The history of RV Life

It might come as a surprise to many, but RV life in the United States actually dates back to 1745 when the first horse-drawn covered wagon began traveling dirt roads heading west.  In truth, the Oregon Trail, which everyone has studied in school, was nothing more than 600,000 people traveling in their RV’s out west.  True, those early RV’s were a bit primitive, but RV’s they were nonetheless.

However, the first motor home, by today’s standards, was built in 1915.  It was built from a Packard three-ton truck, could sleep eleven, and was twenty-eight feet long.  That first RV opened the flood gates, so to speak.  The fist fifth-wheeler was manufactured in 1917, and by the 1920’s there were camping clubs throughout the United States, despite an abundance of unpaved roads and a distinct lack of proper camping facilities.

The 1950’s saw the greatest increase in RV lifestyle expansion and design. Many of the standard features of today’s RV’s were first designed at that time, and a veritable explosion of sales occurred, also at that time, leading us to today’s RV world, March 2021, where 11.3 million households in the U.S. own an RV, a 26% increase over the previous ten years.  In October, 2021, 58,000 RV’s were manufactured in the United States, the most ever in a single month.

The RV Capital of the World

A little-known fact to anyone living outside of Elkhart County, Indiana, but 85% of recreational vehicles sold in the U.S. are manufactured in Elkhart County and its neighboring counties.  In fact, the industry brings in $32.4 billion dollars of revenue to Indiana, pays the U.S. $3.1 billion in taxes to the state, employs 126,000 jobs in Indiana, and pays $7.8 billion in wages.

Classifications of RV’s

There are several different classifications of recreational vehicles, including the following:

  • Class A Motorhomes
  • Class B Motorhomes
  • Class C Motorhomes
  • Truck Campers
  • Travel Trailers
  • Tent Trailers
  • 5th-Wheels

And sub-categories such as the very popular teardrop trailers and converted busses, called Skoolies.

What is an RV?

To be considered an RV, certain qualifications must be met.  They must be used as living quarters, either for long-term (currently done by over one-million Americans) or for short-term i.e. camping.  They must provide amenities such as living quarters, a kitchen of some sort, perhaps a bathroom, or any combination of such amenities. They can be motorized or they can be towed behind a vehicle, but they must be mobile.

The future of the RV Life in the United States

The future, as of 2022, has never been brighter for the RV industry in the United States. In fact, during the COVID outbreak and the ensuing months following it, RV sales skyrocketed, as did RV travel, as mentioned earlier in this article.  Prices rose, on average, 38% in the United States.  Also during COVID we saw a huge increase in people living full-time in an RV, and the term “nomads” was popularized because of the number of full-time RVers traveling the country, working part-time in various cities, living for a short time in campgrounds and then moving on to the next city, modern-day migrant workers with no permanent roots.