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RV, boats in high demand as inventory catches up to pandemic lows

The Ohio RV and Boat show will display central Ohio’s inventory of recreational vehicles, as dealers explain the challenges of the pandemic demand.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Ohio RV and Boat Show returns to The Ohio Expo Center Friday afternoon after taking the last year off. Organizers say a lack of inventory fueled by high demand from those seeking outdoor adventures during the pandemic was to blame.

Inventory is slowly returning to manageable levels, according to Jason Borer of Colerain Family RV of Columbus.

“We've done the RV industry is definitely benefited from that. People want to get out. They want to see nature. They want to be a part of it. They want their kids to be a part of it. And that's where you've seen the biggest growth,” Borer said. “[On] the motorized side of it, it is starting to get figured out. We're seeing more motorized inventory here in the last 60 days. For about four or five months, we saw no new inventory motorized.”

Ohio has seen a 180% increase in demand for recreational vehicles, according to data from Lending Tree.

“There are some potential headwinds. They are having some issues with inventory in production that are raising prices, and maybe having some RV lots not as full as they might have been before the pandemic,” Lending Tree Chief Credit Analyst Matt Schulz. “And also, inflation is a significant issue, especially as it relates to gas prices. Anyone who's ever had tried to fill up an RV with gas knows that that is an expensive proposition, even when gas prices are at their lowest and that's certainly not the case now.”

The boating industry faced rough waters with inventory, but one local dealer was able to navigate through the high demand.

“In July, all of our 2020 product was completely gone,” said Tim Levacy,  General Manager of Buckeye Lake Marina. “We already had new stuff coming through the pipeline. The problem we had is when August hit, usually that inventory coming in is your inventory for the following year. As soon as it hit the ground, it was either presold or people bought it right away when it came in. So thankfully the manufacturers we have did a great job of getting us the supply of boats that we needed. This year, there were some challenges, but we still got the number of boats or more than we called for our to have for our season.”

Supply issues are still expected for boat owners this year.

“There's going to be a shortage I think again this year it looks like right now products are going to be shorter this year than it has in the previous year,” Levacy said. “Boats, it can be anything props, batteries, parks on boats. It's just a wide range.”

The shortages continue in the RV industry into 2022 when it comes to places to stay. Nationwide campsites and campgrounds are getting booked up months ahead.

CampgroundViews reports 39% of 2,100 campgrounds and RV parks across the nation that were surveyed already have seen a 20% to 49% increase in bookings for late summer and early fall of this year.

If you can’t find a spot at a national or state park, a $100 membership on Harvest Hosts gives RV owners or renters more access to different locations. Small businesses can sign-up to host members.

“With so many RVers on the road, campgrounds are full, national parks are full, state parks are full,” said Joel Holland, CEO of Harvest Hosts. “Wineries or breweries, distilleries, farms, golf courses, we have 190 locations in Ohio, about 65 in the Columbus area within like 20-25 minutes.”

Rented RVs can also use these sites.

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