Nothing about the world right now is the same as it was before COVID-19. Nothing except RVing. The industry in the U.S. is booming right now, with more people hitting the roads than ever before.
So how exactly has the pandemic affected the RV industry, and will these trends continue? Here’s what we know and our thoughts about the future of RVing.
How Has COVID-19 Affected the RV Industry?
Like many U.S. businesses, the RVing industry saw significant effects from COVID-19. But rather than struggling, the industry is booming!
At the beginning of the pandemic, the RV industry took a hit like any other business. But travelers soon discovered RVing to be a safe and fun way to travel, and today, the RV industry is bigger than ever.
The RV Industry Association (RVIA) states, “RV manufacturers have set a new RV shipment record for each of the past six months, sending more and more RVs to dealer lots as consumer demand for RVs continues to soar.”
In addition, the RVIA’s latest projection “shows total 2021 RV shipments ranging between 565,848 and 586,281 units with the most likely year-end total being 576,065 units. That total would represent a 33.8% increase over the 2020 year-end total of 430,412 units. It would also be a 14.1% gain over the current comparable record high of 504,600 units in 2017.”
Now that’s a lot of new RVs. Here’s what we see in the wake of the pandemic.
Manufacturers Can’t Keep up with Demand
When COVID first started circulating in North America, many manufacturers and parts suppliers shut down. But many dealers stayed open.
With international travel plans canceled, Americans looked for new ways to quench their wanderlust and saw RV travel as an ideal option. Dealers stayed open to meet the demand for RVs, but lots quickly emptied as new customers poured in.
This has created a lasting impact on the RV sales industry. Manufacturers are open again but struggle to keep up with demand. We see higher prices, and the market doesn’t seem to be slowing down.
An anonymous source in the RV manufacturing industry told us they typically see over 150 RVs on each of their larger dealership lots this time of year. However, the same dealerships have zero to five of their RV brand on lots currently.
RVers Are Paying More for Less
Demand has substantially driven RV prices up. People will pay more since interstate travel was the only option for much of last year. So, basic RV models are going for premium prices.
Another reason for recent price increases is due to the raise in lumber and steel prices. Naturally, manufacturers pass the cost on to the dealerships, which gets passed to the buyer. In fact, just recently we learned that Grand Design is raising their prices yet again, between 6.5% to 8% on many of their models.
Another problem arising is that manufacturers are producing RVs as quickly as possible to meet the demand. But this rapid manufacturing process can lead to low-quality workmanship. Their rapid output has also reduced their ability to take on custom orders, so they’re producing more basic models.
Not only are the manufacturers having a hard time keeping up, but so are their suppliers. In mid-2020, we saw firsthand hundreds of RVs parked outside manufacturing plants waiting for refrigerators, air conditioners, and other appliances. While most suppliers are back to fulfilling orders, the backlog has not been caught up on.
To assist with tackling the backlog, some manufacturers ended up cutting some amenities. If you ordered an RV with three air conditioners, it most likely came with one or two, depending on the size. Substitutions were made on certain appliances as well, depending on what was available and when.
Campgrounds Are Busier Than Ever
It was challenging to get campground reservations in some areas before the pandemic, and that problem has significantly increased.
Today’s popular campgrounds are packed, and it’s harder to get reservations now than ever! Campers are overrunning popular boondocking spots, too.
National Parks Are Harder to Get Into
Did you know that you now need reservations to get into certain national parks? Before COVID, the idea of taking reservations for national park entry was laughable. Now, many national parks closed in 2020 to reduce the spread of COVID-19. The release of the vaccine has led many national parks to reopen but with limited, controlled capacity.
Six of the 63 national parks in the United States now require reservations to get into. Those include Yosemite, Rocky Mountain, Glacier, Zion, Acadia, and Haleakala.
Long Wait Lists for Dealership Repairs
More RVs on the road means more RV breakdowns and issues. RV repair work was already a hassle before the influx of new RVs and RVers on the streets. Today it’s even worse!
Don’t be surprised if your trusted mechanic can’t get you in for several weeks to make significant repairs.
More Inexperienced RV Drivers on the Road
Many RVers hitting the road in the wake of the pandemic are new to RVing and RV driving. Inexperienced RV drivers aren’t always dangerous, but they aren’t always as careful as they should be!
If you’re in any popular RVing Facebook groups, you have noticed the increase in major and minor newbie accidents. While mistakes are okay, uneducated campers who don’t take the proper time to learn how to drive their RV are not.
Is the RV Market Going to Crash after the COVID-19 Sales Boom?
April of 2021 was the biggest RV sales month on record. But will that continue?
It’s hard to predict what will happen accurately, but we don’t think the popularity of RV life will come to an abrupt end.
The CEO of Thor Industries estimates that the RV sales industry will continue to boom due to millennial buyers wanting to hit the roads. Younger travelers are beginning to embrace the appeal of traveling by RV, thanks in part to a halt on international travel and many companies transitioning to permanent remote positions.
When Will Campgrounds and National Parks Get Back to Normal?
It is unclear when (or if) campgrounds and national parks will return to pre-COVID protocols and activity levels. Busier campgrounds, boondocking spots, and national parks may simply be a new normal.
But, most importantly, we don’t think the popularity of RVing or RV life is going anywhere anytime soon. With social media and YouTube helping to spread the word about the wonders of this lifestyle, we might just have to deal with busier campgrounds from now on!
The RVing Renaissance
The RV industry is bigger than ever for a good reason. For decades, people assumed that RVing was just something retirees did on the weekends. But that idea couldn’t be further from the truth!
We’re in the midst of an RVing renaissance. And in time, hopefully, we’ll see more improvements and innovations in the industry for everything from mobile internet to increased campground options and more!