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Pandemic pushed people outdoors — a record number of them in RVs

The RV industry is pumping out new units like never before as demand remains high.

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A record 11.2 million households in the U.S. owned an RV in 2021 and that number is expected to go up in 2022. RVers say they like the ability to keep traveling, even during the pandemic, but also keep distanced from others. They also like bringing all the comforts of home on the road.
Contributed / RV Industry Association
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DULUTH — You weren’t just imagining seeing more RVs on the road and filling campgrounds over the past two pandemic summers.

Many Americans appear to be changing how they vacation under the pall of the COVID-19 epidemic, eschewing hotels and urban areas and flocking to RV camping and more rural vacations like never before.

That’s according to data from the RV industry that combines annual sales and surveys of Americans who are speaking with their money and buying RVs at an unprecedented rate.

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According to a recent survey by Go RVing, a partnership between the RV Industry Association and the RV Dealers Association, RV ownership is at a record high, with 11.2 million households owning an RV in 2021. That’s up 62% over 6.9 million households in 2001 and 26% more than 8.9 million RV-owning households a decade ago.

Sales are expected to keep rising in 2022, and RVs will be popular attractions at next week’s Duluth Sport Show on Feb. 17-20 at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center.

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Part of the RV rev-up is the massive influx of retiring baby boomers into the RV market, with time and money on their hands and a desire to get out and explore. But it’s not just the gray-haired crowd. The survey found that 18- to 34-year-olds are the fastest-growing demographic of RVers, making up an estimated 22% of RV travelers in 2021. And 51% of RVers are under 55.

It seems the enthusiasm for going camping while still bringing the comforts of home along is not waning. Under the pandemic, 2020 set records for most RVing. But more RVs were made in 2021 than any other year ever.

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A recent survey found that it's not just aging baby boomers buying RVs at a record pace: The fastest-growing age demographic of RVers is 18-34, making up an estimated 22% of RV travelers in 2021.
Steve Kuchera / 2016 file / Duluth News Tribune

The survey found that the top reasons noted by respondents for this surge in RVing include:

  • Ability to control the cleanliness of their environment.
  • Limit contact with others and still feel like they are vacationing.
  • Set their own schedule with few restrictions.
  • Bring everything they want from home, including pets.
  • Get outside and enjoy nature.

Nearly one-third of the respondents in the study, 31%, are first-time RV owners, underscoring the growth of the industry in the past decade.
RV’s include everything from small, pop-up tent campers and teardrop trailers small enough to tow behind a motorcycle, to giant motorhomes with multiple beds and big-screen televisions. In between are tow-behind campers, fifth-wheel trailers, pickup truck campers and more.

The median annual usage for current RV owners remains steady at 20 days. But as work rules and norms change, allowing more people to work remotely, people intending to buy an RV say they expect to use it an average of 25 days per year.

The typical RV owner is 48 years old, married and has an above-average annual household income of $62,000.

READ MORE BY JOHN MYERS
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John Myers reports on the outdoors, natural resources and the environment for the Duluth News Tribune. You can reach him at jmyers@duluthnews.com.
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