The Road Ahead: A Look into RV Industry Trends

The Road Ahead: A Look into RV Industry Trends

2020 and 2021 were historic years for the RV industry. RVs, fifth wheels and travel trailers were the perfect solutions for people to travel safely during the COVID pandemic. The sudden jump in interest combined with supply chain stoppages led to RV shortages in dealerships around the country. The following year, 2021, was a record-setting production year despite the challenges still largely present from the year prior. The 2022 summer camping season is still underway, but this article will examine some of the observed trends in camping and the RV industry for this year so far.

Various Vehicles On A Map

Supply Chain Issues

Lead times remain high compared to pre-pandemic levels. Still, they are becoming more stable compared to the trajectory of the past 2 years, especially for construction materials. Certain products, such as electrical components and raw metal materials, are still experiencing fluctuating lead times and availability. While this is still a concern for the future of the RV industry, manufacturers showed us in 2021 that they are still capable of producing RVs in large numbers. Obstacles can sometimes lead to increased innovation!

Campground Availability

Camping as a recreational activity, whether in an RV, tent or glamorous pillow fort (glamping), has experienced an influx in popularity over the last couple of years. According to the KOA 2022 North American Camping Report, the demographic breakdown of campers is becoming more diverse and younger, better representing the makeup found in our general population. Urban and city dwellers are camping more than they have in the past to get away from the hustle and bustle, especially those with remote work options. Families with young children are also choosing to camp more often. Some veteran RVers have begun to notice campground availability being more limited due to the general population's increased interest in camping.

RVs and campers in an RV park

In terms of campground amenities, expectations are also changing. The demand for high-speed internet is correspondingly increasing with the prevalence of remote working. Families with young children want access to things like a pool, an on-site restaurant, and scheduled activities to stay occupied during their stay. Also, online reservation systems are becoming more popular even though most campers still make reservations by phone.

As a result of the shifting demographics of campers and RVers and the changing expectations surrounding amenities, you can expect to see some campgrounds actively responding through updates and renovations. Many feel this is a positive shift, but you may experience increased booking time and less flexibility regarding your reservation due to the rising popularity of camping.

Gas Prices

Gas Pump HandlesGas prices have been rising since the beginning of the year as the acute period of the pandemic passed, which caused demand to rise, as well as Russia's invasion of Ukraine, which greatly affected supply. Average gas prices reached $5 for the month of June, which resulted in people driving less, with the exception of a particular subset - the RV and camper market. Even though motorhomes and travel trailers are rough on gas mileage, rising prices at the pump don't seem to significantly impact RVers' chances of camping.

The desire to get away overshadows the inconvenience of high fuel prices for most RV owners. Campers may choose to stay closer to home than they usually would, but they can still escape for a couple of days without paying for a hotel or eating out.

Is the future electric?

Electric cars are steadily making their way into the mainstream. Many major car manufacturers are adding new models of fully-electric vehicles to their line-up. However, there are some concerns about adequate charging infrastructure, driving range and charge time expectations, battery availability, and initial cost to purchase. For the RV market, these concerns are amplified. RVs are much larger than the average vehicle, and with all of the onboard amenities, the power requirements are much more significant.

Electric Vehicle Charging Handle

There is hope that electric RVs and motorhomes will be available one day, but that day is likely still far away. Tesla is developing an electric semi-truck capable of carrying full loads and traveling up to 500 miles on a single charge. While Tesla RVs have not yet been introduced, a successful electric semi-truck would set the stage for other large-sized electric vehicles with extended driving ranges. Certain RV manufacturers, such as Thor, are actively developing electric camping vans and travel trailers as a starting point into the electric vehicle world. As new technologies emerge, more options may be available, but costs will likely be high initially. While electric RVs are coming, it will still be a while before these are comparable options to what is on the market today.

New & Used RV Availability

Last year, 2021, was a record production year for recreational vehicles, with some 600,000 rigs being shipped out to wholesalers. This was despite several obstacles created by the COVID-19 pandemic, from component and raw material shortages to factory shutdowns and employee retention difficulties. However, the demand for RVs during the pandemic continued to rise steadily, as it has practically done since the industry's inception. There was amplified growth during this time because people needed to get away, and many felt that camping in the great outdoors was the safest way to do so.

RVs Lined Up

Demand quickly outpaced supply which impacted the availability of both new and used inventory. Dealers were having difficulty filling their lots, so when buyers found a used rig that met their standards, they would buy it immediately, even if they were shopping for a new RV. Some buyers were even making purchases sight-unseen because they didn't want to miss their opportunity.

The RV industry has been experiencing some market shifts, or more accurately, market expansions, with high-income earners and young families representing the majority of new RV owners. Traditionally, the market has been dominated by retirees, but the advent of remote work since the pandemic, coupled with generational differences in life outlook, appears to be changing.

As mentioned above, RV manufacturers overcame this supply gap and produced a record number of rigs in 2021. High production levels have continued into 2022, and the RV supply is increasing to normal.

Are you a newbie RV owner or an RV veteran? What are the most important amenities/factors you consider when choosing a campground? Let us know in the comment section below!

Aug 1st 2022 Molly Muhs

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