RVs of­fer free­dom for fear­less trav­ellers

How­ever, ‘mo­torhom­ing’ will cost you

Waterloo Region Record - - Business - DAN HEAL­ING,

CAL­GARY — The sym­bol of a re­tire­ment filled with travel and re­lax­ation ar­rived last year for Bruce and Lisa An­der­son of Cal­gary in the form of a 12-me­tre long pack­age.

That’s how big their dieselpow­ered Class A mo­torhome is — about the same size as a city bus with, as Bruce points out, a big­ger weight-car­ry­ing ca­pac­ity.

It’s big enough that it doesn’t fit into some camp­grounds. It’s so big it has two wry nick­names: “Mo­torhome” and “My Daugh­ter’s In­her­i­tance.”

“Our camp­ing ex­pe­ri­ence has run the whole gamut from tent to travel trailer to mo­torhome,” said Bruce, ac­knowl­edg­ing that purists might not con­sider it camp­ing if you stay in air-con­di­tioned lux­ury with more floor space than a small apart­ment.

“As a teenager, I camped un­der a lean-to. At age 60, I like my house on wheels.”

When it comes to buy­ing a trailer or mo­torhome to get out into the great out­doors or just avoid pay­ing ho­tel rates on va­ca­tion, the choices can be daunt­ing and the price in the win­dow just the be­gin­ning of what own­er­ship will ac­tu­ally cost.

The best prices are usu­ally seen now, at the start of the off­sea­son, when more used units are on the mar­ket and deal­ers may be will­ing to bar­gain to re­duce in­ven­tory, said Jeff Red­mond, gen­eral man­ager of Bu­cars RV just north of Cal­gary.

The range of op­tions and prices mean it’s best to have a good idea of your bud­get and needs be­fore turn­ing up at the deal­er­ship, he said. “You can get into a re­ally good used RV for around $5,000.”

“In the new mar­ket, you can be as low as ... $20,000 (for a travel trailer) and we range all the way up to over $1 mil­lion for lux­ury Class A diesel mo­torhomes.”

A scan of used campers for sale on­line shows a num­ber ac­tu­ally be­ing given away for free — al­though some­times with omi­nous word­ing such as: “Toi­let works but valve to empty out sewage won’t open,” and, “Floor a lit­tle spongy and will need to be re­placed.”

The to­tal num­ber of new camp­ing units sold in Canada this year is ex­pected to be about 52,000, up about five per cent over 2017, said Eleonore Hamm, pres­i­dent of the Re­cre­ation Ve­hi­cle Deal­ers As­so­ci­a­tion of Canada.

Pri­vate RV sales rep­re­sent about 50 per cent of used unit sales, with the rest be­ing sold by deal­ers.

“If you’re buy­ing pri­vately, the main thing is safety,” Hamm said, adding many deal­ers will do safety checks for a fee.

“You want to en­sure that the units have been checked, that the propane has been re­cer­ti­fied, make sure there’s no wa­ter dam­age, make sure the brak­ing sys­tem is work­ing ad­e­quately.”

Rent­ing is the best way to go RVing, says Brian Gron­berg, CEO of Cal­gary-based CanaDream Corp., which counts about 85 per cent of its RV rental cus­tomers from out­side of Canada.

“No­body should buy a mo­torhome. They’re ex­pen­sive and they are de­pre­ci­at­ing as­sets,” he said.

He con­ceded, how­ever, that his com­pany sells used RVs as part of its pro­gram to con­tin­u­ally re­fresh its fleet of 1,200 rental units — and CanaDream al­lows renters to ap­ply their rental fees to a pur­chase.

The fall rental of a two-per­son RV might cost $100 per night from CanaDream, but a last-minute, mid-sum­mer rental of a big mo­torhome that sleeps six could be $350 to $400 per night, Gron­berg said.

The An­der­sons have learned a lot about RVing since buy­ing their hulk­ing unit for about $390,000. They went on a three­month va­ca­tion to New­found­land and Labrador last sum­mer and they are plan­ning lengthy va­ca­tions on Van­cou­ver Is­land and in the south­ern U.S. in fu­ture years.

Stor­ing the unit at the deal­er­ship costs about $1,000 a year, Bruce said, more than the $500 to $600 he used to pay to store his travel trailer on a ru­ral lot. (Many cities don’t al­low RV stor­age on the street.)

In­surance for the mo­torhome costs more than for a house. Camp­ground fees start at $40-$50 a night with power and wa­ter ser­vice but some re­sort-style camp­grounds charge as much as $110 a night, he said. Other reg­u­lar bills are for main­te­nance and drain­ing the RV’s wa­ter lines be­fore win­ter’s freeze.

And then there’s the cost of fuel, he said.

“Mo­torhom­ing, in my opin­ion, will not save you money.”

JEFF MCIN­TOSH THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Bu­cars RV Cen­tre gen­eral man­ager Jeff Red­mond re­laxes in one of the com­pany's recre­ational ve­hi­cles worth more than $600,000 in Balzac, Alta. The best prices are usu­ally at the start of the off-sea­son, when more used units are on the mar­ket and deal­ers may be will­ing to bar­gain.

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