Renting vs Buying an RV | Top 10 Factors To Consider Before Buying an RV
If you see an RV next to you on a highway or if you see folks vacationing in an RV on social media and feel the urge to buy an RV then you are not alone. Your spouse and your kids may likely be even more excited about buying an RV.
However, buying an RV is an important commitment financially as well as the time & effort you need to invest in it. We'll try to take the emotion out of this decision and help you make an objective decision by evaluating it on the following factors:
Related article: Top 18 Factors to consider before you Rent an RV
- Annual cost of ownership of an RV
- Annual RV trips
- RV maintenance
- RV storage
- Covid scare
- RV layout and features
- Proximity to an RV dealership that services RVs
1.Annual Cost of Ownership of an RV
1.1 Opportunity cost - $2500
Assuming the RV costs about $50,000 and you can earn 5% then the annual opportunity cost is $2,500.
Note - This is different from interest expense that can vary. It is also different from depreciation that also changes as the vehicle ages.
1.2 Storage - $1,200
At $100/month of storage, it will cost you $1200/year to store the RV.
1.3 Annual Insurance - $500
Annual RV insurance may cost anywhere from $350 to $600. We've considered $40/month which is about $500/year.
Read more: 10 Things to know about Rental RV Insurance
1.4 Recurring Maintenance - $600
Even if you don't use the RV at all you will still need to do the oil change, winterization, de-winterization. We've estimated it to be about $50/month or about $600/year.
1.5 Unscheduled Maintenance - $1200
RVs are prone to wear and tear and would have unscheduled maintenance like roof resurfacing, propane tank issues, refrigeration, changing mattresses, etc. that needs to be taken care of. While this is difficult to predict, we have made a simple assumption that you will spend about $1200/year on such maintenance.
Exclusions - RV Trip Direct Expenses (Fuel, Propane, etc)
Please note that the above analysis does not include RV trip-related expenses like fuel, propane, etc. that should be part of your vacation budget. Additionally, these direct expenses will largely be similar whether you rent or own an RV.
As you may see it costs about $6,000 of fixed expense just to own the RV.
2. Annual RV Trips - Buy an RV if more than 30 days, else rent!
The number of days that you plan to be on the road with the RV is the most important factor in deciding whether you should buy an RV or rent an RV. If you consider the RV rental to be about $200/day then it implies that you should be on the road on your RV for at least 30 days to justify the fixed expense of buying an RV.
Read more: Cost of an RV Rental Trip
2.1 Retired Couples or Remote Workers
Buying an RV can be a great decision if you are a retired couple who can spend enough time on the road or if you are one of the lucky single/couples who can work 100% of your time remotely then buying an RV may be a great decision for you.
2.2 Working Couples
On the other hand, if you are a working couple with young kids then it is unlikely that you can be on the road for more than 30 days. You may want to convince yourself that you can take an RV trip each winter and summer holiday, but the reality is that very few families can do so consistently year after year. In such a situation you may be better off renting an RV than buying an RV.
3. RV Maintenance - Consider Buying an RV if you are a Hands-On person!
RVs are prone to wear & tear and equipment malfunction and therefore require ongoing maintenance. If you are a hands-on person who can learn and maintain your RV then this would be a plus should you decide to buy an RV. However, if you are a hands-off person who is not interested in doing the maintenance yourself then you should avoid buying an RV, this is because RV technicians cost over $100/hour, this does not include the cost of parts and supplies.
4. RV Storage - Consider Buying an RV only you can store at home or close by
If you live in a single-family with no associate restrictions then you can park your RV in your driveway as long as you wish. However, if you have limited space or any restrictions then this can be a big deterrent in how much you can enjoy your RV. Imagine you come back from a nice vacation from Yellowstone National Park after a long drive, now you need to worry about cleaning the RV and rushing it to some storage place else you may get a ticket from your association or city.
4.1 RV Storage - Should not be more than 15 minutes from your home.
Time to commute to the RV storage should be low as not only you should check your RV every few weeks to ensure that there are no maintenance issues or roof leaks. Additionally, you will need to bring the RV to your home before each trip. The time you spend driving the RV to/from storage should not be much or else it will affect your quality of vacation and life in general.
5. Convenience - Own if you want an RV at your disposal
If you are someone who doesn't like the burden of looking for an RV rental, going through the orientation, cleaning the rental RV then perhaps you may be better off owning an RV.
6. Covid Fears - Not a reason for Buying an RV
If COVID fear is driving your decision to own an RV then it may not be more emotional than fact-based. RVs have very limited living space, and you can spray and clean every inch of the RV living space in less than 15 minutes. If you are one of the paranoid ones then just turn the RV furnace and the heater in the driver cabin and leave them on for an hour. The air inside the RV will become so hot that no microorganism can survive this harsh heat.
6.1 COVID Fear of Hotels - Not a long term reason for buying an RV
2020 was a real scary year, 2021 looks better with vaccinations, perhaps life will start getting much more normal 2022 onwards and you can live in a hotel without worrying about COVID. Owning an RV may seem a good decision in 2021 and 2022, nevertheless still is short.
Related article: Living in a Hotel vs Living in an RV
6.2 COVID Fear of public restrooms - Not a good reason for Buying an RV
It is natural to be fearful of public restrooms, however scientific facts indicate that many forms of diseases could be spread from restrooms. However, restroom cleaning practices and careful use of masks could make this a non-factor in your decision to buy an RV. Additionally, you should realize that most RV showers are small and you may end up using RV Campground showers in the long run thereby reducing the importance of this factor in any decision to buy an RV.
7. RV Layout and Features - Rental RVs have limited layout options
If you are obsessed with a very special kind of RV layout that is not available in rental RVs then buying an RV may be your only option.
8. Pets - Not a deciding factor for Buying an RV
If you are a pet owner and believe that owning an RV opens up many more vacation opportunities then you should realize that most rental RVs are pet friendly that are ok with pets, therefore this is not a strong factor in a decision to buy an RV.
Is there an additional charge to take pets along on an RV trip? Click here to find out.
9. Towing - Buying an RV is better but why tow when you can uber or rent a car
If you want to tow your car with your RV then owning an RV is a good option, this is because though rental RVs allow towing, the RV insurance does not cover any liability arising from towed vehicles.
Read more: Is it a good idea to tow your car behind your RV?
10. Proximity to an RV dealership that services RVs
You should buy an RV only if you have a reliable RV service shop less than 30 minutes from your home. This is because the majority of the RV maintenance requires special parts and skills that most folks cannot do themselves. This implies that you will need to drive your RV to the dealership, drop it, take an Uber back to your home, then go back after a few days to pick up the RV. Imagine doing this at least 4-10 times per year and you will realize the time and money you will spend on this commute.
Bonus Factor - Rent your RV to generate income
If you have an entrepreneurial trait and some risk appetite and you can rent your RV through peer-to-peer rental websites then owning the RV may be a better option.
We hope that these 10 factors provide you with an objective way to evaluate whether you are better off renting or buying an RV.
Please feel to reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org for any questions you may have on this or any related RV rental topic.
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