Hard times may be with us still, but the romance of the recreational vehicle is still strong and may be strengthening, according to the Raleigh, N.C., News & Observer.
That, at least, is the conclusion to draw from the RV Camping Show at the State Fairgrounds this past weekend in Raleigh.
“We’re paying the bills and even making a little money,” said dealer Paul Hood, whose company sold about 25 campers and recreational vehicles during the three-day show.
A dense Sunday crowd wandered, looked and ooh’d and aah’d at one home on wheels after another.
“Wow, this is nice,” said John Patty of Cary, settling into a swivel chair inside a 400-square-foot Holiday Rambler Imperial. “You could have a party in here.”
More modest models were on view, as well: pop-up campers and cozy house trailers to tow behind a pickup, with prices from less than $9,000 on up. The show also featured dealers in camp sites, refinishing services, bedding, hot tubs, campfire food, grills, travelog videos and RV insurance.
Recession hit the RV industry hard, said Dave and Jan Kenyon, staffing a booth for the Good Sam Club, an association for RV owners. According to the RecreationVehicle Industry Association (RVIA), the industry has laid off 53% of its work force since June 2007, but University of Michigan analyst Richard Curtin projects a 30% increase in units shipped to dealers this year, about 216,000 compared with 166,000 in 2009.
Dealer restocking is one reason for optimism, and it’s easier to get financing for an RV than it was a year ago, Jan Kenyon said.
Plus, dealers are dealing. The Imperial’s regular retail price of $420,102 had been marked down to $336,541. A Cherokee Wolf Pack trailer was marked down from $27,535 to $19,922, complete with kitchenette and queen-size bed.
“I don’t know how much it is, but I like it,” said Brad Seavey of Vass, N.C., when he saw the Wolf Pack.
Danny and Glenda Honeycutt of Angier, N.C., with daughters Bayley and Brooke, said they are about a year away from moving up to a motorhome from the fifth-wheel trailer camper they’ve had for 10 years.
“Oooh! This is nice!” said Brooke, climbing into a $251,000 Holiday Rambler Ambassador.
“You can travel in here,” Glenda said as she looked around the interior; riding inside the fifth-wheeler is against the law, she explained. Compared with car travel, Danny said, having space to spread out is “so much easier than to pack everything up.”
Dealer Dave Hansing said people who are enthusiastic about the RV lifestyle are still enthused, despite the economy.
“The worst thing about an RV is not having enough time to use it,” he said.