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Florida residents with hurricane-damaged homes have turned to RVs and camping trailers for short-term housing as dealers on Tuesday (Aug. 24) reported brisk rentals and sales, according to a report in the Bradenton Herald.
Emergency personnel have been renting portable abodes in Manatee County for themselves and for the homeless in other counties.
Craig Earhart, a salesman at Conley RV Center in Bradenton, said his company delivered 31 trailers to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
“We delivered them on a lot in Bartow for hurricane victims,” Earhart said. “I was told they were being purchased for victims that were uninsured.”
Mark Heyl, sales manager at Dream RV in Bradenton, said RVs and trailers are a good alternative for storm victims.
“It’s a great way for people to stay on their own property and plug into electric until they get their house rebuilt or repaired,” Heyl said.
Manatee Trailer Sales Inc. in Bradenton has been wiped out of small camping trailers, said owner Darrell Jackson.
“My small pop-up trailer inventory is all gone,” Jackson said. “People want used camping trailers because the prices are better.”
Jackson has been looking for more pop-ups and smaller trailers, but said there are none to be found.
As insurance companies begin to send checks to people with destroyed homes, RV dealers are scrambling to refill stocks.
Dream RV, which sells and rents RVs and camping trailers, is now offering a buy-back program to its customers.
“We realize that hurricane victims are not buying or renting RVs for recreational use,” said Dream RV owner Dan Wylie. “So the buy-back program allows us to buy it back when families are done with them for a fair price based on wear and tear.”
Because of the situation, Dream RV also is renting trailers for the first time. “We used to just sell trailers, but are renting them now because demand is now higher for them,” Wylie said.
Small 26- or 27-foot pop-up trailers, which can fit a small family, are the most popular for hurricane victims. Prices for the units are around $15,000, Wylie said.
Heyl said insurance companies are paying for customers to rent RVs and trailers. He estimates that “50 to 100 people have come here from Port Charlotte and out east to look at our prices.”
The company has sold or rented about 20 RVs or trailers to hurricane victims this month, including 10 trailers that Florida Power & Light purchased for its workers.
Jason Touchton, vice president of Great Escape RV Center in Tampa, said the company had about 10 calls from people interested in renting or buying camping trailers or RVs.
“We have also rented a few trailers to insurance companies that need offices in hard-hit areas,” Touchton said.
Monthly rental rates for trailers at Great Escape start at $1,200, Touchton said. The company also offers multi-monthly rates, which are $3,600 for three months.
“I’d love to have about 20 more in stock, but I can’t find them,” said Manatee Trailer’s Jackson said.