Wheel Base: COVID-19 driving more business to Owensboro RV

In less than 10 years, Owensboro RV has grown from selling pre-owned campers out of a small cubicle to a sprawling complex, at 3810 W. Parrish Ave.

The business was established in 2011 by Rick and Lisa Nehls, who reside in Evansville.

Running the day-to-day operations is Adam Overall, the company’s general manager, who worked for a local car dealership for 17 years before joining Owensboro RV.

Overall said he purchased a camper from Rick Nehls when the business was getting started and the two developed a relationship from there.

“I was one of his first customers and we just became friends,” said Overall, who went to work for Owensboro RV in 2015. “…Rick and I would talk shop, and as the business grew, he and I just worked things out. My experience was just being a camper and I had a fixed operations background and he had more of a sales background.”

And no longer is Owensboro RV just pre-owned campers.

As part of the inventory, Owensboro RV offers new travel trailers, toy haulers, motorhomes, truck campers, fifth wheels and camping trailers with all the amenities.

Overall said Owensboro RV is a Forest River exclusive dealer with Wildwoods as its most popular brand.

He added that many customers opt for the bumper-pull campers.

“We have pop-up trailers all the way up to Class A motorhomes,” Overall said. “…But we’re in a truck-rich market here and a lot of people have half-ton trucks. So we try to tailor our inventory to half-ton trucks.”

Like most businesses, Owensboro RV has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic but it’s one that’s been impacted in a positive way.

According to travelandleisure.com, more than 40,462 RVs were shipped out in June — a 10% increase from the same time as last year.

During this summer, Overall said he’s been seeing more new RV customers who are wanting to travel without crowds and in controlled environments that have a built-in kitchen, bathroom and bed that’s their own.

“It’s because of the social distancing,” he said. “We’re doing a lot of the $30,000 and less bumper-pull business right now. …People who would typically go to resorts or fly cross country are still wanting to have fun and have family experiences. But when they step back to see what you can do inexpensively or for not much more than a typical vacation, RVing becomes enticing. Some of these RVs, you can get into them for $200 a month or less.”

He added that Owensboro RVs service department has also seen an increase in business from camper owners who were prepping for travel.

“In general, we’ve seen a big uptick in service, too,” Overall said. “I think people are tired of being home. They want to get out and go and do.”

Where COVID has challenged RV dealers is the ability to order more inventory.

Overall said he would normally have between 150 to 200 units on the ground but that’s now hovering about 100.

“The manufacturers were shut down for a few months so it’s been a bit of a challenge getting inventory and parts,” he said. “But we still have inventory. A lot of dealers are out of inventory. We’ve been very fortunate that we’ve been able to keep a good stock of inventory for people to choose from.”

And according to Overall, a misconception is that RV dealerships would typically be more successful near popular camping areas.

“You would always assume that it would be camper-rich sales environment where you have all of those campgrounds,” Overall said. “But that’s the destination; that’s where people are going. Most people are purchasing close to home and part of the adventure of camping is just seeing where it takes you.”

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