How to Lease an RV

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Updated on Monday, July 8, 2019


How to Lease an RV
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Perhaps you’re interested in RV ownership, but want to try before you buy. You can’t lease an RV the same way you can lease a sedan, but you can rent one. Although auto rentals are usually short-term, it’s possible to rent all types of recreational vehicles — motor homes to pop-up trailers to camper trucks — for months. Renting an RV, long or short term, may be a great idea as RV prices and ownership tend to be high. But you should be aware that RV rental costs vary and you may have to plunk down a deposit before going on a road trip.

Why can you rent but not lease an RV?

Depreciation is the wrench that stops RV leasing from being feasible. Like most passenger vehicles, RVs lose about 20% of their value in the first year. Unlike most passenger vehicles, motorized RVs have an average price around $100,000, which makes that 20% depreciation add up to a lot of money.

Depreciation slows after the first year, so the RV may have lost a total of 28-40% of its value by the time it’s three years old. For a $100,000 RV, a 30% depreciation means you would have paid $30,000 in three years to lease it, plus taxes, which could put your monthly payment around $900, and you’d walk away with no equity.

Some of the reasons RVs depreciate so sharply include:

  • Short warranties. Some RV companies only offer a one-year warranty on their products.
  • Wear and tear. Both living in and driving an RV around might make a new RV feel used quickly.
  • Low resale price. This is what really determines depreciation; something is only worth as much as people will pay for it.

Why rent an RV?

Renting an RV may be a great option to only pay for an RV when you use it, rather than buying it and using it occasionally or buying it only to find out it doesn’t suit your needs.

RVs typically cost a pretty penny. The average price of a towable RV is around $35,000 with motor homes running around $100,000, according to Kevin Broom, spokesperson for the RV Industry Association. And besides the sticker price, you’ll have to pay for maintenance, insurance and, most likely, taxes and registration fees. So if you know you’ll only use an RV for a couple weeks out of the year, why pay to have an RV for the whole year or multiple years? Rather than committing to thousands of dollars, you’ll probably commit a few hundred by renting an RV.

There are dozens of RV types and brands, along with tons of layouts and styles. If you are new to the RV lifestyle and don’t know if you’d rather drive or tow one, how much room you need for your family, how well you can handle driving a large or small one or you just want to experiment with a new model, renting may be a smart option so you can figure out what you like before you consider buying one.

What’s the cheapest way to rent an RV?

The absolute cheapest way to rent an RV is to do a relocation rental, which is when an RV rental company needs to transfer inventory and rather than pay a professional driver, they are willing to rent it out for close to dirt-cheap so you could drive it to the new location for them.

What are the pros of RV relocation rentals?
You could net some serious savings doing an RV relocation rental rather than doing a regular RV rental.

  • Price. While a price around $120 a night is normal for typical RV renting, RV relocation rental prices trend at $1 a night.
  • Fuel allowance. Some relocation deals have a $100 fuel allowance to offset what you spend on gas or diesel.
  • Popular sites. The RV rental company is probably transferring inventory to a popular location, which may mean that your route has some noteworthy vistas and stops along the way or at the destination itself.

What are the cons of RV relocation rentals?
There’s no such thing as a free lunch, so the saying goes. The cheapest way to rent an RV does have its downsides.

  • One-way trips. Unless you find a second RV relocation deal that lets you go back the way you came within the window of time that you’ll be at the drop-off point, you’ll need to find your own way home.
  • Additional costs. You will probably have to pay out of pocket for things like transportation to and from the RV pickup and drop-off sites, as well as extra mileage fees, campsite fees, extra insurance and add-ons such as linen kits.
  • Short notice. Many of the best deals are only posted a few days ahead of when you would need to take your RV vacation, which could make it harder to plan.
  • Limited time. Of course, the RV needs to reach its destination in time. Depending on the deal you choose, you may or may not have any extra days built into the time in which you have to transfer the RV.

What are other RV rental considerations?

Where could I find an RV rental service?
RV rental companies that offer both regular RV rentals and relocation RV rental deals include Imoova, Apollo, Jucy,Road Bear and Cruise America. You could also check out peer-to-peer sites, such as RVshare, where private owners rent out their rigs. Kampgrounds of America, the world’s largest system of public campgrounds, offers a directory of RV rentals by state.

When should I look for an RV rental?
The most popular time for RV rentals is in the summer. If you are considering a traditional RV rental, that’s when prices will probably be at their highest due to demand. If you are considering doing an RV relocation rental, that’s probably when there will be the most opportunities.

What should I consider when renting an RV?
Whether you do a relocation rental or not, here are some things you should think about when selecting an RV to rent.

Size. Depending on how many people are traveling with you, you may only need an RV that can sleep two or an RV that can sleep six.
Drivers. How many people will drive the RV? Will a couple of drivers take turns? If more than one person will drive, there may be an extra fee. And some RV rental companies require that all drivers be above 21 or 25 years old.
Pets. Check to see if you are allowed to bring your pet along with you on your RV trip. If you are allowed, an extra cleaning fee may apply for any mess caused by the pet. If not, you may need to find a pet boarding service or a pet sitter while you are away.
Campsites. Do you want to pay to use an RV campsite that could offer full hookups and Wi-Fi or will you boondock and depend solely on the RV’s resources like the water reservoir and electrical generator? If you want to boondock, you need to make sure the RV you select is capable of it. If you plan to stay at an RV campsite or park, you’ll probably want to make reservations ahead of time.
Add-ons. Will you bring your own things from cookware and sheets and towels to RV-friendly toilet paper, or will you need to pay for them as add-ons to your rental?

Is a long-term or short-term RV rental better?
The more time you spend in an RV, the more it’s going to cost, of course. RV rental companies and campsites typically charge per day. But the answer to this really depends on your budget and where you want to go. If you have never used an RV before, we would suggest a shorter trip of a few days before you sign on and spend the money to use an RV for a few months.

What’s the cheapest way to buy an RV?

If you think RV ownership is a better bet, but still aren’t ready to commit to a big sticker price, the cheapest way to buy an RV is to buy used. And if you need an RV loan, you should shop around for the loan, just as would shop around for the RV. Potential lenders could include your bank, credit union or online lender. It does not hurt your credit to apply to multiple lenders for a loan any more than it would to apply to one, as long as you do so within a 14-day window.

The bottom line

Leasing an RV is not an option, but there are plenty of ways to rent one. The cheapest way to rent an RV is to sign up for a relocation rental as daily fees are extremely low and possible added incentives like fuel reimbursement. When choosing an RV rental, keep in mind of additional costs, such as transportation to and from the RV pickup and drop-off sites. If you’re ready to buy an RV, do your research and shop around for an RV loan so you get the best deal.