By Steve Savage
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.
As 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 motor homes, 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 between 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 in coming months.
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.