Luxury RVs rise in popularity among pandemic-era travelers.
By Tanya A. Yacina
The COVID-19 pandemic has reshaped our daily lives, including our ability to go on vacation. Much of the travel industry has been severely restricted or closed entirely for the last year, but people seeking a way to safely take a trip have found a way to get out of the house and fulfill their travel fix by renting or buying a luxury RV.
Since the government began imposing pandemic-related restrictions in the first quarter of 2020, “the RV and camping industry has experienced a roller coaster,” says Martin Onken, president of Expedition Motor Homes Inc., which owns RV rental and sales company 1st Choice RV in Newport Beach. “… Initially, there occurred substantial declines in sales and rentals, accompanied with an explosion of order cancellations. [However], many RV rental and sales companies experienced 50% to 300% or more growth in the last half of the year.”
Onken explains that in the summer, when destinations reopened and stay-at-home orders were relaxed, people turned to RVing as the preferred form of travel for vacations. Traditional travel modes were either too risky or unavailable due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Awaab Malik, operations manager of Luxe RV in Los Angeles, which serves Orange County, says Luxe RV’s rental volume has been double that of any other year, which he credits to the panic caused by the pandemic and public travel restrictions. Since people didn’t want to take the potential health risk of going through the airport or flying on a plane, he explains, Luxe RV experienced a large spike in business.
“Furthermore, people were cooped up inside their homes for a long period of time so they were very anxious to get outdoors and camp, explore, etc.,” Malik says.
Driving in Luxury
With many people buying or renting an RV for the first time, a little background may be needed. Onken explains that the standard by which motor homes are rated is the Class C, cab-over-body design, which is built on a common truck or van chassis; the front cab is retained and the back portion is removed, leaving a platform for the motor home. He says it has most or all of the common household systems including electricity, plumbing, a full bathroom, full kitchen, heating and air conditioning. The Class C has comfortable beds for small and large families, and are appealing to families with children.
“Luxury motor homes are larger [and] longer, more spacious, have upgraded appliances, additional features and bedding, and are built on a special chassis for more power and a comfortable ride,” Onken says. “Most luxury motor homes are of the Class A body style, often called the bus-style motor home. … These motor homes are most appealing to families and couples who don’t need as many beds, but want more space and comfort features.”
Onken further explains “ultra-luxury” motor homes are the largest and longest models, and have luxury, upgraded interior, from marble tile flooring to the latest in audio and video technology, as well as plush leather furniture.
“They are built on large RV chassis with powerful diesel engines in the rear. This gives the occupants the most quiet and comfortable ride available, and enough power to tow small cars or trailers with lots of toys,” Onken says. “The comfortable ride comes from air bags, which adjust automatically to the condition of the road.”
Malik explains that everything in the interior, from the quality of the appliances, the fabric, countertops and cabinets, to the reliability and performance under the hood classifies an RV as ultra-luxury. He says, across the board, ultra-luxury RVs have a much higher degree of performance, comfortability and assurance.
“RVing is one of those things where you don’t realize the difference unless you’ve tried something ‘budget,’ ” Malik says. “Imagine staying at Motel 6s all of your life and then trying Four Seasons: It’s a night and day difference.”
To Rent or Buy
According to Onken, about 50% of 1st Choice RV’s business follows a traditional model. The dealership purchases new motor homes of various sizes and types directly from the factory, rents them out for one or two seasons, and then sells to the public or wholesale. The rental motor homes are not sold for profit (that was already achieved through renting), so buyers can often pay a low price for a well-equipped, almost-new motor home and take possession within a day or two.
“The second business [part of the] model is renting privately owned motor homes, and then splitting the income with the owner,” Onken says. “Owners may already have a motor home, or may purchase a motor home from us to place into this Gold Star program. The renters can rent someone else’s second home, normally full of upgrades.”
Onken considers this a great benefit to owners who enjoy a convenient way to profit from their RV when not in use, helping them make payments on their current motor home or save up for a more expensive motor home in the future. Plus, they don’t have to handle any of the upkeep: 1st Choice RV rents as well as maintains, cleans and stores the vehicles for owners. The company has been professionally renting out private party motor homes for more than 23 years, so the 1st Choice RV fleet is diverse and changes each year.
Meanwhile, Luxe RV both rents and sells the RVs in its fleet, which are luxury Mercedes-Benz Class C Sprinter style, and offer the added convenience of either a local or long-distance one-way delivery or pickup.
“We are adamant in the fact that we are the only company that will do long-distance one-ways from absolutely anywhere. … This is especially prominent given the current pandemic conditions,” Malik says, adding that to accomplish this, the company hires and trains drivers who specialize in this type of service, as well as working with airports, train stations and parking vendors to help with logistics.
Malik prefers the Class C Sprinters because they are not too big. Class C Sprinters have a sleek, slender design, which makes them easier for an average driver to handle. However, they are big enough to fit all of the necessary appliances that still make it a moving home with living space (including slide-outs) to spare. Due to their smaller design, they are also easy to park.
Another thing to consider: If a family’s children need to attend virtual classes, Luxe RV offers a mobile hot spot router through T-Mobile as an add-on while 1st Choice RV also has portable Wi-Fi available to rent.
After deciding whether to rent or buy an RV and choosing the style that best suits your needs, then it’s time to get out on the road and explore. With dozens of state and national parks within a day’s drive and plenty of open space in between—from forests to deserts to lakes and rivers—your adventures are limited only by
Here are just a few locations for a weekend getaway in your new RV.
Newport Dunes Waterfront Resort & Marina | Newport Beach
When opting for a staycation, this scenic camping site is settled along Newport Beach’s Back Bay and offers 372 RV and camping sites as well as 27 beach cottages. Many essentials and amenities are included in site rental, including full hookups, access to resort restrooms, showers and hydrotherapy pools. Resort guests also receive discounted watersport rentals and discounted admission to Southern California’s largest inflatable water park; inflatables are available from May 25 to Oct. 4. (949-729-3863; newportdunes.com)
Malibu Beach RV Park | Malibu, California
Open every day of the year, this RV park is set across the highway from the beach and close to many famous Los Angeles tourist attractions and hiking options. The park maintains 142 RV and 35 tent sites with full hookups and an ocean or mountain view. (310-456-6052; maliburv.com)
Wine Country RV Resort | Paso Robles, California
Located in the Paso Robles wine region, guests have the option to choose from RV camping or staying in a small cottage or chalet. A wine garden with live entertainment, tastings and outdoor movies is included, and the location is close to wineries and vineyards, River Oaks Hot Springs and attractions like Hearst Castle and Ravine Waterpark (both temporarily closed due to the pandemic).