A recreational vehicle renaissance is driving RV sales up in Nova Scotia as more residents embrace the RV culture, rev up a Winnebago and hit the open road.

The Chronicle Herald reported that sales of recreational vehicles are up 60% in the province for the first quarter of 2012, compared to the same period last year.

“It speaks to the affordability, the strong Canadian dollar, strong demand for RVs and a recovery of the industry after the recession,” said Michael Hatch, a spokesman for Go RVing Canada.

Shari Aulenback, manager of CanaDream RV Rentals and Sales in Dartmouth, said sales have increased across the board.

“People think that you don’t get an RV until you’re old and gray and retired, but that’s not the case at all,” she said. “We’re seeing a lot of younger couples, families and even friends like two widowers coming in and buying a motorhome.”

While RV sales are up, the total number of new vehicles driven off the lot in Nova Scotia in the first quarter was 64 — compared to 40 during the same period last year.

Although the popularity of RVing is increasing, Aulenback said many of the larger, fully equipped motorhomes come with a hefty price tag. “They’re luxury vehicles so most people have been saving for many years,” she said. “Others have come into an inheritance, or in one case we had a lottery winner.”

But Aulenback said sales of used motorhomes and trailers have soared in recent years and rental demand has picked up. “The rental business is crazy. We have a lot of Europeans that rent RVs for long trips across North America and locals that rent them for a weekend festival or vacation.”

A study by Go RVing Canada found that an RV vacation can be nearly 80% cheaper than a regular family vacation that includes plane tickets, hotels and restaurants.

Robb Cusack, general manager at Fraserway RV in Bedford, said his dealership has seen a steady increase in RV sales for a decade.

“It’s a lifestyle choice for a lot of people and more of our customers are making family a priority,” he said. “It’s an affordable way for a family to go on vacation without sacrificing creature comforts.”

Although gas prices have risen steadily, Cusack said RVs have become more aerodynamic and fuel efficient.

In addition, while a top-class motorhome with flat-screen televisions, stereo systems and lavish appointments can cost as much as $300,000, he said there are many RVs that are a small fraction of that cost. There are also affordable travel trailers and folding tent trailers that are more economical, he added.

Cusack said the financing available for RVs has also improved significantly, with most of the big banks offering financing over as many as 20 years. “It’s like a mortgage,” he said. “You can arrange a term for as long as you want.”

Cusack added that some campgrounds in the province are expanding to accommodate the increasing number of RV visitors.