Adisa Webb of Chesteron browses through a selection of motorhomes at Camp-Land RV in Burns Harbor, Ind. Tuesday December 4, 2012. | Stephanie Dowell~Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 9, 2012 7:26PM
The RV industry’s recovery from the recession has picked up speed, with manufacturers churning out higher numbers of recreational vehicles and area dealers moving more off their lots.
In Indiana, America’s RV capital, sales at Camp-Land in Burns Harbor are up 16 percent through October compared to last year, according to Pam Argostino, vice president and part owner.
“We had a phenomenal first quarter. I think the good weather helped,” said Argostino, who figures people just don’t want to wait any longer to buy a motor home, towable or camper.
At Pete’s RV Center in Schererville, salesman Scott Ourednik said business has been picking up every year following the big downturn in 2007 and 2008. He said buyers range from young families wanting the camping experience to senior citizens.
Ourednik said the newer campers and motor homes get better gas mileage than the older ones, but added mileage isn’t too big of a factor for many of the customers at the 18-acre lot as buyers tend to camp nearby.
Overall shipments from manufacturers to dealers — a key measure of consumer demand — are expected to rise 10 percent in 2012 and could gain another 4.5 percent next year, the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association reported.
Through September, shipments were up nearly 11 percent from the same period last year, the group said. Shipments to dealers slumped to 165,700 units in 2009, as weak demand and evaporated credit left dealer lots clogged with vehicles and forced the industry to lay off tens of thousands of workers. This year’s shipments are expected to be better — hitting 277,300 units — although that is still below the 353,400 in 2007.
Both Ourednik and Argostino said towable RVs attached to pickups or hitched to other vehicles, especially the fifth wheelers, are driving the jump in sales.
“The towable market is definitely growing. We sell more travel trailers than the big ones. Fifth wheelers are very popular,” Ourednik said.
Pete’s RV Center has more than 700 RVs available at its two locations, in Schererville and one in Burlington, Vt., he said.
Argostino said fifth wheeler sales have doubled at Camp-Land, while motor home sales have stayed about the same.
Towables, which cost between $8,000 and $100,000, with an average price of $32,000, now account for about 90 percent of the new RV market, according to RVIA. Before the recession hit, towables represented eight out of every 10 new RVs shipped.
By contrast, stand-alone motor homes range in price from $55,000 to $1.5 million for top-of-the-line, bus-like vehicles. The average price is $100,000 for the amenity-filled moving homes.