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Revisiting: The RV Industry Death Spiral in 2023

In 2016, journalist Greg Gerber wrote a series of articles called RV Industry Death Spiral.

This 63-page editorial outlined several serious issues with the RV industry, as Gerber saw it. His work received massive backlash from all sectors of the industry.

In hindsight, can we look at Gerber’s scalding report and find any meaningful takeaways? Or was it simply the musings of a clever but bitter journalist? 

Let’s revisit and find out!

The News Story

Greg Gerber has been a journalist for almost 40 years. He’s covered the RV industry since 2001 and started his daily blog in 2009 called RV Daily Report. After living in an RV full time for a couple of years, he decided to share the reality of what he had unearthed.

Gerber loved the RV life and loved writing about it. He was more than disheartened to learn firsthand about RV life through the eyes of the consumer. When faced with the brutal truth of what he observed in the RV industry, he felt compelled to share his opinion.

His editorial, The RV Industry Death Spiral, was the result. Gerber’s thesis proposed that the current industry business model is unsustainable. He outlined seven segments of the business and how each is problematic.

Gerber experienced severe backlash from key players in the industry. He lost subscribers during the two-week period in which he released his articles. But he also gained followers. His website,, was sold and bought back again before being completely shut down in June 2019. 

If you read the RV Industry Death Spiral in its entirety, you’ll see that Gerber concluded that he was confident the industry would get it together and make needed changes. He loved the RV industry, and we assume he still does. 

His 63-page treatise was an opinion piece, just one person’s highly impactful opinion. Let’s explore what Gerber had to say.

Manufacturer Woes

One of the main points in Gerber’s original article was his argument that RV manufacturers are racing to mass-produce vehicles while cutting corners on craftsmanship. While the goal was to sell motorhomes at an increasing “mythical price point,” as Gerber called it, the result was decreasing value in the overall construction. 

Gerber argued that the number of consumers returning for repair under warranties was so high that dealerships feared the manufacturers would not reimburse them. Companies went under or otherwise denied warranty repairs.

Gerber quoted an Oklahoman RV service technician who said, “RVs ain’t for using, they’re for fixing.” 

Although many claim the warranty issues to be an exaggeration, the issue of quality control remains grim. According to a 2021 article on, several RV dealers today say the new models on the market are “pathetic’. 

Partially due to mass production combined with lightweight manufacturing, you may be better off buying a used RV. But this decision remains entirely personal, based on your research and individual considerations.

Some of the more current reasons behind poor quality campers include poor customer service. Employees don’t stay on long enough to learn the ins and outs of quality control anymore. And with the social media appeal of #rvlife and #vanlife continuing to grow, the manufacturers have little to no pressure to step up their quality control.

Suppliers in a Tough Spot

The issue of RV industry workers not sticking around for too long has been present for years. The recent era of great resignation has only increased this high turnover rate. This means for the supplier that the people who install their products into an RV may not do it properly.

For example, Gerber’s 2016 article emphasized that a supplier’s refrigerator might work perfectly fine. But if the new guy at the plant doesn’t install it correctly, they could blame the supplier. In addition, service centers don’t typically compensate technicians for diagnosing the issue with a unit component. Instead, they’re encouraged just to replace it.

The result is tension between the supplier, manufacturers, and dealerships. Gerber argued that this tension, along with planned obsolescence of the RV itself, further stirred the RV industry death spiral. 

If that weren’t enough, add an emerging monopoly to the death cauldron. Gerber argued that Lippert Components, the giant RV supplier, has a stronghold on most brands out there. And this is still the case. A 2020 lawsuit by ASA Electronics accuses Lippert of bullying smaller companies out of the business.

Despite these troubles, as of 2022, the RV industry is anything but dead. The demand for recreation vehicles continues on an upward boom. So much so, in fact, that while supply chains across the United States suffered greatly in 2020 and 2021, most RV manufacturers thrived. 

First-time buyers have much more to consider, including inflated gas prices and lag time in supply chain delivery.

That said, recreational vehicles modeled like most consumer items, built not to last forever, does little to dissuade interest.

Dealers Drop the Ball on Service

Another issue Gerber took up with the RV industry is poor quality service from dealerships. Gerber claimed that although some individuals were becoming more professional, a general malaise and lack of technical support was rampant. 

Things were seldom fixed right the first time, said Gerber. There were very few technical schools, aside from some trade associations in Florida and Pennsylvania. But finding accessible training online was all but impossible.

The good news is that there are training modules online now. RV Technical Institute offers online, hybrid, and in-person courses for technicians. Certifications to become an RV repair person are more widely available but usually require in-person learning.

That said, many of the points Gerber raised in his 2016 article remain problematic today. Wait times to get your RV serviced can take as long as six months. Dealers have been known to ghost clients by not returning phone calls and online inquiries. 

In many ways, what’s happening in terms of less than satisfactory customer service in the RV world, is similar to what’s happening in other sectors. 

RV owners need to be their own advocates and stay on top of dealers regarding repair issues. On the flip side, workers are less inclined to deliver good service as their wages don’t match what’s being asked of them.

As long as the bottom line in this industry is increasing profit, the quality of product and customer service will continue to diminish.

Campgrounds Losing Capacity

When it comes to whether or not Greber had it right when stating that there are fewer places to park your RV, generally, he’s correct. But the reasons behind this fact aren’t as nefarious as he made them out to be. 

The main reason there are fewer spots to camp is because interest in RV travel is booming. With more people able to work from home, and a cultural ideology shift from having everything to experiencing everything, it’s no wonder RV parks are packed.

Other market factors have made it more difficult for folks to jump on the road and find a spot to camp. Some campgrounds have sold land to real estate investment trusts (REITs). Others lean towards long-term and seasonal campers, leaving less room to book for a week or less.

Still, we think there are lots of great opportunities to be explored. You just may need to do a bit more planning ahead. First, the Walmart Corporation still allows overnight stays in some parking lots. The rub is that each store location can change its rules, so call ahead.

Second, be flexible. There should always be options if you can travel during the week or the off-season. We’re experiencing a campground explosion right now, and many long-time RV travelers have chosen to take a break. 

But this too shall pass. The industry will continue to adapt, and the RV community will always be passionate about making it work. 

Associations Can Influence Change

The associations mentioned in Gerber’s 2016 report remain strong in 2022. RVIA, RVDA, and ARVC each represent sectors of the RV industry. These organizations serve RV manufacturers, dealers, and campgrounds. 

The challenge for each is to spend resources on vocalizing critical issues like RV craftsmanship standards and campground permit issues. Conferences and Trade shows are cool, but satisfaction in day-to-day living is more important. 

These organizations need to pivot a little and focus on the increasing need for more space within RV parks and campgrounds and how to keep workers in every sector happy. 

Great customer service need not be an artifact of the past. 

Luckily, groups like Escapees RV Club and FMCA serve as a voice for the RV owner (or renter.) 

Both organizations lobby to protect RVers and offer many membership advantages such as emergency travel assistance and huge discounts. Escapees often invites manufacturers and suppliers to attend rallies to hear complaints and suggestions.

The other exciting shift is in which generations are camping. Although Gerber’s findings were correct in that Baby Boomers are still the lion’s share of lifelong campers, new campers are increasingly younger. 

According to KOA, there’s a healthy cross-section of generations exploring camping life. This translates to more voices who can call for change, so long as a culture of advocacy remains strong in our community.

RV Owners Share the Blame

As we have seen so far, advocating for owners in the RV world is crucial to avoid Gerber’s RV industry death spiral. The other side of that coin lies with our fellow RV owners. 

In Gerber’s opinion, owning an RV is a luxury. If you’re lucky enough to explore this lifestyle, then proceed with some humble gratitude and an abundance of self-awareness. Basically, we tend to agree.

There are many ways some RV owners could do better: don’t litter, don’t walk through other people’s campgrounds, and mind your dog. Take time to learn the basics of maintaining holding tanks before hitting the road. 

Although it’s rare, some parks have had to close their doors due to poor camping etiquette. One such incident in 2019 left a section of Joshua Tree National Park irreparable for at least 200 years.

Gerber pointed out how the Internet could be a place for community or for useless flamethrowing. This is true for any online community. We’ve seen remarkable growth in the positive side of online resources over the last five years. Keep up the good work, team!

The other cultural component that falls on the shoulders of RV owners comes back to being your own best advocate. Do your research before buying an RV, so you don’t walk into the transaction blind. 

Maybe don’t buy everything online, especially your RV! The more consumers enable online shopping, the fewer items dealerships carry, and the less need for humans to be accountable for what they’re selling. We know it’s highly convenient. But just weigh if it’s worth it.

When you do have issues and file a complaint, be kind. Exercise patience so the people working with you will be more inclined to help. 

Being a great customer need not be an artifact of the past!

Industry Media Falls Asleep

When Gerber released his 2016 article, new media was still gaining ground. TikTok didn’t exist, and Instagram was not the massive platform it is today. The country was still feeling the aftershocks of the great recession, albeit slight. 

Gerber struggled with the lack of transparency of news and magazine outfits reporting on negative news in the RV world. Well-funded media outlets are supported by advertisements. And if your ad comes from a company behaving poorly, you’re less likely to report the bad stuff.

Although this remains a general truth, newer forms of storytelling are a lifeline that didn’t exist in quite the same way as they did in 2016. People see eye-catching stories on Instagram, TikTok, or Facebook and follow those travelers. 

There’s much more exposure to bloggers and YouTubers who highlight problem areas. This, in turn, gets the industry to listen.

Spiral into Possibilities

Gerber’s 2016 article, The RV Industry Death Spiral, is a lesson in tough love. But whether you agree with what he had to say or think he was full of unmerited salty mudslinging, his words are worth consideration. 

The question is not precisely whether his predictions and accusations were accurate, but in fact, what do they stir up? What about them makes you flustered, and why?

The only constant thing in life is change. And change, for the love of all things camping, is what Gerber was after. He’s just not the best candidate for an RV diplomat or Ambassador.

The RV stratosphere is changing. And it is a stratosphere. It’s no longer a little wading pool for retirees to have fun in their sun-setting years. We are experiencing growing pains, the kind that hurts your bones and causes you to lash out and act a little wacko. But this is a good thing. A beautiful thing, really.

That is if we can stay the course and work together. 

RV life must encompass the needs of those who need to downsize due to the high cost of living. It needs to offer solid craftsmanship to those who will live in them for much of the year. It needs to respect and conserve the nature we all seek to be a part of. And, it still needs to be fun! 

Hitting the road for a weekend of recreation will always be a part of the RV lifestyle. We just need to keep building our passionate community to contribute to that change. This is where the spiral exists – in possibilities.

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  1. Jan says:

    Hurray for Mr Gerber! I fully believe he has been censored for being honest. I have never seen so many junk RV’s on the market and I’ve been RVing since 1974.
    My advice to anyone looking to purchase an RV new or used is to save your money(and your sanity) by purchasing only the top quality and proven products with the best reputations like Airstream. It will send a clear message to the lesser thieves and lackeys who just want to rip you off and run or laugh about it. Not acceptable! Initiate litigation! Even if it doesn’t go far at least it’s a record in the court system.
    One more thing I would like to add that Mr Gerber did not mention was that nearly all of the new RV companies do not provide current trend Interior Design or color choices. This is not the automotive industry, this is a home on wheels. I understand that they are built for profit on an assembly line but could there be a least a beachy themed RV out there without the premium price of $6k for just adding an aqua leatherette (fake leather!) seating area. I mean even automotive companies hire fashion designers for their new model color schemes and themes.
    If I see one more beige, gray or earth tone DATED interior of a new RV I’m going to be sick 🤢

  2. Julie Gant says:

    Having RV’d for 4 years, 3 of it full-time, I can’t argue with any of this. Spot. On. It would be great if the RV industry and community both rose to improve RVing. I’m usually pretty optimistic, but I definitely have my doubts about it happening anytime soon.

  3. B says:

    As with anything, RV life is a trend with peaks and lows. One problem with RV life is the personal safety issue. RV life is NOT free from danger, which explains why Walmart has been America’s RV lot–there is some security offered by the 24/7 schedule and supplies are handy!

  4. Hank D says:

    What has kept me out of the RV market for so long is the “no rv’s over 10 here!” policies. A 5-6 yr old can have lots of issues that a 15 yr old RESTORED unit will have corrected. Then, the modern driving habits of using cellphones while driving and cutting you off are just too deadly to deal with.

  5. Future Retiree says:

    Working in the RV industry for 35 yrs, I can tell you without a doubt, the reasons behind the extreme dive in overall product quality and long lasting craftsmanship that was enjoyed in RVs built from the 1970s to early 2000s.


    #1 consumer demand for “glamping” products. The more electronics and high tech features installed in units over the years = the greater the risk of product failures. This is mainly caused by consumers insisting they want RVs to include items that are only designed to function properly in residential environments. So we keep trying to make those ridiculous ideas work. All because that one day when out riding unicorns together, some never-been-camping marketing group convinced an unrealistic sales team, those items were crucial to boosting sales and the engineers were forced to implement changes on the fly, without unicorns.

    #2 The Board of Directors – completly out-of-touch with reality, do not care about anything but the numbers on the reports and annual dividends. Consumers, employees, quality, be damned.

    #3 Upper management personnel brought in from the Auto Industry, grossly over-paid, arrogant, absurdly incompetent and clueless. Whatever happens never point out the facts and never EVER question the report numbers being sent to the Board. Even if they’re obviously manipulated by a “creative accounting ” algorithm.

    #4 Huge shift in the production labor force. Those poor souls are stuck making the same line bonuses as they did in the 80s & 90s when the pay was equal or better than a person with a college degree could bring home. We went from units built with “fine Amish craftsmanship” to units built by illegals who can’t read, write, or speak English. It’s hard to believe something isn’t installed correctly when the installer can’t read the supplier install instructions or an engineer’s print, right?

    #5 Biggest issue of all. . . Good old fashion corporate greed and a severe lack of management accountability, similar to today’s government in DC, yes I said it out loud!

    Over the past year or so, I’ve noticed the RV industry media pushing the “woke” agenda. Bet that’ll put things on the right track, said no employee EVER!! LOL

  6. D. Noar says:

    I am on my third travel trailer. #1 used, 1978, pretty good quality. #2 new, 2003 Salem, okay quality. #3 new, 2020 Imagine, crappy quality.
    The most money you will ever spend for mediocre quality. The manufacturers know this, and still deny it.

  7. Ron says:

    @Future Retiree, Monopoly, you can by an RV made by anyone you like, as long as it’s one of the two companies that make over 90% of them.

  8. Mike Miller says:

    Another thing that’s going to affect RVs are electric vehicles. They can only tow a very lightweight trailer around 150 miles before recharge. People will have to carry less stuff. No more 40 foot 5th wheelers with canoe and bikes on board. Same with motor homes towing cars.

  9. LG says:

    Decriminalize RV Ownership

    I believe that one of the main factors affecting RV ownership, is that today it is almost impossible to find a city that will let you park your RV on the street — especially in non-commercial areas of town.

    For example — in my city it is illegal for me to park my motor home on the street in front of or next my house. Ironically I was not aware that this ban was going into effect until after I bought my RV in 2017. The city expects all owners of RVs over 22 feet to rent a parking space at a storage facility — which is another industry that is experiencing a shortage of availability. The city offers free 72 hour permits for residents but they are limited to 20 per year. I live in a part of town that has almost no parking issues — when the city-wide RV parking prohibition went into effect I started getting tickets for parking my RV on the street directly next to my house — no one ever parks there. I move it several times a week to keep a step ahead of enforcement.

    We also found out that our neighbors have no problem with our RV parked on the street. I do not believe they have called parking enforcement, however one neighbor did say that when houses in the neighborhood are for sale real-estate agents may call parking enforcement because they believe that prospective buyers will be discouraged if they see RVs in the neighborhood.

    I wrote to several RV organizations asking them why they are not actively fighting for the decriminalization of owning an RV and none responded. I finally did receive a response from an RV-owner advocate who informed me that some RV manufacturers and other RV-associated entities had entered the lucrative RV hospitality side of the business and were acquiring resort campgrounds and RV storage facilities to increase their company’s residual income. As a result of this, they have little (if any) motivation for fighting to reverse or stop these blanket “city ordinances.” In fact they may be encouraging the bans.

    Oh well…

  10. Neil says:

    RV craftsmanship has always and more than likely continue to be shoddy. It makes absolutely no sense whatsoever fiscally to purchase an RV new from a dealership. If you want to RV, always, I mean ALWAYS, buy preowned from a private owner.

  11. Jon Collins says:

    Great article! Well written, well thought out, and objective. All of the social media available to any and all is the new mass media, so it has the ability to exert influence on a broad scale, both good and bad as we have seen. Since it is socially based it is incumbent upon us all to police ourselves to make sure that it is used for good and call out those who would try and steer folks wrong.

    Thanks again and keep up the good work.

  12. Catherine A Hazur says:

    I have requested MULTIPLE TIMES for you to send me the list of free camping sites, but I have yet to receive it.

    I don’t know the reason for this, so I am asking once again:Please send me the list. OR at least let me know why you CANNOT send it. I can understand that things can get inadvertently overlooked once or twice every now and then, but when it goes on repeatedly for months extending into years, I really have to ask why.

    That said I like your postings and find them very informative.

    Catherine Hazur

  13. Sam Warr says:

    My wife and I have been traveling a lot with our 2014 Gulfstream Streamlite, Ultralite which we purchased 4 years ago. We have travelled to Wyoming to visit my cousin and made the round to trip through Kansas to visit other family. We are now on a trip to Maine, we which we have never visited. Our home base is in St. Petersburg,FL We have seen thousands of new RV’s parked in dealers lots. I think that RV sales are probably way down, due to the escalating costs. I also feel that interest rates may also be affecting buyers. The large inventory that we have seen is costing dealers and banks big money. Buying used trailers would be a better answer than buying new. We have renovated our unit to suite our tastes, such as new flooring, updated shower and sink, new air conditioner, tongue jack, added fan to upper part of refrigerator chimney, added an internal surge protector, fixed wiring problems, replaced all the tires, added dash read-out for pressure and temperature of trailer tires, mounted spare tire to rear bumper. My wife replaced all the curtains, and seat covers with Florida color scheme. We have learned a tremendous amount about RV trailers and travelling from many good articles on line, especially YouTube. We are now in our 80’s and find trailering physically demanding. After our trip home, we will be selling Sadee. It’s been great. It’s allowed us to journey to places along the Atlantic coast where we either dropped anchor or pulled into a marina during our sailboat trip from Sandusky,OH to St. Petersburg 24 years ago. Happy travelling to anyone that’s having the road trips of their lives.

    Sam and Dee

  14. Wayne Rice says:

    I agree with most of what was said in the report. I purchased a 2022 Winnebago Travel trailer. I have had two recalls, fixed leaks in the plumbing and around the shower door. The service from Winnebago is ok. But Dealers are the problem. I tried to get the shower door fixed as a warrantee issue. We don’t have a Winnebago dealer closer than 100 miles. The local RV dealer would fix the door but wanted Winnebago to authorize 4 hrs. labor. Winnebago would only authorize 1 1/2 hrs labor. So after waiting for them to come to some agreement for 4 weeks, I finally had to fix the door myself. Took me less than an hour. Really sad to pay all the money for a new trailer and can’t get it fixed under warrantee. Winnebago was correct, the RV service shop was gouging. I was in the middle of their squabble. There are other issues with Campers INN but not enough time or room to discuss.

  15. Excellent article about the RV INDUSTRY and the current circumstances with quality control issues. Also, WHY it takes so long to have repairs or replacement’s done by Service centers.

  16. Zora Dumbkopf says:

    I remember when Greg went from an A-list notable in the RV industry to being shunned by so many. I believe his RV Daily Report ultimately went out of business with a big contributor being advertisers who pulled out following his series.

    And you know what? He was right. This wasn’t a hit piece on the RV industry. Rather it was a realistic look at the reality that was the RV industry.

    If you look at the auto industry they, too, were arrogant, produced poor quality products and were disconnected from what consumers wanted. Guess what? Import manufacturers saw an opportunity and ate Detroit’s lunch.

    RV industry decision makers should take it upon themselves to read this inciteful piece by Greg and take it to heart. There is absolutely opportunity for someone to take a leadership position in the RV space by creating an enviable reputation for quality and customer support.

    Or we could all go get stiffed by Camping World – it is the choice of the consumer who seems to take little interest in being informed on such a major purchase.

  17. Mark says:

    Re; Gerbers RV Death Spiral
    I’m full time living with my wife and dog in a 2015 Tiffin Allegro Bus 45LP.
    We spend 6 months at. Class A MH Resort in SW Florida and travel the rest of the year. Etiquette from other travelers is a must- behave according to the Golden Rule. And pick up after your dogs. Jeesh!!
    Motorhome (MH) manufacturers got real sloppy in workmanship and their components were horrible yrs 2021, 2022 (these are labeled Covid MH’s). Supply chain issues, incredible demand (Covid), but the manufacturers employees (Tiffin as example, are lifers at the company-built in Red Bay Alabama, there’s not much else to do there). Now Tiffin was a pretty good manufacturer until its recent purchase by Thor which totally sucks. Thor’s publicly owned and their main objective is profit. Count those pennies! Newmar was purchased awhile back by Winnebago yet Newmar remains a great manufacturer.
    Yes, buyers can shop online through RV Trader or specific dealerships. But one must know what they want in a motorhome and what is their plan to use it ( full time living or seasonal), and the buyer needs to know what to look for and what questions to ask. Finally, whether a private party or dealership is selling the RV, new or used, get an RV inspection. (NRVIA).
    NRVIA (National RV Inspectors Association) is headquartered in Athens Texas. They teach students over several weeks how to repair RV’s and inspect RV’s. Excellent school. Check ‘em out online.
    As the Industry evolves more and more things are being revealed.
    Buyers need to be educated before buying an RV. And Buyers beware is the old adage.
    For me and my wife and dog our motorhome life is terrific. I’m a registered RV Inspector so extra money helps. Our travels and new friends is unquestionably the best. But we thought about this adventure long before we jumped into buying a motorhome.
    I hope this long comment is helpful to you. Happy trails. And be safe out there.

  18. Larry Williams says:

    After I came home from the Vietnam war, there was just no way that I could do the nine to five.I chose a career in costruction,in the Petro chemical industry. My job eventually took me to every state.The employment demands of new construction often fills local lodging to capacity quickly. I learned early on that if you wanted a bed to sleep in, you’d better bring one with you.The answered was an RV.specifically a travel trailer. Always bought a good used one, because cost and quality always seemed to be an easy match to find. I bought my first new RV late last year. A2023 “Cross roads. So far I’m happy with it.

  19. Anonymous says:

    Excellent, thoughtful article. Camping is at a critical turning point that it may not recover from. A wrong move by any of the industry players will send the whole thing into a decade of darkness.

  20. I have to know this…. What’s the best years to buy an used 45ft diesel pusher and still learning how to fix the parts of the vehicle if and when I purchased one????

  21. BMc says:

    I read Greg’s entire series when it was first published, and found it to be very enlightening. It is interesting to see what has and hasn’t changed with current circumstances.

    But I have to say, this line in your article really grated on me:

    “It’s no longer a little wading pool for retirees to have fun in their sun-setting years.”

    My parents were pioneers in the full-time RV living world in the early 1970’s in their iconic Winnebago living the dream.

    And as for us, after 50 years of being dedicated parents raising nine children, being employees that were productive and responsible, and genuinely good members of society WE HAVE EARNED the chance to live the life we dreamed of in retirement.

    I am offended by the picture that sentence paints. Our years aren’t sun-setting – they are just beginning.

    Be careful how you phrase your opinions. You just lost a subscriber.