Renting or buying an RV: what you need to know

May 19, 2022

By Lois Sullivan

Renting or buying an RV: what you need to know

A woman decides to rent or buy an rv.

RV, or recreational vehicle, is a broad term that covers a variety of vehicle types. Before you rent or buy one, it's important to understand the differences between these many options. Consider whether you want something you can tow or drive, as well as the length of the vehicle you're comfortable towing or driving. Read on to learn about the types of RVs and some factors to think about before buying or renting one.

  • Motorhome: A motorhome has an engine and can be driven. The back of the vehicle is fully accessible from the driver's cab. Based on their size, motorhomes are categorized as Class A, Class B, or Class C. Class A is the largest, with vehicles ranging from 29 feet to 45 feet long.
  • Travel trailer: Requiring a hitch and vehicle rated to tow the proper load, a travel trailer is hooked to your vehicle and pulled behind it. These trailers can be anywhere from 12 feet long to over 40 feet.
  • Truck camper: A truck camper sits in the bed of your truck and has a section that goes over the cab. These RVs are small but can be easier to maneuver.
  • Camper van: Smaller than a motorhome, a camper van also has a motor and can be driven. This type of vehicle often doesn't have all the amenities of a motorhome — but it isn't much larger than a regular van, making it versatile.

Deciding whether to rent or buy an RV and which type might suit your needs takes research. Let's explore the answers to some questions you might have about your options.

How much does it cost to rent an RV?

Renting an RV has expenses and fees that go beyond the nightly rate. It's important to consider each of these costs when determining whether renting an RV makes sense for you financially. While the nightly rental fee for a small RV may be less than a night in a hotel room, the rates for RVs do go up based on size, age, and amenities. Prices also vary depending on your location and the company you choose to rent from. A 2022 survey of thousands of RV rentals on two popular booking platforms found a wide range of average RV rental costs, including:

  • Class A: $175 to $275 per night
  • Class B: $100 to $200 per night
  • Class C: $150 to $200 per night
  • Travel trailer: $50 to $200 per night
  • Fifth wheel: $60 to $150 per night
  • Camper van: $75 to $150 per night

These nightly rates aren't the only part of RV rental that will cost you, though. Keep in mind that an RV is a vehicle, regardless of whether you're driving it or towing it, and it needs regular maintenance. Other costs to consider when budgeting for an RV rental include:

  • Fuel: RVs are heavy and require a lot of fuel. It's not just the gasoline or diesel that goes into the RV's or tow vehicle's tank that you have to consider. To heat and cook in your RV, you'll also likely need propane.
  • Campground fees: While there are some free camping areas, they often don't offer water or electric hookups for RVs. Budgeting for stays in campgrounds that have certain RV amenities is a must.
  • Showers and laundry: Many campgrounds have hot showers and laundry facilities, but sometimes these may cost extra. Although the cost for these may be minimal, it's something to consider.
  • Insurance: Make sure you budget for insurance, as most RV rental places require it. Even if they don't require insurance, it's highly recommended.
  • Cleaning fee: When you rent an RV, the company usually wants it back clean. However, you may also be charged a cleaning fee so that they can get the vehicle ready for the next renters.

How much does it cost to buy an RV?

Prices for buying an RV can vary greatly depending on whether you buy a brand-new or used one and the type and length of the vehicle you want. The average price for purchasing a new RV is between $20,000 and $300,000. RVs are great for long road trips, working away from home for extended periods, and seeing the country at a slower pace. But if you really want to enjoy your RV, it's important to get one that works for you, with payments that fit your budget. 

Like renting an RV, there are other costs to consider when you're the proud owner of a recreational vehicle. These are some that differ from the rental considerations mentioned above:

  • Repairs and maintenance: When you own your RV, you're responsible for its upkeep. If you choose to own a motorhome, it will need oil changes and other services just like a car. Tire maintenance is another important responsibility to keep in mind, especially for those who travel in their RV frequently.
  • Storage fees: Those who don't have room to store their RV at their residence may have to pay to store it somewhere else when it's not in use.
  • Registration: Keeping your RV legal requires paying to register it in your state. This fee will vary based on where you live, and it may be a yearly fee or a one-time payment.

What are the benefits of renting an RV?

If you're unsure whether you're comfortable driving or staying in an RV, renting one first might be a good option. After you've experienced RV travel, you can decide if you'd like to pursue an RV loan to purchase one in the future. Another benefit of renting an RV is for those who only plan to use an RV once or twice a year, as it means you don't have to make repairs to something you rarely use.

What are the benefits of buying an RV?

Buying an RV has its own benefits. If you've tried RVing and know you want to do it frequently, then owning your own RV is a great idea. If your work requires you to travel often and stay on location for a month or longer, an RV could be the perfect solution to your housing needs. Owning an RV gives you the freedom to use it whenever you get the urge to travel, and if you use it a lot, it can be the more affordable option.

Make your open road dreams a reality with a great RV loan

A great rate on an RV loan from Alliant will ensure you can spend more of your money on memorable weekend adventures.

Want to learn more about RVing? Take a look at these articles:

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