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Camper sales and rentals soar due to COVID-19 fears

Many families avoiding hotels, airlines
Camper at Colerain Family RV
Posted at 5:00 AM, Jun 04, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-04 17:55:22-04

So the kids are begging you for a summer trip, but you worry about staying in a hotel bed that someone else slept in the night before. What if they were sick?

You could fly, but the thought of getting onto a (probably full) flight with everyone wearing face masks leaves you with an uneasy feeling during a pandemic.

So you might want to join the many Americans who will be camping during this summer of COVID-19, driving your own hotel on wheels to the beach or mountains. A camper that no one but you and your family is allowed to enter.

Camper dealers see surge in sales

Dale and Jody Stanley made the decision to buy, and were picking up their new travel trailer at Colerain Family RV in Colerain Township. After trying camping last year, they decided to take the financial plunge.

"It's just a chance to get away and disconnect from some of the stuff that's going on," Jody said.

Colerain RV general manager Nick Raymond said his business has exploded the past few weeks.

"It's been an unbelievable resurgence of business since the state opened up again," Raymond said.

He says families who never considered camping before are opening their checkbooks for a new RV, travel trailer (pull behind model) or even an inexpensive tent camper, to avoid the risk of contracting the coronavirus in shared accommodations.

"You have all your own stuff with you, your own beds and kitchen and bathroom, and you don't have to worry about who else has been in the camper," he said.

We found Raymond showing campers in his showroom to couples stunned by the luxury amenities they include these days, such as big screen TVs with surround sound, and home decor that looks like it was designed by HGTV's Property Brothers.

"Oh wow it's like real brick," one woman said of the bathroom, in a $19,000 camper that also had realistic-looking hardwood floors, what looked like granite counters, and stainless-steel kitchen fixtures.

"They make them look really high end, which is nice," Raymond said.

Camper1.JPG
Luxury furnishings in new campers

What it will cost you?

What does it cost? Raymond says it all depends if you want a modest starter trailer, or a luxury RV.

  • A 2-person mini trailer, or a family-sized tent camper, starts just below $10,000 new (though you can find used models for thousands less).
  • The most popular 24-foot travel trailers that you pull behind an SUV or pickup starts at around $16,000, with longer models with multiple "slides" (push out living room areas) costing $40,000 or more.
  • An RV that combines a camper with a truck, so there is nothing to pull, runs from about $40,000 to $80,000 depending on size and features.
  • Bus-sized motor homes can cost $80,000 to well over $100,000.

Don't forget insurance, which typically costs around $300 a year. And if you can't keep it at home, plan on $700 - $1,000 a year for storage.

But with camper loans longer than car loans, most dealers can get you on the road for a monthly payment of around $200 a month, much less than a car loan.

Campgrounds open to lines of happy campers

Have you ever heard the term "happy campers?" That's what you will find these days at newly-opened campsites that had been closed since winter for the COVID-19 shutdown.

Now, families are lining up the moment campsites like Winton Woods campground in Hamilton County open.

Howard Schaner of Sycamore Township was parking his camper at Winton Woods for a long weekend, which he says will cost him a fraction of the cost of a hotel or rental home.

"You're paying, at the most, $60 a night, and a hotel is $200. You can't beat it," he said.

Lula Williams says after a long three months of being cooped up indoors, the fresh air and camaraderie of a campground is welcome.

"It's wonderful, it's great, being able to see more people, staying safe. I's great," Williams said.

Camper at Colerain Family RV
Camper at Colerain Family RV

Can you afford it?

The great thing about camping is that it's affordable for any budget.

You'll find people at campgrounds sleeping in $150,000 motor homes, as well as $7,000 tent campers, and even $75 tents from Walmart. No one is excluded.

You can also save a fortune buying used, though your safest bet is to purchase from a reputable dealer who will give you a warranty.

A 15-year old Craigslist camper for just a couple of thousand dollars may look like a great deal until the roof leaks, the wheels wobble, and you discover mold growing under the bathroom flooring.

One last option ... renting

Not sure you are ready to make the plunge? Consider renting a camper for your first trip, for around $150 a day, plus campsite fees.

If you don't own a full-size SUV or pickup to haul it, you can rent a smaller RV that you drive.

The downsides: Rental campers tend to be be budget models, missing the luxury features many people want these days. Also, just like with the hotel room, another family may have been living in it last week.

RV Travel.com has a great writeup on the pros and cons of renting vs buying one.

Back at Colerain Family RV, the Stanleys and their two girls were looking forward to a summer traveling in their new, sparkling-clean travel camper. Do their girls like the camper?

"Yes!" they said in unison.

However you decide to travel this summer, stay safe and don't waste your money.

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