Monday, September 8, 2008

The RV Lifestyle on $4 a Gallon

When you read the WSJ article below, you have to take it with a grain of salt. Things are not always as they appear. Although the article makes a lot of good points, there is a huge difference in vacationing in your RV and living full-time in it. The couple in the story that gave up Alaska this year for Yellowstone/Teton were gone a month and put on a ton of miles in 30 days. Most full-timers do not rack up those kind of miles in that short of time span.
Compare taking your RV out for 6 months and putting on 6,000 miles to taking it out for 1 month and putting on 3,000. Compare that to what you would spend doing the trip by car and dealing with eating and sleeping expenses everyday.
At the price of gas I would not take my Class "C" motorhome across the country for a month trip, but I would not hesitate to take it across the country for a 6 month trip.
As for repairs, "stuff happens." Depending on the rig you have, a lot of things can go wrong. Some of the newer, high end, models have doorbells that play 37 songs and 100 miles of electrical wiring. Like owning a boat, they can be a deep, black hole, you throw money into. I have had an RV my whole life and I can’t say I have wasted a ton of money fixing them. I stay simple and efficient, learn to repair them myself, and maintain them regularly. No different than the home you own or your other vehicles.
The RV Lifestyle can actually be a much more relaxed way to live and cheaper overall. You just have to do your own math ahead of time and decide if this existence is for you.

-Keep Smilin', Dick E. Bird


At a fuel stop where drivers pay before pumping, Ted LeBaron recently surprised others in line when he asked the attendant for $300 worth of fuel. "The guy behind me just about came unglued," Mr. Le-Baron says.

At the time, the plumbing-company owner from Camarillo, Calif., was driving his 34-foot Winnebago motor home, which despite its size, he says, is more efficient, pound for pound, than a big SUV. Still, he concedes, he feels a bit conspicuous while filling up, though the reaction he usually gets is one of sympathy.

RVIA Drivers who feel they suffer by paying $100 to fill the tank of their sport-utility vehicle should try road-tripping in a motor home or other large recreational vehicle. Filling up one of these rolling manses can cost anywhere from $350 to nearly $500.

Most of the large "type A" motor homes run on diesel fuel, which can cost as much as $5 a gallon or more, depending on the region. They have tanks that hold up to 100 gallons, but the fuel goes quickly at seven to 10 miles per gallon. Travelers pulling large trailers with pickup trucks get similar fuel economy, as do smaller "type C" motor homes that often run on gasoline.
As a result, many RV owners are altering their travel plans. Some are simply leaving them home or driving to a campground and staying put, while others are cutting the number of destinations and side trips on their next long journey.

Roxanne Camron and her husband, Robert, had planned for years to take their recreational vehicle on a trip to Alaska, and this was to be the year. But the high price of diesel fuel for the large pickup truck they use to tow their RV made the Paso Robles, Calif., couple reconsider. Instead, they took a shorter, 2,600-mile multistate trip that included Jackson Hole, Wyo., and Yellowstone National Park. Even their shorter trip got squeezed, though, as the Camrons sought to further trim the fuel bill.

"We actually cut out Mount Rushmore," says Ms. Camron, a freelance editor. "Still, there were days when we'd spend a couple hundred dollars on fuel alone."

The surge in fuel prices is more alarming for the $14.5 billion RV industry -- which includes dozens of small manufacturers as well as a few big players, such as Fleetwood Enterprises Inc. and Thor Industries Inc. -- than it is for RV owners, since it appears to be scaring off potential new customers. Sales of the vehicles, which range from $5,000 popup camping trailers towed by a car to $400,000 hulking motor homes as large as a bus, have declined 14% this year to a projected 304,000 vehicles by year's end, according to the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association, a trade group in Reston, Va.

That's not much worse than the 11% drop in sales of cars and light trucks. But while most people will eventually need new cars, RVs are the kind of extravagance consumers tend to forgo when they feel financially pinched.

Winnebago Industries Inc., which makes RVs in a range of sizes and styles, recently reported a 73% decline in net income for its fiscal third quarter. The Forest City, Iowa, company, which some consider a barometer of consumer confidence, attributed the decrease in part to inventory reductions by dealers responding to falling demand. Deliveries of its large, high-profit type-A motor homes fell 53% in the quarter ended May 31, according to a recent earnings report, while its backlog of orders fell 68% for type-A vehicles and 51% for smaller type-C models compared with the year-earlier period.

To be sure, it's no surprise that sales of recreational vehicles are down. What's more surprising is that the downturn isn't worse, especially because RVs are squeezed between two sinking markets: autos and housing. Many people who bought RVs in the past decade, especially in the industry's post-Sept. 11, 2001, boom, financed the purchases with home-equity loans. Many prospective buyers can't get such loans in today's tight credit market.

One reason RVs are faring better than some might expect is because fuel economy isn't necessarily as much of a concern to buyers as comfort and convenience features. Travelers are likely to compare the cost of operating motor homes or large trailers not just to the cost of driving the car, but also the price of hotel rooms and restaurant meals. Compared with the cost of driving a car and staying in hotels for family vacation, using an RV saves between 27% and 61%, according to the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association.

Indeed, the price of fuel may be just one of many factors that drive some owners away from what RVers call "the lifestyle."

1 comment:

steve said...

I can't imagine skipping Rushmore. It is a national treasure. You can get a good view of Washingtons' head from the side of one of the approach roads though - if you really want to save the parking and entrance fees:)