The surge seen in the RV sector is a trend witnessed across the nation. With rates currently stable, opportunities exist for agents to capture new customers or focus on rounding out books of business.
The outdoor recreation market has been growing for decades but took off exponentially over the past year. Spurred on by the need to get outside in a safe manner, many people saw recreational vehicles as a convenient and fun way to enjoy themselves during a time when the world hunkered down because of COVID-19.
“The last few years have been just amazing with tremendous growth in the RV industry," says Matt Jacobs, product manager, Progressive. “And then we saw the pandemic really bring that growth to another level."
The reason for this: The RV industry, including everything from pop-up campers to million-dollar buses, is no longer the domain of outdoor enthusiasts 55 years old and above. “What's really occurred, even before the pandemic, is that a lot of millennials and Generation Zers are embracing RVs," Jacobs says.
RV ownership increased over 62% in the last 20 years with a record 11.2 million RV-owning households, split almost equally between those over and under the age of 55, with significant growth among 18-to-34-year-olds, who now make up 22% of the market, according to the RV Industry Association (RVIA) 2021 Owner Demographic Profile.
The surge seen in the RV sector and other outdoor recreation pastimes is a trend witnessed across the nation. “We're expecting to see a continued rise in RV sales with a higher percentage of customers being first-time RV owners, younger and coming from a more diverse customer base than we've seen in the past," says Brook McGuire, product strategy lead, Safeco Insurance.
“2020 was a record year and we expect 2021 to be another record year," McGuire continues. “Almost 10% of households have at least one RV. However, many of them may not be insured properly."
With rates currently at a stable level after a few years of rate increases from 2016 to 2018, opportunities exist for agents who want to capture new customers or focus on rounding out books of business.
“With RV usage up and a flood of new buyers—who generally tend to have more accidents—the industry will need to monitor their claims frequency closely," says David Knapp, marine and RV product lead at Foremost Insurance Group.
In addition, like with any vehicle, maintaining an RV is a necessity. “A lot of first-time owners are not fully prepared for the ongoing upkeep and maintenance, such as keeping a roof sealed and the vehicle serviced after severe weather. These are just some of the risks for RV owners," McGuire says.
Nevertheless, data shows the market is expected to continue to flourish. As many as 9.6 million households intend to buy an RV within the next five years, according to the RVIA 2021 report. Furthermore, among current RV owners, 84% of 18-to 34-year-olds are planning to buy another RV, with 78% preferring to buy a new model.
Armed with this type of information, the opportunity is clear for independent agents to provide coverage in a marketplace that is continuing to expand. From younger and first-time RV owners to those looking to rent, agents should take note.
“The RV industry has really embraced the younger generation," Jacobs says. “They have done their research and are able to offer motor homes or travel trailers that are really specifically for folks that may be looking for something more lightweight and who are a little bit more tech-savvy."
As more and more people took advantage of remote working opportunities over the past year, more carriers took notice and “offered protection for personal effects such as computers, iPhones and anything else that you're bringing along, whether it be for work or for personal entertainment," Jacobs says.
Recognizing this, “carriers continue to evaluate existing and new coverage offerings to meet the ever-changing needs of the RV owners," Knapp says. “The peer-to-peer market is one such area that has experienced tremendous growth over the last year and is something many in the industry are watching. Some carriers have begun to allow their customers to occasionally rent out their RVs and remain eligible for coverage."
The positive news continues.
“As people begin to think about their spring and summer vacations, RV trips continue to be the preferred way to travel for millions of Americans," says Craig Kirby, RVIA president and CEO. This is underscored by the RVIA's February 2021 report showing RV shipments are up 30% year-over-year.
Couple this with improvements being made in national parks, national wildlife refuges and recreation areas following the Aug. 4, 2020, passage of The Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA) and the stars may be aligning for the RV industry and independent agents alike.
Olivia Overman is IA content editor.