Rent or Buy - Here's How to Pick the Best RV

While COVID has postponed many of our trips, it has also created a renewed interest in camping. Our family loves to take our trailer out and I love that more families are pivoting from airline vacations to road trips, even if it's just for the short-term.


A canvas tent on a trailer with a view of the sun rising over a lake
A lakeside view from the camper

Here are some of the most common types of questions:

Should I buy or rent?

If you've never camped before, certainly make sure that you like it before you commit. You can do this by tent camping or sometimes by renting an RV in your hometown or destination town. If you know that you enjoy camping but are concerned that you won't camp enough to make it cost-efficient, you are probably right. Buying a camper is an investment in adventure but not a way to save money. By owning one, you are more likely to take more camping trips. You will also save time per trip packing, unpacking, and setting up. But you will not save money:) Did I mention that you won't save money? OK, good.


What type of camper is the right one for me and my family?

If you have a truck with a hitch and a high towing capacity, the world is your oyster. Most people do not, however, fall into this category. Pop-up campers can easily be towed by many SUVs and larger-size vehicles, assuming you have a hitch. If you aren't used to towing something, figuring out what you can tow will make your head explode. Talk to a dealer first and then verify it on your own.




Class A, B and Class C Campers

Otherwise, you can rent a Class A, B or C RV which are self-contained vehicles. Class As are larger than Class Cs. Check the dimensions and configurations that work best for you.

Pop-Up Campers

If you like tent camping but not back pain, a pop-up is awesome. They are very simple structures – basically a tent off the ground with a simple kitchen. But they often afford unobstructed views and you can’t beat the sounds of nature that you will experience. On the flip side, they take about 30 minutes to set up for a first-timer, and then it takes another hour or two to set up the camper. The same goes for tear-down at the end of the trip.

A Class A or C can be stocked and set up prior to your trip so that when you get to your destination, you just pull in, connect to water, electricity, and sewer (if applicable), and then you are done. It’s certainly easier but it may cost you more in gas and rental costs. And while they are certainly tons of fun inside of the vehicle, you lose many of the sounds of nature. You are in a house on wheels.

Fifth Wheels and Travel Trailers

Fifth wheels and other trailers are somewhere in between pop-ups and Class As and Cs but as previously mentioned, you would need a higher towing capacity and a tow package. They offer a wide array of layouts but you also need to feel comfortable towing, backing in, and hitching / unhitching, all of which have a learning curve.


Anything with canvas will of course be less energy efficient than a hard side so you will feel more temperature extremes within your camper over someone with hard sides. They are also not allowed in some parks with large bear populations.


To learn more about the different types, check out this page on the Go RVing website.


The author's husband setting up camp
Bill getting his set-up on

Should I rent from a company that specializes in renting RVs or from a site like RVshare.com?

Recently, it has become very popular to rent RVs directly from owners. This sounds desirable to both parties but it gives me pause. Unfortunately, as fun as an RV is, they just aren’t very durable and I would not the wear and tear (or worse: damage) that a stranger could put on our vehicle. Likewise, as a renter, I would be concerned that we would do damage to someone’s vehicle or be accused of something that may have been done and overlooked previously by another renter.

Instead, most major cities will have a national or local company that rents RVs. Before we bought our trailer, we rented several times from a local Dallas company that had a wide selection of campers. We tried a pop-up and a couple of hybrids and used each experience to refine our criteria and optimal layout. We ended up buying the same model of the last camper that we rented and we were so happy that we didn’t buy the model that we thought that we wanted without first trying it out.


Should I rent from my hometown or at my destination?

Gas for an RV or trailer can be very expensive. Further, you should anticipate driving 60-65 mph which is considerably slower than you’d probably drive in a car and never above 70. For realz. If the journey is part of the destination, you should absolutely consider driving from your hometown. There are lots of fun places to stop along the way and Roadtrippers will help you out. But if time is at a premium, get to your destination first and then rent from there.


Which is the safest when traveling with children?

Towing a RV is the safest way to travel. The children would be in the backseat in their car seats or booster seats per your normal routine. There are, however, lap belts in Class As and Cs. If this makes you uncomfortable, you could take a separate car as well. Be advised that in addition to additional gas costs, you would also likely incur additional costs for another vehicle at the park(s) that you visit.


Some parting thoughts

If you have an open attitude, you will love camping. There are bugs, hungry raccoons, and who knows what else. But there are also stars that go on for miles and campfire memories to be created. Because we live in a downtown area, our kids don't get to be nearly as free as they get to be when we hit the road. They love grabbing their bikes, meeting the other kids on the loop, and heading out for a ride. And I love going to bed with the sounds of the crickets and frogs and waking up to the birds and fishing boat motors in the distance.


Camping really is for everyone. It is not unusual to see grandparents and grandkids, couples and their friends, and individuals out on their own. And while some may not decide to be too social, everyone will give a wave or a nod as you pass by.


Amazing memories await! What are YOU waiting on?


Happy Travels,

Chrissy

The author's son riding on his bike around the camping loop
Freedom! Little Man on his wheels around the camping loop