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RVs let you feel at home on the road

Two years after the Ford Model T debuted, the first recreational vehicles were built. And while creature comforts were few — a toilet was considered a luxurious touch — they offered the same thing today's recreational vehicles offer: the chance to take a bit of home with you when you hit the road. • One hundred years later, the appeal is very much the same, even if the vehicles are much more comfortable.

And while you'd expect an RV to have a kitchen, how about one with high-endcountertops? Or an LCD TV? How about a central vacuum system, leather recliners or a computer work station?

The amenities once reserved for expensive motor homes now are available on fifth-wheel trailers (which hook into the bed of a pickup truck) and travel trailers (which hook onto the back of SUVs).

"Ten years ago, you would have seen a lot more motor homes on the lot," said Tim Loen of Chesapeake RV Solutions in Chesapeake, Va.

"The motor home used to be No. 1, when pickup trucks were crude. Ten years ago, they were construction trucks. They're not for the construction guys anymore. Today, they are luxury vehicles."

The result, Loen says, is a declining local market share for motor homes as buyers realize the SUVs and pickups they use for daily commuting and chores can pull a travel trailer or a fifth-wheel trailer on the weekend.

"The majority of RVs are the type you pull," says Jamie Dodd of Dodd RV in Portsmouth, Va. "They are the biggest sellers because most buyers already have an SUV, so they can hook it up and take off."

They're also less expensive than motor homes. Dodd says that travel trailers start around $16,000; motor homes start out at $80,000.

Buyers of less expensive RVs tend to be families, so manufacturers design them to sleep a minimum of six, and as many as 10, allowing a family with children to take their friends on a weekend trip. By contrast, motor homes tend to appeal to retirees who want to visit friends or tour the country for long periods of time.

"Those units are extremely decked out. They sleep two to four people, maximum, and are very spacious for living comfortably," Dodd said.

Driving a motor home is similar to driving a transit bus, which limits their appeal. Power comes from a gas or diesel engine built by Ford, General Motors and Freightliner. Typical fuel economy runs between 8 and 10 mpg on gas models.

Since RVs have a kitchen and bath, they are considered second homes, and the interest on RV loans is tax-deductible. And unlike traditional vehicle loans, which last three to five years, RV loans stretch over a longer term, which lowers the monthly payment.

About RVs

Size: Motor homes are distinguished by class. Class A motor homes are the largest. Class B homes are the smallest, Class Cs fall between the two.

Engines: Either gas or diesel power. Gasoline engines are made by Ford or GM. Diesel engines are usually made by Freightliner.

Cost: Gas-powered homes are less-expensive, usually costing about $80,000 and up. Diesel-powered motor homes are generally more expensive. The diesel's higher price stems from the home's larger size and more lavish amenities.

Fuel economy: Both gas and diesel Class A motor homes return about 10 mpg, with diesel returning about 10 percent higher fuel economy.

Tax advantage: As long as a motor home has a kitchen, bathroom and sleeping quarters, it is considered a second home and loan interest is tax deductible.

Trying one out: RV dealers rent RVs of varying sizes, but not the big Class A models. However, smaller motor homes come close in size and design.

RVs let you feel at home on the road 02/18/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 17, 2010 6:17pm]
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