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RV Sales Surge as Americans Hit the Road

RVs Emerge as Safe Pandemic Travel Option

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, many Americans have hit pause on travel by plane, train, and bus. Sharing small spaces with strangers in transit and then checking into a hotel room has lost its appeal for many routine travelers. But one mode of transportation doesn’t require a hotel room or a communal air pocket, and it’s coming back into fashion—recreational vehicles (RVs).

RVs sales have surged in 2020, a year that’s handed many industries shutdowns, supply chain hiccups, and a dwindling customer base. In fact, the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association expects RV sales in the United States to swell by 4.5% this year. That would mean 424,400 units sold.

What’s more, that same group expects RV sales to rise even higher in 2021 to hit the best numbers the industry has ever seen. As RVs rise in popularity, 2021 could see sales spike by 19.5%—adding 507,200 more recreational vehicles on the road.

Camping World Holdings Innovates to Attract the ‘RV-Curious’

The uptick in interest is not solely related to experienced RV-owners buying new RVs during the pandemic. Analysts say they’ve seen new buyers enter the RV market over the summer.

Camping World Holdings (CWH), a company that owns RV dealerships, is hoping to take advantage of the RV-friendly market to expand its offerings and draw in new customers. At an investor meeting in mid-September, Camping World’s CEO and chairman said he hopes to see earnings rise from an adjusted $460 million to $490 million over the next five years.

Camping World is already a leader in RV sales, but the company also plans to use this growth to break into new markets. Next spring, Camping World aims to launch the “Airbnb for RVs,” where customers will be able to rent RVs from each other. The company also plans to create an algorithm so people can more quickly and easily get quotes for reselling used RVs.

Post-Pandemic Outlook for RV Sales

The country’s largest RV producers, Thor Industries (THO), which makes Airstream and Keystone, and Winnebago Industries (WGO), seem to agree that RV sales will continue. A surge in summer sales of RVs brought these companies back from their early-pandemic lows. Still, analysts suggest these RV producers aren’t out of the woods. Labor shortages and more supply-chain issues could hurt their margins in the coming year.

The question now is whether the new set of customers will stick around after the pandemic ends. If accelerated progress is made on the coronavirus vaccine and treatment front, more people might be eager to get back on planes and hit international destinations. However, even if a cure or drug is developed, it might not be readily available to the general public, which could keep customers stateside, favoring RV-type travel. Ultimately, it may depend on how long the pandemic lasts and how well companies like Camping World succeed in broadening their offerings for new buyers.

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ABOUT Dana Jennings Jelter Dana Jennings Jelter is a senior content strategist at SoFi.

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