What did we learn from our two days at the Hershey RV show? Plenty.
The Crowds: RVs are Popular Again
This was the entrance area into the show on the Saturday.
By the time early Saturday afternoon came along, it was virtually impossible to get into most of the coaches. The show was jammed. The parking lot was jammed. The seminars were jammed. Too many people.
After RV shipments dropped to a 30-year low in the downturn of the late 2000s, demand is stronger than ever, says Pete Reeb, principal at California-based John Burns Real Estate Consulting.
In fact, the demand for RVs is insatiable: There will be a record number of RV shipments this year, according to the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA). We haven’t seen these levels since the late 1970s. RVIA estimates that over 400,000 RVs will ship in 2016. Currently, there are about 9 million RVs on the road in the US, and an estimated 8% to 9% of all US households now own an RV.
If we look at the S&P 500 over the same period, there seems to be a fairly close relationship of RV sales to stock market performance.
Wholesale RV shipments are projected to total 396,400 units by the end of 2016, an increase of six percent over the 374,200 units shipped in 2015. Moreover, 2017 will mark the eighth consecutive year of growth for the industry with shipments predicted to reach 404,800 units. Both of these yearly totals are well above the quarter century record of 390,362 units in 2006.
The record increases in RV sales are also being fueled by a receptive marketplace. The baby-boom generation has long been the mainstay for the RV industry, and increasing numbers of millennials have begun to enter the market place. Each and every day 11,000 baby-boomers turn 65, and another 12,000 millennials turn 35. Each of these generations, as well as GenXers, share core RV values and value the experience of outdoor family recreation.
“Consumers are flocking to the RV market thanks to a combination of baby boomers hitting the road and younger families desiring to break from gadgets and reclaim the American outdoor way of life,” said RVIA President Frank Hugelmeyer. “RV travel and camping helps them strengthen family relationships, enjoy outdoor adventures and be active.”
Even some of the fulltimers we follow are seeing a change:
I don’t know how many of these RVers are full-timers or post-retirement, but based on the feeble number of empty spots I see in campgrounds I can well believe it’s growing. RV’s are gaining ground, but the number of campsites stay the same so it seems harder and harder to find easy openings.
I see the increase in popularity as a good thing. Demand will drive supply. Eventually.
Full-time is Hip: More and More People Looking to Ditch their Sticks and Bricks
We sat in on two seminars where this topic kept coming up: the rise of interest in full-time rving. One seminar described it as an incredible level of interest in full-timing or extending timing. We will probably wind up in the latter category of extended timing in our coach. Our plan right now is to keep a property in Canada as our home base and travel as widely as we can, particularly during the colder seasons. Not sure if extended timing is as hip as full-timing. I guess we’ll find out.
One of the seminars claimed that over 1,500 people a month were joining the ranks of those full-timing in their RVs. It was also hinted at that this number is the one that gets reported and the reality might be a lot higher.
Still, based on a population of roughly 325 million people in the United States, 20 – 40 thousand people a year is not exactly a raging tide of retirees seeking to travel across North America full-time in their RV. There are roughly 116 million households in the United States so even 9 million RVs on the road represents about an 8 percent ownership by household. Good but quite a bit less than the 240 million or so cars and trucks on the road.
Motorcoaches are Pricey
A high quality diesel motorcoach seems to start at around $300,000 USD and can go up from there dramatically. A nicely equipped Newell or Prevost will set you back millions of dollars. Clearly the bulk of the RV industry is not focused on higher end coaches like our Castaway. According to the RVIA, less than 6 percent of all RVs sold in 2015 were Class A. And I suspect that Diesel Pushers represented an even smaller portion of those Class A sales.
Motorcoaches are Pricey and Nice
There is no doubt that most of the motorcoaches we looked at, whether from Newmar, Tiffin, Entegra, or American Coach, were expensive and also very nicely finished. We love our Newmar but we were also quite impressed with many of the coaches at the show.
Not Enough Toys
Surprisingly enough, there wasn’t as much variety in terms of accessories for RVs. Very little choice of Tire Pressure Management Systems — we could only find one vendor — and very little choice in things like dash cams and other types of products. The Hershey RV show was primarily focused on selling RVs. We did pick up a few odds and ends on our shopping list while we were at the show. The balance will be sourced off Amazon.