RVs see a comeback as boomers settle down

Sales of recreational vehicles of all kinds are in a resurgence, and that's great news for Winnebago, Harley-Davidson and others.

By Benzinga Mar 7, 2014 2:30PM

Image: RV © Grant Faint/PhotographerBy Jim Probasco

It may be a perfect storm of sorts -- a growing economy and the fact that more baby boomers are retiring and heading for the great outdoors -- but the net result is a resurgence in recreational vehicle sales of all kinds.

From towable campers to motor homes, fishing boats to pontoons, jet skis to snowmobiles, the recreational vehicle industry did very well last year.

Even some vehicles not normally tied to the RV industry, like pickup trucks and motorcycles, saw increased sales.

Tom Walworth, president of research company Statistical Surveys, told Bloomberg that the total for all new RV units sold in 2013 rose 11 percent from the preceding year and that sales could top 335,000 in 2014, the highest sales figures in six years. "All things are a go for the RV industry again," he added.

Winners include Thor Industries (THO), maker of Airstream and Dutchmen recreational vehicles, two of the premier names in the business.

Another beneficiary of RV resurgence was Winnebago (WGO), best known for its motor homes.

In addition, because sales of new RVs have been depressed for the past several years, there's a shortage of late-model used vehicles and trailers on dealer lots. As a result, says Winnebago CEO, Randy Potts, many buyers have been seeking out less-expensive new options.

Most companies have been working to increase selection among lower-priced models. For companies like Winnebago that means more choices in the Minnie Winnie and Sunstar lines.

CNNMoney pointed to some additional segments of the RV economy that have benefited as well. One area is male leisure, including snowmobiles, jet skis, motorcycles, dirt bikes and other manly vehicles, including pickup trucks. All this is good news for Ford (F), General Motors (GM) and Harley-Davidson (HOG), to name a few.

Another company poised to benefit is Polaris, which specializes in dirt bikes, snowmobiles and other small vehicles.

On the water, a projected increase of five to seven percent in sales spells good news for companies like Malibu Boats, while outdoor specialists such as Dick's Sporting Goods (DKS) and Cabela's (CAB) could see a bump as well.

At the time of this writing, Jim Probasco had no position in any mentioned securities.

More from Benzinga

Mar 7, 2014 5:00PM
My husband and I are retired (and downsizing)  and planning on buying a fifth wheel to live in and travel a bit.  If fuel gets too expensive, we'll just park it in Key west for the winter and Maine for the summer.  We will supplement our income by work camping at any part time job we can find.  Sounds like a good plan to me. 
Mar 7, 2014 4:43PM
Actually, it is the fact that more people are looking for RV's in order to live in them. Not travel in them. People are being priced out of the housing market as well as a bad economy and crumbling savings, equals more people living in RV's.
Mar 7, 2014 4:35PM
It's seems like just yesterday MSN was telling us we couldn't afford to retire. Oh wait, it was yesterday.
Mar 7, 2014 5:02PM
This may not necessarily be good news....

The RV may be the new "retirement" (i.e only) home for many boomers.

Mar 7, 2014 4:28PM
My daughter and her husband have a 5th wheel bigger then my apartment, could sure live in it in comfort wish it was in a beach area would move tomorrow.
Mar 7, 2014 4:37PM
Only problem these days with that life style is the price of fuel to get there.
Mar 7, 2014 5:21PM
My husband and I have lived in a 24 foot motor home for the past 6 years. Sometimes it gets a bit cramped but we love being able to get up and go when we want. If you do normal maintenance to the RV it should last a long time. We will retire next year and be able to travel much more.
Mar 7, 2014 5:15PM

Just be damn sure of the quality that your buying. Agree with the comment about not buying new for a couple of reasons. Instant drop in value and the quality of today's RV industry in general. I made the mistake of buying a new Jayco Class C in 2011. When my longtime RV repair owner saw me drive up to his shop he screamed at me saying....."I told you to stay away from the new models, they don't build them as well and haven't for years. He went on to say "I remember when Jayco spelled quality but not anymore. All I know the motorhome has been a real pain with a number of trips to the Jayco dealer until the warranty ran out. Nothing much was ever fixed properly.


Just take your time, do your research, have it inspected top to bottom and enjoy.

Mar 7, 2014 5:36PM
I retired 2 years ago and we sold our house and live in our fifth wheel full time. It was the best move we could ever have made. Our house lost so much value in 2008 that we said we would "NEVER" live long enough to see it come back. And let me tell everyone if you think your house value is going to come back you are sadly mistaken. Our fifth wheel have all the comforts of home and there's only the 2 of us. We work during the spring and summer and then go on a 5 month vacation in the winter to Texas. Having the time of our lives and couldn't be happier. I would and will not ever buy a home again. 
Mar 7, 2014 4:57PM
It's because in this economy people are having to live in them! Say good by to the American dream of owning a home, say hello to some flea trap trailer park infested with tweekers!
Mar 7, 2014 4:54PM

These things depreciate so fast its like a death spiral so don't buy new if you are concerned but

used RV's are hot sellers.  The death spiral starts with rising gas prices and slows with falling

prices its that simple.  Toll roads can be another killer then you might live in a state with

personal property taxes the most hated tax of all.  Each year you pay this tax and it is not

cheap on a RV, boat or car.  Campground fees are also up a lot in premium private campgrounds which makes a hotel room look pretty good.    The day of saving money with the family in a camper is over,people just enjoy the outdoors and cooking out rather than a stuffy room and restaurants.  There are quality differences in RV's which can mean costly repairs and your tow vehicle always

suffers towing these things especially if they are not rated to pull the weight of your RV plus

things you take along.   Its still loads of fun and solves the adventure spirit for most of us.  You

can see America by staying at lodges and cabins but some how its not the same.  Rent first

if your not sure these things are getting pricey and resale is not all that good.

Mar 7, 2014 5:22PM
"Polaris specializes in dirt bikes" really??
  I am hoping that my retirement will consist of the traveling lifestyle but I don't want to just be tied to land. My plan, which is almost a reality, is to buy a 40' plus sail boat and skip the high fuel prices of traveling as much as possible. I will, however, have an RV stationed some place as well for inland travel.
  You can easily offset the fuel costs/ campground costs of traveling by RV if you are willing to act as a camp host in areas for a few months at a time. They give you a free place in the campground, free utilities, sewer hook up, in a gorgeous setting, in exchange for a few hours of work a day.
  When you consider the high costs and time of maintaining a home in your senior years, RVing is not expensive.
Mar 7, 2014 6:19PM
I've been living in my 1987 26ft airstream, it does get kind of depressing sometimes, I live in Seattle, when it rains, you  have little space to move around, but when the weathers good, I spend more time outside, I've managed to survive the winters here, you have to be prepared, it's hard to have a house and afford the property taxes when you're retired, it's not a bad life, you can just get up and go. 
Mar 7, 2014 5:58PM
I had to retire about 5 years early. Had a 27 foot travel trailer and used it often.. That  was up till 4 years ago damaged my foot and long story short I eventually lost both legs and was able to sell both trailer and new truck for a loss. Miss them both but could not use the. Do what you want as quick as possible because you never know how long you can.
Mar 7, 2014 6:35PM
strange, how they FAILED to mention that MANY of us are actually LIVING in RV's due to our wonderful ruler Obama....hmmmm.....I enjoy RV Living because "if" I move for whatever reasons; I don't have to Pack up and haul ; just hook up n go:-)
Mar 7, 2014 5:51PM
My wife and I just went to the Florida RV Supershow in Tampa and were amazed by all the different bands and models of towable trailers and motorized RV's. There is a lot of the US and Canada we have not seen yet. I was very impressed with the modern RVs. I could definitely live in many of the RV's we looked at!!
Mar 7, 2014 11:49PM

Funny...I wanted to do the Motor Home, 5th. wheel, Travel thing; When I/we were about 45...

Chuck all our cares under the bus, well, um, trailer.

Was going to sell our ranch and about everything we didn't need...

Wife said just a few words that changed me forever..."You have to have a place to come back to.."

"You want a place you can call home.."

I retired, then her a few years after 45, we traveled before we retired, and I had traveled a lot with my job, sometimes taking her and the kids..

Never did the road warrior thing or be a snowbird; And have never regretted it either.

We can probably go where we want and when, but there is nothing like "Home sweet Home."

And for some that is a travel home and a camp ground or RV park...Kudos.

Mar 8, 2014 12:51PM

RV Living and/or even Camping, goes through cycles every 15-20 years...

Maybe because of Marketing, maybe yearning for the "open road", cheap way to vacation with your family(kids)..Even a possibility of a mid-life crisis..Don't want to get old, and places you want to see.

Either or any way..The phenomenon shows up, is active for a period of time and then dies back down.

A few hardy souls stick it out, and eventually maintain that type of life style..

Some invest a bundle in a heavy truck, motorhome, camper and/or 5th. wheel..

6-7 years later they are for sale at a huge discount "slightly used."..

And that can present opportunities to others...

I'm sure with the numbers of boomers retiring, we will see an influx of oldies on the road..

At least for a few years..

Mar 8, 2014 11:28AM
Folks that have no idea of the Cost to buy and or maintain a RV say things like this.

"19 hours agoJRx9000 Actually, it is the fact that more people are looking for RV's in order to live in them. Not travel in them. "

"18 hours agoasu  This may not necessarily be good news....
The RV may be the new "retirement" (i.e only) home for many boomers."

"18 hours agoDee236
It's because in this economy people are having to live in them! Say good by to the American dream of owning a home, say hello to some flea trap trailer park infested with tweekers!"

"17 hours agostetts
strange, how they FAILED to mention that MANY of us are actually LIVING in RV's due to our wonderful ruler Obama....hmmmm.....I enjoy RV Living because "if" I move for whatever reasons; I don't have to Pack up and haul ; just hook up n go:-)"

So if you are Dumb, Stupid, and Naive to the Cost of buying and Maintenance of a RV, you will believe whatever you read on a Posting Board. Most are buying because they want to, not because they have too. Dumb, Stupid and Naive that wants to push a political agenda will always tell you otherwise.

Mar 7, 2014 5:56PM

and I think Winnebago is known mostly for its towed travel trailers, not motorhomes...

like the "silver bullets" I see passing through.

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