Just because credit is tight and home equity is trending southward doesn’t mean the dream of vacationing in a recreational vehicle has to be parked, according to a report in the Press-Enterprise, Riverside, Calif.
While it may look at a glance like people are turning away from RV usage, industry representatives say people are still high on the idea.
There are a number of options to forking over big money for a new motorhome, including purchase of a used motorhome, said Phil Ingrassia, vice president of communications for the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA).
A late-model used RV will cost significantly less than a comparable new model, he said. An advantage to buying one from an RV dealer, he added, is the dealer provides some assurance that the vehicle has been checked out, and many late-model purchases qualify for an extended service agreement, similar to a warranty.
Another alternative to buying a new RV is fixing up one’s old RV, said Valerie Parmenter, owner of V.I.P. Enterprises in San Bernardino, Calif. V.I.P. performs full-body repair and interior and exterior renovations, which Parmenter says turns an old unit into something as good as new. The work can include replacement of appliances and furniture, she said.
Parmenter’s noticed more customers coming in and getting their old RVs fixed up, many of whom say they were considering buying a new model. Some, particularly first-time buyers, are purchasing older RVs, then immediately bringing them to V.I.P. Enterprises, she said.
She said buying a used RV, then adding renovation costs – usually less than $10,000 – still gets drivers on the road having spent less than if they had made a new RV purchase.
“A lot of people do upgrades in stages,” Parmenter said, allowing them to stretch out the financial impact — and get in a trip here and there while the work is being done.
La Verne resident Joe Brunansky, who has owned several RVs, said he opted to have his 1998 model refurbished rather than replace it. The job is mostly done, and he’ll get the carpeting replaced in January.
“It looks like a completely different RV,” Brunansky said. “It’s going to be just like going out in a brand-new rig.”
About the only thing V.I.P. Enterprises doesn’t do is engine rebuilding.
John Goodman, president of the Automotive Engine Rebuilders Association, said engines typically outlast much of the rest of the unit, meaning that by the time an RV’s engine hits the point at which it should be replaced, “buying new now becomes a more viable option.”
Ingrassia said many people are starting to experience RVs without the commitment through renting. He said it’s now possible to fly to a destination and arrange to pick up a rental there.
Renting is particularly vibrant in Southern California, Ingrassia said, and based on advanced bookings, the industry expects rentals to be 18% to 20% higher this year than in 2007. He said renters are more likely to be new to the lifestyle, and some get hooked.
“A lot of people will rent and then buy eventually,” he said. “That’s good news for manufacturers because it shows that interest in RV travel is still very strong.”