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RVs: Still Popular Despite High Fuel Prices, by Alice Zyetz
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Alice Zyetz
Fuel prices haven't cooled RV fever.

Toy Haulers
Alice Zyetz
Fifth wheel toy haulers

"Toy Hauler" Interior
Alice Zyetz
"Homier" interior of a toy hauler

Tent trailer
Alice Zyetz
Less expensive tent trailer

Travel trailer
Alice Zyetz
Prowler travel trailer

"Won't the high fuel prices affect the RV lifestyle?" is the question we are asked frequently. I spend a good part of the year at an RV resort in the high desert of Southern California. Usually most people are traveling to cooler climates by Memorial Day and don't return until October. This year the campground is as deserted as it was last year. The difference is that they are not traveling as far and are staying in one location longer, doing their sightseeing locally. What I have experienced is substantiated by recent research conducted by the Recreation Industry Vehicle Association (RVIA).

"RV travel still on a roll," states the latest survey (April 2006) of RV owners by the RVIA. "Reducing the distances they travel (45%) and spending more time in one place (52%) are the top ways RV owners will adapt to higher prices." The survey found that two-thirds of RV owners intend to use their RVs more this summer than they did last.

RV vacations are still very popular for families, according to a recent study by PKF Consulting. Even with the increased fuel costs, they spend 26-74 percent less on RV trips due to savings on air, hotels and restaurant expenses. Another advantage is the closeness the family experiences.


I've interviewed a number of dealers in the Southern California area to get a sense of what is happening to the market as we head into summer travel. One small dealership reported that their motor homes sales have dropped 30 percent from last year while trailer sales remain the same. A large dealership stated that their sales of large motorhomes have been "up and down," but their sales of Class Cs and toy haulers have expanded. They noticed a sizeable increase of first-time buyers. Other dealerships have seen no drop off in sales in any segments of the market. (For readers who are not familiar with the various types of RVs, please refer to my column of November 2004, in which I described the array of motorized vehicles including the Class As, Bs, and Cs, and the towed vehicles including travel, fifth wheel, folding and "toy hauler" trailers.)

Those who are of retirement or near-retirement age are still buying the big trailers and motor homes. Younger families and those with less expendable income tend to purchase the smaller, more lightweight trailers that can be pulled with a minivan or half-ton truck that many already own, thus reducing the initial expense. If they have motorcycles or off-road vehicles, they are more attracted to the toy haulers, especially since the vehicles are built to be lighter and the living areas are now more attractive and "homelike."

My thanks to the sales managers from the following dealerships for giving their time and expertise to provide the information in this section: Mike Thompson's RV Super Stores, LaMesa RV Center, Giant RV Center, and Richardson's RV Center. To locate a dealer in your area, go to or If you are a new buyer, look for dealers who display the "Go RVing" logo since they are committed to helping newcomers.

It would seem more beneficial to achieve the RV experience with a towed vehicle. Mileage is 12 to 14 miles per gallon (mpg) towing and 18 to 20 mpg not towing, as opposed to a motor home that gets six to eight mpg or a diesel pusher at nine mpg. However, as motor home enthusiasts point out, once they are parked, they tootle around in their small cars that can get 30 to 45 mpg. In addition, those buyers who can afford the high-ticket RVs (averaging $200,000+) are not too worried about the rise in fuel prices.

Next: How to Choose an RV>

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Alice Zyetz

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