High gas prices will impact travel for 75% of RV owners this coming year.
It seems like every news outlet is full of articles about high gas prices. Nothing can grab the attention of the everyday consumer like an increased cost at the pump. This issue hits home for so many people due to its immediate impact on our daily lives. When you pull up to the pump and watch the price ticker climb as you fill your tank, it’s easy to see just how much more money is coming out of your wallet.
The gas price issue is front and center for the RV community. It will likely impact travel plans for many campers this summer. Traveling via RV is expensive, and with every increase in the cost of a gallon of fuel, that expense increases. RVs and tow vehicles are anything but fuel-efficient. Large Class A motorhomes may get as little as 5-7 miles per gallon. If prices reach $5.00/gallon, which is a very likely scenario in the near future, traveling by RV will cost upwards of $1.00 per mile for some. That 3,000 cross-country road trip just got a whole lot more expensive.
Even for more fuel-efficient RVs and tow vehicles, the cost of moving a home-on-wheels is expensive. Few can achieve better than 15 miles per gallon on an average trip. With high gas and diesel prices, the enemy to travel is distance. As a result, vacation and travel budgets will look a lot different this year for a lot more people.
It’s hard to imagine a scenario where this doesn’t have a ripple effect on other segments of the economy. Americans have a finite amount of disposable cash, so if RVers need to dedicate more of it to fuel, less will be available for other traditional travel expenses like eating out at restaurants, visiting local attractions, or splurging on non-essentials.
The RV industry has had a wild ride over the past couple of years. Covid restrictions for traditional travel forced people to look for alternatives, and the RV and camping lifestyle was there to answer the call. Between 2020 and 2021, more than 1 million new RV owners entered the lifestyle. As a result, the RV and camping industry has experienced unsurpassed pressure on them over the past two years. Dealer inventories are more than 40% below “normal.” As a result, the major manufacturers have billions of dollars in backorders, and wait times for new RVs are unprecedented, with some people waiting over a year to take ownership.
While it’s easy to speculate how the rising fuel costs will impact the RV community, we decided to ask them. So, in an unofficial poll of RV owners via social media groups, we posed the question: “How will high gas prices impact your camping plans this season?” Well, it didn’t take long to get responses. Nearly 700 RVers shared their thoughts in less than a few hours.
Although we’re early in the reality of high fuel prices and anything can change, the responses from the RV community were surprising. If we look at the entirety of responses, it’s clear that the high fuel prices will impact travel plans for most RVers in some capacity. What that impact looks like varies, but RVers are making adjustments to their plans.
Although 50% of RV owners responded that rising fuel prices wouldn’t limit their travel distance, most will look to offset these costs by finding ways to cut back elsewhere to afford their camping lifestyle. As a result, the ancillary industries may see a drop in business from campers as they opt to cut costs elsewhere. Only 25% of the camping community stated that the high prices wouldn’t impact their plans at all, and they’d travel and spend as they would if prices didn’t rise.
However, an almost equal number of campers indicated adjusting their plans significantly. 47% of respondents stated that they will still travel but do less of it or stay local. Assuming a typical RV owner camps for two weeks out of the year, if some campers cut back to half that time, the impact will surely be felt by the RV industry and related businesses. With the recent interest in the camping lifestyle, this blow may be partially softened by the influx of new campers, but the wave the industry has been riding may slow to more of a ripple.
10% of campers stated that they are still planning to take the same number of trips but stay closer to home. This change may have a greater impact on the communities that rely heavily on tourism, like tourist towns surrounding National Parks, popular beach towns, and campgrounds that cater to the road tripper. It’s hard to say for sure, but local campgrounds that are traditionally easier to make reservations at may see an uptick in bookings as campers decide to stay closer to home.
If there is one glimmer of home for the RV industry, it’s that very few respondents stated that they’d give up their camping plans altogether. Less than 2% of campers will be staying home this year. Others have stated that they’ll take longer trips vs. several shorter ones. Finally, some folks stated that they’d camp as planned but do a lot more complaining about gas prices.
The full effects of the high fuel prices are yet to be seen. Will there be a decline in RV orders? Will truck prices drop from their record highs? Will we see an increased call for electric tow vehicles and RVs? Only time will tell. One thing is certain- if prices continue to climb above even the most conservative predictions, the impact on the camping industry will continue to increase.
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