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Why is RV Travel So Popular with Baby Boomers?

Category: RV News
Publish Date: Tuesday, January 3, 2006
Summary: Baby boomers are creating an RV travel boom

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From Sharon OBrien

All of a sudden RV travel is growing in popularity... but why?

Every seven seconds or so, another baby boomer turns 50, according to the Alliance for Aging Research. That’s more than 11,000 new 50-year-olds every day.

And apparently the first thing many of those aging baby boomers do is to rush out and either rent or buy an RV, because the number of baby boomers loading up RVs and taking to the highway is on the rise.

Record numbers of baby boomers are traveling by RV

According to a 2001 study commissioned by the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) and conducted by the University of Michigan, U.S. ownership of RVs is skyrocketing, and the baby boomer market is one of the primary reasons for the increase in RV sales.

More RVs are owned by baby boomers than by any other age group, according to the study, and baby boomers are also the fastest growing segment of the RV market.

"Overall, there is a strong and enduring appeal to the RV lifestyle that is as valid today as it was 20 years ago," says University of Michigan Survey Research Center Director Dr. Richard Curtin.

Why are baby boomers choosing RV travel?

In a survey conducted by Robert Hitlin Associates, the reasons most often cited for the popularity of RV travel were:

  • RVs bring the family closer together
  • Having an RV creates new experiences
  • Having an RV teaches a respect for nature
It probably doesn’t hurt that 16,000 campgrounds nationwide cater to RV travelers.

Many RV campgrounds offer swimming pools, recreation centers, evening entertainment programs, snack bars and camp stores. RV campgrounds are typically located near popular tourist attractions and historic sites, making it easy for people to park their RV and use it as a home base from which to explore local points of interest.

RV campgrounds and amenities for every taste

Some RV travelers are attracted to the growing number of luxury RV resorts with facilities such as tennis courts, golf courses and health spas.

Others prefer public RV campgrounds that may have less lavish facilities but offer great scenic beauty and easy access to outdoor activities such as hiking, fishing, kayaking, canoeing, and whitewater rafting.

RVs offer travelers freedom, flexibility and a lot of personal control over where and when they go, how long they stay, and how they spend their time.

RVs provide a home on wheels, with comfortable sleeping and dining areas, well-equipped kitchens and bathrooms, and the ability to tow or transport boats, and sports equipment such as ATVs or snowmobiles. Some models come with luxurious amenities ranging from satellite dishes and flat-screen TVs to fireplaces and gourmet kitchens.

RV travel is more affordable than most other vacations

The overall affordability of RV travel is another reason that RVs have become so popular, and not all RVs are expensive to purchase.

Whether you’re in the market for a motor home, a camper truck, or some type of travel trailer, there is an RV to suit nearly every taste and budget.

According to the RVIA, prices for new RVs typically are:

  • $4,000-$13,000 for folding camping trailers;
  • $4,000-$26,000 for truck campers;
  • $8,000-$65,000 for conventional travel trailers;
  • $48,000-$140,000 for type C motor homes; and
  • $58,000-$400,000 for type A motor homes
According to vacation cost-comparison studies by PKF Consulting, RV vacations are more affordable than traveling by personal automobiles, commercial airlines, or cruise ships. After factoring in the costs of RV ownership and fuel prices, as well as the tax benefits that offset some of those costs, a family of four can spend up to 70 percent less when traveling by RV.

Why are baby boomers having such a profound effect on the popularity growth of RV travel? Let’s look at the statistics.

Baby boomers — the 78 million Americans born between 1946 and 1964 — represent almost 30 percent of the U.S. population, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. From 2000 to 2010, the number of Americans 55 to 64 years old will grow by 47 percent, making it the fastest-growing population group in the U.S. During the same 10-year period, the U.S. population overall is expected to grow by about 9 percent.

By 2015, all baby boomers will be over 50. Today, people over 50 control more than:

  • $7 trillion in personal wealth
  • 50 percent of all discretionary spending Nearly 80 percent of all leisure travel
Once the rest of the baby boomers pass the half-century mark and are over 50, those numbers will be even higher.

RV ownership in the U.S. is growing faster than the population

According to the RVIA study, nearly one in 12 U.S. vehicle-owning households (approximately 7 million) now owns an RV.

That number is expected to grow to 8 million households by 2010 as more baby boomers enter their prime RV-buying years. That’s an increase of 15 percent between 2001 and 2010, compared to overall U.S. household growth of only 10 percent during the same period. Among all U.S. households, one in six plan to purchase an RV in the future.

The RVIA study found that the average RV owner is married, owns a home, and has an annual household income of $56,000. RV owners have a median age of 49, and nearly 10 percent of all Americans 55 and older own RVs. According to the study, RV owners tend to spend their free time and disposable income traveling—an average of 4,500 miles and 28-35 days annually.

Renting an RV is an easy way to experience RV travel

Approximately 7.2 million RVs are on the nation's roads, according to the University of Michigan study, and the RVIA estimates there are as many as 30 million RV enthusiasts nationwide, including RV renters. In fact, renting an RV is a very popular way for people to try RV travel before making such a major purchase.

The RV rental business is a $350 million industry and grew by 34 percent in 2004, according to figures compiled by the U.S. Census of Retail Trade and the RV Rental Association (RVRA). There are more than 460 RV rental outlets located across the country.

A Final Word about RVs

Ultimately, the affordability of RV travel, combined with the comfort, convenience and personal freedom it offers, makes an RV vacation irresistible to many people, including a growing number of baby boomers.

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