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The best time to buy an RV we’ve seen in years

The Art of Buying an RV: Timing is everything

As part of my duties here at, I am responsible for following industry trends and news via a handful of publications geared toward industry insiders. Most of the time this isn’t quite as interesting as you would imagine –and I imagine you weren’t thinking it was very interesting. Like most trade journals for any industry, these tend to be pretty dry reading, with lots of statistics and discussion about leadership changes at various manufacturers. These are the type of magazines that if they’re the only thing available in the waiting room while you’re having new tires put on your car, you’ll opt to spend your time watching Judge Judy with the sound down on the TV.

Occasionally, though, something comes along that catches the eye, as happened yesterday. Apparently, Thor Industries, a true behemoth of the industry, builder of not only their own Thor-branded RVs but also the owner of many other RV manufacturers (including Jayco, a behemoth in its’ own right), has just released some sales figures for 2018 and they are startling to say the least. Consider the following excerpt: 

Thor Industries Inc. today (Dec. 6) announced a 23.1% decline in net sales during its first quarter while net income fell to $14 million, or 26 cents per diluted share, from $128.4 million, or $2.43 per share, in the prior year quarter.

Revenue totaled $1.76 billion during the period compared with a record $2.2 billion a year ago, including a 21% decline for the Elkhart, Ind.-based company’s towable segment and 23.9% for the motorized segment.

Now you don’t need to be an industry insider to get the gist of what’s happening here. A 23% drop in sales? Year-over-year net income going from $128 million to $14 million? These are ulcer inducing numbers for any CEO and certain to raise eyebrows from Wall Street to Main Street. The RV industry has long been used as a bellwether by stock market prognosticators, and, as the biggest player in the RV industry, Thor’s numbers carry a lot of water. A robust and booming RV market implies a country with lots of confident buyers willing to splurge on a big-ticket luxury item. A declining market implies the opposite: people sitting on their money, holding off on big purchases, possibly sensing something in the air.

For 2018 we’re starting to see hard numbers that imply a reversal of sorts is under way. This comes as a bit of a surprise. Unemployment is lower than it’s been in years and oil prices are stable and trudging along without calamity. Granted, the stock market has been a bit erratic in recent months, but that hasn’t been a total surprise considering the long upward trend it has seen since 2010. People have been saying for some time that it was overdue for a correction. 

So what happened? Well, for one, 2017 was a very, very good year for the RV industry. Even the most optimistic bulls had doubts that RV sales for 2018 could ever match the heights hit in 2017. A big part of the decline is just a natural come down after a banner year. Unfortunately, many RV manufacturers, after several years of expanding production to keep up with demand, have now found themselves sitting on an abundance of stock in a softening market. While this is considered bad news for RV manufacturers and their dealers, it is very, very good news for RV buyers. 

How good, you ask? In the more than ten years that we have been following RV industry trends, we’ve NEVER seen a better market to buy an RV. That’s how good.

A combination of strong economic indicators (low unemployment, affordable oil, etc.), an overabundance of 2018 stock, the arrival of 2019 models, and the traditionally slow sales months of winter have resulted in a perfect storm for dealers desperate to move RVs. Granted, there may have been better deals to be had during the financial crises years of 2008-2010, but banks weren’t lending then and unemployment was climbing swiftly. It was a bad time for dealers but also a bad time for the RV buying public. 

Things are different today. The typical RV buyer is confidently employed, banks are lending, and interest rates are still fairly low. Only the dealers and manufacturers are affected now, stuck with the hangover effect of excess production after a record setting year. 

For those in the market for an RV, we think the next three months (December, 2018 to the end of February, 2019) may be the best time to buy in more than a decade. Those able to find an RV from remaining (and highly discounted) 2018 stock will see the biggest savings, but even some 2019 models are selling for near-wholesale prices.

It’s not often that an RV buyer can play hardball with a dealer, but for the next few months the buying public can reap the rewards. A word of caution, though, once spring hits, and everyone’s thoughts turn to summer and vacations again, the window of opportunity will close and the dealers will be back in the catbird seat. It happens every year, but this year is different for the reasons discussed above. If you’re considering an RV, the next few months are the perfect time to buy.

Whether you’re a new owner or a seasoned veteran, make sure you check those tire pressures before hitting the road.

And if you’re in the market for an RV, some unbiased RV reviews and research can go a long way to putting you in the best RV for you –the first time. You can check out our buying guides here:

Happy travels, 

The Team