Rent Not to own: Why Renting Sometimes Makes More Sense

By glblguy


This is a guest post from Frugual Dad who blogs about taking the “conservative” approach to personal finances. If you like what you read, make sure you head over and subscribe via RSS or email!

My family has obviously caught the summer travel bug, and we have all kicked around the idea of setting off on a trip–ideally a family camping trip. Only one problem. We don’t have a camper. I’ve never been in the market for a recreational vehicle, but I know enough to know RVs can be extremely expensive to own. The frugal side of me kicked in and I immediately began to think of alternative ways to camp. There is always tent camping, which features a lot less amenities and can make for a long night in a cold, wet climate. I personally enjoy tent camping, but convincing the wife and kids might be a tough sell. We could stay in hotels along the way, but that can get fairly expensive. Instead of buying a travel trailer, perhaps we could just rent one. This idea seems to be much cheaper than owning one outright; especially considering we probably would only use it a couple times a year.

Renting Not to Own

We are an ownership society, and to a degree that is a good thing. However, it is a little misleading to claim we “own” something when the bank is still listed as a lienholder, and we are making payments to them. Just try missing a couple payments on your prized possession and you will quickly discover who the real owner is. Renting is a viable alternative to buying something, particularly something that will not be used but a few times each year. Beachfront real estate, RVs, and specialized gear and equipment can usually be rented or borrowed for a fraction of the annual costs of ownership.

A Real Life Example

Back to my RV rental idea. With a quick search of the web I found two or three local businesses that rent RVs for the weekend, or for an entire week. Weekly rates for a 2006 Coachman Cross Country SE 38′ Class A Wide Body RV/Motorhome run about $1,600. That’s about $266 a night, which isn’t bad considering you can take along your own food, entertainment, etc. While you could probably stay in a hotel cheaper, food and entertainment costs would likely make up for any significant savings.

The style of full-sized motorhome referenced retails for well over $100,000, new. A conservative estimated monthly payment could run in the $800-$1,000 a month range, with insurance, maintenance costs, etc. Assuming we take one or two trips per year in the RV we are passing up a $12,000 annual cost of ownership to pay $1,600 – $3,200 in annual rental fees. That’s a pretty easy choice to me.

Other Examples

Vacation homes are popular second home purchases for those looking to expand their real estate holdings. In past years waterfront property has appreciated at staggering rates. So staggering in fact that they are actually beginning to lose some of that value thanks to a market correction. While vacation home ownership might seem like a great deal, I have my doubts.

First, you have to vacation in the same spot every year (this is also my argument against timeshares, though I’m told you can occasionally move your “time” to another venue). Assuming you plan to rent out the location you will have to contend with property management fees, cleaning fees, maintenance costs, etc, or figure out a way to do those things yourself–not easily done from a distance. There is also the risk that the unit will not be occupied for a period of weeks, or even months, leaving you with the responsibility to make two mortgage payments with no rental income to offset the additional costs.

I vote for renting a hotel or condominium during the week or two you get to vacation each year. For the cost of one month’s mortgage payment you can likely rent a vacation home at any destination you desire. No land-lording to contend with; no property management fees; no cleaning/maintenance concerns. Simply pay for you lodging unit, enjoy your stay, and leave with no strings attached. That’s the best kind of vacation there is!

Photo by: ernestch

8 Responses (including trackbacks) to “Rent Not to own: Why Renting Sometimes Makes More Sense”

  1. Vanessa Says:

    I vote for renting. I do not think a lot of people realize what comes along with ownership. A family member of ours is about to realize that with owning a home there are taxes, maintenance repairs, utility bills, etc. We don’t believe their taking any of this into consideration.

    My family is having an at home vacation. We have relatives coming to visit and when they do, that is when we will both take time from work and school, to take our vacation right here at home. It’s a heck of a lot cheaper then hotels, rvs, etc.

  2. "Mo" Money Says:

    When you factor in the cost of gas, I think renting a condo for a week would be the cheapest route to go.

  3. PT Says:

    One of my favorite things to rent is a boat for the local lakes here. I do this two or three times a year for around $200 for half a day. The boat is in the water ready to roll when we get there. We have our fun with it then we’re done with it. Beats owning one, storing it, maintaining it, eventually selling it. :)

  4. castocreations Says:

    Did you factor in the cost of gas?

    I REALLY REALLY want to have an RV…a really nice one with pop outs and everything. If we could rent one I’d be happy with that but I still hesitate with the cost of gas. Is it cheaper to find a hotel that will accept dogs than renting an RV? I don’t know. I just have very fond memories of traveling in my grandparent’s RV. :)

  5. Curious Cat Investment Blog Says:

    You are right: there are times when renting is the wise move and times when buying is – and maybe more times when neither is :-)

  6. Aaron Stroud Says:

    Great post Frugal Dad, but Vanessa’s vacation is more my style. My wife and I are planning to hit the road for some long rv trips in the future, but not until the house is paid for.

    However, rvs don’t have to be expensive. They can be quite affordable if you buy them used. They depreciate like a rock in a lake, so even a slightly used one is much cheaper than buying new. Some of the smaller compact trailers like a Casita cost less than a new car, they are lightweight, and they seem to hold their value much better than the typical rv.

  7. Lynnae Says:

    We’re heading out to our rented vacation home tomorrow. I’m so looking forward to it. Everything will be ready for us when we get there, and we won’t have to do any deep cleaning when we leave! We can cook and entertain ourselves at the cabin, and we even have a private hot tub. Can’t beat that!

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