Home » I’m In Tampa At One Of The Largest RV Shows In America, What Do You Want To Know?

I’m In Tampa At One Of The Largest RV Shows In America, What Do You Want To Know?

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The temps are mild and the ground is wet in Tampa, Florida as the 2024 Florida RV SuperShow kicks off this week. RV manufacturers from all over America and beyond have descended into the Florida State Fairgrounds to show off the latest in RV technology and the best fare for you to buy. I’m going to be here for a few more days, what RV stuff would you like to know?

Auto shows seem to be on a downward spiral, with major manufacturers just deciding not to show up. It used to be that skipping an auto show meant missing out on some great experiences. Now, it feels as though those experiences are drying up. It’s going to be interesting visiting the Chicago Auto Show this year without Stellantis taking up a sizable portion of the show’s floor space.

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RV shows, on the other hand, are faring better. Though RV demand has fallen far below pre-pandemic numbers, it’s still a huge industry with tons of players supporting the RV Supershow. And it’s not just the stalwart brands; new manufacturers enter the RV industry every year, so there’s always something fresh to see at an RV show. Even the big guys like Thor, Winnebago, and Forest River occasionally throw a curveball when it’s time to show off the goods face to face with potential customers. A camper is also one of those products that you just need to see in person. It’s not easy to get an idea of quality from perfect manufacturer press photos, but your hands and eyes don’t lie. If you want to buy an RV, going to a show is a great way to check out hundreds of RVs all in the same place.

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My observations thus far on the RV show circuit have been exciting – and concerning. On one hand, a number of manufacturers are attempting to solve real problems with the RVing experience. Some companies are tackling quality, while others want to bring down weight or price. And a few companies are doing their best to take the stress out of hauling a trailer. There are even awesome developments to electrify RVs.

On the other hand, some companies still struggle with quality. An RV purchased for more than the price of a nice new car should have better quality than a high school shop class project, but I’ve seen units with rust hidden under spray paint, awnings attached so poorly the walls behind them were damaged, and interior fittings so cheap they broke after little more than a month.

The Numbers

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The Florida RV SuperShow calls itself the largest in the nation. In 2022, the Florida show had over 1,550 RVs on site, and a record 84,600 people stopped by sunny Florida for a peek at the latest RV action. That was compared to the Pennsylvania Recreation Vehicle And Camping Association’s show, which was also called the nation’s largest show, which had 1,400 RVs and 49,112 people in attendance in 2022.

Last year, the Florida RV SuperShow saw a slight reduction in visitors, as the Florida RV Trade Association estimates that some 79,000 people showed up. There were also over 1,300 RVs on display, another decrease from 2022. Still, that was enough to place 2023 as the second largest year ever for the Florida RV SuperShow. Sales may be down, but people still love campers!

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There are also some interesting trends happening in the RV industry right now. In 2021, RV sales hit an all-time record of 600,240 units. When resorts reopened, cruises restarted, and other vacation spots resumed operations, Americans went right back to having those sorts of vacations. Add in a sharp rise in interest rates, and some of those who were interested in an RV didn’t pull the trigger. And so, demand has fallen off a cliff.

The RV industry has been in a sales tumble ever since. 2022 finished with 493,268 sales, a low number that cast a pall over the 2023 Indiana RV Open House I attended last year. It was less of a casual celebration and more of companies and dealers acting in survival mode. There were no beer tents or concerts and the media wasn’t allowed to stick around for very long. While the numbers for 2023 have not been published yet, the year is expected to land at about 307,700 shipments, or fewer RVs sold than in 2013. However, Class B camper vans still made a strong showing and the RV Industry Association expects sales to begin a rebound in 2024.

RVs In Tampa

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Florida still has that party atmosphere this year, and everyone’s putting out their best. The public show begins tomorrow, January 17, and runs through January 20. The ticket price of $15 per adult gets you a two-day pass. Kids under 16 are free and there is a military discount as well.

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This year, the Florida RV SuperShow is hosting the 37th annual Super Rally. It’s a massive gathering of RVers and RV clubs with the benefits of free admission to the SuperShow, entertainment, refreshments, and more. Sadly, the Super Rally is so hot that it sold out well before the show.

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Still, there are campgrounds near the Florida State Fairgrounds that may have spots open. There are also plenty of hotels nearby! I’ll be here until Thursday evening. If there are enough of you in the Tampa area, send me an email at mercedes@theautopian.com to let me know you’d like to meet up! Whether you’ll be here at the show or just following the fun via the series of tubes called the Internet, be sure to let me know if there’s anything about RVs or the current state of the industry that you’d like me to gather from this show. See you in the comments!

Images: Top graphic crowd shot via Florida RV Trade Association; all other images by author, unless otherwise noted.

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Ben
Ben
2 months ago

I suspect RV shows will continue as long as there is an RV industry. There’s so much more variation in RV designs and layouts that you really need to see one in person before dropping that much cash. Unlike cars where everything in a given class is going to have approximately the same space and layout, two 30 foot trailers may have drastically different configurations within the same dimensions.

I will second the question below about Aliner-style trailers and if anyone is doing anything interesting there. The ease of towing combined with better protection from the elements than a standard popup really appeal to me.

Tasteful Noodles
Tasteful Noodles
2 months ago

The greater Chicago RV show was a couple of weeks ago. I take the family each year since it’s close and cheap and kills some time on a dreary winter weekend. The dealers seemed extra desperate to move inventory this year, and that was compounded by the sameyness of the products this year compared to last. Sounds like a good time to buy if you’re in the market.

Knowonelse
Knowonelse
2 months ago

Are there any hybrid RVs? Why not? Using the hybird system for house current is logical, I know the answer, but I want THEM to respond why they are not pushing for a vehicle maker to make them. I want a plug-in hybrid Sprinter-scale RV so I can daily it around town on EV, hybrid on the road for range, hybrid for house battery off grid like we use our Prius or Rav4.

The Westfalia/Ram RV, what are the options for recharging the house HV battery?

Sklooner
Sklooner
2 months ago

Just pose the question when quality will return,

Ben
Ben
2 months ago
Reply to  Sklooner

This question has a false premise. There was never any quality in the RV industry at large. 😛

Sklooner
Sklooner
2 months ago
Reply to  Ben

My old Barth was pretty well made

Defenestrator
Defenestrator
2 months ago
Reply to  Sklooner

Quality exists in the smaller brands that aren’t owned by THOR or Forest River. That partly applies to Winnebago/Grand Design, but mostly the much smaller ones like Phoenix Cruiser, Bigfoot, Escape, Oliver, Lazy Daze, Grech, etc. The price does go up accordingly, though.

JerryLH3
JerryLH3
2 months ago

Food recommendations (maybe I did this last year too?):

TacoSon
Big John’s Alabama BBQ
Zen Noodle Bar
Saigon Bay
Loli’s
Brocato’s

These are all relatively close to the Fairgrounds.

CJ Morse
CJ Morse
2 months ago

Are there any RV’s or camper trailers that aren’t built like crap but don’t cost as much as a house?

Last edited 2 months ago by CJ Morse
DaChicken
DaChicken
2 months ago

My current RV is a 2003 R-Vision 24′ which was in the running for the least expensive class A back then. What are the current units in that class? Small Class A, at least 1 normal bed, shower.

Too many articles and press releases in the RV world focus on the 1%er stuff rather than the “normal people” class stuff. It would be nice to see the other end of the spectrum. Granted, Mercedes has done a stellar job covering a wide range of that world.

Spartanjohn113
Spartanjohn113
2 months ago

I’d be curious for an update on LIV campers. They say they’re across the street at “Shoot Straight.” Has the fit and finish improved year over year? Is their 17 prototype on display?

MEK
MEK
2 months ago
Reply to  Spartanjohn113

I second this. The LIV trailers really interest me. I like the idea of not worrying about water leaks every winter when it goes away for the season.

Also, do they have any plans for a 26′ with the bunkhouse option? I like the smaller 21 bunkhouse but also want the larger floorplan with the front master bedroom.

Last edited 2 months ago by MEK
Scott Ross
Scott Ross
2 months ago

How many RV vloggers are there picking out their next influencer basecamp?

Erik Waiss
Erik Waiss
2 months ago

Systemic Question:

We can build relatively cheap reliable vehicles en masse. We can also build houses that don’t leak. Why can we not build (and buy) a cheap reliable leakproof camper or RV? Are they buying crap materials? Crap processes? Blatant Greed? A tiny tiny house on wheels should cost a tiny fraction of an actual house (plus wheels). Why is it like this?

tl;dr – Why?

DadBod
DadBod
2 months ago
Reply to  Erik Waiss

Because the industry is a hive of scum and villainy

Jakob K's Garage
Jakob K's Garage
2 months ago

Yes, here’s a question: Does ANY manufacturer produce any real lightweight camper or RV? Hauling less weight means you can use (more of) your fuel money to buy wine and candy on your vacations 🙂

Have to mention my 1974 Combi-Camp pop up trailer – again… So light I could single handedly lift the whole thing to vertical position, to save space in the garage.

It’s the same with (most of) the YouTube DIY camper van conversions: People fill them with all kinds of heavy and bulky wooden constructions (and all kinds of crap they think they need) without considering weight at all.

Two Tone Ted
Two Tone Ted
2 months ago

Mercedes,

Do the RV Shows really offer a better deal than shopping around online or rvtrader?

Sorry that the Florida weather is so cold and rainy this year!

Thanks.

MrLM002
MrLM002
2 months ago

Aluminum body trailers as well as aluminum body and frame trailers.

Smallest trailer with a toilet.

Extremely lightweight and or aerodynamic trailers.

Odd Trailers

Etc.

I trust your judgement, keep up the great work!

Utherjorge
Utherjorge
2 months ago
Reply to  MrLM002

legit toilet, or a cassette that hides in a tiny box so you can take it out and poop like you’re in prison

MrLM002
MrLM002
2 months ago
Reply to  Utherjorge

Legit toilet but I’d accept an incinerator toilet as well.

Snake_in_the_grass
Snake_in_the_grass
2 months ago

Is there anything like the Coleman Lantern 17 that is actually high quality? I want to tow with a minivan a basic trailer that fits a family of four comfortably (separate toilet/shower – I just can’t do a wetbath, basic cooktop and microwave, heat/ac). I don’t need a fireplace or TV. I just want something durable so I don’t have to pay the crazy prices for lodging in Yellowstone.

Drive By Commenter
Drive By Commenter
2 months ago

Any lightweight hard sided Aliner A frame alternatives that don’t have the front/side area of a brick?

A. Barth
A. Barth
2 months ago

Are any of the manufacturers using lightweight materials everywhere?

It seems like a lot of them still use large quantities of wood, which is heavy. Using stuff like composites, aluminum, carbon fiber, etc. would be [more] expensive but could potentially weigh a lot less.

Thank you and have fun at the show!

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
2 months ago
Reply to  A. Barth

Careful, you’ll summon Toecutter, who I’m betting may also be working on a streamliner RV, with questions like that…

A. Barth
A. Barth
2 months ago
Reply to  Jack Trade

I avoided any mention of e-l-e-c-t-r-i-c-i-t-y or b-a-t-t-e-r-i-e-s so I think we’ll be okay. 🙂

Hondaimpbmw 12
Hondaimpbmw 12
2 months ago
Reply to  A. Barth

Not only are they using a lot of wood, they have gone from 1/2”plywood in my 2007 trailer to 17/32” OSB in my 2020 trailer, which is basically wood chips held together w/ resin. It’s heavier than plywood.
The cheap luan walls have electrical openings that look like someone’s pet rat trained to do the job decided to go on strike. And of course I bought the one that has a slideout pulled out by a cable and sags when extended.

OnceInAMillenia
OnceInAMillenia
2 months ago

Who is buying the big ones? What kind of person already has a house and then drops another house worth of money to drive slowly around the country? Why would you do that?

DadBod
DadBod
2 months ago

I don’t get it either. At the campground I’ve seen elaborate buses towing $90K painted-to-match trucks and I just wonder at the phenomenon.

Ben
Ben
2 months ago

Many of them don’t have a house. Quite a few people sell their house and full-time in an RV.

Utherjorge
Utherjorge
2 months ago

got me a pop-up at auction for $1000. I’m good, but peeps and their money…it is what it is

StillNotATony
StillNotATony
2 months ago

Here’s kind of a frivolous question: every couple of years, we get another company SWEARING they’re going to have flying cars in the next five years. I know that a flying RV is unlikely (except that Sikorsky-Winnebago mash-up years ago), but what is the absolutely BANANAS feature or technology that somebody is promising? Even if all they have is a crappy computer rendering.

Greensoul
Greensoul
2 months ago

Maybe with the slower sales volume they can slow down the assembly line a bit and put some quality back into there products. I’d be interested to know if there are any new 2 story plans, if 2 bathrooms in a unit is still trendy, and if any of the units have electronically darkening window tinting or privacy mode glass. Thanks Mercedes! Your RV stories is why this auto site gets my monthly $! I like to feed my ‘anything with wheels’ fetish a well balanced diet. The autopian covers all of the bases concerning wheeled objects:)

Racer Esq.
Racer Esq.
2 months ago

RVs are pretty high (possibly at the top) of my list of things that make more sense to rent than own. What is the industry doing with regard to rentals?

I rented a trailer camper that was pretty big (it had a bed, a couch that turned into a bed, a kitchen, and a shower) back in 2020 through some the Airbnb of RVs company and it was pretty cool, and then I was glad to give it back after a week of driving around the country.

Squirrelmaster
Squirrelmaster
2 months ago

You sort of already answered my first question, which was if quality has improved? My second question is if there any more affordable options out there that aren’t either tiny or built like trash?

Last edited 2 months ago by Squirrelmaster
Mr. Canoehead
Mr. Canoehead
2 months ago
Reply to  Squirrelmaster

Are there any brands that aren’t put together with staples and Elmer’s glue?

Squirrelmaster
Squirrelmaster
2 months ago
Reply to  Mr. Canoehead

From what I’ve seen, staples or actual Elmer’s-brand glue would be a huge improvement. Most seem to be assembled with used gum scraped off the underside of a restaurant table.

Hondaimpbmw 12
Hondaimpbmw 12
2 months ago
Reply to  Mr. Canoehead

Glue?!! You think they use glue?!

DadBod
DadBod
2 months ago
Reply to  Hondaimpbmw 12

The glue is for sniffin’, don’t waste it on the customers!

Volkyrie
Volkyrie
2 months ago

If Grand Designs brings a new Seranova, I’d love to hear your thoughts on it! Our family of 3 is just starting to shop for something in the 20 foot range with lots of windows and good durability (for a camper…). Nucamp and InTech are leading the list at the moment.

Gene1969
Gene1969
2 months ago

I have a few honest questions.

  • Is there a travel trailer available that can be pulled by your Smart car?
  • Did Westfalia show up with one of their Ram camper vans?
  • Is the RV market still leaning heavily into the “Van Life’ model or have they moved on to another market?

Thank you in advance.

Bonus question: Is it poetic to have lunch there from a food truck or is it better to have it from the fairground standard vendor?

Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
2 months ago
Reply to  Gene1969

“Is there a travel trailer available that can be pulled by your Smart car?”

Yes, but not as many as there used to be. A Smart ForTwo can pull a motorcycle camper, there’s still a few small manufacturers in business

Gene1969
Gene1969
2 months ago
Reply to  Ranwhenparked

That’s good to know. Thank you.

Space
Space
2 months ago

What is the cheapest class A there?

J Wamsley
J Wamsley
2 months ago

Hi Mercedes, thanks for asking. What’s available in very low cost, tow behind, sleep inside and I guess available hvac? Towing with a wrangler, sleeping two plus a dog and cat. We are trying to get away from hotels. Use case is skiing in the northeast and off-roading in Florida. Potty and cooking are optional, we can bring portable equipment. Trying to decide whether it’s actually less expensive to just equip a van. Most of the towable small stuff seems pretty expensive. Thanks!

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