One look at today’s recreational vehicles will tell you these are not your grandparents’ campers. Modern motor homes are packing in creature comforts that couldn’t have been imagined even two decades ago – and they’re making “roughing it” on the road easier and more enticing than ever.
“What we’re seeing is that the amenities you saw only in the luxury units a decade or so ago are now showing up in mid-priced and even lower-priced units,” says Kevin Broom, director of media relations for the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA).
“Fifteen years ago, having a slide-out room was a feature you only saw in high-end models; now they’re available in pretty much every price range,” he adds. “Some may have one slide-out wall, some might have four. And some of the higher end models now even have full-wall slide outs.”
Those slide-out units, which expand the available interior space of a RV with the push of a button, can add valuable room for a dining or lounging area. According to the RV Roadtrips’ “Fun Times Guide,” bedrooms are the most popular rooms for slide-outs.
But there’s more than just extra room to be found in today’s motor homes. As the RV market has grown in recent years, manufacturers have rewarded consumers with homes on wheels that make life on the road more comfortable and enjoyable. These days, a kitchen with a refrigerator, a cooktop and a microwave oven is common, and some may have convection ovens. Water heaters let you enjoy a hot shower, and stackable washer/dryer units – or a combination unit – mean you won’t have to drag a load of dirty laundry home with you.
Perhaps the biggest change in RV amenities is found in the use of electronics. Broom says the rapid growth of the electronics market has been a boon for RVers who want to stay entertained and connected while getting away from it all.
“One of the biggest changes you’ll see in today’s RVs is the kind of electronics that can be used,” Broom says. “Ten years ago, if you wanted a TV in your RV you either had to get a flat screen, which was really expensive at the time, or install a television with tubes, which was big and bulky and heavy. That also meant you had to find a way to make space for it.”
Electronics have become more affordable, compact and lightweight, so nowadays having multiple screens, as well as DVD players and stereo systems is common. They’re built into the initial design of the RV.
“You can have them mounted on the wall, they might collapse into the wall or they can pivot so they have multiple ways to be viewed,” Broom says. “You even have TVs designed for the outdoor area.”
TVs aren’t the only thing that RVers are taking outside; outdoor kitchens complete with gas grills and outdoor refrigerators reflect the popular home trend of outdoor rooms. It’s even changing the way some RVs are being configured, Broom says.
“We see some exterior entrances that go directly into the bathroom, so if you’re outside having a cookout, or you’re at a soccer game or the beach, you don’t have to track dirt all the way through the RV to get to the bathroom.”
While the mainstream market is enjoying this newfound wealth of amenities, manufacturers in the luxury category continue to innovate. Their additions are turning RVs into mobile mansions, with such features as marble steps and porcelain-tiled floors; design accessories made from expensive materials like quartz, antique bronze and onyx; exercise rooms; and even slide-out garages.
Last year, Austria-based Marchi Mobile opened a U.S. subsidiary in South Carolina. It’s raising the bar for luxury RV amenities with what it calls the most luxurious mobile home in the world. Its top-of-the-line eleMMent palazzo Superior features two floors of elegant appointments that include a spa-like bathroom with a rainfall shower and lighting therapy, as well as a master bedroom with a king-size bed, a dressing table and a large-screen TV.
Juliane Ronisch, chief marketing officer for Marchi Mobile, says one of the most unusual aspects of the company’s designs is the private rooftop terrace, which uses an automatic lift system to rise out of the body of the vehicle and create a walled-in roof deck. And if the evening seems a little chilly for rooftop lounging, the deck’s built-in radiant floor heating should warm things up. In addition, Marchi motor homes stand out because of a futuristic exterior, an aviation-style cockpit and the lounge area furnished with a sofa, bar, wine cabinet and television.
Of course, such flourishes don’t come cheap; a Marchi masterpiece can run as much as $3 million. But that doesn’t mean average RVers won’t eventually see some of these innovations in their price range.
“What we see is that innovation begins with the high-end models, and then it works its way into the rest of the market in some form,” Broom says. “You just keep seeing a lot more options with designs and choices, and that’s going to continue.”