It’s vacation season, but Bill Turner won’t be booking a flight for any seasonal travel. He’s among 8.9 million Americans who gas up RVs for their summer fun – and insiders say high gas prices aren’t deterring the RV set.
The Capital Gazette, Annapolis, Md., reported that despite rising gas prices, RV sales are up. Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) spokesman Kevin Broom said that RV shipments increased 46% last year, and the organization predicts them to be up another 7.5% this year. About 8.5% of American families own recreation vehicles, which typically include living spaces and kitchenettes.
Owners change their vacationing styles to compensate for high fuel prices, but they don’t stop traveling, Broom said.
“Fuel prices can be a small part of an RV vacation,” he said. “Instead of going from Maryland to the Grand Canyon, they’ll go somewhere closer. They’ll have a much shorter drive, and have low fuel costs, and still enjoy their RV vacation.”
Turner, a longtime customer of Leo’s Vacation Center in Gambrills, bought his first RV when he retired in 2003 to fulfill his dream to travel; he’s since traded his way through two more models.
“We wanted to do extended traveling and we wanted to be a little more comfortable,” he said. “When we did that, the gas prices had not really started to go up a whole lot yet.”
Filling up his Mobile Suite’s 35-gallon tank costs about $140, Turner said. He saves gas by going on more local trips with his family.
“If we go somewhere, we go for a longer time, just to use it,” he said.
Plane travel is too much of a hassle, Turner said. He said he’d rather skip the security lines and enjoy family-friendly campgrounds. Other appeals of RV travel are saving money by cooking your own food and avoiding bed bugs by sleeping in your own bed, he said.
Despite rising national sales, some local RV businesses aren’t feeling the love.
Tom Gilman, owner of Maryland RV in Annapolis, said things have been rocky at his repair shop. He has lost about 50% of his business and went from employing five or six mechanics and two office assistants five years ago to only one full-time and one part-time employee.
Gilman said business at Maryland RV has been up recently thanks to warm weather.
“I feel pretty good about how we’re doing,” he said. “The big question is if it’s going to continue.”
Greg Merkel, owner of Leo’s Vacation Center, said his business has remained successful. Sales in January through May of this year were up 20% from the same time period last year, Merkel said. It’s hard to say how his business is affected by high gas prices.
“The unknown number is how good it would be if the price of gas was down,” he said. “There’s no way of gauging how many you’re not seeing.”