By Chuck Woodbury
he RV Industry Association (RVIA) issued its annual press release recently that claims, again, that yet another study confirms traveling by RV is the most affordable way to take a vacation.
The headline on its recent press release was:
Families save money by vacationing in RVs
The release begins:
“A new study conducted by an outside, independent firm has found that RV vacations cost much less than other types of vacation travel, even when factoring in fuel prices and the cost of RV ownership.”
One of my favorite classes in college (way back when) was Advertising 101. One subject we discussed at length was “Lying with Statistics.” What I learned is that you can prove just about anything you want by twisting the data in a way that proves your point. Advertisers and politicians do it routinely.
In its most recent press release, to prove its point that traveling by RV was cheaper than other means, the RVIA compared a vacation with a Class A motorhome to a vacation of luxury without an RV.
I asked Monica Geraci, the Director of PR and Communications for the RVIA, this: “Is the following statement regarding your latest study correct?”
“The class A motorhome, typically the largest and most luxurious RV, was compared to travel options such as flying first class, renting a premium car, staying in upscale hotels/resorts, and eating meals in restaurants.”
She responded: “Yes, Class A [vacation] is compared to a luxury vacation.”
I own a Class A motorhome but I do not fly first class when I take a vacation without my RV. Do you? And how does the RVIA define a “Class A” motorhome? Is it one that someone buys used for $10,000, or a half-million-dollar diesel pusher purchased brand-new?
I asked her if camping with a tent was included in the study. I mean, wouldn’t that be a cheaper way to take a vacation than with an RV? Her response was no. “We were comparing ‘comparable vacations’,” she said.
So camping with a pop-up trailer, for example, can’t be compared to traveling with a tent, but camping with a Class A motorhome can be compared to flying first class, renting a premium car, and staying in luxury hotels? Huh?
Note the chart below
Look at the 14-day vacation from Seattle to Yellowstone. According to the RVIA study, the cost is $11,328 if you fly and stay in hotels. But it’s only $4,606 in a Class C motorhome. Okay, fine. But what if you’re traveling from, say, Atlanta or Boston? In the real world might the cost of an RV trip be a bit higher?
When I get home from a trip I take by flying and staying in hotels, my expenses for the trip are over the minute I walk in my door. But for an RV owner returning home, the costs keep going. For most RVers, there are payments to make. More than half our readers pay to store their RV, typically from $150 to $300 a month. And they have insurance to pay, and maintenance costs, and licenses. The RV depreciates every day. The RVIA says it calculates those ongoing expenses into the cost of the 14-day trip. I don’t believe that for a second.
I live in Seattle: I can take a cab to the waterfront and board a cruise ship for 10 days to Alaska and back for less than $1,000. Might that be cheaper than driving my motorhome to and from Alaska?
Meanwhile, another RVIA statistic shows that the average RV owner uses his or her RV an average of 20 days a year. So for the other 345 days, their RV does nothing but suck up money while its paint fades.
Why am I angry about this?
I’m angry because people believe this. I’m angry because nobody but RVtravel.com that I know of challenges the RVIA on such a contrived report. They all just print the press releases without checking the facts. It’s free editorial. Add a juicy headline and ka-ching, money in the bank.
That’s all I have to say. Call it a rant! Call it what you want! But I feel better for saying it.
Finally, this essay will not earn RVtravel.com (and me, personally) any friends in the RV industry. The big companies don’t advertise with us and likely never will. They wish we would just get lost! If you believe in what we are doing, sticking our necks out like this, please consider donating whatever you can easily afford to help us keep going without going bust. Here’s where to do it. Big or small, your support fuels our efforts and our spirits. This website is not a hobby, but work and income for about a dozen people who care about you.