The stereotypical imagery of Recreational Vehicles (RVs) has mostly been based upon the historical demographics of owners: retired “empty-nesters” seeking lower-cost adventure on the open road with a portable quasi-hotel-on-wheels. These Boomers would seek out national parks for a month or two, and then meander back to their permanent residence when the vacation budget neared its end.
And then the pandemic changed everything.
A new study by Progressive Insurance of 501 Americans who live within their RVs full- or part-time suggests our collective stereotypes should adapt. First and foremost, only 13% of those living the #RVlife fall into the typical, recent-retirement ages of 55-64, whereas 70% are ages 54 or below with nearly 1/3rd (32%) falling between the ages 35 and 44 (a.k.a. Millennials). The Communications Director of Escapees RV Club, Georgianne Austin, was quoted by Progressive as saying, “We’ve seen a lot of growth where people didn’t have to show up to the office anymore, or they were living in really high-cost areas of the country and no longer had to because work didn’t keep them pinned there. The freedom to travel and do other things has really ignited a lot of growth in [RV living].” In fact, the study found that 54% of the RVers were Remote Workers with that number reaching as high as 70% for the age 24-35 respondents, suggesting that RVs should be renamed RWs.
But remote working is not the only enabler or incentive for these adventurers: the 30-year mortgage rate has jumped from 2.79% to 6.27% since 2021, the average homeowner’s insurance has climbed to $1820 per year due to worsening climate disasters and the need to recoup payouts, the average cost of a hotel room exploded over 100% from 2020 ($103.25) to early 2023 ($212 per Money.com), and the average cost of a rental car jumped 76% from $46/day at the start of 2020 to $81/day in late 2022. The greatest financial con for RVs (or RWs!) might be the rising cost of gasoline and their gas-guzzling powertrain (which 40% cite as a big challenge), however other forms of travel (e.g., airplanes) also rely upon lower gas prices. All in, there are significant financial motivations to consider the nomadic life which, per 49% of the respondents, is the top reason they have shifted.
And don’t start assuming these people are the random few. According to Jackery, over 10 million households in the United States own an RV with a million of them living full-time in the vehicle.
What about kids, though? Yes, children and pets might be the only remaining impediments to such a mobility shift, but even that might be changing. Although Jackery states only 2% of those living within their RVs have kids along for the ride, Progressive’s data shockingly suggests 77% of the Millennials (ages 35-44) travel with children, 83% have a dog and 69% live in that RV six or more months per year. In fact, per The Wandering RV 90% of RV parents say, “It’s the best way of holidaying with [their] children.” This appears to have become possible based upon not only the age-old option of homeschooling (19% of respondents), but also utilizing newly created virtual classrooms (49%) or curtailing the nomadic living to a region near a specific brick and mortar school (31%).
Amongst the last remaining questions: “Is this lifestyle unique or highly-influenced by where a person lives?” Yes and no. According to the RV Industry Association (RVIA), Americans buy more RVs than any other market and, yes, some states have significantly more sales than others. For instance, according to Titlemax, Alaska, Montana and Minnesota spend 4-5 times the per capita amount on RVs ($39, $37 and $33 respectively) as do Rhode Island, Maryland, South Carolina and Virginia ($6, $8, $8 and $8 respectively). But despite a northwestern bias, all fifty states have at least some spending; even Hawaii at $2 per capita. And make no mistake about it, RV spending is increasing globally (projected CAGR of 6.7% from 2021 to 2028) due, in no small part, to the pandemic’s far-reaching effects with Asia Pacific expected to have the fastest-growing market.
So, no, the RV is no longer just your grandfather’s RV.
Let me express a “thank you” to all of the loyal readers concerned about my disappearance over the past six months. I fully appreciate your concern and I whole-heartedly love that you’ve noticed my virtual disappearance. Let me assure you that I’m fine, and the red-tape impediment previously resisting our ongoing relationship has been removed. So we, too, may virtually enjoy this hybrid world together no matter where you’ve parked yourself.