stories some of our readers have told us about their experiences.

    Soapbox: RV industry continues to disappointWe also need to bring awareness that some dealers, Camping World in particular, are promoting very unwise buying practices — promoting no money down loans or those with payments stretched out 20 years — two decades! Slick salesmen are suckering dreamy-eyed but financially unsavvy consumers, of which there are plenty, into such deals. Some will be forced into bankruptcy down the road if they lose a job or their stock portfolios dive, as happens.

    If you are retired or semi-retired and have a background in investigative journalism, and would like to stay involved in effecting change that matters, please contact our associate editor Deanna Tolliver at deanna (at) and introduce yourself. We don’t have a lot to pay, but we will do our best.

    And it’s only because of the 2,400 of you who have “voluntarily subscribed” to this newsletter that we can retain such a person in the first place. If you have not pitched in learn more or donate here. If you are reading this newsletter and the more than 3,500 articles on this website for free that’s perfectly fine. But if you believe there are problems brewing in RV paradise, please chip in what you can afford to help us to challenge an industry with 1,000 times more money, far more influence and lobbyists whose job is to protect RV manufacturers, not you and me.

    Soapbox: RV industry continues to disappoint
    Our current reader database stats: More than 86,000 RVers!

    The fact is, in my experience, I’d say that most industry players have little respect for or any other RV consumer website, even though in our case we have a substantial audience (see chart).

    I will conclude on a positive note and say that despite all I have written here, please understand that I still love RVing, and that is why I am so passionate about helping it stay so wonderful. I simply see problems ahead that need to be dealt with starting NOW, and I am lucky to have a platform where I can share my thoughts.

    And now I am stepping off my soapbox to refill my coffee cup.





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    This is an amazing and unique newletter. Thank you for outting this out there Chuck. So much needs to be addressed when it comes to rv’s. On the surface people just dont want to hear that the NEW rvs are questionable. Try . Try to tell someone shopping for a NEW rv , to look into it, or buy used quite a few years used at that, they look at you like you must be mad. Honestly the same could be said for everything new these days. Tvs, BluRay players, blankets, pots and pans, furniture, ect.. its a race to… Read more »

    Ed Hibbs

    Hi Chuck, Thanks for getting on your soapbox and saying what a lot of us are thinking. I mostly agree with you with maybe a minor exception now and then buts it’s especially good to get the ball rolling and bring a subject to the forefront, especially with the RV manufacturers and the lack of new campgrounds/RV parks. I hate seeing so many sites being taken over by tiny houses known as cabins. On our trip last summer, we saw a lot of RV parks taken over by permanent RVs where people were using them as weekend or vacation retreats… Read more »


    I’ve started an organization that’s main focus is doing what’s best for RVers.

    Would love your thoughts and help.

    Mike & Cathi Stark

    We are currently parked at the RV park just outside of Zion National park. When we walked the park the other night probably 25- 30% of the RVs were rental units. This too is an increase of users year over year and must also be considered in creating sufficient parking/camping/living locations


    We got our first RV in 2006, a used class C. After a couple of test trips we took off for Alaska with 1 reservation, in Denali NP. we made the trip again in 2007 and 2011. With trips to Yellowstone, Smokies, all over New England,Florida, and Canada coast to coast. Since about 2014 we’ve made reservations well ahead in order to have a place to stay without using Wal-Mart , Cabelas or truck stops which we have done and it’s no fun doing it in summer. With the number of ” Fulltime Campers” , Workers and shear numbers it… Read more »

    Firefighter Tom

    Pat and I have been “camping” since 1981 and RVing since retirement in 2001. We’ve taken many long sightseeing trips using travel booklets, etc to plan our travels. Three nights here, two there, a week at the next place and then move on to the next town. In 2016 we had several areas where we couldn’t get a campsite so we just skipped them and its just gotten worse. It was nice to stay an extra day or two at a location to see things we didn’t know were there or that we weren’t able to see a particular day… Read more »

    Eric Meslin

    All I can say is Wow. You really hit a nerve this week Chuck. A lot of really great comments. As I’ve said previously, I’ve had to fully reserve trips now, rather than keep to a looser schedule. This week I tried to make overnight reservations on our way to the Passport America rally in Nashville. Georgia State Parks now have a two night minimum, as did a COE campground north of Atlanta. I guess overnights are a thing of the past now. It’s a little warm for Walmart camping during the summer in the south. Speaking of COE campgrounds,… Read more »


    Capitalism and the free market should take care of all of this, eventually. The price of campsites will rise, like any scarce commodity that’s in high demand, making investing in new or expanded public and private RV parks sensible. De-orbiting expectations of the “RV lifestyle” and frustration with all the hassles you mention will weed out the tire kickers. $4.00 gas will deliver the coup de grace. Me? I’m looking forward to a lively market in late model, low mileage motorhomes at right about the time I’m ready to retire. And a second career fixing all those coaches and trailers… Read more »

    John T

    There have to be reasons why the free market is not responding to the growing shortage of campgrounds. I suspect that poor return on capital investment and the hostility of local communities are the main ones. Rising campsite prices may help the first issue, but what is to be done about the misguided hostility at zoning hearings? Contrary to what most locals claim, new campgrounds don’t bring trailer trash and crime, they bring growth for the local retail businesses.

    Bret Mundt


    Can you reach out to me?

    I think I may have a solution for many of the problems that you list in your article.

    I’d like to communicate with you privately to get your thoughts before I make my thoughts public.

    – Bret

    Mr Disaster

    10 or 15 years ago “Good Sam Club” seemed to advocate (a little) for the RV community. Generally through fighting restrictive parking ordinances and trying to rate campgrounds. Good Sam was co opted when it was sold… AAA used to advocate for drivers (and roads) and by default campgrounds. Now however they seem to be interested in being a travel agency with towing. Keep up the good work advocating for RVers. Now we have only your voice! So where do you store your soapbox in your rig?

    Jonathan Miller

    Hey Chuck,

    I appreciate you looking out for our best interests and beating the drum for more parking spots….but this is America. Capitalism will kick in and RV parks will be built left and right and then we will complain about all the empty spots and parks closing. A brand new park opened in Houston and I drive by it every day and it’s less than a 1/3 full.


    Where in Houston. I will be spending some time this summer and ‘I am looking for a possible place to stay

    Denny Wagaman

    RV Industry Dissappoint.
    No wonder Chuck has such a following. He says what many of have said about the RV Trash that’s being built and the long term financing putting many buyers upside down in the value to the balance owning on the RV loan.

    What is the truth about full timers enjoying their full timing 5-10-15 years after beginning their new life. Question: will they really tell the truth about loving full timing ….one fellow told me we didn’t know what we were getting into and now financially we can’t go back.

    Julie Cherry

    Oh Chuck, if you think Witchita Falls, TX has history with the Tiniest Skyskraper, then you need to take a longer look at Ponca City, OK. Read the book “The Broken Statue” by Bob Perry and go on a tour of the Marland Grand Home and the Marland Mansion. All the philanthropic work Marland did for the community, the Pioneer Women, etc. It is unbelievable. Our book club read the book and then we drove from DFW to Ponca City for all the tours. Great history about the oil industry, cowboys/Indians, development; and unfortunatley, JP Morgan Chase.

    Walter Kreppein

    If Warren Buffet is in the RV business(Forest River), you know big money is the driver. Many recalls for Forest River products prove that they have the same disregard for quality as do the other companies. I wonder what type of RV he uses when camping???


    First of all, if you think RFIA is a consumer watchdog, the yo are barking up the wrong tree. What is their address…D.C , Who do they represent? The RV manufactures…does lobbying come to mind? If you want to impact the RV INDUSTRY, then you need a consumer advocate group.. not some palm greasing lobbyists for government regulations for the RV manufactures. Create a grass roots organization that can impact the manufactures. if you want to tree a squirrel, find the right tree and the right dog.


    RV parks like Moonriver in Richland, WA keeps the RV industry going. A new owner and now people have to move out or buy a newer RV when theirs passes the cut off. We were looking to move there, was ready then suddenly was told our 2000 would have to be replaced by the end of the year with something no older than 10 years old. I know they are not unique in their thinking but older RVs can often look better than some of the newer old RVs.


    Unfortunately you bring up a good point. Government would like nothing better than to find ways to get more money. In many states if you are there longer than 30 days (even visiting) you are suppose to change your registration to that state. Some states try to enforce it, most don’t. unless people complain. When you get oil, construction or other union workers that travel from job to job, often staying 6, 12 months or longer – can you imagine the money they would be putting out to change registration each time they moved to a new job – not… Read more »


    There are underlying legal and policy risks to insisting that RVs be seen as more than “camping” vehicles. For a major representative of the RV industry to come out and say otherwise (e.g., RVs are a mobile full time residence option) opens the industry to onerous manufactured home and HUD regulations RV manufacturers have been dodging for decades by insisting these are merely temporary, vacation-only vehicles. Acknowledgment of millions of Americans (more every year) living as nomads in fancy MHs/5ers, dodging local and state real estate and income taxes, could turn FT RVers into an new target for tax-hungry states… Read more »


    Full time RVers still pay taxes, both vehicle or income taxes, if applicable in their state of registration.

    Captn John

    We will be in Branson late next week for 2 weeks. Then the 5er goes into storage for the summer. We start again in September. Finding a site in the east is a ridiculous endeavor June- August. Tough enough the rest of the year.

    Jim Anderson

    Your on the right tracK!
    Please don’t Quit or Give up…
    How about the E-Mail Address of folks like
    Hugelmeyer…..A bunch of email from “us” campers might open their eyes or at least take off their blinders.


    Hey, if it’s not too late take a quick stop at The Pioneer Women’s place in Pawhuska, just west of Ponca, worth the wait.


    . We had planned to head down to the Branson area next week but every park there that looked decent is booked. Such is the life of an RV drifter these days.

    Try west of Branson on 76. There are several along in the area on the way to Branson West which is a fun place to visit also.


    Check out Table Rock State Park, it’s a nice area and very close to Branson and surrounding activities.

    Traveling Man

    It’s interesting that those who are buying RV’s don’t have the forethought to see “where” they can go….much less understand the engineering (or lack thereof), repairs and constant maintenance that comes with owning an RV. Most can’t figure out if they even have the right tow vehicle for safe travels. They would be better off investing in a swimming pool. For many, it’s just a shiny new bling/trend item that they can spend $1000’s for, insure for additional money and then store it for even more money…(since they won’t be able to use it). They would be better off investing… Read more »

    Patrick Granahan

    The economy is going great guns…the RVs are selling….thousands of new RVs hit the road every week.
    A new RV storage lot opened not far from our home and filled within a month.
    There is a shortage of campsite space and a shortage of storage lots as well….there does not seem to be any shortage of RV buyers in our robust economy.
    If the industry does not address the shortage of campsites I predict a glut of slightly used RVs on the resale market in a few years.

    Traveling Man

    I kinda like the idea of millions of new rigs…This presents several new business opportunities…The best of which is “RV Storage”. We can all make a killing and then build our own exclusive RV Park with only one spot available.

    But as the consumer who has to have one of the millions of new RV’s, they will just get frustrated when there are no spots and put the RV in Storage to make the other business Entrepreneur rich beyond their wildest dreams.

    If you build it, they will come…Where have I heard that before?


    Of course RV makers don’t care about dwindling campsites – it doesnt hurt their sales yet!

    Perhaps the real investigation should be why campgrounds aren’t adding sites and some are shrinking the ones they have. From what I’ve been told, its narrowing margins against increasingly burdensome ignorant regulation, but that may be a bluestate issue.


    I find it frustrating that I should have to plan weeks and months in advance to take a trip. Jeff states that these rv’s may not be selling, but look at the article that lists the number of rv’s that are permanently sitting in the rv parks. Maybe it is the demise of the good American manufacturing jobs that is making our citizens a nomadic society. As to the articles statement about a 20 year loan on an rv. That statement may be a little broad. I took one of those 20 year loans at 3.97% interest. Using my rv… Read more »


    I believe that a part of the problem of full RV parks was answered when you talked about how many sites are occupied by long term pipeline and oil workers. We ran into that 2 summers ago when we left AZ to spend the summer in Iowa. Quite a few parks in Kansas and Iowa were mostly, if not totally, full of long term workers. They are a more reliable source of income for the park owner. There have always been oil workers out there, but only recently it seems that they are using RVs for their accommodations. It was… Read more »

    Patrick Granahan

    On my last RV trip I planned ahead and called a RV Park in South Carolina I had used before. My goal was to reserve a full hook-up site for at least one month while I searched for a new retirement residence. The park owner told me that all their sires were currently full with workers involved in construction of a huge electric plant. They agreed to contact me if any site opened up (I was trying to reserve about six weeks ahead of my arrival date.. All parks in central South Carolina were at full capacity due to that… Read more »

    Mike Sherman

    CS, I hear you regarding the record numbers of RVs where you volunteer. We work at a 78 space park on the California coast. Record numbers last season, and our “off season” is shrinking this year vs. last year, and we have no permanent sites. This summer is already on track to exceed last summer. Jan-Feb-Mar this year saw an increase, many decided to come just to avoid large crowds, willing to be content watching TV during rainy days. They just wanted to RV!


    One reason so many are full timing anymore is because of the incessant greed in the American housing market and the house flippers who are after a fast buck.Not many on low incomes can afford the exorbitant housing prices now days.I don’t see it getting much better anytime soon,except for the greedy RV manufactures who are cashing in on this crisis.


    Bingo! Skyrocketing housing costs are driving so many people into RVs and homeless situations.

    JT and Debby Wells

    Greed is the driving force in the RV industry. We have RVed for 34 years and owned most types of RVs. We love the RV lifestyle, but not the inability to be spontaneous. We used to drive where we wanted, spend the night at any campground, there were always sites available. As you say Chuck, not anymore. Those are days gone by. Quality in a RV is also a thing of the past. We have been the “proud” owner of a lemon, Class C and stayed in communication with the vice president of the RV manufacturer. Alas, no one cares.… Read more »


    I am still trying to figure out all the HYPE about RV Shipments? While the RV industry might be shipping huge numbers to dealers, does not mean all these RV’s are being sold. Any place you drive in this country, you see large RV dealers with in some cases 100’s of RV’s just sitting on their lots. They may ship 50000 plus RV’s each month, but they aren’t selling that many. The Economy is NOT in that good of shape to support all these shipments. Dealers have to finance all these shipments and pay monthly Mortgage payments to keep these… Read more »


    I don’t know Jeff. All those rigs might be in for warranty work because of poor assembly quality. Ha Ha

    Michael McCracken

    Wrong Jeff! I am a full-time RVer going on six years. I enjoy traveling around this country without having to make reservations far in advance. The increased number of RV’s on the road these days, since I begin my travels, has created chaos in finding places to stay. Having to stick with a reservation schedule is very difficult. Never knowing what your situation might be at the time. The number of RV’s on the road and the number being sold is not “HYPE”, IT IS A FACT!!! Obviously, you are not a full-time traveler or you would know this.

    Susan F

    At the very least we should flood Mr Hugelmeyer’s email. If we don’t start presenting a united front as the consumers in this industry then shame on us for not speaking up. Got his address Chuck?

    Don & Nancy Schneider

    Chuck, So this shortage of truck parking spaces is the explanation for why Flying J now has “reserved parking” spaces that truckers pay for each night? We have seen about 10 or more of these spaces in almost all of the Flying J’s from Florida to Texas this year. They were not there last year.

    Thanks for listening


    Flying J was not the first place to offer these spaces. Actually it was T A truck stops that started them. And as a Truck Driver they were welcome sites when it was getting late in the day and knowing I had to stop to take a break. Simply calling ahead to the truck stop you were planning on stopping at was great. I could be guaranteed a space when I got there..

    Jonathan Miller

    Can RVs reserve these spots or are they only for trucks? I personally have parked with the trucks at travel centers when I didn’t need to plug in. I have run my generator all night when I needed a/c. Sorry for the noise but not much more than an idling big rig.


    Hi Chuck my sister has lived in Ponca for 40+ years. Conaco oil use to be they big player in town. Enjoy your stay