Another victim of the high cost of gas: the dwindling market for RVs

Ever since my father-in-law unexpectedly passed away, my mother-in-law has been the frustrated owner of a motor home -- a giant, beautiful house on wheels -- in the parking lot of a used car dealer.

My mother-in-law never drove it, hardly was a passenger in it since my father-in-law purchased it about a year before he died, and she didn't see a lot of wisdom in paying monthly payments on an RV she would never use. So naturally, after the shock of her husband's death started to recede, she placed an ad for her motor home. A few months later, she worked out this thing with some friends of hers who own this car lot. The dealership didn't buy the recreational vehicle from her, but they will sell it for her. If there's ever an interested buyer.

That arrangement was made about three years ago, and it's still in the parking lot. Something tells me that it will still be in the parking lot come this Labor Day. Something tells me, in fact, that she'll have it paid off, long before she ever sells it.

This article that ran in Newsday earlier this week just cemented my viewpoint even further. According to Newsday, and this is no shock, the price of gas has been affecting sales of motor homes. Last year, 353,400 motor homes were manufactured, a 9.5 percent decrease from 2006.

And it's not only the $4 a gallon gas prices, and the fact that many of these mammoth-vehicles average 8 to 12 miles per gallon of gas, that are making people question the wisdom of buying an RV. They're, um, kind of expensive. Apparently, one can spend as little as $25,000 or into the millions. That wasn't always a problem in the past -- take out a loan -- but in this credit crunch, getting the go-ahead from a bank or financial institution to make a purchase like this is more difficult.

So here we are, on the verge of the Memorial Day weekend. People will be picnicking, lining up at the curb to watch a parade, visiting loved ones and -- despite the predicted dip in travel -- hitting the open road. I don't think, however, too many people are going to be behind the wheel of an RV. If you don't believe me, just ask my mother-in-law.

Geoff Williams is a business journalist and the author of C.C. Pyle's Amazing Foot Race: The True Story of the 1928 Coast-to-Coast Run Across America (Rodale).
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