2020 was quite a year to say the least! The first third of the year, roughly through the end of April was VERY quiet for RV dealers and other camper sellers. Of course, from early March, through about May first, much of that was due to the virus.
When states began to open up after May 1, people quickly descended upon their local RV camper dealer to scoop up what they could when they realized that flying anywhere or going on a cruise was not in the offing. I referred to this in an earlier post as a “feeding frenzy.”
Since mid-Spring 2020, two factors have controlled the world of RV sales – first, massive demand; second – 2021 models, typically released in May and June (of ’20), were delayed. Why? Manufacturer closures and third party vendor shortages.
Virtually all RV camper manufacturers rely upon many “third party vendors” to complete an RV camper. Hot water heaters, refrigerators, and even drawer handles are among the many parts most manufacturers do not produce themselves. In a recent visit to a RV manufacturer in October, I observed literally hundreds of trailers sitting on their lot waiting on these third party vendors to supply parts so they can be completed and shipped to dealers.
This situation created a perfect storm resulting in limited inventories across the nation – and of course dealers being merchants who follow “supply and demand” laws, began to hold more profit on the few campers remaining in stock – so, to you and I, prices went up.
As we enter 2021, here’s where things stand now in the world of RV sales…
Early 2021 arrives to see inventories rising, albeit slowly as the 2021 models trickle in – several months late. This is a time of the year when dealers sales floors are both typically quiet (outside of the deep south) and the sales staff are gearing towards clearing out their “current year” (2021) models in preparation for the arrival of ’22 models in May and June ’21 – just a few months off from now.
This year? Not so much. The shortage in parts has created a slow roll in the arrival of ’21’s AND here’s the big issue – with the continued shortage in parts, manufacturers are now turning to higher priced vendors to complete and deliver their new campers. The end result? The overall cost of a camper is rising. Consumer demand continues to remain above normal for the time of year – though not nearly as much of a “feeding frenzy” as was observed earlier in 2020.
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Two recent “case studies” with my Concierge RV Clients
I was recently contacted by a gentleman who was interested in my Concierge RV Buying (and Selling) Service. He wanted to see if I could get him a great deal on a Class B RV camper. Class B campers are a particularly hot category – not good news for buyers at this time.
He had been looking for quite some time, and had been quoted $72,000. on a Winnebago Solis 59P in the late Spring. Frankly, he should have jumped at it as between dealers wanting to raise their profit margin on these hot campers, and Winnebago engaging in a several percent increase in the cost of their campers, a really good price on this camper is now $82,000. – for the SAME camper – in just 6 months or so!
Of course, from his perspective, he believes he’s being gouged and wants to get one for the $72k he was offered just a few months ago. Unfortunately, its unlikely that pricing will ever be available again as the dealer cost on that camper now is not far under the $82k I was able to secure for him and from my experience, once the dealer cost of a camper rises, it virtually never declines as we move forward! Yes, dealer profit margins can increase and decrease, but (in his case), the offer from a “friendly dealer” (I have a good business relationship with them) was just over their cost, so… on that camper, he will likely never see it for under $82k again as long as he wants a new unit.
Your experience will vary by the category of camper you’re looking at. As I noted before, Class B’s are particularly hot. Fifth wheel trailers, especially high end 5th wheels, not so much. Here’s another example of what I was able to do for a new client recently –
A recent fifth wheel trailer buying experience…
My client was looking for a used 5th wheel. Used in general is the way to go as it is common to find a used camper (2-5 years old) that is in “like new” condition. Why? People buy campers all the time with all kinds of great travel plans.. then “life happens” and the camper sits unused. Finding a 4 year old camper that’s been used for 20 days or less is not uncommon!
I ran across one seller once who had used it two times in over six years – and it was early in their ownership of this camper. What happened? A divorce and her husband took the truck! So, without a truck, the camper just sat! Hey… it happens.
Not only can you find a “like new” used camper, you will get it for substantially less than the original buyer paid. The fact is that new campers depreciate RAPIDLY in their first two years. For trailers, its about 40%!
Ok, back to my client – he was looking for a high end, good quality 5th wheel. Vanleigh is among the campers recommend to my clients who want a ‘high end’ fifth wheel that is well built. He liked the Vilano 320GK (I do too.) In fact I did a review on Vanleigh HERE.
New, 2021 Vanleigh Vilano models sell for $80k and up. I ended up negotiating on a ’19 in outstanding condition for $50k – which was actually an great price, especially considering the current market for campers. It was a few thousand BELOW NADA low-retail value. (NADA is THE authority in the industry for camper values.)
For those who wish to learn more about me and what I can do for them in my Concierge RV Buying Service, please click HERE.
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Bottom line if you’re in the market for a RV Camper in 2021…
As I write this, we don’t even know with certainty who will be President in a few weeks, and with the virus continuing to be a BIG variable, its tough to say when airline flights will be abundant again and when people will start taking cruises and staying in hotels. Until then, RV’s rule the roost!
Unfortunately, many new RV’ers will go into the wolf-den (RV dealerships) and buy a product that will provide nothing but frustration and grief until they sell it. There’s a reason they say “the two best days of being an RV owner are the day you buy it, and the day you sell it!” The reason this is common wisdom is simply that many RV manufacturers build a sub-standard product, and then when it fails, the camper sits in a RV service center for months on end (literally.) My goal as a consultant is to ensure that those whom I work with do not purchase one of “those” campers.
I often hear the expression by some “they’re all crap.” I respectfully disagree. There ARE some companies that build a quality product that is FAR LESS prone to issues than most others. But, you have to know what you’re looking for. And the names vary by type (eg – travel trailer, 5th wheel, motorhome etc.) In general, I’m a fan of small, independent manufacturers.
Several years ago a study revealed ZERO growth in the RV industry over a 20 year period. The author noted several reasons for this but the #1 reason? Campers that are made so poorly that after a buyer sells their first camper… they’re done.
I see this as truly unfortunate as I know that while NOTHING is 100% trouble free, you can own a camper that is quite reliable and spends most of its life “on the road” and not in the repair shop. When it comes to RV’ing, I often say “expect the unexpected”, but this doesn’t mean that RV problems need be a regular, recurring issue. With the right guidance, YOU TOO can purchase a camper that will provide years of good service with a minimum of issues experienced and none a result of poor construction techniques or substandard materials. Looking for advice and insights? Feel free to contact me and we can discuss your wants and needs when it comes to RV’ing and RV life.
Parting thoughts on purchasing a RV Camper in the coming months…
Shopping for a camper? Enjoy the process – but beware! A visit to most RV dealers offers an education in the psychology of enticements and deceptive feature claims. Big corporate conglomerates like Forest River and Thor have determined which “eye-candy” is most likely to sway consumers as they overlook more important aspects of the camper that really matter.
For example, I’ve seen many low end campers have fancy fireplaces, oversized sinks (which are admittedly nice to have, but…) and oversized handles to enter/exit the camper. These features are emphasized instead of the insulation inside the walls, the protection for the camper above the tires, and even the type of tires the manufacturer chose to provide with their trailer.
Further, there are few (if any) meaningful standards in the RV industry. As a result, any manufacturer can claim virtually anything. I almost fell over when a particularly poorly constructed 5th wheel arrived at the dealership I was working for back in 2017 and I saw the claim “best insulated 4 season 5th wheel.” Really? Is there any standard required to make the claim “4 season camper”? Simply put, NO. Its up to the consumer to know whats in those walls, how the underbelly is constructed and what’s under the roof and front cap.
The “4 season camper” claim is close to my heart at I’ve spent most of the past 9 winters in the Rocky Mountains in extreme cold (down to -35F), so I know what it takes (in a camper) to make that possible and it bothers me when manufacturers of inferior products make claims that lead a consumer to believe they can do what I’ve done in that camper. Honestly, that was a big motivator that led me to start my Concierge RV Buying Service.
So… beware of phony claims! Look “beneath the shiny surface” to learn about the camper you’re thinking of turning over your hard earned money for and know that FEW manufacturers make a truly quality built product. And… don’t be swayed by “its the last one”, “I can’t do this deal tomorrow” and other nonsense you’ll hear when you visit the snake’s den, otherwise known as a RV sales lot.
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8 thoughts on “Thinking of purchasing a new RV Camper in 2021? Thoughts and insights from a fellow traveler who has his thumb on the pulse of the RV industry…”
I am negotiating a Jayco class c. Is 25% below suggested retail still the case?
I smell a problem!! What year Jayco is it?
My husband and I are in the market for a new/used 5th wheel. We have traveled across 2 states and have hardly found anything. Lots across NM and CO are very thin. Dealers have only a handful of new units and all of them are without generators. The few used units we have found were very mistreated. We may have too wait this one out for awhile.
While the market is tight, I have had success finding campers for my Concierge RV Clients (https://rvacrossamerica.net/buysell) – feel free to contact me (307 269 2546) and we can begin to first identify the right 5th wheel for you – and then locate (ideally) a used one in like new condition. I have a feeling I know what you’ve been looking at and I can definitely help.
My thoughts are choose the camper you want before purchasing a vehicle to tow it in the case of a trailer, fifth wheel or slide in to ensure you have enough truck. My crystal ball thinks things will remain a sellers market for 2021.
I tend to agree, sellers market for this year; but that *could* change on a dime depending upon what happens in our nation. As to buy the truck later – unless you’re prepared to get a 3/4 ton late model diesel long bed truck, yes, waiting is good. If you get that truck, you can pull almost anything.
In the future (when? who knows) if people are traveling by plane and staying in hotels like the good old days, I envision there will be a lot of good used RVs at really good prices.
I agree… of course most of them will be the junk rv’s not worth owning, but yes, many will come up. However – if Biden really does get in, he is likely to keep things locked down for quite a while.