A campervan is a great choice for traveling: here’s what you need to know before renting or buying.
If you’re considering getting into RV or van life, whether just for yearly vacations or to live on the road for awhile, you might be wondering if renting or buying is the better option. Both renting and buying have pros and cons, but your decision will likely be based on some specific points, including:
- How often you intend to use your van
- If you have a place to store it
- Your future needs
- The type of vehicle you want
Both renting and buying an RV will incur various charges like fuel and camping fees, so we won’t consider these factors here.
When to Rent a Campervan or RV
If you’re visiting a large country such as Canada, the United States, or Australia, and want to see it up close, then renting a travel vehicle is a good option. If you live in a state, or portion of the country where you can camp all year round, then buying your own van probably makes more sense.
Another consideration is that rental prices often fluctuate with the seasons in certain places. You may find yourself paying premium summer prices with everyone else if you choose to rent a campervan or RV during peak season. However, if you’re able to travel off-season and enjoy doing so, then you may have cheaper rental prices every time you go out.
Pros to Renting
The primary advantage to renting for the short term is that you don’t have to think about storing or maintaining it. If you’re just starting to think about whether a full-time road lifestyle is for you, renting a van or RV can give you an idea of what it’s like before you commitment. If you live in a place where the seasons have a big impact on your camping habits, you may also choose to lean towards renting an RV to avoid the expense of long-term storage.
Cons to Renting
The disadvantages to renting an RV come when you end up renting long term, or more frequently than you intended. Rental costs vary widely by location and the type of RV you’re renting. RV rentals may charge by the mile, or they may offer unlimited miles. Needless to say, RV rentals can quickly head upwards of $100 depending on extra charges and other options. Taking several trips in a rented RV per year can start looking like a good down payment on a purchased RV.
Basic RVs or camper vans usually rent for a minimum of $100 per day. Sometimes RV rentals are listed at lower prices, but not once you factor in all the extra charges. Luxury RVs are much more expensive than basic models. Hidden charges may include extra mileage charges, additional driver charges, insurance charges, preparation charges, plus pickup and drop-off charges. This can all add up in the end, making renting a costly option if you do it regularly.
When to Buy a Campervan or RV
One of the top considerations for buying a campervan or RV is how often you intend to use it. If you plan to use it multiple times per year, or for at least a few weeks per year, then buying might be the more cost effective option in the long run. However, before buying, it’s important to check into all the related costs.
For example, you will need to have a place to store your vehicle when it’s not in use. You also have the option of performing maintenance yourself, or taking it to the dealership for routine maintenance. The biggest cost associated with buying a campervan or RV is the monthly payment. Fortunately, finance programs are often different from regular car finance options, and you may be able to choose a longer term to lower your monthly payment.
Pros to Buying
Buying is the smartest financial option in the long run if you plan to use your van frequently. Additionally, when you buy a campervan or RV, you have increased flexibility on how far you want to travel and where you want to travel. You can also fully customize the vehicle to suit your travel plans and lifestyle. If you spontaneously decide you want to take off on an extended road trip, you won’t have to worry about finding a rental at a decent price, even during peak season.
Cons to Buying
The main disadvantage to buying your own campervan or RV is the initial and ongoing costs. When you’re not using it, you may still have to pay storage and maintenance fees, not to mention insurance and your loan payment. These ongoing costs are why it’s important to fully consider how often you plan to use the vehicle to determine if buying is better in the long run than renting.
Even if your ultimate goal is to buy a campervan or RV, it’s a good idea to rent one first to get an idea of what it’s like. You may even want to rent more than one type to compare different travel vehicle types. You can also consider saving money by purchasing a gently used van, that way you’re able to get a bigger vehicle for the money.
Only you can determine if buying or renting a campervan is the best option based on your unique needs and preferences.