IDAHO FALLS — With RVs already in the driveways of many homes in eastern Idaho, one would think the local market is already saturated and sales at local RV dealerships would have slowed.
But in fact, the opposite is true — RV sales are growing in eastern Idaho and local dealers say 2017 looks to be a good year.
John Hollist, a sales representative at Smith RV, said as local residents grow up taking trips in their parents’ RVs, naturally they want to buy their own RV when they have their own families. He said for many it’s about have a certain type of lifestyle.
“From here, you can go two hours in any direction and be setting up camp,” Hollist said. Many locals love taking advantage of all the outdoor opportunities close by. Being in a warm RV doesn’t hurt, either.
He added that their RV lot consistently has an upward RV sales trend. Even if the economy is iffy and fuel costs go up, Hollist explained, rather than spend more money on bigger trips, people will opt to get in their RV and take a shorter trip.
What has changed, though, is what types of RVs people are buying. “There is a big trend toward lightweight stuff that people can pull with their SUV,” Hollist said. Anything with bunk beds always tends to sell well.
Many of their customers are local, but some come from Wyoming, Utah, Canada, Northern Idaho, and Arizona.
“We also get people who come up to work in or around Yellowstone,” he added.
The used RV market is especially hot this time of year because school is nearly out and summertime means RVing with the family.
“Last month and going into May we had over 140 units, now we have 60. We still have some, but we have quickly wiped out our used stock,” Hollist said.
Like cars, RV depreciated over time, so some customers are looking to save money by buying used. Still, others go for new, because sometimes the financing options are more attractive.
For new RVs, manufacturers try to keep up with what customers want to make their experience more comfortable. For instance, what was known as the “queen-sized” bed in TVs used to be 60×74, but manufacturers are changing that to 60×80.
“People are tall and want more space,” Hollist said.
Another trend is RVs with a kitchen accessibility from the outside. Probably one of the biggest changes in newer models is an auto-leveling system. “You just unhook, push a button, and it auto-levels. If you get a flat tire, or are camping in an unlevel area, you just push a button and it lifts.”
Megan Walker, marketing director at Bish’s RV, explained that it’s all about technology with newer RVs, with remotes that control everything in the RV.
“The Jayco brands just announced they will install in select motorhomes the first portable system of its kind, an in-dash solution that can easily be removed and used to access applications or control the entertainment from anywhere in the RV,” she said.
Most manufacturers have upgraded the lighting to LED systems as well, which saves battery life, and most RVs come solar prep ready too.
Bish’s RV has offices across Idaho, including one in Pocatello and one in Idaho Falls. For their Idaho Falls store, they sell mostly to locals, with some customers from Montana and western Wyoming.
“This has been a great year for growth for Bish’s RV,” Walker said, adding that 2017 will be their best year yet.
She said RV sales trends are generally tied to housing sales and how the economy is doing. Since the stock market and housing sales are up, potential customers look at bigger purchases like an RV with more confidence.
“This gives consumers a positive feeling towards the economy and buying a luxury item (i.e. travel trailer, fifth wheel, motorhome, etc) isn’t as scary as it might have been 5 years ago,” Walker said.
Bish’s sells a lot of travel trailers and fifth wheels; but they have noticed an increase in sales in their mid and luxury models this year as well. Their used RV inventory is the lowest since 2006, so they are offering higher trade-in values to get more used stock.
Used stock also is going fast at Camping World in Idaho Falls. It seems as soon as a nicely kept used RV comes in, it goes back out pretty quickly. Camping World’s overall sales are up from last year, said sales manager Craig Hudman.
Camping World is the number one searched camping site in the world, Hudman said, so about half of their customers find them online. “I sell to customers from Florida to California, to New York,” he said.
How RVs are made just gets better and better, with fiberglass technology making some RVs lighter and more affordable.
There are WiFi range extenders available for RVs, which make staying connected on the road much easier. “It’s a great feature, but it depends on why you RV. Many camp to unplug and get away from electronics, but for those who want to bring those along, the technology is there,” Hudman said.