The availability of new and used truck campers is approaching rock bottom as manufacturers and dealers struggle to support the extraordinary demand triggered by the pandemic. If you want to purchase a camper in 2021, here’s what you need to do.
This past September we published, “6 Ways Covid-19 Changed RVing”. The article detailed how the pandemic had impacted the RV marketplace and lifestyle and offered eight tips to help navigate those challenges.
Six months later, it appears that we may have under-estimated the extent of the impact. Specifically, the demand for everything RVs and RVing has continued to rise, and the manufacturing difficulties from short material and parts supplies have increased. Never in the history of the RV industry has there been such a disparity between supply and demand.
With the accelerating vaccine roll-out and warm Spring weather fast approaching, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that this situation is about to be under even more pressure.
For the past decade, we have monitored the truck camper inventory at the more prominent dealers across the United States and Canada. From these observations, we are well aware of the normal inventory levels and cycles.
As of right now (early March), truck camper dealers that might normally have 50 to 100 (or more) new truck camper units in stock are as low as the teens or even single digits. This is the time when dealers should be close to peak inventory levels for the reliably strong spring sales season.
Even if this were a normal year, the low levels of inventory on dealer lots now could be wiped out in a week, or a weekend. The dealers who have more inventory are selling units much faster than they are replenished. All of this leads to only one conclusion and a new expression for the RV industry.
In the coming weeks, it’s quite possible that we will see dealerships with zero campers for sale on their lots. Not a new camper. Not used camper. Anything truck camper that is on the lot will be sold or in for service. That’s what Zero Camper could look like.
What If You Want To Buy A Camper Now?
Imagine if you went back in time to mid-January of 2020. After you freaked out about the coming year, you’d probably go buy a couple dozen rolls of toilet paper, right? Plus, you would get the brand your bum prefers and grin cheek-to-cheek at the checkout line. Naturally, the check-out dude would think you were nuts to be so pleased with your potty paper purchase, but you’d know better.
Now, if you were beamed back to mid-March of last year, you would likely follow the same scenario (abject horror, then toilet paper hunting) but you would understand that being extremely picky wouldn’t be advisable. If there was a roll of toilet paper to be had, you would grab it; Charmin, Scott, Cottonelle, Quilted Northern, or Brand-X splinter-free sorta-soft.
With truck camper inventory, we’re getting uncomfortably close to this second situation. The time to act is now, and being extremely picky might leave you with nothing to roll.
Scenario 1: You Want A Specific NEW Truck Camper
At this moment, you may be able to locate exactly the truck camper you want. If you’re extremely lucky, it will be at your local camper dealership. If you’re just lucky, there’s one available somewhere in the United States or Canada. If that’s the case, and you want that camper for the 2021 season, go get it right away. Wait a moment too long, and it could be another Netflix summer.
The other choice you have, if you want a specific make and model, is to place an order with your local dealer. With supply dwindling, dealers have been taking new camper orders for the past few months. That’s why the manufacturers are mostly building pre-sold units.
If you want to get a camper this year, and there are no units available, you need to place your order as soon as possible. Even then, it could be several months before your camper is delivered. Talking directly to your dealer is the best way to get a handle on availability and timing. Don’t wait.
Scenario 2: You Want a NEW Truck Camper In General
If you’re more elastic with your make and model preferences, there may be more options still sitting on dealer’s lots. For example, you might get three camper suggestions from our Camper Chooser system. If any of those campers will scratch your itch, immediately search for those campers. If you find one that hits the mark, and you want to go camping in 2021, go get it now.
Otherwise, you will need to place an order. By talking to your dealer, you can find out which makes and models (that meet your requirements) are most likely to arrive the soonest. For example, one manufacturer might be five-months out where another is only two. That could be the difference between a successful truck camping season this year, or not.
Stepping Back: Zero Camper Is Not Certain
None of this is absolute. Manufacturers are building and shipping campers. Dealers are receiving and have campers available. Dealer service bays are working on campers at full tilt. And campgrounds, for the most part, remain open and available.
However, most of the manufacturers are building campers that are pre-sold to customers at the dealerships. That means a load of campers might show up tomorrow, but every unit is already spoken for. Very few truck campers are being built for dealer inventory. Some of the more popular manufacturers are only building sold units, and are sold-out for months.
Does this mean Zero Campers is inevitable, at least for Spring 2021? I don’t know, but I’m concerned enough about it being a possibility to warrant warning you, my most-awesome readers, about the situation. If you want to buy a camper this year, you need to be aware of this situation.