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Do I rent or do I buy?

We’ve all had to ask ourselves this question at some point in our lives, whether we’re interested in becoming a homeowner of splurging on a shiny new vehicle. The decision to rent or buy can cause quite the internal debate – especially for RVers.

RVs can open us up to unforgettable experiences and amazing adventures. But deciding whether to buy or rent an RV can put you in the fast lane to added stress. You need to carefully analyze the best price, convenience and fit for you. Thankfully, we’ve got you covered. Here are a few key questions to ask before deciding between renting and buying an RV.

Have I gone RVing before?

Rent before you buy. This sage advice has been passed down between generations of RVers because, frankly, buying an RV without ever stepping foot inside one can be a huge mistake.

Even the most thorough research can’t prepare you for the rigors of RVing. The driving, upkeep, gadgets and features are all different depending on your RV’s make and model. You might think you need that state-of-the-art new model, but the truth is: you won’t know until you’ve tried it.

Are you a fan of camping in national parks? Watch out for size restrictions. Will you be working on the road? You’ll need extra space to operate. Are you comfortable driving and parking a 40-foot vehicle? There’s no substitution for experience. The only way to know the RV for you is to go on a road trip and find out for yourself.

How often will I use the RV?

Who doesn’t want to spend all year traveling and exploring America’s most beautiful sights? It’s one thing to dream about full-time travel, however, and quite another to actually make it a reality.

It’s important to consider how much you’ll be using your RV. Obviously, it makes sense to rent if you’re embarking on a one-off road trip. But what if you catch the travel bug? What if your one-time trip turns into a lifetime of adventure?

One tip? Consider the weather. If you live in a place with extreme seasons, you might want to consider renting. Snow and inclement weather can limit your number of RV trips. If you’re planning on frequent cross-country trips, however, that’s another story.

Do I have a place to store an RV?

Communities and homeowners associations aren’t always RV friendly. Believe it or not, these groups don’t like massive RVs sticking out like a sore thumb on neighborhood driveways (We blame Cousin Eddie.)

One of the oft-overlooked aspects of owning an RV is considering where you can actually park it. Standard RVs usually come in between 20-25 feet in length, which can be too big to store in a driveway. If you do need to seek out storage, make sure you’ve budgeted for this extra monthly expense – as it can run anywhere from $50-$450 per month depending on heating and location. If you have nowhere to store the vehicle, you might want to reconsider your purchase.

What is my budget?

Let’s face it: RVs are expensive. Today’s RVs are so decked out in luxury amenities that they might as well be mansions on wheels. So it makes sense that renting is the cheaper option, right? Not exactly.

RV prices vary greatly depending on the size, type, age and time of purchase. Yes, big class A motorhomes can cost you a pretty penny. But most RVs cost between $50,000 and $100,000 and you can cut down on costs by buying them used. You can even buy smaller, more simple campers for under $15,000.

Rentals, on the other hand, can end up being more expensive than you think. Just like car rentals, there are a number of hidden fees you need to be aware of. Rental companies put a cap on the daily mileage, so you might have extra mileage charges if you exceed 100 to 150 miles per day. They also come with a booking fee (usually between $200 and $300) and can charge you for things like generator use.

You can usually rent your RV by the day, and prices vary depending on the class, size and age. Costs range anywhere from $50-$450 per day, so check out this breakdown of the costs by model. Of course, you can also opt for a weekly rate if you want to get a slight discount on your overall fee.

For RVers, timing is everything. Summer months are peak season – so renting and buying RVs are going to be more expensive. RV rental and purchasing rates are much cheaper in the fall and winter, so opt for that time if possible. When planning your budget, also make sure to include all of your expenses like campground charges, fuel, and food.

Bottom line? Renting an RV for a week can easily run north of $4,000 after you tally all the costs. Purchasing an RV is a better bang for your buck if you plan on committing to frequent trips. Evaluate your budget and your plans before making your final decision.

What do I want to put in my RV?

What do you picture when you hear the word RV? For some, an RV is a small no-frills vehicle. For others, RVs are decked out in everything from kitchen appliances to king-sized mattresses.

Choosing an RV to rent or buy can be overwhelming. When deciding, make sure you know what kind of camping experience you want. If you want your RV to be a home away from home, you might want to consider buying. This way you can stock your kitchen, bedroom and living area with your favorite appliances and reminders of home. Looking to keep things simple? You can enjoy the benefits of RV camping from a rental. Consider what elements are crucial to your RV experience before heading to the dealership.

There are a million factors that weigh into your decision to rent or buy an RV. Use this list to guide you through this process and make the best decision. Keep in mind your experience, budget, storage, preferences and plans to make the most of your RV road trip.