With the price of gas down nearly a dollar a gallon from this time last year, consumers who are paying less at the pump are opting for bigger, more gas-thirsty vehicles.

The Omaha World-Herald reported that easier lending terms — including loans written for seven years — also are helping sales of new pickup trucks, SUVs and high-end luxury cars shift into high gear.

In the first six months of 2015, consumers purchased more than 8.5 million new vehicles, compared with 8.1 million in the first half of 2014, a 4.4 percent increase. Total new car sales are expected to reach 17 million by the end of the year, the biggest sales year since 2006, according to Autonews.com.

That compares with the 9 million new vehicles sold in 2009, during the depths of the Great Recession.

Confident consumers are buying or leasing larger pickup trucks, larger SUVs and crossovers, the car-based vehicles that have an SUV-like configuration, said Rick Johnson, print editor of Automotive News. He said luxury cars are hot sellers, too.

Even RV sales are sizzling, and they’re not exactly known to sip fuel, with many motorhomes logging 7 to 12 miles per gallon.

Ed Leach, the owner of Leach Camper Sales in Council Bluffs, said he’s expecting the best sales year since 2006.

Baby Boomers are among the biggest buying segment, but younger families are snapping up lower-priced and used RVs, Leach said.

“Yes, gas prices are lower, but people, particularly those close to retirement, are feeling flush,” Leach said.

Their 401(k)s, many of which plummeted in value in 2007, have recovered. “All of a sudden their 401(k) is worth a lot of money,” he said, making them feel wealthier. That’s what Leach said is driving his sales.

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