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Renting vs Buying an RV: Should You Try Before You Buy?

Updated: Nov 5, 2021

So you've decided to give the RV lifestyle a try. You're ready to hit the road and let it take you where it may. But how do you decide whether to rent an RV or buy one? This is a common question that plagues the minds of new RVers. Of course, owning your own rig means freedom and flexibility, but it also means a huge upfront cost. Renting can seem like a more affordable option, but if you're planning to be on the road a lot, the costs can add up.

Average RV cost

So how do you decide between renting or buying an RV? Read on to learn the pros and cons of each option and how you can make an informed buying decision.

Pros and Cons of Renting an RV

A lot of new RVers gravitate towards renting an RV because it allows them to get a taste of the RV lifestyle without having to spend millions in the process. But how much does it cost to rent an RV? Can you rent a motorhome for a week? Here are some pros and some cons of renting an RV.

cost to store RV

Advantages of Renting an RV

  • Low-Commitment Option to Test out RV Living: Renting an RV is a great way to test out if the RV lifestyle is right for you. A minimalistic lifestyle and going where the road takes you sounds romantic, but the reality may be different. Renting is a low-commitment option to test the waters before you commit to the lifestyle.

  • Less Upfront Cost: You can rent an RV for as low as $75 per day. That means you can choose an RVing experience that suits your pocket. You also don't have to factor in maintenance or upgrade costs as those are covered by the RV rental companies.

  • Opportunity to Test Different RV Models: Choosing the right RV for your family can be a daunting task, especially for new RVers. This is where renting an RV can really help you test out different RV models to find the one that you like the best. Rental RVs range from affordable campers to luxurious Class As, so you can choose whichever model you like.

  • No Need For Maintenance or Storage: Renting an RV means you don't have to worry about any wear and tear. Any repairs needed are taken care of by the rental company. You also don't have to worry about storing the RV when it isn't in use, you will simply return the RV once you're back from a trip.

  • Choose What You Need: Once you buy an RV, you are pretty much stuck with what you've got. If you've got a Class B camper and are now a family of five or want to travel with more people, you would need additional transport. But that isn't a problem when you're renting, you can simply choose the RV that meets your needs.

  • Learn the Ins and Outs of RVs: There is more to the RV lifestyle than just living off the grid. You need to learn how to actually drive an RV and how your motor home works. Renting an RV gives you the opportunity to explore your RV inside and out.

Disadvantages of Renting an RV

  • Finding a new Rental for Every Trip: One of the biggest cons of renting an RV is that you will have to rent a new one every time you plan to hit the road. This may mean planning your trips ahead which takes some of the freedom of RVing away from you.

  • Shared Space: Rental RVs are used by multiple people and you have to deal with the fact that the beds and bathroom you are using have been used by many people before you. This might not be an issue for some people but it is something to keep in mind.

  • Rules and Regulations: RV rental companies will make you sign numerous legal documents before you can drive the rig out. This is mainly to safeguard the company against any losses. If you don't adhere to the rules you might end up paying heavily. There are also certain restrictions with rental RVs, for example you can't take pets along on some rental RVs.

  • Doesn't Suit Every Lifestyle: If you plan on adopting the RV lifestyle long-term, renting simply isn't an option for you. Not only can you not rent an RV indefinitely, but you also cannot make any structural changes or upgrades to the rig.

How much does it cost to rent an RV?

The costs of renting an RV depend on the RV model you choose, the length of your trip, and any additional customizations to your rental. For example, if you rent out a Class C motorhome that fits four people for a month, it will cost you anywhere from $3500 to $4000 for the entire trip (that is just under $150 per day).

Pros and Cons of Buying an RV

The prospect of owning your own RV is an exciting one. But is it the right choice for you? Read on to explore the pros and cons of buying an RV.

luxury RV cost

Advantages of Buying an RV

  • The Freedom of Owning Your Own Motorhome: The biggest advantage of buying an RV is that it's yours forever long you want to keep it. You don't have to return it at the end of the trip. You are free to make any changes you like in it, you can pack it however you want, and take it out when you feel like it.

  • Financial Viability in the Long-Term: If you're planning on living in your RV or taking it out frequently, then buying an RV makes more financial sense than renting one. Don't let the large upfront cost discourage you, you can make money off of the RV by renting it out in between trips. You can also save money buying second-hand or refurbished RVs.

  • The Flexibility of Design and Upgrade: Another great thing about owning an RV is that you can customize it to your tastes. Install keyless door locks for safety and convenience, get a handy skylight insulator or curved step covers, light up your RV with LED lights, and much more.

  • Opportunity for Some Extra Income: Not using your RV during the off-season? Rent it out to make some extra money on the side. A lot of new RVers prefer renting RVs that are home-used so they don't have to worry about RV being used by multiple people before.

  • Fully-Packed and Ready: When you rent an RV you have to take all your camping and living supplies with you every time you travel. Owning an RV means you can keep it fully stocked with essentials like bedding, utensils, camping equipment, and more. So you can hit the road whenever you want without packing everything from scratch.

Disadvantages of Buying an RV

  • Huge Investment: RVs don't come cheap. Even if you don't plan on buying one of the more luxurious Class A motorhomes (that can cost as much as $1,000,000), a modest option will still require you to dole out around $30,000 – $50,000. Not to mention licensing and insurance costs, and the cost of buying camping equipment.

  • Maintenance and Repair: Like any other motor vehicle, RVs require regular upkeep and maintenance. Things like electrical, plumbing, and heating and cooling systems will require a couple of hundred dollars to repair and maintain each year.

  • Upgrading isn't Easy: While you can make minor upgrades to your rig to meet your needs, any major customizations may require professional help and a lot of money. Space can become an issue as your family grows. In such cases, you will have to sell your RV and buy a new and improved one.

  • RV Storage: Even the most modest RV models are larger than your normal vehicles, which means they require additional space to park and store when not in use. You might have to invest in a secure parking space for your RV. Don't forget to cover your RV properly so it doesn't get damaged or become home to animals.

How much does it cost to buy an RV?

The cost of buying an RV depends on factors such as the model you choose, the licensing and insurance of your choice, storage fees, and whether you took out a loan to buy the camper. For example, if you buy a new camper for $50,000 it might cost you over $15000 to keep it for the first year. This cost includes insurance ($300), extended service contract ($300), storage fees ($400), interest payments ($4500), and a depreciation cost of $10,000.

The depreciation cost will be much lower if you buy a used RV but in that case, maintenance and repair costs will be higher.

Renting vs Buying an RV: How to Make the Decision

Now that you've learned about the pros and cons of each option, it is time to decide which one is the right one for you. There are some factors that will help guide your decision.

How Much RV Experience do you Have

If you're new to the RV world, renting an RV can be a good option to get your toes wet. You can try out different RV models and decide which one is right for you. You can also learn about the different aspects of RV living and make an informed buying decision later on.

How Many People Will be Using the RV

If you plan to travel with a different number of people at different times, it is better to rent an RV since you can choose the RV that is right for your need. However, if you plan on living in your RV long-term, buying an RV is a better option.

How Often Will You Use Your RV

Renting an RV is a cost-effective option for seasonal RVers. If you don't plan on taking your RV out frequently, it makes sense to rent one when needed. However, frequent travelers and adventure seekers will be better off with their own RVs so they can hit the road whenever they want.

Do You Have a Place to Store Your RV

Storage is a big issue when it comes to RVs. If you don't have a secure space to store your RV, then renting might be a better option. Storage spaces and parking spots can cost a lot so you have to keep that in mind as well.

The Last Word

RVing is a unique and freeing experience that is becoming more and more popular. If you want to explore the RV lifestyle, there is no better time than now. So go out there and explore your options. Whether you choose to rent an RV or buy an RV, the adventures on the road will last you a lifetime. Happy RVing!


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