In the last column we promised to look into whether RV sales and camping were increasing or decreasing. It all started for me because, over the last few years, as I have been travelling around New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio by car at all different times of the year, I noticed something that got my attention. I kept seeing these huge Recreational Vehicle sales lots, with enormous amounts of inventory, but it didn’t seem to me that I was seeing as many campers and motor homes on the road as I used to. I thought that I would have been seeing more RVs just because of so many retiring baby boomers interested in traveling around the country.
It turns out, according to wtop.com, that 2017 was the ninth straight year of increasing recreational vehicle sales. The vehicles run from $6,500 trailers to $150,000-plus motor homes. Increased sales have been driven, in part, by thosetraveling baby boomers, but, interestingly, also because of an increasing number of millennial buyers over the last three years. It turns out that towables are the largest selling segment, with the average price being in the mid-$20,000 range. As you would expect, today, the vehicles have any number of “necessary” amenities, like Wi-Fi hot spots, built in wireless networks, and even self-tuning satellite dishes.
It may be that I don’t see these recreational vehicles on the road as much because I am travelling at the wrong times, or, like everything else, my eyesight is not as good as it used to be.
As for the increasing popularity of camping, according to forbes.com, there are a number of reasons, including affordability for many households, as well as the ability to be immersed in nature. It has always been, and continues to be, a way to relax, relieve stress, share quality time with family and friends, and for some, in today’s technological/social media world, it is an opportunity to share photos and videos of unique experiences. If you are not a camper, for all of these different reasons, it may be something to research and consider. In addition, there are also many kinds of non-traditional camping to consider, including adventure camping, backpacking, canoe camping, bicycle camping, winter camping, and survivalist camping, just to name a few.
Here are some interesting statistics for traditional camping: 77 million U.S. households have someone who camps at least occasionally. Since 2014 there has been an increase of over 6 million camping households, including 2.6 million households in 2017 alone. Millennials make up about 40 percent of campers, and 52 percent of campers camp with children. Finally, 59 percent of campers camp within 100 miles of home.
Of course we cannot leave the subject of camping without mentioning GLAMPING. To be honest, I had never heard of it until a few weeks ago when I mentioned that I was going to write this column, and someone told me to check it out. Then on June 17 The New York Times ran an article about it. According to Wikipedia, Glamping (glamorous camping) is an increasing global phenomenon that combines camping with the luxury and amenities of a home or hotel. Its roots are in the early 1900s European and American African safaris, when the wealthy, accustomed to comfort and luxury, did not want to sacrifice either at their campsites. If you are into it, you can also call it boutique camping, luxury camping, posh camping or comfy camping. Glamping.com lists nearly 800 locations worldwide, including in New York state. One of my favorites is the Resort at Paws Up in Montana, which, according to The New York Times, has fancy tents with framed art on the canvas walls, rugs on the wood floors and so much more. It also has three-bedroom, two-bathroom tents for you to rent. By the way, some glamping sites go for $15,000 per night.
On a different subject, years ago I used to write and lecture a lot about predatory lending. It was a time before more and more states began outlawing many of these forms of financing that took advantage of unknowing consumers, or those who had few other options when they needed money or other necessities. It was also a time before consumer groups and others really started educating the public that the effective interest rates on some of these arrangements could be 300 percent or more, and that you could be paying over three times more for some things. They included payday loans, rent-to-own contracts, income tax refund anticipation loans and auto title loans. The message to consumers was to do the math, so that you don’t pay those high effective interest rates; save for things that you don’t really need, so that you don’t pay $450 for that $230 television; and look for less expensive alternatives that you can afford, like a dependable used car rather than a new car that you have to finance for over four years.
Unbeknownst to me, there has been a new player in the predatory lending market — Pet Leases, that are available from some pet stores and online sellers, in order to finance the purchase of a pet. As with the other predatory lending arrangements, these pet leases apparently often have very high effective interest rates. Like an automobile lease, the pet seller owns the pet until the end of the lease, when the lessee can purchase “its” pet for an additional cost. New York may soon be only the third state to outlaw these pet leases. We have talked in this column about some of the differences between being a pet owner and a pet parent, and that pet parents definitely need a bigger pet budget. When it comes to pet leasing, you would have thought that the answers to those questions of what is it really costing me, what can I really afford, and what realistic pet owner alternatives do I have — like the adoption program at the local animal shelter — would have discouraged most people from entering into these leases without the need for legislation. However, today, for some Americans, like so much else, even being a pet owner/parent is not a question of affordability.
John Ninfo is a retired bankruptcy judge and the founder of the National CARE Financial Literacy Program. Find his previous weekly columns at http://www.mpnnow.com/search?text=Ninfo or at http://www.monroecopost.com/search?text=Ninfo