As someone who lives out of their RV full-time, I can tell you the number one thing I wish we would have done before switching over to this lifestyle was rent an RV. I promise I am not making this up. If you don’t believe me, feel free to check out where I have already written on the topic both here and here.
Our first few months on the road were hard. They were hard because, in the beginning, we had NO IDEA what we were doing. But the good news is, we realized they didn’t need to be. And now I can share the lessons we’ve learned with you!
And boy have we learned! Funny enough, we actually started off on our educational adventure before we even left the Camping World parking lot. During the middle of our first night in the camper, we ran out of propane, in 19-degree weather. I am a little embarrassed to admit that we didn’t even realize that it was propane that had been heating the RV for the entirety of the three previous days as we were moving into the rig. We both thought it was being heated electrically. As I said, we had NO IDEA what we were doing.
Now, ten months later, I can laugh at the propane story as well as share a few other stories that have crafted my perspective on why I believe renting an RV first is so beneficial for anyone considering taking the leap into ownership. Enjoy!
Reason #1 – To get comfortable driving RVs
One of the craziest parts about purchasing an RV, in my opinion, and even more specifically a large RV, is that when the deal is done someone just hands you a set of keys like it’s any other ordinary day.
But to a first-time buyer, it’s all brand new! When they sold us our fifth wheel, we didn’t even have a truck yet! Ultimately, the sales staff merely waves goodbye and watches as you jump into your new monstrosity of a home and drive it away.
You have to understand that at the end of the day, it’s their job to sell you a rig. It’s your job to make sure you feel comfortable driving it.
So, how would a rental help in this area? Well first off, no one is going to let you drive their RV away without you first feeling comfortable. If you rent, then the owner is going to take time with you to help you understand all the ins and outs of the vehicle before you take off.
Additionally, a rental is not only a great way to figure out if you enjoy driving. It’s also a way to find out what type of RV you like driving before you go all-in on a purchase. You may initially feel that towing might not be for you. Perhaps the idea of being fully contained in a Class A, B, or C vehicle sounds best. But then, along the way, you end up realizing you don’t want your home to have an engine. Maybe you decide you would instead like to be able to disconnect and take off in a separate vehicle.
Testing out a couple of different RV types is not a bad idea at all. The experience will give you a feel for what fits you, and your driving style, the best.
Reason #2 – To adjust to what life is like in an RV
Life is going to be different in an RV. No matter how much they make them look like homes, they aren’t the brick and mortar homes you’re used to. If you have little to no experience with RVs, then there’s going to be a bit of a learning curve.
Many things you take for granted in your stone home will not come as comfortably in an RV. There will be electrical quirks. For example, you may not be able to use your hot water kettle and hairdryer at the same time. Also, wifi will not be as dependable as you’re used to, no matter how much you gear up your rig.
Renting an RV can be an excellent way to start learning what it’s like to live out of one without the “oh my gosh, what have I done with my life” pressure. You have the comfort of knowing there’s a deadline ahead. You’ll have to return the camper, go home, decompress and think about everything you’ve learned before you go back out there and try again.
Renting and getting adapted to this lifestyle at a slower pace, with a dependable and familiar place to go back to at the end of the experience, is a recommendation I wish we would have taken more seriously before taking the full-time leap.
Reason #3 – To adjust to RV construction
As for RV construction, I genuinely believe these companies build them as well as they can, but rolling these things regularly down the road takes its toll on them.
Renting an RV can help you get comfortable with RV construction before committing to buying one of your own. Getting comfortable with the concept that they are fragile is essential. When we first bought ours, we both made the mistake of thinking of it as being similar in construction to our first house. Then, when things started falling apart, we stressed way too much about something that was entirely out of our control. And things started falling apart a LOT. In the first few months, we broke blinds, ripped tears in the floor, snapped our antenna in half and lost a refrigerator panel somewhere along the highway.
If we would have had more experience with RVs when we started, we would have been more accepting of the delicate nature of our RV in the beginning. And that would have saved us a lot of unnecessary anxiety. The sooner you can realize that things breaking is all just part of the lifestyle, the sooner you’ll get comfortable in that mindset and start enjoying the journey more.
And one more note regarding fragility. When you’re renting with someone, make sure you have the proper insurance coverage because you never know what will happen. The likelihood of something breaking is much higher than with other types of rentals. The owner knows this, and this fact shouldn’t scare you off from renting. It’s all just part of the lifestyle. The best thing you can do for yourself is to make sure you’re protected from the inevitable.
Reason #4 – To get a sense of what you really need to bring with you on the road
If you take some trips in a rented RV, you’ll get a sense of what you actually need to take with you on the road.
For us, we spent many months prior to full-time RV life going through all of our belongings and deciding what to do with them. Having never lived in an RV before, it was all a big guessing game of what we really needed to bring with us. We finally got to a point where we felt we got rid of everything we didn’t need and moved all that remained into the RV.
A few months later, we ended up returning to our storage unit and storing even more items. After some time on the road, we found out we could live with even less than we initially realized.
Renting an RV and taking short trips will really help you get an idea of what you need to bring with you and what you don’t. I now recognize that having a clear picture of what you’ll need to have with you, before moving anything into your camper, is helpful because an RV can feel extremely cluttered very quickly.
Reason #5 – To have a clear idea of what layout would work best for you
Everyone has different sized families and unique quirks about what they would like in a home and how they want their living spaces laid out.
For us, the kitchen area is one space I’m happy we spent a lot of time thinking about when we were looking at RVs. A big reason we fell in love with the rig we purchased was that it had a kitchen island and three countertop spaces! My husband cooks a lot. When preparing a meal, he likes to spread out and take his time. I’m okay with this, because, well, who would complain about being fed? I’d like to believe in an imaginary world, if we had rented an RV, we would have noticed the need for cooking space pretty fast.
We also fell in love with our camper because of the overall layout. We saw that we could remove the couch in the back, add a desk, and still have each living area feel like its own separate zone. We would be able to have spaces to work, relax, cook, and sleep, and none of them would interfere with each other.
Sure, you can go to RV shows, as we did, and walk in and out of hundreds of fifth wheels and travel trailers before purchasing one. For more on fifth wheel RV rentals, check out this article. But I’m now convinced testing out a rental RV would have been one step better.
This is because while you’re in your rental, you have the time to really start to pay attention to what kind of space you actually desire in each separate living area. The best advice I can give here is when you are traveling around in your rental camper, try to treat it like the life you’ll want to be enjoying while you’re using a camper of your own. If it’s purely a vacation rental and you never want to make a meal in there, then you might not need much of a kitchen. Treat it that way on the road. But if you’re renting to figure out what type you want to live in, then try to act in it as you would at home. Cook meals. Figure out what kind of layout works best for you and your lifestyle.
Reason #6 – To not make a bad investment
Renting a camper for the weekend is a far less expensive way to test out the RV of your dreams. When you purchase one, you’re going to be making a significant investment into an object with a quickly deteriorating value. You don’t want to go all-in on one unless you’re sure.
We lucked out, we love our home. And thank goodness we do because I don’t know what we would have done otherwise.
Renting allows you to find out whether you like it, whether the idea of going out in one all the time is for you, and whether you want that specific kind. The bottom line is, purchasing an RV new and then deciding you want something different is an expensive decision to make! You want to make sure you love your rig before you sign on the dotted line.
Looking to rent an RV before taking the leap of buying your own? Start your search today on RVshare! And as always, please feel free to email me with any RV life questions you may have! And to see more about our RV journey, head on over to cinderstravels.com.