Why are RVs So Popular?

RV sales have been steadily rising for the last decade but the numbers were supercharged by the pandemic

Recreational vehicles are hot these days, but for how long?

The truth is the RV business has been hot for almost 10 years. In fact, RV manufacturers are up over 24 percent from last year.

Class A motorhome at the dealer © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As of March 2021, 11.2 million U.S. households owned RVs, according to the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA). That’s up 26 percent since 2011.

What’s even more striking is that 9.6 million additional households say they are considering buying an RV in the next five years, says Monika Geraci, communications director at RVIA.

Travel trailer at an RV park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The reasons? Wanting to spend more time outside, to take advantage of teleworking policies, and to travel safely despite pandemic risks, she said.

“People have just rediscovered the great outdoors, and that really spills over into the RV industry.”

Fifth-wheel trailer at an RV park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A record 57,971 RVs were produced in October (2021) or 5 percent more than the previous record hit just the previous month in September. The October production figure is a 22 percent jump from RVs that rolled off the line the same month a year ago.

Class A motorhome interior © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What’s more, the industry estimates that this year will see a 40 percent spike in the number of RVs produced—or 602,200—compared to 2020 and 19 percent more than the last record in 2017, when the industry produced 504,600 RVs.

Related: RV Sales Continue to Soar and Here Are the Reasons Why

So, what is driving this prolonged hot trend in RV popularity? It turns out that the reasons people are turning to RVing are as many and as varied as the people themselves. Let’s explore some of the most popular reasons folks of all ages and backgrounds are jumping on the RV trend.

Class A motorhome at an RV park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The changing financial climate

There is no question that recent economic concerns have played a huge role in the increased interest in RVs. Americans at every stage of life from retired empty nesters to millennials are looking for ways to downsize their lifestyle and reduce their living expenses. With more and more RVs now coming equipped with full-size appliances and furnishings crafted by the same big-name brands that populate home living rooms around the country, it has become easier and easier to see an RV as a true home on wheels.

Travel trailer at campground © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Some have turned to RVs as a more economical way to travel the country and explore new places without the high cost of airfare, rental cars, and hotel stays.

Others have gone all-in by trading in their permanent address for a full-time nomadic existence. This option has become increasingly popular with millennials looking for a low-cost alternative to a pricey mortgage and sky-high utility bills. Some RVs offer interior features like fireplaces, theater-style seating, LED televisions, and ceiling fans, just like a traditional home.

Airstream travel trailer at campground © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

An increase in remote work opportunities

Another key factor behind the rising popularity of RV life is the growing shift away from a static office-based work environment and into a more flexible, remote work system. This new style of work means Americans are no longer tethered to a particular location by their employer; they are now able to earn a steady income from anywhere they wish to be. As a result, more and more Americans are ditching the time clock and the crowded cities in favor of a more relaxed and peaceful RV lifestyle.

Truck camper at campground © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Technological advancements

The last decade of technological advancements has expanded access to reliable, inexpensive network connections in nearly every area of the country. While the work is by no means complete, the groundwork has been established and there is at least some degree of connectivity available in all but the most remote of locations. Let’s have a look at some of the best options.

Related: Meet the RVs: Find the Right RV Class for Your Travel Style

Travel trailer at campground © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A mobile hotspot device can come in the form of an independent device provided by your cellular provider or it can be incorporated right into your mobile device, depending on your phone model and service provider. AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon all offer inexpensive, reliable devices that are capable of providing a high-speed internet connection for multiple devices almost anywhere.

Class A motorhome at an RV park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A public Wi-Fi signal is provided by most RV parks and campgrounds. This is a solid option if you are going to be staying in a community or campground and it will help save your cellular data for more remote locations.

Teardrop trailer at an RV park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A satellite internet service is by far the priciest of the internet connectivity options but it provides the most reliable and widely available service. Satellite internet service works by mounting an independent satellite receiver unit to the rooftop of your RV which is then programmed to receive satellite signals from the satellite internet provider of your choice. The provider choices have been fairly slim but as the popularity of RV living grows, the pool of providers is expanding, leading to a much higher quality of service overall.

Newmar Service Center © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Some RVs now come equipped with the new WiFiRanger Sky4 Wi-Fi router and signal booster as part of the standard equipment package enabling RV owners to enjoy a reliable, fast, and best of all secure internet connection using an available Wi-Fi, 3G, 4G, or LTE signal.

Related: Meet the RVs: The Towables

Building motorhomes at an RV factory © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Pandemic related health concerns

The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic at the start of 2020, followed by the subsequent quarantines and travel restrictions, has made many Americans more reluctant to hop on a crowded airplane for a cross-country flight. This health-related hesitancy is likely to remain for some time to come. RV travel allows vacationers to control every aspect of their environment at every step of the journey.

Fifth-wheel trailer at an RV park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There is no need to wonder who was staying in the hotel room before you or how well the surfaces were cleaned and sanitized before your arrival. There is no need to wonder if the rental car steering wheel or door handles were cleaned after the last use or who was riding in the back of the taxicab or shuttle before you. With RV travel, you have the assurance and peace of mind knowing that you and your family are the only ones to use your space.

Motorhome at an RV park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Social distancing is a cinch with RV travel. With thousands of RV parks, campground sites to choose from, you can easily select the level of social interaction you are comfortable with on any given day.

Class A motorhomes at the Freightliner Custom Chassis Service Center © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A growing “YOLO” mindset

If the challenges and the triumphs of the last year have taught us nothing else, they have opened our eyes to the uncertainty of life. This epiphany has fueled the growth of the “YOLO” (You Only Live Once) mindset. RVing offers the financial freedom and the freedom of movement that allows Americans to truly get out there and experience everything that life has to offer right now instead of putting it off until some better time that may never arrive.

Related: RVs Move America

Motorhome at an RV park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Conclusion

The biggest driver of the recent surge in the popularity of RV ownership is a combination of many of the factors discussed above, all coming together to create a newfound urge to live life to the fullest while we have the chance.

Worth Pondering…

Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.

―Marie Curie (1867-1934), physicist and chemist

RV Sales Continue to Soar and Here Are the Reasons Why

Do you ever drive past an RV dealer and wonder who is buying them? Turns out, lots of people!

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.

Motorhomes at an RV dealer © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Teardrop trailer at an RV park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Related: Meet the RVs: Find the Right RV Class for Your Travel Style

Travel trailer at an RV park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Fifth-wheel trailer at an RV park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Newmar Service Center in Nappanee, Indiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“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

Newmar Service Center in Nappanee, I Indiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Freightliner Custom Chassis Service Center in Gaffney, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Newmar Service Center in Nappanee, Indiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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”.

Freightliner Custom Service Center in Gaffney, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Newmar Service Center in Nappanee, Indiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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

RVs parked at Mount Rushmore National Memorial in South Dakota © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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
RV manufacturing factory tour © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Worth Pondering…

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

Meet the RVs: The Towables

Recreational vehicles take many different forms—from small and simple tow trailers to mobile mansions with king-sized beds and granite countertops

Consumer preferences have changed drastically since the start of the pandemic with travel being no exception. Thousands of Americans and Canadians have opted out of airline tickets and hotel reservations in favor of RVs, a safer method of travel that allows for self-contained excursions with a bedroom, bathroom, and kitchen all on-board.

Travel trailer at Rivers Run RV Resort, Bakersfield, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you’re here, you’re probably wondering if the RV lifestyle is for you. Good news—it most likely is! Because RVs offer so much variety in form, function, and value, there’s bound to be an RV that suits your lifestyle and travel needs. Just like families, RVs come in all shapes and sizes. From large class A motorhomes and fifth wheel trailers to compact pop-ups and camper vans, there is an RV that will fit your lifestyle. From weekend getaways to touring the great outdoors to working from the road, there’s an RV for every family and every budget.

When deciding between different types of RVs, it is important to understand the features and amenities associated with each and the pros and cons. The categories are not super difficult to grasp. Motorhomes come in Classes A, B, and C and trailers break down into fifth wheels and travel trailers. I’ll dive right into each category including its pros and cons, model details, features and amenities, and approximate cost. In today’s post we’ll focus on the various types of towable RVs.

Fifth wheel at Alamo Lake State Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Trailer Types

A trailer is different from a motorhome in that it must be towed behind another vehicle. To match the towing vehicle with the trailer requires knowledge of the weight of the trailer and the towing capacity of the tow vehicle. The most common types of trailers are fifth wheels and travel trailers, each of which has different requirements.

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

Fifth Wheels Trailers

A large picture window at the rear of the RV for panoramic views is one thing that sets fifth wheels apart from other RVs. Fifth wheels often come with the same amenities as a Class A motorhome. It is common to have three or more slideouts in a fifth-wheel. These trailers are constructed with a raised forward section that provides a more spacious bi-level floor plan. They are designed to be towed by a pickup truck equipped with a device known as a fifth-wheel hitch.

The term “fifth wheel” comes from the configuration of the trailer itself. The front of the trailer is elevated off the ground and extends over the bed of a truck where a hitching mechanism fixes it to the truck bed. This setup makes the fifth wheel trailer easier to navigate than trailers towed behind a car’s bumper as the fifth wheel tracks more closely to the truck.

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

Model Details

Length: 21-40 feet

Cost: $43,000-$120,000+

Sleeps: 2-8

Typical Features & Amenities

Large living area

Large residential kitchen

Large bathroom with walk-in shower and toilet

Fifth wheel at Lost Dutchman State Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Pros:

Spacious and potentially luxurious

Lots of storage space

Better maneuverability than a travel trailer

Cons:

Require tow vehicle equipped with a fifth-wheel hitch

Use of a truck means less room for passengers

Travel trailer at Sonoran Desert RV Resort, Gila Bend, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Travel Trailers

Travel Trailers are the most popular type of RV because they come in all shapes and sizes and can accommodate solo travelers all the way up to large families. As long as the vehicle is equipped with a standard trailer hitch, smaller travel trailer models can be towed by mid-size vehicles including an SUV or minivan while larger models can be towed with a pickup truck.

Travel trailers are lighter and less expensive than fifth wheels and can range in size from cozy to roomy.

Travel trailer at Lost Dutchman State Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Model Details

Length: 20-35 feet

Cost: $25,000-$80,000+

Sleeps: 2-8

Typical Features & Amenities

Residential kitchen

Full-size bathroom

Living area

Travel trailer at Picacho Peak State Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Pros:

Less expensive

Easy to move

Many vehicles can tow them

Cons:

Less spacious

Fewer conveniences

More difficult to maneuver that fifth wheel trailers

Pop-up camper at Lost Dutchman State Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Pop-up campers

Pop-up campers, also known as folding camping trailers, appeal to budget-conscious consumers looking for a lighter weight RV that allows for towing behind many typical family vehicles, including some small cars. Pop-ups are folded down to a more compact size for easy storage and travel. This style of RV also allows the user to feel closer to nature and connected to the outdoors by mimicking the feeling of sleeping outside.

Model Details

Length: 15-23 feet

Cost: $5,000-$25,000+

Sleeps: 2-8

Pros:

Budget-friendly

Low-profile and easy to tow

Can be towed by most vehicles

Cons:

Less spacious

Less insulated from weather

Few amenities

Expandable Trailers

A cross between a travel trailer and a pop-up camper, the expandable trailer ends pop out to offer more sleeping space. Expandable units are lighter than conventional travel trailers and more affordable.

Model Details

Length: 8-16 feet

Cost: $10,000-$20,000+

Sleeps: 2-8

Typical Features & Amenities

Expandable roof and/or sides

Light-weight

Towable by family car or SUV

Pros:

Budget-friendly

Low-profile and easy to tow

Can be towed by most vehicles

Cons:

Less spacious

Less insulated from weather

Few amenities

Toy hauler at River Run RV Resort, Bakersfield © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sport Utility RVs

Sport utility RVs, also known as toy haulers, are built for those who want to take motorcycles, dirt bikes, ATVs, or other motorized toys on the road with them while RVing. The back of the RV drops down forming a ramp for access into a garage area where sporting equipment and motorized toys can be stored safely and accessed quickly. This type of RV can be made as a travel trailer, fifth wheel, or a Class A motorhome. The garage area and living quarters are usually separated by a wall.

Model Details

Length: 19-40 feet

Cost: $30,000-$250,000+

Sleeps: 2-8

Typical Features & Amenities

Garage for toys and sports equipment

Lots of storage

Full kitchen

Pros:

Defined space for sports equipment

Lots of storage space

Choice of motorized or towable

Cons:

Reduced livable space

Extra length required for garage

Truck camper at Saguaro Lake, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Truck Campers

Truck Campers are portable units designed to be loaded onto the bed of a pickup truck. Because truck campers are easily loaded and unloaded from the truck they can be used as a pickup when not used as a camper. They are easy to drive and the truck’s bumper hitch can be used to tow boats, ATVs, and small trailers.

Model Details

Length: 8-20 feet

Cost: $20,000-$40,000+

Sleeps: 2-6

Typical Features & Amenities

Nimble and easy to drive

Easy to park

Good on rough terrain

Pros:

Fits in a garage

Truck can serve double purpose

Can go most anywhere

Cons:

Tight living quarters

Reduced livable space

Limited storage space

Worth Pondering…

The attraction of recreational vehicle travel is to see the country, visit new places, meet interesting people, and experience the freedom of the open road.

The Ins and Outs of Renting an RV

You don’t have to buy a home on wheels to enjoy the experience of camping in comfort

Ever see that classic movie The Long, Long Trailer about newlyweds, played by Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, hoping to make the honeymoon last as they travel across country in, well, a long, long trailer?

Class C motorhome at Dead Horse Point State Park, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Their RV dreams didn’t go exactly as planned but RV travel has come a long, long way since then. Especially with the need for social distancing and a sharp rise in the number of people working remotely, the RV experience is appealing to travelers who never considered it before. From young couples looking for new experiences to parents eager to make memories with their children to seniors enjoying their retirement freedom, people are hitting the road.

Class C motorhomes at Mount Rushmore National Memorial, South Dakota © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

You can park your RV at a campsite in a national or state park or a 5-star RV resort. And, if you’re not ready to buy your dream home-on-wheels, no problem! Rentals are available for you. Want to know the ins and outs? Read on…

Airstream travel trailer at The Barnyard RV Park, Lexington, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Where Can I Rent an RV?

Renters have two primary options: A major rental company that owns a fleet of its own RVs (e.g. Cruise America) or individuals who rent out their personal RVs when they aren’t using them (e.g. RVshare, the Airbnb of renting RVs).

Class A motorhome at Hacienda RV Resort, Las Cruces, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What Do I Have to Choose From?

You can rent everything from a tricked out van with no bathroom to a home on wheels complete with kitchen, living room, bathrooms, and all the amenities.

Fifth wheel trailer at Alamo Lake State Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

How Much Does It Cost to Rent an RV?

Simply put, as much as you want to spend—from a small RV rental to a luxury RV rental. Just to give you a ballpark, I found a drivable RV that sleeps 6 on RVshare.com for $179 a night or $1759 for 7 nights, including taxes and fees.

Class C motorhome at Palo Casino RV Park, Palo, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Are There Additional Fees Besides Taxes?

Most of the rentals have a mileage charge and some have a generator fee. At Cruise America, for example, the mileage fee for a 400-mile trip in a standard motorhome was $140. A kitchen kit (your dishes, pots, and pans, etc.) costs $110 if you add that option, though you can skip it and bring your own; the same is true of a personal kit (very basic linens, towels), which costs $60 per kit. With those additions, a four-night rental with a base total of $620 inches up to over $1000 by the time you add standard fees and taxes. And then there’s the damage deposit, though with any luck, you’ll get that back.

Class A motorhome at Coastal Georgia RV Resort, Brunswick, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

How Do I Know What to Rent?

That depends on your needs and your comfort level as a driver. Are you an off-the-grid adventurer happy to rough it or a family of five requiring a bathroom and a shower? More than two people would be cramped in a truck camper or souped-up van while a Class A motorhome can sleep 7 to 10.

There’s an awful lot to choose from out there, but basically, RVs break down into two main camps (no pun intended): towable and drivable.

Towable RVs at Gila Bend KOA, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Towable RVs

  • 5th Wheel: Requires a fifth-wheel hitch in your truck bed and a truck with sufficient towing capacity, a three-quarter-ton or more.
  • Travel Trailer: Attaches via trailer hitch and comes in different sizes, suitable for SUVs and pickups.
  • Popup Camper: Pull it behind just about anything. It expands (i.e., pops up) to give you more space once you reach your campsite.
Motorized RVs at JGW RV Park, Redding, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Motorized RVs

  • Class A: Think “big-as-a-bus house on wheels”
  • Class B: Think “oversized van”
  • Class C: Think “cab over driver”

(Why the smallest RV is a Class B and the mid-sized RV is called a Class C, we have no idea. It’s just one of those mysteries of the universe.)

Fifth wheel trailer at Lost Duthman State Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cruise America’s fleet includes large, standard, and compact RVs, as well as truck campers, all of them attached to the truck or chassis cab you’ll need to pull them. RVshare offers both drivable and towable RVs which you’ll rent from the owners. (You’ll need your own vehicle for the towable ones if you drive it yourself; some owners will deliver to the campsite for a fee.)

Worth Pondering…

The attraction of recreational vehicle travel is to see the country, visit new places, meet interesting people, and experience the freedom of the open road.