Gas might not be cheap, but that shouldn’t keep you off the road come vacation time.
As reported by MLive.com, that was just one of the things the Michigan Association of Recreation Vehicles and Campgrounds (MARVAC) Director Bill Sheffer had to say when we called him up, just a few days before the Perani and Event Center’s RV show kicks off. Our question: In today’s economy, with gas prices what they are, is there really any point in buying an RV.
The short version: Yes, said Sheffer.
Below is the longer version, seven reasons from Sheffer you might want to rethink that plane ticket.
1. Gas prices shouldn’t deter you.
Yes, he was being serious.
“When you start to run the numbers,” he said, it might add up driving a vehicle that only gets 10 miles to the gallon isn’t actually as expensive as it sounds when you start to add up what an alternative choice involves: plane tickets, hotel room, restaurant food, and car rentals among them.
“A family of four can go easier on their pocketbook (in an RV) rather than getting on a plane and going to a resort,” he said.
2. You can camp at your favorite resort destinations.
“There’s lots of campgrounds around Disney World. Now, it’s going to be a little bit longer … but if you’ve got the time and the option to do that with a family, it makes for a pretty special trip,” Sheffer said.
3. More people are doing it
Sheffer said RV sales have grown 16 percent over the last year.
“I’m even surprised by that,” he said.
4. RVs might be more more affordable than you think.
There will be 90 RVs at this year’s show, and you can essentially pay whatever you like. Sheffer said the prices range from about $7,000 to $90,000, adding that you can get a nice RV paying about $200 a month.
5. If you’re still worried about gas, you don’t have to drive very far.
If Disney World isn’t in the cards, or even if driving out of state isn’t an option, Sheffer said there are a lot of campgrounds throughout Michigan — even mid-Michigan — that are worth checking out.
“We don’t drive our RV to work every day so it’s not like it’s a big fuel buster because we only use these for vacations,” he said. “You can travel really quite close to home and still travel with your RV.”
6. You’re taking your home with you.
If you’re creeped out by wondering who slept on the hotel room bed last, that’s not a problem in an RV. And the sandwich you’ve been thinking about is never far away.
“When you lay your head on your pillow, it’s your pillow,” Sheffer said. “You have your own stuff, you take what you want. When you ant a snack or a sandwich you don’t have to worry about what restaurant you’re going to.”
7. Make it a group activity.
Sheffer said it’s common for families to hit the road together, often renting campground spaces next to each other.
“Being outdoors is something special,” he said. “When you can get together around a campfire, that’s special.”
And sure, he admitted, you can travel together in hotels, too. But the campground experience is different.
“When’s the last time you went to the person in the hotel room next door and said, ‘hey you want to come over for a s’more?’” Sheffer said.
The RV show takes place this year from March 14-17. Hours are weekdays from 2-9 p.m., Saturday, 11 a.m.-8 p.m. and Sunday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Go to the event website for more information.
The Michigan Association of Recreation Vehicles and Campgrounds (MARVAC) reported a very successful year legislatively, amending the Michigan Vehicle Code to prescribe a maximum length of 65 feet when a motorhome tows a trailer and 75 feet for a recreation vehicle double.
MARVAC also insured that the Pure Michigan campaign, from which its members benefit, continues to be funded, MARVAC reported in its current newsletter.
“Our successes are a direct result of our ability to be politically active in Lansing and your support has helped our industry gain visibility,” the association stated.
Those contributing to the MMH&RVCA Political Action Committee include :
• Loren Baidas, General RV, Wixom.
• Bob Barnes, Leisure Lake.
• Mark Barrett, Barrett & Associates.
• Gary Becker, Indigo Bluffs RV Resort.
• Mike Burnside, Camping World of Northern Michigan.
• Jon Caswell, Caswell RV.
• Timothy DeWitt, MMH & RVCA.
• Edgar Doss, Waters RV.
• Dave Haylett, Haylett North Country RV.
• Carl Laming, Totem Pole Park.
• Cindy MacDaniels, Leidy Lake Campground.
• Barry Murray, International RV World.
• Ronald Neff, American RV Sales.
• David Rochette, Westland Camping.
• Bob Rohn, Lake of Dreams.
• Joanne Schmid, River View Campground.
• William Sheffer, MMH & RVCA.
• Betty and Bill Workman, Vacation Trailer Park.
• Phil Yedinak, Beaver Trail Campground.
Organizers for the 20th Annual Northwest Michigan Camper and RV Show said the event offered evidence that the RV industry is on the rebound in the state. The show, hosted by the Michigan Association of Recreational Vehicles and Campgrounds (MARVAC), ran March 30-April 1 at the Grand Traverse County Civic Center in Traverse City.
As reported by the Leader and Kalkaskian, MARVAC Director Bill Sheffer said that while the event saw average attendance in comparison to previous years, the popularity of the RV and camping industry is on the rise throughout Michigan and across the country.
Over 50 units and 15 brands of recreational vehicles from area dealerships were displayed at the event, ranging in price from $4,000 to over $75,000, giving attendees a good look at the wide range of products available.
“In 2011, RV sales were up 11.5% from the year before in Michigan,” Sheffer said.
Sales are still considerably lower than they were before the nationwide recession, however. According to the MARVAC website, 17,225 motorhomes and towable units were sold in 2003, dropping to 13,973 in 2005 and as low as 8,718 in 2009. The industry began to see a rebound in 2010, with sales climbing back up to 10,877. In 2011, a total of 10,953 units were sold.
“The typical thing in the recreational vehicle industry in regards to the economy is we’re usually one of the first to go into a recession and we’re the first to come out of a recession,” Sheffer said. “People feel comfortable that they can start again having more leisure time and spending more time with the family, so that’s when they tend to start buying RVs again.”
Michigan was ranked fourth in the country in new RV sales, behind California, Texas and Florida, Sheffer said. He said that Michigan and Florida vie for the ranks of third and fourth each year. In Michigan, there are an estimated 325,000 RV owners, Sheffer said.
Those who choose to go camping, even those who choose to invest in new RVs, see a cost savings over time in comparison to other vacation and travel options, Sheffer said. He said that the average price for a new RV range from around $20,000 to $25,000 and that they can typically be financed at an affordable rate.
“When you look at the savings … for when you travel, campground rental is somewhere between $25 and $30 an evening,” Sheffer said. “You prepare all your meals in your RV as opposed to going out to dinner and eating. Entertainment value is priceless, because you’re staying in a campground. You have all the amenities of the campground … and all the things that go along with the camping lifestyle. It makes for a great vacation.”
MARVAC’s next RV show is scheduled for Oct. 3-7 in Novi. Sheffer said that RV shows are a good place to begin shopping around for RVs, though he said it is more favorable to the purchaser to buy directly from a licensed RV dealership rather than at a show.
The Michigan Association of Recreation Vehicles and Campgrounds (MARVAC) is sponsoring the 46th Annual Detroit Camper & RV Show, Feb. 8-12, in Novi at the Suburban Collection Showplace, formerly Rock Financial Showplace.
According to a press release, over 250 new recreation vehicles will be on display including folding campers, motorhomes, travel trailers, truck campers, toy haulers and fifth-wheel travel trailers.
Organizers said that the event will include booths featuring parts and accessories, campground information, on-site RV financing and RV rentals making it “the complete RV show experience.”
Attendees will also be able to enter to win the Ultimate MIS Race Experience package from Michigan International Speedway that includes tickets, camping and VIP access (valued at nearly $3,000). In addition, the new, 2012 RV & Campsite, a guide to camping in Michigan, will be available free to consumers attending the show.
The 46th Annual Detroit Camper & RV Show is open weekdays 2-9 p.m., Saturday 11 a.m.-9 p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m.-6 p.m.
The show is sponsored by the Michigan Association of Recreation Vehicles and Campgrounds (MARVAC), a member organization representing all aspects of the camping and RV industries. Visit marvac.org for additional information on the RV show.
Editor’s Note: The following appeared in the Michigan Association of Recreation Vehicles and Campgrounds (MARVC) newsletter commemorating the organization’s 70th year of operation.
It was a short 70 years ago that a group of Michigan Industry Pioneers got together and established an industry trade association.
The Michigan Trailer Coach Dealer Association Inc. was formed on Sept. 19, 1941. It was the first state or regional association on record with continuous industry activity on a state and national level.
F.W. McKenny was the first director and was instrumental in the passage of the Michigan Trailer Coach Park Act in 1939. This is believed to be the first statewide legislation in the country regulating trailer parks. It was designed to replace all municipal laws and ordinances affecting parks. Other states used this as a model for similar legislation.
McKenny was active in representing the Trailercoach Dealers National Association during World War II. He moved his office to Washington D.C. and in doing so took the Michigan association office with him. In 1946, the association office was returned to Michigan and located in East Lansing. The name was the changed to the Michigan Trailer Coach Association.
In 1948, the members concerned with the operation of trailer parks formed a separate group, the Michigan Trailer Park Operators Association Inc. This organization continued to represent the interests of the park owners until it again combined with the Michigan Mobile Home Association 18 years later.
By 1956 the Michigan Trailer Coach Association moved its office to Detroit and Charles Snyder became executive director. He was followed by Haven La Bohn, Daniel Dowsett, Donald Rokos, Robert Pelkey and its current executive director, Timothy J. DeWitt.
With the birth of the RV Industry and a need for campground representation the association’s name was again changed to the Michigan Mobile Home and Recreational Vehicle Institute in 1969. The association purchased a headquarters building in the late 1960’s in Livonia.
Then in 1994 after another name change to Michigan Manufactured Housing, Recreational Vehicle & Campground Association, the headquarters was moved to the Capital City area. In 1996, ground was broken in Okemos, Mich., where the association office is currently located.
MARVAC would like to thank the hundreds upon hundreds of members who have served on all the boards and various committees throughout the last 70 years and the thousands of members who have supported the association through dues, contributions and donations that has allowed the Michigan Association to continue to be visible to protect and promote the industry and our members’ businesses.
Michigan’s recreational vehicle market is on the mend.
The state, with its retiree population and vast array of campgrounds, is seeing RV sales recover a faster pace than the nation overall, the Lansing State Journal reported.
“There’s been a demand, even through the bad periods of late 2008 through 2009, on the part of consumers who are looking for an economical way to travel with their families on vacations,” said Bill Sheffer, director of Okemos-based Michigan Association of Recreation Vehicles and Campgrounds (MARVAC).
Towable trailers lead sales
There were 6,683 recreational vehicles — including motorhomes and towable trailers — sold in Michigan this year through August 2010, according to Grand Rapids-based Statistical Surveys Inc. (SSI). That’s up nearly 21% from the 5,542 sold a year earlier. Towable trailers accounted for the bulk of those sales.
“Even though Michigan has high unemployment, (the state’s residents) have a lot of buying power with people who are on retirement,” said Tom Walworth, general manager of Statistical Surveys.
The state’s jobless rate stood at 13% in September, compared with 9.6% for the nation.
Nationwide sales also grew, but at a slower pace. Dealers sold 135,158 new recreational vehicles through August, up more than 4% from the 129,654 sold during the same period a year earlier.
Michigan sales are likely are boosted by its network of 80,000 campsites in more than 1,200 state- and privately run campgrounds, Sheffer said.
But the past few years have not been leisurely for dealers.
Statewide, sales dropped 50% from 2000 to 2009, with the decline starting around 2005, according to MARVAC.
Stock market impact
The financing crunch has dealt a blow to the industry. Banks have been less willing to offer loans for RVs, though some dealers say the credit crunch is starting to ease, Sheffer said.
And the stock market has had an impact on sales, even more than gas prices, said Gennene Kitsmiller, general manager of Kitsmiller RV in Mason, a Lansing suburb.
Most of her customers are retirees on fixed incomes or are close to retirement and relying on investments, she said. Sales suffered when the market declined during the financial crisis and recession but have been rising as Wall Street improves.
In fact, the past two years have been the dealer’s best since it opened in 1961, Kitsmiller said. The store sold more than 400 RVs in 2009, up 67% from 2008 — many of them the towable variety.
Customers are looking for “more sensible” purchases in the $30,000 to $35,000 range. These tend to be lighter and easier to tow in order to get better fuel economy, she said.
Not all dealers have fared as well. Some have closed or merged into larger companies, Sheffer said.
Slow sales forced Greg Dennis to stop selling new RVs in January 2009. Dennis RV Center now focuses on service and parts. It also rents travel trailers and sells used trailers and motorhomes. The Lansing business has been family owned since 1964.
“Sales have been down and that was a big thing,” Dennis said.
“We had to make a decision to either ramp up our inventory … or concentrate on the customer service end.”
The Michigan Association of Recreation Vehicles & Campgrounds (MARVAC) exceeded attendance expectations by nearly 40% during the association’s Fall Detroit Camper & RV Show, Sept. 30-Oct. 4 at the Rock Financial Showplace in Novi, the Okemos-based association reports.
Fact is, the Detroit Show recorded its best attendance since 2003.
“The show was scaled back to two-thirds of its usual display space,” MARVAC reported in its latest “Industry Insights” newsletter, ”but show attendees did not seem to notice, as there were still nearly 250 RVs on display inside and outside the exhibition facility. Dealers were reporting good sale numbers on Sunday evening after the show closed.
“MARVAC campground members who participated seemed pleased with the number of 2010 reservations taken during the show,” the association told its membership. “It was also mentioned by several exhibitors that there were a large number of first-time buyers in the crowd, a promising factor in planning for spring shows and sales. MARVAC will begin sending out commitment forms for the Flint and Detroit Camper & RV Shows later this month. Based on what was seen during last week’s show, MARVAC members will want to get their show commitments in early.”
MARVAC’s staff and several current and past board members hosted a luncheon prior to the show’s opening on Sept. 26, for local credit union managers at which the attendees were shown the seven minute video entitled “RV Financing: A Vehicle for Growth.”
Tim DeWitt, executive director, and Bill Sheffer, director, then shared some statistics and encouraged the credit union managers to consider both retail lending and wholesale financing as solid business investments. Drew Egan, president of CU Corp, developer of the Invest In America financing campaign that has been so successful in the automotive industry, spoke and suggested the same program is applicable to the RV industry.
A future meeting is being planned to expand wholesale floorplan lending by credit unions – a stated goal for many companies in the RV industry in its quest to ease the credit crunch.
In a related matter beyond the Detroit Show, meanwhile, MARVAC reports in its Oct. 7 newsletter that RV break-ins are on the rise. “Over the past ten days,” MARVAC’s staff stated, “it has been reported to the association office that several Michigan RV dealers have experienced unit break-ins. The main target has been high end electronics, including flat screen TVs and sound systems. Dealers are reporting that thieves seemed to be fairly knowledgeable about entering the units and removing the equipment with minimal damage. Security measures are being stepped up where and when it is possible.”