Organizers for the 20th Annual Northwest Michigan Camper and RV Show said the event offered evidence that the RV industry is on the rebound in the state. The show, hosted by the Michigan Association of Recreational Vehicles and Campgrounds (MARVAC), ran March 30-April 1 at the Grand Traverse County Civic Center in Traverse City.

As reported by the Leader and Kalkaskian, MARVAC Director Bill Sheffer said that while the event saw average attendance in comparison to previous years, the popularity of the RV and camping industry is on the rise throughout Michigan and across the country.

Over 50 units and 15 brands of recreational vehicles from area dealerships were displayed at the event, ranging in price from $4,000 to over $75,000, giving attendees a good look at the wide range of products available.

“In 2011, RV sales were up 11.5% from the year before in Michigan,” Sheffer said.

Sales are still considerably lower than they were before the nationwide recession, however. According to the MARVAC website, 17,225 motorhomes and towable units were sold in 2003, dropping to 13,973 in 2005 and as low as 8,718 in 2009. The industry began to see a rebound in 2010, with sales climbing back up to 10,877. In 2011, a total of 10,953 units were sold.

“The typical thing in the recreational vehicle industry in regards to the economy is we’re usually one of the first to go into a recession and we’re the first to come out of a recession,” Sheffer said. “People feel comfortable that they can start again having more leisure time and spending more time with the family, so that’s when they tend to start buying RVs again.”

Michigan was ranked fourth in the country in new RV sales, behind California, Texas and Florida, Sheffer said. He said that Michigan and Florida vie for the ranks of third and fourth each year. In Michigan, there are an estimated 325,000 RV owners, Sheffer said.

Those who choose to go camping, even those who choose to invest in new RVs, see a cost savings over time in comparison to other vacation and travel options, Sheffer said. He said that the average price for a new RV range from around $20,000 to $25,000 and that they can typically be financed at an affordable rate.

“When you look at the savings … for when you travel, campground rental is somewhere between $25 and $30 an evening,” Sheffer said. “You prepare all your meals in your RV as opposed to going out to dinner and eating. Entertainment value is priceless, because you’re staying in a campground. You have all the amenities of the campground … and all the things that go along with the camping lifestyle. It makes for a great vacation.”

MARVAC’s next RV show is scheduled for Oct. 3-7 in Novi. Sheffer said that RV shows are a good place to begin shopping around for RVs, though he said it is more favorable to the purchaser to buy directly from a licensed RV dealership rather than at a show.