When it's not granny in that Winnebago

A Winnebago RV.

When I think of the RV industry, I think of Winnebagos. Kathryn Thompson, analyst at Thompson Research Group, says something else comes to mind.

“We’ve thought the RV industry is a really good indicator for overall economic trends,” Thompson says.

Nobody really needs a motor home, and they’re not cheap, so it makes sense to look at RV sales as an indicator.

According to Thompson, RVs cost between $10,000 for the bare-bones variety, up to $300,000 for a fancy, deluxe RV with a full kitchen and a wide-screen TV.

When RV sales are up, people likely have extra money and feel confident about spending it. When sales bottom out, like they did in 2009 after the housing crash, consumers are feeling squeezed.

So, how’s the RV industry doing?

Winnebago, one of the leading RV makers, comes out with earnings tomorrow. David Whiston, an analyst who at Morningstar, says sales have been good. “It’s been a very strong year both for the industry and Winnebago,” Whiston says.

Whiston says motor home sales are up 35 percent this year. For the past four years, sales in the industry climbed.

A few reasons drive the RV buying trend: The economy is improving, banks are a little more willing to lend and baby boomers haven’t lost their taste for the road.

In fact, boomers are passing their passion on to their families, according to Mac Bryan with the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association. He says it’s not all wanderlust.  

“We’ve seen a strong resurgence in the RV community, especially among the young families,” says Bryan.

Bryan says airports have become such a hassle, especially with young kids, that motor homing is more convenient for famillies. Plus, once you buy the rig, an RV vacation can be significantly cheaper than paying for hotels, meals at restaurants and other forms of family travel.  

 

About the author

Queena Kim covers technology for Marketplace. She lives in the Bay Area.

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