What Kind of RVs are Gen Z Buying?
How an Influx of Younger RV Buyers are Reshaping the Industry
It’s no secret that the RV industry has experienced tremendous growth over the past few years, with motorhomes and travel trailers becoming highly sought-after commodities. Much of that growth stems from an increasing interest in camping from a younger audience, particularly amongst members of Gen Z.
Many of these newcomers to the RV space grew up camping in some capacity. They are also boldly charting their own course in the outdoors and are already impacting where the industry is heading. As a result, RV design and features are evolving to meet the demands of this important demographic, which is looking for smaller, more environmentally conscious vehicles for their adventures.
Who is Gen Z?
Most demographic researchers use the term “Gen Z” to refer to individuals born between the mid-1990s and early 2000s. This group directly follows Millennials and are the children of Gen Xers. That timeframe would make them roughly 18-27 years old as of this writing.
As a group, Gen Z separates itself from previous generations by being more racially and ethnically diverse than previous generations according to data from the Pew Research Center. . Having grown up at a time when internet connectivity and communication were already common, they are adept at using technology. They also see that same technology as a tool to support their entrepreneurial ambitions.
Independent and competitive, Gen Zers tend to be financially motivated. Having lived through the Great Recession and having arrived in the job market during the pandemic, they are keenly aware of the importance of being fiscally responsible. They want to avoid the challenges that their parents faced during economic downturns and are already planning for their future at a young age.
Gen Zers also value their leisure time and enjoy traveling. They prefer spending their money on experiences rather than things and embrace outdoor activities. This has helped to fuel their interest in RVing and camping in general.
RVs for Gen Z
According to the RV Industry Association’s (RVIA) 2021 owner demographic profile, 18-34-year-olds now makeup 22% of current RV owners. Of those, 84% indicate that they plan to purchase a new model sometime over the next five years. As you would expect, RV manufacturers are preparing to meet those demands by supplying vehicles that appeal to this fast-growing market segment.
A recent article on the current state of the RV industry from Business Insider indicates that sales of Class B and C camper vans have spiked significantly during the pandemic. This is partly due to Gen Z buyers searching for vehicles that offer plenty of features and amenities but are more compact and maneuverable than larger Class A models. Popular social media personalities promoting the nomadic “van life” lifestyle have also played a part in the increasing popularity of these types of vehicles.
Lightweight teardrop and small travel trailers are also extremely popular with younger buyers. These models offer an array of great features but are still compact enough to store in a garage and tow behind nearly any type of vehicle. That makes them perfect for Gen Zers, who are more likely to own a crossover or small SUV rather than a large pick-up truck.
Where is Gen Z Camping?
Gen Z’s preference for smaller RVs is directly related to where they prefer to camp. Because they often have more constraints on their time and less financial resources at their disposal, these younger RVers aren’t as likely to stay at a traditional campground. Instead, they prefer to camp in remote locations or park their RVs at music festivals or other events. Because of this, vehicles designed for use off-road or while boondocking tend to have a higher appeal.
Tech and Outdoor Gear
According to RVIA, Gen Zers are more likely to bring electronic gadgets with them on their camping trips when compared to older RVers. In addition to smartphones, tablets, and laptops, the tech-focused generation also packs video game consoles, wireless speakers, and streaming devices when heading to the campsite. They are also more likely to have Wi-Fi routers in their RV or use their phones as wireless hotspots, allowing them to stay connected while on the go.
These additional devices require a power source to continue functioning, so keeping them charged is a top priority. This makes RVs with integrated solar panels and battery packs a popular choice for Gen Z. Onboard generators are also an option. However, quieter and more environmentally friendly portable power stations are preferred.
The same report from RVIA indicates that Gen Zers are an active bunch. As a demographic, they are more likely to travel with additional gear for use in outdoor sports, including bikes, kayaks, and hiking and climbing equipment. An RV that provides a space to safely store and keep that equipment organized is much appreciated. Mounting points for racks and cargo boxes are a sought-after feature as well.
A Remote Office
Many Gen Zers have embraced the freedom and flexibility that comes with remote or flex work, allowing them to have a job while traveling full-time. Owning an RV helps to make this possible by providing a place to live and a mobile office space while on the road.
Whether they own a camper van or a travel trailer, Gen Z RV owners are looking for a modular interior that can be converted into a workspace as needed. That includes having a comfortable place to sit and a table or desk with room for a laptop and other essential tools. AC power outlets for keeping devices charged are also helpful, as is interior LED lighting and an HVAC system for maintaining a comfortable interior environment.
An internet connection is a must for any remote worker, but as already noted, Gen Z tends to have this covered with Wi-Fi routers or cellular hotspots. Adding a signal booster to the RV can improve internet and wireless signals, turning an ordinarily weak connection into a stronger and faster one. Some boosters can also improve television and radio signals, which is an added benefit when camping in some locations.
Another important reason why camper vans and small travel trailers are popular with Gen Zers is price. While there are models that fall into these categories that are quite pricey, plenty of others are relatively affordable. And buying a van and outfitting it yourself is a cost-effective way to purchase an RV.
As noted, Gen Z tends to be highly focused on their finances and making good fiscal decisions. Purchasing an RV is a significant investment, and it makes sense that they would look for options that deliver a lot of bang for the buck. The camper van and small travel trailer segment fall into that category, offering a surprising amount of amenities in a small space.
RV manufacturers looking to tap into the growing Gen Z market will keep these features in mind. This younger RV community is looking for a smaller and more versatile vehicle that offers a comfortable space outfitted with the newest technology. They are willing to pay a fair price for such a model but will consider all their options before plunking down their hard-earned money.
Build that, and they will come.