Image shows the parking lot at Leach's Camper Sales of Lincoln on an overcast day.
Parking lot at Leach Camper Sales of Lincoln. While Leach's appears to have plenty of RVs to go around, other dealerships have struggled to keep their lots full. Photo by Natalie Stanley

Months after thousands of Nebraskans went into quarantine, RV dealers say that they are still seeing an uptick in businesses that is far from usual. 

As the state gradually re-opens and people are freer to move about, some Nebraskans are taking advantage of the state’s parks, campgrounds, and open roads. 

The number of buyers has increased by so much that some dealerships are finding their lots nearly empty. 

“It’s insane. They just keep coming in. I keep thinking, ‘This isn’t going to last forever,’ but they just keep coming,” said Tammy Hobb, an employee for AC Nelsen RV World in Omaha.

 She said that they’ve sold more than 70% of their inventory within the last few weeks. 

Dealerships such as Bish’s RV in Kearney first saw a rapid increase in sales during the beginning of April, said sales manager Steve Watson. Their sales have gone up more than 25% “across the board” ever since.

“A lot of people wanted to buy them to get away so they wouldn’t get (COVID-19). Others purchased them so they could get away and stay safe,” Watson said.

RV dealerships have been struggling to meet the increase in demand because of the temporary closure of manufacturing plants. Supplies are low and because of this most orders have been put into the backlog, said Bob Fielder, general manager of AC Nelsen RV World in Omaha.

These circumstances have been surprisingly positive. Fielder said of increased sales: “It’s overwhelming.”

Mason RVs of Kearney has also seen a boost.

“Our lot has never been this empty before, and this has never happened before. There has been a big boost in numbers of people who are looking to purchase,”  said Jacob Mason, one of the owners of Mason RVs.

Red 10 RV Sales and Consignments in Norfolk experienced a record month in sales in May.

“We’re at the lowest we’ve probably been in terms of inventory,” said Christie Harrison, a Red 10 employee. 

Harrison said manufacturing companies have only recently gotten back to making campers again. 

Seasoned campers aren’t the only ones looking to hit the open road during the peak summer season. 

First-time buyers have been showing up in full force, which has made it difficult to maintain a wide selection of RVs for dealerships that offer trade-in deals, Harrison said.  

While the repercussions from COVID-19 have primarily had a positive impact on RV businesses, others such as Legacy Camper & RV Rentals in Lincoln experienced some fiscal setbacks.

“We were affected (by COVID-19) in a negative way because the parks closed down,” said John Fair, Legacy’s manager. 

Nebraska’s state parks were closed during the initial wave of COVID-19 cases, but have since opened back up with limited access in some cases.

Though Legacy lost more than $20,000 due to COVID-19, which can partially be explained by the amount it costs to keep their rentals in storage, Fair said that the company is fully booked for the next four weeks. This is business as usual for RV businesses during this time of year because of Father’s Day and the Fourth of July. 

“Normally we would space out rentals all year, but now everyone wants to rent at the same time,” Fair said. “People are tired of being cooped up.”

Senior journalism major, mostly covering local politics and legislature