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RV owners undaunted by soaring gas prices

The Great American Road Trip is still on this summer, but higher gas prices have those motoring in recreational vehicles planning ventures closer to home.

"People do continue to go RV-ing, they just adjust their behaviors some," a spokesperson for the RV Industry Association told CBS MoneyWatch. 

Already popular, traveling RV-style became even more so after COVID-19 hit in 2020, with a record 600,000 of the travel homes sold last year, up 19%, according to the trade group. "We have 40 years of long-term growth, supercharged by the pandemic," she added.

The trend remains strong even as the pandemic ebbs, with RV shipments up 10% in April from the year-ago period, and shipments this year rising 14%. 

Higher inflation and fuel costs may keep some people from purchasing a recreational vehicle in the first place, but they're not dissuading RV owners from planning trips to explore the outdoors, according to RV group, which cites its own surveys as well as those conducted by RV rental companies. 

"It's a barrier to entry, but for those who have RV-ed, they know it's a way to control travel costs," including food and accommodations, the spokesperson said. Those traveling in mobile homes can stay at campsites and cook their own meals — less pricey options than hotels and restaurants, she noted. 

One pricey fill up

With the price of diesel currently averaging $5.82 a gallon, filling the 150-gallon tank of a motorized RV runs about $873 — a princely sum given that RVs typically get no more than about 10 mpg. 

RVs come in three types, including one resembling a large bus, another that's akin to a camper, and non-motorized, towable models. 

Of the more than 600,000 RVs produced in the U.S. last year, about 90% were smaller, lightweight and towable with a medium-size SUV, making the price of gas less of a factor, the RV Industry Association spokesperson said.

Biden administration tackles skyrocketing gas prices 06:03

More than a third of campers are traveling shorter distances or taking fewer trips in light of the economic changes, according to recently released research by Kampgrounds of America, a franchising company that supports more than 520 campgrounds in the U.S. and Canada. Others are opting to stay put longer at destinations, KOA's monthly polling found. 

"The outdoors offer an escape and are often more reasonable than other forms of travel," Whitney Scott, KOA's chief marketing officer, said Thursday in a news release.

Thor Industries — the owner of the Airstream and Jayco RV brands — this month reported sales rose nearly 35% in its latest quarter compared with the year-ago period. The company is looking at back orders worth nearly $14 billion, Thor said.  

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