Recreational Vehicle Special Section: Hitting the Road


February 13, 2017

Renting or owning an RV is a lifestyle choice

By Kris Parfitt

Images at right courtesy of


Imagine waking to a sunrise in a national park, a state park, or a local campground and watching the early morning rays slowly illuminating the landscape from the warm comfortable confines of a recreation vehicle.

In 2011, nearly 9 million American households owned a Recreation Vehicle (RV) and enjoyed watching multiple sunrises and sunsets. While that number was record breaking then, it has increased in the past five years and the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) is busy updating those numbers.

“I expect RV ownership to continue growing,” said RVIA President Richard Coon. “Especially as more and more people learn how RV’ing is a cost-effective and fun way to spend time outdoors with family and friends.”

The most common reasons people travel in an RV are flexibility and convenience. With the freedom to go where they want when they want, RV owners and renters prefer the comfort of a home on wheels without the stress of airport travel — having to make advanced reservations, weather flight delays and deal with luggage regulations.

“The luxury of an RV is how easy it is to take yourself and a loved one on a road trip without the need to plan lodging, food or itinerary in advance,” said Patrick McGarry, owner of Hideout Campervans, a Washington-based camper van rental company. “You have the ability to explore some of the most amazing scenery and ecosystems in the world with no time constraints or restrictions.”

Sounds like an outstanding opportunity to have adventure at your leisure, right? Yes, but owning and renting an RV are two different financial commitments. Before you invest in a rig, consider your personal reasons and finances for having what is basically a second-home.

Towable and Motorized

Recreation vehicles come in two main categories: towable and motorized.

Towables are generally classified as being pulled behind a motorized vehicle and come in a variety of styles. Folding trailers (a tent on wheels) or expandable trailers (with movable walls that make the interior larger) can tuck into a smaller space when in transit or storage.

With the ability to sleep up to eight people, many models offer a cooking surface or kitchenette and some come with a toilet, half-bath or in some expandable models, a full bath.

Larger towables such as conventional and fifth-wheel travel trailers do not fold away, but many expand to larger sizes when in use. Almost all offer fully equipped kitchens and flushable toilets, and can sleep up to eight, depending on size and model.

The last in the towable category isn’t actually towed, but instead sits in the bed of a pickup truck and is referred to as a truck camper. Many models include a sleeping platform that goes over the cab of the truck.

Most truck camper models have cooking surfaces but no toilet, and others have full kitchens and flushable loos. Depending on the size and brand, truck campers can typically sleep two to six people.

Motorized RVs are also known as motorhomes, and they come in three main styles.

Type A in the motorized RV category are the largest, longest and usually the most expensive. They offer fully-equipped kitchens, bathrooms with showers and can easily sleep six people or more.

Type B is also known as a camper van. It is the smallest of the motorized RVs and sleeps up to four. Some models have kitchenettes, or flat surfaces for cooking, and some include a small half-bath with a toilet.

Type C motorhomes fall between Types A and B in size, cost and amenities. Most offer kitchens and full baths, and can sleep up to eight.

The kitchens, baths and sleeping arrangements vary in each category.

Cost Breakdown

According to data compiled by RVIA, Go RV’ing and, the cost for renting an RV ranges between $75 and $550 a day, depending on style, size, daily rental costs, gas, mileage, parking and camping fees, and accessory kits used during the rental period.

Alternatively, owning an RV can cost an average of $200 per day regardless of whether it’s in use or parked. To justify the cost of ownership, data suggests using the RV for a minimum of 45 nights a year.

These numbers are averages and not specific to all types of recreation vehicles.

Lifestyle Choice

“There are many benefits to renting or owning; it really depends on your lifestyle,” said Eric Gertsman, Co-Founder and Chief Marketing Officer of Homegrown Trailers, a Washington-based manufacturer of hand-crafted sustainable trailers for rent or purchase.

“For people who only take a trip or two per year in a recreational vehicle, renting might be a better fit. Folks who own their own RV can keep them fully supplied so they can head out on a trip at the drop of a hat.”

Take a look at your own recreational lifestyle. If you have the time for multiple road trips throughout the year, or you can easily work from a remote location and have the income to finance a home on wheels, then perhaps buying is the most economical option.

If you like to have a variety of adventures including road trips, global travel and local exploration, or you don’t have the time for multiple-day road trips or the budget to watch your mobile home sit in the driveway, then renting may be preferable.

Whatever your choice, one thing is certain — sunrises are a treat after a good-night’s sleep in a recreation vehicle.


Go RV’ing:
Hideout Campervans:
Homegrown Trailers:
Recreation Vehicle Industry Association:
RV Share:

After Kris Parfitt’s family spent six years camping in a 1967 split-windshield VW camper van, then graduating to a motorhome, she discovered the joys of backpacking. Now she has come full-circle and prefers the luxury of a soft bed and a nearby loo.


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