DENVER — Jeff and Dorenda Bell threaded their way through a majestic fleet of Berkshires and Charlestons, as well as the more modest Ever-Lites and Grey Wolfs earlier this month.
They’re not in the market for a high-end recreational vehicle but wanted to fantasize just a bit about tooling around the country in a $600,000 McMansion on wheels.
“We just like to look at everything and dream,” said Dorenda Bell as they checked out the newest models displayed at the 56th annual Colorado RV, Sports, Boat and Travel Show at the National Western Complex.
The Bells are in good company. Last year’s RV show drew more than 30,000 people, and more were expected at the show this year.
Most will also be merely looky-loos. But others will arrive with intent to buy one of the 150 motorhomes, fifth-wheels and travel trailers off the lot.
After all, financing is available.
“There really is a price range for everyone,” show spokeswoman Laurie Hallowell said.
Offerings ranged from simple pop-up camping trailers for $4,000 to 44-foot-long Class A motorhomes with bedrooms outfitted with queen size beds, satellite, 32-inch LCD TVs and three-burner ranges with an oven.
The base retail price for a Class A starts at about $120,000 and runs to $550,000 — or more.
And people are buying them, despite a massive hit delivered by the Great Recession of 2008. In that year, RV sales — which include motorhomes, travel trailers, sport utility RVs, truck campers and pop-up campers — plummeted by 32.9 percent with only 237,000 shipments.
Another bad year followed in 2009, with a 30.1 percent drop in shipments.
But in 2010, the industry rebounded with a 46.2 percent hike in RV sales, followed by 4 percent growth in 2011 and a 13 percent increase in 2012, industry officials said.
In Colorado, sales of fifth-wheel campers and other recreational trailers were up 14 percent in 2012, said Windish RV Center manager Jim Humble.
In all, there are 9 million RVs on the roads in the U.S., a substantial increase in ownership over the past decade, said the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association.
The group cites a University of Michigan study that attributes the growth to a “strong and enduring appeal of the RV lifestyle.”
Certainly retirees and other empty-nesters have always been drawn to RVs, Humble said. But it’s young families that are truly pushing RV sales at his Lakewood lot.
“Our clientele is getting younger and younger,” Humble said.
Most are attracted to buying an RV for family vacations that, in the long run, are cheaper than laying out thousands of dollars for airplane fare for a few days at Disneyland, Humble said.
“It’s just much more affordable,” he said. “I had one dad come in and say he was just so tired of spending family time on the weekends at the mall.”
“And for a lot of families, you can take time away from the Internet and television,” he added.
There were some people who lost their brick-and-mortar homes after the 2008 financial crash who moved full-time into their RVs, Humble said.
“There were some who used them for alternate housing,” he said. “But I’ve have also had customers who are millionaires and all those in between who were just looking for a home.”
The Bells are happy with their 18-footer, which includes a television and DVD player. They also understand the spell RVs can cast on their owners.
“It’s just about getting away from it all,” Jeff Bell said. “It’s quiet and just so relaxing.”