RVing is hugely popular for Americans, and over 11% of US households own an RV. It gives people the freedom to travel between 20-60% cheaper than a traditional holiday. Taking off in an RV is becoming hugely popular with Millennials, with over 15 million of them owning an RV in the US.
The recreational vehicle industry brings in over $114 billion to the US economy, employs over 600,000 people and contributes $6 billion in taxes; so, it’s an important part of the US economy. It has been on a slight decline in 2019, so let’s see what the future holds and dive into our RV industry data.
Approximately 1 million Americans live in recreational vehicles full-time.
The hashtag #vanlife has been used around 6 million times on Instagram.
RV ownership has grown from 7.9 million households in 2005 to over 9 million today.
Over 11% of US households own a recreational vehicle.
More than 50% of RVers take their pets away with them.
Over 40 million Americans regularly go RVing, with over 25 million RVing a year.
The average RV owner is male and 38-55, however, there is a rise of solo female RVers.
A family of 4 can save between 21-64% in travel costs via over traditional vacations.
The industry contributed over $114 billion to the US economy in 2018.
10% of 35-year old’s use a recreational vehicle once a year.
They can cost anywhere between $6000 - $500,000.
RVers spend between 3 – 4 weeks in their recreational vehicle a year.
Millennials have pushed this industry to record highs in recent years.
38% of the 40 million people who own a recreational vehicle are Millennials.
Approximately 25% of campers are under the age of 18 in the US.
There are over 16,000 campgrounds and parking facilities to support public and private RV camping.
In 2018 ownership of RVs dropped from a record high of 504,600 in 2017 to 483,700 in 2018.
RV shipments increased from 504.6 thousand in 2017 to 483.7 thousand in 2018.
The RV industry contributed $114 billion to the US economy in 2018.
In the US the RV industry makes $18 billion in sales a year from over 500,000 wholesale shipments.
In Canada, the RV industry generates over $7 billion in sales a year.
Americans bought nearly half a million recreational vehicles in 2018, with the industry bringing in more than $20 billion in revenue.
Exports of RVs total around $1 billion a year.
$6 billion in taxes comes from the RV industry a year.
Between 2009-2017 the recreational vehicle industry grew by 200%
Over 200,000 loans totaling $8.4 billion were generated in 2017 at locations offering recreational vehicles with the average loan amount being over $45,000.
Recreational vehicles can cost anywhere between $100,000 - $150,000 for Class C and B models and over $500,000 for Class A models; some cheaper models can be found for under $10,000.
A survey of manufacturers showed wholesale shipments in September 2019 were up by 2.2% compared with September 2018.
Towable vehicles were up by 3.1%, Motorhomes were down 4.7% and shipments were down 18.2% compared with September 2018.
Browse the table below for a full list of sales by state.
RV Sales by State (million)
The RV industry is big business in the US; providing over $114 billion a year to the economy and $18 billion in sales. The RV industry has a big economic impact and contributes a huge amount to the outdoor recreation economy, $6 billion in taxes and employs around 600,000 people in the US.
According to the RV industry association (RVIA) 98% of recreational vehicles sold are manufactured in the US, but which state sells the most RVs? The highest number of RV sales by state is Indiana ($6.8 billion), California ($2.2 billion) and Texas ($1.8 billion). This is no surprise as Indiana is home to the majority of RV Headquarters including Thor Industries, Forest River and Avion International Llc. Elkhart, Indiana has been dubbed ‘RV Capital of the World.’
Although the industry has been growing over the past 8 years, the number of recreational vehicles manufactured in 2018 & RV shipments in the first quarter of 2019 shows the industry is slowing. Is this a sign of an RV recession? If so, it could have a wider economic impact on the US economy. Economists suggest that the RV industry is better at predicting recessions than they are, and with slowing consumer demand and rising vehicle prices, could the economy be headed for a downturn?
Americans have the largest ownership market, around 40 million people and 9 million families in the US own one.
Of those, 38% are Millennials.
Generation X and Baby Boomers make up the majority of RV owners.
Share of ownership for Generation Xers increased from 18.42% (2015) to 20.75% (2018).
Share of ownership for Millennial between 25-34 increased from 5.03% to 8.1%
Even those aged just 18-24 increased from 15% to 0.37%.
Florida is home to the 4th, 5th and 6th concentrations of van, boat and RV residents in the nation.
Those aged between 35-54 are the most likely to own a recreational vehicle in the US.
The average RV owner in the US is 48 years old, married and tends to travel 3 times a year.
The average owner has an income of $68,000 and spends on average 4 weeks a year using their camper, trailer or motorhome.
54% of RVers take their family pets.
90% say it’s the best way of holidaying with their children.
The RV buyer demographics was initially driven by Baby Boomers, but the recent growth has come from its popularity with Millennials. Millennials are craving new experiences, and this has helped to fuel their desire for taking to the open road and exploring new destinations.
The biggest segment of RV owners is still between 35-54, Baby Boomers and families, with 90% of owners saying it’s the best way to holiday with their children due to cost and all the outdoor activities that come with it.
There are more than 100 RV manufacturers with the majority of those being in the United States.
482,389 recreational vehicles were manufactured in North America in 2018.
On top of this, there are around 300 manufacturers, distributors, and suppliers of parts.
In total around 23,000 businesses are involved in the RV industry.
They offer 45,000 employment opportunities and $3 billion in wages.
There are 94,000 shipments of fifth-wheel travel trailers every year and 62,000 shipments of motorhomes.
Manufacturers of RVs in the first quarter of 2019 saw a decrease of 27% in shipments compared with the same quarter in 2018.
There are over 100 manufacturers with around 80% of recreational vehicles being produced in Elkhart, Indiana. Around 644 RV businesses employ 126,140 people in this area. They will ship to dealers around the country and in 2018 they manufactured whopping 482,389 recreational vehicles.
RV dealers are careful to only order what they require and will not carry too much stock, if necessary they will pull backorders if they see the market slowing. This does seem to be the case in 2019, and some have predicted this slump is due to over manufacturing vehicles in 2017.
Dealers have been left with too many RVs to shift in 2018-19. This decline can have a huge knock-on effect on all manufacturers, particularly in Elkhart. In June, Elkhart had an unemployment rate of 3%. Thor Industries announced it had to cut back on production and cut its staff to work a 4-day week.
The RV Industry Association doesn’t seem to be worried about this drop and forecasts a 2.5% increase in shipments to dealers for 2020. However, not everyone shares this sentiment and some dealers don’t see the decline recovering for a while.
1 out of 5 recreational vehicles is classified as a ‘conventional travel trailer’ in the US.
Over 289,940 travel trailers were sold in 2018 in the US.
Jayco Jay Flight was the best-selling travel trailer in 2018 representing 6.9% of all travel trailers sold.
14% of households own Type A or fifth-wheel motorhomes.
The best-seller in 2018 was the Keystone Montana representing 8% of fifth-wheel sales.
12% own Park Model RVs.
94,000 fifth-wheel motorhomes are shipped each year, taking over as the primary RV a family owns.
62,000 motorhomes are shipped a year.
Class A motorhomes are the most expensive, Winnebago sold the most in 2018 representing 14% of the Class A market.
For the largest and most expensive of motorhomes, which have declined in sales for three years in a row, the iconic Winnebago has retained its lead.
Americans bought almost half a million recreational vehicles in 2018. Of this, the most popular model purchased was the conventional travel trailer, selling around 289,940 that year. Travel trailers are popular due to their versatility, affordability and variety of models available on the market.
94,000 fifth-wheels on average are sold a year. The prices are a lot higher than travel trailers but lower than motorhomes. They offer a great use of space and can be unhitched and left in the campgrounds, unlike motorhomes. Class A motorhomes are the most expensive ranging between $50,000 - $100,000 and can even cost up to $1 million; hence the lower sales of this luxury item for the past few years.
RVers drive on average 4,500 miles a year in their RV.
90% of those with a travel trailer take 3 RV trips a year on top of their regular vacation.
20% of owners take advantage of less traditional camping spots and opt for ‘boondocking’ and even staying at Walmart.
1 in 5 RV travelers prefers to go on a hiking or trekking vacation involving camping.
Yosemite National Park is the most popular location in the US attracting over 250,000 visitors a year.
Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
Redwood National Park, California
Crater Lake National Park, Oregon
Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia
Mount Rushmore, South Dakota
Key West, Florida
Walk Disney World, Florida
Those who own a recreational vehicle can take advantage of taking multiple trips a year and tend to drive on average 4,500 miles in their camper.
RVers love to explore the great outdoors, with Yosemite National Park being the most popular RV destination in the US. RVers like to take advantage of all outdoor recreation amenities these beautiful destinations offer. Along with camping surrounded by scenic lakes, mountains and woodland, these destinations offer great places for hiking, biking, watersports, fishing and so much more.
Around a million Americans live full-time in RVs.
Florida is one of the most popular places for full-time RVers to reside as it has no state income tax.
Total monthly living costs are between $1400 - $3000 a month.
More and more Americans are choosing to live full-time in RVs. The freedom it offers along with lower living costs are driving the popularity. Downsizing for financial reasons has allowed people to pay off debt and even retire early whilst exploring beautiful destinations. It also allows people to spend more quality time as a family, and less time on cleaning and maintaining a larger house.
Full-time RV travel statistics show Florida is one of the most popular places to reside as it has no income tax and is fairly easy for people to relocate there; the state attracts a large number of retirees and has a huge choice of health insurance options adding to its lure.
A study by CBRE comparing various RV models with traditional vacations saw that RV vacations can be over 60% cheaper than a traditional holiday and trailers can cost as little as $6000. The study compared variations between hotels/motels/condos, eating out/eating in, traveling by air and renting a car versus staying in various models. Here are the cost savings if people took an RV vacation:
For 2 people, they could save the following % for each RV model:
Folding camping trailer: save 43-53%
Lightweight travel trailer: save 20-34%
Compact motorhome: save 20-34%
Type C motorhome: save 8-24%
Type A motorhome: save 19%
For a family of 4, they could save:
Folding camping trailer: save 50-64%
Lightweight travel trailer: save 31-50%
Compact motorhome: save 31-50%
Type C motorhome: save 21-43%
Type A motorhome: save 41%
The study by CBRE showed RV travel costs can offer savings when compared with traditional holidays. Whilst fuel costs do rise in depending on the type of RV, this wasn’t said to be significant enough to impact the outcome of the study and cost savings.
Many have chosen to live full time in RVs due to the cost savings compared with bricks and mortar. Lower rental costs, lower bills and the freedom RVs offer are all reasons why over a million Americans opt for this lifestyle. Whilst the initial down payment for an RV can be expensive, it won’t be more than a house deposit and rent can cost anywhere between $13-$15 a night on average.
With the growing need for escape, travel and freedom, we see RV vacations and full-time living continuing to grow.