Obviously there’s going to be some debate around this topic, both from owners and RV manufacturers. All the same, I’m going to maintain that the age of the Class A is, for the most part, over. What is killing the Class A isn’t the complexity or the near endless maintenance, it’s simple economics.
By every measure, travel trailers have taken over the bulk of the RV industry’s production and sales. Every other class of RV could rightly be classified as a specialty market. I don’t believe that’s an accident. To me travel trailers represent the sweet spot between all the factors you want in an RV. Space, comfort, convenience, ease of towing and livability. A travel trailer avoids the necessity of towing a separate local vehicle and all but the largest models can be towed with a relatively modest, gasoline-powered tow vehicle.
The reason I think Class As are on the decline are the two Cs of Cost and Complexity. A Class A is a substantial financial investment and the purchase price is merely the down payment. Unfortunately, the workmanship in Class As is on par with the rest of the RV industry…which means it’s bad. More systems and gadgets means there’s more there is to go wrong. So, on top of already poor construction you layer on routine maintenance of a bewildering array of complicated support systems. Everything that can go wrong with any RV is encapsulated in a Class A.
Niche Market Product
Based on the percentage of sales, I think it’s fair to classify Class A RVs as a niche market. You need a reason to buy one, a reason that’s going to be worth the fuel, maintenance, storage costs and substantial depreciation. All of that expense for what I consider relatively minor improvements in space, storage and decor.
Park Models Shine
RV sales have fallen off their peak since the fall of 2019. The only bright spot of increased sales in those numbers are sales of park model RVs. Park models are like miniature houses and aren’t really made for camping. They’re made to move into place and stay for a long time.
Most full timers in Class As would eventually settle into a pattern of using their RV to travel south for the winter and then back up north. What more people are discovering is that park models offer the same living space and convenience at a fraction of the cost. Owners can either pay someone to move them or, as most do, just pay to store their park model over the summer at the park they come back to every season.
Business, Not Pleasure
For most people, a Class A is going to be a business decision. A racing team, a large family, mobile business or other specific instance where a Class A is worth the expense and ongoing maintenance costs. For business use many of those routine expenses can be all or partially deducted. To me that’s the only way a Class A makes any sense.
As I stated at the beginning, you need a reason to drop that much coin on a Class A. As the cost of diesel maintenance continues to escalate and RV service problems continue to frustrate owners, more people are going to be taking a second hard look at buying a gigantic hunk of metal that will bleed them of cash and depreciate in value at an accelerated rate.