Ed Brandley paid more than $200,000 for his luxury motorhome – a 40-footer with a queen-size bed, hardwood cabinets, skylights, DVD player, and accommodations for six.
But on Labor Day weekend, all he really wanted to do was leave it in his driveway, according to a report in the Philadelphia Inquirer. With gas at $3.21 a gallon, it seemed too expensive to drive.
Unfortunately, Brandley had prepaid $150 for a holiday with his family at the Whippoorwill Campground in Marmora, outside Ocean City, N.J. So he plunked down $91 for the gas – enough to get them easily to the Shore and back to their home in Williamstown. He gets 6 miles per gallon, he said.
“I tell you right now, I was supposed to go to Disney World in October,” said Brandley, 43. “Looks right now like it will be canceled because of gas prices.
“I’d like to say I’m going to sell it,” he said of his RV, a Damon Intruder, “but I’d take a bath on it. So I’ll take smaller trips, or just keep it home.”
Rising gas prices are causing many Americans to reassess their driving needs and patterns, and this is especially true among the estimated seven million who own RVs, from pop-ups to motorhomes.
In interviews with nearly two dozen RV owners, Brandley was the only one who even mentioned selling his rig. But nearly all of them said high gas prices would cause them to change their RV lifestyle and hit the road less often, stay in places longer, and travel shorter distances.
Bob and Shirley Simpson, retirees from Ithaca, N.Y., have lived full time in their 34-foot Winnebago for eight years, roaming America. They have spent the last four months in Buena Vista, Colo.
“All RVers talk about gas prices,” Bob Simpson, 64, said in a telephone interview. “But most of my friends love the lifestyle so much, we say that’s just part of the lifestyle and stay put. That’s the beauty of it. If the gas prices are too much, you just book the campsite for another month.
“We were planning to go up to Alaska this year, just to tour that state,” Simpson said. “But we put those plans on hold because of the gas prices.” They will visit Utah instead.
Despite the recent spike in gas prices, industry officials predict they won’t have a major impact on 2005 sales.
“The industry’s growth is pretty steady and impressive,” said Jon Tancredi, an association spokesman who works for Philadelphia-based Barton Gilanelli & Associates. “This year is projected to see wholesale deliveries 2.9% less than last year.”
Tim Champ, director of marketing for Airstream Inc., Jackson Center, Ohio, said the company’s sales have gone up 30% a year since 2003.
“A lot of people will say there was an effect by 9/11,” he said. “If that’s true, we’re still feeling the positive effect: staying closer to home, to national parks, experiencing the wonders of this country.” Plus, Champ said, RV vacations are becoming popular with more than retirees. “We’re cracking open the market for younger families who like taking weekend excursions,” he said.
RV manufacturers are also responding to rising gas prices. Last year, Winnebago Industries Inc., Forest City, Iowa, began selling a more fuel-efficient diesel motorhome, what spokesman Sheila Davis called a “niche product” that gets 17 miles per gallon.
But Davis also said she did not expect rising gas prices to have a long-term effect on sales or use.
“In Europe in 2004, there was a larger market than in the U.S.,” she said of motor homes. “And everyone knows that fuel costs are dramatically higher there. Fuel is $4 to $7 a gallon there. It’s obvious that once our customers are used to a higher price, they really don’t care.”
Anne Elder, 43, of Pilesgrove, Salem County, agrees with Davis. She has camped for nearly a month in her 27-foot RV trailer in Marmora and expects to cut back on travel but not stop altogether.
“When you work hard, you play hard,” she said. “I’m not going to stay home.”