Illinois RV Sales Down, But Camping Continues
Sales of towable RVs are down 10% in Illinois thus far this year, while sales of motorized units are down 30%. But Jeff Pilon, general manager at Rick’s RV Center in Joliet, Ill., the state’s No.1 towables dealer the past three years, says from his vantage point, campers are continuing to camp.
"The reasons have not changed. People do it because they grew up doing it, and they want to do it with their children,” he told the Joliet Herald News.
While the people who have RVs are still using them, they're probably not traveling as far they would have when fuel was cheaper, Pilon said.
Mike Leifert, general manager with Leisure Lake Resort in nearby Shorewood, agrees. He said RV owners definitely are sticking closer to home. In past years, customers would stay only a few days, then drive on to another location, he said. This year, campers are staying several weeks at a time and traveling shorter distances overall.
Some Leisure Lake Resort members are trying to sell their vehicles because they can't afford the fuel anymore, Leifert said. But others aren't letting higher prices affect them. It's all a matter of resources.
"If you have money, I guess it doesn't matter," Leifert said.
Erik Karlsson of Austin, Texas, was worried about the extra money a trip up north would cost him this year in his fifth-wheel. This year's trip cost about $300 more than the same trip last year. But Karlsson and his wife, Brenda, decided to make the three-month trip anyway. They're both 67 and retired.
"It just didn't seem to make sense to scrub the trip," he said. "This is how we want to spend our retirement.
"Don't mistake me. We're not happy about the (gas) prices," he added. "But we have to deal with the reality of it."
Pilon said young parents with children also are continuing to buy RVs for family trips because they like sleeping in their own beds and eating their own food.
"We've all seen the '20/20' (show) episodes on hotel cleanliness," Pilon said.
High gas prices may be slowing RV sales and keeping people closer to home, but there's something about an RV camping trip that gets in your blood, Pilon said.
"It's the freedom to do what you want to do," he said. "… It actually feels like an escape."