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Motorhomes: A Brief History – Once Rare, Now the Rave

couple resting in the field

The Motorhomes Inception

Motorhomes? When did they become a thing? Although we can’t say for certain who invented the first motorhome, we can trace the origin of the concept back to nomadic peoples who traveled the world by caravan, generally relying on camels or horses. The car part wouldn’t come along until much later.

The history of motorhomes, as we know them today, began about 1910, when the first “auto campers” were offered commercially. They contained a mix of kitchen supplies and possibly a bed depending on the style, but were a far cry from the modern luxuries we enjoy today. In modern times, many motorhomes feature walls that can extend when parked to provide more space, sturdy bunk beds for sleeping multiple people, and toilets that you can use even while on the road (as long as you aren’t the one in charge of driving down the freeway, that is).

You might be asking yourself, “What’s the difference between a motorhome and an RV?” An RV (recreational vehicle) is a generic term that can include motorhomes and boats, to name a few options. Today, motorhomes are traditionally defined as mobile housing units that offer travelers a bed, bathroom, kitchen, and living quarters while away from a more permanent home.

Growth and Popularity of Motorhomes

1920s

During the 1920s, soldiers returned home from World War I and began buying cars. As automobiles became more accessible to the public, people were able to travel farther from home, visit relatives, find new job opportunities, and see new locations. However, regular long-distance travel remained difficult. Gas, food near the road, and staying overnight in a hotel room were still too expensive for the average person. In the days before satellites were able to map the world from above, it was easy to get lost in unfamiliar places.

Before long, fast food businesses began to grow in popularity, offering cheaper and more accessible food to travelers. Fast food was a novelty in the 1920s and, in addition to feeding travelers, also encouraged many people to venture out and visit a fast food location for the first time. Alongside these early fast-food trains, travel trailers began to grow in popularity. A travel trailer is a small home on wheels that can be towed behind a car or truck, and some may contain amenities like multiple counters and sofas in addition to beds. They offered travelers a more comfortable place to sleep than the seats of their car and helped to prevent burnout on long journeys.

1940s

During the Great Depression, many people were unable to live in their former houses, so they turned to campers instead. Campers provided solid roofs that kept the wind and rain out better than a tent.

1960s

In 1958, a man named Raymond Frank designed his first RV for his family, and gave it the name “motorhome.” A few years later, he opened his own business to sell them. The name stuck and has been popular ever since.

As soldiers returned home after World War II and American life returned to a steady pace, many of them craved an affordable way to vacation with their families. A motorhome design company by the name of Winnebago began to rise, and would quickly go on to become experts in the field even today.

Current Trends of Motorhomes or RVs

Owning and Working From RVs

The once-popular image of retirees as the only people with enough free time to travel the country in an RV is beginning to fade. With advances in GPS navigation, the Internet, Wi-Fi coverage, and a growing acceptance for working remotely, working from RVs have become an increasingly popular way to live. There’s no better time to freshen up your life and leave the dreary office behind. If you’re able to work remotely, consider working while on the road.

Renting

You don’t need to own an RV to enjoy traveling in one for a vacation. RVs can be rented and are rapidly growing in popularity as a favorite way to use an RV for a short period of time without being required to store it all winter.

As for those who rent storage units to RVs during the off-season, you can rest assured that the RV storage industry isn’t likely to fade any time soon. While renting an RV may be a popular option right now, sales are still hot and growing fast. 2020 was one of the most profitable years for motorhome sales in a long time, and reports show that even more were sold during 2021. Keep an eye on our blog to read the latest trends in the RV market.

A growing number of Americans are living in a motorhome full-time.
A growing number of Americans are living in a motorhome full-time.

Places for Motorhomes to Stay

Today, more and more people are buying motorhomes so they can experience the outdoors in a safe, protected, and socially distanced way for weeks at a time. Some people prefer a more rugged experience, relying on their motorhome for physical comfort and cooking their own food while taking in beautiful outdoor sights. Others prefer staying near towns where they can eat at restaurants, shop for souvenirs, enjoy a Wi-Fi connection, and hook their motorhome to power and water sources.

Whatever you choose to do, the important thing is how much you love your RV! Here are several of our favorite locations to stay at with your motorhome.

RV Campgrounds

Campgrounds are always a popular place to stay in an RV. A motorhome gives you the freedom to travel far into the woods or up mountains while carrying plenty of supplies. When you camp in a tent, you will most likely stay at a campground for only a few days. A well-stocked RV can be full of food, board games, possibly your own personal toilet, and will offer more protection from the elements than your average tent.

RV Parks

Compared to campgrounds, you can expect an RV park to offer a few more amenities (though not as many luxuries as an RV resort). RV parks offer more privacy than a resort does without sacrificing the beauty of nature. Often, you will find paved roads and nearby stores or restaurants where you can shop and eat.

RV Resorts

RV resorts are relatively recent in the world of motorhomes, travel, and storage. A place that calls itself an RV resort will usually offer more amenities than your typical RV park, and these amenities may include features such as laundry machines, tennis courts, or golf courses. Verde Ranch Resort is one of our favorites and is notable for pros such as its high-end hotel, pool, and pet-friendliness.

Parking for motorhomes is a hot commodity in today's market.
Parking for motorhomes is a hot commodity in today’s market.

Storage for Motorhomes or RVs

Not all RV owners are able to store their motorhome on their own property. Perhaps they live up a steep hill, in an area with high winds, flood zone, or their homeowner’s association does not allow motorhomes to be visible from the street and there is nowhere else on the property to store it legally.

The growth of the recreational vehicle market has created a correlative market for RV storage. Toy Storage Nation strives to be the voice of that industry, leading the way for independent RV storage owners and operators to create a successful business within the industry.

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