Healthy Economy Spurs the RV Industry Growth

Since 2016, at least three dozen RV manufacturing locations have added or announced expanded plant capacity.

While the two largest manufacturers in the RV industry, Forest River (4 projects) and Thor (13 projects), account for the most activity, smaller companies including like nüCamp and RV Factory have also made additions to their manufacturing square footage.

Class C motorhome at Pala Casino RV Resort, near Temecula, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Class C motorhome at Pala Casino RV Resort, near Temecula, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

While the expansions are intended to support production for a variety of products, the majority are aimed at travel trailer manufacturing. The construction projects are an indication of confidence in the extended outlook of the market.

The Freedonia Group recently released a study showing that demand for RVs is expected to rise 4.9 percent per year to $20.1 billion in 2022.

The study further revealed that demand for travel trailers is expected to rise 5.2 percent per year through 2022 to $12.6 billion with volume reaching 475,000 units on 3.9 percent annual growth.

Fifth wheel trailer at Desert Springs Ranch and RV Resort near Casa Grande, Arizona. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fifth wheel trailer at Desert Springs Ranch and RV Resort near Casa Grande, Arizona. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This study presents historical data (2007, 2012, and 2017) and forecasts for 2022 by product (conventional travel trailers, fifth-wheel travel trailers, class A motorhomes, class B motorhomes, class C motorhomes, folding camping trailers, truck campers) in units and US dollars, and by region (Northeast, Midwest, South, West) in US dollars.

In addition, it evaluates key industry players in the RV market and analyzes consumer survey data. The survey data looks at the demographics of consumers who travel by RV, travel preferences of RV owners, outdoor lifestyles of consumers who travel by RV, and tiny house living preferences.

Travel trailer at Palm Canyon Campground, Anza-Borrego State Park, California. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Travel trailer at Palm Canyon Campground, Anza-Borrego State Park, California. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The study also covers accessories for RVs sold in the aftermarket.

Key Findings in the Recreational Vehicles Study

Since the last recession, during which demand for recreational vehicles fell sharply, the economy has been slowly improving, along with consumer spending. Interest rates remain low, keeping loans for large purchases relatively affordable. Moreover, home values continue to rise, giving consumers access to equity to support loans for RVs.

Sales of travel trailers continue to grow, even surpassing pre-recession peaks. In 2017, unit sales of travel trailers were nearly 200 percent of 2007 levels.

Class A motorhome (Diesel Pusher) at Harvest Moon RV Park, Adairsville, Georgia. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Class A motorhome (Diesel Pusher) at Harvest Moon RV Park, Adairsville, Georgia. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Travel trailers are favored for their variety of options, from luxury to low-cost entry-level versions, and from those that require a large truck to pull them to those that can be managed by most small automobiles.

In general, trailers are preferred because, unlike motorhomes, they can be left behind at a campsite while the owner tours the area in a conventional automobile that can be parked anywhere.

Current models appeal to a range of consumers―from those looking for a retro or European look or a functional vehicle that can haul their ATV or snowmobile, to long-term travelers and to those on a quick weekend getaway.

Travel trailer at Whispering Hills RV Park, near Georgetown, Kentucky. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Travel trailer at Whispering Hills RV Park, near Georgetown, Kentucky. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The typical RV owner still falls in an older demographic―retirees and snowbirds­―but younger consumers are particularly motivated by lifestyle reasons including:

  • Taking just the basics to escape the bustle of daily life
  • Traveling with all of the comforts of home, including pets, while connected via Wi-Fi and electronic devices living the “weekend warrior” lifestyle, tailgating at sporting events, or concerts, camping, or taking motorcycles or other gear out for recreation
  • Living and working full-time or for extended stretches on the road
Newmar Factory Tour, Nappanee, Indiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Newmar Factory Tour, Nappanee, Indiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…
Recently I ran across a few lines by Pierre de Ronsard, a 16th-century poet: “Live now, believe me, wait not till tomorrow. Gather the roses of life today.”

Maybe it’s time to stop dreaming about that RV you’ve wanted to buy—and just do it!

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