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In this episode of the RVing with Joe & Kait podcast, we delve into the 2024 RV Trends with RV industry expert Rick Kessler of RV Business. Rick highlights the innovative RV Suite from Forest River, explaining why it stands out as the “2024 RV of the Year.” He also shares insights on the current RV market, emphasizing the opportune time for purchases due to dealers’ surplus inventory. Our discussion extends to the future of RVing, particularly the impact and challenges of electric vehicles (EVs) in the industry, and the growth of the overlanding segment. Additionally, we touch on the evolving campground sector and rising camping fees.
This episode is for anyone interested in the latest RV trends and the future of RVing.
2024 RV Trends with Industry Expert Rick Kessler
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Table of Contents
Rick Kessler has been with G&G Media, publishers of RV Business and Woodall’s Campground Magazines, for nearly a decade. In February, he and business partner Scott Stropkai became owners of the small publishing firm headquartered in Elkhart, Indiana. Previously, Rick spent 20-plus years in the newspaper industry.
Resources Mentioned in this Episode
- 2024 RV of the Year RV Business Magazine (Digital Edition)
- Complimentary Subscription to RV Business Magazine
- Florida RV SuperShow
- Overland Camper Tours
- Winnebago Electric RV Tour
- Automated Campground in Italy
- We’re the Russos YouTube Channel
- Newsletter sign up
- Book 1: Take Risks
- Book 2: Tales From the Open Road
- 2024 RV Trends: Exploration of the latest trends in the RV industry for the upcoming year.
- RV of the Year – RV Suite by Forest River: Discussion on why this model was chosen for its innovative design and functionality.
- Rick Kessler’s Background: Insight into Rick’s extensive experience in the RV industry.
- Current State of the RV Market: Analysis of the present RV market dynamics and why it’s an ideal time to buy an RV.
- Electric Vehicles in RVing: Examination of the integration of electric vehicles in the RV industry, including their potential and limitations.
- Overlanding Segment Growth: Exploration of how overlanding is becoming a significant part of the RV industry, with a focus on new overland vehicle models and market trends.
- Changing Campground Sector: Overview of the increasing corporate investments in campgrounds and the rise in camping fees.
- Future Predictions for the RV Industry: Predictions and insights into what the RV industry might look like beyond 2024, particularly with the adoption of EV technology.
- Practical RV Buying Tips: Offering practical advice for prospective RV buyers in the current market.
00:38 Welcome and Introduction of Rick Kessler
03:23 2024 RV of the Year – RV Suite by Forest River
06:26 RV of the Year Selection Process
10:47 Current RV Market, 2024 RV Trends and Beyond
15:05 Why Now is the Best Time to Buy an RV
21:52 Overlanding Segment Growth and New Trends
29:47 Benefits of Having a Towable RV vs a Motorized RV
33:37 New Entry Level Vehicles from RV Manufacturers
35:10 Increasing Demand and Developments in Campgrounds
39:20Future of Electric Vehicles in RVing
44:10 The Impact of EVs on Campgrounds and RV Travel
Rick Kessler There is absolutely no better time to buy an RV than right now.
Joe Russo How do you see the industry shaking out, particularly in terms of EV?
Rick Kessler The campsite pedestals will have meters on them. So you will be charged for the amount of power that you use. Big corporate money into the campground sector.
Joe Russo In this episode of RVing with Joe and Kait, we’re talking to Rick Kessler from RV Business. He’s going to get into the 2024 trends of the RV industry, their pick for RV of the year, and he’s going to explain why now is the best time to buy an RV. Let’s get right into it.
Joe Russo Rick, welcome to the podcast. How you doing?
Rick Kessler I’m doing well. Thank you for having me. I’m really excited to be on this with you.
Joe Russo So to give our audience a little backstory, the three of us have known each other almost since we started RVing. You’ve had over 10 years in the RVing industry. We’re looking to find out like some of the trends that are coming up in RV business. Y’all just announced the 2024 RV of the year.
But before we get into that, tell our audience a bit about yourself and what it is you do in the RV industry.
Kait Russo And how you got into RVing.
Rick Kessler Since February, so almost a year now, myself and my business partner, Scott Stropkai, we’ve been the owners of G&G Media. G&G Media is our business that publishes RV Business Magazine as well as Woodalls Campground magazine. That’s for the campground side of the industry. Before that, I worked with at RV business for about eight years, nine years, editorial functions.
And even before that, you know, you asked about when I first got into RVing. I guess I grew up in it. One set of grandparents had Class A motorhomes going all the way back to the 70s. They had, oh, it was…Remember Robin Williams, the big green turd?
Joe Russo Oh, yeah. Little shag carpeting.
Rick Kessler That’s what they had. They had a Superior was the model, the brand. Just a big green box, really, is what it was on a chassis. They started that in the 70s. And gosh, they had a Holliday-Rambler. They had a Ford Travel. They went as far south as the Panama Canal and as far north as way up into Alaska.
My parents are RVers. I’ve got, let’s see, maybe four sets of aunts and uncles that are RVers and we just grew up with it. So we continued on and I like to tell this story. The first year that we had our RV was 2007. It was built in 2000. So it was a Trail-Lite Bantam, one of the very first hybrids that ever came out. And yes, we had water leaks all over the place. I replaced the floor twice because it was so bad.
But I remember that first summer we had our kids were young and they were still with us. And my middle Luke, our son says to me, he says, dad, don’t ever get rid of this. I’m like, okay, why? And he says, cause when I get older, I’m gonna get one and we’ll go camping together. I was like, oh, perfect. That’s what I love.
Joe Russo Things have come a long way since the banter. So let’s kind of get into the 2024 RV of the year through RV business.
Rick Kessler We selected for the RV of the year the RV Suite, and it’s the Ibex and the No Boundaries brands both have an RV Suite model, and that’s from Forest River. We selected it because it truly changes the design standard, I guess, than what we’ve been seeing normally. I mean, everybody knows what a travel trailer looks like, a fifth wheel looks like. They really all kind of, I hate to say it, but they all kind of look the same after a while.
Especially if you’ve been into the same, you know, hundreds of them within the course of a week, which is what we do at Open House. Open House, by the way, that’s in the end of September, that’s for the industry only, where the manufacturers put all of their units out on display for the dealers to come and look at them and hopefully make all of their orders for the coming year.
The RV suite, how do you describe it, right? To me, when I first saw it, it looked like a caboose.
Joe Russo I agree. When I looked at those pictures, especially that back portion with the porch and the overhang.
Rick Kessler It’s boxy almost like a destination trailer or a downsized park model RV. But the reason why it’s boxy like that is because without that forward angled aerodynamic cap you’re able to use a lot more interior space. And that’s where they put, at least the model on display, that’s where they put this pretty big bathroom. Honestly the bathroom inside is a lot bigger than what you would expect when you look at that particular unit.
That’s probably the best way to describe it. The first third is the bathroom. The middle third is the living kitchen area. And the back third is the bedroom slash flex room because the bed is a Murphy bed. So when it’s out of the way, huge massive table for not only for eating, but I mean, you could set up a home office in there pretty easily. And even then the table flips out of the way. So you got this big, huge basically garage if you wanted it to be a garage.
Like you said Joe off the back end is that it’s I think it’s a four-foot patio is what they’re calling it now. It was three foot at the show, but they added an extra foot perfect for gear storage, bikes, generator, whatever it is. You don’t want inside you can keep you can put there when you’re traveling. But then when you’re set up at camp I mean gosh if you’re overlooking a lake and coffee in the morning or a cocktail at sunset that that’s a pretty good spot.
Joe Russo I’m in. I like it.
Rick Kessler Well yeah, it’s coffee, of course you’re in.
Joe Russo And I think speaking of which, when we were looking through the other kind of ten runners up, my favorite out of that whole group was the Intech. It’s a toy hauler, a large toy hauler. I think GVWR of around 6,000 pounds. And I’ve been looking for something to carry the motorcycle around behind the van. So that’s up there. I like those Inteks. And then the hilt was in there by Storyteller. Which we’ve had a brief chance to take a look at.
Kait Russo In doing your evaluation for the RV of the year, what were you all looking for? And did you notice any trends with this year’s finalists?
Rick Kessler It’s a beauty contest. I mean, there’s no wrong answer. There’s no right answer. We, like I said, that this open house, there’s quite literally, maybe as many as 5,000 units out on display, okay? Nobody really knows for sure, but the OEMs put everything they make out on display. So it’s a massive, massive lineup.
Myself and my team, and it’s about a dozen of us, we basically fan out, we make sure that we see every manufacturer, and when we’re there, we say to that manufacturer, show us your RV of the year. Give us your top two or three contenders that you think we oughta be looking at. And they do, and we look at them. And when we’re looking at them, it’s always going to be, what’s different? What’s new? What’s unique? What’s not cookie cutter? What is not, you know, the industry joke is, what does R&D stand for? Replicate and duplicate.
So anything new, anything unique, anything that’s innovative, and it’s not necessarily the design, but maybe some of the components or technology. For example, going back to the RV suite, they partnered up with the WFCO, W-F-C-O, for one of their control systems called Power Pro and it’s voice activated and it’s like having Alexa in your RVs. Pretty cool.
The other thing that we look for is how might this perform in the market? Because if we were going to just pick something based on looks and function, the $2 million Prevo would win every year. We can’t really do that. Something that just looks great but is probably not going to sell very many, okay we got to take that into consideration.
Another reason why the RV Suite was our winner is because it’s still, yes it’s a little bit expensive compared to a lot of the travel trailers out there, but at about 50 grand it’s not that far of a stretch for many people.
The other thing that we look for, you know, it’s got to pass the eye test. I mean, if it looks cool, if it looks sexy, if it’s got the nice color combination, the good no more paisley stripes, that’s for sure.
We gather at the end of the week, we talk about what we saw, then we make sure that we’ll get a, we’ll get a, I don’t know, 20 or so contenders. All of us will go to every one of those just so that we all can talk from the same benchmark. And then honestly, after that, it’s a pretty good debate. We just kind of hammer it out and end up with a winner.
Joe Russo And I will say, to attest to how busy you and your team were, when we saw you at the Open House, you were going this way, we were going that way, and it was like, shh, hi, bye, gotta get going.
Kait Russo You were a man on a mission.
Rick Kessler Yes.
Kait Russo Going back to that voice activated feature on the RV Suite. I thought that was really interesting. I think the example that you all had in the RV Business article was you can say, “hey I’m home” and it turns on the interior lights. And that’s a pretty cool feature and I don’t think many RVs have that integrated today.
Rick Kessler It’ll happen soon enough. You know that’s typically how it works right? Somebody gets it and then everybody either picks up the same thing or the competitors will pick up and uh replicate and duplicate.
I think it starts out with, it comes with 50 preset voice activated commands. I think one of the things that he said was you can, even if you’re not there, you can jump on your phone and send a message or a command to your RV suite. And you’re gonna be, maybe you’re out hiking and it’s 90 degrees. Well, you can tell your RV Suite, I’m coming home in 10 minutes, get the temperature down.
I don’t know if it’ll open the fridge and get the beer out for you yet, but that’s next, I guess.
Joe Russo Let’s put it on the R&D for next year. Speaking of next year, I think this is a good time to kind of get into where you see things going in 2024 and beyond, but at the same time, I’d kind of like you to go backwards a little bit because since 2020, we’ve had an unprecedented type of RV market. And you’ve been involved in the RV industry long enough to have seen the ups and downs. And could you kind of talk our audience through what it is that’s happened in the last few years leading up to this point, and then what we have to look forward to in 2024 and beyond?
Rick Kessler Sure, sure. No surprise, COVID, really kickstarted the RV industry. It’s been well documented, so I won’t dwell on it too much. But basically what happened was, we were all sequestered into our homes and we couldn’t go anywhere. And the only outlet for recreation seemed to be going outside and enjoying national parks and the trails and everything else. And unless you are sincerely intent on sleeping on the ground in a tent, which is fine. It’s just some of us don’t care to do that anymore.
But RVs was it was a great way to be self-contained and get out there and enjoy the great outdoors while we were under the COVID restrictions. So the RV industry went from normal making 400,000 or so units per year. COVID hit and we the industry was shut down like everybody else was shut down. There was some back channel efforts made to make the RV industry quote unquote essential. So that allowed them to open up and when it did, that’s when the consumer demand, the retail demand really kicked into high gear.
So the industry went from normal to zero to well beyond normal production within the space of a month. It was that quick. Millions, I think it was something like 1.2 million units were sold in the two year time right after COVID was allowed to resume production after once COVID hit. Now that’s the good news.
The bad news is that 1.2 million, a lot of that were future customers, what’s called pull through. So the people that might have been thinking about buying a unit in 2022 or 2023 or even next year, they said, well, let’s get one now, because this is when we can best use it and enjoy it. So a lot of those customers came early on.
And because of that, the industry is now in a lull. A soft market is the best, most positive way to put it. But it’s definitely in a lull. Let’s see, two years ago, the 600,000 units were made this year, we’re probably looking at about 300,000. So half the market, right? When is that gonna let up? When are we gonna re-emerge into a normal market? My crystal ball’s not that good.
The people we talk to, the ones who do know what they’re talking about, matter of fact, Wells Fargo, I just finished editing a story from them on their economic forecast, and they basically say more of the same at best. And they always put in the caveat, barring any unforeseen circumstance like another war or something like that. But just given the present conditions, they’re looking at roughly the end of 2024 to the early part of 2025 before the economy returns to such a point where people are gonna start buying those big ticket items again, like an RV.
Kait Russo In thinking about that from the consumer’s perspective, I’m shopping for an RV. With the lull in the industry that’s happening, how does that impact the quality and the availability of RVs for people who are shopping?
Rick Kessler Honestly, there is absolutely no better time to buy an RV than right now. Maybe even it might be a little bit past the best time. Because the RV dealers, remember back in 2021 when they were selling 600,000, they couldn’t get an RV fast enough. The manufacturers couldn’t build them fast enough.
To your point about quality, yeah. I mean, that’s gonna affect quality because you can’t build something that involved on such a fast track and not have issues. It’s not an acceptable answer, but it is the answer. I mean, that is the answer.
To your point, those dealers over-ordered and are now sitting on excess inventory. And they are about to be hit with some all kinds of floor plan interest rates. Floor plan is what they, that’s the term for when they buy these, most of them when they buy these, these units from the OEMs, they have to go through a lender just we have to go through a lender to buy an RV, right? Well, they have to go through a lender and those lenders now are needing to get paid for all of those interest rates that the dealers are sitting on, especially as they come up on winter months when the top half of the country shuts down.
So if you want a 2020, if you want a brand new RV, you can literally go to a dealer, go to their website, find a 2022 brand new RV that’s been sitting on their lot for a couple of years. The dealer doesn’t want it anymore. They want to sell it. They’ve got to make room for the 2024s coming in.
I can tell you how many. That’s probably half the dealers I know that I’ve talked with, and we’re talking well over 100 or so, they’re selling those 2022s below their invoice. They’re getting rid of them, and it’s a brand new unit. This is the best time to buy.
Joe Russo And if my understanding is correct, the reason they’re doing that is that because they’re still paying interest on it, it’s taking up room on their lot, and it’s better for them to get rid of it at a loss rather than hold it.
Rick Kessler That is correct.
The other thing, and this is getting way down into the weeds, but some of those lenders have fine print where after a certain amount of time, that interest rate that they’re going to charge will increase because. Basically, time has expired. That 2022, on paper, they won’t consider that a new unit anymore. It’ll be considered a used unit, even though it’s never been sold.
The other reason, you’re talking about the floor plan interest rates, you know how our interest rates have gone up. If we wanted to buy a car, it’s tripled. It’s the same situation with these dealers. They were paying the 3% interest rates, now they’re up at 9, 10 or even more, depending on who they’re with. So yeah, that loss is growing incrementally.
Joe Russo If a consumer walks into a dealership and will use round numbers to keep it easy, and the MSRP of an RV is $100,000, can you shed some light on if they’re sitting down and negotiate or should start to think about where they can buy that RV, what should they consider with that MSRP price and how far do you think they could get that down?
Rick Kessler Okay, yeah, in a normal situation, let’s take the 2022 years, the model years out of it, just a normal situation. My rule of thumb has always been one third, 33%, $100,000. So $66,000, that’s what I wanna buy it at.
Very, very general rule of thumb because every dealer is purchasing those units at a price that they negotiate. So they’re gonna be up and down that 33%. But across the board, that’s probably the best case scenario that I can give you.
Joe Russo Yeah, and my assumption then too is if it’s a unit that’s in high demand, you’re not gonna get that 33%.
Rick Kessler We were at that Florida RV show, SuperShow together, looking at the prices at 2021 and 2022. They were getting and demanding prices over MSRP.
Kait Russo That was a wild few years.
Joe Russo It was. I was so used to going shopping, looking at a price and saying, yeah, 20, 30% off of this, that makes sense. And then you see the MSRP and then you see the dealer is marking it up well above that and people are buying it.
Kait Russo But it sounds like we’re coming back down to the more realistic expectations for what we can pay for a new RV.
Rick Kessler It’s kind of like when the snowstorm is coming, everybody goes out and buys milk. Well, I guess COVID is coming. Let’s go out and buy an RV. And price gouging took effect.
Joe Russo Yeah. And what do you think of the used market? How is that going to look?
Rick Kessler That’s going to be interesting because there has always been this talk, I guess, or even concern in the industry that all of these COVID buyers were going to be done with their RV because it wasn’t what they were expecting. And I mean, there’s a whole other conversation about what those expectations were and why they weren’t being met.
But the worry was that they were going to flood the used market. Yes, there is an uptick in used RVs, but not nearly to the extent people were concerned about. And it’s just like a car, right? You buy a used so that somebody else takes that first hit on the depreciation. And then in an RV’s case, that first buyer, the first owner, they’re the ones that work out the bugs. And in my case, fix the floor twice because the water leaks.
I’ve always, always suggested to my friends and family to go through the used market first. But with a brand new one selling for less than some of these used ones, it’s hard to say no to that.
Joe Russo Now I want to go kind of back to the RV of the year. And, you know, now that we’re looking forward in looking through the top 10 runners up you had, I was surprised to see, I mean, a lot of tow behinds, you had a couple motorized units, but then you had the GXV Hilt. It’s a large overlanding vehicle costing upwards of $400,000 with pretty much every bell and whistle on it that you can think of.
With a vehicle like that, do you see more of those entering the space? How do you see that kind of overlanding space permeating the RV industry, which to me has always been more like the traditional motorhome or tow behind.
Rick Kessler Joe, your question couldn’t be timed better. We, our cover story for the Jan Feb issue is on how the overlanding segment has made some pretty good inroads into what we’re calling mainstream RVing. And, um, yeah, the Storyteller is a great example of that. Uh, and that’s one of the reasons why it was one of our finalists is just.
Yes, it’s $400,000, but it’s pretty dang sexy. It just owns this testosterone all over the place. I remember walking into that unit and Trent Tiffin was sitting in the corner and he just said, “hey, Rick, what are you?” You know, the Alabama drawl. He says, “hey, Rick, what do you think?” And I was like, “holy cow, man. I love it.” I don’t know if I’ll ever get in one and drive it, but it looks awesome.
But to answer your question, overlanding, yeah. And it’s motorized like the Hilt. Let’s see, Dynamax came out with one. And I’m going to miss a few, because just about anybody that builds on that 4×4 Sprinter van has something that more or less could be considered an overland type of a unit. And that’s what we’re talking about in our story is as these mainstream OEMs, Thor and Forest River and Winnebago and their subsidiaries, as they explore this overland segment, they’re going to go to one level or another.
I mean, somebody might go all out like the Ember RV with the independent suspension and the articulated hitch and the recovery boards and the full on solar and lithium. Then you got the other extreme of that exploration, which is we put knobby tires on. OK, that doesn’t count. That’s not overlanding. That’s what we’re seeing, though.
We focused on this particular article coming out on just the towables, just because it’s much easier entry point for most of these manufacturers to get into. And it’s the mainstream RV makers that are capturing their attention, and they’re starting to explore it. That’s the thing probably the best way to describe it. You still have all of those places out west, especially Colorado and Utah and California, where they’re making awesome looking teardrops basically in their garage.
Mod Buggy is one example of that. They’re actually just north of Elkhart, just inside Southwest Michigan. It’s a teardrop with the tent camper on top of it. Awesome looking unit. And that was also one of our top 10 finalists. A lot of these OEMs getting into the overlanding space.
Joe Russo Is it just because it’s the next thing, it looks cool, people are infatuated? I’m curious to find out or understand the reasoning behind the decision to go into that market.
Rick Kessler Good question. And I’ve got a cynical answer. How many of those buyers do you think will actually use that rig in a true overlanding environment?
Joe Russo I would say very few, probably the same number of people who buy an F-150 to use it as a work truck.
Rick Kessler If I’m Joe Consumer, I love how it looks. It makes me feel good when I’m driving it or I’m pulling it. So I don’t care if it never gets off pavement, I just like it. That’s probably why these mainstream RV makers are heading in that direction because why buy the Chevette when the Corvette looks prettier?
Joe Russo I think in our own journey of overlanding, we took our stuff off-road, we put it to the test and everything else. We just got tired of the fact that every time we would go on an overlanding trip, we’d get back and something would have to be fixed.
Kait Russo There was always something. We would end up at the shop or Joe at some auto repair shop parking lot fixing something.
Joe Russo Like the GXV Hilt for example, they’re running full, I think it’s 40 inch military off-road tires and they’re very specific. And if you are a normal RVer and you’re not really using that in those tires for what they’re meant to do, what happens when you go into a tire center you need to get new tires put on?
Rick Kessler You don’t think Les Schwab carries those?
Joe Russo No, probably not. Although I’m sure they can get them. It just. There’s gonna be a lot more complexities, I think, to a vehicle like that people don’t necessarily understand right off the bat. I think there are gonna be a lot of people out there who appreciate those things, and those who do understand it will put them to full use, but it is an awesome vehicle, and I’m at some point hoping Storyteller Overland lets us take it out for a couple weeks to actually play with it.
But I will say after, you know, we started with our Class A motorhome. And after going down to the van and the truck camper, I think it would be hard for us to go back to a vehicle of that size. Because if I remember correctly, the Hilt is 28 feet. Our Class A motorhome was 29. So we’re back to a point where we may need to start towing a car again. We are gonna have to be cautious about the gas stations, the parking lots, and things you go into.
It’s an awesome vehicle. I don’t know or think we would use it to its potential.
Rick Kessler Do you guys ever consider going the towable route?
Joe Russo We do. So we’ve looked at things like the Intech. That was one of the things that was really interested when we were going through Elkhart was some of the companies and the toy haulers that they’re doing.
What’s also interesting is I’ve noticed a trend of companies that had toy haulers have started to move away from them, at least the smaller ones where other companies are coming out with them.
But I’ve been really interested in something small that can tow a motorcycle, but also have sleeping quarters and a battery system, some of the amenities that you get in an RV. And we’ve talked about doing that.
We’ve also talked about doing a bigger towable because that’s the one type of RV we’ve never used.
Kait Russo And you’ve been towing since you all started RVing, right? Because you and Angie started with a truck and trailer, and you all still have a truck and trailer.
Rick Kessler Just a small correction, we started out with a minivan and a trailer. Do not recommend that. It works for us because we live in Michigan and oh gosh, the elevation changes, the on-ramp. I mean, that’s about it. But it worked for us for a couple of years, then we switched it up to a large SUV and then more recently, yeah, we do have a truck.
Joe Russo So what are we missing by not having a towable?
Rick Kessler One of the reasons why we like it is wherever we’re at, we just unhitch and we’ve got a personal vehicle to go or to the restaurant or to the trailhead or whatever. That’s one reason.
I think the other reason is, for us anyway, especially when we had the kids with us, we could get, gosh, I think we could sleep all three kids in their own bed, plus us in our own bed, in that 22 foot hybrid travel trailer. It worked out for us. You just got a lot more bang for your buck with the travel trailer and the fifth wheel too, for that matter.
And it’s not really a negative because motorhomes are nice, but the negative with that is the mileage, just how much gas you have to put into those things. I mean the truck isn’t great. I’m getting about eight miles a gallon when I’m pulling. I’m getting about 20 when I’m not.
Joe Russo It is still better than a Class A though. I remember having to fill that 80 gallon tank. That just hurt when you look at the gas meter.
Rick Kessler But I mean if you’re bringing your motorcycle with you like you’re talking about, I mean you can’t get any better mileage than that.
Joe Russo No, no. The motorcycle would be, I think, more for fun. It’s really like we want to go places where we can take the motorcycle and have it with us where I’m like where I’m not riding it to the destination.
Rick Kessler Sure.
Joe Russo Because we did a trip earlier this year or we did a trip in, was it October, September, where we drove the van and I followed in the motorcycle. Well technically Kait followed. But we went down to Alabama, went up to Chattanooga, and kind of came around, and that was a lot on the motorcycle just to be sitting on the highway. Because at that point I was trying to get from point A to point B, not see all the little places in between.
Rick Kessler Part of the fun of traveling is being in the same vehicle with your spouse or your partner or your friend or whatever and just enjoying that. I’m sure you probably had some sort of walkie talkie setup or microphone setup, but it’s just not the same.
Joe Russo No, it isn’t. And you’re absolutely right. I mean, a lot of the fun for us is the two of us sitting there going down the road together. Whoever is driving, the other one can grab them a snack, something to drink. We recently got a Nespresso machine so Kait can make me a coffee while we’re driving. It’s the best thing ever.
Rick Kessler I am so shocked and amazed to hear that. I can’t believe it. I know. Is my dead pan coming through?
Kait Russo The evolution of Joe’s coffee journey.
Rick Kessler Yes, it’s gotten to Nespresso. Please tell me you did not hook it up to your Berkey.
Joe Russo Of course.
Rick Kessler You need a trailer just for that setup. Gosh.
Kait Russo It’s really going to be Joe’s motorcycle and coffee trailer that we’re towing behind.
Joe Russo But going back to the like the small towable toy haulers, now we’re still talking MSRP but I can’t I’m actually surprised at how much they’re charging for those.
Rick Kessler Specifically Intech yes, they’re more expensive but that is a generational camper that you would be getting. Those things are juggernauts. Man, if you could swing the bill, it’s an awesome unit to have, for sure.
So Kait, to circle back to one of your other questions about some of the trends, we mentioned overlanding. I have another trend I’d like to bring up, and that is, it seems like a lot of the mainstream RV manufacturers are coming out with what we’re calling a new entry-level vehicle.
There’s a few examples of the Winnebago Access, which is a conventional build which has the wooden framework with the corrugated siding. Some of the others following that same suit would be, Cruiser has the Avenir. I’m drawing a blank on some others, but it seemed like there was a good half a dozen or so new brands that were quote unquote entry level.
How do they achieve that entry level price? A lot of times it’s called decontenting where they won’t include a TV or they won’t include an oven, things like that. They certainly wouldn’t include the premium materials like a solid surface countertop. Instead, they’ll go with more like a thermal foil wrapped plywood.
That was by far the other trend that we saw. It’s actually another story that we’re working on for a later issue of the magazine. And that’s really coming from dealer feedback. The dealers always would prefer to have a lower price point so that they could sell more of course. And what happened was, it’s just like everything else, the price creep.
The brands that have been around for a long time, you know, you keep putting bells and whistles in them, well, those add up. That cost quickly escalates so that it’s no longer entry level. So instead of decontenting those, they just come out with a new brand and call that their entry level.
Kait Russo Going away from the RV for a little bit, I was reading the Dryt report that you all had posted a summary of, and they were talking about how people are finding it harder and harder to get into a campground or booking a campsite. Have you all noticed any industry side trends with campgrounds? Are there more campgrounds being developed, more campsites becoming available to kind of handle the demand?
Rick Kessler Yeah, there are. That’s the short answer. The long answer is there are, but they’re not coming fast enough. The demand is still way outweighing or outpacing the availability.
Just personally speaking, I mean, we live in Michigan. We prefer state parks, so that’s typically what we will try and reserve. In Michigan, you got a six-month window. You can’t reserve more than six months out. And Michigan it’s actually even a little more difficult this year because it seems like a good Third of our of our state park campgrounds are getting renovated to one degree or another so they’ll either close for the first half of the summer or all summer long. So it’s even more scarce to try and find a campsite.
We have a story coming out not too long ago, or that came out not too long ago, on the influx of big corporate money into the campground sector. And a lot of it’s coming from the hotel side. They’re realizing that there’s money to be had. I mean, they all see the same numbers, 1.2 million RV owners just in the last two years to go with the 9 million who owned an RV before that.
The good news is they’re coming in, they’re bringing some money, they’re gonna upgrade some camp site or campgrounds that are already out there. The bad news is those prices are gonna go up because of that big money coming in.
Quite frankly, one reason why we prefer state park campgrounds is it’s less expensive and for our type of camping, we don’t need the water park and we don’t need the jump pad, we just need a good campfire and some privacy.
Joe Russo Yeah, we haven’t done campgrounds very much over the last eight years that we’ve been RVing. And just from what I’ve heard and seen, the prices of campgrounds have skyrocketed. And a lot of point to where I remember a few years back, if it was $50 a night, that was considered very expensive. Now $100 is getting more along the norms for some of these places.
Rick Kessler Yep. Agreed. The funny thing is, and maybe it’s not funny so much, is just ironic is I mean I’m trying to book hotels right now for the Florida RV SuperShow and you can’t touch one for under $300 a night. So yeah the campgrounds are now $100 a night and that’s crazy who would have ever thought of that? Well those that Motel 6 is no longer $68 a night it’s $300 and up.
Joe Russo Yeah I mean that’s one of the reasons why we when we go down to Disney World we love camping at Fort Wilderness. I mean, I think this last time we paid how much a night?
Kait Russo $97 a night.
Joe Russo Okay, so a hundred bucks a night. Well, that’s for the two of us, our van. We could have up to 10 people and park at least two vehicles. So if we had a friend with a van, we could split the price with them. And you look at any of the Disney hotels, you’re talking about three, four, five, $600 a night.
Rick Kessler Right, right. And you’re not eating your own food? Nope. You’re not using your own bed or sleeping in your own bed or your own bathroom. Yeah, all of the benefits of RVing that we’re all very familiar with and prefer.
Joe Russo Now if you did have a crystal ball. Looking beyond 2024, how do you see the industry shaking out particularly in terms of EV?
Rick Kessler Oh man, that’s a million dollar question right there as far as EV because just within the last week or two, seeing the news reports about how the EV market isn’t all what it was cracked up to be. And so it’s almost like a fine line. I’m talking to the RV makers. They still have to continue down that path. They have to commit some R&D money to making sure that they have an EV product of some sort for those people who want one.
But my god, it’s expensive to come up with those things. What was the one? Ford. It was either Ford or GM just talked about how they lost billions of dollars just trying to come up with some sort of EV program that the market’s not ready to embrace just yet. No. That’s for people making a lot more money than we do, that’s their decisions to have to contend with, right?
Joe Russo Well, the thing I found interesting was when we were at the Florida RV show this past year, and Winnebago had their EV concept there, it’s a great looking unit, a lot of cool features, and I love what they’ve done with it, but then you find out the range, and you know, that van empty with no build out and a full charge will get you a little over a hundred miles. And it’s just like, it’s not practical yet unless you’re camping within the area in which you live.
But the thing I’m really interested in are the electric towables where they have a energy assist feature to help push the vehicle along. And now not only do you have an EV kind of vehicle you have you’re getting better gas mileage from your towed or your tow vehicle but you don’t have to worry about necessarily if it runs out of charge it runs out of charge and you can keep going. So I see that being a bigger part of the industry. I don’t know what you’ve seen.
Rick Kessler Seeing a few of those EV chassis towable chassis in their development phase. I haven’t seen too many in Beyond the R&D phase. Lippert is the one that comes to mind right off the top of my head, but there’s others out there working on the same somewhat similar system.
You’re right. And to add to what you mentioned, the other thing that those chassis have are the regenerative energy components, something inside the axle that when it’s spinning around, it’s going to create energy and help, like you said, push the tow vehicle or even charge back and forth if you happen to have an EV tow vehicle, right?
It’s exciting, it’s going to happen, it’s just how much money are they going to be willing to invest in it for a market that they don’t really know when it’s going to become full effected that will want what they’re producing. Like I said, bigger decisions by bigger people than me.
Joe Russo Yeah. I would say the biggest misconception though that I’ve seen of the EV industry has been on the consumer side. The thought that all you have to do is add some solar panels to it. So when you’re out camping, it’ll charge up. And until you’ve, I think, RV’d enough and you understand an RV’s electrical system and how much energy solar can actually put in and how much energy an electric motor on a vehicle takes, you quickly realize how solar and battery have to go a long way before that’s even remotely possible.
Rick Kessler Some of the other downsides to especially an EV RV or an ERV even if it’s a 200 mile range or 500 mile range, how long does it take to plug that in to charge it up? So if you’re not at your campsite where you can charge it up overnight or while you’re there for the duration, it’s not like a gas station where you’re in and out in 15 minutes. And that’s if nobody else is at the EV charger in front of you. It’s a there’s a whole bunch of logistics that still have to play out.
Joe Russo Well, I think there’s also going to be a bit of a culture change because you look at, let’s say you have an EV camper. You roll into the campground and while most people are plugging into a 30 or 50 amp plug so they can run their AC and everything else in the camper, you’re plugging in so you can charge your camper back up. And that takes a lot more energy.
And I’m willing to bet once that kind of the ERVs start to hit the market in more saturation, RV parks are either not going to allow them or you’re going to get a special surcharge because of the amount of electricity you’re using.
Rick Kessler We actually had a news report just this past week or last week, excuse me, on a campground not allowing somebody to plug in their EV at their campground or their campsite pedestal for that very reason.
What you’re going to see more now too is the campsite pedestals will have meters on them. So you will be charged for the amount of power that you use. It won’t be that $35 a night. You’ll get a bill at the end of your stay. You used x amount of power, and then this is the charge for that x amount of power that you used.
So they were headed that way anyway. I’m talking about the campgrounds. They were headed that way anyways. Because, and we’re just as guilty as anybody else, leaving your air conditioner on, even if you’re not inside your RV, you’re out hiking a trail, well, that’s using power that’s not necessary. So the campgrounds were responding by putting in the metered pedestals. If EVs really take off, you’re going to see a lot more of those coming out, too, for sure.
Joe Russo I believe it. And one thing I have not seen here in the US, and maybe you have, was when we were in Italy, there were self-service campgrounds that would have a gate that you would roll up to. You would get a QR code or some type of thing from them.
You would check in, find your camp spot, and usually it was unassigned, so you just grabbed an open one, and you stayed for as long as you wanted to, and then they charged you when you went out. And it was all done remotely. It was available 24-7.And it was just a very easy, convenient way to do it. And I haven’t seen that here yet, but I feel like that should be coming to the US.
Rick Kessler It’s probably closer than what you realize only because a lot of the campground suppliers, especially the ones that come up are coming out with these metered pedestals are also coming out with these gated entry points with the access cards and whatnot. More so to keep unwanted guests from coming in than for any other reason. But boy, that seems like the next step. If you’re going to punch a code to get in and then punch a code when you’re done, that’s your length of stay. There’s your charge.
Joe Russo Yeah. There’s more of an argument for having a big battery bank and not having to plug in.
Kait Russo And charge while you’re driving.
Joe Russo Yeah, exactly. I would love to have you back on the podcast. I think specifically to delve more into the price of RVs. Sure. I think there’s a lot of misconceptions there, some misunderstandings and some advice that we can help people on.
But before we let you go, there’s a question that we’re gonna be asking all of our guests on this show. I’ll let Kait introduce the question.
Kait Russo The question is what is something you wish you had known about RVing before you got into it?
Rick Kessler Man, that’s a good one. Put me on the spot. Probably the use, okay, this is a cop-out answer, but the use of checklists, okay? The first year that we, not even after, I mean, I’m still making mistakes of forgetting things at home or forgetting to do this particular maintenance check item off the checklist.
I mentioned our first camper was a hybrid. The very first trip we went out, I was so excited, I went right to our campsite, forgot to fill up with water. And by the time we were set up, you know, it’s a hybrid so it takes a little bit of time, I didn’t wanna go break it down and then go back to the dump station and get water. So I lugged this five gallon bucket back and forth. I don’t know, I forget what our capacity was I think it was might have been 55 gallons or something like that. So whatever, you know ten times ten trips to to fill up with water.
Joe Russo I think we can relate to the checklist because there was I mentioned a story in our very first podcast about how when we took the dogs for their first ride we didn’t think to go through the RV and close all the drawers and everything and a minute from the house it turned into a giant disaster. All the drawers are flying open, the dogs are jumping in my lap, and it was at that moment we were like, we need to put together a checklist. And we even have one now for the house. Like when we’re leaving, we have a checklist, we go through, make sure everything is done, we’ve learned our lesson.
Well, Rick, thank you so much for being on the podcast. Again, we would love to have you back at some point.
Kait Russo And if people want to get in touch with you, what’s how can they find you?
Rick Kessler Well, very simple answer is just go to RVBusiness.com or WoodallsCM.com. Both of those websites will have further contact information.
People can subscribe to our magazines for free. It’s not only the print magazines, but also our digital news feed that we put out every day five days a week, excuse me. And you can stay up with the RV and the campground industry that way as well.
Joe Russo They are great magazines and I’m kind of biased because I’m a writer for them. But hey.
Rick Kessler We’re biased a little bit too. But Joe you and Kait make our magazine and our community all that better.
Joe Russo I appreciate it.
Rick Kessler Thank you very much for having me on too. This is fun.
Joe Russo I hope you enjoyed this episode of RVing with Joe and Kait.
For resources that we mentioned in today’s episode, head on down to the show notes or our website, weretherussos.com. While you’re there, sign up for our newsletter to receive updates, tips and tricks, and many other things about the RVing lifestyle. If you haven’t already, please subscribe and we will see you next time.
Thank you so much for listening or watching. Bye.