Looking For An RV?  Here’s The Best Time To Buy
October 01, 2020

Looking For An RV? Here’s The Best Time To Buy

I lay in the hammock in my parent’s back yard. I was trying to strategize, and hammocks are among my favorite spots to think. My parents sold their truck and 5th wheel trailer a couple of years before. They moved to a different home with a smaller driveway and their 5th wheel contraption was just too big. While traveling, whenever they pulled into a supermarket, they had to figure out the best place to enter and the most practical place to park the combined 44 feet of truck and trailer.

They figured their camping days were over. In February, they booked flights to Cyprus, where they planned to join my wife and me at an Air BnB. But six weeks later, COVID hit. We canceled our flights and accommodation. 

That was when we started talking about helping my parents find a small RV. Something between 23 and 24 feet would be perfect: easy to drive, easy to park and easy on gas.

I plotted from the hammock. “Dad, COVID is horrible. But there’s a silver lining to this mess. Even before COVID, the typical household was swimming in consumer debt. With businesses closing, plenty of people are going to be out of work. How many people will be in the market for a motorhome?”

“Yeah, you might be right,” he said. “Dealerships might get stuck with inventory that they can’t sell. This might be a good time to buy.” 

I swelled with pride at my great idea. But there was just one problem: I couldn’t have been more wrong. 

We weren’t the only people canceling vacation flights or cooped up at home during the initial lockdowns. By mid-April, people weren’t flocking to airports, cruise ships or shopping malls. Instead, they were rushing to get RVs. Trying to find a motorhome with my parents reminded me of cracking eggs into a bowl. I usually end up chasing an errant piece of shell with my fork. Much like that pesky shell, whenever we got close to getting an RV, the darn thing slipped away.

“This looks like a great RV,” my parents would say. “Sorry,” said the salesperson, that one just sold.” This wasn’t just a regional phenomenon. I placed calls to several dealerships across North America. Most said the same thing. The summer of 2020 saw their highest sales ever. One sales representative at Crestview RV, in Georgetown, Texas said they usually have 300-400 new units on site. They typically replace them with new inventory as they sell. But this year, they can’t replace them fast enough. “We’re down to about 55 units,” he said.

I spoke to another guy who owns a Canadian RV rental company. Most of his business comes from Americans, Europeans and Asians who rent motorhomes for the summer. He said, “In March and April, we buckled down for a horrific year. I figured nobody would be flying in to rent from us. And that was true. But the domestic market went crazy in May. This has been one of our best rental seasons yet.”

After searching for several months and significantly raising their initial budget, my parents bought a 2018 Winnebago Navion. They’ll have just a few weeks to enjoy it before cooler weather settles in. 

If you’re in the market for your own motorhome, here’s my advice: wait one to two years. As COVID-19 abates, people will once again flock back to hotels and Air BnBs. They’ll jump on airplanes and cruise ships. There’s going to be a sea full of lightly used RVs from which you can choose. With supply exceeding demand, you should be able to bargain hard and get a great deal.

There’s just one thing: I was wrong in March.

I could be wrong again.

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