‘We’ve never seen anything like it’: Shortage of campers, RVs creates waiting lists at local dealerships

Local

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — With peak camping season approaching, those hoping to purchase a new RV may have to join a waiting list.

Local RV dealerships are stunned as camper demand outpaces supply. Sellers in the Tri-Cities say national supply chain issues are leaving them with significantly less inventory.

“I’ve been doing this for 40 years. And it’s just amazing. We’ve never seen anything like it,” said A & L RV Sales founder Larry Stover.

Overseeing seven dealership locations across multiple states, Stover has seen a shortage for about six months now. He says buyers are making deposits on campers that aren’t even built yet. If a buyer moves to purchase a camper in June, it may not be available until August.

“I don’t know how many we’ve got on our waiting list right now,” said Stover.

Normally A & L’s Johnson City location would have about a hundred campers up for sale on its lot, but right now there are only about 30. Stover said most of them are already sold.

Demand for outdoor recreational vehicles began rising in 2020 after the pandemic left many people in search of socially-distant adventures and mobile offices for remote work.

“A lot of folks are working from home in their campers, and they’re all across the country,” said Stover.

Stover said his dealership has been forced to compete with others for limited inventory to sell. Manufacturers have been slow to produce the various parts needed to make an RV. Stover has heard a tire shortage could be next.

“It started off with air conditioning units. Nobody wants an RV without an air conditioning unit…it’s just mushroomed, from one thing to another, that they can’t seem to get, or get it on time, in order to get us the inventory we need.”

Whether campers are new or used, Crowder RV Center is selling them at record pace.

“Our new ones have been selling in less than 48 hours,” said General Manager Jamey Roberts.

Roberts said labor shortages at manufacturing plants have also contributed to the widespread supply issues. He’s ordered units in the fall of 2020 that still haven’t arrived yet from manufacturers.

“We actually have people purchasing ahead, knowing they’re not going to get the camper any time soon, but just assuring they will get a camper sometime this year. So it’s really just a matter of a waiting game for a lot of people,” he said.

Roberts said Crowder RV Center would normally have 50-70 more units up for sale on its lot

As manufacturing costs rise, so do the price tags on campers. Roberts said they’ve seen three or four price increases within the past year.

But after a pandemic kept people indoors, many campers are willing to invest to enjoy the great outdoors. Service requests for existing campers are also skyrocketing, Roberts said, as owners are realizing they may need to keep them longer amid the supply issue.

Roberts believes demand will outpace supply for at least a couple more years.

“People are beginning to realize, the more they visit other lots, that it’s a national issue. And if they see something they like, they better move on it,” he said.

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