Wednesday, January 5, 2022

Panic-buying RVs

When I was a young child, we traveled a lot. We lived in a small town outside of Buffalo, New York, but my dad was often sent on extended business trips to California. Rather than leave his family behind during summer months, Dad took us with him. He drove a Buick towing a 22-foot travel trailer that slept six people. We crossed the country nine times before I was ten years old. Eventually it became easier to simply move to California, which my parents did in 1972, when I was 10 years old.

(This photo is not our original trailer, but it's the closest picture I could find to the unit we had.)

The things I remember from those cross-country trips would fill a book! Mountains, deserts, plains, oceans ... I'm sure it was awful for my parents to do so much traveling with four tiny kids, but from a child's perspective it was a never-ending adventure. The investment in that travel trailer saved my parents a fortune in hotel and food costs.

After settling in California, we used the trailer a few more times for weekend trips, but eventually my parents donated it to a charity and that was that. Thus ended just about my only experience with RVs.

Fast forward nearly fifty years. RVs have changed a lot. They're sleek, efficient, luxurious, and above all, expensive.

We had some friends in our old place who had, at one point, purchased an enormous motor home. Their idea was to travel around the country for a year. Unfortunately some health issues cropped up and they had to shorten their trip to two months before returning home.

Over the next few years, the health of both the husband and the wife declined. Eventually the husband passed away, leaving the wife in some difficult financial circumstances. To ease her financial burden, she put a number of things up for sale, including the motor home.

It was at this point I realized the motor home was not paid off – it was financed. In her widowhood, the wife was paying an enormous amount of money each month – more than our mortgage payment – for an item that did nothing but sit in her driveway, and which she could not even drive because of her own declining health.

Fortunately she was finally able to sell that white elephant, but it left me with a bad taste in my mouth for motor homes and RVs.

Which is why this article caught my eye last month: Americans Panic-Buy RVs As Shipments Exceed 600,000 Units This Year And Next.

"The RV industry is looking at double-digit growth rates into mid-2022, due in part to low inventories, the strong financial standing of consumers, and the desire of consumers to get outdoors and experience an active outdoor lifestyle," said one industry expert.

I knew RV sales were hot in the last couple of years, largely due to the desire to vacation while maintaining social distancing. But it was the term "panic buy" that I found interesting. Why would anyone "panic buy" such an expensive item?

Interestingly, despite the click-bait headline, I found nothing about "panic-buying" RVs in the article, which ended by saying, "This is the latest sign Americans, more than ever, are rediscovering national parks and rural communities in their RVs rather than vacationing in big cities and at resorts. The RV boom might continue past 2022 as demand by millennials has been steadily increasing."

There's nothing "panic"-driven about a desire to explore national parks or rural communities. An admittedly brief search for "panic-buying" of RVs turned up nothing more.

Ironically, we're in the market for a trailer ourselves (to use as a guest house on our property), so we've been scanning ads for second-hand units. What we're seeing a lot of is this: People are purchasing trailers to live in after leaving the city. They settle on a newly purchased piece of land and live in the RV while they build a house, then sell the RV. We have new neighbors doing exactly this, some nice folks who left the Seattle area for a more rural lifestyle.

So I thought I'd throw this topic out for discussion. Has anyone seen "panic buying" of RVs? Am I missing something?


  1. I sure have not, here in Texas. I wouldn't mind though because my widowed mom's r.v. is at our place and she's wanting to sell it. Would love to get a nice amount of $$$ from its sale for her.

  2. I've had several camper trailers over the years. The youngest one, the 5th wheel we still own, was eleven years old when we bought it. RV's lose value quicker than a snow cone in the Mojave. I'm not sure why ANYONE would buy one of those things new!

    I haven't heard anything about "panic buying" here in the Wild, Wild West. Then again, gruesome Newsom even ordered CAMPGROUNDS close 'cuz COVID.

  3. My wife and I purchased a 17' travel trailer in 2020 to do exactly the escape from the house and do something. That same trailer has increased in new retail cost by over 50%, and we could sell our two year old unit for more than we paid for it. The dealer lots are almost as empty as the car lots. I understand this is a new situation for the RV industry, but I would expect the used market in a couple years will be flooded with heavily discounted units, but buyer beware if they have been neglected.

    One thing to remember when owning an RV, the only thing that works consistently is the owner :)

  4. I don't know if it qualifies as panic buying, but some family members have RVs and one who sees deeper into the industry. According to them, yes, RV sales have gone through the roof in the past two years. Even the smaller tow-alongs and pop-ups are selling like crazy.
    A lot of folks going off grid are buying them. Some folks who have found themselves not being able to afford apartments are doing the same.
    I can say that a full RV is expensive, both to buy and maintain. After watching family members, I want a tow-along or pop-up. Yes, there is still maintenance but much more affordable.

  5. Yes. In mid Summer our travel trailer had a mechanical problem that the dealer wouldn't be able to fix for two months maybe four or more. But it was our home since we sold the house in January. But an easy fix was to buy another trailer. There was one new trailer (no used trailers) and it was only unsold because it had come in that day. We bought it. The dealer told us how lucky we were to find one. AND because the dealer now owned our old trailer they were able to get it into the shop to be repaired and they sold it at a huge profit. We look occasionally for a different RV and if you can find one the price is too high. But IMHO there is a major recession on the horizon and I would not be surprised to see used RV's suddenly filling up the lots.

  6. I'm not thinking that panic buying is the correct term, but yes, they do seem to be selling rather hotly. I believe a good number of them are being snapped up by people who have, are, ore think they might be, losing their home for one reason or other, or as wanting/needing to downsize for financial reasons. I'd love to get one, or something I could convert, but they seem to be going up faster than I can save money lol.

    Pray for those who are moving into one though. The weather is going to go nuts on this planet, and it's likely going to be growing far less pleasant as time goes by, for at least 10-15 years.

  7. Don't buy anything new, newer, or newish. They're all built horribly and cost as much as a mortgage, as you mentioned. Get an older, well maintained one with a metal roof. The new rubber roofed ones will fail in far less than 10 years, and they're expensive to replace. Keep it under cover if at all possible. Even a blue tarp is better than out in the weather. Duct tape, a cordless drill, and a variety of screws are a must. Also, an entire tool box. Also, spare everything. Also, good diy and problem solving. That said, we love our little trailer. Just can't afford to take it very far anymore.

  8. The dealer in our town had the luck or foresight to stock up on a large number of trailers just before the market for trailers exploded. A few weeks ago they announced that they have been bought out by a national chain. I'm sure that inventory played a role in the sale.

  9. There is no "panic buying" of RV's here in northern Arizona. And I hate those attention getting headlines to an article and find nothing there to support the headline. If you can, wait, I think there will be a lot of inexpensive RV's available within two years as many people get "upside down" on their RV loans.

  10. Here in north Tx we are seeing a large number of trailers being set up in small parks. There is one we drive buy once or twice a month and it has gone from 0 to 25 in one year and then they doubled the size and now it is at 50 or 60. The turnover is low based on what we see, I think these are just lower cost living accommodations.

  11. I wonder if it's related to the ridiculous cost of used cars right now. My son's reliable old Camry bit the dust this summer and I just could not believe the prices for used vehicles. I assume this is all related to supply chain issues, etc etc etc.

  12. We live in the middle of the country and we have seen many mobile home (trailer) parks just get packed with full time RV. People can just not afford mortgages anymore. One of my daughters started out this way and eventually moved into a regular signal wide trailer in the same park. But for a couple hundred a month you get a small lot to park on, water, sewer, trash service and her park included electric for an additional fee. But lot rent was only $220 a month plus electric which was not much in such a small space. The park she lived in was a combination of young people trying too start out and older people who really could not afford much else on Social Security. Older units are snapped up fast for use in this way and are only moved by new owner 1 time to be placed in the trailer park.

  13. This has come up in our urban area where, due to rents being through the roof, trailers and RVs offer a much less expensive option.

  14. I have read that many people bought them last year to "socially distance" or quarantine while on vacation... I'm not sure how successful they were, especially in areas where the campgrounds were closed!.
    We upgraded to a larger RV last year since our family is growing. Yes, prices and demand are up compared to the year before when we started looking, but not badly. We did drive 600 miles to get our new (15 year old unit), which is not uncommon. We paid less than our max, but it had more miles than we wanted.
    We have driven it 12,000 miles since we bought it, and are glad for it, but we use it WAY more than most people.
    Finance?!? NO. Never finance a depreciating asset and most importantly - always live within your means!

    1. "Never Finance a depreciating asset"

      Very wise words.

      -K in Ca

  15. Last year we saw some people "panic buying" as a preparedness it - a bugout home on wheels. But to your point about living in one while buying land and building a home is common. In fact we are going the same thing. We are acting close to where you used to live and buy milk from your old next for neighbor! It was kind of a thrill to see your old house from the road after following your blog for do many years lol.

  16. It seems like you would be better off converting a shed to a guest house rather than using a trailer. Mice love trailers!

    1. There are many plans available for simple cabins that would be much cheaper and significantly less maintenance than an RV. Maybe something around 12x16 in size with a small tent wood stove and simple built-in cabinets and a murphy bed. Composting toilet would be an option too :)

    2. Not sure if my "no need to publish" comment came through. I had my google ID on and all sorts of warning popped up.

      These two YouTubers have some nice, simple cabin designs they build.

    3. I was checking out barn style sheds last year to use as storage, and looked at a 12x28 that was only 12,000 new and delivered with a metal roof, a door, and two windows. I was just looking at this because I don't need that much storage, but was blown away by the space and craftsmanship. The company used Mennonite workers. Anyway, surely the price has zoomed up several thousand. I would opt out of doors and windows in your neck of the woods and use some better suited to your cold weather. Also, I would add a covered deck/porch along one side using polycarbonate as roof so in cold weather it could be wrapped with seasonal greenhouse material and serve as a greenhouse. Saw one on YouTube that did this and also put their composting toilet out there. There are lots of hunters around here and shed conversions are popular with them. They add porches, rooms,decks, whatever.
      Something else to consider is the wood stove thing, as many are well made and quite durable but are not licensed for residential use. They are fine for hunting cabins, workshops, and so forth. While residential rated stoves have skyrocketed in price and are in scant supply, not so many of these equally serviceable models.

      Though I'm not fond of the look of barn roofs on sheds, either or both ends of this 12x28 model shed could be floored in for sleeping lofts or storage, leaving the downstairs area for living.

      Unless you planned to sometimes use the RV for travel, I'd buy a new shed and finish it out as desired.

  17. Mice love sheds, too!
    Have a mice day,
    Minnie Mouse

  18. We call our camper "The Maine Guest Cottage". LOL.


  19. Every thing you never wanted to know about RVing and then some... good info about solar power.

  20. My parents are snowbirds, and live in their VERY fancy 5th wheel for about 6 months out of the year. Fortunately, theirs is paid off. They reports see many, many more RVs in some of their favorite haunts around Yuma, AZ this year- from what they've reported, there seem to be a lot more people taking long-term camping spots with their trailers. And a guy we know moved to Arizona last year to work for an RV seller- their demand was so high that he was raking in commissions like crazy.
    Most of my family have travel trailers. I'm hearing over and over that the newer models have constant breakdowns and maintenance issues. My parents' fancy rig has been a nightmare. They've said they wish they kept their older model, which was built to last. We're taking their advice and keeping our old travel trailer- we would rather overhaul and update a paid off trailer than go into debt on a maintenance-plagued newer model!

  21. lots of people buy these debt sinkholes with bright eyes and bushy tails never realizing the reality of those things. As long as they're running well, they're semi-ok. But, wait until mechanical problems crop up, especially if you are waaaaay out in the rural areas. May never get repaired unless you are one of the 1%-ers that can airlift in a repair crew.

    Another thing NOBODY thinks about are the ENVIROMENTAL constraints on these atrocities. The "lifespan" of these things is around 10 years. Some States will not renew registration them after that point because they are then considered toxic waste dumps (the septic systems in these things have certain "issues"). And, even worse, you just can't take them to a junkyard when you can't register it or sellit, for those same environmental reasons.

    Being unable to dispose of these things the way you can a car or truck is one of the main reasons you are beginning to see "abandonded" RVs all over the place, especially in rural areas. Many are just left on the side of the road near a "homeless encampment" for the "residents" to claim (see Portlandia, Smogopolis, San Francesspool, Sh*tattle, etc., on the commiecoast).

    If you want one, it's probably better to rent or lease on for a period of time to see just how much "fun" they really are, and get rid of it afterwards and rent/lease a newer one so you don't get stuck with disposal "issues".

    Around here (semi-boonies), there are maybe hundreds of "RV Storage" facilities, wherew all the BigBoy Toys spend there years just sitting and doing nothing. Fortunately for drivers, they aren't out constipating the roads.

  22. We moved to Kentucky with our 36 foot toy hauler, which we purchased used because we had to move out of our house for several weeks because of hurricane damage. We owned it for 5 years, and put it in an auction last summer. We made more money on it, than when we originally purchased it. We were able to find a used Minnie Winnie 26 foot trailer, and are now vacationing in Florida with it. We did notice on the way to Florida, that there are many campgrounds that seem to have permanent residents. We did see a lot of RV dealers that have plenty of inventory…perhaps that is due to the price of their inventory is out of range for regular buyers. Great post today!

  23. I live close to Houston. This past week I noticed a large RV lot on. The south side of town was full as were 2 lots on the west side of town. This wasn't the case a year ago.

  24. I couldn’t help but notice in the story of your friends, that both of them became ill after two months in their new RV. The first thing I thought of on hearing that story, is that the high rate of off-gassing formaldehyde found in tight new RVs was what made them sick.

    Another good reason to buy an older off-gassed RV. Although, I’m not sure they are ever fully off-gassed.