Younger Campers Drive Sales as RV shipments Continue to Rise

It was the best April for RV shipments in seven years, according to figures recently released by the Reston, Virginia-based Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA).

Camping at Chesapeake (Virginia) Preserve, a Thousand Trails membership campground. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Camping at Chesapeake (Virginia) Preserve, a Thousand Trails membership campground. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Manufacturer shipments of all RVs tracked by RVIA were measured at 33,774 units in April this year, a gain of 5.4 percent over the same month last year.

That marked the 28th consecutive month that RV shipments have been higher than the same month a year earlier.

Towable RVs grew by 5 percent in April while motorhome shipments moved up 8.3 percent from 2013 totals.

Shipments to retailers for all RVs were reported at 123,745 units for the first four months this year, an 11 percent gain over the same period last year and the best start for shipments since 2007.

Mark Bowersox, executive director of the Recreation Vehicle Indiana Council (RVIC) credits the long-running Go RVing ad campaign, which he believes has attracted a younger demographic to the lifestyle, with having a major effect on RV sales. And it’s an effect he believes could continue for some time.

“The untold story is the industry is targeting a younger demographic than historically it has been,” Bowersox told the South Bend (Indiana) Tribune.

The image of a typical RV consumer used to be the grandparents in an RV visiting grandkids, he said. That still exists, but today other age demographics are also in that RV picture.

“Now, it’s a two-income (couple), ages 35 to 54, 2.2 kids,” he said of the typical RV customer statistical profile.

Camping at Hershey Preserve, a Thousand Trails membership campground in Pennsylvania Dutch Country. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Camping at Hershey Preserve, a Thousand Trails membership campground in Pennsylvania Dutch Country. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

That influences the numbers for a longer time, he added.

“If the average RV consumer trades in every seven years, and you drop the average buying age by 20 years, you’ve effectively sold three more RVs to that consumer,” Bowersox told the Tribune.

“We are bringing in more consumers into the market at a younger point, and the older consumers are not necessarily dropping off on the back end quite as quickly.”

Elkhart County produces more than 83 percent of all new RVs in America. The RV industry employs an estimated 24,000 workers in northern Indiana.

The shipment numbers came as no surprise to Total Value RV of Indiana in Elkhart.

The dealership is well on its way to a third straight year of record sales, said Jeff Lemmon, who works in both sales and marketing.

Since January, the company has sold 19 diesel pushers, 16 gas motorhomes, and a combined total of 16 travel trailers and fifth wheels.

“That’s really good,” Lemmon said.

Lemmon believes that these good numbers are due to everything from more Baby Boomers to people relishing the lifestyle, from being able to take their pets to simply enjoying campgrounds.

Wally Byam pulls his '30s Airstream in a promo.

Wally Byam pulls his ’30s Airstream in a promo.

“Going from campground to campground is just kind of a nice experience,” Lemmon told the Tribune.

“You see the out-of-the-way places, the little local places that tours won’t go to. There doesn’t have to be a big airport near it.”

By the Numbers

April 2013 shipments: 32,054

April 2014 shipments: 33,774

Total RV shipments through April 2013: 111,476

Total RV shipments through April 2014: 123,745

Let’s Go RVing! If not now, when?

Worth Pondering…

The RV lifestyle is like nothing else.

It’s leaving home, exploring America, and yet bringing your home along with you!

Stopping at a wayside picnic area, preparing lunch in your kitchen.

It’s sleeping in your own bed every night, yet waking up to a new vista each morning!

The sounds of a crackling campfire; of a mountain stream, of frogs, and crickets.

It’s families drawn closer; it’s retirees being rewarded for many years of labor.

—Loren Eyrich, Two-Lane Roads

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