RVing has become wildly popular since the start of the pandemic. Many people found it to be a great way to safely take a vacation. Once more people found out just how great an RV is, there does not seem to be any going back! Buying an RV is a big decision — they can be expensive, and just like a car, amenities make the price go up. Do you know exactly what you want? Most people don’t. If you’re ready to plunge into RVing but don’t know which one to get, try renting before buying. Trying different sizes, brands, and configurations will make you an informed buyer. Try before you buy is key. Renting gives you time to have fun with an RV before making a long-term commitment. Hang out for a weekend or take a week-long road trip. Enjoy the RV lifestyle with a rental first.
1. For Now, Inventory Is Limited
The pandemic not only created a skyrocketing demand for RVs, but also slowed down production due to factory safety rules, loss of labor staff, and parts supply disruption. In my world of Airstreams, it is common for an 8–12 month wait after ordering. Airstreams are only being built to order right now. This makes it the perfect time to rent an RV and determine exactly which one you want to wait for.
You may drive by some RV lots that look full. Look closely at those lots and you may see that they are filled with one or two models. Some dealers have consolidated inventory, others buy from manufacturers that have put an emphasis on building their most popular models. But what if that is not the right model for you? Don’t buy from limited inventory. Rent and wait until inventory catches up or you can order exactly what you want. If you think you’ve decided on what to buy, then rent while you wait for delivery. You’ll be a pro by the time your new RV arrives.
2. You Can Evaluate Different Models
RVs come in all shapes and sizes including Class A, B, C, and a towable trailer and fifth wheel. Renting gives you a chance to comparison shop. How big do you want to go? Do you want to drive your RV or tow it? Do you want slide-outs or a sleek silhouette? Will your kids or grandkids sleep on fold-out or pull-out beds or do you need a bunkhouse? What is your kitchen preference — island, galley, or outdoor (diner kitchens built into the RV are very popular)? Will you be a weekend or occasional camping warrior or are you ready to go full-time? Answering these questions will help narrow down your options. If you are unsure of your answers, then you probably should rent first to get a sense of what each type has to offer.
Class A is the big rigs — the drivable coaches that are the size of a touring bus and often have the big swoosh design on the sides. These rigs have all the amenities you could want and a price to match. Class B and C are the drivable campers and oversize vans. Class C may have slide outs and Class B drives more like a truck or van. Towables come in many styles. The huge fifth wheel often has a bedroom “upstairs,” two baths, and an island kitchen. A smaller option is the boxy or front curved fiberglass trailer. These come in all sizes and many have slide-outs. Then there is the classic Airstream. These are the aluminum tubes designed for form and function. Today’s models are fully functioning RVs that come in all types of configurations, just like their competitors. They don’t have slides.
3. You Can Decide Between Driveable Or Towable
Some people may assume a drivable RV is easier than a towable. That is not necessarily the case. It depends on your comfort level and camping needs. Unless you are going to tow a car (and many Class A and C rigs do) you will not be moving away from your campsite. Is your spouse or traveling partner ready to drive a car while you drive the RV? Once you get to your site, get level, and get hooked up, you may not want to undo it all just to go to town for dinner or supplies. Some people may assume towing requires skills they don’t possess and are afraid to tow. I had zero experience when I moved into my trailer. I practiced in parking lots, drove slowly on highways, and I built up my confidence quickly. The difference between driving and towing may be a good reason to rent before you buy.
Most RVs have similar operating systems and appliances, though bigger rigs have bigger holding tanks for water and wastewater. Renting will give you a sense of your preferences and determine your “must-haves.” Is a motorized awning essential? Do you want the extra floor space that slide-outs provide? Can you manage with a half-sized fridge or do you need a full-size two-door or double-door model? Do you want a separate shower or can you learn to live with a wet bath?
Renting also gives you a chance to try out and get acquainted with all the things you need to know for a successful RV experience. RVs bump down the road and things shake loose. Be prepared with some basic tools to tighten down screws. Hot water heaters are tiny. You have to adjust your shower habits unless you have a continuous hot water system. Are you planning to camp only in places with hook-ups or will you need to think about having an inverter for battery power or solar modifications? Everything is a learning curve. Know what you’re willing to learn.
4. Test Drive Vs. Test Camping
Sure, you can drive your Class A, B, or C RV around the block, but it is no substitute for how it will handle climbing hills, taking curves, how well you can see in order to change lanes, testing the backup camera, and getting a feel for the height and length. The same can be said for trailers. You want to try it to see how well it tows based on height and length. If you are using an existing tow vehicle, then you will want to be sure you have enough payload and engine to pull the trailer. Those issues may narrow your search. How big is your camping family? What bed configuration do you prefer? Do you know your camping style? Do you like an outdoor kitchen or do you prefer a traditional kitchen that’s large enough for your prep and cooking? Do you need space for a lot of stuff or are you a minimalist? Will you be full-time or weekend campers or perhaps long summer vacations? Will you bring bikes, kayaks, or a grill? Do you plan to boondock? Taking a weekend test camp may be just what you need to ensure your choice is optimal for your style.
If you don’t have much RV experience, then sleeping in one before you buy it is the way to go. Do you know if you want twins or a queen-sized bed? Do you want a front or rear bedroom? If you’ve never tried these options, you may think you know, but do you? You want to try out how living in the RV will be for you. You can’t run the hairdryer and microwave at the same time — RVs can’t pull as much electrical current as a house. Is the seating layout going to work for your leisure style? Do you want to have a sightline to the TV? Do you prefer a recliner or a couch? Do you like the dinette set-up or is it too constraining? Remember an RV is like buying a car and a house at the same time.
If you are thinking about buying a drivable RV, then be sure to rent first and test out the engine power, understand the gas or diesel differences, know the weight restrictions, and get a feel for your driving comfort with different heights and lengths.
5. Be Happy By Renting First
RVs are a major purchase — more than a car and less than a house. You don’t want to drive or tow it off the lot and have buyer’s remorse. Getting a good feel for different models and brands, lengths and configurations, and driving or towing options will make you a confident consumer. Renting may not answer all your questions, but it will help you narrow down your preferences. Maybe towing is too stressful and driving an oversized van is in your comfort zone. Maybe a fifth wheel gives you the living space you really want, but towing a 28-foot trailer is a more doable proposition for you. Tiny living in a 19-foot trailer is cozy but is it too cozy? A few extra feet may be the breathing room you need. Bells and whistles are great, but will you actually use them, even if you paid extra for them? Be happy with whatever you purchase. Explore your options by renting.
Learn the different aspects of mobile vacationing by reading:
- Why RV Road Trips Are The Most Romantic Way To Travel
- The One Thing You Need To Transform Camping Into A Glamping Experience
RVshare is the world’s first and largest peer-to-peer RV rental marketplace. With thousands of satisfied customers and a broad inventory ranging from travel trailers to luxury motorhomes, RVshare has the perfect RV for your vacation, tailgate, or temporary lodging needs.