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  4. Ultra-luxury RV maker Bowlus is marketing its cheapest and smallest trailer to younger travelers — see inside the $165,000 Rivet

Ultra-luxury RV maker Bowlus is marketing its cheapest and smallest trailer to younger travelers see inside the $165,000 Rivet

Brittany Chang   

Ultra-luxury RV maker Bowlus is marketing its cheapest and smallest trailer to younger travelers — see inside the $165,000 Rivet
Bowlus recently unveiled the $165,000 Rivet, the ultra-luxury RV maker's smallest and cheapest travel trailer with off-grid and off-road capabilities. Bowlus
  • Ultra-luxury RV maker Bowlus's new Rivet is its smallest and cheapest travel trailer.
  • The $165,000 trailer can go off-grid, off-road, and be remote-controlled, the company says.

Bowlus is known for its ultra-sleek, ultra-luxury RVs with price tags that can rival a house.

To some roadtrippers, a recreational vehicle that costs more than $300,000 might be a little out of the price range.

But if you fall into this camp, Bowlus has a counteroffer: the new Rivet, its smallest and cheapest travel trailer.

In early March, the California-based RV maker unveiled the new "rugged" model with all-terrain tires, remote-control capabilities, and a more manageable starting price of $165,000.

Compared to Bowlus’s two other models, this new tiny home on wheels is being sold at a steep discount.

Compared to Bowlus’s two other models, this new tiny home on wheels is being sold at a steep discount.
Bowlus says its new RV could start at $148,500 after a tax credit.      Bowlus

The company's most expensive RV, the Volterra, starts at $310,000.

That's almost double the cost of the newer and smaller Rivet. The lower price is intended to open Bowlus to more customers, Geneva Long, the company's CEO, told Business Insider.

And yet, compared to other travel trailers, the Rivet's isn't cheap either.

And yet, compared to other travel trailers, the Rivet
Bowlus' most expensive model starts at $310,000. To compare, Airstream's priciest trailer has a starting cost of $191,500 — and is almost three feet longer than its competitor.      Bowlus

New 2024 travel trailers currently start at about $13,000 with RV dealership Camping World, although these models aren't nearly as shiny as Bowlus' aluminum trailers.

Like Bowlus, legacy RV maker Airstream loves cladding its trailers with aluminum. And depending on the model, the latter could be a more economical option: Its Trade Wind, which is three inches shorter than the Rivet, starts at $129,400.

However, Long says Bowlus' manufacturing methods — like the in-house production of its RVs' steel frames and more than 70% of its parts — justify its price. Plus, she says Bowlus' products are durable: No need to "flip" one every few years "as a standard in the industry."

Bowlus' customers can range from young families to retirees, Long said.

Bowlus
The Rivet can sleep up to four people.      Bowlus

Long hopes Bowlus can appeal to younger buyers with the rollout of the less expensive Rivet.

It's a strategic decision: There's been an influx of Gen Z and millennial RVers. And they're pining for an upgrade: 84% of 18-to-34-year-olds who own an RV said they intend to buy another one in the next few years, according to a 2021 survey from trade group RV Industry Association.

Long said many of these younger buyers crave RVs that offer what the Rivet has: off-grid and off-road capabilities.

Long said many of these younger buyers crave RVs that offer what the Rivet has: off-grid and off-road capabilities.
Airstream says its Interstate 19X has durable features like a brush guard and a protective coat on the van's hood and lower body.      Airstream

But it's not the first to explore this off-road route.

Over the last few years, several legacy RV makers have launched products with similar capabilities, some more rugged than the Rivet.

This includes Airstream's Interstate 19X camper van was built for boondocking. The Mercedes Ben Sprinter-based RV starts at $199,940.

But for travelers who'd rather prioritize affordability, Winnebago says its $64,421 Micro Minnie FLX travel trailer can go off-grid for five days with the help of power systems like 400-watt solar panels and a 320-amp-hour lithium-ion battery.

And if they're desperate to relive their childhood memories of playing with remote-controlled Hot Wheels could scratch that itch with the Rivet.

And if they
The Rivet doesn't always need to be attached to a towing vehicle to be moved.      Bowlus

Who needs toy cars when you have an RV? The new travel trailer can be driven into campsites or parking spots using a handheld remote — although it'll add another $10,000 onto the base cost.

With amenities like a remote control, Rivet was designed to fit in the “premium” RV segment.

With amenities like a remote control, Rivet was designed to fit in the “premium” RV segment.
At its price, Rivet is competing against products like Mercedes-Benz Sprinter camper vans and Airstream trailers. Its bedroom has amenities like reading lights and a king bed.      Bowlus

This isn't Bowlus' first attempt at a more affordable build.

In early 2023, it unveiled another travel trailer, Heritage, at the same price point as the Rivet. However, the model was discounted "because Bowlus only likes to offer three models at a time," Long told Business Insider in an email.

The Rivet would’ve had some similarities to the Heritage, like its 25.25-foot length and 3,500-pound weight.

The Rivet would’ve had some similarities to the Heritage, like its 25.25-foot length and 3,500-pound weight.
The Rivet could be towed by an electric vehicle like the Tesla Y.      Bowlus

But unlike its predecessor, the new build is ready to go off-grid and onto dirt roads: The RV comes with a three-inch lift kit and all-terrain tires.

Traditional home luxuries have all been condensed into the new 6.7-foot-wide trailer.

Traditional home luxuries have all been condensed into the new 6.7-foot-wide trailer.
The kitchen has amenities like a two-burner cooktop, microwave, and refrigerator-freezer.      Bowlus

The RV has four distinct spaces: a bedroom, bathroom, living room, and kitchen.

Travelers can enjoy home-cooked meals at the living room's dining table or sofa.

Travelers can enjoy home-cooked meals at the living room
The living room has amenities like under-seating drawers and 120-volt outlets.      Bowlus

The space also doubles as a second bedroom: Both sides can convert into extra beds.

No more "going outside": The trailer also has a shower and cassette toilet.

No more "going outside": The trailer also has a shower and cassette toilet.
The shower (right) is on one side of the RV, across from the toilet room and sink (left).      Bowlus

Water in the bathroom and kitchen is sourced and dumped into the trailer's 19-gallon freshwater, 21-gallon gray water, and 4.5-gallon black water tanks.

All of these amenities are powered by the RV's eight-kilowatt-hour lithium battery, 3,000-watt inverter, and up to 660 watts of solar.

All of these amenities are powered by the RV
During the winter, RVers can power the Rivet's heater for an extended period using a backup propane tank, Long told Business Insider.      Bowlus

To achieve full solar capabilities, travelers must purchase the $875 130-watt "solar suitcase" upgrade.

With it, the trailer's power system could sustain most of its amenities — like the refrigerator and laptop chargers — off-grid indefinitely, Long said.

However, it can only support about 16 hours of air conditioning, she said, noting that it's common for travelers to use it for about four hours a day. (If needed, the RV can be charged with a separate generator.)

For companies like Bowlus, now is potentially a good time to grow a travel trailer business.

For companies like Bowlus, now is potentially a good time to grow a travel trailer business.
Long predicts most of the Rivet's buyers will be new to Bowlus' brand.      Bowlus

Shipments of motorhomes — which include the previously ultra-popular camper vans — dipped 26.5% in January compared to the same time in 2023, according to data from the RV Industry Association.

In the same period, shipments of travel trailers ballooned by 27.3%.

RV sales have since slumped — or “normalized” — following their massive spike during the COVID-19 pandemic.

RV sales have since slumped — or “normalized” — following their massive spike during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Bowlus operates its own dealerships in Santa Barbara, California, and Las Vegas. Its expanded dealer network now includes two on the East Coast and one in Colorado, Texas, and the Pacific Northwest.      Bowlus

But Long says Bowlus was unaffected by this otherwise industry-wide dip.

At the end of 2023, the RV maker added five dealerships to its network, which now spans across the US.


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