Camille Attell
by Camille Attell
Posted August 12, 2017

Learn from my mistakes: rent an RV before buying one.

My husband and I’d never stepped foot in an RV before we decided to buy one.

This sounds crazy, right? I agree. There is a better way to do this that I wish I would have known about: rent an RV before buying one.

Buying an RV can be an overwhelming experience. There’s so much to research, understand, and ask. Spending countless hours on RVTrader will only keep you sane for so long. And while browsing RVs in person at a dealership can help narrow your purchase, it won’t show you what it’s like to actually sleep, shower, and cook in your dream motorhome. The only thing that can truly increase your confidence in your RV purchase is to spend ample time driving, traveling, and camping, etc in a variety of RVs. The best way to do this is to rent an RV before you buying one.

Renting an RV is the one thing we wish we’d done before buying our Class A RV.

Note: We did rent a stationary RV for two days and used that to inform much of our purchase decision.  Looking back, it simply wasn’t enough time to really determine what we wanted.

The point of renting an RV is to give you as much information as possible before making this big purchase. Renting an RV (or a few of them!) can help you do this in the following ways.

1. Knowing What You Need (And Don’t Need)

what you need and don't need

If you haven’t grown up around RVs, you may not know what you actually need to live and travel in one.

For example, the RV we ended up purchasing has an outdoor television. Guess how many times we’ve watched it? Zero. An outdoor TV is a luxury item that’s nice to have, but not necessity. Had we known this, we could have saved some money by looking at a model without an outdoor TV.

Deciding on whether or not you need an outdoor TV is a relatively small decision, but these decisions add up over time. For instance, if you would like to dry camp often in national forest areas while RVing, you might need to consider a small RV. If you’re working on the road, you need to think about work space.

All of these factors play a huge role in deciding what kind of RV to buy. Check out more about our rig on our site More Than A Wheelin’.

Renting an RV gives you confidence before making any big decisions. You’re able to sit in all the various places of your RV, learn how to back-in spots, and better understand if it’s a good fit.

2. Understanding How RVs Work

rv knowledge

RVs can be intimidating. You are literally driving a moving home down the interstate.

When we purchased our RV, we had a three-and-a-half hour orientation. By hour two, I was trying to stay awake. By hour three, I was trying not to drool on myself.

Trying to learn everything at once is overwhelming. Instead of watching a video or listen to someone talk for hours, learn through the most effective method: by doing. Renting an RV gives you a chance to understand the systems and how things work before you buy. Knowledge is power.

Instead of learning about the difference between 30 amp and 50 amp power after you blow your breakers, you can know these before hand (note to self: don’t use the toaster and the hairdryer at the same time).

3. Playing Around with RV Layout

non negotiable features

I like an RV kitchen that faces the door.

It gives me a sense of safety because I can see who’s coming to the door when I’m involved in a task, such as cooking. This was a non-negotiable feature for me, which I learned after spending time in the one RV we rented for two days.

Some people feel differently, they may want their sofa to face the door. It all boils down to individual preference, and you only learn this by hanging out in an RV for longer than the few minutes at the dealership.

4. Actually Getting to Drive an RV

drive the rv

The RV we rented was parked and we didn’t get to drive it.

Driving the RV would have been a game changer for us. As I mentioned earlier, neither of us had spent much time in an RV before, much less driven one.

When we went shopping, we were learning how to drive one on the spot. Instead of focusing on whether or not the RV fit our needs, we were freaking out about staying between the lines and trying to avoid street signs!  Driving an RV before you buy one will keep you from assuming that your 40 ft. motorhome will drive just like your minivan.

5. Saving Money

If you don’t know exactly what you need in an RV, it could end up costing you quite a bit, both financially and emotionally. We’ve encountered plenty of RVers who have traded in or had to sell their unit because it wasn’t what they thought it would be.

Your RV is going to be your home away from home or your actual home if you plan to live in it.  You don’t want to be unhappy in your RV because you found out too late that your air conditioning sounds like a hurricane or it can’t go down any of the roads you hoped it would.

Knowing these little quirks in advance will save you financial stress and many sleepless nights. It will also give you leverage when shopping for RVs because you are a confident consumer who knows what you want. Your wallet will thank you.

How to Find an RV Rental Near You

Having the experience of driving and living life in an RV before making the purchase is huge. This experience gives you the knowledge to know exactly what you want before walking into any dealership. You will make an educated buying decision that you won’t regret down the road.

If you’re interested in renting an RV before diving into the RV life, you can rent directly from RV owners here on Outdoorsy.

Camille Attell

After living and working in Orange County, CA, her entire life, Camille Attell finally decided to cut the cord and live life on her terms. Now, she travels full-time with her husband Bryce and cat Parker in a 34 foot, class A motorhome. She's a blogger and business woman, adapting to being an entrepreneur after many years working in corporate America. She manages the travel and lifestyle blog


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