Is it better to rent or buy an RV? - Talking Campers

Is it better to rent or buy an RV?

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Wondering if you should rent or buy an RV? Let’s break down the true cost of ownership and the cost of renting to see which is a good fit for you!

rear view of the back of a camper

So, you’re looking at going camping, but you don’t know whether to pull the trigger on buying or if renting is your speed.

For some, they may have never had the experience to know what goes into camping with an RV.

It can be rather daunting. Here, we will help you weigh your options to determine whether you are ready to buy or if you are better off renting for your camping trip.

Owning

Time and Cost

This is one area that will be a determining factor for most people since, if you’ve never been RVing before, you likely don’t know what it will cost you once its all said and done.

Buying an RV will not come cheaply. The initial investment that is made just to purchase the RV will be like buying another car that you only drive occasionally. For some, making that kind of purchase is hard to justify to yourself.

Looking at it objectively, how much will you use it if you do purchase one? For our family, it is something that we get excited about every year as the winter starts to fade and spring weather fills the air. That means its camping season. If you feel like you will use it more than 2 or 3 times a year, then purchasing might be your better option. 

So, how much does it really cost to buy an RV?

Well, that can depend on a few factors.

If you’re buying new, you can end up spending a pretty penny. That extra car payment could be anywhere from a couple hundred just for your loan to almost $750-1000 if you’re throwing down for a new Class A.

Buying a used RV is more fiscally responsible in almost every case as a new RV is expected to decline around 40% in the first two years of ownership. 

There are unforeseen costs that can go into purchasing as well.

Every RV that travels on the road has to be insured like any other vehicle which can add a little more to your monthly budget. On top of that, there are potential storage fees if you aren’t able to store it on your own property.

Other than that, you’re mainly looking at any upkeep to prevent any possible damage or deterioration to the RV. If you purchase a motorhome, there would be the added expense of the engine and associated parts.

One way that people help offset the cost of owning is to rent it out to other people on various websites. You have to really like the idea of other people sleeping in your bed for that, though, and I don’t know about you, but the idea of that creeps me out.

It’s expensive, so you have to ensure that your family is financially ready to take on the responsibility of the recurring monthly bills that owning entails. If you don’t pay for most of it in cash, you’ll be paying on it for 10-15 years.

First Year Cost

I’ll give you an example of what to expect your first year camping by showing you the costs that we incurred:

We went with a used RV that was 3 years old, so we still got a nice camper without having to suffer much in terms of depreciation. If anything, we let the previous owner deal with that, and we benefited from it.

Family having dinner at picnic table with campsite in background

$2,000 – Down payment

This can vary depending on the overall cost of the unit and how comfortable you are to put money down. We do recommend putting throwing something down it helps offset some other costs such as tax, dealer fees, etc.

$3660 – Principal and Interest

Since the loan is a 15-year loan, you can imagine how much of this is interest and how little is actually principal. I think that we maybe saw 25-30% of this go towards the principal.

$300 – Insurance

No way to get around this. You’ll be glad that you have it in the long run.

$50 – Propane and Winterizing

I mainly just use propane for cooking, so that wasn’t too bad, and I winterized it myself since my father-in-law taught me how to do it. You can expect to spend about another $100 if you have someone else do it for you.

$0 – Storage

Luckily, we had enough area in on our property to store our RV, and there weren’t any local restrictions against doing so. We have since moved, and we pay about $90/month, so this increased to $1080/year. 

We were lucky that we didn’t have to fork out a bunch of money in repairs the first year that we owned our RV, but we still ended up putting out just over $6000 in our first year.

It would have been positive another $1000 if we would have had to store it. You can see from the numbers just how costly it can be to own. 

Added Benefits of RV Ownership

It’s Yours

The best part about owning something is that it’s YOURS. I know – too obvious.

There is no better feeling than to walk into an RV knowing that you can go anywhere and do anything with no restrictions. Since it’s yours, you can keep it loaded with all of your favorite items that you like when you’re out camping.

You won’t have to dig through everything in your house to fill up the RV then take it all out again once you’re done. Since everything is already packed, you can be on the road to your destination in minimal time. 

If you’re anything like me, I love to be comfortable with my surroundings, and owning my RV allows me to have that. I can customize it however I see fit.

If you’re buying an older model RV, this can become more of a necessity than a benefit, unless you really care for the feeling of shag carpet flowing through your toes as you walk across the room.

If you want to paint it bright pink or put flames on the side like a hot wheels car, there’s nothing stopping you, unless you’re married, of course, then your spouse will break the news that it was just a pipe dream. 

You will own something that no one can take away from you unless you default on the loan. Then, the bank could probably take it away, I suppose. 

Memories

This is what drives me to go camping every year. Sure, there is a lot of work that goes into camping, but no possession on this earth can replace the time that I get to spend with my wife and kids.

If I didn’t own my RV, I’m afraid that I wouldn’t have these same memories. I wouldn’t have my daughters looking forward to fishing on the lake each time that we return because I likely wouldn’t have had the chance to teach them.

Each campground also brings its own unique atmosphere where they can play and participate in activities. My wife grew up camping like this with her family and introduced it to me, and now I can’t imagine doing anything else to spend time with my family.

Camping is an excellent way to create lasting memories with your family, and owning an RV will give you the flexibility to create these memories on a regular basis. 

Father and daughter sitting on bench outside RV

Renting

Renting is a great tool to help determine if camping is something that you want to do. There are a lot of scary questions that go into ownership.

Will I really like it? Can I justify that extra expense? How much responsibility goes with camping? Maybe your significant other wants to introduce you to camping, and you aren’t sold on it yet. 

Time and Cost

How much will I really use it? It’s the question that most people have to ask them at least once before buying an RV.

If you spend that much money to buy it, you’d have to use it all the time. Right?

Not necessarily. These questions lead to a good number of people to rent an RV one, two, or however many times they feel is necessary to make the determination for themselves. If you’re going to make such a large investment, it only makes sense. 

If you do decide to go the route of renting, it will prevent the long term cost and responsibility that comes with ownership. When the trip is over, the RV gets turned back in and you go back to your normal way of life.

You will, however, have an upfront cost that can be rather costly. Renting can easily cost $100-150 per day which isn’t too bad for a weekend since you’d be looking at about $300-450 for the weekend.

How many weekend trips would you plan to take each year? Or could it be a week to ten-day trip? That could be significantly more expensive. And quickly add up to more than the cost of ownership.

Bottom Line

I look at it this way. During the camping season, I’m likely to use an RV at least once per month, so renting for a weekend trip would already cover the loan on the RV that I currently own. While RVs do depreciate, you still have something at the end of the day when you buy.