How COVID-19 Changed RVing

Six significant ways that COVID-19 has impacted the RV lifestyle

It seems like we’ve been dealing with the various effects and consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic forever, but it’s really just been in the United States and Canada since February. There were reports of coronavirus infections prior to that time but community spread was first proven about eight months ago. It just feels like eight years.

What follows is an analysis of the impact COVID-19 has brought to the RV community. I’ll also offer several tips to help you navigate these impacts.

Seabreeze RV Park, Portland, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

First Impact: Campgrounds and RV parks close temporarily

On Tuesday, March 17th, a Florida state campground ranger knocked on a camper’s door, stood back, and informed them they had to leave the campground and park by that Friday. Everyone camping in the Florida State Parks was being evicted—no exceptions.

Buccaneer State Park, Mississippi © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Numerous accounts of campers being forced out of their campgrounds and RV parks surfaced coast-to-coast. As RV parks closed, many snowbirds, full-time, and other far-from-home RVers were stranded. Our future RV park reservation was cancelled and we were left scrambling.

Columbia River RV Park, Portland, Oregon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Closing campgrounds and RV parks was the first major impact of COVID-19 facing RVers. For us, it was the red flag warning that this virus was not something that we could ignore. By mid-March, national, state, county, and private campgrounds were closing coast-to-coast due to an increasing number of COVID-19 shut-downs and shelter-in-place orders. 

The Barnyard RV Park, Lexington, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

By late April, Campendium reported 46-percent of their listed campgrounds were closed due to the pandemic. Essentially half of the possible campground sites across the continent were shut down. Over the course of the following four months, federal, state, and local authorities lifted and adjusted coronavirus-related orders allowing RV parks to reopen. By mid-July, Campendium reported just 9-percent of their listed campgrounds remain closed. Although they have not updated that information, it’s likely to have further improved.

Whispering Oaks RV Park, Weimar, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

We’re all hopeful that the worst of this wretched experience is behind us and RV park closures do not return. Don’t let what happened to us happen to you. Have a Plan B campsite plan ready, COVID or not. The best made plans can occasionally fall through on the road. Things do happen.

Columbia Sun RV Park, Kennewick, Washington © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Second Impact: High RV demand

Seemingly every journalist who could locate their laptop has published an excited article on how RVing is the “best socially-distanced travel alternative to flying and cruising”. It’s as if every network, newspaper, and knucklehead blogger simultaneously discovered RVs and decided to join the Go RVing marketing team.

Leaf Verde RV Park, Buckeye, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Having read a few of these articles I have no doubt that most of these reporters have never stepped foot in an RV and are probably bored out of their minds working at home. You can almost hear them mutter, “Maybe I could get an RV and get out of here”.

The Lakes RV and Golf Resort, Chowchilla, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This coverage has triggered unprecedented demand for RVs from the general public while ill-preparing newbies for life on the road. Obviously this has been an unexpected godsend for the RV industry but it’s not all roses and sunshine for those of us who already love the RV lifestyle.

Creek Fire RV Resort, Savannah, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Third Impact: Tight RV supply

RVs are flying off dealer lots and showrooms across the United States and Canada. Inventory is currently the lowest they’ve ever seen. And RV manufacturers hampered by COVID-19 shutdowns and related supply shortages are struggling to keep up with the extraordinary demand the pandemic triggered. You can still find RVs on dealer lots but selection is limited. 

Terre Haute KOA, Indiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you want a new RV that’s not in stock at your local dealer place an order as soon as possible. Otherwise, it may be a long wait before they have what you’re looking for on their lot. With the high demand and the short supply of new RVs, interest in pre-owned RVs is also high.

Alamo State Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fourth Impact: Stretched RV service

For years the RV industry has struggled to find qualified service techs. When the pandemic created a tremendous surge in new customers, it exacerbated already tight service availability. Service has been further hampered as customers, managers, and service techs are required to maintain social distancing and a variety of safety protocols.

When you require RV service, call for an appointment as early as possible. When you call, be prepared for an appointment date further out than you would prefer as dealers work through an increasing service demand.

Tom Sawyer RV Park, West Memphis, Arkansas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fifth Impact: Strained RV park availability

The surge in RV popularity has also dramatically increased demand for campgrounds and RV parks. This demand may subside once people feel safe flying, cruising, and staying in hotels again. COVID-19 has allowed a host of newbies to discover the magic and fun of the RV lifestyle but not all will stay with it.

Make RV park reservations as far in advance as possible to increase the likelihood of obtaining the site you desire. Once again, have a Plan B campsite or overnight location in place.

Eagle Landing RV Park, Auburn, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sixth Impact: Travel restrictions

As of this writing, the United States and Canada have agreed to extend the border closings to non-essential travel through November 21. Furthermore, some U.S. states have their own specific travel restrictions and may require self-quarantine for 14-days. 

Needless to say, these restrictions are not exactly what, “Go Anywhere” RVing is all about! As the COVID-19 situation improves these travel restrictions will change. Be sure to research any possible travel restrictions along your route before setting out and keep an eye on them as you travel.

Palm Canyon Campground, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Bottom Line: COVID stinks, but we can adapt

The impacts of COVID-19 are negative and positive, sometimes at the same time. We are pleased to see the RV industry doing so well. At the same time that strength and interest in RVing has brought its own challenges. These six impacts should be temporary but they cannot be ignored.

In summary, anything and everything related to RVs—including the availability of units, service, campgrounds and RV parks, dump stations, national and state parks, BLM lands, and even rentals are all experiencing higher demand than ever before. As RVers, it’s important to understand these new realities and ways to deal with them.

Las Vegas RV Resort, Las Vegas, Nevada © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Nothing lasts forever and this too will pass. RV manufacturers will eventually meet the increased demand, and that demand will subside to normal. RV dealers will eventually work through the increased service need and that too will return to normal. RV parks will expand and new parks will emerge as the reservations return to what was prior to COVID. And yes, RV travel between Canada and the United States will resume.

Worth Pondering…

We are continually faced by great opportunities brilliantly disguised as insoluble problems!

—Lee Iacocca

Tips for Finding the Perfect RV Model and Floor Plan

Here is how to find the perfect RV model for YOU

If you are a first time RV shopper, you might be surprised—and a little overwhelmed—at how many options there are out there! Once you have settled on the type of RV you are looking for (travel trailer, fifth wheel, motorhome), you’ll still have to decide the size and floor plan that will best suit your needs.

There is something for everyone out there. Here are our top 10 tips for finding the perfect RV model FOR YOU.

2019 Newmar Dutch Star Class A motorhome at Ambassador RV Park, Caldwell, Idaho © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Know Your Numbers

Research your tow capacity and payload capacity if you are purchasing a towable. Use your VIN to get the specs directly from the vehicle manufacturer. If you are buying a motorhome, check the weight of any vehicle you plan to tow behind the RV. Purchasing an RV that doesn’t work with your current vehicle situation can be expensive and unsafe.

2019 Newmar Dutch Star Class A motorhome bedroom with king bed © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

How Many Dedicated Beds Do You Need?

Check for RV floor plans that offer a dedicated bed for everyone who will be sleeping in the rig most of the time. Having to make up the dinette or pull out the sleeper sofa every night soon becomes a drag and a frustrating chore. Families with children will be happy to find bunk models in select models. Other models offer a Murphy bed floor plan option.

2019 Newmar Dutch Star Class A motorhome kitchen area © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Full Bath, Wet Bath, or No Bath?

Some RVers love having their own private bathroom no matter where they travel. Others are fine with the idea of using campground comfort stations. Since this is an important part of the RV experience, you will want to think this one through carefully.

Many smaller RV offer wet baths, bathrooms without a separate stall for the shower. Think hard about whether this will be a deal breaker for you.

Boondocking at Anza-Borrego State Park, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Will You Boondock?

If you plan to boondock (dispersed camping in places without hookups), search for RVs with larger fresh water, gray water, and black tanks. Other attractive features for folks looking to get off the grid are on-board generators and solar panels.

2019 Newmar Dutch Star Class A motorhome kitchen with electric refrigerator and microwave © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Consider How You Plan To Live Inside the RV

There’s no right way to camp. Some people are shopping for an RV with a clean bathroom and comfortable beds that will keep them warm and cozy at night. Other campers are seeking a smaller version of their sticks and bricks house, with all the creature comforts of home. Think about how you want to live in the RV, and make sure the floor plan will support that dream.

2019 Newmar Dutch Star Class A motorhome living room and dining area (doubles as work station) © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What Cooking Arrangements Best Suit Your Camping Lifestyle?

Some people use their RV kitchens on a daily basis, and other people always eat out. If the RV kitchen is a major draw for you, check for storage, counter space, refrigerator size, and oven availability. If you love to cook in the open air, check out outdoor kitchen options.

Fifth wheel trailer at Vista del Sol RV Resort, Bullhead City, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Will You Work Out of the RV?

The ability to work remotely leads numerous people to check out the RV lifestyle. If you’re planning to work on the road, make sure you choose a floor plan with a built-in desk or space for a mobile office.

2019 Newmar Dutch Star Class A motorhome connected to city utilities © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Where Will All the “Stuff” Go?

Storage capacity varies between models and floor plans. Consider the items you want to pack. From the big stuff like bikes, kayaks, and golf clubs, to the smaller things like clothes, linens and towels, food, and kitchen supplies. Imagine where all your stuff will go.

2019 Newmar Dutch Star Class A motorhome at Gila Bend KOA, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Kitchen and Bathroom Access in Travel Mode

One of the benefits of RV travel is being able to use the bathroom and prepare lunch in the RV kitchen while at rest stops. Make sure you can access everything you will need without extending the slides. Can you access the bathroom, open the refrigerator, and get into the bedroom? Ask the salesperson to bring in the slides for you to check.

Take your time and have fun with this part of the RV shopping experience. There are so many great RVs out there right now, so make sure to find the perfect one for you.

2019 Newmar Dutch Star Class A motorhome at Midtown RV © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In the interests of full disclosure, we currently own a 2019 Dutch Star diesel pusher. This is our fifth Newmar motorhome and Midtown RV in Penticton, British Columbia, is our trusted dealer. Yes, great customer service matters.

Worth Pondering…

Quality is never an accident; it is always the result of intelligent effort.

—John Ruskin

Buying an RV

Take your time, do your homework, talk to owners of similar models, and locate a good reputable dealer who stands behind his products and provides quality service

We’ve been cooped up for months. Now, we are contending with summer sans festivals, fairs, sporting events, and concerts. Pent-up and ready to pop, we’re in desperate need of a vacation.

Alas, planning a vacation during a pandemic is like marching through a sandy beach in 6-inch stilettos. Aside from health concerns, there are travel restrictions, crowds, closures, mandatory quarantines, mask requirements, and confined capsules otherwise known as airplanes to contend with which may be why many are opting for the open road aboard a rolling abode.

7 Feathers Casino RV Park, Canyonville, Oregon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With so many models, brands, sizes, and amenities to choose from, it can be difficult to know which RV is right for you and your family. Whether you’re a first-time buyer or upgrading your unit, this article will help guide you through the process of purchasing an RV.

Columbia River RV Park, Portland, Oregon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What to Consider When Buying an RV

There are 5 major factors to nail down before you can really start looking to buy an RV.

Seabreeze RV Park, Portland, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. Budget

How much do you have to spend on your RV?

Will you be financing your RV?

How much are you willing to spend on fuel, maintenance, and insurance costs?

Do you want to buy a new or pre-owned RV?

Leaf Verde RV Park, Buckeye, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2. Use

How often and for how long do you plan to use your RV?

What type of camping will you be doing? Weekend warrior or long-term? State and national park campgrounds or RV resorts?

Canyon Vista RV Resort, Gold Canyon, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. Size

How many people do you need to sleep?

How much storage do you require?

Will campsites you plan to use accept your vehicle length?

Durango RV Resort, Red Bluff, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. Towing

What size of rig are you comfortable driving or towing?

What is the tow rating of your tow vehicle? You’ll want to stay well within this limit or consider upgrading your tow vehicle.

Will you tow a car behind your motorhome (4-wheels down or dolly)?

Pala Casino RV Resort, Pala, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

5. Features

What features are necessities?

What features are nice-to-haves?

Coastal Georgia RV Resort, Brunswick, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Where to Buy an RV

Regardless of where you live in the US or Canada, there are many options for purchasing a new or pre-owned RV.

Gulf Coast RV Resort, Beaumont, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. RV Shows

Each year, recreational vehicle associations and RV dealers put on RV shows throughout the United States and Canada. The largest consumer RV Shows take place in Tampa, Florida in January, Hershey, Pennsylvania in September, and Pomona, California in October. At these shows you will find hundreds of RVs for sale and booths packed with RV accessories.

With many RV dealers in one place, you can check out the hundreds of RV models of all different types and sizes. There is something for every budget.

The Barnyard RV Park, Lexington, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2. RV dealers

If you missed the RV shows, weren’t ready to buy, or plan to special order a unit, dealers are a great option. They’ll have a selection of new and pre-owned RVs. Different dealerships carry different brands and models of RVs and they may offer different incentives. It’s a good idea to check a few different dealerships out, especially if you’re not certain on which RV you want.

Rain Spirit RV Park, Cottonwood, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. Private Sales

If you’re looking for a pre-owned RV, check out what is available in private sales. Be aware, though, that you may be buying someone else’s problem. A vehicle inspection is recommended.

Distant Drums RV Resort, Camp Verde, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Advice on Buying an RV

Always do your research on the brand, model, and seller. Not all manufacturers and RV dealers are created equal.

Don’t be afraid to walk away if a seller makes you feel uncomfortable or is showing you units above your price range or not what you really want.

Best of luck with your buying journey and your next adventures!

Moving from the old to the new at Midtown RV © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In the interests of full disclosure, we currently own a 2019 Dutch Star diesel pusher. This is our fifth Newmar motorhome and Midtown RV in Penticton, British Columbia, is our trusted dealer.

Worth Pondering…

Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning.

—Gloria Steinem

Taking Delivery of Our New Motorhome

2019 Dutch Star arrived

The pre-delivery inspection (PDI) and systems check completed by our dealer, we took delivery of our 2019 Dutch Star 3717 on Tuesday, November 27.

Everything looked pretty good. The new coach is well appointed with polished porcelain tile floors that extend into each slideout, full hardwood (wicker glazed maple) window treatments, carved feature ceiling, Bose Solo 5 Soundbar sound system, retractable 49-inch Sony TV, two recliners with reading lights, computer desk dinette combo with free standing hidden-leaf table, KIB backlit switch plates for interior lighting, Whirlpool two-piece stacking washer and drier, king bed, driver side power window, under-step shoe storage, and keyless entry.

Taking delivery of our 2019 Newmar Dutch Star © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Distinctive kitchen features include Whirlpool 19.7 residential-style refrigerator, Whirlpool stainless steel convection microwave with three-burner recessed gas cooktop, gas oven, pull-out pantry shelves, and galley extension with large double stainless steel sink, additional work space, and storage.

Taking delivery of our 2019 Newmar Dutch Star; moving from the old to the new © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Our keyless entry system allows for entry into the coach without the use of a key. It requires the use of a remote control or correct code to unlock the door. Our coach also has power-locking baggage doors.

Taking delivery of our 2019 Newmar Dutch Star; moving from the old to the new © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Last spring we put in a custom order for a new motor coach with our trusty dealer, Midtown RV in Penticton, British Columbia. This is our fifth Newmar motorhome and the third purchased from Midtown.

Taking delivery of our 2019 Newmar Dutch Star; the interior © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The same length and a somewhat similar floor plan to our current 2012 model. This is the longest we’ve owned an RV since we started our snowbird lifestyle 22 years ago. We figured that if we were going to get a new diesel pusher now was the time due to our age and the fact that our extended warranty had elapsed and we required an outlay of $10,000-$15,000 for new tires and batteries and several upgrades I wanted including WiFi Ranger. Expected delivery was early October. Several factory delays and we finally took possession of our new coach.

Taking delivery of our 2019 Newmar Dutch Star; the interior © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

An option we included in our custom order, the WiFi Ranger is a wireless router that creates our own private Wi-Fi network in the coach while simultaneously connecting to and boosting Wi-Fi hotspots.

There are also multiple outlets for keeping electronics powered up and even wireless charging pads next to both the driver and passenger seats.

Taking delivery of our 2019 Newmar Dutch Star; the interior © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A Dometic cooler is located on a pull-out tray in a basement bin. Electronically controlled, it can be used for both heating and cooling. It can be a freezer, or it can be a beer fridge. It can be whatever you want it to be.

Taking delivery of our 2019 Newmar Dutch Star; the interior © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A second door leads to open space for storage, while a third contains an even bigger storage space; this one includes a sliding drawer, offering easy access to items that would otherwise have to be pushed far out of arm’s reach. A fourth door opens to shelves and a pegboard; an actual replacement for a typical tool shed.

Taking delivery of our 2019 Newmar Dutch Star; the interior © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Built on a Freightliner XCR chassis and 450 HP Cummins diesel engine with 1,250 ft. lb. of torque, a test drive determined that the coach is a pleasure to drive. Features like Newmar’s Comfort Drive Steering allows for easy maneuverability with just a light grip on the wheel. You simply steer the coach like you would any other vehicle, and adjust the dial on the dash to suit your preference for steering effort. I prefer a higher setting which takes much of the movement out of the wheel especially on windy days.

2019 Newmar Dutch Star at Ambassador RV Resort in Caldwell, Idaho © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In addition, our Dutch Star is supported by Newmar’s ultra-durable STAR Foundation for a quieter ride.

A half-day-plus customer walk-through helped familiarize us with the coach and component parts.

2019 Newmar Dutch Star at Angel Lake RV Park in Wells, Nevada © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Our coach is equipped with the Oasis hydronic heating system. This system uses a “boiler” and a pump to heat and recirculate hot fluid through a series of convectors placed throughout the unit. The Oasis system uses two different sources for heat, the diesel burner and the electric heating element. The diesel burner is the primary and most efficient heat source with an output of 50,000 BTUs. The Oasis system provides the coach with hot water on demand and furnace heat.

2019 Newmar Dutch Star at Los Vegas RV Resort in Los Vegas, Nevada © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Our coach is also equipped with radiant floor heat that uses a heat mat placed between the tile and the floor structure. A controller regulates the temperature and the timed heat cycles depending on the control setting—low, medium, and high. We find the low setting more than adequate for our comfort level. The floor heat operates on 120 volt AC power.

And the coach is all clean again © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Our coach is also equipped with a fresh water tank auto fill which is enabled at the monitor panel touchscreen inside the coach. The touchscreen further indicates the fresh, gray, and black water and LP gas level in 5 percent increments along with the chassis and house batteries charge.

2019 Newmar Dutch Star at Vista del Sol RV Resort in Bullhead City, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Our coach is as beautiful on the outside as it is comfortable inside. We really like the colors of the Cobblestone exterior with the varied shades of silver gray and charcoal. Between 12 and 16 gallons of paint are used on each model. Several types of primer are applied, followed by a base coat, color for graphics, and a final clear coat. Finally, a Diamond Shield Paint Protector is utilized in areas of the coach most susceptible to bugs and rock chips. Stainless steel trim on baggage doors and kick panel at entrance door complete the look.

2019 Newmar Dutch Star at Los Quintas RV Resort in Yuma, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Other features include transfer switch with energy management system, surge protection, 50-foot 50-amp power cord with rewind wheel, and power water hose reel.

2019 Newmar Dutch Star at Gila Bend KOA in Gila Bend, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Living in an RV—whether it’s part-time or full-time—isn’t about the places you can go. It’s about the journey, not the destination. Nothing beats the experience of driving down the road in a motor coach! You’re elevated, and you get to take it all in—a panoramic view.

2019 Newmar Dutch Star at Casa Grande RV Resort in Casa Grande, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Dutch Star itself is available in 12 different floor plans, with four cabinetry finish options, three exterior paint choices, and three interior color schemes, which encompass the furniture, fabric, flooring, and countertop choices. There is also a handicap model available, which is accessible with a lift and ramp.

2019 Newmar Dutch Star at Grand Canyon Railway RV Park in Williams, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A manufacturer of Class A motorhomes, Newmar has chosen to lead rather than follow and deliver a high level of craftsmanship, innovation, and customer support. Newmar was founded in 1968 for one simple reason: to build a better RV.

2019 Newmar Dutch Star at iRwins RV Park in Valemont, British Columbia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

NEWMAR: When You Know The Difference

Worth Pondering…

We chose an RV and RV lifestyle that’s right for us.

How to Choose the Right RV and the Right RV Dealership?

Your first step in purchasing an RV is to ask yourself what you would like to do in your recreational vehicle

Recreational vehicles are a great way to see the country and allow owners the freedom to travel.

They are great for weekends and extended vacations, but they are a major investment. And purchasing an RV is considerably more complicated than buying a car.

2019 Newmar Dutch Star Class A motorhome at Ambassador RV Resort, Caldwell, Idaho © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Your first step in purchasing an RV is to ask yourself what you would like to do in your trailer or motorhome. Do you plan to use it for family trips to a nearby lake or for extended travel across the country? Or as a second home in the winter and travel south to a Sunbelt state where it’s sunny, warm, and without snow? Perhaps you’re thinking of selling your home and living full-time in an RV.

Laredo fifth-wheel trailer by Keystone RV at Ambassador RV Resort, Caldwell, Idaho © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

What sizes and styles do you prefer? Will you buy a new or pre-owned RV?

The more time you plan to spend in your RV, the more carefully you need to consider your purchase. There’s no right way to camp. Some people are shopping for an RV with a clean bathroom and comfortable beds that will keep them warm and cozy at night. Other campers are seeking a smaller version of their sticks and bricks house, with all the creature comforts of home. Will everyone be able to eat a meal, play a board game, or watch a movie? Think about how you want to live in the RV, and make sure the floor plan will support that dream.

Coachmen Apex travel trailer at Ambassador RV Resort, Caldwell, Idaho © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

If you are a first time RV shopper, you might be surprised—and a little overwhelmed—at how many options there are out there. Once you have settled on the type of RV you are looking for (travel trailer, fifth wheel, motorhome), you’ll still have to decide the size and floor plan that will suit you best.

Thor Motor Coach Tuscany Class A motorhome at The Motorcoach Resort, Chandler, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

While you’re trying to determine how you want to use your RV, do some homework. Use the Internet to browse RV brands and styles. Be aware that all manufacturers are not created equal.

If your friends or neighbors own an RV talk with them about their vehicle and their experiences.  Look through the interior; examine various options so you can understand what is available.

Thor Motor Coach Hurricane Class A motorhome at Gila Bend KOA, Gila Bend Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

A key factor is size. If you are only planning to use it sporadically, then size might not be an issue. But if you plan on living out of the vehicle for extended periods of time, then a larger RV may be more comfortable. Be aware that some older campgrounds and RV parks have restrictions on size.

2019 Newmar Dutch Star with interior features that include a computer desk, pull-out dining table, and recliners with foot rests © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Additional features can make your ride enjoyable. Choose items that would make your trip as comfortable as possible.

Every RV is a bit different than the next, and some options will be more important to you than others. That’s why it’s important to have a list of “must haves” vs. “nice to haves” before you even start looking. Here are a few features that may or may not be on your list depending on your RV lifestyle:

  • Large awning
  • Outdoor TV
  • Power and automated systems for stabilizing jacks and levelers
  • Smart technology to power mobile devices
2019 Newmar Dutch Star Class A motorhome at Vista del Sol RV Resort, Bullhead City, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Once you become more acquainted with the marketplace, start visiting RV dealers. After all your research, you should be better prepared to speak with the salespeople clearly and confidently.

One of the greatest benefits of RV travel is being able to use the bathroom and have lunch in our RV kitchen while at rest stops. If this is also important to you, make sure you can access everything you will need even with the slides in. Can you access the bathroom, open the refrigerator, and get into the bedroom? Ask the salesperson to bring in the slides for you to make sure the travel mode will work for you and your family.

Outback travel trailer by Keystone at Quinta Oasis RV Resort, Yuma, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Most dealers have an on-site service department. Most RV repairs are specialized and different from regular vehicles.

Like all vehicles, RVs need maintenance and repairs from time to time. When you need to repair or maintain your vehicle, it is essential that you deal with professionals. You will need experienced and excellent customer service. Be aware that all dealers are not created equal.

From the old to the new at Midtown RV © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

After all, your RV is an enormous investment. Don’t trust it to just anyone.

In the interests of full disclosure, we currently own a 2019 Dutch Star diesel pusher. This is our fifth Newmar motorhome and Midtown RV in Penticton, British Columbia, is our trusted dealer. Yes, great customer service matters.

Worth Pondering…

Quality is never an accident; it is always the result of intelligent effort.

—John Ruskin

The RV Purchase Experience

How RV dealers can better engage the consumer

If you are a first time RV shopper, you might be surprised—and a little overwhelmed—at the vast number of options available.

Once you have decided on the type of recreational vehicle (travel trailer, fifth wheel, motorhome), you’ll need to consider the length and floor plan that best suits your needs.

Moving from the old to the new motorhome. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

There is something for everyone out there and dealers to sell you the RV that is the best fit for your needs.

AVALA, a Rollick Company, recently released the results of their recent survey of 3,000 consumers engaged in the recreational vehicle buying process from 2017-2018.

These results are included in their whitepaper, “The Recreation Shopping Experience: Why Customers Buy and How to Ensure They Buy From You.”

The old and the new at our RV dealer © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Four major themes were explored in the survey: Brand consideration and switching, dealer follow-up, satisfaction drivers, and why people leave the market.

While the results of the survey are intended to assist dealers in their sales process, it also holds interest for the RV consumer.

According to the study, 81.2 percent of respondents seriously consider purchasing other brands, 43.1 percent of dealers suggested other brands, and 67.6 percent of respondents purchased the brand they originally inquired about. 

It was an easy decision not to change brands when we decided to upgrade to a new model. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Somewhere along the purchase process, consumers are being persuaded to switch brands. One reason for this is the dealers’ goal to sell the consumer the product that best fits their needs, not necessarily the brand they initially inquired about.

According to the data, the RV buyer took an average of 198 days to make a purchase. This is a long purchase cycle that begins with the initial contact at a dealership. There are many nurture opportunities within that time span.

However, only 57.5 percent of dealers continued to follow up after their initial contact with a potential buyer. And, on average dealers only followed up once with RV consumers following the initial contact.

Inside the new coach © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The survey showed that consumers were mostly satisfied with their RV dealer experience in all areas except for price. Price is a challenging topic because it can change over time and due to customization can be difficult to determine a final cost to the consumer.

The survey results suggested that dealers can do a better job of communicating an accurate price early in the relationship so that consumers begin the purchase process with reasonable expectations. Providing an accurate price at the beginning of the process helps the consumer build trust in the dealer and have reasonable expectations. This trust creates brand and customer loyalty.

At Las Vegas RV Resort out new coach is clean again © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Areas where customers reported satisfaction included facility cleanliness, product knowledge, staff timeliness and communication, availability to answer questions, and product availability.

The survey found the number one reason consumers decide to no longer purchase a recreational vehicle or to purchase a different brand is because of price. The second most common reason is because they found another brand that better meets their needs.

The snowbird lifestyle at Gila Bend KOA © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

On a scale of 1 to 5,  5 being the highest, consumers reported that when purchasing a recreational vehicle, the experience ranked a 3.2—about the same as their experience shopping in similar industries (like automotive). This still leaves plenty of room for improvement.

An RV is no small purchase, and the best dealers and manufacturers are run by those who understand what it takes to create a lifelong customer. A connection like this is the result of a total dedication to transparency, integrity, and responsiveness.

You are only as good as you make your customers feel. If you make your customers feel special you will stand out above the crowd.

The snowbird lifestyle at Vista del Sol RV Resort in Bullhead City, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

In the interests of full disclosure, we currently own a 2019 Dutch Star diesel pusher. This is our fifth Newmar motorhome and Midtown RV in Penticton, British Columbia, is our trusted dealer. Yes, great customer service matters.

Worth Pondering…

Without a customer, you don’t have a business—all you have is a hobby.

—Don Peppers