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Younger buyers are helping fuel the RV market in greater numbers, according to the San Antonio, Texas Express-News.
In a recent article, the newspaper interviewed Evaristo Robles Jr., a 34-year-old with two preteen daughters, who was described by the newspaper as being “among a growing base of increasingly younger consumers buying and renting small to midsize RVs for short vacations and for attending events such as soccer matches and golf tournaments, ensuring a stream of first-time buyers into the market.
Robles of Sisterdale, Texas, and a salesman at Ancira Kia, bought a 28-foot travel trailer last year from Ernesto Ancira Jr.’s RV store in Boerne, Texas after a family camping trip on the Guadalupe River. An unexpected cold front sent the family fleeing their tent for the warmth of their car.
“I promised my kids we’d never go through that again,” Robles said. “Now, we use our RV every weekend. We take it camping in Comal County, we’ve taken it to Padre Island, on hunting trips.”
Towing an RV cuts the gas mileage on Robles’ Toyota Tundra to 10 miles per gallon from 22, but Robles said, “We bought it to travel and we’re going to go.”
RV dealers say Robles’ reaction is typical. Even though gas prices hit record highs in recent weeks, it hasn’t dulled consumers’ appetite for RVs, including motorized homes that get as little as eight miles to the gallon, dealers say.
Steve Franklin, another RV dealer in Boerne, rents RVs for $60 to $400 a day. He also sells them, mostly to customers who then let Franklin rent them out to others for a fee.
Franklin was worried when May gas prices spiked above $2 a gallon. So, Franklin, who also owns RV stores in Oklahoma City and Denver, sent 8,000 previous renters a letter telling them a 25-cent-per-gallon gas increase would only add an average $25 to the cost of a 1,000-mile trip.
But the mailout may not have been necessary.
“I start every Monday morning asking, ‘What do we hear about gas prices (from customers),’ but all the managers say, ‘We hear a little about it but not much.’ Gas prices, they just haven’t affected anything,” he said.
But RV dealers aren’t complacent about this year’s strong market, the newspaper reported.
In 2001, when the market was more dependent on buyers over the age of 60, the bottom dropped out – a combination of post-9-11 consumer malaise and the recession.
Albert De la Garza, vice president of Ancira’s RV in Boerne and head of Ancira stores in four other Texas locations, said of 2001, “Most buyers were senior citizens and they’re conservative. If any kind of hiccup happens in the economy, they will wait to buy. And with all the corporate scandals, a lot of people had their 401(k)s take a hit.”
But this year, De la Garza, like Franklin, isn’t worried about high gas prices hurting sales. Instead, he has his eye on interest rates, whose lengthy run of record lows has fueled industry growth.
“We’ve been spoiled with the low interest rates going on for so long,” he said. “But I really don’t see a change (in sales) the rest of the year even if the interest rates are going to go up.”