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Buying an RV is a big investment — one that you definitely need to think through before taking the plunge. Fortunately, you can try before you buy by renting an RV, which allows you to test out different RV types and make sure an RV is right for your lifestyle. Let’s take a look at some of the major questions you can answer by renting before you buy an RV.
1. Do You Actually Like Traveling in an RV?
This seems like a no-brainer, but honestly, RV travel isn’t for everyone. If you are someone who needs personal space, alone time, and/or long hot daily showers, family RV trips might not be your ideal travel method. Luckily, renting an RV can give you a taste of what it’s like without the commitment of buying one.
If you decide to do a trial run rental RV trip, it’s a good idea to go for at least a week if you have the time. That way, the initial ‘honeymoon period’ of excitement will pass after a few days and you will be able to realistically assess whether traveling in an RV is something that you like and want to do regularly.
2. Are You Comfortable Driving an RV?
Driving an RV is quite a bit different than driving a car — it requires longer braking distances, gentler acceleration, wider and slower turns, height awareness, bigger parking spaces, and generally more space to maneuver. Especially with Class A behemoths, it can take a while to get comfortable driving an RV. Renting an RV is a great way to practice driving and will help you decide what size of RV feels comfortable, or if you’d rather just stick to car travel. Nothing will ruin a road trip faster than constantly feeling anxious or nervous about driving!
3. Does the Living Arrangement Work For You?
Even if you opt for the biggest RV available, it will still only be about 8 feet wide inside. Slideouts can add a few extra feet of width when you are parked, but no matter how you slice it, your living space will be quite small compared to a home. Especially if you plan to use the RV for family travel, make sure that the amount of space will be feasible by renting an RV for a test trip.
This also allows you to test out the amenities and appliances in the RV. You might think a wet bathroom is acceptable but find after using it that you prefer a full bathroom, or discover that setting up a converting or fold-out bed every night is too much of a hassle. These are variables that you would essentially never have to consider in a house, and it’s hard to know your preferences without actually trying out various configurations.
4. Is Your Family On-Board?
RV travel is much more enjoyable for everyone if all the members of your family are excited about it and have good attitudes. If your teenager decides he or she hates traveling in an RV or your toddler can’t sleep unless it’s in his or her own bed, buying an RV would be a waste of money. Conveniently, you can test everyone’s tolerance and excitement for RV travel by renting one for a vacation without any further commitments.
5. Which Type of RV is Right for You?
Renting also allows you to try out several different types of RVs. You can check out basic RVs by renting from a service like Cruise America or you can check out more varied and unique rigs by renting through Outdoorsy or RVShare, websites where RV owners around the country can list their personal rigs for rent. On these RV rental sites, you can find everything from relatively tiny DIY converted cargo vans to beautifully renovated old-school Airstream trailers to super swanky Class As with multiple flat-screen TVs.
If you plan to use an RV for your annual camping trip or if you always will be traveling to a developed campground with your family, it might make more sense to buy an RV that you’ll be familiar with and can customize to your exact needs.
However, if you have dreams to take all kinds of different trips with various groups of people and to a wide variety of locations, it can definitely be more logical to keep your options open by renting the perfect rig for each occasion. For instance, one month you can dirt-bag it in a van conversion in Joshua Tree with your climbing buddies and the next month you can rent out a 45-footer to take your extended family to the lake for a family reunion. Renting keeps your options wide open!
You can also talk to RV owners to find out more information about the type of RV you are interested in, whether that’s your neighbor at the campground with your dream rig or the RVShare owner yo’re renting from. RVers generally love to talk about their rigs and will give you a thorough rundown of all the on-board systems and their thoughts on each element. They may even give you a tour so you can get a feel for the space.
6. Is Renting More Cost-Effective Than Buying an RV?
Depending on how much you plan to use your RV, it can be more cost-effective to just rent one each time you want to go on vacation. Let’s look at a cost scenario for renting versus buying.
On average, RV owners use their RVs for four weeks out of the year, and you can expect to get somewhere between 10 and 20 years of life out of your RV. For the sake of this comparison, we’ll look at a medium-sized Class C RV.
The average price to rent a Class C RV is between $150-$200 per night. If we calculate that you rent the RV for 28 nights (4 weeks) per year for 10 years, that brings your total cost to $42,000-$56,000. In 20 years, your total would be $84,000-$112,000. You won’t have to worry about performing maintenance or storing your RV, and you can get a relatively new model each year.
On other hand, purchasing a new Class C RV will cost at minimum $50,000, but could range up to as high as $250,000 for a fully decked out Super Class C. And, when you buy an RV you are responsible for all the maintenance and repair costs, which after 20 years can add up significantly.
You’ll also need to store the RV somewhere, and unless you can store it at your home, that’s an added monthly storage fee. Plus, you’ll have to take out an insurance policy on your RV and pay annually to keep your tabs up to date.
Finally, who’s to say that in 10 or 20 years, you will still want to go RVing? Or that your RV still fits your needs? You may buy a large motorhome when you’re kids are young and living at home, but once they move out and you want more freedom, a small trailer might fit your needs better.
Your travel tastes may completely change, and then you’ll be out quite a bit of money since RVs depreciate much the same as cars. For instance, new RVs drop in value by around 30% as soon as you drive it off the lot and by the sixth year of ownership it will be worth around half of what you paid for it. Some 20-year-old RVs in excellent condition can still fetch around $5,000, but that’s pocket change if you dropped $100,000 on it originally. However, if you’ve gotten 20 years of enjoyment out of your RV, $5,000 is sure better than nothing.
Renting before you buy an RV is an excellent way to be sure that you really want to make that huge purchase. It allows you to get a feel for the lifestyle, test out different rigs, and may even be a long-term solution that makes more financial sense for you as opposed to buying!
Tell me – did you ever consider that you can rent before you buy an RV? Do you see any other advantages?
- How To Choose The Best RV Rental For Your Next Vacation
- RV Types: Which is the Best for You to Rent?
- 5 Ways to Save Money on Your RV Camping Trip