Kurt Verlin
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How the RV Industry Boomed in the 2010s

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Photo: Dominika Roseclay | Pexels

If you bought a recreational vehicle in the last decade, you were far from alone. The RV industry positively boomed in the 2010s, with sales growing more than 200 percent from 2010 to 2017.

According to the RV Industry Association and Statista, more than nine million U.S. families report owning an RV. The average income for RV-owning households is about $62,000, and each year the industry generates about $18 billion in retail sales from over half a million wholesale RV shipments.

One of the main causes of the rise in RV shipments is that buyers are getting younger. “Before the recession, the average age of the RV buyer was 55,” says Sarasota RV industry consultant David Gorin. “The average age now is 45.”

Retirees are still the biggest RV-shopping demographic, but millennials are quickly growing their size of the pie in part because of elevated interest in camping.

Nonetheless, RV sales have dipped slightly in 2019, with September the only month showing improvement over 2018 sales. But industry experts like Bobby Cornwell, president and CEO of the Florida Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds, believe the recent sales drops are more of a correction from previous peaks than signs of declining interest.

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“All of the pieces are just coming together,” Cornwell says. “It’s spreading like wildfire.” Cornwell and other park owners, especially in Florida, have been investing more money into improving their parks and opening new ones thanks to the rising number of RVers.

According to Cornwell, one of the contributors to this growth is changing work habits. More and more people are working remotely, and some are doing it while hitting the road. Recreational vehicles are also getting increasingly efficient and better-equipped, with new technologies helping promote cross-country travel.

“Thanks to modern technology, they don’t have to be at their house or in their office,” Cornwell says. “That has opened the door to many people to take on the lifestyle.”

Florida’s RV industry is experiencing some of the strongest growth, though Texas and California still have the biggest national share of RV shipments at 9.5 and 7.3 percent, respectively. Florida, Ohio, and Michigan round out the top five with 5.3, 3.9, and 3.9 percent.

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