Hitting the open road and traveling vast distances has become one of the ultimate symbols of American culture and values—and recreational vehicles (RVs) are a perfect means to achieve just that.
They give their owners the opportunity and freedom to move from point A to point B. Moreover, they provide the necessary features that make living on the road feasible, not to mention bearable.
RVs interlink not only the automotive and housing industries, but they also help expand tourism and the hospitality industry. To get a better idea of what we mean, here are 20 RV statistics to acquaint yourself with the pros and cons of the RV lifestyle.
The Most Important Recreational Vehicle Statistics & Facts
- The last recorded RV sales peak was in 2017.
- 2009 marked the weakest year regarding RV shipments.
- RV sales numbers can help experts determine overall economic trends.
- The RV industry is American-made.
- Towables are the leaders in the RV industry.
- The RV death statistics suggest an average, but not especially high, fatality rate.
- RV refrigerators are the number-two cause of RV fires.
- RV-related criminal activity has increased.
- Millennials are showing an increased interest in becoming RVers.
- Full-time RVers are represented mostly by senior citizens.
RV Industry Statistics and Facts
The RV industry employs around 600,000 people in the US. Check out the stats below and find out more about this American-made industry.
1. The last recorded RV sales peak was in 2017.
When looking at the overall shipments made from 2000 to 2018, most RV shipments were made in 2017, with 504,600 units in the US. With the global pandemic, we have to wonder what RV sales statistics for 2021 will be.
2. In the same period, 2009 marked the weakest year regarding RV shipments.
The year following the last global economic recession, only 165,700 RVs were shipped. While 2018’s 483,700 is significantly higher, it still represents a slight drop from 2017’s peak.
3. RV production statistics and sales numbers can help experts determine overall economic trends.
RVs can be regarded as a quintessential American-made item since they fuse together homebuilding and the auto industry. As such, it gives economists a great indicator for forecasting the path of general market trends and overall consumer mood. This is why so many people keep an eye out for RV sales trends.
4. In the US alone, as many as 600,000 people are employed by the RV industry.
These RV stats translate into $32 billion in wages and around $12 billion in local, state, and federal taxes each year.
5. Indiana is the US’s RV capital.
The largest number of RV-related jobs can be found in Indiana, which also happens to be the headquarters of some of the US’s key RV companies. More precisely, around 126,000 people work for 644 RV businesses in the states. Oregon, Ohio, Texas, and California are also defining states when it comes to these same RV statistics.
6. The RV industry is American-made.
RVs are not imported luxuries. A staggering 98% of the recreational vehicles sold in the US are made there too. And did you know that some RVs can be turned into tiny homes or rented out as Airbnb accommodation?
7. Indiana, California, and Texas are the leading RV-buying states.
(RV Industry Association)
When looking at RV sales statistics by state, Indiana had the highest total number of 421,860 shipments, accompanied by a direct economic output of $6.8 billion in 2017. California had a total direct economic output of $2.2 billion and 13,303 shipments that same year, while Texas had an output of $1.8 billion.
8. Towables are the leaders in the RV industry.
In 2018, the total number of recreational vehicles manufactured in the US was 482,389. Of these, the vast majority were towable vehicles (88%).
9. The RV industry is intertwined with a larger economic segment.
When analyzing national RV industry statistics, it’s important to mention that this segment of the automotive industry is tied to a larger scope of economic worlds, like the outdoor industry.
Approximately 25 million Americans travel by RV every year, playing a notable role in the growth of the outdoor recreation economy. According to RV camping statistics, RVers also made up a good portion of the 78.8 million households that went camping in 2018.
Statistics on RV Safety
In this section, we’ll be looking at how safe RVs are and more.
10. The RV death statistics suggest an average, but not especially high, fatality rate.
(Tario & Associates)
Data from a Fatality Analysis Reporting System shows that between 2000 and 2007, 212 people lost their lives in RV accidents. This translates to 26 deaths each year, producing a fatality rate of 0.44 per 100 million vehicle miles. In contrast, the same rate for all vehicles in the US is 1.48.
11. RV accident statistics are also in the average range.
(Tario & Associates)
In 2003, more than 70,000 people were involved in recreational vehicle accidents, and in 2012, this number was 75,000. If we take a closer look at the RV sales statistics for those years, even though a lot more RVs were on US roads, there was no significant increase in the number of accidents in that period.
12. Sleepy drivers bump up the figures in RV crash statistics significantly.
(Quick RV Insurance Quotes)
In 2016, AAA found that tired drivers can be more dangerous than drunk drivers. And given the robust, husky designs of RVs, they can wreak pretty serious havoc on the road in comparison to regular passenger cars.
According to insurance companies, RVers are often unrested when the distance between the quiet campgrounds they opt for is too long. To avoid accidents, experts suggest driving for shorter distances at a time and taking short half-hour naps every 3–4 hours.
13. As for the risk of an RV electrical fire, statistics show that this represents one of the most prevalent causes of RV fires.
Each year, there are approximately 4,000 RV fires annually, and the leading causes are fires within the engine compartment of these vehicles—most often in the electrical systems.
Fires are especially dangerous to RVs since a lot of them have wood frames, meaning the vehicle can burn down within 10 minutes.
14. RV refrigerators are the number-two cause of RV fires.
Poor wiring can often lead to fires. An alarming RV fact: sometimes, the main culprit behind refrigerator fires is the lack of maintenance. This also means checking the cooling unit compartment for insect and rodent nests that can lead to problems. For example, field mice can chew through the wire insulation, making the unit more prone to fire problems.
15. Propane fires can also be a huge concern.
From 2002 to 2005, the average annual number of RV fires was 3,100, causing 62 injuries and 7 deaths, as well as around $41 million in damages every year in that period.
Exact figures among RV propane fire statistics are hard to come by. However, experts agree that in most cases, propane gas bottles and tanks can make matters worse. Because of this, experts recommend traveling with propane tanks turned off.
16. According to RV statistics, RV-related criminal activity has increased.
(Love to Know, RV Travel)
It’s interesting to note the rise in RV-related criminal activity. According to professional estimates and theories, increased RV crime and theft is due to the RV demographics changing. Many RV owners have transitioned from tourists to full-time or at least seasonal RVers. Furthermore, experts theorize that around 20% of the 13,000 RV parks in America have become low-income communities where theft and other crimes may be more prevalent.
17. Getting a solid figure on RV theft statistics is difficult.
(The Crime Prevention Website)
When searching for exact figures or RV theft, solid facts are hard to find. The best online data is largely historical (from 1994 to 2007), reporting the lowest and highest number of cases (679 vs. 1,918). However, some predictions suggest that the average might be closer to around 2,800 a year.
RV Ownership Statistics
In the following section, we’ll be exploring information on the people who own RVs.
18. In recent years, younger people have begun buying more RVs.
(RV Industry Association)
In 2018, RV ownership among those aged 35–44 increased to 20.75% in 2018 from 2015’s 18.42%. For young adults aged 25–34, the rate grew by 3.07 percentage points in the same period, reaching 8.1%. The growth was least significant in the 18–24 age range, where it rose to 0.37% from 0.15%.
19. Millennials are showing an increased interest in becoming RVers.
(RV Industry Association)
RV ownership has a huge appeal among millennials, with researchers reporting that 53% of those surveyed are interested in buying an RV. In the case of national RV sales, statistics show that 26% of this generation is highly likely to buy, and 55% already wish they had a recreational vehicle.
20. Nevertheless, full-time RVers are represented mostly by senior citizens.
(Escapees RV Club)
Reports show that when looking at the demographics of full-time RVers, we can see an older crowd, with 57% of respondents being older than 65. 36% of those surveyed had owned an RV for more than 15 years, and 48% travel and live in their RVs full-time.
When looking at these stats closer, there are millions of families who use RVs—some of them even choose to live in them full-time, selling their homes and living on the road. The entire industry generates billions of dollars in the US every year, affecting other economic segments like the tourism and hospitality industries.
On the other hand, RV statistics for 2021 can also help experts determine overall economic tendencies, whether this be growth or recession.
All in all, RVs represent a truly American phenomenon and have been an essential element to the “American way of life” ever since they gained popularity in the country.
Is the RV industry slowing down?
According to recent reports, the entire RV industry supplied around $114 billion to the US economy in 2018. This includes money not from manufacturers but from suppliers, servicers, dealerships, and campgrounds.
The key metric of the report was, however, that recent RV market statistics are signaling that the industry is slowing.
Even though the RV industry has managed to triple in size since the late 2000s, numbers from 2018 show a clear 4.1% drop compared to 2017—a clear sign of recession. However, demographic data suggest that younger generations might help bump these stats back up.
(RV Industry Association)
How many people own an RV?
Pinpointing the exact number is quite difficult. However, it’s estimated that in 2017, more than 10 million households in the US had a motorhome, and 17.2 million families were preparing to purchase one.
What state sells the most RVs?
According to the available data from 2017, when looking at RV sales by state, Indiana has the highest numbers with a total of 421,860 shipments and a total direct economic output of $6.8 billion. The second state was California, with a total direct economic output of $2.2 billion. The third in line was Texas, with an output of $1.8 billion.
(RV Industry Association)
Is the RV industry growing?
As stated above, the industry has been in recession since 2017, with a year-over-year crash rate in sales of 20% when looking at the same periods for different years. In 2018, sales were only 4% lower than they were in 2017. Since then, however, the total economic output dropped even more. It’ll be interesting to look at the RV sales forecast for 2021, given the current global pandemic.
Experts believe that the industry’s fluctuations are in direct correlation with housing market trends, producing clear buying spurts when home prices peak too.
(Economy and Markets)
What is the future of the RV industry?
When looking at current RV sales and market trends, it’s difficult to forecast the exact future of the industry. At the moment, sales are dropping in the US, and some believe that the drops in purchases will also indicate an overall recession for the entire economy.
As it turns out, RV sales are a good indicator to predict the economy’s health. When RV sales are high, the economy is doing well. When they’re low, the economy will also suffer.
Apparently, RV sales and RV ownership statistics have predicted economic peaks and slumps since the recent Great Recession—and as the current data may suggest, it’s not just the RV industry that’s in for a rough ride.
(Curbed, Economy and Markets, The Atlantic)
Is RV-living cheaper than owning a house?
According to several sources, living in an RV full-time can be cheaper than living in your own home or renting an apartment. As a rough average, people can save up to $4,500 a year if they choose to live in an RV and travel.
However, these numbers depend on several things. Maintenance costs, getting mail delivered, gas, campground fees, and storage units as opposed to rent or mortgage payments, taxes, and utilities can vary greatly depending on the individual, their family, and their needs.
(Multi Briefs, Wand’rly)
How many RVs are sold each year?
When looking at wholesale shipments from 2000 to 2018, the number of sold recreational vehicles experienced a relatively steady growing streak from 2009 to 2018 after a huge drop in 2008.
RV statistics show that the highest numbers were in 2017, with 504,600 shipments, and somewhat lower in 2018, with 483,700 shipments.