Ownership rises as more families seek diverse lifestyles
In the past decade, recreational vehicles, or RVs, have become increasingly popular in China — offering owners more freedom to enjoy diverse lifestyles.
According to rental company rv2go, more than 65 percent of RV owners are parents in the 30 to 45 age group living in first- and second-tier cities. They aim to use their vehicles as mobile homes for relaxing family trips to different areas of the country.
Du Luting, senior social media executive, said: "More people are now buying these vehicles, which used to be the exclusive preserve of the wealthy just a decade ago. They are using them as mobile homes or for tourism."
As a first-time owner, Sun chose the vehicle for its stylish design, which featured a signature large window at the rear. The couple set off on their trip from Hangzhou in July that year, when Sun's wife was three months pregnant.
They spent the following four months traveling through Sichuan, Jiangxi, Hunan and Guizhou provinces — arriving in Hainan province in November.
"Traveling by an RV gives us more freedom. If we want to go to a particular place, we can sleep nearby, get a closer glimpse of local life, and relax," Sun said.
The couple stayed in Hainan for the birth of their son, before continuing their trip in spring 2021, when he was more than three months old.
While they were in Hainan, they drove the RV to an area close to a beach, where they created a makeshift small backyard and even built a small sandcastle for the boy.
"For us, the most important thing about a trip by RV is that it gives us a better life. Although our vehicle is comparatively small, it enables us to embrace nature anytime and anywhere we want to," Sun said.
Two types of RV are available in China — self-driven motor homes and towable vehicles or trailers. The former are relatively small, while the latter provide more space but require an additional vehicle. According to national traffic regulations, motor homes should be no more than 6 meters long.
To provide a more comfortable living area for the family, Sun decided to change his RV to a larger-sized towable vehicle.
"Every coin has two sides. We chose a towable RV, which is more comfortable and gives us additional space. We can now better plan trips and locate camping sites, as we want our child to enjoy the journey and get closer to nature with ourselves and our pet," said Sun, who brought a border collie during the trip.
He plans to buy a property in Hangzhou in order to have a permanent address for their kid to be enrolled in school, but the couple is determined to continue the trips.
"We want to enjoy different experiences together. We always look forward to our next trip and next destination," Sun said.
According to statistics released by the China Automobile Dealers Association in March, the nation's RV market grew by 30 percent in the past two decades. The first such vehicle independently developed and produced domestically came off the production line in 2001.
A report from Intelligent Research Group shows that the number of RVs in China rose from 48,600 to 69,432 from 2016 to 2017, and in 2020, the total exceeded 218,000.
In 2019, a total of 459,700 trips were made in self-owned RVs in China, and 72,500 journeys were taken in rented RVs. The following year, 648,100 trips were made in self-owned RVs, while the number of journeys taken in rented vehicles fell to 71,000.
"The RV market in China is quite small compared with those in the United States and Europe, but it is expected to witness promising development, especially following the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020."
The increased popularity of camping in smaller RVs priced from 200,000 to 300,000 yuan ($29,140 to $43,710) has attracted more young people to pursue so-called Vanlife (van plus lifestyle).
Vanlife, which has become popular globally in recent years, is pursued by the younger generation seeking more freedom. Numerous Vanlife videos have been posted on various social media platforms, attracting large audiences.
According to the 2021 China RV Market Inventory released by the China Automobile Dealers Association, the annual sales volume for domestic self-driven RVs reached 12,582 in 2021, a rise of 43.2 percent year-on-year. The monthly average sales volume exceeded 1,000, while annual sales of towable RVs stood at 3,543.
In the first quarter of last year, cumulative sales of RVs reached 2,425, a rise of 17 percent year-on-year — the highest for that period for the past five years.