Philosophical musings on buying an RV

(Editor's Note: Yan is an engineer with the Erwin Hymer Group of North America, maker of Roadtrek motorhomes)
I just got back from the Hershey RV show. As always, shows are exhausting, fun, disappointing, exhilarating, and ultimately unique experiences. We work about 12 hours a day, each day, and most of the day is spent talking to current and possibly future owners.

Invariably, we're faced with the “How come it's so expensive?”  question.  This year in particular, as we were almost directly across from a vendor blaring “WE SELL FOR LESS!”

There are valid engineering and manufacturing reasons why Class Bs are some of the most expensive real estate per square foot in the RV world.  But really the question is, “Is it worth it?”

And to that I can only say, it's all about the lifestyle.  Let's look at a couple of examples.

Your kid gets into Podunk University and Princeton University.  You do the math, and you make a choice.  Now I'm going to guess that you're not going to say, “What's the cheapest place my kid can attend?”  And use that as your final answer.  You will probably look at the over all value, the lifestyle, the return on investment.  Chances are you will do your best to pay the price for Princeton because of the opportunities that education gives your kid.  (In reality, Princeton is actually free for most people.  But still, the example is valid.)

Or perhaps you want to buy a house.  I really doubt you're going to go to a realtor and ask, “Find me the cheapest 3 bedroom in the city.”  You're certainly not going to go to a realtor who advertises “THE CHEAPEST HOUSING IN TOWN!!!!!” You're probably going to pick a neighborhood based on lifestyle, restaurants, schools, parks, nature trails, shopping, or whatever is important to you, and then look for a house in that area.  Once you have some costs for housing, you will make the judgment if it's worth it.

So it is with Class Bs.  You can buy a larger, cheaper RV.  You can buy a big trailer for a lot less.  But the real question you need to ask is, “What is the lifestyle I want?”  Many times this last week, I asked that question.  And most people said, “We want to travel, we want to see things, we want to experience a lot.”  Usually they would be looking at a trailer because it's so cheap.  And I'd ask them if they wanted to see the city, or drive through the mountains.  And they'd say “of course.” So I'd ask what they would do with the trailer.  “We would drop it somewhere.”  Hmmm…. “Where? At a campground 30 miles from the city?”  “Yeah, we don't want to tow the trailer through the city.”  “So you're going to tow the trailer to a campground 30 miles away, leave it there, pay for a campsite, and then drive 30 miles to sightsee, just like you would on your work commute?”  “Ummmm…..”

And that's where we get into a discussion of the lifestyles and convenience and mobility.  And how a small, self-contained RV like the Hymer Aktiv can make that happen.  Once people understand that a small, self-contained RV gives them the lifestyle they want, they assign a value to that lifestyle and then see if a Class B fits that value.

This is why dealers who blare “WE SELL FOR LESS” really bug me.  They're really saying their product is cheap, that there is no value to the lifestyle, that it's all about how cheap you can be.

The freedom to travel, the freedom to be mobile, the freedom to stay almost anywhere and to travel on almost any road is valuable.  As a Class B owner, my Class B provides the value I want for the lifestyle I want.  Otherwise, why buy an RV?

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  1. disqus_qhkDDEcDOj

    I appreciate your viewpoint but I don’t think you’re really answering people’s question of “Why are you so expensive?” The prices go up dramatically every year. Why is that? Some new class b’s I’ve seen are now $170,000. I could buy a condo for that. At least with the condo, the value will appreciate or at least remain the same. With a vehicle, eventually that vehicle will be worth nothing. That’s a lot of money to spend on something that will eventually be worth nothing. At that price, I now could also stay in a lot of high end hotels for far less than owning an RV. I really don’t believe it costs the manufacturer anywhere close to $170,000 to make one of these things. So, the question remains, why so much? It feels like manufacturers increase the price every year just because they can. There has to be a point where people start saying, enough. It’s not worth it. It’s frustrating because I would like to buy a Class B RV but who has that much money to put down on something that will eventually be worth nothing? So, it’d be great if you would answer the question, “Why are they so expensive?” and “Why do the prices increase so dramatically every year?” Without an answer, it just feels like rv manufacturers are gouging people. Yes, it would be a great lifestyle but you’re making it so that only the super rich can ever dream of enjoying such an activity.

  2. Joe Laudisio

    I guess I am in the same frame of mind as the previous poster. His point is well taken, however it is a given that any motor vehicle is a “depreciating asset” as opposed to “real estate” where in a stable economy you would expect a certain percentage of gain as the years go by. I, too, am very interested in purchasing a class b or class b+, however the more I research, the less excited I become, mostly because of the pricing. I am a former owner of a ford “camper van’ back in the 1980’s and also experienced ownership with a 26 ft damon class c in the early 90’s. At this point, value wise, I continue to feel that a new class c will be more choice. Example: the Winnebago fuse! Good value, short length and much more room, along with many more styles from the class c market. Come on..class B manufacturers, give us not so “super rich” buyers some options to compare.
    Thanks for listening!