Home on the road 

Last week The New York Times reported that Missoula County ranks fifth nationally in the number of RV registrations over the last three years. According to the Times, people are coming to Montana from all over the United States to set up limited liability corporations that allow them to avoid paying sales taxes on their huge purchases. And it’s all perfectly legal in Montana.

The RVs these folks are buying aren’t your grandpa’s Winnebago. These modern day “diesel pushers” are high-tech houses on wheels costing as much as $350,000. Wondering what’s so appealing about trading in a sedentary lifestyle for a home on the road, we visited a couple of Missoula’s RV dealers this week for a tour of the plush mobile abodes.

At Bretz RV and Marine, Gregg Klepper showed us Alpha Leisure’s top-selling diesel pusher (meaning the diesel engine is in the back of the rig), the Alfa See Ya!

The rig is similar in size and general outward appearance to a metro transit bus, but the similarities stop there. Once inside, the unit is more akin to an uptown apartment than a Greyhound. The driver and passenger seats are huge, oversized lounge chairs with built-in seatbelts. The floor features real ceramic tile, and the galley (that’s kitchen for you non-mobile homers) is replete with oak cabinets, solid-surface countertops and a side-by-side fridge. The living room boasts a sleeper sofa, dinette and another reclining lounge chair.

At Gull Boats and R.V., salesman Grady Nelson offered a tour of the Western Recreation Alpine Coach Limited.

“These are what the big hitters are buying,” Nelson said as we stepped into the coach. At $341,207, the unit features state-of-the-art accommodations, including a flat panel LCD-TV with HDTV satellite receiver and a computerized control console that would make Lone Starr drool.

With no special driver’s license required, no lawn to mow, no house to paint and no property taxes to pay, it’s no surprise snowbirds are pulling up stakes to drive through Montana’s king-sized tax loopholes.

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