Should we rent or buy an RV for a 2-3 months road trip?

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Leo 1992

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Hi everyone! Very happy to have found this forum.

This summer my soo-to-be-wife and I are coming to the US for our honeymoon and to live our long lasting dream of crossing America by RV. The only challenge being - we've never RV'd (can I use it like that?) before, and we have no idea what we're doing :)

While I'm reading and starting to get the hang of things, there is one problem that I'd hope you could advise me on: what's the best way to get an RV for a 2-3 months road trip?

I've searched renting options, and, looking for a class C motorhome, the prices I found for a 60-80 days rental ranged around $15K-$20K, Which is more money that we want to spend.

That led me to the conclusion that we're better off buying an RV, and than sell it after the road trip, for what I assume won't be more than a few thousand dollars lost at most. The main problems I have with this plan are:
1. I'm not sure how easy it is for foreign tourists to buy an RV in the states (I heard you need to register it at a residential address)
2. I'm not sure how easy it is to sell an RV (to a dealership or a private buyer)
3. I'm not sure how long it'll take to buy and to sell the RV - and given that we'll only have 2-3 months, I don't wanna spend weeks on this trade deal.

So the questions I hope you can help me with are:
1. Do you think for 2-3 months road trip, is it better to buy or rent a RV
2. If you think we should rent - do you have a recommendation for a rental place that won't charge a fortune?
3. If you think we should buy - do you have any tips for buying and selling quickly and simply?

Also any tips for new RVrs (am I using it right?) or for places to visit will be most welcomed.

Thanks in advance,
Leo.
 

TonyL

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Whilst 15 to 20k$ is a big chunk of money, the problem with buying is if there are any breakdowns, you will be footing the bill. RV repairs in the US are very expensive and at times, not very well done going by many of the stories on this forum. On the other hand, you could we'll pick a good reliable C class that will see you across the country with no major issues. Avoid buying anything from camping world, again, many horror stories, try looking for states wide dealers and contact them to see if they will be interested in a buy back. The other issue at the moment is the current high cost of buying any RV and the potential future drop in prices if the bubble bursts before you sell. Rental will include your insurance, if you buy, figure around $1000 for vehicle insurance as a start, and unless you buy private from someone giving up the lifestyle, you will need to equip the unit with bedding, pots pans etc, which even if you include in the sell, won't be worth very much.
Good luck with whatever you decide.
TonyL
 

SeilerBird

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Neither option will be cheap. RVing is not cheap. Old cheap RVs (under $20k) are money pits. Figure at least another $10k to make it road worthy. If an old cheap RV really was in great condition and everything works, as the ads always claim, it would be worth a lot more money than what they are asking. They are priced cheap to attract newbies who have no idea what to look for in a used RV. People are usually blinded to how nice the interior looks. Lipstick on a pig. Unless you have really deep pockets I would suggest renting would end up being a lot cheaper.
 

Leo 1992

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Neither option will be cheap. RVing is not cheap. Old cheap RVs (under $20k) are money pits. Figure at least another $10k to make it road worthy. If an old cheap RV really was in great condition and everything works, as the ads always claim, it would be worth a lot more money than what they are asking. They are priced cheap to attract newbies who have no idea what to look for in a used RV. People are usually blinded to how nice the interior looks. Lipstick on a pig. Unless you have really deep pockets I would suggest renting would end up being a lot cheaper.
Thanks for the reply!

Do you have by any chance some tips for what to look for in an RV when buying, so I'll reduce the chance of buying a lipstick wearing pig? :)
 

Oldgator73

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How about renting a van, purchasing camping equipment; tent, camp stove, a few pots and pans, sleeping bags, etc. when you are finished with your trip you can donate the equipment to a charity.
 

Oldgator73

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I just checked Enterprise Car Rental. A standard SUV picked up at Philadelphia Airport would cost about $8,000 for 3 months. The same vehicle picked up in Dover, DE would run you about $6,000 for 3 months. An SUV or van might give you a bit more versatility when it comes to exploring and will give you much better gas mileage. Even a large sedan will hold enough camping gear for two people and would even be cheaper to rent and operate.
 

SeilerBird

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Thanks for the reply!

Do you have by any chance some tips for what to look for in an RV when buying, so I'll reduce the chance of buying a lipstick wearing pig? :)
Floor plan, floor plan and floor plan are the most important things to consider. Make sure the wife loves it and approves of it. Then have an RV inspector inspect the rig before you buy it.
 

Isaac-1

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I would say buy a used coach, in the 5-10 year old age range, if over 6 years old make sure it has new tires (RV tires are good for about 7 years), invest in a good roadside service plan and an extended service plan (extended warranty) to cover mechanical issues, then sell it when you are done. There are consignment dealers like PPL in Texas which specialize in selling RV's for you and taking a small percentage. I also saw a message thread a couple of years ago either here or on IRV2 where someone was doing much the same thing you are, but buying from a dealer in Las Vegas, with a pre-arranged buyback when they got done, though I forget the details. As to needing an address, there are services like the Escapees RV club which help with such things by providing mail forwarding, etc. for full time RV'ers.

p.s. when buying you will likely get hit with sales tax which varies considerably from state to state, in my state it is around 9% another state I lived in 30 years ago was only 3% though they had much higher annual registration cost
 
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jrm1776

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I just checked Enterprise Car Rental. A standard SUV picked up at Philadelphia Airport would cost about $8,000 for 3 months. The same vehicle picked up in Dover, DE would run you about $6,000 for 3 months. An SUV or van might give you a bit more versatility when it comes to exploring and will give you much better gas mileage. Even a large sedan will hold enough camping gear for two people and would even be cheaper to rent and operate.
This is my thought too. Renting an RV would be expensive, and then buying one would be costly. We bought one in 2016 and now you can get a brand new one, same model and same coach for cheaper than we owe on it. I'll never buy from a dealership again. Privately owned. I'd go with a SUV and find out if mileage is extra
 

donn

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Rent or buy a used full sized van. A trip to Walmart would get you a nice piece of foam, a couple of sleeping bags and the rest of the stuff you will need. Maybe a thousand dollars total. And you would be ready to explore. Do you have any friends in the US? If,so buying would be the best option. Then when your done you could leave it for them to sell. Of course licensing insurance will be a bit issue with buying anything.
 

Gary RV_Wizard

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Buying and reselling an RV in 3 months can be chancy. Sometimes they sell right away for a good price (in a private sale) and sometimes it takes weeks or months. And you probably don't want to waste weeks of your leisure time to do that. Or rent a place to live while waiting for a buyer. Selling to a dealer will be quicker but costly - they buy at wholesale, which is likely 60% of what you paid.

However, if you buy a popular type & model and price it attractively, it should sell fairly quickly. There are always buyers looking for a nice rig at a bargain price.

There are brokers who handle privately owned rentals. You might be able to get a special price on a long term rental rather than paying the typical daily/weekly rates at the rental places.

 
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jackiemac

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Hi and welcome to the forum.

Considering some of the costs:

Being in an RV, depending on how you want to camp, you might be paying for RV parks, State Parks etc. These vary in cost but I would say unless you are retired, or staying for weeks or months, you are likely to be paying between $25 to $55 per night or more.

Alternatively, you can do dry camping, known as boondocking, but you need to be set up for that with a generator and you will need to fill tank with water and then find a dump station when tanks full. This is not really hard to do, but you need to be aware of it. You can camp in Forest Campgrounds, normally very cheap, around $12 per night, or find places on public land to do this for free.

Being in an RV will allow you to cook your own meals which will likely save a bit, but if you are eating out a lot then that is something else to take into account.

If you are in an RV, there will be restrictions on some places you can go to, so you need to be aware of that. Lots of folks with an RV tow a small car, jeep or take bicycles. We have a truck and trailer (caravan) and use our truck a lot to get to out of the way places some of which is off road (nothing too extreme).

Many RV parks do not allow tent camping, State Parks mostly do, but don't always have showers etc. so you would maybe need to do a hotel every other night. Maybe others can give better advice on camping spots with facilities for showering etc.

We met a couple who had bought a small RV in Florida (it was very very basic and a bit grotty) and they travelled to the West. The guy then drove it back to Florida and got his brother to sell it. It seemed to work for them. It is a bit of a shot in the dark though as to what you get.

If it is really your dream then I guess you will want to find a way to do it, but timing to sell it, unless you are happy to make a loss could be critical. There is a view that a lot of people bought RVs due to Covid and will therefore be selling them in the next year or so, so there could be a glut in the market and selling may be difficult. However, that is all just speculation.

If it were me, I would probably rent a decent car and just look for low cost motels, air bnb, cabins etc. Buy a tent and sleeping bags and do some camping too. I think although it would cost a reasonable amount, it would be more reliable. If your RV broke down you could spend a lot of time and money trying to get it back on the road, meanwhile your vacation would be ticking away...

Also, I presume you are old enough to rent an RV or car in the US?

Congratulations on the upcoming nuptials!
 

donn

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Several years ago we met a German couple that were spending a year traveling the US. They had bought a new truck and fifth wheel trailer from a dealer in South Dakota. When we came across them was about month 9-10 of their adventure. They were heading to Canada and going east to wind up back in South Dakota where they had arranged with the selling dealer to take it in and sell it for them. For 2-3 months this may not be a viable option. But it is an option.
 

Isaac-1

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On the creative alternative options, a couple of years ago I met four or fivo guys from Australia had done something creative along these lines, they had rented a 15 passenger van from Enterprise rent a car (Enterprise unlike most other US car rental companies caters more to the non-airport car rental crowd, insurance rentals, etc.), they did their research found cheapest place to rent, with cheap airline flights and flew there (I think it was El Paso, Texas). Upon picking up the van they rented a shelf storage locker at a mini storage place, all but one of seats from the van and put them in storage. They then spent a few days temporarily converting the Van to RV use (they had pre-ordered most of the stuff they needed from Amazon and had it delivered to the motel where they were staying, they had also rented a camping setup from some outfit in Colorado which drop shipped all the equipment to them camping table, chairs, canopy, yurt like tent, camping stove, etc. They were getting ready to leave to go home when I met them and were giving away various items that they needed to dispose of.

Basically they had converted the rear part of the van into living space for 2, and the others would live in the yurt, unless they had bad weather in which case they would all squeeze into the van. They used static cling wall paper to black out the side windows, added a curtain rod and shower curtain between the side swinging rear doors for an outdoor shower, had a cartridge style portable toilet, and bladder style water tanks, plus air mattresses, etc. in the van. As I recall they said they spent a couple of thousand dollars on "converting" the van, plus another couple of thousand for the cost of the storage locker for the van seats, and the yurt / camping gear rental for a 6 weeks. All total including airline tickets, they spent something like $10,000 for 4 people for 6 weeks, mostly doing cheap / free camping.
 

flagolfer

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If you do rent a car, do NOT rent the car at the airport where you will get gouged on various fees and taxes specific to airports. This is where Enterprise is great because they have locations not at the airport.
 

IBTripping

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My partner and I took a 6,000 mile road trip in a large sedan. We tent camped most of the time and cooked many meals on a camp stove. We stayed in campgrounds with electrical hookups. After that trip, I purchased a travel trailer and tow vehicle. If I had to do something again similar to that road trip, I'd buy a van and camping gear and sleep in it instead of a tent. I got really tired of setting up and taking down that tent. Buying a van would likely be much cheaper than renting one. However, if I'd be sleeping in a van during hot weather, I'd get a cheap air conditioner and stay in campgrounds with electric hookup or purchase a very small gas generator. By the way I happened to see an ad for this cheap & small air conditioner: https://www.amazon.com/Portable-Electric-Air-Conditioner-Unit/dp/B07DQVNSP8/ref=sr_1_5?crid=16GGO9BUDMV1X&dchild=1&keywords=portable+air+conditioner+for+small+room&qid=1621039313&s=appliances&sprefix=portable+air+,appliances,211&sr=1-5

Just another option to consider.
 

Oldgator73

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If you do rent a car, do NOT rent the car at the airport where you will get gouged on various fees and taxes specific to airports. This is where Enterprise is great because they have locations not at the airport.
I know! I checked and renting at Philadelphia Airport was $8,000 but renting at Dover, DE was $6,000. Both Enterprise.
 

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