annoyance like a $500 fill-up stop them from hitting
RV owners motor on the road.
despite high gas prices "You have to be strong-hearted to fork over that
kind of money at the pump," said Brian Horner,
owner of Milpitas RV & Self Storage. "But sold-out RV
HIGH GAS PRICES CAN'T DAMPEN THEIR parks tell you that cooler heads are prevailing. If the
ENTHUSIASM average motor-home owner drives around 6,000
miles a year, that's about $1,000 more in diesel fuel.
By Patrick May
Mercury News For some owners, that just means spending $1,000
less a year on cocktails."
Article Launched: 07/23/2008 01:30:45 AM PDT
A study commissioned this month for the
Have your say! Recreation Vehicle Industry Association found
typical RV vacations cost up to 61 percent less than
Vote and comment: other types of vacations, even factoring in fuel
Is now a good time to buy an costs. The study's authors say a family of four
traveling by motor home from Phoenix to Napa and
Sales have dropped 28 percent from last year. Fuel paying $33 a night to park in campgrounds would
prices are climbing. And some manufacturers and save $1,700 over the same trip taken by car, eating
dealers have pulled the plug. Yet for folks who in restaurants and staying in hotels averaging $122
believe heaven on earth is a 40-foot motor home a night.
with twin slide-outs, two bathrooms and crystal
chandeliers, the RV oasis continues to shimmer in a Still, diesel fuel, which many of the larger motor
desert of pallid economic numbers. homes slurp up, has risen about a buck - or 35
percent - since this time last year. And while the RV
"High fuel prices will never kill RVing," said Joann community adapts by targeting parks closer to
Hadwick of Reno, one of the Red Mountaineers RV home, the folks who build and sell the rigs are
club members relaxing the other morning outside feeling the pinch of the wider economic malaise.
the group's collection of giant rigs at Smithwoods
RV Park near Felton. "The down market is winnowing out some of the
manufacturers and dealers on the fringe," said Tom
"We're all just taking shorter trips instead of going Walworth of Statistical Surveys. His Michigan firm
to Yellowstone or Yosemite. This is still cheaper tracks sales in an industry with about 600,000
than flying and staying in hotels. And you can't beat recreational vehicles on the roads nationwide - from
the lifestyle." pull-behind trailers up to Class A monster motor
homes. "The Fleetwoods and Winnebagos are also
It may seem counterintuitive that vehicles which get feeling the pain, but they'll hang in there," Walworth
7 miles per gallon and can take a half-hour to refuel added of the industry's leading names. "People love
aren't being traded in for something smaller - or the RV lifestyle, and they're very loyal."
simply taken out back and parked.
It's a seductive lifestyle, where coffee-klatch
But many RVers say they're not going to let a little
1 of 2 9/5/2008 3:12 PM
camaraderie and needlepoint under the redwoods much as $1,200 each, so we decided to come here
are as much as part of the allure as the freedom of instead."
the open road. The subculture feeds on Web sites,
bulletin boards and clubs like the Red Mountaineers What about next year?
that are several generations old.
"We'll be back," vowed co-clubber Linda Mikels, 56,
Some in the industry predict a turnaround in the RV even though she can no longer afford to repeat the
market by mid-2009, thanks, says Walworth, to "a lot 14,000-mile cross-country trip she took with her
of pent-up demand. And as the baby boomers retire, husband in 2007. "And if gas prices double, we'll all
they're not going to want to sit at home." just be bunking together."
But for now, "buyers are sitting on their hands - Contact Patrick May at email@example.com
they just don't want to venture out there right now." or (408) 920-5689.
Walworth says RV sales have historically served as a
leading economic indicator. "Once the economy
picks up, RV sales will lead the charge. They're the
first to go down in bad times and the first to go up
when things get better."
To help goose things, manufacturers have already
begun to churn out more fuel-efficient models, like
the Winnebago View, which reportedly can get up to
20 mpg. "Our sales started softening at the end of
last year, and our diesel products are now starting
to feel the effects of higher fuel costs," said Heather
Everett of Fleetwood Enterprises, maker of the
popular Bounder gasoline model ($107,660) and
diesel Discovery ($200,760). "But we're seeing
growing demand for our fuel-efficient brands."
To be sure, there will be losers amid the fallout,
especially those folks who bought rigs using equity
lines on homes now worth considerably less than
they were a few years ago.
But for most motor home lovers, the RVing goes on,
just not as far. Back in Felton, Fremont nurse and
Red Mountaineer Karen Redwine, 61, said the 14
members of her group started planning last year to
caravan this summer to San Diego. "But after getting
the calculator out, we realized fuel would cost us as
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