Hitting the Road in Droves

Safety concerns drive increase in RV sales and rentals

From Connecticut to California, RV dealerships are seeing an increase in both sales and rentals as the coronavirus keeps us apart. The same holds true in Tennessee. 

Leland Waggoner, owner of Chilhowee RV Center, has seen an uptick in sales since the governor lifted stay-at-home orders in the spring. “March and April are traditionally the start of our busy season,” he said. “So it may just be pent-up demand.”=

Certainly he thinks safety concerns are leading people toward RVs. “You have the safety of your own little cocoon —your own bed, your own bathroom and kitchen. People think it’s a safer way to travel. They don’t want to get on airplanes, and they’re hesitant to stay in hotels.”

Nationally, a lot of recent purchasers or renters are new to driving RVs. Nick Wright, owner of Unlimited RV in Jefferson City, which rents travel trailers and motor homes, says about 86 percent of their customers are new drivers. A special license is not required. Among the challenges they might encounter: Driving too fast. Wind speeds and traffic going by can have huge effects that you don’t feel in a regular vehicle; leaving awnings up in windy weather can damage or destroy them; and miscalculating clearance. You don’t want to turn it into a convertible at the first underpass. 

Traveling in an RV doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll spend less than you would on other forms of travel. Purchasing a vehicle can easily run into six figures, rentals generally cost between $100 and $300 a night, and gasoline and campground costs increase the expenses even more. So don’t expect to save money on an RV trip. 

RV users encourage rookies to have a written checklist of tasks that must be accomplished when getting to a campsite or leaving it. This guarantees you don’t miss an important step and do them in the correct order. 

A final concern might be finding a place to stay. States have different schedules for reopening campgrounds. Before you go, make sure you can stop.   

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