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The growing parade of high-end motorhomes on Alberta roads shows no signs of abating as cash-rich vacationers thumb their noses at rising gas prices, according to Canada’s Calgary (Alberta) Herald.
The price at Calgary pumps soared to 88.5 cents per litre on Tuesday, a 69-per-cent increase since mid-December.
(Because 88.5 cents in Canadian currency is worth 64.4 cents in U.S. currency at current exchange rates, and became one litre is equivalent to 26.4% of one U.S. gallon, 88.5 Canadian cents per litre is equivalent to $2.44 in U.S. currency per gallon.)
Yet it’s a trend that’s gone virtually unnoticed by prospective motorhome buyers.
“My friends and neighbours have talked about it — none of the RVers have talked about it much,” said Jeff Redmond, sales manager at Bucars RV Centre.
“When you’re spending in the price range of $80,000 to $600,000 for a motorhome and your annual expense for gas goes up between $150 and $500 a year, that’s a wrinkle. It’s not going to affect really anybody.”
On the heels of a banner 2003, Alberta RV dealers are poised to post the best year ever.
Dealers are reporting a 10 to 15 per cent jump in sales year-to-date compared with last year.
“The Alberta economy is trekking along pretty good compared to other (Canadian) provinces, so there is disposable income out there,” said Redmond, also president of the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA) of Alberta. “The other thing we’re seeing is a substantial demographic shift to younger clientele. The average age used to be 55 to 57. Now our average age is probably 45 to 47 in an average age in the motorhome categories.”
While the aim has always been to “get away,” today’s RV owners also crave style, comfort, speed and fuel economy.
Fellow RV dealer Bruce Gould says higher gas prices fuel the oil-rich Alberta economy and motorhome sales.
“It puts the seismic crews out there, it puts the drilling rigs to work, it gets exploration up, the oilpatch gets busy, pay cheques are rolling in,” said Gould, general sales manager at Woody’s RV World.
“They’re out spending their hard-earned money. They’re buying motorhomes, they’re buying trailers, they’re buying cars, they’re going to restaurants, they’re shopping for groceries. This province just does well.”
For motorhome shoppers, gas prices are rarely a hurdle, Gould said.
“They’re spending $50,000, they’re spending $100,000, they’re spending $300,000. They’re pretty much planning on being able to afford the fuel and they’re pretty much in a position where they can,” he said.
“With today’s SUVs, the trucks, the cars, mileage doesn’t change a whole lot whether you’re towing a fifth-wheel or you’re towing a travel trailer.”
The Calgary RV show — usually a good indicator of the year to come — was held early this year and was “absolutely solid,” said Gould.
Merv See, part-owner of Guarantee RV, said higher gas prices are bad news for some Calgarians, but a lift to others.
“For everyone who’s going to say, ‘Boy, I can’t afford to put fuel in my motorhome if I buy one, so I won’t,’ there’s somebody who says ‘Now I can afford to buy a motorhome because I have all this extra money,’ ” See said. “In this province, it hits all of us in one fashion or another, through taxes, and government services and more money to spread through the economy.”
See agrees that the future seems bright for the RV industry.
“Baby boomers are coming into the market place with pretty good earnings or inheritances, or a combination of both. So the RV business is a growing business and it’s certainly projected to be for the next 10 or 15 years because of the population bulge.”
Nor is pricier gas spooking most RV renters.
Candan RV Rentals in Calgary has lost just one of its current 80 bookings from North Americans due to gas prices. None of its European customers have cancelled.
“It’s still really worth it to travel in an RV,” said rental manager Inka Lanser-Liebe. “It’s a nice thing to do, especially for families. They can go to the location they want for water rafting or horseback riding and they don’t have to unpack and pack again.”