After the pandemic throttled business this spring, things are starting to pick up at Fourwinds RV, 3104 N. Main St. in East Peoria.
“We had a couple in here yesterday. They said they can’t take a cruise so they bought a trailer instead,” said Ron Hindahl, the Fourwinds general manager.
The coronavirus outbreak may put more people in a recreational vehicle—a travel trailer or motor home—this year, he said.
“People don’t want to stay in a hotel. They want to be in their own space. People will spend less time out of the country and more time in this country,” said Hindahl.
Charlie Montgomery, a Fourwinds sales consultant, said he’s heard encouraging reports in his industry. “A dealer in Utah—no bigger than us—recently sold 35 units in one day,” he said.
The Fourwinds dealership normally has about 100 units—both new and used—on hand at this time of year, said Hindahl. “Right now we have about 60,” he said.
While COVID-19 may spur some to take to the open road in an RV, the outbreak also had an impact on the supply line. “A lot of the manufacturers shut down for a month,” said Hindahl.
The outbreak’s impact was reflected on the Fourwinds sales chart. “Things were going good in February and early March and then the lockdown. For a couple of weeks in April, we didn’t even open,” said Montgomery.
Kent Kafer, president of Pontiac RV, a large RV dealer whose vast array of trailers and motor homes can be spotted in Pontiac off I-55 on the way to Chicago, said manufacturers told him to expect delays on ordered RVs due to the pandemic.
“We’re anticipating a larger than usual summer since spring time, typically the start of the camping season, didn’t exist due to the COVID-19 outbreak,” he said.
Tom Enyeart, owner of Shabonna Creek RV in Atkinson, a small town north of Kewanee, said he expects to sell a lot of trailers this summer but he’s not convinced that COVID-19 is driving a lot of new business.
“We’ve surveyed all our customers this year and 98 percent say they would have bought an RV anyway (regardless of the pandemic),” he said.
Montgomery said the virus outbreak has impacted the RV business in different ways.
“We lost a sale to a guy who was worried about his 401(k) after the market took a dive. But then we picked up a sale from a doctor who wanted a trailer to self-quarantine,” he said.
An avid RVer, himself, Montgomery said it was especially important this year that RVers who get out on the road make reservations ahead of time at trailer camps.
If need be, RVers can make use of Walmart parking lots, he said. “You can’t do that at every Walmart but a lot of them will let you use their lot,” he said.
“Now truck stops are starting to provide room for RVers. It’s good business. You can fuel up there and eat at the restaurant,” said Montgomery.
Hindahl, an RV salesman for 40 years, said the purchase of travel trailer also involves consideration of the proper towing vehicle—a pick-up truck or SUV with sufficient hauling power.
RV prices range widely, he said. Travel trailers go from about $15,000 to $40,000 while motor homes are available for $60,000 and up, said Hindahl.
Montgomery pointed to a used trailer on the Fourwinds lot available for $12,000. “That’s about the cost of a used car,” he said.
Kafer said he hoped to see customers this year that never considered traveling by RV before. “I would tell first-timers to go for it. Get out and enjoy life while you can,” he said.