Is the RV Sky Falling?

Posted In: Blog, Fuel Costs

I’ve written previously that it’s the best of times, and the worst of times. (If you’re going to rip off a writer, why not Dickens?)

Unfortunately it’s the “worst” part of that equation that dominates our headlines, and often our thoughts.

I want The Long Long Honeymoon to be an upbeat, positive, happy place. But I also want to be realistic about what’s going on in the world.

So let’s put a few metaphors in my magic verbal blender. Ignoring recent headlines would make me the blogging equivalent of Nero, the emperor who famously fiddled whilst Rome burned.

And yes, Rome is burning. For the RV industry, this year actually may be “the worst of times.” Quite frankly, it’s a bloodbath out there.

If you watched our recent appearance on HGTV, a couple of the premiere manufacturers whose products were prominently featured have gone out of business. Monaco and Country Coach made beautiful motorhomes, but both have filed for bankruptcy. Last year saw Teton Homes (beautiful fifth wheels) go under. And earlier this week Fleetwood (builder of travel trailers) filed for bankruptcy.

We’re in the middle of a severe recession, contraction, depression, fiscal black hole, economic come-to-Jesus meeting, or whatever you want to call it. As previously noted, the heart of the RV industry Elkhart, Indiana has the highest unemployment rate in the United States (as of this writing, it’s 18.3%!).

So… Is this the end of the RV industry, as some have claimed?

Not so fast, my friends.

It may be the end of certain types of RVs. But the American love of camping and the great outdoors is not tied to fluctuations in the stock market.

Last year, I asked an RV campground owner whether $5 per gallon gas had hurt her business. Her answer was surprising.

“Not really,” she said. “We stay fully booked. Now people just stay here longer.”

In other words, people kept on RV camping; they just reduced their driving.

Of course, the RV industry must innovate. RVs need to be more fuel efficient. Changes need to happen in the credit market so willing consumers can buy.

But Americans love the outdoors. We love to camp. That love is not going away, no matter what happens to the Dow.

"Quit camping? I'd rather buy a razor."

Our country stretches across a continent, one filled with mountains, lakes, rivers, canyons, deserts, and trails. We have the best national parks in the world. We have an immense infrastructure supporting RV travel that has developed over several decades.

Want to see America, the REAL America? There’s still no better way than by RV.

Want an affordable second home? Even in times of plunging real estate prices, there’s no more affordable one than an RV.

And in times of economic hardship, RV camping arguably makes more sense than other forms of travel. When we camp, we can more easily control certain key expenses like dining out. Hey, Kobe beef and fine wine are nice, but it’s tough to beat fresh grilled hamburgers, cold beer, and smores. You keep the white tablecloth; I’ll happily trade it for a campfire.

We may not travel as far from home (or as luxuriously) but we’ll still go, and we’ll still have a great time.

And I suspect that when things bounce back, they will bounce back BIG TIME.

So don’t listen to all of the doom and gloomers out there. RV camping, in some form or fashion, is here to stay.


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Sean’s Tilley hat
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Eye masks for sleep
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The Next Exit book

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Britta Bella water pitcher
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