Sales at Chesaco RV in Joppa are up more than 20 percent this year over last, general manager Rob Lentz said.

"Truly it's a lifestyle choice to some degree," Lentz said of the demand for RVs. "This is something people enjoy doing."

RV owners, he said, share "a really strong feeling of community and loyalty."

This year, the dealer, which also has locations in Gambrills and Frederick, has seen a bump in sales of travel trailers in the $20,000 to $30,000 range, Lentz said.

Financing with lower interest rates has helped sales, he said, adding that the interest on vehicles counted as second homes is tax-deductible.

Manufacturers, too, are trying to win over buyers by including more amenities, such as high-end audio and video systems, a homier feel in decor, upgrades in kitchens and bath designs, new floor plans — and power-everything, including the awnings, he said.

"A lot of the allure with the RV lifestyle is the ability to travel with a lot of the amenities from home, to have your own bed and your own bathroom," Lentz said.

Some owners store their trailers at their homes and tow them on trips, while others keep a trailer at a permanent site. Some campgrounds will store trailers in the off-season and then tow them to a campsite for the owners.

Linda Abel and her husband, Frank, just bought a 33-foot motor home with full kitchen, bathroom with a standup shower, living room with leather sofa and big-screen TV, and bedroom with two wardrobes and another TV. They traded up after owning travel trailers.

Before their first trailer purchase three years ago, the Perry Hall couple considered buying a permanent vacation home.

"We had looked at places in Florida … but we're the type of people who do not want to do the same thing every year," said Linda Abel, a retired middle-school teacher. "We want to see different places. You have any place open to you in the U.S. you want to go. There are campgrounds everywhere. You've got your own space and can do it on your own timetable. If you don't like that place, you can pick up and go the next day."

Merkel, of Leo's Vacation Center, said his RV sales have grown about 10 percent a year over the past two years. He sells RVs that range from a $5,000 camper to a $300,000 motor coach.

One customer, Ron German, who is in the military and is stationed at Fort Meade, decided to buy a travel trailer after going tent camping a few years ago with his wife and three children. After a downpour one night, campers at a nearby site invited the family into their trailer.

"The minute my wife walked in, she was sold," said German, an Annapolis resident. "It felt like a second home. All the amenities were there."

Two years ago, the family bought a 29-foot trailer with a bunk area for the kids, full bath, kitchen, living room and master bedroom. The savings on hotels and restaurants has meant the family can go on more trips, German said.

Moreover, he added, "It's a huge family bonding experience."

lorraine.mirabella@baltsun.com

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