Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, families increasingly turned to the outdoors (and the open road) for recreation and family vacations. As a result, recreational vehicles (RVs) gained a surge of popularity. In fact, 56 million Americans planned to take an RV trip this summer. And according to recent data from the RV Industry Association, this boom in RV travel isn't slowing down any time soon. But when is a rental the best value? Or is purchasing a recreational vehicle a better investment?
The biggest impact on whether you rent or buy an RV is how you plan to use it. "What are your goals?" says Paige Bouma, EVP of RV Trader. "Is it a lifestyle? Or do you just want to go on vacation and see what it's like?" Bouma has more than 15 years of RV experience, and she says answering this question is one of the best ways to approach RVing, whether that's deciding where to go, which type of RV to choose, or whether to rent or buy.
Renting is an excellent short-term commitment for people who are new to RVing, unfamiliar with different RV types, or not planning a long-term vacation. Buying is a likely choice for those who want a true home-away-from-home and are looking to take many trips. But you should consider a variety of factors when considering what's best for your situation.
1. Past Experience with RVs
For those new to RVs, renting is likely the best choice. For starters, renting allows newbies to discover if they like the RV lifestyle before committing to it. Second, it's easy to learn which vehicle is right for you and your family. "Renters can try out different types of RVs and find what they like most," says Maddi Bourgerie, spokesperson for RVshare. Bourgerie likens renting to an extended test drive and says that 30% of RVshare bookings are renters testing before buying.
2. Comfort and Familiarity with RVs
If you're looking for a home away from home, buying lets you maximize comfort and customize everything from the interior design to the firmness of the mattress. Owning an RV also means there's only one unit to learn; you'll be more confident driving, setting up, and living in a vehicle you're familiar with. Alternatively, renting is like starting over with every outing. "You have a limited knowledge of a unit you're renting because it changes every time," says Bouma. It's not just new amenities, like a stovetop, but also hookups, connections, and how the unit drives.
3. Current Availability
RV availability is one of the biggest reasons people are renting right now, according to Monika Geraci of the RV Industry Association. "Inventory for RVs to purchase remains low at dealerships across the country," she says. "There's a chance that right now you wouldn't be able to purchase one. If you want to be one of the 65 million Americans taking an RV trip in the next year, but the one you want isn't available, it makes sense to rent in the meantime."
Check out the rest of Better Homes & Garden's tips here.