Chuck Woodbury, editor and publisher of RVTravel.com, the industry’s largest online publication, is a full-time RVer and a mobile lifestyle advocate. But Woodbury says the RV industry is in chaos. Buyers must beware, owners must be more considerate and manufacturers need to re-evaluate their responsibilities.
According to the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) in Reston, Va., wholesale shipments of RVs increased 17.2 percent in 2017 from the previous year. Motorhome shipments increased 14.4 percent last year from 2016 totals.
But while the sales highlight the industry’s boom, it’s also fostered growing concerns of decreasing manufacturing quality. Additionally, with traditional homes increasing unaffordable in metropolitan areas, including the Bay Area, more city dwellers are living in RVs, sometimes in parking lots. Proper sanitation should be a priority but sometimes isn’t.
As recently reported by Bay Area News Group, many RV dwellers in the Silicon Valley are working class individuals or families who have been forced out of their homes or can’t affordable apartment of other traditional housing. They’ve simply fallen on hard times.
“I think the RV industry should be watching carefully, recognizing this is a problem that will likely get worse,” said Woodbury, an author and host of the best-selling Better Business Bureau DVD, “Buying a Recreational Vehicle.”
“But I have seen no evidence that anything is being done. The focus is almost exclusively on sales with some discussion about expanding RV technician training programs, which is a good thing.”
Woodbury, who has traveled throughout the world as an RVer for more than 30 years, believes manufacturers and dealers entice potential buyers with increasingly advanced equipment and furnishings and with low long-term financing. But it’s rarely in the best interests of RV customers.
“To me, it’s a huge problem,” said Woodbury, who frequently receives letters from readers of his website and RV Travel Newsletter about catastrophic issues. “I am probably the only voice out there trying to get the companies to do something more to improve their products.”
Further troublesome is a lack of qualified assistance for RVers whose vehicles need repair.
“There’s a huge shortage of RV technicians,” Woodbury said. “Generally, the dealers don’t pay very well, so it can be very difficult to get an RV fixed. We hear horror stories all the time about people buying RVs riddled with defects. It can take months to get an RV repaired. I feel sorry for people who have paid $100,000 or $200,000 or a new RV and they can’t use it.”
Woodbury cites Walmart as a forward-thing company for RVers. It’s welcomed travelers for years in the stores’ parking lots. But even the giant retailer is now concerned.
“Walmart is not happy with it because these RVs have toilets and where do you dump the toilets?” Woodbury said. “All too often there are horror stories.”
“For the people in the Bay Area who are making $40,000, $50,000 or $60,000 a year, it might sound like a lot if you’re in a small, rural in Midwest,” said Woodbury. “But down there, it’s pretty tough getting by. They can buy an RV for far less than they can a home, put in an RV park. That’s the option for them.”
“The idea of some nearly homeless living in RVs makes perfect sense; I’ve seen it coming for 10 or 20 years. A motorhome, a trailer will depreciate to the point where it will be unsalable to most people. But someone can buy one for $500 or $1,000 and it’s a lot better than being on the streets.”
The RV industry, according to Woodbury, just doesn’t understand the dire situation and it likely doesn’t care.
Editor’s Note: TheWeeklyDriver.com podcast on the RV industry is featured in the current issue of the RVTravel.com newsletter, published by Chuck Woodbury. The newsletter is free. Subscribe and check out the wealth of recreatinonal vechicle formation available on Woodbury’s site, RVTravel.com.