RV Dollars Vs. Boating Dollars

Published in the September 2008 Issue Published online: Sep 02, 2008 Brady L. Kay
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If the summer gas hike didn't have you complaining, then chances are good that money isn't a big concern to you and this column wasn't meant for your eyes. For the other 99 percent of us that watched in horror as gas climbed over the $4 mark, I'm here to argue that it's not as bad as you might think.

While traveling this past summer I met a couple from just outside of Denver who were in the middle of a very long RV trip. The Colorado license plate stood out like a bad sunburn, and I couldn't help but stare. Road trips aren't that uncommon, but the reason it caught my eye was because I was in Alaska. I couldn't even imagine how much gas this guy had burned through, just to get all the way up here. It made my gas card smolder just thinking about it.

As I was gassing up my little four-cylinder rental car, I decided to try and strike up a little conversation to pass the time. I was surrounded by gas pumps, and without really thinking I blurted out the first thing that came to my mind, "So how's that $4 a gallon treating you?" He groaned a little and replied, "Actually it's more like $5, I'm buying diesel."

Ouch, that turned out to be a real buzz kill for our conversation, and it was hard to keep him talking after that. I admired him for his desire to travel, despite what the cost of gas might be. But I couldn't help but wonder if he was getting the maximum enjoyment out of his recreational dollar.

His argument is that after making the decision to buy his camper, if they didn't take these long gas-guzzling trips, then that purchase was a waste of money. As it stands, he currently goes through gas like Rosie O'Donnell through the Keebler factory.

Sure, this couple was retired and they had that "let's go now, because gas might be even more expensive next summer" attitude, but they were also facing several more high-priced fill ups between Alaska and when they would finally reach their Colorado home.

I felt like I had already taken a jab at them with my price of gas comment, so I didn't want to push my luck. But thinking back now I should have told them that buying a pontoon or a deck boat instead of that RV might have been cheaper for them in the long run, especially if gas continues to climb like it is.

Are you not following me on this? Let me explain. If money is tight, you can choose to stay close to home and enjoy the lakes closest to you. Yes these boats are made for trailering, but you don't need to trailer them all the way to Alaska to use them.

The secret to surviving this gas crunch isn't to stop enjoying the recreational hobbies that you've come to love, just limiting the number of miles it takes to get there. Taking long runs to the dam or wherever you boat doesn't have to end, either. Many years ago I came across a group of pontooners who knew how to have fun. From frying up a turkey to campfire chats, I had a great few days with these boaters. We had a blast and most of the time we were anchored up. And when we wanted to head out on the lake, which we all just piled in one or two pontoon boats, which was a lot more fun than everyone going in their own boats.

This was nearly 10 years ago when the price of fuel wasn't even a major concern. These boaters did it this way to maximize their fun, not to save a dollar. So the lesson here is, if you're going to a cove, a dam or wherever, take your friends with you. Maybe next weekend they can return the favor and you'll go out fishing with them on their boat.

Don't let the price of gas put a damper on your desire to enjoy the outdoors. It's the lifestyle that we all crave, which lead to the purchase of our boats. Unlike an RV, a lot of that same enjoyment can still be had without using nearly the amount of gas, and that's why boaters are able to get the most out of their recreational dollar these days.

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