Which Size Is Right?

Mar 17, 2023

“Right sizing” was once the buzzphrase that replaced “layoffs” in corporate America. It was designed to distract from the fact that there were issues in a company. Rather than say “no one wants our products right now, so we’re cutting back production until we manage to unclog the markets” the management used consultant double-talk to “right-size” their operations. They consultants would also tossed in doublespeak about increasing efficiencies, minimizing time-between-order-and-fulfillment, or whatever. But it certainly did sound better.

Right-sizing was never confused with upsizing. Total opposites.

Upsizing could cause bloating; right-sizing was to alleviate (corporate) bloat. Neither came without consequences.

When we’re talking about our habits as consumers, it’s generally accepted that we’re never all-that-interested in correctly fitting our “wants” to our “needs.”

You may want a size 36 trouser. But find you need a size 40. Major changes would be necessary to reconcile those significant differences.

Having just replaced a perfectly adequate 47-inch TV with a 55-inch one, it seems the opposite rule holds when it comes to our conspicuous consumer goods. Seems we all want bigger. Whether we need bigger or not. At least that seems to hold if you’re talking about my (hey, boomer) generation.

It’s especially true when it comes to the decidedly diverse world of recreational vehicles. To state it simply, we start that journey in vehicles that are markedly different from those we take out on our “golden age” journeys.

Ages and stages of RV ownership may help you decide whether a towable (left) Class C (middle) or Class A (right) unit is right for you

New research from RVTrader indicates we may age into the “bigger” thing. Like participation in most expensive activities, age and income do influence decisions.

When you’re talking about our older siblings (the “silent generation” ages 78-older) they’re much the same. RVTrader’s survey says the most of that group (17.86%) own Class A RVs. Even more of them (25%) “want” Class As if they want RVs at all.

We “boomers” range in age from 55 to 77 years old. A majority of us own either a travel trailer (25%) or Class A motorhomes (28%). That’s with the exception of those of us who have had larger and now want nice but easier to manage Class B models. We share the desire for larger, more upscale vehicles with additional storage space. We also want/expect features that make long trips and vacations more comfortable. That’s why our “travel trailers” differ -markedly- from those of Millennials or even Gen X RVers.

Ours are expected to have more amenities -from storage to slide-out expansion areas, full-kitchens and one-or more- bathrooms. If you’re talking travel trailers for us, you’re generally talking “goose necks” with fifth wheels.

A Class C motor home is found across the various age categories. It’s small and maneuverable, but slide-outs make it more versatile than the size might indicate.

The younger generations are talking small, lightweight trailers that can be towed by the midsize -or smaller- family car.

Millennial travel trailers are actually where this whole RV thing started for me, although I was considerably older than the 27-42 year olds considered millennials. I began with a teardrop trailer being pulled by a Jeep. It was fine solo, but would never have worked for a family. When we camped as a family, we used a pop-up. It was adequate, but not much more.

And the Millennials have taken the idea of portability even further than previous generations could have imagined. As a kid, I recall our only family camping trip. We (the kids) slept in the back of an Oldsmobile Vista-Cruiser. My parents were in a tiny tent for what turned out to be a very long hot August night. None of us ever considered repeating that experience.

Today, it’s not unusual to see a younger person in a campground or recreational area with a rooftop tent. They’re ultimately portable, are easily erected or taken down, and can go anywhere your vehicle’s capable of driving. Amenities, however, are limited.

This rooftop tent from Tepui on display during Industry Day at the Range is great for hunting and slightly-better-than-primitive camping. But not long on amenities.

Portability is paramount -until family changes the needs. But they’re still committed to spending more time outdoors that cooped up inside a vehicle.

Aging into Gen-Xers you’ll find them blending their desires. They largely (30%) own travel trailers, but are starting to aspire into Class A units. They, however, may be considering using their RV for full-time living (12%) or working from home (10%). They still like fifth-wheel units for their higher-ceilings, split-level designs and separate living/working areas. They also like the fact they can park the fifth wheel, unhook the truck and have a home and vehicle for side trips.

There’s no doubt that we’ve all discovered “the outside’s good for your inside” - but how we get there depends on lots of variables.

However you get out there, you need to get out there and enjoy the outdoors. As always, we’ll keep you posted.

— Jim Shepherd