Saturday, May 17, 2008

Lure of open road beats costs

With gas prices hovering around the $4-a-gallon mark, who wants to be driving those behemoth, gas-guzzling recreational vehicles?

In the Capital Region, it turns out, a lot of people. While sales of trailers and motor vehicles are tanking nationally, most local dealerships say they're having a great season.

Alpin Haus, with showrooms in Amsterdam, Clifton Park and Wilton, reports sales up 15 percent over last year.

"Our April is probably the best April we've had in three or four years," said Andy Heck, Alpin Haus president. "It's really bizarre."

Albany RV says its sales are up about 20 percent. Even many smaller dealerships are happy.

Not everyone is cheery. Paul Parker, owner of Northway Travel Trailers in Malta, is closing down this summer after 23 years. Sales are down, he said, but "the people who have them will always use them. They like the lifestyle."

Capital Region RV retailers may be benefiting from the nature of jobs in the area -- the thousands of workers in state government, education and health care ensure the region is largely cushioned from economic ups and downs.

At the same time, many of those buying trailers or motor homes may not be planning the traditional cross-country trip, but are renting trailers and parking them at local campsites for the summer.

"It's still a much cheaper vacation than flying the family to Disney," said Dean Pells, general sales manager at Albany RV. "You can rent a seasonal campsite for $1,500, $1,800."

Many area campgrounds that cater to trailers have seen reservations rise.
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