RV Dreams: To Rent or Buy? Making the Right Move

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Rent or Buy a Camper costs spreadsheetIs it better to rent an RV or buy one? Deciding on one can seem like an impossible task, especially if you’re new to RVing. In this post, we will do a cost analysis of renting an RV vs buying, explore the pros and cons of each option, and give you our verdict.

We will also share some key questions that will guide you toward the right decision, reveal some alternatives to RV ownership vs renting, and answer some frequently asked questions. Ready to roll? Let’s get started.


2024 Cost to Rent vs Buy an RV 

Here’s a table detailing the average national cost to rent an RV in 2024 vs. the cost to buy new and used. The rental data is sourced from our RV Rental Price Index Report, updated in March 2024. Notably, these are the initial/upfront costs of each option. We will look at the other expenses in the next section.

Class of RV

Average RV Rental Price

Average RV Cost to Buy New 

Average RV Cost to Buy Used

Class A RV (Bus-like unit)

$306 Per Night

$150,000 to $800,000+

$35,000 to $200,000+

Class B RV (Campervan)

$232 Per Night

$100,000 to $300,000+

$25,000 to $150,000+

Class C RV (Mid-size and has Over-cab Sleeping)

$212 Per Night

$80,000 to $350,000+

$30,000 to $150,000+

Travel Trailer

$115 Per Night

$10,000 to $80,000+

$6,000 to $50,000+

Fifth Wheel 

$160 Per Night

$40,000 to $200,000+

$20,000 to $90,000+

Pop-Up Camper

$89 Per Night

$8,000 to $40,000+

$5,000 to $20,000+

Toy Hauler

$143 Per Night

$40,000 to $150,000+

$15,000 to $50,000+

Truck Camper 

$125 Per Night

$20,000 to $100,000+

$5,000 to $40,000+


True Cost of Owning an RV Vs. Renting an RV (Table Breakdown)


Understanding the financial implications is crucial when choosing between RV ownership and renting. Here are the costs associated with buying a camper vs renting. Notably, we won’t consider the common costs that both buyers and renters incur. We will mention them later.


RV Ownership Cost Table

 

is buying an rv worth it"

Here’s how much an RV costs to own. These are the expenses that only an RV owner will encounter. A person who rents is free from these costs. We’ve also included links to helpful sources.

Type of RV Ownership Expense

Amount

Upfront Cost

$8,000 to $300,000 + based on RV Type

RV Financing and Interest

You’ll pay an extra $1,000 to $40,000+ based on RV value & terms

Depreciation Rate

25% in 1st year, 30% by 3rd yr, and 40-70% from 5-10th yr 

Sales Tax

0% to 7.25% depending on which state you live in (Some cities and counties also set their own sales and property tax rates)

Property Tax

0% to 4% depending on State

RV Registration Fees

$20 to $400 depending on State

RV Insurance

$150 to $3,500 per yr depending on RV type, coverage, & provider

RV Storage Fees

$75 to $450+ per month depending on facility and RV size

RV Maintenance and Repairs

$1,000 to $5,000+ annually (chassis, tow vehicle, toad, generator, tires, appliance, etc) depending on RV Class & condition

Upgrades and Accessories

$100 to $2,000+ annually (gear, decor, solar, better batteries, suspension, leveling blocks, surge protector, etc)


RV Rental Cost Table (With Hidden Fees)

 

rent or buy airstream rv

The nightly fee on RV rental listings doesn’t paint the entire picture. Understanding other hidden costs will give you the full financial commitment of renting an RV. 

RV Rental Costs

Average Amount

Listed Nightly Fee

$80 to $300+ depending on RV type

RV Cleaning Fee

$100 to $300+ if you return a dirty RV

Extra Mileage Fees

$0.30 to $0.40 per extra mile if you exceed the mileage limit, which is often 100 to 200 miles (Not all rentals have this fee)

Prep Fees

$0 to $300 (non-refundable – covers tasks like cleaning the unit, preparing linen, emptying tanks, fuelling, and filling LP bottles)

Service Charges

Up to 20% of the total cost (fees to cover the marketplace transaction)

Taxes

0% to 10% of total rental cost depending on the State

Pet Deposit Fee

$50 to $300 one-time or $10 to $30 daily non-refundable (not every owner charges a pet fee)

Insurance

$120 to $220 on Outdoorsy for the duration of the rental period (Amount depends on preferred coverage)

Security Deposit

$500 to $2,000 refundable deposit in case of damage. Amount depends on RV Class and owner

Excessive Generator Usage Fee

$1 to $5 per hour if you exceed the 1 to 4 hrs of free generator use per day (Some owners offer free generator use)

Gear and Supplies Add-on Fees

$10 to $100 depending on the item (camp chairs, cooler, generator, pots, cleaning supplies, linen set, grill, firewood, bike rack, bikes, kayak, yard games, dog fence, etc)

RV Delivery, Set Up & Pickup

$0.5 to $5 per mile or $200 to $300 every 100 miles

Smoking or Odor Fee

$150 to $1,000

Sewer Dumping Fee

$50 to $200

Fuel Fee

$50 Penalty + Fuel cost if you don’t return the motorhome with a full tank

Propane Refilling Fee

$50 to $100 if bottles aren’t returned full

Early Pickup Fee

$50 to $300

Late Return and No-Show Fees

$50 to $300 Penalty + the hourly rental rate or the full daily rate every day the RV is late 


Generally, these extra costs can add 50% or more to the advertised nightly RV rental rate. Thankfully, many of the add-on fees can be avoided if you shop carefully and read between the lines of the rental description. Look for rentals without hidden or extra charges. 


Many owners are also willing to lower or waive some fees if you negotiate. In addition, some owners offer discounts if you rent for longer periods. Common discounts are 10% off the nightly rate if you rent for 7+ nights and 20% off the nightly rate if you rent 28+ nights.


Follow this link to discover the
best RV rental companies in the US.


Costs That Both RV Renters and Owners Incur

 

Some of the costs that both RV owners and renters incur include fuel, campground fees, food, recreation activities, RV park memberships, tolls, cellular service, and RV internet. Others include laundry, toiletries, road trip apps, mail forwarding, parking, car wash, and propane.


The Pros and Cons of Renting an RV vs Owning an RV


Should I rent a camper or buy one? Here are the advantages and drawbacks of an RV rental compared to owning an RV.


Pros of Renting an RV

 

Renting instead of buying an RV Camper

Here are the benefits of an RV rental:

 

  • Low upfront cost compared to buying one.

     

  • Renting is a low commitment with a fixed cost. You only pay for the time you use it.

     

  • When you rent an RV, you avoid unnecessary consumer debt.

     

  • Maintenance and repairs are not your responsibility. No need to worry about what broke, what to service, and what to replace during or after the trip. The owners pay these bills (as long as you didn’t cause the issue.)

     

  • No ownership costs like storage, sales tax, and remodeling expenses.

     

  • No concerns about the RV losing value over time.

     

  • You can choose the type of RV, model, and floor plan that best suits your needs for each trip. For example, a bunkhouse RV for a family trip, a small teardrop for a solo trip, a toy hauler for hauling outdoor gear, and a 4×4 off-road rig for an overlanding expedition.

     

  • Renting an RV lets you determine whether you even like RVing, helping you avoid buyer’s remorse.

     

  • Renting helps you learn how RVs work and what features you need (and don’t need) in case you decide to buy.

     

  • It’s cost-effective if you’re busy and don’t have the time to dedicate to the great outdoors.

     

  • If you’re nervous about driving or towing a giant unit, you can rent and have it delivered to a campground.

     

  • If you have a short vacation window and want to get to a far-away destination, you can book an RV rental near where you want to stay, fly to the destination, pick up the RV, and kick off your vacation right away.

     

  • You can arrange to drop off a rental somewhere different from where you picked it up.

     

  • You can access any RV resort or campground by renting the right RV. Whether a luxury resort for Class As or a national park with narrow roads ideal for campervans.

     

  • Renting gives you access to the newest models with the latest RVing technology and equipment.

     

  • Renting is a brilliant way to test out green RV options and electric RVs without committing to buying.

     

  • Great for those who only plan one big trip in a couple of years.

     

  • Rentals are perfect for those living with disabilities and unable to handle the manual responsibilities of ownership. There are lots of wheelchair-accessible rentals.

     

  • Renting is an excellent option for foreigners visiting the US for a multi-week trip.

     

  • You can walk away from a rental anytime if you don’t like it, unlike RV ownership.

     

  • Opportunity to travel in luxury RVs that you could otherwise not afford to buy.

     

Rent an RV nearby to experience the lifestyle and find out which RV type you like best.


Cons of Renting an RV

 

Renting vs. Buying an RV spreadsheet

Here are the disadvantages of an RV rental:

 

  • If you plan to go RV camping often, rental costs can quickly increase.

     

  • High costs for any damages or excessive wear and tear.

     

  • Less spontaneity. With rentals, it’s hard to make impromptu trips because it takes time to find the right RV, talk to the owner, go through orientation, pick it up, and pack.

     

  • In the peak season, it’s sometimes difficult to find and secure the desired RV model. It’s impossible to guarantee that the exact unit you want will be available on the right days.

     

  • You can’t customize or remodel a rental RV to your liking.

     

  • Organizing a new RV rental for every vacation can be hectic.

     

  • Add-ons, mileage fees, and hidden expenses can ramp up the rental costs significantly.

     

  • Sharing sleeping quarters, the bathroom, and linen is unsettling for many people.

     

  • During emergencies, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, many owners don’t rent out their units.

     

  • There are many rules you have to abide by, depending on the owner. I.e, no pets, strict pickup & return times, geographical limits, no festivals, no tailgating, and no boondocking.

     

  • When using the RV, many renters are extra cautious about causing damages. While it’s good, the constant worry may detract from the enjoyment of the trip.

     

  • Risk of being up-charged if you rent from the wrong person. Some people have been accused of causing damage that already existed. Fortunately, our rental platform allows you to view RV rental ratings and reviews to ensure you book from the right person. Also, document the condition of the RV during pick up to avoid disputes.


Pros of Buying an RV

 

is it cheaper to rent or buy an rv

Here are the advantages of owning an RV:

 

  • It’s all yours. You don’t have to share it, and you can do whatever you want with it.

     

  • Flexibility and freedom to go on spontaneous trips. You can hop in and hit the road whenever you want.

     

  • It’s more affordable in the long term if you’re a frequent camper, full-time RVer, or going on a multi-month trip.

     

  • You can customize your RV’s interior and exterior according to your needs and preferences. Whether it’s upgrading an uncomfortable mattress, installing solar panels, painting the walls, or decorating the exterior.

     

  • Everything is already packed and ready to go.

     

  • You can generate income if you decide to rent it out when not in use. This helps offset some ownership costs.

     

  • Some models maintain their value really well, like fiberglass campers or Airstream trailers.

     

  • An RV can be a great emergency backup if you live in a region that experiences storms, fires, earthquakes, or other disasters. It can double as a fully stocked, ready-to-go, emergency shelter.

     

  • If you’re attached to things and want to create long-term memories for your kids, owning an RV is a great option.

     

  • If you accidentally put a dent in it or other minor wear, you shrug and move on. If it’s a rental, you are immediately wondering how much you will get charged.

     

  • It’s easier to join RV communities and enjoy the camaraderie of fellow owners when you have your own camper. You can join owners’ groups, attend rallies, and participate in other social events.
  • You could rent out your RV and earn extra cash to offset the ownership expenses.


Cons of Buying an RV

 

  • High initial cost. It’s a significant upfront investment compared to renting ($10,000 for bare-bones teardrops to $500,000+ for luxury coaches).

     

  • New RVs lose value quickly. In fact, they depreciate by 20% in the first year alone.

     

  • Even if you buy a used RV, you’re going to have to spend money to equip it, fix any damage, and update it to your liking.

     

  • Warranty is usually short and limited. Ultimately, you’ll foot the bill for maintenance, upkeep, and repairs. This is expensive, costing several thousand dollars yearly.

     

  • Monthly storage fees add up pretty fast, costing $900 to $4000 a year, depending on the facility. Also, many Homeowners Associations (HOAs) and local jurisdictions restrict RV storage at home.

     

  • RV ownership comes with other unavoidable expenses, like registration, licensing, insurance, taxes, monthly payments, and interest.

     

  • Owning an RV often necessitates purchasing additional gear and equipment, which can end up setting you back a few thousand dollars. That includes items like hoses, water filter, leveling blocks, toolbox, cookware, linen, generator, solar, batteries, grills, mats, and camp furniture.

     

  • If you buy a big travel trailer or fifth wheel, you’ll have to invest in a capable tow vehicle. Also, large motorhomes may require you to invest in a toad to access places where the coach can’t easily go. That’s an extra $20,000 to $60,000 plus maintenance expenses.

     

  • There are way too many unknowns. Even with a high-quality RV brand, you’re never sure what will fail and when, and how much you’ll end up paying in repairs and maintenance. Common issues owners face include roof leaks, delamination, rotting floor, burst pipes, blocked toilet, dead furnace, problematic appliances, and engine breakdown. This can be stressful if you have a limited travel budget.

     

  • The “10+ year rule” imposed by some RV parks can be a significant hurdle for RV owners with units approaching or past ten-year of age. Renters have the flexibility to choose an RV based on a destination’s restrictions.

     

  • Impossible to drive your RV to some far-away destinations in a short vacation. Rentals give you the option to fly, pick up your RV, and drive.

     

  • If you’re buying an RV that’s more than 8 to 10 years old, you may not be able to get a loan for it.

     

  • Owning an RV demands significant hands-on work, like regular cleaning, patching up caulk, sealing any leaks, waxing, and winterizing.

     

  • Unpredictable market prices if you decide to buy and sell immediately after a trip.

     

  • You have to constantly worry about protecting your investment from weather, pests, fire, mold, mildew, rust, and theft. All that costs money.


Verdict: Is Renting an RV Expensive Vs Buying?

 

is renting an rv worth it

So, is it better to rent an RV or buy one? Renting an RV is actually cheap when you compare it to the high cost of owning an RV. According to the RV Industry Association (RVIA), most RV owners only use their RV about 20 days per year, so the rig sits idle 345 days. All the while, the owner is making a monthly note payment and/or suffering depreciation. Also, there is the cost of storage, insurance, taxes, maintenance, and repairs.


Our 2020 study revealed that an $80,000 Class C motorhome’s cost for those 20 days of usage is $911 per day when you factor in the total cost of ownership. Wow, that is expensive!! Now compare that to an average base rate of $212 per day for renting a Class C. 


Note, when you rent an RV, in addition to the base rate, there will be some related fees, insurance (assuming you aren’t covered on your existing auto policy) and sales taxes (if your state has sales tax). These fees, insurance, taxes, and add-ons generally run +50% over the base rate.


The beauty of renting an RV is that when you’re done with your trip, just turn over the keys to the owner and don’t worry about all of those ownership costs. This is why most people who want to go RVing should rent versus buy. Also, this is why a lot of RV owners are renting out their RV to defray the high cost.


Key Questions to Decide Whether to Rent or Buy an RV

 

Still not sure whether renting an RV makes more sense than buying? Here are some questions that will help you narrow down your decision.


How Many Days Do You Plan to Use the RV in a Year?


If you only plan to use the camper a few times a year, renting is the best option. Consider buying if you plan to use the RV frequently (over 2 months a year) or live in it full time.


What’s Your Budget?


If you’re on a limited budget and don’t want a long-term commitment, renting an RV is the way to go. But if you can afford to buy an RV upfront without straining your finances and you fully understand the long-term expenses, then buying may not be a bad option.


Are You New to RVing?

 

RV Ownership vs. RV Renting costs

Renting is the best option if you’re a newbie. It allows newcomers to experience the RV lifestyle and decide whether it’s worth buying. Also, you can try different types and sizes of RVs to find what best fits your needs. Buying before trying out the lifestyle often leads to buyers’ remorse.


Do You Plan to Be Dedicated to Your Hobby?


When deciding whether to rent or buy an RV, it’s crucial to consider the intangible value of enjoyment. The joy and memories created, whether through spontaneous weekend trips or long-term adventures, are priceless. If you really enjoy it, are willing to spend the money, and are confident that you’ll be doing it for a long time, then consider a purchase.


Are You Handy?


RVs demand a lot of upkeep, so being handy and mechanically inclined is important. Of course, these are skills you can learn. But if you don’t picture yourself performing tasks like fixing plumbing leaks, diagnosing electrical issues, replacing caulking, lubricating slides, waxing the exterior, and cleaning waste tanks, you’re better off renting. Your ownership costs will go through the roof if you rely on professionals to perform these tasks for you.


At What Point Does it Become too Expensive to Rent an RV vs. Buying

 

how much to rent an rv vs buy

If you plan to use the RV for at least two months a year or a long trip over 60 days, the financial math begins to favor buying over renting. Now, the national average for renting the most common RV (travel trailer) is $115 per night. Factor in add-ons, hidden fees, and rental service fees, which generally cost 50% or more of the nightly rate. 


That’s $115+$57 (50%), which equals $172 a night. If you multiply $172 by 60 days (2 months) you’ll have spent $10,320. That’s a significant sum that can never be recouped. And that’s for a travel trailer which is affordable. Most people would rather buy a small used towable RV with that kind of money. If you keep it in good shape, you could still recoup a good chunk of the money you spent.


When Does it Make Financial Sense to Rent an RV for a Long Trip? 


If you’re planning a long trip that will last less than two months and you don’t intend to use the RV afterward, renting is the smarter choice. While the initial rental cost may appear high, it eliminates the substantial upfront expense of purchasing an RV and the ongoing costs of maintenance, insurance, and storage. 


Renting also spares you the hassle of selling the RV later, which can be time-consuming and financially unpredictable. Of course, renting also makes sense for weekend trips and week-long adventures.


To Rent or Buy a Camper FAQs

 

rent rv or buy used rv

Here are some frequently asked questions about RV ownership vs. renting:


What are Some Alternatives to Buying or Renting an RV?


Consider a pre-arranged buyback if you only need an RV for 3-12 months. This program allows you to purchase an RV with an agreement to sell it back to the dealer after a set period at a predetermined price. This reduces long-term financial risk and depreciation concerns, providing flexibility for extended trips without the commitment of permanent ownership. 


For those with a risk appetite, flipping used RVs can be a practical approach. You begin by finding a used RV and having it thoroughly inspected by a mechanic to ensure it can last several months without major service issues. After using the RV for a few months, you then sell it for the same amount or slightly less than the purchase price.


What’s the Benefit of Regular RV Rentals vs Stationary On-Site RV Rentals at RV Parks?


Regular RV rentals offer mobility and the freedom to travel and explore various destinations. In contrast, stationary on-site trailer rentals at RV parks provide a stable, hassle-free experience without the need to drive or set up the RV. Plus, they are fully furnished and equipped with all camping necessities. 


If you don’t want to buy or rent a camper, and want to stay at one campground for an extended period, a stationary rental may be a better and often cheaper option. This glamping option costs between $100 and $400 per night, and the campsite rate is usually included in the RV’s nightly rate.


Final Thoughts: Rent an RV Vs. Buy?


Which is better, to rent an RV or buy? Everyone’s situation is different. It all boils down to cost, convenience, and personal choice. But on a financial standpoint, renting is best for most people as it provides flexibility without the substantial upfront cost and ongoing expenses associated with ownership. 


Moreover, there’s no need to worry about depreciation, earned interest, or the hassle of selling the RV later. Buying an RV mainly makes sense for those who plan to use it frequently, year-round, or travelers who want to go on one extended trip lasting many months.