Filling up to $900: High gas prices hit harder than most RV drivers
Gas prices can skyrocket, but Americans still love their RVs despite the fact that they often get 10 mpg — or less.
The popularity of RVs has exploded during the pandemic as travelers sought safe ways to travel while maintaining social distancing. Americans continue to turn to recreational vehicles even as they become increasingly comfortable flying and staying in hotels.
RV production in North America hit an all-time high in 2021, with more than 600,000 vehicles produced, according to RV Industry Association spokeswoman Monika Geraci. The association expects 2022 to be its second-best production year yet. Motorhomes are especially popular in the south and west.
Thor Industries, which owns popular VR brands Airstream and Jayco, said this month that its sales increased 34.6% in the past three months, compared to the same period last year. Thor Industries says it still has a backlog of VR worth $13.88 billion.
RV experts say consumers are adapting to high gas prices by taking shorter trips.
“If you live in Phoenix and were thinking Yosemite, California, you might do the Grand Canyon instead,” said Randall Smalley, who leads marketing and business development at Cruise America, which rents out RVs.
Dane Lee and his wife Jenna sold their home in Dallas in 2020 and bought an RV as their jobs became remote during the pandemic.
They have crossed the country twice in their RV, but will stay closer to family in Birmingham, Alabama this year. Lee said their 150-gallon diesel tank can cost nearly $900 to fill from empty. But they do not plan to return to a traditional house.
“We had the house in the suburbs with a pool and a fence and all that. It got a bit monotonous going to the office and coming home,” Lee said. “The flexibility of having a new view every week is awesome. We’ve found where we want to be.
Jon Gray, CEO of RV Share, an online marketplace for RV rentals, told CNN Business that the average customer commute in May was just under 350 miles, or 9% less than in May of last year.
RV Share will offer $500,000 in gift cards to customers this year to offset rising gas prices when traveling. Even with high gas prices, last week RV Share had its biggest day for reservations this year, Gray said.
Jennifer Young, co-founder of RV Market Outdoorsy, said “quasi-cations” are a big trend because many people stay within 100 miles of their homes. Young said the average cost per night for an Outdoorsy rental was up $5 from a year ago. Outdoorsy rentals for July 4 were up 4% from a year ago, Young said.
Rising RV fuel costs may be more palatable to travelers due to inflation across the economy, including more expensive plane ticket. RV costs may not seem so daunting compared to the alternatives. RV travelers often bring their own food and cook, which helps manage costs. Many RV travelers drive exclusively on the first and last day of the trip and leave the RV parked the rest of the trip.
“RVs are not a gas-powered vacation,” Young said. “They look like they are because they have a steering wheel and four wheels.”
RV experts say a growing industry trend is to have an RV delivered to an RV site for a vacationing family to use.
Gray, the CEO of RV Share, said 20% of his rentals involve the RV owner driving the vehicle to a campground or destination and leaving it there for renters. This way, travelers can drive their own fuel-efficient vehicle to the RV location. Then they can enjoy the benefits of vacationing in an RV – which can feel like having a hotel room with the door opening to some of the most beautiful places in the country, like the parks. national ones – without ever having to refuel the vehicle to drive it over long distances. RV Share started offering the service at the start of the pandemic.