The number one RV builder in America is Thor Industries and, by almost every measure, they’re having a banner year. Thor posted record sales so far for 2016 and the year’s not over yet. What’s also clear from the numbers is that RV sales are recovering faster than home sales. What that tells me is that people are becoming more comfortable with the entire concept of mobility as a lifestyle. That means more younger people are opting for an apartment and a camper instead of a house.
Frankly, it’s about time. If you’re over 50, the stylized ideal of family that you have in your head stems from TV shows that date from the 1950s and 1960s. That old timey view of family living has been cemented by both law, at all levels of government, and the inertia of tradition. The status quo in housing exists because the institutions of real estate support it. We have homes built from twigs and drywall, mainly because that’s the only type of construction FHA will provide government backing on mortgage loans. We have much sturdier materials available today like concrete, steel and even adobe. Bizarrely, almost anything else you build a house with will last longer than traditional construction but the government won’t back it.
An Apartment and a Camper
I think the trend of younger people to an apartment and a camper is a positive one. To me it indicates that the younger generation is putting a higher value on travel, experiences and mobility than a lifestyle practiced by Wally, Beaver and the gang.
Technology Driving The Change
One of the aspects to mobile living that may be driving the change are improvements in mobile technology. In a recent trip to Miami, I was able to work remotely without the slightest inconvenience. Since I have our phone service through Google Fi that means I had a service backup in case the local wifi didn’t work. I filed my stories and photos right in the field where the stories were happening.
Improvements in mobile technology are coming fast and furious. Anyone living in their RV in the “old days” remembers having a phone jack in the power post and your camper had telephone jacks. If you were one of the tech elite you used that phone line and a computer modem the size of a loaf of bread to connect to AOL. You got TV through a coaxial cable, which is still the standard at many campgrounds. Improvements in mobile data, including mobile broadband being pushed by companies like Google, threaten to do away with all those old connectors and park wifi altogether. Mobile data is making us less location dependent and that’s going to drive more changes in how we live.
Good News For RVs and Camping
All this is good news for the camping and RV industries. It means more money for campground operators and that means more campgrounds to pick from in your mobile life. A camper is also kind of a mobility lifeboat if you’re young. Anytime you’re looking at accepting a job, you can go live there and try it out. A camper also means you can full-time it temporarily, until you can figure out where you want to live long term. No more going to a strange city and trusting a real estate agent. Now you can stay in your camper and look for longer term housing options at your leisure.
So far 2016 has been a great year for the RV industry and that means it’s also been a great year for mobile living.