$4 a gallon gas keeps many RVs off the roadby Tim Post, Minnesota Public Radio
If you think filling your car's gas tank at $4 dollars a gallon is painful, imagine what it's like for the owner of a motorhome. These thirsty behemoths get 7 to 10 miles per gallon on the highway, and can swallow $400 dollars of gas at every fuel stop.
St. Cloud, Minn. — The owner of Ted's RV Land, near the central Minnesota town of Paynesville, seems optimistic even during this time of high gas prices.
74-year old Ted Hoekstra sees plenty of people interested in buying something for the campground this summer. But he admitted customers' preferences are changing because of expensive fuel.
"The smaller units are going very well," Hoekstra said. "The only thing that's a little slower right now are the real large luxury items."
Hoekstra climbed aboard the most luxurious ride on the lot, A 40-foot diesel powered motorhome decked out with leather recliners, cherry wood trim, a huge flat screen TV and a nearly full-sized kitchen.
"This one lists for $264,000," Hoekstra said. We're shooting out today only for $189,900. That is a fantastic price!"
Hoekstra is confident he'll sell this immaculate machine soon, most likely to a retired couple.
Nationally though RV dealers are seeing less consumer interest for big motorhomes.
The drop off follows a boom in the RV industry. Dealers sold more RVs in 2006 than any year in the previous 30.
But in 2007 sales were down 9 1/2 percent. This year they're expected to be down another 14 percent. The reason: high gas prices along with the credit crunch and a poor economy.
Kevin Broom with the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association says while high gas prices may mean fewer motorhomes are being sold, campers, like motorists in general, seem to be adapting.
"We asked RVers what they're going to do and they say they're still planning to go out and use their RVs and they're still planning to go on vacation. They're just going to drive fewer miles, stay closer to home, that sort of thing," Broom said.
At the appropriately named St. Cloud Campground, in the woods two miles west of downtown St. Cloud, owner Chris Thell has seen the effects of high gas prices. Particularly in the number of RVs coming through his front gate.
"I still am full most weekends," Thell said. "But there is a decrease. Mostly it's the big RVs that are traveling around the country that are slowing down a bit."
Thell hopes to see an advantage in high gas prices for his campground. He's hoping to catch more campers from St. Cloud and the Twin Cities who want to get away from it all, but stay closer to home. Thell also thinks he will see people stay longer at his campground, especially owners of big RVs
Jenny and Garry Summers live in their RV full time. The retired couple sold their California home a few years ago. They don't like to stay in one place too long. But after they spent $1,300 dollars on gas during their trip from California to St. Cloud, they're reconsidering how much time they'll spend on the road.
"We're finding now because of the big gas prices that we're staying longer," Garry Summers said. "And we're planning ahead to stay longer at different places."
That's what Kim Albert is doing too. Albert's RV is parked nearby in a quiet, tree lined camping spot. She and her husband are full-time RVers, splitting their time between Minnesota and Texas. They used to take side trips while traveling north to south, but not any more.
"At this time we're not planning that for this year," Albert said. "The fuel prices are so high right now that it's not affordable to pop here and there on short trips."
There is another way the couple is saving gas, they just bought a scooter. The Alberts plan to keep their RV parked and drive the scooter when they can. Their 40-foot RV gets 8 miles to the gallon. The scooter gets 85.
- Morning Edition, 06/20/2008, 7:45 a.m.