Western Residents Most Interested in Buying RVs, While Southerners Look to Purchase Boats
At long last, summer is here — warm weather included.
To get in the spirit, LendingTree explored consumer interest in financing recreational vehicles (RVs) and boats. Using data from the past two years, we determined when interest in RV and boat financing peaked at the national level, as well as which states were most interested in these modes of recreation.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, those who live under the big skies of the American West are more interested in purchasing an RV, while Southerners have their sights set on the sea — and a potential boat purchase.
On this page
- Key findings
- Interest in RV financing peaked in July and August 2021
- Interest in boat financing peaked in May 2021
- Residents in Western states show most interest in RV financing
- Residents in Southern states show most interest in boat financing
- Whether you’re shopping for an RV or boat, here are 5 tips
- Dating back two years, interest in RV financing on the LendingTree platform peaked in 2021. Researchers examined RV loan inquiries on our platform between May 2021 and May 2023, finding they peaked in July and August 2021. Overall, the number of auto loan inquiries for RVs in May 2023 was 7.1% higher than in May 2022 and 23.0% higher than in May 2021 (though the two-year peak came months later).
- In the same two years, interest in boat financing on our platform also peaked in 2021. Boat loan inquiries peaked a few months earlier, in May 2021, but the second-highest number of inquiries were in May 2023 — a near-return to the peak. Overall, boat loan inquiries dropped 27.0% between May 2021 and May 2022 but jumped 35.6% between May 2022 and May 2023. There was just a 1.0% dip between May 2021 and May 2023.
- Far and away, Oregon residents showed the most interest in RV financing in the past two years. 7.5% of auto financing inquiries in Oregon between May 2021 and May 2023 were for potential RV purchases — more than double the average across the U.S. of 3.5%. Montana and Wyoming tied for second at 6.9%. In fact, every state in the top 10 is in the West, though South Dakota (in the Midwest) snuck into a tie for 10th.
- Florida residents were the most interested in boat financing in the same period. 3.8% of auto financing inquiries in Florida between May 2021 and May 2023 were for potential boat purchases — double the average across the U.S. of 1.9%. Alaska and South Carolina rounded out the top three, tied at 3.5%. Among the top 10, seven are in the South.
Interest in RV financing peaked in July and August 2021
During our data collection period, which ran from May 2021 through May 2023, interest in RV loans peaked relatively early in July and August 2021.
While we didn’t poll consumers for the reason behind their interest, the timing of the peak may be related to the COVID-19 pandemic. After months of being trapped indoors, an outdoorsy vacation sounded better to many of us, and the privacy of RV travel makes a socially distanced trip more possible.
Although sales have since dwindled, RV manufacturers experienced a boom in the early days of the pandemic. Even with declining sales, consumers are still showing plenty of interest in purchasing an RV.
Percentage change in RV loan inquiries
|Period||RV loan inquiries change|
|May 2021 to May 2022||14.8%|
|May 2022 to May 2023||7.1%|
|May 2021 to May 2023||23.0%|
Source: LendingTree analysis of auto loan inquiry forms completed on the LendingTree platform for RVs from May 2021 through May 2023.
While there’s a great deal of seasonality, interest in RV financing trended downward through 2022 but seems to be ramping up entering summer 2023, perhaps owing to many ex-office workers’ new post-pandemic location independence.
Unsurprisingly, inquiries trend up during the summer months, when warm weather and clear skies call would-be adventurers to the road.
Chart: 2-year look at RV loan inquiries
RV loan inquiries on the LendingTree platform, indexed to maximum value
|Month||RV loan inquiries|
Source: LendingTree analysis of auto loan inquiry forms completed on the LendingTree platform for RVs from May 2021 through May 2023. Note: The data is indexed to the highest count of RV loan inquiries for each month during the period covered.
Interest in boat financing peaked in May 2021
The roads aren’t the only way to get away. Between May 2021 and May 2023, interest in financing the purchase of a boat peaked at the beginning in May 2021. After a dip in 2022, consumers seem to be as eager as ever to sail away as interest trended just under the same level this past May.
Percentage change in boat loan inquiries
|Period||Boat loan inquiries change|
|May 2021 to May 2022||-27.0%|
|May 2022 to May 2023||35.6%|
|May 2021 to May 2023||-1.0%|
Source: LendingTree analysis of auto loan inquiry forms completed on the LendingTree platform for boats from May 2021 through May 2023.
As with RVs, the privacy of boating may have appealed to travelers looking to create socially distanced vacations. Today, with most of the world back to normal (or at least the “new normal”), a sun-filled boat trip holds plenty of promise for relaxation and fun.
Trends for recreational marine expenditures support this hypothesis, as 2021 was a near-record year for the industry with $56.7 billion in sales, according to the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA).
Although those numbers dropped in 2022, the boating world is doing very well for itself these days. According to U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis data, boating and fishing are the top contributors to the overall outdoor recreation economy.
Chart: 2-year look at boat loan inquiries
Boat loan inquiries on the LendingTree platform, indexed to maximum value
|Month||Boat loan inquiries|
Source: LendingTree analysis of auto loan inquiry forms completed on the LendingTree platform for boats from May 2021 through May 2023. Note: The data is indexed to the highest count of boat loan inquiries for each month during the period covered.
Residents in Western states show most interest in RV financing
Once we explored when interest peaked in each of these different recreational transportation options, we examined where that interest was coming from. We started with RVs.
To complete this analysis, we compared the number of auto loan inquiries for RV financing at the state level to the number of auto loan inquiries, regardless of type. Between May 2021 and May 2023, 3.5% of auto loan inquiries on the LendingTree platform were for RVs.
Oregon led the charge, with 7.5% of auto loan inquiries made there during that period being for RVs. Even zooming back nearly 30 years to 1995, Oregon was near the forefront of the RV industry, according to an Associated Press report published on the Los Angeles Times website.
Montana and Wyoming tied for second at 6.9%, with Alaska and Washington tying for fourth. (Alaska is home to eight national parks, second only to California’s nine — though several of them are inaccessible by road and must be flown, sailed or hiked into.)
States with the most/least interest in RV purchases
|Rank||State||Percentage of auto loan inquiries that are for RVs|
|51||District of Columbia||0.9%|
Note: Values represent the percentage of auto loan inquiry forms completed on the LendingTree platform for RVs between May 2021 and May 2023.
Residents in Southern states show most interest in boat financing
To ascertain where residents were most interested in financing a boat, we used the same concept as with RVs. Between May 2021 and May 2023, 1.9% of auto loan inquiries on the LendingTree platform were for boats. (To compare, that figure was 3.5% among RVs.)
Alaska ties with South Carolina for second at 3.5%. Despite its icy temperatures, Alaska has more coastline than all the other American states combined (and, as mentioned, some of its remote locales are only accessible by air or water).
Other northerly states that made the top 10 include Minnesota and New Hampshire, while landlocked New Mexico and Nevada came in last at 0.6%.
States with the most/least interest in boat purchases
|Rank||State||Percentage of auto loan inquiries that are for boats|
|47||District of Columbia||0.9%|
Note: Values represent the percentage of auto loan inquiry forms completed on the LendingTree platform for boats between May 2021 and May 2023.
Whether you’re shopping for an RV or boat, here are 5 tips
If you’re planning a major purchase, it’s worthwhile to do your footwork ahead of time because it can save you financial stress down the road. Here are some savvy tips if you’re shopping for an RV or boat.
- Shop around for your loan. Yes, traveling in your future RV or boat is more fun than talking to several different lenders while buying, but doing so could pay dividends down the line. In fact, it’s important enough that you should do it first, says Matt Schulz, LendingTree chief credit analyst. “The rates, terms, amounts and even the credit score requirements can vary,” he says, “so be sure to take the time to comparison shop and get preapproved for a loan before you go shopping.”
- Understand the full terms of your financing. There’s more to the story than figuring out who’ll give you the most money upfront. You should also take the time to understand how much the loan will cost in total, including fees and interest. (A boat loan calculator can help.) Be sure to think about how the payment will fit into your monthly budget — and how much interest you stand to spend over the loan’s lifetime. “Just because someone will loan you a lot of money doesn’t mean you have to take it,” Schulz says.
- Consider buying used. RVs and boats are vehicles — and just like cars and trucks, they tend to depreciate over time (with some exceptions). That’s why buying used might be a good idea, which can lower the overall price tag and ensure you get a vehicle that’s already a little “broken in.” However, keep in mind that it can be a bit more challenging to finance a used RV or boat, especially if it’s more than 10 years old or has extensive mileage.
- Save up ahead of time. The good news? You don’t necessarily have to take out a large loan to purchase an RV or boat. Since it’s usually a discretionary purchase, you can save up ahead of time. “Often, when we buy a new car, we’re in a big rush to buy it because being without a car for even a short period can be disruptive to our lives,” Schulz says. “That’s probably not the case when buying a boat.” Even if you can’t hold back long enough to pay for the purchase in cash outright, the opportunity to put down a larger down payment could decrease what you spend on a loan.
- If it’s a primary residence, take advantage of tax savings. Maybe you’re joining the growing troupe of remote workers who live nomadically full time — or just downsizing. Either way, if you’re planning to purchase an RV or a boat as a primary residence, keep in mind that you’re eligible for homeowner tax deductions just like someone who owns a brick-and-mortar home … so long as the RV or boat is used as security for the loan you use to purchase it. (In other words, this won’t work if you buy your new home with a personal loan.)
LendingTree researchers used the counts of auto loan inquiry forms completed on the LendingTree platform to determine the changes in the number of inquiries received each month to finance recreational vehicles (RVs) and boats from May 2021 through May 2023.
Because our form count is proprietary and material to security markets, researchers indexed count values to the month with the highest total count.
Researchers also calculated the percentage of auto loan inquiries between May 2021 and May 2023 for RVs and boats by the states where consumers reside.