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Can You Rent To Own An RV?

Published on August 6th, 2021 by Peggy Dent
This post was updated on July 26th, 2023

motorhome at campsite with rocky cliff - can you rent to own an RV?
Can you rent to own an RV? Photo via Shutterstock

Can You Rent To Own An RV?

There are many reasons a person might want to rent an RV as opposed to just purchasing one outright. If they are new to the idea of RVing and have no experience in this area, they might want to rent an RV for a few short trips just to get a feel for what it’s all about.  

You have a vague idea of what camping in an RV would be like, but you want to know if the idea and the reality are congruent.  Now with services like RV Share and Outdoorsy, you can rent almost any kind of RV from a pop-up trailer to a fifth wheel, to a large Class A motorhome, and you can rent it by the day, week, or month(s).  

Perhaps you think a van conversion would be the perfect travel and vacation option, but you want to drive and camp in one for a week or two to decide if it’s the best type of RV for your needs. You might discover that there’s a disconnect between your imagined experience and the reality of camping in a van. You might have thought the small size of a van would make it less complicated as a camping option but you discovered that the small size is too limiting for the type of camping you want to do. On the flip side, you might think a larger Class A motorhome is the ideal camping option, only to learn through the rental program that a big rig is too complicated and costly to operate.  

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New class C RV
Can you rent to own an RV? Photo by P. Dent

The benefits of renting to own an RV

An RV purchase usually requires a significant down payment, credit checks, proof of income, specific debt to income ratios, and a host of other hurdles buyers must overcome before they qualify for the purchase.  For some folks, these hurtles puts RV ownership out of reach. In that case, you might benefit from a rent to own program. 

Rent to own programs are available from RV dealers and from private parties. The purpose of this option for dealers is to move standing inventory and increase cash flow.  For private parties, the objective is to get their RV sold and to create monthly income while doing so.  

For the buyer, the benefit is that there are no down payment requirements or credit checks.  However, both dealerships and private parties may require first and last month (or last 2 or 3 month) payments in lieu of the down payment, but these up-front payments will generally be less than the down payment requirements in a traditional RV sale.  

With a lease to own contract, a portion of the monthly payment goes toward the purchase and a portion goes toward the rent. At the end of the contract period, the RV belongs to the person who has been leasing it. Maybe that will be you! 

class C Rv in oncoming traffic on a bridge
Renting long-term could result in ownership. Photo by P. Dent

RV vs car lease

Many car leases are structured to require the car to be turned in at the end of the lease period or the leasee has the option to pay off the balance of the car’s value to acquire ownership of the car.  

With lease (rent) to own RVs, the entire value of the RV is calculated into the lease agreement so at the end of the lease period ownership of the RV, it will transfer to the renter.  In essence, the new owner is renting the rig long-term and paying it off more slowly than if they had purchased it using a traditional financing channel. 

What to look for in a rent to own lease

You can see from the research conducted by KOA and reported on that over 50% of most types of RVers are “highly likely” or “somewhat likely” to consider the idea of leasing an RV from a private party.  

If you are considering this option, you should be prepared to do some research and realize that both you and the seller are in unfamiliar territory, so you might need to negotiate every point of the agreement then have a formal contract drafted by an attorney, so both the RV owner and the renter are protected.  Points that might need to be negotiated are:

  • The length of the contract period
  • The sale price
  • The amount of each monthly payment
  • The percentage of the payment that goes toward the purchase 
  • The percentage that goes toward the rent
  • The issues of maintenance and who is responsible for maintenance and repairs
  • Who will insure the RV
  • If additional payments can be made by the renter to shorten the length of the contract
  • If the contract can be paid off at any time
  • What type of security the seller will need to carry the contract
  • What happens if the renter defaults on the rental agreement
  • And what happens if the buyer or seller dies before the contract is finished

The rent to own option from a dealership might not be as flexible in terms of points of negotiation. They write rent to own contracts frequently, and they already have standards and criteria to facilitate that type of transaction, but with a private seller there is much more room to negotiate favorable terms. 

older class C RV in white and brown
Some older RVs do not qualify for traditional bank financing. Photo by P. Dent

Financing an older RV

There is one final reason why you might need to rent to own an RV vs using a bank backed loan strategy. You might have the money for a down payment and have excellent credit so getting the loan is no problem, but what if you want to purchase an RV that does not meet the bank’s criteria for financing?

Perhaps you have found the perfect RV, it’s been meticulously maintained, it has low miles, and a great service record, but it’s too old to qualify for a bank loan.  You know the rig is priced well below its value, the RV is in excellent condition, but it’s more than you can afford to pay upfront, and it won’t meet the bank’s specifications.  

Another scenario is the purchase of a vintage RV that you want to restore. A bank won’t finance the purchase and if you use all your funds to pay for it outright you won’t have the money you need for the restoration. How can you facilitate the purchase in either of these scenarios?

Well, these are the perfect scenarios for a lease (rent) to own contract and if the sellers hadn’t considered it in the past, you might want to make the suggestion. If these RVs are too old to qualify for bank loans, the sellers will be forced to wait for an all-cash buyer, which may never appear. If the sellers are motivated to sell quickly, the stage is set for a lease to own deal.

Get more tips on RV financing

For more tips on how to finance an RV, check out this video from RVersity:

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