What Are ‘Covid Campers’?

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A covid camper parked in a national park

It seems like only yesterday we were talking about travel restrictions and many other issues impacting the RV community. Over the past several years, the term ‘Covid campers’ has begun to appear more frequently. But we don’t mean people.

So what’s the deal with these camper trailers? Are they as bad as people say? Answering these questions is more complex than most people would like.

Today, we’re diving into Covid campers and how they impact the industry. Let’s get started!

What Are ‘Covid Campers’?

Covid camper is a broad term for recreational vehicles built from 2020 through 2022. During this time, RV manufacturers faced multiple challenges in delivering them to consumers. Unfortunately, many who purchased these rigs weren’t happy campers.

It didn’t take long for issues to appear from the rushed production and a lack of quality control. Some customers feel their campers have become a money pit as something constantly breaks.

While RVs have been notorious for experiencing problems, it was more evident that they took shortcuts.

Unfortunately, many of these issues didn’t present themselves until consumers took possession of their RV. Some units spent weeks or months waiting to get into a repair shop.

They then discovered it would take weeks or months more to receive the parts. It was a frustrating and disappointing experience for the owners.

Did All RV Manufacturers Have Issues During the Pandemic?

Unfortunately, just about every RV manufacturer experienced problems during the pandemic. Increased demand for RVs, shipping delays, and a reduced workforce plagued the entire industry.

Some of the largest players in the segment took the opportunity to acquire smaller companies to help avoid supply chain issues in the future.

Many manufacturers were unable to keep up with the demand. The result was producing as many RVs as fast as possible.

Most brands began to see their wait lists grow as dealership lots nationwide emptied. At the peak of the chaos, some manufacturers had wait lists that were months to years long.

What Are the Issues with ‘Covid Campers’

So what are the most significant problems with these specific campers? Let’s dive in and see why some owners are experiencing buyer’s remorse regarding their Covid camper.

Quality Control

One of the biggest complaints from the community is that quality control went out the window.

Manufacturers demanded workers assemble these rigs so quickly that they had little time to test essential systems. While this is nothing new for some budget-friendly models, it was more widespread during this timeframe.

If customers were lucky, the dealership would do a pre-delivery inspection and catch certain things. However, even dealers needed more time to test RVs properly. This left many customers disappointed.

Instead of taking home their new rig, they left with a laundry list of items needing fixing. In the worst situations, some custom orders were completely wrong or missing upgrades the customer paid for. These are all basic things even the newest quality control employees should have caught.

Supply Chain Issues

Supply chain issues impacted a tremendous amount of manufacturing industries around the globe. Unfortunately, the RV industry was not exempt from this. Even the most prominent manufacturers needed help to acquire the necessary parts and components to finish some campers.

When we drove through Northern Indiana during this time, there were large lots with partially completed units. Instead of stopping production entirely, many plants shifted and worked on what they could until the parts arrived.

They’d then haul the rigs back into the plant and finish them so they could ship them to dealers.

A person working on the roof of a covid camper

Lack of Workers

Another unexpected production hurdle was the need for more workers. Some industries laid off employees to reduce costs anticipating a massive market shift due to the restrictions. At the same time, companies also faced a lack of people willing to work. 

Many could live off the monthly checks they received from the federal government during the pandemic. It seemed many bought into the “why work if you don’t have to” mentality. This resulted in inexperienced workers getting rushed through training and put on assembly lines.

Rushed Production

To add to this perfect storm, the demand for RVs went through the roof. Many people discovered that campers were a great way to travel while staying away from others. 

Instead of booking an exotic vacation that would likely get canceled, families purchased a camper instead.

With inventory across the country running low, manufacturers worked at breakneck speeds to keep up with the demand. The RV Industry Association monthly reports shared how the industry set record after record, month after month.

However, if you’ve tried to assemble anything as quickly as possible, it typically never ends well. Your odds of making a mistake are exponentially greater, and the finished product is likely far from perfect. That’s precisely what happened with many of these campers. Rushed production resulted in increased mistakes and a lack of attention to detail.

A family singing outside of their covid camper

Premium Prices

It shouldn’t be surprising that many Covid campers came with premium prices. The law of supply and demand tells us that prices increase when supply is low and demand is high. What we experienced in this industry was on steroids.

The excitement many consumers had to get a camper was like pouring gasoline on a fire. Many people ended up making terrible financial decisions based on emotion.

They dreamed of getting a trailer and seeing the country and were willing to pay whatever they had to. Unfortunately, many owe far more than these units are now worth.

Keep in Mind: Will RV prices go down anytime soon? Let’s dive in and see.

How Could ‘Covid Campers’ Affect the Future Market?

If you were hoping this term would ride into the sunset now, we’ve got bad news for you. It’s likely not going away soon. These campers will continue to affect the future market for years to come.

Skeptic Buyers

These low-quality campers have created a large number of skeptical consumers. Many will be more cautious in the future before purchasing another RV. Additionally, some had such a negative experience that they’re not willing to buy another rig in the future.

Those experiencing buyer’s remorse will take the shopping process slower next time. Instead of deciding based on emotion or opportunity, they’ll take the time to consider all of their options. 

Dealerships may have a more challenging time convincing some consumers to sign on the dotted line.

Higher Used Prices

As we mentioned earlier, many owners of these Covid campers owe more on their rig than it’s worth. We’ve seen used listings for older RVs that aren’t much cheaper than a brand-new model. In many of these instances, the owner is selling it for what they owe on it.

Some consumers found great deals on used campers in the past. However, that’s likely not the case for the foreseeable future. Many Covid camper owners struggle to grasp that their trailers aren’t worth nearly as much as they think. 

Campers for sale at an RV dealership

Increased Importance of Hiring Professional Inspectors

We’ve always encouraged those considering buying an RV, especially a used one, to hire an inspector. If you don’t know what to look for, these trained professionals can do it. They’ll test the systems and look for potential issues that could create problems down the road.

We recommend hiring an inspector if you’re considering a camper built during the pandemic. Spending a couple hundred dollars to ensure you make a wise investment is worth it.

They’ll point out issues that may impact how much you’re willing to pay or if you should walk away from a deal. 

Keep in Mind: Hiring an RV inspector is always recommended. This RV Dealership Denied Access to Buyer’s Inspector, which is a major red flag!

Should You Buy a ‘Covid Camper’?

Whether or not you should buy a Covid camper is a tough decision. Some units experienced more issues than others. However, depending on how well it was maintained and serviced, some owners may have worked out all the kinks for you. 

If you can find the right price and the inspection comes back relatively clean, buying a Covid-era camper can be worth it. 

Would you buy an RV built during the pandemic?

1 comment
  1. We did buy during the pandemic. There was no kitchen drawer! Just a rectangular hole with a piece of board the same color tacked inside. Fortunately a friend was able to build one for us. Additionally, there was no shelf inside the lower kitchen cabinet. The hubs was able to put in 2 slide out shelves for better storage. One cabinet over the sink had no door but a mesh. Turns out we actually like it. Quick access for frequently used items. After reading your article, I understand why these things were left out. Not happy but now fixed.

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