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RV Market Continues to ‘Pull out’ of Recession

Joseph Jackson says he is a “Winter Texan” rather than a snowbird.

As reported by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, after Christmas the retired newspaper photographer will hook up his 37-foot travel trailer to his Chevy Silverado pickup truck and head to south Texas for a couple of months, taking about a month to get there and a month to drive back to Madison.

“I just love it to death,” he said of the winter getaway, adding that he enjoys the leisurely journey as well as the destination.

His trailer has four slideout rooms for additional space, and a propane fireplace that takes the chill out of the cool winter mornings.

He and his wife, Linda, have been making treks south since 2008 and – judging from the recent rebound in recreational vehicle sales – they’re in good company. The Recreational Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) expects overall shipments of RVs to be up about 68% this year from three years ago when the industry was mired in the recession.

“It’s not like the good old days, back in 2005, but it’s still an improvement,” said Kim DeHaan, owner of DeHaan RV Center in Elkhorn, Wis.

Experienced RV enthusiasts, many of them retirees, were among the first to return to the marketplace – if they left at all.

They’ve been followed by first-time RV users, many of them under age 40, with children at home, who are now a little more comfortable with their spending since the recession ended.

Banks have loosened up their lending standards, too, although the days of someone financing a $100,000 motor home with easy credit are largely over.

Now, travel trailers priced from $18,000 to $25,000 are the best sellers, according to DeHaan.

She didn’t order any new motor homes this year because they’re expensive to keep in inventory and too much of a financial risk for the dealership if they don’t sell.

Likewise, the most expensive travel trailers aren’t selling as well as they did before the recession.

“I think younger people, especially, are still gun-shy about taking on that kind of investment,” DeHaan said.

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