Home » The Autopian Is Headed To One Of The Largest RV Shows In America. Here’s What You Can Expect

The Autopian Is Headed To One Of The Largest RV Shows In America. Here’s What You Can Expect

Rvsupershow

As calendars flip over to a new year, many RVers in America look forward to another season of travel and smiles. For organizers, it marks another year of RV shows, and there are many of them. We’re headed to one of the largest and most popular RV shows around. Next week, I’ll be showing you the coolest RVs and most innovative camping tech from the 2023 Florida RV Supershow from Tampa!

Considering how empty the 2022 North American International Auto Show was, some of you may be wondering why I’m even bothering to leave Illinois to walk around a state fairground in Florida. With how much information you can get online, it seems that there really isn’t a need to see vehicles in person anymore. At least in my eyes, RVs are different. There are things that you cannot get a firm grasp on without actually being there in person. Press photos often don’t give you a good idea of how big a camper actually is, and you’re going to want to touch and feel things. So, I think that RV shows are still a great idea, and here’s one reason why.

A Possible Shift In RV Buying

The RV industry is going through a bit of an interesting turn right now. When the pandemic hit and closed down cruises, resorts, and theme parks, Americans decided to hit the road. Many of these people decided to do it in an RV. The rise of working from home also helped propel people into RVs. After all, if you’re going to work from a laptop, why do it from a boring apartment? You could work from anywhere you could get internet. It’s no surprise, then, that RV sales shot through the roof. In 2021, the American RV industry set a new record, shipping 600,240 units. The previous record was 504,599 units, which was set in 2017.

At first, the RV Industry Association believed that the ingredients were there for 2022 to continue 2021’s upward trajectory. Final data from 2022 is not public yet, but there were a total of 472,691 shipments by the end of November 2022, and RVIA expected the year to finish out with 495,300 units shipped. RVIA further expects 2023 to bring RV sales back to pre-pandemic levels. According to the association, shipments in 2023 are expected to land between 379,200 to 403,600 units, with an estimated total of 391,499 units.

RVIA cites consumer finances, financial market weakness, high interest rates, and inflation as reasons for lower selling performance. This sounds like bad news, but both the RVIA and the manufacturers still see a lot of good. You may wonder why Airstream is pushing its Rangeline and why Ford is putting out a #vanlife version of the Transit with the Transit Trail when it seems like sales are on a slide.

However, when you look at the data by RV class, you start to see an interesting trend.

Screenshot (214)
RVIA

Travel trailers of all kinds took a sizable hit in sales last year. Folding camper trailers just barely recorded a gain, and medium-to-large motorhomes also took a small hit. Despite the sales slump in towables, truck campers–the ones that sit in truck beds–saw double-digit gains, as did Class B van campers. When I went to the Transit Trail event, Ford touted how Class Bs were seeing about 30 percent gains while other classes were seeing losses, showing a potential shift in buying behavior.

Based on this, I will also be paying attention to the van and truck offerings that are out there. The massive Indiana RV Open House had tons of camper vans, but not many truck campers. Hopefully, Tampa will be different. Really, Tampa will be a very different show than Indiana. The Indiana show was presented for RV dealerships and suppliers; not really for the public or the media. This show is customer and media-focused, like how an auto show is.

The Largest RV Show

Map Spread Pg 4 5 V6 Final Version 1
Florida RV Trade Association

The Florida RV Supershow calls itself the largest RV show in the nation. If you’re getting confused, don’t worry because I’m a little confused, too. “Largest” does appear to get tossed around a bit with these shows. The RV Open House calls itself the largest RV dealership trade show. Meanwhile, the Pennsylvania Recreation Vehicle And Camping Association runs what it calls America’s Largest RV Show every year. So which one is right?

Looking at the data, the Pennsylvania show features 1,400 RVs and had an attendance of 49,112 people in 2022. In the same year, the Florida show featured over 1,550 units and recorded 84,600 people attending, a record for the show. At least by the numbers, Florida edges out Pennsylvania. Considering that Indiana merely had “hundreds” of RVs, my feet are going to be working overtime to find you the coolest rigs out there.

I haven’t been able to find much on the Florida RV Supershow’s history, but it looks like there will be tons of great fun to be had. The show features something called the SuperRally. Apparently, this is a massive RV rally open to the public that sounds pretty sweet:

The Super Rally celebrates its 36th year at the SuperShow. This RV rally is opened to any and all RV clubs and the general public and includes a number of amenities including FREE admission to the SuperShow all five public days, meeting facilities for your club, free coffee and donuts every morning and seminars. Three nights of entertainment and refreshments are also included and will feature “Sunday Drive” a musical group by twin brothers, a wonderful night of variety family entertainment lead by Fritzy and Kenny Ray Horton will have everyone dancing in the isles with his country and bluegrass hits.

If you’re interested in going to the 2023 Florida RV SuperShow, the public days run from January 18 to 22. Sadly, the campgrounds are already full, as is one of the hotels next to the site. But if you can find a place to put down your stakes, admission is $15 or adults with a free second-day pass and people under 16 are also free. Catch me wearing an Autopian shirt and a Starfleet combadge!

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18 Responses

  1. This sounds fun! When I was a kid, one of the annual family outings was over to the “Sports Show”, which was mostly to showcase outdoors products of one type or another. There were always a large selection of RVs there. I loved walking through those things, especially the big ones. They had their own smell – I think was a mix of formaldehyde and crushing debt, but damn if it didn’t smell awesome to young me!

  2. RVs are very much a touchy feely purchase. We went to a local big-RV dealer when I worked near one (hated that job, glad elsewhere now) to check out Sprinter-scale RVs. We went into one and it was fine, just not quite what we wanted. Went into another and we both hated it. It felt cramped and crowded everywhere. Never felt comfortable anywhere. No way to get that impression from any form of non-in-person investigation. Report away!

  3. FWIW, the dealer where I store my travel trailer for winter said his 2022 sales were basically like a pre COVID year’s.

    However, warranty work was WAY up, even when factoring in the sales surge of the previous years.

  4. I will be interested to get your take on things and see if any improvements have been made towards construction quality. (I highly doubt it) Some of the shows we have been to, many of the brand new RVs are already falling apart from the foot traffic just at the show.
    Seems that with 80+% of the market owned by Thor and Forest River (hidden to the average buyer by a plethora of “Brands”) it seems the lack of competition has really hurt quality. To get a quality unit now, it seems you must look to one of the smaller boutique manufacturers. Don’t get me started on how almost every component in the RVs now come from Lippert, Dometic, or Thedford…..
    We purchased our 2016 Jayco Eagle 5th wheel just before Thor bought them out, and while not the best out there, construction quality is so much better than the newest. Don’t even get me started on the COVID Campers that were thrown together to meet demand. Some you can identify from a distance…..the entry doors will have no window…..just a solid door….and some have less windows period…….COVID created a RV window shortage…….among other things. So, just build them without windows…….nice.
    All this, while prices of RV have almost doubled.
    If we were in the market for an RV now, we would not be buying one. I will likely keep the 2016 we have now…..forever.

  5. “RVIA further expects 2023 to bring RV sales back to pre-pandemic levels.”

    Good. I’m tired of not being able to get sites at state parks anymore. Sometimes even finding a site mid-week can be a problem.

    Also, if/when I have to replace my current camper I would like quality levels to return to at least what they were pre-pandemic. The stuff they’re selling today makes my cheapo trailer from 12 years ago look like a finely crafted masterpiece.

  6. So much fiberglass. So many monthly payments. I sense danger.

    See the thing about camping, is that you are trying to get out of the bedroom, and rustle about with the little animals in the dirt and underbrush. Most of my camping is by motorcycle or à pied. I can’t see the point of bringing a house with you. Then, you just have another house to worry about. It isn’t ‘camping’ anymore, to me. I suppose this one will introduce me to how the other half lives.

    Have fun Mercedes. I look forward to your always interesting takes on what you find.

    1. I think people who say RV’ing is about camping are just fooling themselves.

      RV’ing isn’t about ditching the house, but about changing what’s outside your front door as often as you’re able to do so.

      Which can be Instagram worthy wide open natural views at its best, or the backside of Fred and Ethel’s forty footer at the hookup site next to yours at its most mundane.

  7. Any coverage you can give on slide-ins would be great, particularly 1/2 ton focused ones that are as space efficient as possible. I want to start doing some camping with my family, but primarily I want to take the boat or a small trailer with motorcycles/ATVs with. I know the “proper” solution here is to buy a 3/4 or 1 ton truck for the room and capability, but I don’t to deal with the expense or everyday (or even occasional if I daily something smaller) livability of a crew cab, long bed, heavy duty truck.

    1. I would say pay very close attention to the weight of so called 1/2 ton RVs.
      Many put a 1/2 ton truck that isn’t a regular cab 2WD way over payload. Many put 3/4 ton trucks over payload.
      I see this all the time…..A Ram 2500 Crew Cab will have a payload of around 2000-2200lbs in diesel trim. Many think “I can tow anything!!! This will pull a house!!!” Yes, but the limiting factor is what you can carry…..
      Truck Campers are just a heavy beast and often require a 1 ton.
      Lets use the Ram above as an example….2200lbs payload.
      Say you are looking at a 1/2 ton towable 5th wheel….dry pin weight of 1600lbs (which is on the low side). Lets say this 5th wheel has a loaded pin weight of 1900lbs by the time you add clothes, food, chairs, grills, etc….
      Now you have 300 lbs of payload left. Your 5ht wheel hitch will easily be 200lbs.
      100lbs payload left. Add your wife and 2 kids……You are suddenly over payload 200lbs. Now, lets add the tools you have in the truck bed, the crap under the rear seat in the truck, the dog….suddenly you are 600+ pounds over payload with a 1/2 ton towable 5th wheel even with a 3/4 ton truck that “can pull anything”
      Most salespersons will say whatever it takes to make the sale and get you on the road. They are not your friend and it should be criminal….

      1. After 60+ plus years of camping in either a tent, an igloo, or just open on the ground, I’m seriously considering buying a slide-in camper for a pickup, and have set my sights on the ones made by Scout (which are considered quite minimally-equipped by most RV enthusiasts). The company touts that it’s smallest model (the Yoho) is perfect for Tacomas and Rangers, but as I started to research pickup truck payloads (I’ve never owned a pickup before) I was surprised to find how low the payload is for many popular trucks. I was hoping that an F-150 Tremor would do fine for Scout’s 6.5 foot model (the Olympic, with a dry weight of about 1500 pounds), but nope, I’d have to move up to a F-250 Tremor to safely stay within load limits. So here in Montana, it appears that every pickup camper I see (and there are plenty) is driving down the road over its GVWR.

  8. If you happen to meet a stumpy little guy named Matt who runs a YouTube channel called “Matt’s RV Reviews” along with his annoying partner Andrea, please ask him why he’s so obsessed with television sets in RVs. Huge chunks of his reviews involve complaining about TV placement. If you’re just going to watch TV while you’re camping, why not just stay home and watch TV?

    1. This. I’ve more than once watched big 5th wheel units back up in the slot next to us at a beautiful National Park campground, then spend the next two hours futzing with a satellite dish, only to disappear inside, not to be seen till they pick up and leave a few days later. To each their own, I guess but I don’t really get it. My living room is still more comfortable than any 5th wheel trailer.

      1. Oh, this drives me nuts. One of our big camping trips every year is to a very remote campground that is absolutely gorgeous. The number of times I have seen someone park a giant fifth wheel in the best site in the entire place, start up their generator, and go sit inside every night absolutely boggles the mind.

        And those good sites are _so_ hard to get too. I don’t know why you would bother if you’re not going to enjoy it.

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