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Jim Corey

Park pricing on the way up

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There is an article in the San Luis Obispo Tribune (central California coast) about a new RV park being built in nearby Paso Robles, heart of the wine country. Sun communities, operator of many parks across the country, will price spots starting at $69.00 per night. Sun already has two other parks in Paso, so knows what the market will bear. We noticed on our last trip back east that the days of $25.00 spots is diminishing. But beware: things start in California, and spread! 🙁 We used to think KOA was a price leader. Not any more. Sun will offer amenities (pools, spas, etc.) to make it a nice experience, but our travels have found many so-called “resorts” that we wouldn’t stop at.

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You will see $100+ within the next 5 years. It is truly amazing  how the industry is booming.

I would say just 8 years ago maybe a bit less many parks were free even National parks. One Example Joshua Tree.

As the industry booms and rich boomers retire into the lifestyle as with everything they'll raise the cost of RVing to unsustainable levels.

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6 minutes ago, KnoxSwift said:

As the industry booms and rich boomers retire into the lifestyle as with everything they'll raise the cost of RVing to unsustainable levels.

Only if your definition of 'RVing' doesn't include boondocking and stealth camping

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Correct I'm talking about paid campsites. 

Boondocking is getting crowded too however, my  last site that had nearly no-one 3 years ago had traffic in and out daily.

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So as Paso Robles goes, so goes the nation?  I think its a matter of location.  Also, amenities might have something to do with pricing.

If all campgrounds ever go that way regardless of location and amenities it's time for us to go back to sticks and bricks.

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The pricing also has to do with costs. A new campground is VERY expensive to build in most areas. Been there, done that.  Plus the amenities that most require now are expensive to put in - like very good wifi for example. The costs in most places just for environmental surveys and permits precludes campgrounds in many cases. Just putting in a septic system and a water system is a major capital expenditure. Then there are the running costs. I see average electric use these days in the $4-5/day area in many places, for many rigs. This is based on our rental RV lots over the last years. So it all adds up.....  The cheapest you can put a site in for, assuming a gravel road and gravel site, with 50 amp power, water and septic is going to be around 10K. That is in unrestricted, unregulated areas, and with no land costs. With no amenities at all. That is having all the work done for you. In a regulated area that will probably double. This is for a BASIC setup. It goes downhill from there rapidly.

Certainly, there is money to be made in a campground, if done right, and managed right. But it is a tough business.

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Paso Robles is becoming a "go to" place for wines for people from the LA area.  $100/night doesn't phase them.  We were at another of the Sun properties last week - The Vines.  All sites were concrete, combination of back ins/pull throughs, $40/night on Passport!  Then comes the weekend when the price goes to $85/night.  They have a bistro onsite, two pools, everything set up for the adults to come and enjoy the weekend exploring all the new wineries opening up in the area.    Obviously there is a market for people who want to do that.   And if you look at the prices for the local inns/B&Bs, then you can see why someone who is a weekender would be willing to pay the price to bring the RV along.

Most other places won't even permit new RV parks, so it will be the demise of older, small parks, that will lead to the rise in costs at those still in business.   

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3 hours ago, KnoxSwift said:

I would say just 8 years ago maybe a bit less many parks were free even National parks. One Example Joshua Tree.

We were campground hosts for Blackrock Canyon campground in Joshua Tree NP in 2007 and camping there was not free then and entry was not free either?

52 minutes ago, Barbaraok said:

Most other places won't even permit new RV parks,

That is especially true in CA and perhaps some other western states. Many large cities also make it very difficult to build a new RV park and land prices also contribute to that problem. We should also take a look at what other tourist activities cost today. Amusement parks and similar entertainment prices have risen just as much as RV sites. I wonder if one could put in what amounts to a parking lot with water and electric on the parking sites and a dump station as you leave in the more heavily traveled areas and so generate more return per acre of ground without so much expense in putting it in? Or maybe just a place to fill your water tank and a dump station at the edge of a big parking lot? 

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We just came back from a 65 day, >6,000 mile trip starting from TX that included Durango, Crater Lake, Yellowstone and more.  We always get full hookup sites and usually stay at the highest rated parks in an area.  The highest price we saw on our entire trip was at Yellowstone Grizzly in West Yellowstone where we paid ~$70/night for a premium pull-through.  The price we paid in Durango was similar, again for a premium site.  On the way back we stayed at some nice parks, including a couple of KOA's, that were only ~$35/night (including tax).

IMHO the reason we didn't experience the ~$100/night pricing others refer to is that we don't choose to go to RV resorts that provide all sorts of amenities that we probably won't use anyway.   When we travel we like to see the sights, not the park we're staying at.  Almost every day we are out and about on day trips and don't return to our site until evening.

This isn't to say that our approach to RVing is better than anyone else's, just that people shouldn't necessarily be scared off of RVing because of threads such as this one that warn of ever increasing prices.   When we first started RVing in the early 1990's, I'm pretty sure we paid ~$25-30/night for full hookup sites at many places.  This year, for us the price of overnight lodging ranged from $35-50/night.  The cost of living index between 1991, when we bought our first RV, and now is a factor of 1.84.  Therefore, a site that cost $30 in 1991 should cost ~$55 on an adjusted cost of living basis. 

Yes, the price of everything does go up over time, but I don't see the rise in RV site pricing as being as bad as some say.  You have to compare apples to apples.  The "resort" RV industry is different from "by the road" RV parks.  They serve different customer bases and charge different prices.

Edited by docj

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I'd bet that RV park pricing hasn't kept up with inflation. I've been destroying old documents, some back to 1991/92. The park we're looking after, in 91, was charging $30 for 30 amp power, water, and sewer. We just raised the price, at the beginning of this season, to $45 per night. Jacks pricing is accurate, as 4 new sites were added, approx. 5 years ago. The material was sourced at wholesale prices, most of the labour was donated. Only the paving was paid at the going rate. Power costs are very close to what we see, too. This park is a fund-raising arm of a non-profit club, (Rotary) so overhead has to be watched. We only run 5 months of the year, due to weather, so money season is short.

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57 minutes ago, docj said:

Yes, the price of everything does go up over time, but I don't see the rise in RV site pricing as being as bad as some say. 

I believe that prices are very regional and are higher near either coast and somewhat so along the gulf coast as well. The highest prices that we have paid have been in CA and FL. We should also realize that parks, where traffic is seasonal, will have to make their annual income in a far shorter time yet they pay taxes and such all year. This summer we traveled from east TX to Sedalia, MO and then to Washburn, ND where we spent a couple of months and then back to TX via Kansas. We had water & electric every stop and sewer at most of them. The range in cost per night was a low of $33.19 to $41.77. There was 1 $20 night in a Passport America park that I will never go back to at any price and another PA for $18 that full price is still in that range at $36. In my experience, the Midwest has always been lower priced for camping than most other areas of the company.

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1 hour ago, Kirk Wood said:

We should also realize that parks, where traffic is seasonal, will have to make their annual income in a far shorter time yet they pay taxes and such all year.

That's why I was so pleased that Yellowstone Grizzly was only $70/night.  It's the fanciest park in West Yellowstone and is very well maintained and it definitely has a well-defined "season".  I had been prepared to pay more and was pleased that I didn't have to.

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I'd consider buying a site in a condo park to lock in a desirable and economical "place in the sun" for our snowbird years. $40 is the most I am willing to pay for a place to park. 

I crunched numbers comparing the cost of full-timing and half-timing and concluded full-timing wasn't a money saver in our situation. If parks are crowded  or too expensive, we can drive home and put the RV inside the garage. (Or hang out in our snowbird condo park in the winter if we go that route).

The crowds and high prices scare me, although it hasn't personally affected us yet.

Edited by ToddF

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Perhaps at those prices some enterprising RVrs with stix n brix will open up private one or two slot RV B&Bs.

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On 9/28/2018 at 10:35 AM, Kirk Wood said:

We were campground hosts for Blackrock Canyon campground in Joshua Tree NP in 2007 and camping there was not free then and entry was not free either?

That is especially true in CA and perhaps some other western states. Many large cities also make it very difficult to build a new RV park and land prices also contribute to that problem. We should also take a look at what other tourist activities cost today. Amusement parks and similar entertainment prices have risen just as much as RV sites. I wonder if one could put in what amounts to a parking lot with water and electric on the parking sites and a dump station as you leave in the more heavily traveled areas and so generate more return per acre of ground without so much expense in putting it in? Or maybe just a place to fill your water tank and a dump station at the edge of a big parking lot? 

That's interesting I live in Joshua Tree since 2008 and there has been no charge to enter up until at least 2011 or maybe it wasn't until 2014 (Most of the time there wasn't even park rangers at the hut). it was also only $8 entry when they finally set it up. Now I think it is $35 entry.

 

Edited by KnoxSwift

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On 9/28/2018 at 6:08 PM, RV_ said:

Perhaps at those prices some enterprising RVrs with stix n brix will open up private one or two slot RV B&Bs.

I have actually considered this.....I think there is an app called Gamping that allows you to list spots on your property...

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1 hour ago, KnoxSwift said:

I have actually considered this.....I think there is an app called Gamping that allows you to list spots on your property...

I can see the code enforcers descending on you now. :)

Linda

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20 hours ago, sandsys said:

I can see the code enforcers descending on you now. :)

 

Yup, sounds like it...LOL!

They know where to find me...

Edited by KnoxSwift

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On 10/3/2018 at 2:22 PM, sandsys said:

I can see the code enforcers descending on you now. :)

Linda

If you live anywhere developed that is likely true. It won't take long for them to "discover" what you are doing. Heck, even a "regular"  air bnb runs into that, and those are not so obvious.

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We have a couple of properties that we visit in our RV.  Since one was vacant a neighbor called and asked if a friend could lease it for a few months to park his RV.  A quick check with our insurance agent for the liability insurance to cover that was more than the lease payment.

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