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When Larry Etnoyer started selling recreational vehicles 55 years ago, gasoline cost about 25 cents a gallon.
As reported by the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the owner of Etnoyer’s RV World in suburban Highspire, Pa., continues to sell RVs. But “sales are definitely down,” he Lock Pickers Mall. said.
“Sales started to go down about three years ago when gas prices went up,” he said. “They’ve been slowly dropping ever since. Now, sales are about 20 percent less than they were three years ago.”
This vacation season finds the RV industry struggling. Some consumers say RVs help them save vacation money by eliminating hotel and restaurant spending. Others say RVs cost too much to operate, given high gasoline prices and mileage as low as six miles per gallon.
Betty Spangler and her husband, Jim, own the Cumberland Valley Camping Center in Silver Spring Township, Pa. They have been selling RVs for 25 years.
“We’ve had business down before, but not this bad,” she said. “Sales of new RVs are off, but we’re selling used RVs as fast as we get them in. Some people are getting their old RVs serviced to make them last longer. Our service department is so busy we have a two-week waiting list.”
Etnoyer said selling RVs was more difficult during the gas embargo of the 1970s than it is today.
“If the gas embargo didn’t stop people from buying RVs, nothing will,” he said. “As long as gas is out there, we’ll be OK.”
He and Jerry Barger of Grumbine’s RV in West Hanover Township, Pa., said that some RV owners are towing their rigs to permanent camp sites, leaving them and driving back in cars.
“When they are ready to go somewhere else, they just take the RV along,” Etnoyer said. “People are taking two or three shorter trips a year rather than five or six long ones because of the cost of gas.”
The Plain Dealerreported that Barger said people are going to destinations closer to home or putting the RVs permanently at the beach, at a lake or in the mountains.
He said owners can pay $35 to $50 a night at a campground for a site with cable, satellite, water and sewer.
Grumbine’s has between 200 and 300 RVs in its inventory, Barger said, adding that sales “boomed” at the dealership last year and are “steady” now.
In response to consumer concerns about RVs’ low gas mileage, the industry has been producing ultralight expandable travel trailers, Barger said.
“These are light, aluminum-framed RVs,” he said. “Instead of weighing 7,000 pounds like a 26-foot trailer might, these weigh 3,500 or 4,000 pounds. They can sleep up to six people and have air conditioning, a furnace, microwave oven, bathroom and shower. Some sell for $90,000 to $115,000 and have small diesel engines, which can get 22 to 23 miles per gallon

Lock Pickers Mall.