By Chuck Woodbury
It’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?
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. . .”
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.”
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.
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.
We 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) rvtravel.com 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.
The fact is, in my experience, I’d say that most industry players have little respect for RVtravel.com 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.
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,
its a race to the bottom, and I have just come to the conclusion that we must all shop IN DEFENSE of our finances or we ought not be upset when we end up on subscription services we never signed up for (IE buying a new TV every single year because it dies at 1yr and 1 day, and there are no screws in them anymore, and no parts to replace even if there were screws, like that..)
I see this in nearly everything.every time i need to buy something it is a monumental time consuming defensive ordeal that I MUST face because it is reality.
I often wonder how in gods name did we get to this point where making things like complete crap to last a day over the warranty period is not only accepted by the general public but expected.
Sally, yes, a lot of poor quality stuff out there. RVs are big ticket items, so when someone buys something of poor quality there’s a bigger price to pay later with an RV compared to a kitchen appliance. The RV makers will continue to turn out junk (that looks pretty) as long as consumers can be easily talked into buying them. I consider a big part of our job at RVtravel.com to educate consumers to buy RVs smartly.
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 like a beach cottage or mountain cabin. Clearly, their RVs were not ever being moved. I even spoke to some who paid a yearly fee and have been doing this for years.
Thanks for speaking up.
I’ve started an organization that’s main focus is doing what’s best for RVers.
Would love your thoughts and help.
Bret, with all due respect, you have a huge job ahead of you to build membership. I’ve seen similar efforts fold after a short time. But please email me and tell me more. I’d be happy to plug your efforts, but from what I see now, I just don’t see that without major backing you have a chance to build the huge and powerful audience you talk about on your website. That said, it would be good to have another organization out there trying to fix some of what is wrong with the RV industry and represent RVers to protect their interests, which is our mission. Good luck.
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 is absolutely harder to hit the road without a lot of prior planning.
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 due to weather. Now we’ve discovered our five-year-old Forest River RV, made for wheelchair-accessibility, has floor joists 24″ on center. For someone standing your weight is distributed over about 36 square inches on each foot. In a wheelchair that same weight is spread our over 4 square inches – one square inch [if that] for each wheel. No wonder the floor is sagging after only three 3-month trips. What kind of architect would ignore the vastly different load from a wheelchair? Now I have to have everything inside removed to replace the floor – after only five years! VERY poor quality. If this was a car it would be a Yugo or Edsel. Remember them?
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, we really loved the one just outside of Branson, but I’m sure you’ve already checked there. On the financing subject: We’re working on debt retirement, and I just checked on our 10 year RV loan. We are paying about $30 on the principle each month, but about $100 goes to interest. Do you think this is a good target for pay down? Keep up the good work. I couldn’t help but send a contribution this month. I don’t expect things to turn around in the short term, but I loved the first comment about supply and demand (thanks Onwego).
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 of the serious folks who will be out there enjoying life with me in the half empty campgrounds of the 2020’s. See all you survivors on the road.
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.
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.
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?
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
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.
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.
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 to mention the stress of changing your driver’s license?
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 and local communities seeking revenue and might implement new tax regulations.
Be careful what you wish for…you might get it.
Full time RVers still pay taxes, both vehicle or income taxes, if applicable in their state of registration.
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.
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.