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Gas Prices Not Slowing RV Sales, Cincinnati Dealers Say

June 7, 2011 by   - () Leave a Comment

RV sales strong, despite $4/gallon gas.

Gasoline prices hovering near $4 a gallon haven’t put the brakes on the desire of Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky residents to hit the road in recreation vehicles, area dealers say.

Sales of RVs, ranging from small towable trailers to luxury mega buses, are holding their own or up slightly despite this year’s sharply higher gas prices, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported.

“Four dollar a gallon gas won’t stop somebody who wants to go camping,” says Greg Holman, co-owner of family owned Holman Motors in Batavia. “They just won’t go as far.”

Total RV shipments are up 6% through April, the most recent month available. Even the priciest Class A motorhomes, which can cost $100,000 or more, are up 12% this year compared to a year ago, according to data from the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), which represents manufacturers and suppliers.

More expensive motorhomes have retained their popularity with retirees and those approaching retirement – two groups that industry experts say typically have more income and can afford to operate RVs.

“What we’ve found is RV owners continue to use their them even when fuel prices rise, but they take shorter trips,” said Kevin Broom, spokesman for the Reston, Va.-based trade group.

“Instead of taking a cross-country trip to the Grand Canyon, they head to a nearby state park,” he said.

Towable trailers and campers represent about 80% of the market, he said.

Holman said his dealership decided to focus on towable campers exclusively several years ago because they offer owners more flexibility.

“If a working guy owns a truck, he drives it to work every day and on the weekends he can use it to tow his camper,” he said. “Motorhomes aren’t that practical.”

Although camping activity at the Hamilton County Park District’s three campgrounds is down so far this year because of the wet weather in April and May, last year was one of the best on record, said Bill Mowery, the district’s director of recreation services.

Camping rentals totaled 23,118 nights last year, up nearly 4%, from the prior year at the district’s three camping areas: Winton Woods, Miami-Whitewater Forest and Steamboat Bend on the Ohio River, east of Cincinnati.

Mowery said about 80% of the park’s campers come from a 20-mile radius of the county.

“Everybody complains about higher gas prices, but I don’t think it has big impact on people’s decision to buy one,” said Joe Finch, sales manager at Tom Raper RVs in Fairfield.

He said his dealership’s sales have been steady.

Consumer confidence and credit availability typically have a bigger impact on sales than gas prices, said Broom. “The industry took a big hit during the recession because credit wasn’t available,” he said.

Steve Jung, whose family has operated Colerain RV Sales in Colerain Township since 1968, said taking a trip in RV is a lifestyle decision for many folks.

Even though gas prices are up about $1 a gallon from a year ago, he said, for a RV getting about 10 miles to the gallon, that represents about $100 more for a 1,000-mile trip.

“Are you not going to take that trip for $100?” he asked.

Industry advocates say RV travel is less expensive for a family than flying or traveling by car and staying in hotels and eating in restaurants.

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