Hershey RV Show Takeaways


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.

From a recent article on Yahoo Finance:

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.


The Recreational Vehicle Industry Association makes a couple of interesting points:

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.



Although we spent most of the first day touring coaches at the Hershey RV show, we also spent a few hours going through the various booths that offer products and services for RV owners.

This is one of the display areas at the show:


It was here that we spent about 30 or 40 minutes talking with Chris from Fantasy RV Tours. She and her husband Vern are travel ambassadors for that company and they serve as WagonMasters or TailGunners on a caravan.

Chris and Vern live in their RV full-time. They are also in a Dutch Star.

Although I know part of our interaction was focused on getting us to sign up for a rally or a caravan, we spent a lot of the time talking about how to live the latter part of our lives. Chris is approaching her late 60s — I think she said she was 68 — whereas Lorraine and I turn 60 in a few months time.

Chris was very passionate about the need to reinvent yourself as you get older and to follow your dreams before it gets too late.

She gave me a gift that afternoon, a gift of clarity of purpose and of focus and passion in terms of the adventures ahead. Chris and Vern were living their dreams. Not everyone can do that.

We are not sure if we will sign up for a caravan or not. A caravan can be defined this way:

Caravans are comprised of a group of independent RV Travelers who join a professional tour with a pre-planned travel itinerary including reservations for camping, events, excursions and selected meals. The independent travelers meet at a predetermined ‘Rally Point’ and become a group – guided by professional teams, WagonMaster & TailGunner, we collectively call Travel Ambassadors. Generally speaking, our groups travel between the teams – but not in convoy. As a guest you are able to choose the stops along the route that interest you – knowing that your TailGunner is behind the last traveler and will stop to assist anyone along the route that needs it. Each planned destination you arrive at will have a campsite waiting, and planned events secured prior to your arrival. Additionally, our Travel Ambassadors are available to assist you with optional activities in the area that are not included in the scheduled itinerary to make the most of your vacation.

Chris suggested that we try a rally first. A rally is simply a single meeting place from where organized events take place. As we are members of Newmar Kountry Klub, we will probably just take advantage of one of their rallies next year. The cost is very reasonable and we can get a feel as to whether we would try a tour operator’s rally or caravan.

Although if all of the travel ambassadors are like Chris, I think we would have a great time travelling in one of their caravans.

What’s Next?


We are still 12-18 months before I retire and we can begin our travel adventures. That does not mean that we won’t be traveling before then. We have already planned a number of trips.

We will be heading down to the Hershey RV Show for a few days later in September. Looking forward to taking in North America’s largest RV show. We have booked an executive site at the Lancaster/New Holland KOA which is located about an hour’s drive from the RV show. I guess we should have booked the site a bit earlier.

Not sure what to expect at this KOA. Lots of very mixed reviews and some very highly charged comments about the owners. You can read the reviews here. I guess we will find out whether we love it, hate it or tolerate it.

A few weeks later, we will be heading out a bit closer to home. We will be spending some time at Shamadon Resort in Ayton, Ontario. Unlike the Lancaster/New Holland KOA, Shamadon gets stellar reviews. We’ll see how it compares to some of the other sites we have visited in Ontario. Should not be too hard to exceed the KOAs we have stayed at in our province.

Towards the middle of October, we will have to take our coach to our dealer to work on a few items and to prepare the coach for winter.

For 2017, we have a few trips already on the books. In April, we will be taking the coach to the Newmar factory in Nappanee, Indiana. We’ll spend a week. In May, after our son has finished his first year at university, we are planning to head down to Fort Wilderness at Walt Disney World. Our original plan was to start our travel adventures in our coach at Walt Disney World. Better late than never.

We are members of Newmar’s Kountry Klub and the Missouri State Fairgrounds in Sedalia, Missouri will be the site for the 2017 International Rally. The rally begins on Monday, October 2nd, and ends on Saturday, October 7th. They will have 600 sites that are 50 amp full hookup. We will register early for that trip and, possibly, begin our full-time travel adventures then. Either that, or the coach will go back into storage for another winter until the retirement date is a reality.

America’s Largest RV Show


Happening here.

We had gone to the Hershey show last year and we are going down again this year. Last year our focus was on narrowing our decision for a new motorhome. This year? Well, this year we would just like to enjoy the show and learn a bit more about the odds and ends of the lifestyle. We won’t need to be quite as focused in terms of where we spend our time.

I have a number of gadgets that I wouldn’t mind picking up at the show. They include:

  • Tire Pressure Management System
  • RV Level
  • Adjustable Water Pressure Regulator
  • Sewer Hose Extension
  • Package of Assorted 12V Fuses
  • Telescopic Ladder

Lorraine and I have also talked about whether we want some signage for the coach. Something that might say “Castaway” for example. I suspect we may pick up a few other items while we are down there.

We’ll also spend a lot more time exploring the various travel booths at the show. Last year we spent most of our time exploring the coaches.

We’ll still walk through many of the new coaches this year and we will probably tell ourselves that our coach is much nicer than any of the 2017 models. At least for now. That could change in another 10 years or so.

It will just be the two of us for the show. We have booked a site about an hour’s drive from Hershey. Not too far and not too close.

Canada, Eh?

Parliament Buildings Ottawa

When we returned to Canada from the Hershey RV Show in October of 2015, we came back with thousands of pages of brochures, guidebooks, and magazines. In a word, the show was a bit overwhelming. So much to think about and so much to process.

Our main objective was to decide on a new motorhome. We had already narrowed down our field of choices based on Class A Diesel Pushers. And we had already narrowed down to the following manufacturers: Newmar, Entegra, Tiffin.

Lots of research followed. I went to all of the manufacturer sites. I went to all of the major Internet forums and followed as many threads as possible on ownership experiences with these particular brands. I went through hundreds of videos on YouTube. I downloaded manuals and brochures. Over a period of a few months, I took in a lot of material about RVs.

Granted, this was not the first time we had looked at RVs. We had come very close to purchasing a Newmar Dutch Star back in 2006. It looked like this one:


In all of our research, we kept coming back to Newmar. No company is perfect and certainly no motorhome is perfect. Newmar has built a terrific reputation in the market. Lorraine and I particularly admired Newmar’s corporate principles:

At Newmar, we believe that a motor coach is more than just a vehicle. It should be a dream come true. A passport to countless hours of fun with your family and friends. A road to a lifetime of cherished memories and new discoveries.

For over 40 years, we’ve applied our Christian principles to the creation of motor coaches that have enhanced the lifestyle of people all over the world. And we’ll continue to do that for countless generations to come. It’s why we take pride in every rivet, every weld, every mechanical function and aesthetic of design.

Part of our research was to determine how we would get to a fair deal price on a motorhome in Canada. At the Hershey RV Show, there were all sorts of deals to be made.

Depending on the coach and dealer, 25 – 30 percent off list seemed to be in the range for a new motorhome.

Being Canadian gets complicated though. You have to start from the US list price converted to Canadian dollars, a much higher amount. The Canadian currency floats which means that a deal price is subject to the volatility of the currency markets. The Canadian dollar was in a bit of a free fall during the latter part of 2015. And every penny drop in the value of the Canadian dollar added a significant amount to the overall cost of the coach. A deal might need a right of refusal based on currency volatility. And, of course, we pay taxes. Thirteen percent on the deal price. Ouch.

The Canadian dollar was trading closer to 80 cents at the time we did our deal. Many pundits were predicting a 60 cent dollar within a few months. That did not happen and the Canadian dollar today is almost at the same level as it was last October. At the time we were really concerned that we might see a steep drop in the value of the Canadian dollar. We decided that we should do a deal sooner rather than run the risk of a decline in our currency.

We wanted to buy in Canada. This is where we live and we wanted to support our Canadian businesses. Although there were some great deals to be had at the Hershey RV Show, we intended to shop Canadian.

We headed out to the Toronto Fall RV Show in October of 2015. Most of the major dealers were there and we were able to spend time talking with a few of them about their coaches. We also made several stops at dealers in and around the Toronto area. We probably logged close to a thousand kilometres of driving over those two days to look at different coaches and to get a feel for the calibre of the various dealers.

We knew when we went to the Hitch House that we had found a good dealer. It helped that Newmar also had their Canadian manager on site for our visit. We spent most of the day at the Hitch House and, shock of all shocks, we decided to put an offer down on a new Dutch Star 4002 then and there.

We were now committed to our future dream. At least from a financial perspective.

This was our production report when our order went to the factory in November:

Production Order

Here we were, in late October, making decisions about our future. The first of many decisions.