Should I Buy or Rent an RV?

Are you debating whether to buy or rent an RV? Here’s what you need to consider.

Do you think you’ll love the RV lifestyle and want to try it out?

Before running out and purchasing an RV or committing to renting only, read my list of pros for both. 

Whether you want to be a weekend RV warrior, snowbird, or full-timer, the following info should help you decide if you want to buy or rent an RV.

Renting an RV is a less risky investment than purchasing one but does not quite feel like home. But making a large purchase is daunting if you’re not completely sold on the idea. Especially since new motorhomes can range from over $100,000 to millions of dollars.

Let’s take a look at the benefits of each.

Rented Class C motorhome at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Benefits of renting an RV

Let’s kick off the list of different benefits of buying or renting an RV with renting.

If you are curious about what an RV lifestyle is like, renting might be for you!

Renting: Discover what you want (or don’t want) in an RV

Sometimes, the decision to buy or rent an RV is a progression. Many people rent first to better inform their purchase.

If you have never owned or rented an RV, you may not know what you want in one. You also may not know what you don’t want in an RV. For instance, if you visit cold, rainy areas, you might want a larger indoor space to stay dry during storms. Or, you might camp in warmer areas and love to utilize the outdoor living space. Are you a football fan who would use an outdoor TV for game days?

Trying out different features is a great way to compile a list of RV must-haves for a future purchase. Trying out different RV floor plans can also help you decide what really works (or doesn’t) for you and your family.

Do you like to cook? Which RVs have a kitchen in a great spot for you? Or, are you planning on working remotely when on the road? Different RVs have areas that work well as a workspace while others don’t. Trying out different layouts lets you try out the spaces that may or may not work for you. 

Motorhomes at Mount Rushmore National Memorial © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Renting: Learn how RVs work

Renting an RV allows you to understand how they work. Not only can you drive it to see how it handles but you can learn how to operate all of its features.

RVs do take a little getting used to. Being able to learn how different parts operate such as the dining room slide-out or draining the grey and black water tanks lets you experiment before leaping to purchase an RV.

Renting: It’s cheaper (sometimes)

Depending on how much you intend to use your RV, renting one can be cheaper in the long run. You do not have the hefty upfront cost of purchasing the RV nor do you have to pay monthly insurance or maintenance fees

It can also save you emotional currency as well. Many people purchase an RV to find out that it does not meet their needs so they end up selling it at a loss or living unhappily with it. By renting one, you can try RVing without the commitment and save yourself heartache if you decide it is not for you.

Of course, there is a tipping point where buying would be more affordable. So, you’ll need to do some math based on how often you plan to use it.

Motorhomes (and a truck camper) in Jasper National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Renting: No RV maintenance

Another great benefit of renting an RV is that you are not responsible for its maintenance!

The average cost of maintenance is about $1,000-$2,000 per year depending on the type, size, and age of your rig. So, when it comes to buying or renting an RV you’ll want to factor in maintenance costs. 

Renting: No commitment

Renting an RV is is relatively low commitment. You can choose to rent for just a few days and then give it back. Aside from fuel and stocking it with food and supplies, you don’t have to worry about RV expenses. You do not have to fix broken parts or keep up other maintenance.

The time and monetary commitments are far less than if you own it. 

Truck camper in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Benefits of buying an RV

We know deciding whether you should buy or rent an RV can be difficult. So, let’s take a look at the pros of buying now.

Purchasing an RV to own can also be a very rewarding experience.

Buying: It’s all yours

One great thing about owning your RV is that it’s all yours! You can store your items such as clothing, books, dishes, and favorite travel movies or games, just to name a few.

When you return home from a camping trip, you don’t have to clean out all your possessions. You can also decorate the RV to your liking so that it feels like your home away from home. 

Class A motorhome at Orange Groove RV Park, Bakersfield, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Buying: You can travel whenever you want

Do you feel like getting out of town this weekend? When owning an RV, you can pick up and travel whenever you want. Feel like staying an extra day or two? You also don’t have to worry about returning it by a certain date. You don’t have to worry about someone else’s booking schedule.

Buying: You can rent it out

Did you know that you can rent out your RV to make some money when you are not using it? Individuals can rent your RV for a specific amount of time for whatever price you set.

There are websites similar to Airbnb, but for RVs.

You can read How to Make Money Renting your RV if you want to learn more.

Class A motorhome driving Utah Scenic Byway 12 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Buying: Pay less monthly than renting on several occasions

If you intend to make great use of your RV and travel monthly or even live on the road, owning an RV will likely cost less per month to operate.

While there is a large upfront price tag, the monthly cost of owning can often be less expensive. 

Buying: You can take your office with you

More people are working from home than ever before. If you’re one of them, working from the road might be a great lifestyle for you.

You can see different places, all while having your office with you.

Class A motorhome at Monahans Sandhills State Park, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Renting or buying: Conclusion

There are many things to consider when deciding whether to buy or rent an RV.

Renting can help you identify what you are looking for in an RV purchase. Or, it may even help you decide against that lifestyle altogether. Either way, there are pros to renting.

But if you already know that you love the lifestyle and understand your needs as an RV owner, you may want to skip renting and jump right into owning an RV that is suited just right for your tastes.

Sometimes, the decision to buy or rent an RV is a progression. Many people rent first to better inform their purchase.

Worth Pondering…

Decide whether or not the goal is worth the risks involved. If it is, stop worrying.

―Amelia Earhart

How to Make Money Renting your RV

Have ever thought about renting your RV? Here’s what you need to know.

It was inevitable that with RVs in such massive demand for road trips and camping vacations, the same peer-to-peer businesses would arise that came in the vacation home rental industry. That demand has increased exponentially since people turned to RVing during the pandemic. No other way to vacation or getaway is as safe as RVing. RVers, as we used to say, were socially distant before it was cool.

An entire side industry has developed over the past few years: Rental companies that facilitate private RV owners who want to earn extra cash with their RVs. Those companies list the RV, help in providing insurance, and offer marketing to promote them.

RVers get to use their RVs when they want but when the RV is usually in storage or sitting in the driveway they then get to earn cash by renting it out. Some RVers even get to buy their RV with little out-of-pocket expenses because the rental fees more than cover their payments.

Private RV owners are sometimes making five-figure incomes a year just by renting out their RVs. Some have started their own businesses, buying multiple RVs and renting them all out.

The expanding rental market © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Pros and cons of renting your RV 

The path to renting out your RV can be a perilous one for many people. Whatever your motivation is for renting out your RV, there are some risks. There’s the additional wear and tear, extra maintenance, time spent dealing with customers, cleaning, and so on.

Of course, there are also numerous advantages to renting out your RV. Chief among them is that you’ll receive extra money to cover your RV payments which might help you afford a better unit. 

And it doesn’t matter if you have a Class A, B, or C motorhome, travel or fifth-wheel trailer, or a truck camper. Demand is unprecedented!

Reasons for renting your RV

Here are some reasons WHY YOU SHOULD rent out your RV.

1. Monetize the downtime

Unless you’re a snowbird or full-time RVer, the chances are high that you only get a few good days each month using your RV. Maybe even a full week or two each summer. And if you are a snowbird your rig may sit idle for six months or more. The rest of the time, the rig is sitting in storage or in your driveway.

Renting out your RV allows you to generate some additional revenue covering a large part if not the entire monthly payment. Knowing that your schedule (for now) doesn’t accommodate using your RV full-time, you can rent it out when it suits you. 

Have a week between trips this summer? Rent it out for an extra $500-$1,000. 

2. Buying and using a unit before retirement or going full-time

Many people are looking forward to retiring and hitting the road. But what can happen is that even when you’re dreaming from the office you don’t have the time or finances to fully commit to the RV lifestyle. 

Buying and renting out your RV before you retire is a great way to get involved without the full financial commitment. You can offset some, if not most, of the cost of your rig by renting it out. This allows you to start enjoying the lifestyle now!

Renting your RV will let you take the trips you want and rent out your unit the other times you’re busy. 

Now you can start enjoying the RV lifestyle before you sell your sticks and bricks home or start collecting pensions upon retirement. Buying an RV before you want to go full-time or on a longer trip will also help you get familiar with how all of the systems on your RV function and what features you like or dislike in a rig. 

3. Being able to afford that extra nice unit you’ve wanting

Due to having an extra rental income, you can offset between 25 and 100 percent of the cost of your RV depending on how often and how much you rent it for. That opens up additional options when deciding which unit to purchase.

Maybe you’d rather have a nicer motorhome or go for that Airstream you’ve always wanted. If the deciding factor was the monthly payment and whether or not you should stretch that far then renting out your rig for the first few years of ownership can be a great option.

With rentals, you can offset some of that cost if not the total difference between what you want and what you really want. Newer and nicer units will typically rent for a higher cost too. So you can get something a little nicer in the long run and know that it’ll offset some of the total cost of the RV.

The expanding rental market © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. Starting a business

There are enough tools to allow you to start a bonafide rental business especially if you are located within a short distance of major attractions, sporting events, entertainment destinations, or beautiful nature. 

Done properly, each rental unit can become a little profit center. It’s not uncommon for people to start with one unit and later add a couple more. Depending on the unit/location, each full-time rental can pull in between $30,000 and $60,000/year. Warmer climates with a longer rental period and can be rented year-round.

This can make your ROI on each RV roughly 3-4 years, if not sooner whether you keep it, trade it in, or sell it off. This can become a viable business for someone willing to manage all of the moving pieces. With business scale, you can also improve margins. Instead of all your booking coming from an online booking site with a 25 percent commission fee you can manage your own book of business and recover those margins. 

RVers get to use their RVs when they want but when the RV is usually in storage or sitting in the driveway they then get to earn cash by renting it out for extra money.

Private RV owners are sometimes making five-figure incomes a year just by renting out their RVs with these RV share programs. Some have actually started their own businesses doing so, buying multiple RVs and renting them all out.

Understanding the RV rental industry

The RV rental boom shows no signs of slowing. Besides, even if your potential customers wanted to buy a brand new RV or are maybe considering camper vans or some other type of RV, some manufacturers are still reporting six months to one year waits for new orders to be completed.

The bottom line—which is good for the RV rental business—is the only way some folks will be able to get out there and experience the RV lifestyle for the first time is by renting one. Tens of thousands of people are interested in the RV lifestyle and a good way to experience it before buying is to rent an RV for a camping getaway.

How much can you make renting your RV?

I went to two of the largest RV Rental marketplaces (RV Share and Outdoorsy) and looked at average RV rental prices across several different types of RVs in five different metropolitan areas across the US.  

These are the average rental prices for 75+ units across five locations (Atlanta, San Diego, Denver, Chicago, and Boston) within a 100-mile radius of each city.  

Class A motorhomes

  • Nightly rate – $266 (-25 percent for RV Share cut) = $200 net
  • Nightly rate – $266 (-20 percent for Outdoorsy Share cut) = $213 net

Class B motorhomes

  • Nightly rate – $222 (-25 percent for RV Share cut) = $167 net
  • Nightly rate – $222 (-20 percent for Outdoorsy Share cut) = $177 net

Class C motorhomes

  • Nightly rate – $205 (-25 percent for RV Share cut) = $154 net
  • Nightly rate – $205 (-20 percent for Outdoorsy Share cut) = $164 net

Travel trailer 

  • Nightly rate – $124 (-25 percent for RV Share cut) = $93 net 
  • Nightly rate – $124 (-20 percent for Outdoorsy Share cut) = $99 net

Toy hauler 

  • Nightly rate – $164 (-25 percent for RV Share cut) = $123 net
  • Nightly rate – $164 (-20 percent for Outdoorsy Share cut) = $131 net
The expanding rental market © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

How the seasons affect renting your RV

The number of rentable days you have each year is also largely dependent on your location. You can expect to rent your unit during peak summer months in the northern portion of the U.S. and the rental period is almost year-round in the south. 

Using a third-party platform like RV Share (25 percent commission) or Outdoorsy (20 percent commission) here is the maximum you could expect to make renting out your RV. 

Class A motorhomes

Warm climates – 175 days x $266/night average = $46,534 maximum revenue potential. 

With a 25 percent commission, the max revenue to you is $34,901.

With a 20 percent commission, the max revenue to you is $37,227. 

Cool climates – 120 days x $266/night average = $31,909 maximum revenue potential.  

With a 25 percent commission, the max revenue to you is $23,932.

With a 20 percent commission, the max revenue to you is $25,527.

Class B motorhomes

Warm climates – 175 days x $222/night average = $38,790 maximum revenue potential. 

With a 25 percent commission, the max revenue to you is $29,093.

With a 20 percent commission, the max revenue to you is $31,032.

Cool climates – 120 days x $222/night average = $26,599 maximum revenue potential.  

With a 25 percent commission, the max revenue to you is $19,949. 

With a 20 percent commission, the max revenue to you is $21,279.

Class C motorhomes

Warm climates – 175 days x $205/night average = $35,844 maximum revenue potential. 

With a 25 percent commission, the max revenue to you is $26,883.

With a 20 percent commission, the max revenue to you is $28,674.

Cool climates – 120 days x $205/night average = $24,578 maximum revenue potential.  

With a 25 percent commission, the max revenue to you is $18,434.

With a 20 percent commission, the max revenue to you is $19,662. 

The expanding rental market © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Travel trailers

Warm climates – 175 days x $124/night average = $21,678 maximum revenue potential. 

With a 25 percent commission, that max revenue to you is $16,258.

With a 20 percent commission the max revenue to you is $17,342.

Cool climates – 120 days x $124/night average = $14,865 maximum revenue potential.  

With a 25 percent commission, the max revenue to you is $11,148. 

With a 20 percent commission, the max revenue to you is $11,891.

Toy haulers

Warm climates – 175 days x $164/night average = $28,723 maximum revenue potential. 

With a 25 percent commission, the max revenue to you is $21,542.

With a 20 percent commission, the max revenue to you is $22,978.

Cool climates – 120 days x $164/night average = $19,696 maximum revenue potential.  

With a 25 percent commission, the max revenue to you is $14,772. 

With a 20 percent commission, the max revenue to you is $15,756.

Know ALL the details about renting your RV

The expanding rental market © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

At any price, renting out your RV is a win

Perhaps you’re not making the complete amount of the final booking cost with renting out your RV but it is a lot more than you would be making with just letting the RV sit in storage or your driveway and the extra coverage provided by the rental company is worth the cost.

Not only will you save on storage fees but you’ll have extra income for those upgrades you always wanted. Your RV will also run better when the components are used more frequently.

The expanding rental market © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Can you really trust those renters?

Now that I’ve gotten you all excited about making lots of money by renting out your RV, let’s talk about the less exciting topic: the renters. Peer-to-peer RV rental companies like RV Share and Outdoorsy not only vet the renters for you but have a massive insurance policy to protect you, at no extra cost to you.

You have the complete freedom to decline potential renters at any time and for any reason. Most of these rental sites will require the renter to make a profile first that will include some personal information and history that you can look through to decide if you think you can really trust them to treat your RV well.

In the off chance that something does end up happening to your RV, the renter’s security deposit and renters insurance can cover the cost of fixing it before you even have time to worry about it.

Worth Pondering…

Decide whether or not the goal is worth the risks involved. If it is, stop worrying.

―Amelia Earhart