Want to hit the road this summer? Why not rent or buy a used RV? If you’re thinking about it, there’s a lot to consider, from size and insurance to maintenance and gas mileage. Check out my RV buying and rental guide to get the best out of the open road without breaking the bank.
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1. Test a cheap RV rental before you buy.
Instead of diving right into buying a new or used RV, rent one for your summer vacation to test it out. You can pick from a wide range of rental options like a large motorhome so your family can have all the comforts of home or a basic pop-up trailer to keep in tow and unhitch when you want to explore the area.
Here are some popular RV rental companies::
- Imoova lets you rent an RV for as cheap as $1 a night. The company has you book specific trips from city to city, meaning you can combine your vacation plans with an RV tryout. Some of the deals even give you a gas allowance for your trip.
- Transfercar also has plenty of great one-way RV trip deals and often offers free convenience kits that may include necessities like towels, or pots and pans.
- Cruise America has deals like 10% early booking discount, half-price miles, and one-way trip deals with up to 200 free miles per night.
- Both RVShare.com and Outdoorsy.com let you drive your rental RV free for your first 100 miles. After that, mileage fees will cost you a minimum of $0.35 a mile.
2. Know the basics before you buy an RV.
As you plan your grand RV adventure, you should know the different types available, because I’m going to break down prices based on these classifications. First off, RVs can come in two different categories, motorhomes, and towables:
Motorhomes combine a vehicle and a small living space and come in Class A, B, and C.
- Class A RVs are the largest of the bunch at 26 to 45 feet long.
- Class B RVs are much smaller, and less focused on full-time living.
- Class C RVs are somewhere in the middle, combining Class B positive price points with the Class A amenities.
Towable RVs or trailers need a powerful vehicle to pull them and come in all shapes and sizes:
- The least expensive is a pop-up trailer, costing $10,000 to $30,000.
- Travel trailers cost anywhere from $10,000 to $150,000 depending on size, with some smaller, lighter models able to be pulled by an SUV.
- Fifth-wheel trailers are some of the largest trailers. They’re meant for pickup trucks and usually cost around $20,000 to $150,000.
3. The best used RV deals are fifth wheel trailers.
Okay, so now you’re ready to buy. While it might seem tempting to step into a shiny, new vehicle, don’t. You can save a lot of money if you buy a used RV. If you buy new, just like a car, it depreciates by about 21% after the first year. That number climbs between 35 and 40% by the fifth year you own it.
This makes buying used a much better option; however, it can be risky. Before you sign a check, make sure to research your make and model’s durability, do a title search to make sure it’s not salvaged, and get a mechanic to check everything.
Here were some price ranges I saw when looking at RVs online:
- Class A between $83,500 and $450,000 new and $25,000 and $300,000 used (up to 70% savings)
- Class B between $90,000 and $160,000 new and $73,000 and $90,000 used (up to 43% savings)
- Class C between $62,000 and $129,000 new and $17,000 and $95,000 used (up to 72% savings)
- Travel trailers between $20,000 and $60,000 new and $14,000 and $34,000 used (up to 43% savings)
- Fifth wheel trailers between $45,000 and $85,000 new and $11,000 and $67,000 used (up to 75% savings)
4. Budget gas costs based on your RV’s gas mileage.
With all the gas you’ll burn on the open road, you gotta budget for your RV’s gas mileage. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Class A RVs average around six to eight miles per gallon. When going up hills or steep terrain, that number can dip to as low as four.
- Class B RVs tend to have better gas mileage, with an average of 15 to 18 miles a gallon.
- Class C RVs are more in the middle, with around 10 to 13 miles per gallon.
As for travel trailers, that depends on your tow vehicle and the mileage it normally gets. You can compare the mpg of your towing vehicle with your mpg while pulling the trailer with this calculator.
5. Set aside $100 a month for RV maintenance.
RV maintenance is spendy. Like I said earlier, buying a used RV could mean some big repairs down the road. But even if it’s in good shape, you gotta maintain it. Sondra at AxleAddict claims she recently paid over $4,500 for new RV tires, carpets, toilet, and thermostat.
Anyone with an RV can expect basic maintenance expenses like water damage, oil changes, roof repair, and more. As a general rule of thumb, set aside about $100 a month for RV maintenance.
6. Keep your RV insurance costs in mind.
Your RV insurance cost will generally be around $500 to $1,300 a year, depending on the class and type. Class A RVs cost $200 to $300 more to insure compared to smaller Class C RVs. Other factors such as your primary use of the vehicle (long travel, recreation, living in the RV) often go into consideration. Trailer insurance tends to be cheaper, with prices as low as $250 per year.
Resale value is another major factor in insurance costs since newer RVs cost more to insure than used. (Yet another reason to go the used route.)
Tip: Most RV insurance policies won’t cover personal belongings, so look into personal effects coverage. Depending on the RV’s condition, Geico includes either $1,000 to $5,000 of free Replacement Cost Personal Effects coverage when you get Comprehensive and Collision coverage.
7. Check RV regulations for campgrounds.
Don’t assume you can pull your 30-foot land yacht into a national campground, because you’ll be in for a rude awakening.
Throughout the U.S., 27% of campsites can’t accommodate RVs over 35 feet long. For RVs over 40 feet long, only about 7% of national parks will allow them.
When it comes to RV park costs, expect to pay anywhere from $35 to $50 a night. Rates jump to between $80 and $100 for oceanfront camping. Use Camp Colorado or Camp California for locating RV sites if you’re planning a camping trip to the west.
8. Rent a Home Depot van or UHaul.
Can’t find the used RV of your summer dreams? Why not rent a Home Depot van or UHaul for your travels? Home Depot vans are about $129 a day.
….Okay, just kidding, but I had ya going for a sec, didn’t I?