RV sales keep soaring

By Chuck Woodbury
You wonder when it will end — booming sales of RVs. 

RV wholesale shipments this year are expected to reach 539,900 units, a 7 percent increase from the record 504,599 units shipped last year, according to the new quarterly projection from Dr. Richard Curtin in the RV Industry Association’s spring issue of the RV RoadSigns forecasting newsletter. The anticipated growth would mark the ninth consecutive year of expansion for the RV market.

Come and get ’em!

Statistical Survey’s Inc. reported that in January, Winnebago travel trailers were up 56.8 percent in market share from last year, with a nearly 70 percent increase in unit sales. Motorhome sales were up, too, but far less dramatically.

I hesitate to jump on my soapbox again, but here’s what I think: There is no way the RV park industry can possibly create enough new campsites to keep up with this growth. No way. Maybe it can increase the net number of sites by a few thousand, a tiny drop in the bucket.

Winnebago Winnies: best sellers

So keep on making your campsite reservations at least a few months ahead, or better yet a year ahead and just hope you don’t get sick, or your rig doesn’t break down, or your daughter doesn’t announce she’s having triplets the weekend you planned away.

The RV industry is gloating over all these sales, as they have been for years. There’s nothing wrong with selling a lot of RVs except it would be nice if there were more places to stay with them except Walmarts and truck stops. The RV industry continues to look the other way. It’s leaders don’t care. RVers will get fed up soon. Just watch.

Don’t miss campground owner Andy Zipser’s article on what all these newbie RVers and the crowding mean to an RV park (hint, it’s not necessarily a good thing).

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20 Thoughts to “RV sales keep soaring”

  1. Ron Kleven

    I agree Chuck. We sold our Class A motor home this year and will not be replacing it as we have lost so many parks in British Columbia that is makes it extremely hard to find places to stay.
    It is unfortunate that I may just be the beginning of the exodus from a great lifestyle.

  2. Mark Spangenberg

    I would like to know precisely what is driving this decade boom in the RV manufacturing industry (I have my own opinion but I’d like others’)
    RVs new units…replacing older units or adding to the already-staggering numbers? If they’re replacing older units there aren’t enough dumps, wrecking yards, and RV graveyards to accommodate all the older out-of-commission rigs. And if the new sales are booming, is there any viable market for the older used units?
    Any of us West coasters and particularly the Pacific NW, I’m sure we are all well aware of the housing crisis leading up to why we can’t get an RV space anywhere anymore…with people living up and down all the streets and back alleys of the urban areas (or anywhere else they can find for that matter)
    Any of you in other regions of the country, I would LOVE to hear your feedback on your particular region of the country as far as the housing crisis and RV park shortage…Is this just a West coast issue (I doubt it). We have relatives moving to the Rochester area of Minnesota and are wondering what real-life park availability will be between Washinton and Minnesota / Western Wisconsin and south into Iowa and Nebraska…websites are helpful but when you call for a real reservation the availability on the West coast is scarcer and scarcer.

    1. Joe Mueller

      IDK for sure, Mark, but I have to wonder if many younger folks have learned that they can work remotely, that the cost of a house can be a money pit, and they’ve heard enough advice from their elders to “travel when you are young and can do it.” I belong to the Escapees RV Club, and the number of young folks who are RVing full-time has boomed so much that the club has decided to devote a separate arm to the young RVers who work from their rigs. Perhaps this has something to do with the explosioin; IDK. But corporate life in this country is so incredibly stressful, it wouldn’t surprise me that the “drop out” or “work from RV” rate may be a major contributor to this issue. IDK. Your thoughts?

  3. Captn John

    Well, my local dealer alone sold over 2000 units last year. One sales person there sold 158 and made over $100,000. I’m sure others were close to those numbers.

  4. Bob Minor

    We went to the Ottawa RV show a while back. We’re exploring the possibility of buying an RV and going full-time. Based on comments from RV Travel, we were very mindful of the quality, checked everywhere. We couldn’t believe the poor build quality across so many units. My takeaway – there are going to be an awful lot of used RVs for sale in the next 5-10 years.

  5. Bill Lampkin

    A fellow once said, “There are lies, damn lies, and statistics’. Never more true than the RV ‘sales’ figures quoted by your industry sources. Winn ‘unit sales’ jumped by 70%?? Let’s take a look at the numbers here; a 70% increase is almost DOUBLE! Has Winn doubled the size of its factories? Number of Employees? Cut in half the unit production time? Has every vendor (frames, axles, water heaters,etc) also doubled their unit output? Ridiculous!! Reminds me of stats that realtors track; they can slice it and dice it!
    Let’s compare these ‘stats’ with vehicle registrations, now that will give us the real picture. Anyone have those figures??

    1. Cliff

      Well, Bill, when they are paying people to assemble things via a piece count method vs a per hour rate, you get fast results, but many times at the expense of quality. Volume of production is significantly up. And take at look at Northern Indiana sometime. New assembly facilities are being erected at a higher pace than ever.

      I am in the transportation industry. Truck capacity has reached or exceeded 100% (volume of freight is starting to exceed the number of truck available to haul it). It is not unrealistic to see that the volume of trailer manufacturing is increasing substantially. Talk (as I have) with those that transport the new trailers to dealers and they will tell you that the volume of trailer delivery is becoming insane.

  6. Ken

    I’m with you Tommy and Rob. I noticed the 20+ years before I bought my first and only rig in 2013, there were A LOT of RVs used once or twice a year for 3-5 years and then parked. Parked for good. Payments continued! It was that spur of the moment buying for a thrill of getting a new toy, then its buyers remorse. Boat owners you here me? That’s why we waited until we got close to retirement and had the time to use our motorhome. We really need to look at the gross figures. Something tells me there are a lot of buyers (record numbers!) but many many parked rigs rotting. Don’t get me wrong, most parks here in Yuma were nearly full this winter, but most of us have had our rigs for awhile and the time to use them. No kids in ballet, soccer, scouts, motocross, etc. If you’re going to buy it use it. It’s the current generation of buyers driving the “glamping market” but boredom, payments, lack of time, lack of reservations and kids that have put the squeeze on the newer buyers. Who needs 4 TVs?

  7. Charles Howard

    On a brighter note?
    I noticed perhaps 5 NEW campgrounds along I-10 between Houston and Mobile AL this week and one greatly expanded older campground. We avoid campgrounds right along the Interstate so maybe there are some more out in the woods? But if not, the new Campgrounds varied from not too full to nearly full from appearances.
    Also noted some new RV Dealerships along I-10 with amazingly full/overflowing inventory. I wonder if a market crash is more likely than a Spring sales bonanza.
    Positively only 2 of the 4 RV parks we’ve stayed in this week were nearly full.

    1. Charles, those same campgrounds will likely be filled or at least more crowded between Memorial Day and Labor Day. It’s still the off-season in many parts of the country.

    2. Joe Mueller

      Charles, thanks for the input. I just returned to Houston from a drive to Fort Stockton along I-10, and then up to Taos and into SW Colorado, and then back to Houston. I too saw that many RV parks were not at capacity EXCEPT in W. Texas where oil production is booming. Chuck is correct in that the Memorial Day – Labor Day period may be insane, but based on what I saw, I think that perhaps you’re correct: perhaps the “off season” will offer enough available spots in RV parks. Probably it will depend on location. As usual. IDK. I’d appreciate hearing from others whose experience is as recent as mine.

  8. Rob

    I still wonder if you are correct when you say half a million new RVs on the road. We can’t get a true picture till we know how many come OFF the road each year.
    and many rvers are old and no longer able and these rv don’t have a very long life span and to be truthful we need the see the net not the gross. My uneducated guess would be we are adding much less active campers than 500k.

    1. A half million are shipped to dealers. Some take a long, long time to sell, but eventually they do. The trade ins are also sold, then again and again. If you do not believe the numbers, then simply accept that twice as many RVs are being sold today as, say eight years ago (it could be six years ago or 10). And practically no new campsites have been created in that time. You should be able to see where this is going, which is the point.

  9. Ronald

    Do you have a place in RV travel we can list our motorhome for sale, or have recommendations on the best place to sale?

    1. Ronald, we do not have a place to advertise RVs for sale. You might want to try rvtrader.com. You could try Craigslist but be careful as scammers hang out there.

  10. Tommy Molnar

    A really good business to get into is RV storage lots. Many of these folks buying RV’s don’t have any room to park them at their residences. Or, there are HOA’s or other city or town rules prohibiting the parking of trailers or motorhomes on streets or driveways. There are several storage lots near us that are PACKED with RV’s of all kinds, shapes, and sizes. As the months go by we can see that many, many of them never move. Someone buys their ‘dream’ RV, takes it out once or twice, then finds that either it isn’t what they envisioned the experience to be, or it’s just too much of a hassle to go to the storage lot, bring it home (where they are allowed to park it for 24 hours or less), load it up, and take off on a one or two week trip. Then back home, they park out front (for less than 24 hours), unload everything, and take it back to the storage lot. This becomes too much of a hassle, and spur of the moment weekend trips (which we LOVED before we retired) are absolutely out of the question. Pretty soon even the thought of all this hassle and necessary prep becomes the ultimate PITA, and the RV starts its new life as a monetary burden sitting quietly in the back of the owner’s mind. He just pays the monthly storage bill – and that’s that.

    So, while they’re selling these units like the proverbial “hot cakes”, not all of them will see much duty, which is great for the rest of us who are lamenting this surge in RV sales.

  11. Kenneth Pratt

    I got fed up a couple of years ago and sold everything. Now I travel from motel to motel, spend about the same amount to spend the night with breakfast provided and someone else to clean up my room. Moving the luggage into the room doesn’t take much more time than setting up a trailer. Most hotel groups offer all kinds of incentives to use their facilities and I gladly take advantage of my free nights when I travel. It might be a little hard to full time doing this but then, I never wanted to full time.

    1. Joe Mueller

      Yes! Much to my regret, this is what I’ve chosen to do too for the past 7 years. At least until now. I live in Houston, and summertime here is an abomination. Although I’d really like to purchase a small RV and take off on a long adventure to cooler climates during summertime, I’ve taken several long trips and I’ve never had trouble finding a hotel room, if not on the first try then certainly by the second or third try. Never had to sleep in my car. All this talk about difficulty finding an open spot at RV parks is leading me away from buying an RV and just continuing my car-and-hotel mode of travel. I’ll bring a tent in case I want to be closer to nature. It’s too bad, but there sure are worse things in life, and I’m lucky to be able to travel at age 73.

  12. Jeff

    The sales are one thing, but who is really buying all these RV’s? Many of them sit for years on RV Dealer lots and eventually become heavily discounted and sold that way.

    I’d love to know of the Half Million RV’s made each year, how many of them actually are sold off dealers lots?

    1. Bill Tucker

      Excellent question Jeff. I drive by local dealers and see the same trailers on their lots every year. I mean the exact same ones that are still unsold. Sure they move them around on their lots, but they are still the same. The RVIA and manufacturer numbers are just that, numbers. Numbers of rigs that roll out their factories and disappear into the great unknown. How many of those rigs purchased are purchased on impulse then end up taking up space in the driveway while their owners figure out a way to get rid of them without loosing their shirts.

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