While the COVID-19 pandemic was bad news for many industries in 2020, the RV or recreational vehicle industry kept rolling along, posting strong sales as people looked for ways to vacation amidst the pandemic while still being able to maintain social distancing.
(For those who don’t know, RVs are those large vehicles that combine transportation and temporary living quarters for travel, recreation and camping.)
One RV general manager in the Harrisburg area described the increase in sales over the summer as “astronomical.”
And the RV business is still riding the wave. Heather Lerch, executive director for the Pennsylvania Recreation Vehicle and Camping Association says that sales are still “through the roof”.
The latest numbers from the RV Industry Association in January show an increase of 39.2 percent of unit shipments – 45,930 compared to 33,003 units in the same month in 2020.
“RV shipments show no sign of slowing down,” RV Industry Association President and CEO Craig Kirby said. “RV manufacturers and suppliers are producing a record number of units to meet the continued demand from consumers looking to make RVing a part of their active outdoor lifestyle.”
The association said December was a record-setting months, with RV shipments increaseing 46.8 percent over December 2019.
January also set new records, as the number of towable RVs shipments increased 40.7 percent over January 2020, and motorhome shipments increased 26.6 percent.
And the weather gets warm and more newly vaccinated people look to get out and travel, industry officials say they believe more and more people will be moved to purchase RVs. Spring and summer is typically when sales for RVs increase.
“I really don’t think this year is going to be different,” Lerch said. “I’m sure they’re going to have a record summer.”
Lerch said the pandemic and the concerns that resulted over the safety of traveling led some people to turn to RVs who might never have previously considered them.
“I think there is a whole new group that have entered the market,” she said.
On May 1 of last year, campgrounds were among the businesses to reopen in Pennsylvania. And Lerch said that demand at campgrounds has really increased and she expects more of the same in 2021.
“I think campgrounds are going to be busy and have a very successful summer,” Lerch said.
You don’t have buy an RV to go RVing. Just like RV sales, RV rentals have also increased.
Outdoorsy, an online RV rental and outdoor travel marketplace, said 2020 was a record year.
“Despite experiencing a 90 percent cancellation rate early in the year due to the pandemic, Outdoorsy’s RV bookings surged in 2020, leading to the company’s best year on record, with a more than 4,500 percent increase in bookings throughout the course of the pandemic.”
And those looking to purchase an RV may find renting an RV to begin with might be a step worth taking, giving them the insight they need in order to make a purchase of an RV or not. Outdoorsy said 90 percent of the people that rented RVs last year through its website were first timers.
The overall average trip length for Outdoorsy users was 6.4 days in 2020 and the overall nightly rate of an Outdoorsy rental in 2020 was $161.
Lerch said that rentals increased substantially at the dealerships she talked to, and in many cases, were booked for the entire summer.
“We’re just getting into the RV season, but I would predict that the trend will continue for this year,” she said.