While COVID-19 rattled much of the travel industry, it has been a boon for the recreational vehicle market. Over the past year, the RV industry has experienced high demand and sales that have not been witnessed in a long time. Pent-up wanderlust amid the pandemic has breathed new life into the industry. After being cooped up at home for long periods of time amid the virus scare, people can experience the much-needed freedom and fun with RV vacations.
The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on international travel has inspired an increasing number of Americans and Canadians opting to explore their own backyard when picking a vacation spot. This rising number of people hitting the road for their vacations is bolstering sales of recreation vehicles which hit a record high in September, the latest month reporting.
According to the trade group, RV Industry Association (RVIA), the rising demand for the #VanLife and increased interest in a life on the road have boosted RV sales in recent months.
As a result of this growing interest in homes on wheels, the trade group reported that shipments of RVs reached a record high of 55,014 in September, an increase of 32.2 percent compared to the 41,600 units shipped during September 2020. This September was also the best on comparable record with shipments surpassing the September 2017 total of 43,598 units by 26 percent.
With the new report, the RV industry sets a new all-time high for the number of RVs shipped in any previous month and any previous quarter. The more than 55,000 RVs shipped this past month is a 1 percent increase over the previous single-month record set in March of this year. The record-breaking 152,370 RVs shipped in the third quarter (July-September 2021) inches past the previous quarterly record of 151,760 set last quarter (April-June 2021) and is also a 23 percent increase over the third quarter of 2020. It should be noted that the top three months for RV sales were all in 2021.
“With research showing more and more people are camping than ever before, RV manufacturers and suppliers continue to meet the sustained demand for RVs from consumers looking to get outdoors and experience the many physical and mental benefits of living an active outdoor lifestyle,” said RV Industry Association President & CEO Craig Kirby.
Related: Meet the RVs: The Towables
The latest sales figures showed that demand was split between towable and motorized RVs. Towable RVs, led by conventional travel trailers, ended the month up 33.4 percent against last September with 50,696 wholesale shipments. Motorhomes finished the month up 19.6 percent compared to the same month last year with 4,318 units.
As travelers look for new ways to transport everything including the kitchen sink, the RVIA noted that demand for van campers is rising the quickest. Sales across the segment were up 108 percent on the previous year and reached 1,245 during September 2021.
The only RV category to decline in the period was mini motorhomes which fell just 7 percent to 1,816.
This data partially explains the demographic shift away from large, densely populated cities to smaller and mid-sized communities. Many of the cities on the receiving end are happy to see newcomers after decades of decline in their industrial base hollowed out over decades of deindustrialization largely resulting from globalism. And their transition is a loss for states like California and New York that are hiking taxes and driving more taxpayers away.
Related: You Might Be an RVer If…
The trend is also fueled by rising home prices and a shift toward a remote-work lifestyle.
In the latest sign of this shift away from the more than decade-long shift of young people moving to big cities. Elkhart, Indiana, the “RV Capital of the World”, was the leading county in Realtor.com’s latest analysis of real estate markets. Elkhart County also topped the Wall Street Journal’s “Emerging Housing Markets Index” in Q3. The index claims to identify “the top metro areas for homebuyers seeking an appreciating housing market and appealing lifestyle amenities”.
It should be noted that about 80 percent of the RVs manufactured in the U.S. are made in northwestern Indiana, centered in Elkhart and LaGrange counties.
According to a recent Go RVing RV Owner Demographic Profile study, 27 percent of all current RV owners are young families—those who are under 45 years old and have children living at home. This trend is driven by changes in technology that allow parents to work remotely and their children to learn online—as well as a desire to spend time relaxing together.
Adventure is another motivator for young RV families and the study found that these families enjoy physical activities more than other demographics like mountain/rock climbing, motorsports (ATV, dirt bikes, motorcycles), water activities, hiking, and mountain biking. They often bring bikes, ATVs, boats, and kayaks along on their trips.
Related: Road Trip Inspiration
Other distinctions among young family RV owners include:
- 57 percent of current owners in this demographic grew up with RVs
- The median number of days they spend traveling in their RVs is 19 per year
- They are drawn to festivals more often than other demographics
- They are more likely to travel with laptops, iPads and tablets, video game consoles, home hubs and smartphones, and streaming devices
The most significant indicator of the longevity of this trend of RV ownership among young families is that 87 percent of current young family owners indicate that they plan to purchase another RV within the next five years.
The minute I step foot in the motorhome, I feel at ease. I don’t have anything else to think about except taking care of my family.
—Actress Jennie Garth