Smith Lake Park

This Times file photos shows the camping area at Smith Lake Park.

ATHENS, Texas – People are sick and tired of “staying-in-place.” Even though there are still strict protocols in many areas of the country, one of the ways people are keeping things fun and safe this summer is by renting and buying recreational vehicles.

RVs are a unique way of controlling your environment but still getting out and seeing the world. With sanitation being such a primary concern, some people are still hesitant to stay at hotels. RVs allow campers to avoid other people and to be in control of cleanliness. There is no need to sanitize every time if you are only around your own family and items.

May was a record sales month, according to several RV and camper owners.

Terry Cooper, the “Texas RV Professor,” said the quarantine allowed people to spend more time connecting with their families, something they are now unwilling to sacrifice.

Cooper, is also owner of Athens' Big Red School House and Community Center, which houses 15,000 square feet of classrooms and work bays for RV technician training.

He spoke of one RV owner who previously worked away from home several weeks at a time. After the shelter-in-place orders were removed he realized that he was not prepared emotionally or physically to leave his family and lose what he had gained.

Choosing a vehicle

As with most large purchases, people have factors they need to consider. Cooper offered several tips for new shoppers.

First, whether you buy new or used don't jump in with an emotional buy.

Cooper recommends having an inspector look over the vehicle. Having an inspection can prevent accidentally purchasing a model with safety issues, mold, wiring issues, or perhaps a part that is not functioning properly.

Secondly, RV users should learn how they operate; they are different than a home or vehicle.

“Get trained on how to service and maintain the unit so you can enjoy it,” Cooper said.

Finally, check regulations at the parks and recreation places you plan to visit. A little pre-planning could save a larger inconvenience. 

When shopping, Cooper suggested starting with a local dealer, many times they will have both used and new units, Facebook marketplace and RV traders are also good options, especially when shopping for a specific model.

Shelli Parker is a reporter for the Athens, Texas Review. Email sparker@athensreview.com.

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