The RV Industry Contributes Almost $12 Billion In Taxes To The US Economy Every Year

Luke Fitzpatrick

The recreational vehicle is something of an American pastime and, according to data from Truly Experiences, contributes almost $12 billion in taxes yearly to the U.S. economy.

Everyone goes somewhere in their RV in the summer, whether for a short period or spending months living in it. They vary in size and shape and the number of people that can sleep in them. The industry exploded in popularity in the early 20th century, specifically in 1915, when the Conklin family first rode in the “Gypsy Van.”

The freedom and utility borne by the humble RV have made it a cornerstone of the American automobile and travel culture over the last century. And the availability of the RV to the masses has increased, with different types of RVs coming out that are less about the size and more about functionality.

What’s changed?

As with all vehicular evolutions, RVs have become more modern as the years have gone on. They began as very rectangular, boxy vehicles that were difficult to maneuver in tight spaces and drove like boats on the road. The goal of the RV over the years has become less about the summer road trip (though these are still incredibly popular) and more about a place to live full-time.

Just an Instagram fad?

A popular hashtag on Instagram, #VanLife generally consists of picturesque, near-professional images of people throwing their vans around in the Mojave or resting in their vans on the California coast.

This hashtag and the hundreds of YouTube channels have been created to document folks retrofitting their vans for travel or full-time living. It has become a trend — and who can blame them, with the scale of the housing crisis affecting almost every major American city?

Full-time van-lifers/RVers

According to the 2019 Census, 140,000 recreational vehicles were counted as dwellings. And in a 2021 study, roughly 61% of RVs who responded to their survey lived in their RV full-time. And 25% of RVers were part-timers — they may have lived in their primary dwelling for half the year and then rented out for the other half or had their RV in storage.

The popularity of the different types of RVs

The popularity of different types of recreational vehicles has exploded in recent years, with new types introduced in decades past, including the ‘fifth wheel,’ which essentially is an RV towed behind a truck or other appropriately sized tow vehicle.

Several types of RVs are more popular than others live in — but if you’re looking to purchase one, it depends on your circumstances. Below are some interesting stats:

  • Among full-time RVers, 38% traveled in your traditional rectangular ‘Class A’ RV.
  • The next most popular RV is the fifth wheel, accounting for 28% of full-time living.
  • 15% of full-time RVers live in a travel trailer - these are lighter-weight vehicles that can be towed by vans or cars.
  • 11% occupy a Class C RV, a shorter version of a Class A vehicle.
  • Just 4% of RVers live in a van, with the remaining percentages being shared between buses, truck campers, and ‘other’ vehicles.

Economic Impact of the RV Industry on the United States

In 2021, data collected by the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association as part of their RVs Move America Impact Study found that RVs made in the United States, which is nearly all American household RVs, account for $140 billion in business, including $30 billion in RV sales in 2021.

Many of America’s RVs are manufactured in Indiana. It’s also where the RV industry began. So it’s little wonder this region gained more than $38 billion in revenue from manufacturing recreational vehicles of all types.

It’s safe to say the RV of any type is still top-rated among the average American family. However, it is also gaining popularity among Millennials for various reasons, including 71% of Americans working from home as of December 2020.

Working from home (and lockdowns) has given people the opportunity to save more money and the will to want to travel more - there’s nothing like saying “you can’t do this” to inspire people to do precisely that. And now that the country is opening up again, more people are hitting the roads.

While this number may have fluctuated somewhat as we return to a post-pandemic world, one thing is sure — many people are looking at the RV as more of a way of life than a once-a-year trip.

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Academic Speaker | Freelance Journalist | I have contributed to a variety of publications such as Forbes, Tech In Asia, and The Next Web. I cover a variety of topics ranging from fintech, big data, AI, blockchain, to lifestyle and breaking news stories.


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