For the first time in a decade, the recreational-vehicle industry is poised to break production records. RV manufacturers are expected to ship 380,000 units this year, up 6.5 percent from 2014 and nearing the previous peak, set in 2006 before the recession.
The spending strength of baby boomers craving the RV lifestyle gets much of the credit.
“We’re in the midst of the largest expansion of the market for new RVs in our lifetimes. Approximately 11,000 baby boomers turn 65 every day until 2029,” Mac Bryan, vice president of the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association in Reston, Virginia, said in a recent forecast.
“Rising home values will continue to strengthen home equity, and with small gains in the stock market, will strengthen the willingness and ability of new RV buyers,” Bryan said.
In the worst of the recession, manufacturers filed for bankruptcy and many dealerships closed. The industry has been on the mend since then, although it’s still struggled.
“This has been a good season. The industry, as a whole, is up quite a bit,” said Tim Wegge, president of an RV dealership in southeastern Wisconsin.
Some of the top sellers have been “toy haulers,” which are RVs that combine living space with cargo area for things like motorcycles, all-terrain-vehicles and golf carts.
Pushing a couple of buttons converts one of these mobile garages into a living room on wheels. Bunk beds lift flat against the ceiling to make room for storage, and carpet can be rolled out over the grease-resistant flooring.
The toy haulers have a screened porch to keep the bugs away from evening gatherings and outdoor speakers for party music.
“Oddly enough, we are not seeing big families buying them and hauling dirt bikes and four wheelers to races, although that’s been done. We are seeing retirees buying them to haul their Harleys and golf carts. It kind of took us by surprise,” Wegge said.
Some of the new motor homes are smaller and less expensive than those sold before the recession. Travel trailers selling for about $25,000 are popular with retirees and younger buyers alike, said Kim DeHaan, another owner of a Wisconsin dealership.