RV sales spike as Ottawans seek 'ultimate social distancing'

RV dealers in Ottawa say sales have gone through the roof as more people plan staycations during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dealers say closed borders, manufacturing shutdowns mean supplies are low

Sales are up by 300 per cent this year, according to Go RVing Canada. (Associated Press)

RV dealers in Ottawa say sales are spiking as more people plan staycations during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the trend is being seen countrywide.

"We've had a lot of people disappointed," said Blaine McAvoy with Ottawa Camping Trailers. "They come in to buy a trailer and it's like, 'Oops, sorry. It's sold.'"

McAvoy said he was initially worried about how his business would be affected by the pandemic, but in May business began to climb dramatically — and sales more than doubled in June. 

Many are first-time buyers, he said, from many different age demographics. 

Product hard to come by

It's the same situation at the RV Canada lot, where sales in June of used and new vehicles are up 60 per cent over the same time last year, said general manager Mike Garrick.

The same is true, Garrick said, for rentals and parts.

"I've been here since 2006. And I've never experienced this much business in June," Garrick said.

Most of his customers are new buyers looking for a pandemic-friendly getaway, he added.

"They're doing the staycation where they just hop in and go. And they've got their own stuff, their own bed, their own food, because it's just easier to travel that way right now."

Mike Garrick, general manager of RV Canada, says he's never seen a June quite like this. (Jean Delisle/CBC )

Both dealers said manufacturing shutdowns has made it is hard to get vehicles or parts, which also makes it hard to keep up with demand. 

"Hitches seem to be sold out. I'm getting trailers across the border, I'm getting them built across the border ... they're sitting waiting for [the] supply of appliances and furniture." said McAvoy.

'Everyone's a little nervous'

Go RVing Canada, a not-for-profit industry association that helps people find dealers and rentals, says it's the same situation across the country.

Their website has seen visits increase by more than 25 per cent this year, according to president Christopher Mahony. 

"That significant spike in the last several weeks is because of the fact that, obviously, cross-border travel is closed down more or less," he said 

"Everyone's a little nervous right now and RVing provides them that ultimate social distancing."

Mahony expects the trend to last into the next two years.

"We do know that [by] 2021, there's still going to be a lot of cautiousness around this, and it's not going to go away overnight," he said.

"I think now there's just a willingness, an openness, to explore our own backyard again. And in some ways, what everyone has gone through — this is a reminder of what we have."

About the Author

Natalia is a multi-platform journalist in Ottawa. She has also worked for CBC in P.E.I. and Newfoundland and Labrador.

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