If we’ve learned anything during the last couple of years, it’s that predicting the future is virtually impossible during a global pandemic. Just when we think things are finally returning to “normal,” the pandemic hits another speed bump in the form of supply-chain disruption, inflation or the next variant.
Of course, as a family-owned and operated small business, we’re always trying to anticipate trends and prepare the future. Specifically, we keep tabs on the conversion van and travel vehicle market—including new and used recreational vehicles (RV), motorhomes and campervans.
As America’s #1 conversion van dealer since 1988, we’ve weathered quite a few ups and downs in the economy. From our perspective, we see positive indications that support continued growth of the travel vehicle market in the coming months and years—such as increased consumer desire to travel after being “cooped up” during the pandemic, as well as rising housing/rental prices in many parts of the country which cause some people to consider alternative lifestyles like #vanlife.
On the flip side, low inventory due to reduced manufacturing and higher prices (particularly for used RVs and campervans) may discourage some folks from purchasing.
To get some further insight on this dilemma, we decided to focus on this topic in our annual scholarship contest by asking college students what they believe the future of the RV market will be in the post-pandemic world.
While we ultimately had to select just 1 winner of this essay contest—Alex Neubecker from The Ohio State University—we wanted to highlight some of our favorite responses from other students and share their perspectives on the future of the RV and campervan industry in the post-pandemic world.
Thanks to all of the students who participated in our scholarship contest. Keep adventuring and best of luck on your education journey! Scroll down the bottom of this page for information about how to participate in our next Scholarship essay contest.
Essay question: In a post-pandemic world, what will the economic ramifications be on the new and used recreational vehicle market in the coming months?
“Out of 180 million leisure travelers in America, an estimated 31% are planning on going RVing this summer, and 34% planning on renting an RV next year (RV Industry Association Staff, 2021). An RV road trip might be seen as a classic old-time American vacation, but as of January 2021 millennials made up 38% of all RV campers (Behling, 2021). Younger buyers mean they are more likely to be in the market for a longer period of time.
Although there was a massive push for RV sales in 2020, this is not an indication of a trendy COVID comfort. The coronavirus changed the way that the world turns. Regardless of the natural ebb and flow of the market, it’s safe to say that RV trips won’t be going away anytime soon.”
Sofia Pulizzi from Duquesne University
“On one hand, once the pandemic is over, there is most likely to be a reduction in consumer demand for products at first, due to the economic uncertainty… On the other hand, after COVID-19 comes to an end, there could be a jump in consumer demand for products and vehicles as people are traveling and working again. This would put more money into the economy with sales from vehicles, gas, etc. The increase in product demand will eventually lead to an increase in jobs, which produces more income for people to spend and put back into the economy.”
Dario Del Castillo from University of New Mexico
“The used recreational vehicles sector will likely grow in size while other newer projects like the electric car will see increased use and popularity. But with shortened production due to resource insecurity, newer vehicles will likely stay the same or grow slightly as many people become more confident in their spending power as they come out of the pandemic with hopes of a growing stronger economy.”
Cam Jones from Elizabethtown Community College
“I believe that many folks are not ready or willing to go back ‘all in.’ This means less vacations are going to be in a hotel. Less people are willing to risk that level of exposure to Covid, so RVs are a great solution.
Many folks that found the travelling silver-lining in the shutdown, loved it! In fact those that may have purchased a small or used RV are trading in and trading up. This will be a boost to production and sales as well.”
Nick Briggs from Eastern Washington University
“In the near future and in a post-pandemic world, the new and used recreational vehicle market should see new highs. As we all know in the stock market, big gains usually follow big dips. Prices will go back to normal as more people are selling and buying. After this pandemic, we should see more and more recreational vehicles for sale at much more reasonable prices. Although the new and used recreational vehicle market took a huge hit from this outbreak, it should see recovery in a big way following this pandemic.”
Jan Wilson from University of New Mexico
“My initial thought was that there will be record high sales of RVs after the pandemic subsides since people will undoubtedly be dying to get out of their homes after being on lockdown for so long… However, I did some research and I found some surprising data that would have me now believe the opposite. I think RV sales will decline after the pandemic. Contrary to what many people might believe, RV sales in the U.S. during the pandemic soared to near-record levels in June and July 2020 despite the global COVID-19 pandemic. It seems that Americans’ desire to travel couldn’t be dampened, even by the coronavirus. Travelling the continental U.S. in an RV seemed to be the best way for folks to travel extensively while still controlling their own environment.”
Chana Mahl-Simmons from University of Maryland
“As the economy bounces back, I think that there will be a huge increase in the recreational vehicle market. Recreational vehicles offer flexibility, freedom, and a closeness to outdoors that people are craving in a post pandemic world.
If there has been one positive aspect to emerge from the pandemic it is that people have a newfound appreciation for the outdoors… With a recreational vehicle you are assured to have the view you want, because you are the one parking your recreational vehicle… With a recreational vehicle you can have a beach view one day and a mountain view the next.”
“In a recreational vehicle the only thing separating you from the outdoors is your window. Recreational vehicles provide a closeness to the outdoors that traditional hotel vacations cannot provide. After being cooped up in their homes, people are ready to hit the road and see new things.”
Ashley Friesen from Georgia College & State University
“We can compare the recreational vehicle market to the housing market. Right now, many people are purchasing large dollar investments thinking the rates are low. In the near future, those same purchases will lose value and we will see foreclosures. This will then trickle down into luxury purchases, such as recreational vehicles. It is likely that the inflation we are seeing is not temporary and we could be heading towards a recession. In the interim, the average household may be hesitant to make big luxury purchases since they may be unsure of what their future holds. Perhaps this will not be an issue, but until the economy stabilizes this will be a concern for consumers.”
Kathryn Marcil from Perry Technical Institute
“My gut prediction would be that the trend of sales and rentals of recreational vehicles will continue to increase… Many miss out on this opportunity by getting from point A to point B on an airplane. It is my hope that more people would consider a recreational vehicle either to purchase or rent to make memories with their own families. It’s a wonderful investment and you won’t regret it!”
Sean Kempf from The State University of New York
“In the short term, we have seen more and more people move out of the dense city lifestyle and into a more suburban or rural lifestyle due to how the pandemic impacted the city they lived in… More people are looking to spread out across any given state and one of the easiest ways to do this is in a recreational vehicle. As the orders keep coming in for recreational vehicles, the factories have more work on the books for the future and the market is growing. The market for new and used recreational vehicles has also been strengthened by the housing market. Due to the recent spike in the housing market, many people are looking to sell their homes and take advantage of the demand for homes while potentially downsizing to a recreational vehicle.”
Joshua Toole from University of Pittsburgh
“For the new and used recreational vehicle market, I think it will explode once federal regulations on travel and national parks ease. The current increase in price for used vehicles, coupled with the burning desire to leave the house, expansive saving accounts, and releveraging of the consumer balance sheet will cause an explosion of growth for ‘reopening’ businesses like travel, leisure, and vehicles.”
Halaver Oustad from University of California Merced
“I would say that due to people finally getting a chance to go out into the world safely with vaccines being given out to a large amount of the global population, there is a very good chance that recreation vehicles will be in a relatively higher demand than they were in a pre-pandemic world.”
Madeline Rogers from Gonzaga University
“People want to get moving again and move on from the pandemic. We can predict a surge of consumer spending as people go back to work or go outside again; however, it will be a slow economic climb and for large industries like the automobile industry, it will take even longer to recover from the profits losses this past year. Cars will also probably become more expensive since factories had to stop production when everyone was told to stay home, and post-pandemic there will be a surplus in demand since people want to travel and go to work again.”
Jacob Eunice from Colorado State University
“The last year and a half has been very good to the recreational vehicle market. Sales have been increasing over the last few years, but really took off during the pandemic. With everything shutting down, recreational vehicles provided the closest thing to escaping what was the temporary new normal. The vehicles allowed individuals the ability to control their environment without having to come in contact with other people.”
“[With] the appeal of being able to travel where you would like without having to deal with mask mandates or going into buildings with numerous people, the recreational vehicle provides the perfect solution…”
G Ninja from OSU
“I believe one of the things that came under scrutiny was travel. The safety and cost were the main things that were evaluated. I think that post pandemic, it will mean that families, especially older Americans and those with young families realize that purchasing an RV allows them to travel in a rather inexpensive way without having to come in contact with others unless they choose to. Those expensive resort vacations, for many Americans, have been replaced by a more reasonable and deliberately ‘unplugged’ getaway. This could possibly mean a big boom in the RV market as families discover that they can travel more often with less expense.”
Elijah Montano from Western Colorado University
“Since everyone has been stuck at home for months, people want to get out and explore… People have a new lease on life and want to explore what outdoor recreation has to offer whether that is camping in a van or driving to the nearest national park.”
Taylor Rink from Oregon State University
“Life is short and unpredictable, so why put off an adventure of a lifetime? I believe the use of recreational vehicles will continue to grow in the post-pandemic world… Most people have a newly awakened vigor for life and adventure and those financially capable of doing so, will likely lean into it.”
Logan Burdwood from University of Maine
“While many markets in the American economy plummeted from the implications of the pandemic, the recreational vehicle market thrived and is on track to continue to grow. The post-pandemic economic consequences on the recreational vehicle market will not be detrimental, and instead the RV market will show high demand in sales and rental, a high value of new and used vehicles sold, and growing commodities such as maintenance and insurance in the RV market.
Forced to work from home, Americans took advantage of working remotely and sought travel and the great outdoors. Today, some companies are moving to remote work permanently so the desire for a more active outdoor lifestyle is sustaining the demand to buy or rent an RV. As demand rises so will the value of recreational vehicles.”
“The RV market was alive and well in the United States before the pandemic, but there is a new demographic of RV consumers that was born in the midst of the pandemic.”
Autumn Lewicki from Saginaw Valley State University
“Even though we are still living through the pandemic, businesses along with everything else are beginning to open back up. The economic ramifications in the coming months for the new and used recreational vehicle market will be good for sellers but maybe not so good for the buyers wallet. Since so many people have managed to make an extra allowance and had to be put through a lockdown, they want to travel more (or again), experience more and just feel a bit of normalcy again. This pandemic has changed peoples perspectives and also made us realize just how valuable our time here on earth is and not to take it for granted.”
Nicole Vick from University of Southern California
“In a post pandemic world, I envision the new and used recreational vehicle market will likely do well. It is true that many people are suffering economically because of loss of income during the pandemic, however, other industries such as the housing industry have been thriving despite the devastation of the pandemic. This makes me believe that there is a segment of the population that has extra income that could be interested in recreational vehicles.
The way people vacation and travel has been forever changed because of the pandemic. I can see people gravitating towards traveling in small groups of trusted friends and family and heading out to National Parks or other destinations they deem safe. Many companies are also continuing work from home opportunities making it easier to work from anywhere. Recreational vehicles would be an important tool to make this new way of vacation a reality for many families.”
Audrey Esomonu from Saginaw Valley State University
“During a year where hotels were not an option for many it seems plausible that those who stayed in caravans during this time may opt to continue post pandemic… In fact, RVs may prove more cost effective than hotels since you can commute, dine, and sleep in your vehicle all in one.”
Riley Kilheffer from Millersville University
“After living through the seemingly endless confusion, physical and emotional trials, and combatting ‘house fever’ as its own form of illness, everyone is eager to leave their homes and to explore the world. With such a high demand, the new and used recreation vehicle market should be prepared to face both positive and negative consequences. Unfortunately, the most trying hurdle that will be faced by manufacturers and consumers alike is that production simply cannot keep pace with the incredible levels of demand, and this will only raise prices even further.”
Roman Rodriguez from Schreiner University
“When everyone was under quarantine, new models of recreational vehicles were held back, preventing the market from moving forward. Today, as people are beginning to have the urge to travel and visit more, the labor market will recover and get back to the usual rates and even exceed what they have had prior, in correlation with the production rate.”
Autumn Browne from Harper College
“I believe that in a post-pandemic world, the outcome in this market in particular will return to normal. My reasoning behind this is that if the country is making progress and proving that the pandemic is subsiding, more consumers are going to see that as an opportunity to experience life again.”
Andrea Reilly from Adams State University
“I feel that in the years following the global pandemic camper vans and recreational vehicles (new and used) will be a very popular way to live and move around the country. Before the pandemic, living with optional mobility was rising in popularity as freelance work was increasing… During the pandemic, companies closed offices and laid off employees to downsize their workforce. I feel that in the coming years the work done by those laid off employees will be done by freelance short term contracted employees who will have the option to work from any location that has internet access.”
“As the number of short term employees or freelance employees increase, and they have the ability to work from outside an office, the popularity of life in a camper van or recreational vehicle will increase.”
John Marshall from Grand Canyon University
“When Covid-19 is hurting the travel industry, recreational vehicles are getting a nod from Americans. Americans are opting for ways to leave their homes without airplanes due to social distancing… There will be more traveling through new and used recreational vehicles among the young generation in the coming months.”
Amelia Ascione from Rutgers University
“If renting a van for travel purposes was a popular idea a couple of years ago, I can’t imagine how popular it will be in a post-pandemic world. Virtually all of humanity was locked in their houses for the entirety of the pandemic. Those who yearned to go on a vacation would have been met with strict travel bans, leaving them no choice but to stay home. Everyone has been cooped up and craving a vacation, leaving the recreational vehicle market in an unbelievably desirable position.”
Olivia Dominiski from University of Pittsburgh
“I believe that in the coming months there will be a huge resurgence in the use of RVs as a tool to get out there and discover new things across this great country. I think this is true because of the new public desire for private transportation as public transportation has become lackluster due to many new regulations surrounding covid and many subway systems being a shell of their former selves, a new trend in using your own recreational vehicle will become popular as you don’t need to use covid restrictions and you can be your own person driving across the U.S.A. and seeing the many sites and cities it has to offer.”
Katherine Tuttle from Gonzaga University
“To put it simply, the recreational vehicle market will likely experience higher demand and therefore higher prices for the months following the pandemic. It will last longer than just a few months, but soon it will plateau back to the normal pre-pandemic prices once the world gets back to normal. However, if parts are still on backorder and hard to get a hold of, the prices will remain higher for longer.”
Alyssa Caldarelli from University of Pittsburgh
“As the country returns to the traditional way of living, people are dying to get out of their sweatpants and into a swimsuit lying on the beach somewhere. RV sales definitely will be skyrocketing in the post pandemic world due to the new need for travel and excitement… There will probably be more renting of recreational vehicles rather than buying one to own. Until societal issues pan out and people get back on their feet financially, the RV industry should expect families to rent RV’s, or even purchase an already used one.”
“The recreational vehicle market should be taking advantage of the ‘social distancing’ aspect of society, and using it to their own financial benefit. By observing how eager the majority of Americans are when it comes to vacation, especially since everyone has been cooped up in their living rooms for a year, it is evident that traveling is the answer.”
Amber Blevins from Miami University – Oxford
“In a post-pandemic world, the new and used recreational vehicle market will likely see an uptick in sales. When the people who have been confined to their homes for a year or two begin to come back out into society they will probably want to travel and visit friends and family that they have been isolated from. These people have also learned more about what is really valuable in life, like experiences and time with family, which will push them towards the idea of travel rather than material goods. This will put both new and used recreational vehicles in higher demand, likely increasing their prices.”
Imonie Mitchell from Canisius College
“The pandemic has put many people off the idea of getting hotel rooms and boarding planes, as a result, more Americans are attempting to enjoy their socially distant summer break by purchasing or renting RVs or motorhomes. The uncertainty of normal modes of transportation plus the pent-up energy of being stuck at home has people turn towards RVing, a relatively safer alternative than the normal ways of travel and vacationing.”
Jennivy Tabbay from Samuel Merritt University
“In a post-pandemic world, I believe the new and used recreational vehicle market will be on the rise. Many people have sheltered in place for over a year… People are looking to find ways to travel safely, and RV usages are a perfect fit… Millennials are the next consumers in this day and age. There’s an increase in recreational vehicle popularity among millennials… There is a growing movement of millennials who are using RVs as a more affordable housing option. It helps eliminate the traditional rent fees, but only a small space rental fee for the RV. The small space rental fee is far below that of an apartment.”
Kayli Jones from Brigham Young University – Provo
“In the search to find their own freedom or passion, many have turned a recent interest to vans and the #vanlife. It has given families a sense of purpose as they have remodeled vans to create their own, small, mobile home. As this new way of life continues to be a highlight reel, people will continue to be on the lookout for recreational vehicles. However, they will begin to encounter some difficulty as the recreational vehicle market will struggle to keep up with demand. This in turn will drive the prices up, with the shortage of new RVs, vans or trailers, used lot’s prices will also rise. For every up there is a down. In the coming months, as prices rise there will be a rapid descent downwards and then a gradual rise for a little more stability within the supply and demand curve.”
Gabriel Wong from University of California, Berkeley
“In a post-pandemic world, I believe the recreational vehicle market can see growth in the coming months (as we exit this pandemic). This will occur for 2 main reasons. First, the value and desire to see the world have increased as a result of the pandemic. Secondly, there has been increasing demand for vehicles in general.”
“As the pandemic continues to lessen, people will go out of their way to make memories with their friends and family. They will want to travel and see the world while they have the opportunity to. This sentiment will stimulate the recreational vehicle market. People are more likely to travel and consider recreational vehicles as an option after a year of uncertainty and not being able to travel.”
Joseph Staschiak from Ohio State University
“Since people have been told to stay indoors for almost two years due to COVID, people have a need to travel for work or the desire to see the world like never before. The interest in traveling vans grows as the typical family (wo)man sees a practical way to not just see one attraction but see the entire world with just one purchase. People are daydreaming at work – a life of exploration, adventure, and freedom. They can find these in many places, but in a post-pandemic world, the dream and desire are no longer dreams, they are now actionable opportunities.”
Alicia Gerrity from Southern Oregon University
“Within the next couple months, the new and used recreational vehicle market should expect a slow rise in purchases from consumers and negotiations on prices to accommodate families.”
James Minor from Grove City College
“More people are looking into the possibility of owning a recreational vehicle. The mobility, ease of access, and the customizability are just a few reasons why recreational vehicle sales could soar over the next couple of years.
Volume of recreational vehicle sales will probably rise over the next couple of years following the Covid-19 pandemic. People need ways to get out and travel again without feeling limited by the restrictions in place on trains, planes and other forms of travel. The recreational vehicle allows one to take matters into their own hands, and live life how they would like.”
Zachary Lyman from Schreiner University
“It is undeniable that the pandemic has changed both our lifestyles and perspectives. During the pandemic, most mainstream avenues of recreation were unavailable. Theme parks, malls, and restaurants were closed. But what wasn’t closed? The great outdoors. The National Park Service saw a dramatic surge in visitors during the pandemic. Over lockdown, society found a new appreciation for outdoor activities. Even with social gatherings permissible once again, it is likely that camping and day visits to national parks will continue to be a popular American pastime. This cultural aspect will contribute to an increased demand for recreational vehicles.”
Alexandra Moore from University of Pittsburgh
“The restlessness and isolation we felt during the pandemic is going to increase the demand for new and used vehicles and aid in the rebound in vehicle sales. With concerns about hygiene and safety often at the forefront of travelers’ minds as they begin to leave their homes after a year and a half of quarantine, recreational vehicles offer the perfect balance of comfort, security, and affordability based on if they are new or used.”
“Given the opportunities that recreational vehicles offer for safety, comfort, and freedom, post-pandemic, their demand will increase, and vehicle sales will rebound… Personally, I am eager to start saving to purchase my own recreational vehicle, so I set my own itinerary and see the world on my terms.”
Nick Koszelak from Canisius College
“The future market for recreational vehicles is most likely going to keep trending upward post pandemic, yet the age demographic of who is purchasing these vehicles looks to be a bit swayed. The future is bright for the market and the pandemic may have hurt it at first, but it introduced the beauty and luxury that are recreational vehicles.”
Catrina Bennett from Montclair State University
“The primary reason why the market for recreational vehicles, new or used, may suffer is the lingering economic ramifications in this post-pandemic world. The pandemic exacerbated the financial situations of most Americans, resulting in increased levels of poverty and economic hardship… That is not to say that there are not factors of the post-pandemic world which lend themselves to the purchase of a recreational vehicle. The widely maligned ‘pandemic fatigue,’ brought about by the increased stress and hypervigilance of the last year, provides solid motivation for those who can afford it to take vacations.”
Brailey Stephens from Cornish College of the Arts
“I personally believe that young individuals will flock to the market. With the new American dream being one of youthful exploration, both of the self and physically, many young adults dream of going out on their own while being financially secure. I believe RV’s hold a lot of peace in the minds of students my age who want to live that escapist fantasy, especially now as the recent news that flooded the year 2020 has left many of my generation feeling lost and helpless.”
Jonathan Wheeler from California State University – Fresno
“The future economic ramifications all point towards market growth and increased usage in recreational vehicles. As younger generations continue to discover the freedom and capability RVs provide, the greater the demand will continue to rise. As the pandemic surfaces toward conclusion, many individuals will still be cautious and desire a method to get out while maintaining safety and social distancing standards. In the coming months of a post-pandemic world, the recreational vehicle market should expect consistent, exponential growth.”
Marcus Moore from Virginia Commonwealth University
“There are many reasons why there is an increase in RV sales during the COVID-19 pandemic. With the increased ability to do remote work, customers are feeling more secure in purchasing a recreational vehicle. Also, with the advent of social distancing, RVs provide a space of privacy and retreat from the plagued world. With frequent quarantines and stay-at-home orders, people are looking for ways to get out of their homes, and RVs provide for that escape. Therefore, there is no wonder why RVs are selling like hotcakes!”
“One piece of advice I would give to RV dealers and dealerships is to capitalize on people’s aspirations of being away from society and yearning for freedom and independence in travel.”
Daya Stewart from Parsons School of Design
“The uncertainty with the economy coupled with individuals’ desire to be free from the financial burdens associated with mainstream housing is a huge economic advantage for the recreational vehicle industry… We already know the law of supply and demand. I believe just like housing has seen a great pricing increase, used cars are in short supply but high demand; the RV van market will begin to follow the automotive trends… The RV industry gives the consumer a constant confidence in these uncertain times. It offers confidence in knowing you can enjoy life on the move, be on the go, and not be confined or constricted by financial responsibilities of owning a home.”
Jessica Linde from Brigham Young University
“[N]ow that a COVID-19 vaccine has been released, people are ready to get out and explore! Due to a combination of excited people and production restrictions lifted, sales of recreational vehicles are increasing. People are traveling more and to do so, people are buying these types of vehicles as a good alternative to airplane flights and getting hotels. Because of the housing shortage, people are also buying these vehicles as a good alternative to the expensive housing market.”
“Recreational vehicles are great alternatives for travel as they are very spacious and versatile as they are an automobile by day and a house by night.”
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