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Renting vs. Buying

Here are some things to consider when deciding whether renting or buying a camping trailer best suits your needs.

How often will you go camping?

If you have only one camping trip per year it's generally better to rent. For three or more camping trips a year it's probably better to own a camper. For two camping trips the economics are very similar so then you need to weigh picking up a rental, packing it, cleaning it, and returning it against buying a camper that has all your gear ready to go but you need to store it, license it, and accept the depreciation for it.

The numbers behind it:

During the 2017 season the 206LT rents for $400 per week.

A used 2015 206LT in January 2017 cost $6195. A used 2016 206LT cost $6895. So the depreciation for this model in one year was $700. To that $700 we would add insurance and license (approximately $200) to the cost of ownership. We can estimate the total cost-of-ownership at around $900 for the year.

$900 is nearly the same as renting the 206LT twice for a week (plus tax). So, if you were able to go on three camping trips (or if you went on two trips and a neighbor used it on a third trip, for example) that would cover the cost of ownership in the first two trips and the third trip is essentially free (compared to renting a camper three times).

What about a new camper?

With a new camper changes the equation slightly. A new 2016 206LT was $8295 (in 2016). A used 2016 206LT is currently $6895 so the new-to-used depreciation on a 206LT was $1400. To that we would add insurance and licence (estimate $400 for a new 206LT) for a total of $1800. At $400 per week (pus tax) you could take over four rental trips for the cost-of-ownership of a new camper for one year. However, there are two caveats:

1. These figures only apply to the first year because after the first year (or actually, the first trip) the camper is now used, so the economics of owning a camper revert to the used-camper example above (two trips a year covers the equivalent cost of renting) for the rest of the camper's life. (e.g. 5 trips in 1 year and 2 trips a year for 5 more years = 3 trips a year for 5 years, any trips over that are a bonus)

2. Not all models are available used or available to rent. If the model that works best for you is not available as a rental, buying your preferred model may be the best option regardless of the economics (in order to get the special features you want).

A note about trip frequency

Keep in mind that if you own a camper there's a reasonable chance you'll go on more trips than if you rent. For starters, owning a camper means it will already have your gear inside, ready to go. You don't have to call to set up a reservation or pick up the camper like you would on a rental (and you're not beholden to a company's rental availability). The likelihood of going on last-minute weekend trips increases (that's not always an option with rental schedules and availability).

Consider also that if you own a camper and can't use it on a given week or weekend, perhaps a friend or neighbor would like to use it (and if a nominal fee is appropriate, well, that helps pay for the camper, too).

Comparison

Renting Buying
You must pick up the rental camper, pack it, clean it, and return it Your gear is in your camper, ready to go at a moment's notice
Limited models to choose from

Many models to choose from

The features and options for the rental campers are set and generally more basic than sale trailers Many options are available to sale trailers (like showers, bike racks, and awnings) that don't come with our rental trailers
Your get a current model-year camper every year (if you rent from us, that is) The model year stays the same unless you purchase a different camper
No depreciation, no licensing, no maintenance, no storage Depreciation, licensing, maintenance, storage at your residence or at a storage lot

You can try a different model each time you rent

The model stays the same, obviously
At the end of a camping trip you have your memories and hopefully some nice pictures At the end of a camping trip you have your memories, hopefully some nice pictures, and a camper

Conclusion

For one camping trip a year it is more economical to rent a camper. For two trips a year you have to weigh the logistics of reserving, picking up, packing, cleaning, and returning a rental camper over the logistics of storing, licensing, insuring a camper you own. If you own your own camper you'll have all your gear packed up, ready to go on short notice. You could also lend or rent your camper to recoup the cost of ownership. For three or more trips a year, owning a camper is more economical.

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