Women drivers: why do so few women drive their own RVs?

By: Peta Stavelli

Peta Stavelli at the Great NZ Outdoor & Leisure Show 2015. Peta Stavelli at the Great NZ Outdoor & Leisure Show 2015. Peta Stavelli at the Great NZ Outdoor & Leisure Show 2015.
Peta Stavelli at the Great NZ Outdoor & Leisure Show 2015. Peta Stavelli at the Great NZ Outdoor & Leisure Show 2015.

Fresh from presenting a seminar on the topic, Peta Stavelli expounds on the growing numbers of women taking to the roads, and what that means for us all.

Every time I headed off in anticipation of a great trip in an RV I was testing, I was surprised to find that each different one had the same whining noise. It did not take long to trace the source back to the cab. Specifically to my much loved travel companion.

"What gear are you in? Did you indicate? Pull over and let those poor long suffering people behind you pass. Speed up. Slow down. Don’t jump on the brakes. No need to pull so hard on the wheel, it’s done nothing to you…"

And so it went on. My driving, as it turns out, is abysmal. I should never have received a licence. I clearly do not spend sufficient time driving on busy roads.

My confidence began to suffer. Perhaps my mate was right. I have lived on islands for the past 30 years… Maybe it would be better if he drove. It would certainly save arguments, I reasoned. I let the co-pilot take the helm.

But you cannot keep a good woman down. And nor – as it happens – was that my mate’s intention. He suffers from motion sickness and like many who have the debilitating condition; it is improved when they are in control of the vehicle or vessel.

I am not suggesting my mate is a control freak. It just works best for both of us if he assumes the role of driver. So, in the interests of improving our mutual travel experience, I stepped down. Although soon, it was clear that I was missing out on something which enhances my own enjoyment of RV travel.

I love driving. Always have. Probably always will.

And, because I have lived on islands for so long, I relish the opportunity to get on the open road and wind the clock over 80kph. Also, I have been driving for around 45 years without ever causing an accident. Accordingly I regard myself as a good, safe driver.

Nor am I cowed by the size of any vehicle we take away. I have sufficient confidence in my own ability, so, without being cocky, I just get in and go for it. It is, after all, the way I make a living.

So, as with all good relationships, we have arrived at a compromise: I drive most of the first day and part of the last. That way I can arrive at the best overall impressions of the vehicle’s performance.

But it began to occur to me that I was not the only woman who, for one or another reason, was not driving their own motorhome. My curiosity was piqued. I began some research, and almost instantly found a startling statistic from the UK where, of the women who share ownership of their RV, only 5% drive.

Why do so few women drive?

  • We have ourselves begun to believe the hype that women are bad drivers
  • We are discouraged from doing so by our partners
  • We are overwhelmed by the size of the vehicle we are travelling in or towing
  • We lack the skills needed to drive or tow

Well, here’s the news: UK company, Privilege Insurance recently conducted a month long survey. Some of the participants knew they were being observed, while others were observed driving at one of London’s busiest intersections, without their knowledge.

The results:


So, let us assume the numbers do not lie. We hope this to be the case, because in the USA which leads the RV industry, the fastest growing sales sector is to women over 50.

In fact, forums for women who RV abound in that country. They even have their own magazine.

In New Zealand, our industry is still in a period of rapid growth, and we do not yet have numbers, so we can only extrapolate from the information available. In this country, there are 170, 000 more women. We outnumber men 100:97. We also outlive men.

So it follows that in the RV sector natural attrition alone will see more single women on the road in the future.

What challenges will we face?

I see security as a big one for many women. On a personal level, when staying in a non-self- contained campervan, I would rather hold on all night than go to the toilet alone during the hours of darkness. Consequently, I comically make a break for it as soon as the first light of day appears. I imagine there are many more women who feel the same, and from the show of hands at the seminars, I feel fairly sure this is the case.

I am also fairly certain that many women differ from their menfolk when it comes to their choice of some activities. And no, I am not talking about shopping. I love visiting gardens and I would really enjoy travelling around in my RV visiting our country’s many gardens of national – and international – significance. I am fortunate this interest is shared by my partner.

We also share a love of art and boats, so there are many common interests, but I am sure this is not the case with many women, who may we to enjoy the company of other women for these activities.

Being mindful of this growing need to cater to women in RVs. I have been considering setting up a forum where women can exchange news and ideas. If you think this would be of interest to you, please email me: pstavelli@ bauertrader.co.nz (without the space) with your feedback.

We might also look at offering some driving, towing, reversing seminars, if there was sufficient interest; be sure to let me know, in the strictest confidence, if this would appeal to you.

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