RVs in high demand and short supply in Alberta

Albertans in the market for a motorhome or trailer are spinning their wheels due to high demand and limited inventory.

‘They're way more expensive’

Albertans will have to dig a little deeper into their pockets if they want this sort of experience in 2021. (Scott Stevenson/CBC)

Albertans in the market for a motorhome or trailer are spinning their wheels due to high demand and limited inventory.

Matthew Morphet from Fort Saskatchewan is looking for a trailer so he can spend more time with his family while he works onsite in the oil and gas industry. Right now he's working on the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion near Edson.

"I'm usually renting a room off Facebook, off somewhere, or a hotel," he said. "I thought if I could get a trailer at least my family could come visit me on long weekends or during the summer." 

Morphet hasn't been able to find what he's looking for from private sellers and says the dealerships aren't a great option.

"They're way more expensive," he said. "You can kind of tell that with the whole COVID and everything, everyone is wanting to go camping and their prices have definitely gone up." 

CBC News spoke with several Edmonton-area dealerships who say it's simply a case of supply and demand.

Prices 15 per cent higher

"Last year was high, this year demand is even more but unfortunately supply is very low," said Anita Jomha, general sales manager with All Star RV in Sherwood Park.

"I'm going to say new RVs, probably a 15 per cent increase in prices right now."

Johma has been with the company for 20 years and has seen this trend before.

"We had high demand after 9/11 for RVs because people again weren't traveling, they were out camping with their families," she said. "Last year and this year the demand is even higher."

It's a hot market right now for Anita Jomha, general sales manager with All Star RV in Sherwood Park. (Submitted by Anita Jomha)

Johma said the pandemic is not only driving sales, it's also affecting RV builders.

"The manufacturers right now are in a real bind because there's such a shortage of materials," she said. "For a while there was a shortage of air conditionings, then there was a shortage of hot water tanks, shortage of steel."

Johma said the shortages coupled with COVID-19 outbreaks in some of the plants have had a domino effect.

"A lot of the manufacturers, they've cut down their hours, they might be shut down one or two days a week just because they don't have the material to keep the building going."

That means Johma's inventory is quickly shrinking.

"We're going to be sold out of bunkhouse models probably by the end of May," she said. 

Used RVs in demand

On the used side, it's not much different.

"If you have a used bunk trailer that you're trying to get rid of, sell it privately, you're going to be surprised at what you're going to get for it," Johma said. "There's not a lot out there if you're trying to buy privately."

This is good news for Rick Showers, owner of No Bull RV, a consignment dealership.

"Our situation here is a little bit different," he said. "We serve the demand by providing consignment service for people to bring us RVs to sell … so we've always got a fresh, good supply of the stuff."

Rick Showers, owner of No Bull RV, says some used units are selling for the same price they did five years ago. (Craig Ryan/CBC)

The high demand for used RVs has some units selling for the same price or more than they did brand new.

"Prices have gone up; that's the wonderful world we live in is the supply, demand thing," Showers said. "We've been here seven years. We're selling products of certain model years now for the same price we were selling them five years ago."

The dealers who spoke with CBC News advised buyers to act quickly if they find something they like within their budget.

For Morphet, he and his partner have now gone from scouring the classifieds to posting their own ad detailing what they want in a trailer.

"Just going to keep looking," he said. "Might have to spend a little more money than I originally wanted to, but at this time it's more or less a sellers market."

Matthew Morphet and his partner have poster this ad after being unable to find what they were looking for. (Facebook)

75 inquiries since ad posted

Last year Cara Lawson and her partner, who live in Irma, Alta., purchased a fixer-upper 1994 Fleetwood Terry trailer which they renovated and posted for $6,000.

"Because there is such a demand we thought we'd list it and see if there was any interest and we had tons of interest," Lawson said. "We posted about a week ago and within minutes we were getting messages."

She estimates there have been close to 75 inquiries since the ad was posted and a sale is pending. While Lawson believes they could have got more, the price is fair and will enable them to do another flip.

"It's a good hobby to have when there's such a high demand," she said.

That puts her on the other side of the demand equation now. 

"Hopefully there will be something left for us to buy."


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