Everyone wants to know which RVs are the most popular. There’s something reassuring about knowing which motorhome or travel trailer outsells its peers. There must be a reason for the popularity, right?
The funny thing is, popularity tends to breed popularity. For anyone who has ever found themselves at loose ends at dinner time in a strange city, chances are you’ve studied the local restaurants and opted for the one with the jam-packed parking lot. “This must be the most popular place in town for a reason,” you think. Sometimes you’re rewarded with a stellar dining experience –and sometimes you’re not. Many restaurants thrive –especially in tourist locations- simply because their crowds bring in more crowds. Sadly, the flip side of the coin applies to this, too. Many reputable restaurants suffer diminished trade if their parking lot is lightly populated at the crucial 5-8 p.m. time slot –a sight that causes people to keep looking, assuming the worst.
Many potential RV buyers use the “crowded parking lot” approach to finding an RV, too. “What’s the most popular fifth–wheel? Well, that’s the one for us!” What they don’t realize is they are making the most popular Fiver more popular, just because it’s popular.
Does that sound like a crazy way to find the best RV? Actually, you can do worse than just following the herd. Chances are, many of those owners ahead of you have done their due diligence and you can benefit from their research. Then again, some people like to do their own research, reveling in the options and honing their search to meet their specific needs.
While there’s plenty of places to find RV info online these days, a lot of it is misleading. Many sites appear as unbiased RV review sites at first glance. But, if you find yourself being funneled off to an RV dealer’s website or some RV Classified Ad company, chances are their review info is biased and is nothing more than a cleverly disguised advertisement to trick you in to buying something from them.
There are independent RV review sources around, if you know where to look. RVReviews.net is one that has been around seemingly forever. Their Motorhome Comparison Guides and Travel Trailer & Fifth Wheel Comparison Guides are considered the gold standard for easy-to-read and unbiased RV articles. The RV manufacturers are discussed alphabetically and their books provide lots of charts and graphs comparing apples-to-apples over many years.
The online versions of Trailer Life and Motorhome Magazine are also good sources of RV reviews. Both have proven their integrity over the years with reviews that have no motive other than to educate their readers. Their income is generated by advertisers, so they are free to print their reviews without fear of upsetting an RV manufacturer or dealer that is paying them for glowing reviews. In the case of RVReviews.net, their income comes from the sale of their books and RV buying guides.
There is also NADA, the site that provides fair market prices for new and used cars. What most people don’t know is that a portion of their website is now dedicated to RVs. We’ve tested the depth of their knowledge by searching for some obscure and largely forgotten RVs and they surprised us with their data. Granted, they don’t provide reviews but they do provide some real-world RV prices (Wholesale, Market and Resale) that are pretty accurate.
Research aside, who is building the most popular RVs right now? Compiling available sales figures, the following manufacturers are garnering the lion’s share of the market right now. We’ve broken the results down by RV style, because “RV” is a pretty broad term. Someone looking for a Class A motorhome isn’t going to find the following very helpful if the Top 3 RVs are all travel trailers.
Airstream: Iconic and expensive, the shiny, silver Airstream has remained at the top of the travel trailer mountain for decades now. Dealers respond to sticker shock by pointing out that buyers get what they pay for. Many devoted Airstream owners feel the build quality and strong re-sale value provides plenty of value for the cost.
Heartland: Offering an ever-changing lineup of travel trailers, Heartland talks a good game and sells at prices most smaller companies can’t compete with. Owner satisfaction suffers here, though. There are lots of complaints about initial fit and finish. Also, customer service after the sale is frequently a sore spot.
Northwood: Despite being a smaller player in the vast travel trailer arena, Northwood’s Arctic Fox is extremely popular with the hearty four-season RVers that don’t let a little snow affect their plans. With beefed up R-values, enclosed and insulated underbelly, and double pane windows, the Arctic Fox is a proven four-season camper. Now confusingly known as the Arctic Fox North Fork, it remains a proven winner for winter.
Keystone: No discussion of most popular RVs would be complete without mentioning Keystone’s Montana. A best seller since its’ original debut twenty-some years ago, the Montana has been the fifth wheel of choice for 100,000+ buyers –and counting. Known for decent quality at a fair price, the Montana even has its own fan club: the Montana Owners’ Group. The popular (and independent) MOG provides a wealth of Montana info for potential buyers.
Grand Design: Despite being around a decade now, Grand Design is still considered the new kid on the block. The company’s debut featured a single fifth-wheel, the Reflection. Recent years have seen GD branch out to toy haulers and travel trailers. A fair price point, solid construction and positive word of mouth have all contributed to Grand Design’s growth. They now battle Keystone’s Montana as America’s Most Popular Fifth Wheel.
Forest River: Behemoth builder of a staggering twenty-five (give or take) models of fifth wheels –each with multiple floor plans of their own- Forest River seems to feel that if they smother potential buyers with enough FR choices, they won’t feel compelled to visit other manufacturers. Long known as a builder of entry-level campers at very affordable prices, in recent years the company has made an effort to raise their reputation with higher end, premium priced fifth-wheels. Surprisingly, a multi-million dollar fine from the NHTSA for failing to honor warranties and not disclosing known defects to customers didn’t seem to outrage the buying public, which awarded the company the Bronze (3rdPlace) in Trailer Life’s Annual Readers’ Choice Awards later that year.