How to Pick the Perfect RV

How do you pick the perfect RV for your personal needs? I’ve wanted to write a post on this very subject for a super long time and have enlisted the help from a guest.

But before we get into the meat of the post, let me take a step back …. a few weeks ago my daughter wanted me to meet the parents of one of her friends. You see, these folks were contemplating selling their house and moving into an RV full-time, but didn’t know the first thing about RVing …. total newbies.

on the road againAfter a three-hour luncheon, I had inundated this couple with so much information that their heads were spinning. To make a long story short, in the end, I recommended that they rent at least one RV. They wouldn’t have to travel far, just spend a couple of nights in a nearby state park and test things out. Figure out what they liked, didn’t like, and how they felt about the overall experience.

RVing is not for everyone, and buying the wrong RV can be a very costly endeavor. Remember, RVs are a depreciating asset.  It’s really easy to get caught up in all the pretty bells, horns, and whistles on an RV Dealership lot, especially with an encouraging salesperson eager to spend your money, only to walk away with something that doesn’t fit your personal goals and will lead to unhappy travels.

Without further adieu, I’ll let Gaby from RV share enlighten us all on the benefits of renting an RV – try before you buy. 

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How to Try Out an RV Before Jumping In
An RV is a hefty investment. And, like any good consumer, you need to do your research before investing in one. Because while RVs offer a freer, more fulfilled lifestyle, they can also be a significant strain on your bank account. If you purchase one frivolously, it could turn out to be a nightmare of an expense that you’ll be paying off for many years to come. Thankfully, renting an RV before you commit is a great way to find out if ownership is right for you.

classes o RV's

Peer-to-Peer RV Rentals Help Owners and Renters Alike
More than 9 million Americans own RVs. The industry is undergoing a renaissance, and more people are buying RVs than ever before. The RV age gap is also shifting; Millennials are quickly becoming one of the largest age brackets of full-timers and renters.

Sadly, though, roughly 90% of RVs sit unused for most of the year. The RV’s gather dust while ownership costs, like payments and storage fees, accumulate. RV share and other peer-to-peer rental networks offer a solution to this problem that works for both parties: owners can rent out their RVs and supplement their income, and renters get to try before they buy.

RVing in Moab Utah

Due Diligence: Rent an RV Before You Buy
It’s of the utmost importance that you do your research when buying an RV. We can’t stress this enough. You wouldn’t buy a house without making sure it met your needs first, would you? Considering that some RVs can cost as much as a house or more, it only makes sense that renting an RV should be your first step. Here’s why:

● Renting an RV isn’t difficult or expensive. Depending on the type of RV you rent, you can find rates for as little as $60 per day! It’s a small price to pay for the experience.

● You’ll start learning to see through the eyes of an RV’er. Whether you’re considering buying an RV to live in or to use for weekend camping, you’ll need to know how to downsize and prioritize. Renting an RV for a few days will help you change your perspective and learn how to pack for RV living.

● You’ll learn a lot about how RVs work. This is knowledge you absolutely must have if you want to buy an RV. You need to know how to dump and clean the tanks, maintain the batteries, make minor repairs to appliances, use the slide outs and leveling jacks, and much more. Even a short weekend RV rental will enlighten you to the necessary skills you need to own an RV.

● You’ll figure out which type of RV is best for you. Can you imagine spending thousands of dollars on an RV, only to find out it’s too difficult to drive or too small to fit your family?  By renting an RV, you’ll get to try out a variety of different types and sizes, so you can determine what you like and don’t like. RV share has a diverse inventory of hundreds of thousands of RVs for you to check out.

● You’ll get some driving (and lifestyle) practice. Traveling in an RV is a skill in and of itself. You need to plan your routes and campground stays carefully; but you also need to be able to adapt to changes quickly. Taking a road trip in a rented RV will teach you how to be organized and prepared, and how to think on your feet.

RVing Dillon Colorado

How to Choose the Right RV Rental
Before you rent, it would behoove you to narrow down your list of potential RVs. There are millions of different RVs out there, each with their own features, floor plans, and price points. Ask yourself the following questions to help you find some good rental candidates:

● Would you rather tow or drive your RV? Towables are more affordable, roomier, and can be left at the campground if you need to run into town for errands. On the other hand, motorized RVs are much easier to drive, and thus more comfortable for many.

● How many people will travel with you? Small trailers and Class B vans are perfect for two people, plus they’re affordable and easy to drive. Mid-sized RVs, usually between 25 to 30 feet, are good for three or four people. Anything over 35 feet in length is considered large and good for big families or if a couple is considering living in the RV full-time.

● How important is privacy to you? RVs with separate bunks and bedrooms (like Class C’s and large Fifth Wheels) give everyone their own personal space. If privacy isn’t an issue, convertible dinettes and sofa beds might be enough.

● Do you plan on dry camping a lot, or do you prefer campground stays? Maybe you’re not sure. If you like the idea of camping under the stars and away from the crowds, you’ll want an RV that’s adequately equipped for boondocking. Features like solar panels, large holding tanks, and a good-sized generator are key.

● Finally, how do you plan on paying for your RV? Generally, you won’t be able to finance an RV that’s 15 years old or older. So, while older RVs are more affordable, you’ll need to either pay in cash or take out a personal loan to buy one. New RVs can be financed, but can cost close to $100,000 or more. If you’re looking for a middle-ground, look for RVs that are about 10 years old and come with financing.

RVing in Moab Utah

Once you’ve narrowed down your list, start looking for two or three different RVs to try out. Experiment with different types of floor plans and features. Maybe you test out a large Class A with slide outs one weekend, then rent a mid-sized Class C the next. This way, you’ll get a sense of how it feels to drive different types of RVs and how well the layouts suit your needs.

Hit the Road and Find Your Dream RV!
Thanks to peer-to-peer RV rental networks, trying before you buy has never been easier. You can find just about any type of RV you have in mind, whether you want an affordable conversion van, a luxury Class A, or something in between. For just a few hundred dollars, you can rent an RV for the weekend and see what type of RV is best for you – which will save you a lot of hassle if you eventually decide to buy.

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on the road again

Thanks Gaby for providing my readers with some great information.

Have you ever rented an RV to test out the RVing adventure before buying? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

 

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62 thoughts on “How to Pick the Perfect RV

  1. Looks like we did it right 🙂 We rented a gas Class A and took it for a ride through LA then to Borrego Springs. From that experience we know we will get a diesel Class A. And still it took us three years researching and shopping for that perfect RV. We did not get what we want, but Betsy turned out to be perfect!

  2. In Australia a 32 ft fifth wheeler or gooseneck is considered massive. Ours is only 25ft without any slide outs. It’s ok for size, but only just. Mind you it’s nearly ten years old now, and the later models are a foot longer, and have better use of space. I’d love a 32ft one, but in Australia we’d be very limited on where we could go. Very few van parks would have space for one that big. Also in Australia, renting a bigger caravan, or a fifth wheeler isn’t an available option. Motor homes can be rented, and small camper trailers only. We had to do lots of research, and reading of reviews. Fortunately, we’re happy with what we bought – more good luck than good management though I suspect,

    • Even our RV at 31 feet is occasionally too big especially for our national parks. There are times I wish we had a second RV like a camper van for those times I want to explore those tight spots.
      Glad you found a good fit with your trailer 🙂

  3. We made a huge mistake when we bought a travel trailer. Since we had always tent camped, it seemed like a logical transition. We figured it what we wanted, searched for months, determined we had the right size for our SUV, set aside the money to pay cash for a used travel trailer, and within the year we found the “perfect” trailer. On of the things we didn’t consider was that campgrounds near us were so hard to get into. Most importantly, my husband hated pulling it on our crowded highwaysso a road trip was out! Before long he didn’t want to take it out at all so after much anguish we got rid of it and resumed tent calling. 10 years later we are still happy with tent camping. A valuable (and expnensive) lesson to really know what works best for you. Good article.

    • I love my RV and as much as I enjoyed my tent camping trip to Zion NP with my daughter, I missed the comforts of the RV. However, I sure understand white knuckle driving in city traffic with an RV – no fun. As long as we find the travel mode that’s works, it’s all good 😀

  4. I think everyone thinking about it, should not just rent one once, they should rent a few different ones. I think this is a lifestyle that not many can handle. It’s not easy. Being handy is so important. If you aren’t hip to fixing things at your home, you might not be ready for an RV.
    I also feel watching the movie RV is required!

  5. I did everything wrong except having the used unit check by a professional. I’ve been very happy in a 34′ 1999 Fleetwood Discovery. Repairs have been minimal and it’s paid for.
    After 4 years I’m still learning what I need and how to live full time on the road.

  6. Wow, what an insightful post. Thank you for writing. RV choices are just so personal depending on each person’s needs but this post cover most topics very well. BTW, I’ve been reading your posts for a long time. Thank you for the gorgeous pictures of the birds. Someday, I will have to camp in Texas to see for myself.

    • Thank you for taking the time to comment. I’m already looking forward to my return to the Texas Gulf Coast in January for more bird photography… one of many joys this lifestyle affords.

  7. Good post! I’ll save to share when we’re asked for advice or others ask about buying the “right” rv.
    For us, we attended lots of RV shows-lucky we were close to the Tampa RV Super Show and numerous smaller shows. Tampa had great seminars so we were fortunate to be “students.” We attended shows for nearly 4 years before we bought. Then we read blogs, lots of blogs!
    Both of our parents had trailers-which we used. That helped a lot too! Main thing is to figure out how much you plan to RV. We didn’t even dream we’d go full time so our first purchase was almost a waste! It was inadequate for full timing but as we learned in one seminar, your first RV is your education.
    We’re about to celebrate four years of RVing and three years as full timers. We love it and are happy in our motorhome!

    • Sounds like you guys did your homework. I also think it helps if other family members, like parents, owned a RV of some sort. Glad you guys are happy in your new motorhome and loving the lifestyle. It sure keeps us on our toes 😀

      • After I wrote my response, I told my husband about it. He said even with all our research, we still made a mistake in our first purchase. But it did make us feel better when in a seminar it was said, “your first RV purchase is your first education.” An expensive one but it helped us made the right second purchase!

  8. Great and very informative post. I think if you are not that familiar with rv’s then renting one is the best advice that could be given. It will give them a feel for what they are and may want. The next biggest question to me would be what would be their main purpose for the rv. Full-time, recreation,snow-birding or what. Once that is decided then it may narrow down the search. From that it is whatever the comfort zone for the buyer is. Great Post!!

    • Yeah, there’s really a ton of more questions to delve into before buying, but seems like those questions might be easier to answer once a person trys a RV out. There’s always something new to learn – never a dull moment!

  9. There are many RV dealers that rent up to and including class A motor homes. Great way to determine if the type and model is for you. We rented a Newmar class A from a local dealer which cemented our selection. Great discussion!

  10. We spent a very informative week at a conference put on by the RVSEF before we purchased new. Hubby had to have a titanium toy hauler with the patio. We are enjoying a year living fulltime aboard and exploring this beautiful country but talk about downsizing to a Sprinter when we are into shorter trips. I do still have some floor plan envy but there is really no wrong layout or size. Have fun with whatever you have!

    • There is no ‘one’ perfect RV. If funds were no object, I’d probably own 3 very different RVs used for specific purposes, but alas, reality had me picking something in the middle, but I’m always shopping 😄

  11. Great advice and the decision to buy one shouldn’t be taken lightly because as soon as you pull that beauty off the lot, you just lost money. We rented years ago, then bought three different ones but are currently out of the camping lifestyle. There is a time when you are so excited and thoroughly enjoy every hookup and move. And, at some point, you are ready to sleep in your own bed and sit in your own chair. I think age has something to do with it. But, I raise my glass to every camper out there and wish them safe travels and wonderful adventures. 🙂

    • As you said, there is a time and place and I do see myself settling back into a house and look forward to it. Just haven’t decided where. Ah, such a dilemma. The search continues 😊

  12. Thanks for this post and enjoying reading all the comments. I grew up traveling in RVs, from a tent trailer to a class A, but never was responsible for driving/set-up/maintenance/storage/payments, etc. myself. Now that the wife and I are considering an RV I can’t make up my mind about what we want. We would like to rent before we buy, but a major part of our travels involves driving across the country which is very expensive, at least with a motor-home rental. Perhaps short-term, local rentals would give us a taste, but I’m really interested in the experience of driving a motor-home across the country vs. pulling a trailer. I guess I need to think of it as part of the start-up costs for RV’ing and cheaper than the payments on a rig that’s not a good fit.

    • If you plan on a lot of travel and long distance at that, length would be my first consideration (after budget). A 32 foot motorhome will offer you a lot more flexibility and maneuverability than a 40 footer. Then to decide between a Class A and a Class C. Or how about a hybrid like the FR3 (Forest River) and ACE, both of which aren’t known for quality but would still be considerations for me personally especially used ones. Even though renting might seem pricey, it may also save you from making a costly mistake and buying an RV you’re not happy with. Good luck and let me know if you have any questions.

  13. Excellent and informative post. Renting an RV before buying is a great idea. Of course, that’s not what we did! We had years of tent and pop up camping experience while the kids were growing up. I let Henry do all the research about what to get. He decided what we needed was a fifth wheel. One reason was he didn’t want another motor to maintain! All I wanted was a kitchen and bathroom with a shower. It has a lot of miles and wear and tear on it but it has been perfect for us.

    • Since we already owned the truck and had a truck camper, the 5th wheel seemed to be the most economical choice for us at the time. I remember when we bought our Citation truck camper, the dealer had quite a few Titanium’s on the lot which I loved. So I’m sure you guys picked a good one which is why you’re still using it. I too had lots of experience camping in different modes and knew exactly what ‘I’ wanted… happy wife, happy life 😆 In reality, this was all new to hubby and he rolled with me and my experience.

      • We already had a truck, too. We’ve been happy with the Titanium. The company is no longer in business and we hardly ever see any when we travel but we often have people comment on the design.

        • Yeah, by the time we were ready to trade in the truck camper, we realized the company was no more. Seemed like well built units but the economy got them along with quite a few other RV manufacturers.

  14. Excellent article Ingrid. I’ll have to agree if someone has never stayed in an RV for a period of time they should find a way to rent one or at least go camping with a friend. Towing or driving it yourself would be a great intro as well. We owned two pull behind and then rented a 25′ class C. The rental was not cheap but was through a company. We would have saved by renting in the off season. Staying closer to home would have also helped in that the cost was way higher with the 1600 miles we drove it. We have decided to get our truck first because we know what RV weight we are buying and going with a dual rear wheel which can handle a lot of different fifth wheels. We might rent a pull behind after that, which are less expensive than motor homes, if we have not bought our own fifth wheel trailer be then.

    Always appreciate any advise you seasoned travelers have to offer. Especially anything you would have changed now that you have been at it for a while.

    PS -we took a recent trip to a local museum and I used the pocket camera you suggested we purchase. It did a perfect job. Some of the photos came out like a post card. Thanks for that again.

    Mark

    • Oh, I’m so glad to hear the camera is working well for you. I’m always nervous about recommending a product but I am such a huge fan of the Panasonic line of cameras (not their service, which is bad). But for novice photo snappers, they’re products are great in my opinion.

      You are definitely doing your homework on RV’s, and since you’re experienced, I have no doubt you’ll make the right purchase for YOU when the time comes to pull the trigger.

  15. You are so right about renting first! After selling the Bear (by the way, she looks beautiful in your Moab Utah picture above) and moving into our home, we were planning to buy something smaller for short little trips. We rented a couple of different models that we were seriously considering buying. We are so glad we rented first because we absolutely hated them! We saved ourselves from making an expensive mistake. Your post is excellent advice.

    • Thank you Linda and it’s wonderful hearing from you. Yep, good times boondocking together there in Moab. I know you guys talked about a small pull behind trailer. No luck yet? At least you know what you like and don’t like and haven’t made the ‘wrong’ purchase 😊

  16. Personally, I do think that renting an RV is pricey (and these daily fees do not include the fuel and campgrounds), but I guess if you have no idea what you want, it is the way to go. We rented a camper van in New Zealand during the off season once. Not to test it out, but because we love traveling like this and with a self-contained unit, we could boondock every night and cook our own meals. There, it was the cheapest and most convenient way to go. Doing research and seeing RVs in person helps pick the right one. Buying a used RV is more cost-effective.

    • Yes, renting can be expensive but it’s still cheaper than making the wrong purchase. We’ve run into so many people who thought RVing would be this or that or they intended to do one thing or another only to discover a different reality which turned into a very costly mistake. Used isn’t always the best option especially with smaller non-motorized RV’s. That’s why we ended up buying new and we have no regrets.

  17. I aso wrote a post on choosing your RV but I didn’t think of the renting option which is a great idea. I guess for me the best advice I got before buying was to do all the research and have a general idea whao what you want before ever going near a showroom. In the showroom it’s just too easy for slick salesmen and beautiful shiny new stuff to sweep you away. The showroom is last place to go.

    • Totally agree – it’s so easy to get caught up in a showroom and buy the ‘wrong’ RV. It almost happen to us and right before signing on the dotted line I came to my senses. Talk about a deflated and pissed off salesman! I’m super happy with the 5th wheel we ended up buying and if we had to replace it, I’d want the very same one.

  18. We never rented before our first purchase. We had been in lots of RVs over the years at fairs and dealers just window shopping. Our first RV wasn’t very big or expensive because we knew we’d have to figure out what worked for us. Thankfully we got it right when we got our current rig. The rear living room has worked for us and for when we had friends visiting and we couldn’t be outside. Things like TV placement wasn’t something we thought about with our first rv. Lots of things to think about when thinking of buying an RV.

    • You guys did it right though by buying used first to test things out. Then when you knew you wanted to continue the lifestyle, you already had figured out what worked and what didn’t. I know you’re super happy with your RV. It’s a nice one!

  19. Thanks, Ingrid, for this intyeresting and enlightening article. Sometimes we wish we had an RV to be able to easily travel more, and sometimes we’re thinkingthat, if we hadn’t had 2 dogs and 5 cats when we moved here, we might have not bought this property but an RV and might have kept our old house in Karnes City just as a base.But with those animal companions we didn’t even think of it. And if we would have really gone through? Who knows? Anyway: I like this article a lot.
    Have a wonderful day,
    Pit

    • I love traveling with my own bed and kitchen and it was perfect for our dog as well. I hate the thought of staying in a hotel but sometimes it’s necessary. Perhaps on one of your future trips you should try out a Class B RV … preferred by a lot of Canadians and Europeans.

  20. We did not rent, went from a 5th wheel, to a gas class A, and finally to our present diesel class A. Had we rented, we could have possibly skipped the expense of buying / selling multiple rigs before finally settling on what was right for us. I’m going to be sending your post to friends of ours who are considering buying their first RV, hope it saves them time, money, and aggrivation

    • I hear this scenario a lot which is why I think trying before buying is a great idea. I grew up tenting and RVing and still questioned our purchases even though they turned out to be the perfect fit at the time … truck camper to 5th wheel.

  21. Nice idea Ingrid, and thanks Gaby for sharing your info about RV Share. We think we had the perfect RV as we travelled in if for 5 years full time, and now we are ready to sell our well cared for and gently used 2011 5th wheel. Readers can see it on our website crosscountrydancing.blogspot.com and email me for info at lhsabbatical@gmail.com.

    • Nice to hear from you Lenore. I’m sure you’re all settled into your new place and embracing a new chapter. I’d like to find a ‘home base’ but I’m not sure where. Until then, my explorations shall continue.

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