With as much road tripping as we do, my husband and I had always said we wanted to buy an RV. Nothing could be better, we imagined, than a small rolling house on wheels. No stopping for bathroom breaks every hour! Make your meals while you cruise down the highway! No more single night hotel stays!
Before making an investment worth thousands of dollars based solely on what we thought, we decided to rent an RV to get some real experience.
What We Learned From Our First RV Rental
For our first RV rental we chose a 29 foot Class C motorhome. Built on a Ford F450 van frame this classic style featured an overhead bunk for our girls and was comfortable for us to drive.
Our first RV trip, out to Yellowstone National Park, then home through the Black Hills, lasted nearly 2 weeks. The experience taught us quite a bit about our travel style and what we wanted to look for when purchasing our own RV.
Living in an RV will remind you of your first apartment.
My first apartment was tiny, with a kitchen I could barely turn around in, a bathroom that no more than one person could occupy at a time, and a living area that doubled as a dining room. In fact, it was probably about the same square footage as our 29 foot rental RV- but I wasn't sharing it with three other people!
As with any small space, organization is key. A place for everything, and you figure out really quick what is- and what isn't -necessary.
At 11 pm, when you're still miles from where you wanted to be, Walmart is the most beautiful thing you'll see.
Miles upon miles of road construction- and the back up that joins it- slowed our first RV trip quite a bit. By the time we made it to North Platte, Nebraska, it was nearing midnight and we couldn't imagine driving another 3 hours to our intended overnight stop of Scott's Bluff.
We found the closest Walmart and were thrilled to see half a dozen RVs, travel trailers, and semis in the back of the lot. As a courtesy, Doug went into the store and spoke with the manager who welcomed us- and mentioned that the donuts would be fresh about 5am.
Not all Walmart stores allow RV parking due to city regulations. Use the Walmart Locator to find a place to park.
Even with all that room, your kids won't stay away from each other.
Truly, after all the “She's touching me!” and “Quit looking out my window!” bickering that takes place in the car one would think that, given space, the kids would spread out. But no, they mostly sat, side by side, watching a movie or playing with toys. But not once did we hear bickering. Maybe it was the the fact that they could get away from each other that made it all ok?
The bunk above the front seats? Best. Thing. Ever.
At least when you are under 10. The girls couldn't wait to sleep up there- and wanted to even after we returned home and real mattresses awaited them.
Not re-packing every day is awesome.
My husband, the king of dry sarcasm, told my mother that packing up to get on the road in the mornings was horrid.
Learn from our mistake and make sure all the outer storage compartments are closed and locked before leaving the campsite! But, truly, not worrying about leaving anything in a hotel room? Amazing.
RV gas tanks are huge.
Don't forget to budget in fuel for your first RV rental! Many RV fuel tanks hold 50 gallons or more. And gas mileage varies from 8-15 miles per gallon.
You start noticing little tricks the full time RVers use.
A rug just outside the door for all that dirt on your shoes. Containers on every shelf. Solar lights staked around the “patio”.
And you file this information away because you plan to use them on your next RV trip.
You begin saying “When”.
As in, “When we have our own RV I want an exterior kitchen,” (my husband). Or, “When we have our own RV let's plan a National Parks road trip!” (me).
Or even, “When we have our own RV, what are we going to do when family wants to borrow it?” Because they will want to borrow it.
Why You Should Rent an RV (a few times!) Before Buying One!
While our first RV rental experience convinced us that RV ownership was in our future I realize, in hindsight, that we should have rented a few different types of RV before making our first RV purchase.
Our first RV was very similar to our rental, the only real difference being an additional 6 feet (to make room for bunk beds) and two slides, which added a lot more room!
What I wish we would have done was rent an RV with slides to understand how the placement of appliances in that slide can make them less stable- and noisier as you drive down the road.
I also wish we had rented a Class A RV to get a good feel for how the ‘bus-like' vehicle felt to drive and the differences between the two.
RV ownership is not an inexpensive endeavor. In my opinion multiple RV rentals will help you decide if the RV lifestyle is right for you, and what you want to look for when visiting RV shows or RV dealerships.
We recently purchased our second RV, a 36′ Class A with an outdoor kitchen, and I hope to plan that full-summer National Parks tour soon.
Are you considering your first RV rental?
Our Motorhome Rental Tips for Beginners article has tips on the types of recreational vehicles (RVs) you'll find for rent, as well as how to find RV rental companies and what questions you need to ask before renting an RV.
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