This blog is part two of a two part series discussing renting vs. buying an RV, campervan, or other overland vehicle. In part one, we broke down some important considerations in the decision to rent or buy an adventure home on wheels. In this post, we’ll delve further into these considerations and the benefits of renting before buying as part of a “try before you buy” strategy to build your ideal adventure rig.

The Benefits of Renting Before Buying

Even if you determine that buying is the best option for you, purchasing an RV, campervan, or other overland adventure vehicle is a huge investment. Whether you’re using the vehicle for weekend camping trips or planning to live out of it full time, it’s a good idea to try out the experience before you fully commit.

This allows you to get a feel for exactly what type of vehicle you require and what features you will want for travel, living, and exploring. Testing some options should be part of your research. While you typically can’t test drive your dream home, when that dream home is on wheels, you can! There are options across the country – and the globe – to rent RVs, campervans, and even rugged vehicles kitted out for more rugged travel.

Renting before you buy allows you to: 

1. Try Out Different Types of Vehicles

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Is your travel style more conducive to a van? Jeep? Forerunner? Winnebago? Best to test this out before you buy. Some things to keep in mind when you are determining what type of vehicle you want:

  • What is the purpose of the vehicle? Extreme off-road travel? Probably don’t want a giant RV. Cruising and living in comfort? Maybe something a little bigger. Are you purchasing for a global expedition where you will be gone for months on end? Or are you more of a weekend warrior? Generally, you need to decide if you are more concerned with driving capabilities and maneuverability or living comfort because you can’t always have both. Find which features and trade-offs are best for your travel style and purposes.

  • Do you want/need to be able to use the vehicle as a normal day-to-day driver when you aren’t adventuring? This may slim down your choices a bit, but there are still plenty of options to test out.

  • Capacity. How much stuff do you need to have along or integrated into the vehicle? This includes vehicle build-out modifications, exterior haul capability, interior living features, and cargo. What do you need and what type of vehicle can handle this?

  • Fuel range. What type of mileage and fuel carry abilities are you looking for? Do you need a second or larger fuel tank? The ability to attach exterior fuel cans?

  • Maintenance. Are you traveling internationally? If so, it’s best to consider more common widely-used vehicles that will be easier to fix and find parts for no matter what corner of the globe your adventures take you.

2. Determine What Features You Want

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Renting before you buy will give you a chance to test out and think about exactly what components you want to include in your build-out, from vehicle build modifications to living space arrangement and features. Things to consider:

  • Specialty vehicle builds and modifications. If you’re interested in extreme off-road travel, do you need special vehicle build features or modifications? Better suspension? A lift kit? The overland community is full of high-quality used vehicles that may already have the modifications you are looking for at a significantly reduced price from buying new. Or, do you want to buy new and make the modifications yourself? Renting from an agency that handles specialized off-road vehicles will allow you to think about build components and modifications that you may need.

  • Sleeping Arrangements. Do you prefer a rooftop tent or bed inside the vehicle? Convert-to-bed or dedicated bed? How many people do you need to sleep and is there space to accommodate this? Do you need to stealth-camp? If so, a roof-top tent is probably not going to work.

  • Kitchen and cooking space. Inside or outside? What components do you need/want? Fridge or cooler? If you are planning to live in the vehicle full-time, do you want an oven? Microwave? Propane or induction stove? What solutions do you need to power these components? What will you do for water delivery and storage? How much water do you want onboard? How will you arrange your kitchen/cooking area and what kind of storage will you have for cookware, dishes, and food?

  • Living space. Do you want a lot of living space in the vehicle? Or do you plan to spend most of your time exploring, adventuring, cooking, and relaxing outside the vehicle, using it only to drive, sleep, and store your gear and other belongings? Do you want to be able to stand up inside the vehicle? This is something you should really test out, especially if you plan to live out of your vehicle full-time. While certain types of expeditions will certainly still require you to put the driving capabilities first no matter what, generally those living out of a vehicle will be happier with at least some interior living space.

  • Storage space. How much room do you need for your gear? Plan out where you would put each and every item that needs to go into your vehicle. Are you bringing bikes? Do you plan to put these inside or outside of the vehicle? Are there theft concerns with anything you may want to attach to the outside of your vehicle? These are all things to think about when considering how much storage space you need – both inside and outside the vehicle.

  • Heating and cooling. Will you need to heat or cool the vehicle when it isn’t running – particularly overnight? What build considerations and power solutions will be required for this? How will the number and placement of windows impact your ability to adequately heat and cool your interior space?

When you rent a vehicle with the eye to buy, think about all of these considerations. What elements of the design and arrangement do you like? What would you do differently? What components and features do you need or want? What can you do without? If you are renting for a short trip but planning to buy for more extended trips or full-time living, really think about what aspects of the vehicle or build (particularly those that are harder to change) might become annoying if you were using it for longer trips or living out of it full time.


3. Determine How Much You Love the Experience

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It always shocks me when I meet people that invest a large amount of time and money into a big commitment without having ever even tried it. The year I hiked the Pacific Crest Trail, a 2,650-mile hiking trail that begins at the border of Mexico and winds its way through the mountains of California, Oregon, and Washington before ending at the Canada border, I met people that invested hundreds of dollars in equipment, only to quit within the first week, discovering that it “wasn’t what they thought it would be”. I mean, it doesn’t take a genius to realize that when you commit to this adventure, you are going to be hiking for a very long time. If you go out hiking for a week or even a weekend and decide it’s not your favorite thing, maybe you aren’t going to love a hiking journey that will take months. But, many people get wrapped up in the idea of this adventure, this lifestyle, and become infatuated with it without having ever tried even a slice of what it might entail.

With social media and all of the beautiful pictures floating around Instagram, this is easy to do. It’s easy to see the pictures of people smiling in their shiny vans with chic miniature kitchens and tiny home features that make you drool, or dirt-crusted Jeeps powering over rocky landscapes, and think – THAT IS AWESOME. I WANT THAT TO BE ME.

And – this is perfectly fine! There is nothing wrong with (responsibly) throwing yourself into a lifestyle that you love. However, I’d argue that you should test out this experience before you fully invest a lot of time and money into it. You may find that you absolutely love the #vanlife experience or long expeditions in a Jeep. You may determine and design the perfect build-out for your cruise across America or backcountry weekend warrior adventures. You may find that while you thought you were a Jeep person, you’re really more of a campervan person. Or vice versa. The point is, renting a vehicle and testing out some options will give you a more realistic grasp on how much you love the overland travel experience – no matter how long or short your adventures – and what type of vehicle best suits your travel style.

So… GO FORTH… and TEST SOME RIGS!

Hopefully, this blog series has given you some things to think about in your decision to rent vs. buy an RV, campervan, Jeep, or other adventure vehicle – as well as considerations to make in testing out vehicles in the event you decide to purchase. Your solution may even include both renting and buying.

If you are an avid traveler and do many trips that begin and end at your doorstep, but also fly thousands of miles from home for some adventures, you may invest in your own travel rig but also use rentals when it makes more sense.

No two people will have the exact same solution for their perfect adventure rig – or the same budget – which is why it’s smart to test and research before committing to a heavy investment. Take some time to determine the best solution for you and your family – or other travel companions – and remember that the most important thing is the adventure!


Interested in renting a rig for your next adventure or as part of your try-before-you-buy research? Overland Discovery rents fully kitted Jeep campers, campervans and small RVs for all seasons. Contact us to talk about your rental needs.