The Economy, The Cost of Oil and the RV Industry

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March 30, 2008

I don’t know what your thoughts are regarding the economy, but it has been on my mind lately. I suppose that there are not many people that don’t have some worries. I am okay with my situation and even though there are no guarantees, I do have, what I feel is a stable and good paying job.

When I really sit and think about it, it is the cost of fuel that really bugs me. With gasoline at $3.30 and diesel at $4.30 in my area, how can we not wonder how high it will go and then of course I have to wonder how will this affect my camping plans.

With this subject, I am going to try to avoid talking politics. I really want to talk about how the economy and the cost of fuel affect the RV industry. I am no expert about such things, but I think we can all make some presumptions about where things will be.

Many changes have already taken place. When you consider that back in the 70’s, for example, the material used to build an RV of any flavor (RV, Travel Trailer, etc.) was usually very heavy consisting of an all steel frame, wooden studs, heavy steel or aluminum siding. Compare that to what we are seeing in the RV industry today. Ultra lightweight material such as fiberglass, aluminum and composite materials are all common in today’s RV’s.

When I look at my Rockwood 8314SS, I am amazed at how lightweight the unit is. It is a 33’ travel trailer weighing 7500 pounds, fully loaded! If you would have owned a comparable trailer in the 70’s, that unit would easily weigh in at 11,000 pounds or more!

I actually love to look at the vintage trailers! They are quite an interesting look into the past of the RV industry. The weights still amaze me and I just can’t imagine pulling some of those rigs around the country. One of my favorite web sites for viewing vintage trailers is called Vintage Campers and they always have a great selection.

About the cost of oil; there is not a lot we can do about that. My concern is if it keeps going up, how many of us will be able to afford RVing. I have a contingency plan of seeking out a seasonal site if it gets really bad, but I don’t want to do that because I want the option to explore this great country of ours.

I suspect that we will see a trend of smaller, lightweight trailers and RV’s because people will not be able to justify the fuel cost of operating anything large. I have had the thought of building a teardrop trailer or small travel trailer that my Mercury Mariner Hybrid can pull. It is my opinion that we will see more of these types of trailers on the road as fuel costs go up. I also feel that many of the molded fiberglass trailer companies, such as Scamp, will mop up with sales! There is a really cool website for fiberglass RV followers called Fiberglass RV. There are some very interesting layouts there.

I had originally planned on taking many long weekend trips this year, but I suspect that I will be forced to stay put due to the price of fuel. We will be doing some camping and taking several trips, but we will probably also do some camping in the back yard this year. I am upset about that and I feel the oil companies really own us all!

So…what have you had to do to adjust to this economy and the cost of fuel? Are you planning on making changes?

See you next Sunday and Happy Camping!

Leave a Reply


  1. That’s more than sesnblie! That’s a great post!

  2. Mark Bothem

    I think we all need to slow down and enjoy life. Things change all the time.
    We are way too spoiled and now things are getting out of hand for us so we cry like babies. When you bought your big 40ft diesel pusher did you stop and think about fuel costs then? hell no. So stop complaining now.
    Either sell your rig or shut up. I’m getting real tired of all the complainers talking about the gas prices, then you see the same morons doing WAY over the speed limit tailgaiting you. SLOW DOWN, ENJOY WHAT YOU HAVE AND THANK GOD YOU HAVE IT. AMEN.

  3. Make your own biodiesel. My fuel costs $0.70/gal. I get the best overall performance with a 50/50 blend with petro-diesel. Even after including the $0.32/gal. state tax I am required to send in I am living the lifestyle for under $2.50/gal.

    If you can balance the chemicals in a backyard pool you can make biodiesel.


    This is reason sold my newer class A and purchased 1994 Toyota motorhome, twice the gas mileage so we can still
    make those trips, just a little more crowded for the 2 of
    us. Am now in process of selling my 56′ houseboat due
    to gas prices of over $4. per gallon on the lake and increased
    slip fees. If anyone would like a reduced rate on houseboat
    let me know, even came down 15m for the summer rush
    sale in Az.

  5. Eldon Helmer

    I don’t think gas prices will ever come down significantly. But there is something you and I can do to reduce our fuel costs immediately. To save fuel I just tried an initial experiment with my daily driver, a Ford F150 pickup with small V8 engine. Normally my gas mileage around Tucson was 16+ mpg. I’m not really a fast driver so I had thought that was about the best I would get.

    But after reading an article about hyper-mileage freaks in the last Reader’s Digest, I tried just a few of their techniques: slow acceleration, keep it at the speed limit or slightly under, and anticipate stops up ahead (red lights) by slowing down ahead of time. Amazing, but my first tankful on this new regimen I got 18.4 mph rather than 16+ mpg. I now drive five mph or so under the speed limit and believe me, if you plan ahead there really isn’t any hurry. IMHO, driving 75 mph on a freeway (legal here in Arizona) is just foolhardy.

    Now I look forward to seeing see how much gas mileage I can get with our 2007 Bounder (Ford V10 engine) when we head out on our 5,000 miles of summer travels in a couple of weeks! Sure, it drinks gas, but I will make it drink less gas. Also we’ll be using Passport America half price campgrounds (new to us) and more WalMart quick overnights to save money.

  6. The best way to lower the cost of fuel is to stop voting Democrats into Congress. The Democratic Party has single-handedly halted any chance for development of the oil resources in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. ANWR, as it’s called, holds enough oil to replace everything we can expect to import from Saudi Arabia for the next 20 years–that’s using the lowest estimates of the oil available. Use the mid-range or higher estimates, and the number of years we can replace Saudi oil increases exponentially.

    The Middle East, and the thug Hugo Chavez to our south can’t stop laughing at us sitting on billions of barrels of oil right next to a hot-oil pipeline while we pay them $100-plus for a barrel of oil. Is there no limit to our own stupidity?

    Just the psychological impact alone of announcing that we were opening ANWR to exploration and development would probably drop the cost of oil several dollars a barrel almost instantly. The democrats who control Congress, however, will not even consider allowing less acreage than is contained in Dulles International Airport be used for drilling and producing oil. That acreage, incidentally, sits in the middle of a flat, featureless plain that is essentially a wasteland, no matter what lies you’ve been fed by Greenpeace, PETA and other dingbats in the environmental movement.

  7. We simply cancelled our longer trips and decided to stay in state at the many beautiful parks and CG’s here. We are not retired or full time, so this has not crimped our plans as much as it will when we do go full time. We also added a bank of solar panels to the Class A and do not always have to have an electric hookup, which has reduced camping costs and made more sites available. The panels are not cheap, but will pay for themselves in the years ahead.

  8. whfmznb

    I’m concerned about the $4 gas situation and, as a fulltimer, have taken steps to have more days in RV parks and fewer days on the road.

    My biggest concern, however, is where are the campground fees going to end up. $35, $45, even $50 per night are becoming more and more the norm, where that used to be a really nice place, that could be avoided if one chose too.

    That, more than the fuel cost is going to keep me parked this summer.

  9. LynneB

    Gas prices will continue to go higher– worldwide demand has now outpaced supply due to China, India, and others wanting to be “American-style” consumers. Not really fair for us to tell them they can’t have it, so what are we to do?

    I hope this recession is an opportunity for America to finally rid itself of it’s head-in-the-sand “super-sized” mentality. A 40 foot RV is a great, environmentally-efficient alternative to a 3000 sq. ft. McMansion– but it is not a requirement to enjoy the RV lifestyle! Non-fulltimers have lots of smaller, more efficient RV options to choose from.

    A few years ago, I downsized my RV to a under-2000 lb T@B trailer. It’s upscale, can fit in well at most RV parks, and I’ve been amazed at how many small, lightweight items I can find to make camping in a T@B just as comfortable as a larger RV. Additionally, the T@B gets lots of smiles and conversations from people I encounter in my travels. Many other T@B owners also downsized from their larger RVs and are loving it.

    My dream is to one day tow it with a plug-in hybrid electric tow vehicle, but until then, it tows fine with a small station wagon (Subaru Outback).

    I think the author is right– re-discovering small teardrops, fiberglass trailers, and other small car-towed campers will be the wave of the future for the non-fulltimer RV’ing crowd. It’s nothing to be afraid of….it’s really can be just as comfortable, and a whole lot more fun!

  10. Dale Wellnitz

    The best thing we can all do is slow down the speed we all drive. ( If you can safely) A lot of the trucks are doing this as the faster you drive the more fuel it takes. Also we have to start using “our” natural resources such as coal to oil,an dopen up the off limit oil areas that have been locked up for whatever.

  11. TXBrad

    The price of Crude oil is impacting RV’ers in addition to what goes in the fuel tank. Cost to change the engine oil !! Tire costs. All costs of products, services, food, etc. are going up as the cost of fuel raises.
    Plus all these new blends of fuel & added ethanol (10%) are also causing problems, especially older engines.
    Until we can change the elected official’s actions or lack there of ( in 2005 they gave $9.5 billion of your taxes to corn farmers) & ( also are giving them $1.05 to $1.38 of your taxes for subsidies per gallon ethanol) !
    like to see a National fuel selling Company give RV’ers, RV sellersmfg. & all related RV companies/suppliers a good discount. Then all Rv’ers would buy from 1 company & this should impact all the others. Similar to Tom Liberty comments. May get the big Truckers to join us.
    When RV’ers fuel up, we usually buy Propane, coffee, ice, snacks, etc.
    Flying J has a small discount; but we need a larger one so everyone will use one Company & put the Big Hurt” on other Oil companies …
    Later TXBrad

  12. Owen Keenan

    Yes, fuel prices are on the rise. My wife and decided a couple of years back to purchase the GMC 2500HD Duramax and a 31 foot Topaz 5th wheel because we’ve enjoyed camping all our lives and don’t intend to stop now. We’ve committed a lot of dollars to this recreational pursuit. Diesel fuel in Alberta was about $0.95 / litre two years ago and it’s now $1.18 / litre. Yes, that hurts, but when considering that the 12 to 13 mpg while towing remains the same and our knowledge that camping across our continent is a far more relaxing and less structured method than finding a motel and a generally healthy meal at a restaurent, we’re ‘in’ for the long haul. A 20% increase in fuel costs is a tough break, but reducing the cruising speed to 95 km/h from 110 km/h has given back nearly all of the increase. Some of our friends no longer ‘pull’ from Alberta to Arizona and back each year, but instead have purchased property in the south and dirve and/or fly back and forth. This can reduce ‘pulling’ costs, but doesn’t do much about overall costs when you realize how air fares have jumped or been subject to fuel surtaxes in recent years.

    So, given our decision to commit lots of cash to the RV / diesel truck model, we’d better not let fuel prices be the single factor to kill our favourite pass time. Take a look at the price of time shares or resort vacations and you’ll see that your RV lifestyle remains a very economical activity. Try heading to Hawaii or even Cuba for a 15 week getaway in the winter and see what that costs!

    See you on the road!

  13. barry bogart

    With diesel prices running around $4.15 here in DE, I am a little bit worried what prices will be by summer. We have been planning a trip to AZ in late April but don’t want to put off our trip due to the prices. Diesel fuel is up $1.50 + from what we paid last year on a trip to New Orleans and San Antonio Texas. Diesel has always been .30 cents or more lower than regular gas prices, and I guess that kinda spoiled us. So to pay a dollar or more for diesel than for gas really hits us in the pocket. When I bought my first diesel back in 2000 diesel was running 35 to 50 cents less than regular gas, but not anymore. It would be hard for me to recomment anyone buy a diesel with the price structure in effect. Don’t get me wrong the diesel runs great, pulls great, and normally gets better economy than the gas engine. It just costs more now for fuel, besides all of the other maintenance expenses involved. With all that said, we will still probably take our trip to AZ but after that I think we will be looking for a closer to home spot to travel to and possibly stay there longer.

  14. I retired in ’05 and my wife and I bought a Chalet LTW to pull behind my 2001 Toyota Tacoma 4cyl 2WD. We left Louisville in May of ’06 in it and headed to California, etc for a month long camping trip. Gas was $2ish a gal, ($3/gal in Oregon) and we had a great time. Came home and promptly bought an Chalet Arrowhead. (needed a little more space, HAHA!!)

    Last April we headed out again on another 30 day trip to Northern Arizona and Southern Utah. Gas last year was $2.60ish/gal. We paid as mych as $3.30 in Colorado on the way home.

    We are getting ready to start out on another trip this spring to the desert SW and up the coast to Washington state. Gas here in Louisville is $3.29/gal.

    I have debated on this trip due to the cost of the price of gas. My Toyota, pulling the Chalet, gets 19-21 MPG. I figure it will cost us another $400 for this years trip. I would hate to not leave when it only costs $400 more. With staying in campgrounds and eating there our daily expenses are less that $75/day. Including fuel. I refuse to short my life or lifestyle. If I have to, I’ll get a little part time job when I get home.

  15. Rob Robinson

    Like many I will pay what it takes to get me where I want to go. I’m not going to get wrapped around the axel on fuel prices unless I see the thousands of 18 wheelers that pass me every week parked. When that happens we’ll have more to worry about than our next weekend outing.

  16. Eric Young

    Despite the ever-increasing cost of fuel, RV-ing is probably one of the most economical ways to travel that exists. My wife and I just “upgraded” to a new Sprinter 5th wheel and GMC Sierra truck from a 2001 32 foot Dutchmen travel trailer and GMC Yukon SUV. We crossed the country with the travel trailer back in 2002 and had a great time. If we had taken the same trip by car, staying in hotels and eating in restaurants, the cost would have been a lot more than it was. Even now with the cost of fuel increasing, we are still better off in campgrounds with our RV than staying in hotels and eating in restaurants.

    Last year we flew to Seattle, rented a car and spent two weeks exploring the great state of Washington. We took a four-day train trip home, which was a great way to travel, especially with us being experienced RV-ers. The cost for that two-week vacation was almost four thousand dollars, and we are not in the least bit what one would call “extravagant”; we watch our spending. We are considering another cross-country trip within the next couple of years and still feel that we will be better off traveling with our 5th wheel and paying the cost of fuel to haul it, although undoubtedly we’ll have to save a bit more to accomplish that feat.

    In spite of the increase in fuel costs, we will not let that spoil a life-style that we thoroughly enjoy. We may have to do less trips than we would like, but we will still continue to do as much as we can. We love to see this fantastic and beautiful country up-close and personal.

  17. Robert Olson

    Oil (and therefore gasoline) are outrageously expensive because worldwide demand has exceeded worldwide supply for more than a year. The primary culprits are India and China, whose economies are huge and growing faster than any other large country. American-based oil companies control exactly 15% of the world market and therefore have little or no power to charge prices higher or lower than the overall market. (Oh, they could charge less, but their inventories would be drained in a matter of days and they would not be able to afford to buy oil on the world market.) Ladies and gentlemen, the cause of high energy prices is environmental extremism and the naive people of this country who unwittingly support it. Why is it so difficult to understand that using the power of government to prevent the extraction of oil from huge reserves (think Alaska) and prevent the construction of refineries (the last one built in the U. S. was constructed in 1976) has denied us the growth in supply that would dramatically reduce the cost of energy in this country? Think about this the next time you see someone applaud the denial of an extraction or construction permit.

  18. Jim

    Our plans changed from traveling this summer to working this summer due to high fuel prices. We have a 35′ Tradewinds MH and will travel north to work in Glacier Nat’l Park for 3.5 months then back to Southern Arizona for the winter. It’s just sad the a large portion of our income will be for fuel expenses. Who’d a ever thought??

    Happy Trails, Jim

  19. Tom Liberty

    How to Lower Gas Prices – This just might work!


    This was sent by a retired Coca Cola executive. It came from one of his engineer buddies who retired from Halliburton. If you are tired of the gas prices going up AND they will continue to rise this summer, take time to read this, please.

    Phillip Hollsworth offered this great idea. This makes MUCH MORE SENSE than the “don’t buy gas on a certain day” campaign that was going around last April or May!

    It’s worth your consideration. Join the resistance!

    I hear we are going to hit close to $ 4.00 a gallon by next summer and it might go higher!! Want gasoline prices to come down? Hell, YES………

    We need to take some intelligent, united action. The oil companies just laughed at that because they knew we wouldn’t continue to “hurt” ourselves by refusing to buy gas.

    It was more of an inconvenience to us than it was a problem for them. BUT, whoever thought of this idea, has come up with a plan that can Really Work. Please read on and join with us!

    By now you’re probably thinking gasoline priced at about $2.00 or Less is super cheap. Me too! It is currently $2.98 for regular unleaded in my town.

    Now that the oil companies and the OPEC nations have conditioned us to think that the cost of a gallon of gas is CHEAP at $1.50 – $1.75, we need to take aggressive action to teach them that BUYERS control the marketplace…not sellers.

    With the price of gasoline going up more each day, we consumers need to take action.

    The only way we are going to see the price of gas come down is if we hit someone in the pocketbook by not purchasing their gas! And, we can do that WITHOUT hurting ourselves.

    How? Since we all rely on our cars, we can’t just stop buying gas.

    But we CAN have an impact on gas prices if we all act together to force a price war.

    Here’s the idea: For the rest of this year, DON’T purchase ANY gasoline from the two biggest companies (which now are one), EXXON and MOBIL.

    If they are not selling any gas, they will be inclined to reduce their prices. If they reduce their prices, the other companies will have to follow suit.

    But to have an impact, we need to reach literally millions of Exxon and Mobil gas buyers. It’s really simple to do! Now, don’t wimp out on me at this point…keep reading and I’ll explain how simple it is to reach millions of people!!

    I am sending this note to 30 people. If each of us send it to at least ten more (30 x 10 = 300) .. and those 300 send it to at least ten more (300 x 10 = 3,000)…and so on, by the time the message reaches the sixth group of people, we will have reached over THREE MILLION consumers.
    If those three million get excited and pass this on to ten friends each, then 30 million people will have been contacted!

    If it goes one level further, you guessed it …..

    Again, all you have to do is send this to 10 people. That’s all!

    (If you don’t understand how we can reach 300 million and all you have to do is send this to 10 people…. Well, let’s face it, you just aren’t a mathematician. But I am… trust me on this one.

    How long would all that take? If each of us sends this e-mail out to ten more people within one day of receipt, all 300 MILLION people could conceivably be contacted within the next 8 days!!!

    I’ll bet you didn’t think you and I had that much potential, did you !
    Acting together we can make a difference.

    If this makes sense to you, please pass this message on. I suggest that we not buy from EXXON or MOBIL UNTIL THEY LOWER THEIR PRICES TO THE $2.00 or Less RANGE AND KEEP THEM DOWN. THIS MAY WORK.

  20. Bob Groves


    It sounds like you have the right idea, as far as I’m concerned. We try to save some money each month to use for our travels. This June we plan to leave WA and head to NH stopping in WI to attend a wedding. We pull a 30 foot 5th wheel with our 03 Chevy duramax that gets about 12 mpg. We don’t want to give the lifestyle.

    Do you still have that MS Excel spreadsheet you mentioned? Maybe it can help us better plan our finances.

    Thanks and enjoy your travels.

  21. Leo Everitt

    I think the only rationale approach, whether an RV’er or not, is to plan on higher fuel costs in the future; any pull back in price is like one experiences in the stock market i.e. its temporary, as stock prices have continued to rise for decades. No action by congress, short of complete about face on facing down entrenched so-called environmentalists to increase supply of domestic produced crude, increase nuclear power (i.e develop a comprehensive energy plan), will change the fuel cost scenario and even then if the about face occurred it would be relatively short lived. I run a budget on an MS Excel spreadsheet that I developed years ago that gives me a monthly running cash flow picture. I recast the budgeted expenses to reflect future costs related to rising energy costs across all categories i.e. food, etc. and as you might expect the cash flow went negative. We then looked at each expense and tried to determine if it was necessary or could be reduced by some means. Two years ago I began this process and first step was to trade for a new car that doubled the fuel economy. We shifted from weeks stays at RV parks during summer to month to gain significant discounts. We picked these sites in places where we can use them as base station and use our car for day trips at 3+ times the fuel economy to see what we wanted. We shuffled our residence to significantly lower taxes across the board. We did many small things to save money. For example, we researched the topic of water irrigation to see how little really was needed to keep a lawn in excellent condition. We significantly lowered our water bill. We sold unused items in storage to increase cash savings accounts and earn more interest.

    We continue to travel even using our base assumption that diesel fuel for our motor home will be 60-70 cents per mile in 2008 and continue on to the dollar per mile mark within the next 5-10 years. We’ll have to get off this train at some point within the next 5 years but that will basically coincide with our age/health related needs. Bottom line, the average age for male to obtain is 78 and a spouse a little more. We hope to do better but in any case it just doesn’t make sense to sit home and miss seeing all this country has to offer before its too late to do so. We’ll sacrifice quite a bit to keep on rolling.