5 Reasons to Rent a Camper Before Buying

Are you thinking about purchasing your first camper? Congratulations, and welcome to the world of RVing! We’re so glad that you’re here.

RV parked in front of blue water and large mountains
Upper Lake Trail Pull-Out | Moose Pass, AK – Photo by: Meant For Adventure

Traveling in an RV can be a rewarding, adventurous, and freeing experience. If you’re buying a camper and have never used one before, you probably have many questions about the type, style, size, and amenities of the campers on the market. Which features are most important to you while you’re camping? How comfortable are you with towing? How big of a camper can you park in your favorite type of campground?

If you feel your purchase confidence waning with each question above, it’s okay! Many new RV owners have been in the same situation. In a recent survey of the Campendium community, several travelers shared a great piece of advice — rent or borrow before buying.

Here are five reasons why it’s a great idea to rent or borrow a camper before you commit to purchasing your dream RV.

Truck and fifth-wheel parked in RV site.
Rancho Sedona RV Park | Sedona, AZ – Photo by: Ashley

1. Learn Your Driving and Towing Comfort Level

If you’ve driven a sedan or SUV your whole life, towing a camper with a pickup truck, or driving a Class C or motorhome, can be a big adjustment. The open road may conjure images of wind in your hair and freedom to wander. But, if anxiety over towing or camper navigation is your co-driver in every town, parking lot, and national park, you might find yourself in a comedy rather than a coming of age story.

The spectrum of options for campers is vast—converted mini-vans to 30-foot travel trailers to motorhomes and more—and all require different levels of driving and towing education and practice. By renting or borrowing, you’re not only testing out your driving and towing skills but also parking, getting gas, pulling into a campground, and navigating a backup.

Teardrop camper and person sitting in front of campfire.
Wheeler Pass Road Dispersed Camping | Pahrump, NV – Photo by: Uprootedtraveler

2. Determine Your High and Low Priority Features

Sometimes, balancing the amenities you want in your camper against how much of a camper you think you want to haul around can cause an internal conflict. Do you want a full bath, kitchen, and multiple beds but get nervous thinking about towing a bigger rig? Compromise is key. Weigh these priorities with confidence by renting or borrowing a camper and taking it on a road trip test. Similar to buying a new car or home, you’ll learn after trial runs the amenities you love and features you wish you had.

If you think you’re fine without a bathroom or shower, test out a tent trailer or converted van. If you don’t like the idea of towing, try a Class C. This also helps in the shopping process, giving you a filter for your must-have features as you are inundated with the dizzying list of campers on the market.

Westy with several bikes on the back and roof top.
Gemini Bridges Designated Campsites | Moab, UT – Photo by: Road it up

3. Pack Your Belongings Inside and Out

If you’ve never traveled with a camper before, how do you know what to bring and what to leave at home? Once on the road, you’ll daydream of items you left behind and return home with a clump of items never touched. Stowing capacity and storage space is more than practicality; it can be increased freedom during a long journey.

Once on the road and camping, you may notice wanting a compartment for your clothes, hidden storage for extra blankets and food supplies, or an easier way to attach your bike or kayaks. Then, when you’re shopping to buy your own camper, you know exactly how much space you need and want. With such a large investment, as campers often are, you want to be sure you’re getting the right one to house the things that you love to travel with.

RV park in the desert filled with rigs.
Wahweap Campground & RV Park | Sedona, AZ – Photo by: Pullingyourdreams

4. Match Your Camper With Your Preferred Type of Campground

What type of camping experience do you want, and will your camper align? If you love boondocking in quiet solitude on a mountain road, you’ll need a camper that will allow you to travel with ease over the tight and bumpy roads that will get you there. If you prefer family-friendly amenities, like a playground and pool, you may be spending most of your time in RV parks, where the size or nimbleness of your camper doesn’t matter as much.

You can best learn what type of campground you prefer with a bit of first-hand experience. On a trip with your rented or borrowed camper, book a variety of different types of campgrounds. Make notes of what you like and don’t like about each, and talk to your family or travel companions about which ones they enjoyed. Were there any places you really wanted to stay but were not able to due to the limitations of your camper? Did you feel comfortable or safe in one type of campground over another? These are telling signs.

Rental camper van with pop-up tent.
Forest Road 306 Dispersed Camping | Grand Canyon, AZ – Photo by: Meagandanker

5. Analyze the Cost and Benefit

There are many different ways to RV camp, and they fall all along the cost spectrum. From a used pop-up camper that you score for under $5,000 to the expedition-style camper that grazes a million dollars, camping can be as expensive or as affordable as you choose to make it. That being said, it’s often more costly than some people realize. Between your camper and accessories, campground fees, insurance, and gas prices, the costs can add up quickly.

If you only camp a week or two a year, what level of camper makes the most sense for you to purchase? Only you can answer that question, but renting or borrowing an RV can help you get a sense of the expense. Rent an RV for a week-long road trip and make all the decisions you’d make on any great adventure. Keep track of the costs and use that information to help you decide what type and size of camper fit your budget, comfort level, and travel style.

The freedom of a cross-country adventure, or your forever weekend vacation, might be just one rental away.

Learn more at How to Boondock in an RV Rental and What I Wish I Knew Before My First RV Rental.