For some seniors, RVing has become the new vacation home

Andrea and Curtis Ryun sold their boat and decided to purchase a 30-foot Bigfoot, all-weather RV. They’ve never looked back. They have found their favorite camping spots, including Copperfield Power Park in Idaho.

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Andrea and Curtis Ryun sold their boat and decided to purchase a 30-foot Bigfoot, all-weather RV. They’ve never looked back. They have found their favorite camping spots, including Copperfield Power Park in Idaho.

Andrea and Curtis Ryun sold their boat and bought a recreational vehicle, so they could have a fun vacation without worrying about where to stay or what to eat.

They are part of a growing group of Americans over 50 who are not buying vacation homes, but instead seeking out these “camping” vehicles to have fun with their families affordably, says one RV salesman.

Even more, buyers can find a variety of trailers and floor plans, with prices ranging from four figures to as high as $500,000. The latter typically comes with all the comforts of a luxury home.

There are different types for different people. This article is most concerned with motor homes, which can be further divided into four classes — A, B+, B and C.

There are also travel trailers, fifth wheel trailers, toy haulers, popup trailers and slide-in campers that can fit into pickup truck beds.

Normally an RV offers a kitchen, bathroom and one or more sleeping areas. The more expensive models may feature air conditioning, water heaters, TVs, satellite reception, dishwashers and even quartz countertops.

They primarily are used for leisure activities, but can work as mobile offices for business travelers or even for permanent homes.

In the past several years, statistics indicate that the wholesale shipment of RVs has grown from 374,250 in 2015, to 430,690 in 2016. The value of those shipments rose from $13.4 million in 2015 to nearly $14 million in 2016. Estimates indicate that shipment values this year will be about $13.8 million, rising to $14.8 million in 2020, according to statista.com.

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Relaxing at their campsite at Oxbow Dam on the Snake River (in Idaho).

“We sold the boat because there were only two rivers to explore (nearby) and RVs offer us more flexibility,” says Andrea Ryun of their decision to purchase an RV. “We wanted more options, the RV is self-contained and has more space than the boat, and we don’t have to worry about where to stay.”

“Fuel is cheaper and we have more options to explore in the RV,” says her husband. “Besides, there was a lot of junk in the rivers and we had to dodge trash and other items, including logs in the river.”

Their 30-foot Bigfoot Class C has taken them to Crystal Crane Hot Springs in Burns, the Grand Coulee Dam in Washington, Lake Shasta and Lassen Volcanic National Park in California, and many points in between, Curtis Ryun says.

They say one drawback is some locations can be reached only by small, two-lane roads. In Glacier National Park, for example, they couldn’t take their RV on the Road to the Sun.

“We would have had to be towing a car in order to drive that road,” Curtis says.

“We started with a ‘three-year plan,’” Andrea says of purchasing their RV, “but then we found the right RV. It’s made in Canada and we can take it out in all weather. It’s very comfortable for two, but will also sleep six, if necessary.”

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Another favorite stop for the Ryuns is the blimp hangar in Tillamook. They love that they can take their RV out anytime of the year.

When purchasing their RV, the Ryuns weren’t looking for the “bling,” but rather something that would be comfortable, with ample space.

Brian Calderon, a salesman at Lassen RV in Albany, says most buyers want to travel in a self-contained RV with fresh water and holding tanks for black (sewage) water and grey (shower and other non-fresh uses) water, kitchens, bedrooms and baths.

Ryan Swanson, sales manager at South Pacific Auto Sales, says most sales go to families, “who want to travel and have fun. The beauty of these vehicles is that people can go for a one- to two-hour drive, or visit the coast or the mountains without paying for hotels or motels.”

RV parks are also easy on pocketbooks, he adds, costing only $15 to $20 per night with hookups.

Both indicate that people of all ages, from their mid-20s to retirement ages, are buying travel trailers and RVs, but an older demographic is buying the majority of motor homes, Calderon says.

Swanson is looking to buy a Class C type motor home, about 30 feet. A used model could cost as low as $5,000 or less, while a new one could run from $20,000 to $35,000, he says.

Sales typically slow down during the winter months, Calderon says, but 2017 has been twice as good as 2016.

“A lot of people are buying them to stay in while they are selling their home,” he says. “And it works well, too, for people from around here who want to spend the winter in Arizona or travel around the country visiting family. Others may have to travel for work and an RV keeps expenses down.”

Andrea Ryun recommends making your RV park reservations early because you’re competing not just with Northwest travelers, but from those around the United States.

“It depends on the month you want to travel,” she says. “A lot of places, you really have to be on the ball, and know when you want to go.”

Calderon advocates buying an RV sooner than later because he expects prices to continue to rise. New models come out in the spring, he says.

And, while prices are extremely less than a home on land, most RV financing is on a 15-year plan with reasonable payments.

The salesmen agree that buyers should look diligently when buying an RV.

“Do your homework, there is substandard stuff on the market,” Calderon says. “Don’t be forced to buy anything. Search for quality and research structure. Ensure that someone wants to educate you.”

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