Buy or Rent an RV?

Ideas, advice, tips, and tricks regarding shelter, shade, tents, and camping. Yes, this includes RV's too.
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RahRah
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Buy or Rent an RV?

Post by RahRah » Tue Sep 17, 2013 11:33 am

Early planning here - my husband and I are trying to figure out whether we should rent or buy an RV for Burning Man 2014.

We're in mid-MO, so getting to BM is going to be a long drive, but I do think we'd want the RV from here at least so our gear can be packed in it - the rates out here are much cheaper than closer to BM, but I'd need it for a lot longer than if we rent closer to BM. That extra time needed - at least one week before and one week after, so a total of no less than 3 weeks - adds up to the point where it almost makes sense to just buy an RV and then have it to use whenever we want.

BUT.....

Will BM destroy our RV?
How bad is cleaning it after really?
Is it better to get older or newer?
How often do RV's break-down at BM?

I just have so many more questions, but think I'll start with those. If those reading can help me here - tell me your experience, did you buy or rent, did you like owning/renting, and anything you'd do differently?

I've rented before, for other vacations, so have experience in living in an RV for a month. I'll be the one driving, DH most likely will fly into Reno since he can't get more time off to drive out....so it'll be just me driving the RV and gear out, so I'm thinking a smaller RV is better?

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Savannah
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Re: Buy or Rent an RV?

Post by Savannah » Tue Sep 17, 2013 11:50 am

Welcome, RahRah!

Google RV cleaning eplaya or RV cleaning eplaya site:eplaya.burningman.org

Here's some stuff to get you started:

Keeping the RV dust-free (well, as dust-free as possible)
http://eplaya.burningman.org/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=46062

RV Cleaning Drama
http://eplaya.burningman.org/viewtopic.php?t=62329

Use carpet mask in your RV.
viewtopic.php?f=3&t=64959
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elKay
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Re: Buy or Rent an RV?

Post by elKay » Tue Sep 17, 2013 12:44 pm

Hi RahRah,

We drove to Burning Man twice from northern Illinois towing our old trailer behind us. Aside from the rent or buy question, bringing it from where you are is a lot of fun. The drive is an epic one, just gorgeous, and having our bed and bathroom with us really made it a fun adventure. It was easy to find walmart parking lots along the LONG road to stop and sleep, cooking our own food saved money. Having the trailer make it possible to bring more and see more than if we had flown in. We didn't make it this year, but plan to be back next year if we can get tickets.

RahRah
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Re: Buy or Rent an RV?

Post by RahRah » Tue Sep 17, 2013 6:35 pm

Thanks!

Last fall I road tripped with my kids (at the time 8 and 1.5) and we had a fantastic adventure - CO to OR to CA and back to CO - even though driving "the beast" I rented wasn't always easy, it made for an awesome trip and lots of memories, including sleeping at WalMart parking lots!

I'll start searching for more info on cleaning after the playa to help decide if we buy. Right now DH is leaning toward buying since we do travel enough that it might be worth it longer term for us and the kids.

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dragonpilot
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Re: Buy or Rent an RV?

Post by dragonpilot » Mon Sep 23, 2013 1:08 pm

This was my 9th consecutive Burn. I finally brought my very own rig. If I'd know prior to my second Burn that I would be attending 9 total I would have purchased an RV early on, saving all those years of rental hassle and fees.

Buy! There are some awesome deals this time of year. I bought a smaller travel trailer...R-Pod...so I didn't have to buy a bigger tow vehicle. And since I'm using my old truck to pull the trailer, I am familiar with all the mechanical quirks and issues with it. Motorized RVs often require a whole new set of skills and tools dealing with maintenance, etc....and then it sits in your driveway for 11/12ths of the year.
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Captain Goddammit
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Re: Buy or Rent an RV?

Post by Captain Goddammit » Mon Sep 23, 2013 4:55 pm

Budget is of course the main variable...
Jeez where to start... first of all, know that RVs are one of the worst investments ever. They are expensive as hell new and lose value like a used cheeseburger. The traditional stick & staple RVs are guaranteed to leak and rot. They are really pieces of shit, no matter how pretty when new. The nice interiors are an illusion, they're made cheap and crappy.
The only good way to go is a real bus. But if that's out, the sticks and staples are in.

Trailers are by far the best value in a size vs. cost comparison. The other big advantage, mentioned already by Dragonpilot, is that you can use your own truck that doesn't sit all year - you know what condition it's in and that's more important than you might even realize. Yet.
I've been using truck campers for that reason and because I tow a really heavy flatbed trailer (10,000 pounds) full of stuff to BM.
I tried it with a motorhome or two... bad idea!

If you go motorhome, you have a choice of Class A (full square box body) or Class C (van front end). The Class C, in my opinion, has some big advantages. They have front doors and are easier to drive around and get in and out of, and the engine and mechanical parts, while being a royal bitch to get at, are at least in a factory-designed package and are possible to service.
Class A motorhomes usually suck donkey dicks to work on. The makers buy a truck chassis from GM, then build a house on top of it often with no regard to how the hell you'll service it. I turn a lot of wrenches... swapping a radiator should be a cakewalk... I once spent a whole weekend trying to swap a Class A radiator. Let me tell you about the holes I had to grind in the frame to get the transmission crossmember out! It was either that or drill big holes through the floor, hopefully in the right place the first time.

The used ones all say "low miles" and have 50,000 or so on them. In a motorhome, that's not low, that's about what the transmission lasts for. Engines might be pretty tired by then too, or might make it longer if they were treated really well. Any used motorhome with 40,000 or more miles you look at, figure on putting a fresh transmission in. Especially when you're planning on driving it heavily loaded over the steep grades on your way out to the middle of nowhere! If it's old enough to have a no-overdrive trans behind a Chevy 454, it'll be a Turbo400 and they aren't too expensive... if it's a newer overdrive trans, it's gonna cost you several thousands.

Check the refrigerator and verify it gets cold. RV propane fridges are very expensive ($1200 +) and are the most important interior appliance to worry about. The rest are pretty reliable and less expensive to repair or replace. If the refrigerator smells like ammonia, it's shot and will need $800 cooling unit parts, and a shop to do it if you aren't gonna. So - don't buy one with a bad fridge unless the price reflects it and you understand it's gonna be a pretty big hit to fix. But still, turn on every appliance, every switch, every light, etc. in the whole thing. Try to get an idea how much of it actually works. Listen to NONE of the usual sellers bullshit about how cheap and easy to fix anything is. If that were true, why didn't he do it?

Again my opinion, but look for the floor plans with a couch against the wall instead of one of those U-shaped dinettes. Much nicer to be in. The smaller Class As and Class Cs that have the bed in the right rear corner and the bathroom in the left rear corner kinda suck (I've had those). The bed is too small and is surrounded on almost all four sides by walls, only accessible from the corner. Hard to make the goddamm bed! The best Class C floor plan has the bathroom in the rear and couch and other seating up front by the driver area. It's roomiest and seats everyone together while driving. The ones with the couch/dinette in the rear suck, the bathroom is in the middle of the thing blocking up your space and you have no large central area. Some Class C rigs have a decent size bed up over the cab. Some don't. Climb up there and see if you can live with it or not.

The over head bunk is another pickup-truck camper advantage... you can get them in extended-length that goes all the way over a 4-door truck cab. Mine has a 72" x 80" mattress, with extra room around it. One more truck-camper advantage is that if your truck has 4 wheel drive, so does your RV! Great if you like to take it up in the mountains in the snow, or in sand, or anywhere you can't go with a regular rig.

Tires on a motorhome often dry-rot before they wear out. Good tread depth doesn't mean the tires aren't shot. Look carefully at the sidewalls for cracks. They sit around and get old and will blow out on you on a trip. Bigger Class A rigs with 19.5" tires are pretty expensive to put tires on.

Keep it covered, whether in a garage, carport, or tarped off. It may not leak now but it's gonna, and the wood framework will rot.
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mulch
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Re: Buy or Rent an RV?

Post by mulch » Mon Sep 23, 2013 5:33 pm

If you can afford it I think you should buy one. You can resell them perhaps even breakeven depending on what kind of deal you get should you change your mind after the trip.. It's a lot of fun to have your own RV and know exactly what the equipment can and can't do and drive it across the country living from Walmart to Walmart.
The question about whether you will destroy the RV, there are all sorts of reports on E Playa about people just ruining RVs and of dust causing terrible problems. Our experience was that if you're careful with the dust coming in and out of the vehicle, tape up any gaps in the windows, and in our case we parked on a tarp, the RV really doesn't get that much dust in it and there's nothing about it that isn't easily cleanable.
That said, if you try to fill an RV made for four people with eight people and everyone is drunk and careless, I'm sure it could make a totally irreparable mess.
So shop around and consider buying one and do it with enough time that you can experiment with it and make any upgrades or changes that you want
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Jackass
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Re: Buy or Rent an RV?

Post by Jackass » Mon Sep 23, 2013 8:18 pm

mulch wrote:The question about whether you will destroy the RV, there are all sorts of reports on E Playa about people just ruining RVs and of dust causing terrible problems. Our experience was that if you're careful with the dust coming in and out of the vehicle, tape up any gaps in the windows, and in our case we parked on a tarp, the RV really doesn't get that much dust in it and there's nothing about it that isn't easily cleanable.

Out of the five years that I've been to the desert, this year was by far the least dusty. You ask how I know, it's easy. I'm the one who cleans all of my stuff and this year I brought back a fraction of the dust of previous years. I couldn't believe that after a good rinse and ONE wash, my truck didn't look like I washed it with milk. It was clean!
Sooner or later, it will get real strange...

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dragonpilot
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Re: Buy or Rent an RV?

Post by dragonpilot » Tue Sep 24, 2013 3:45 pm

mulch wrote:That said, if you try to fill an RV made for four people with eight people and everyone is drunk and careless, I'm sure it could make a totally irreparable mess.
:D Been there, done that! No mo'... :D
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ranger magnum
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Re: Buy or Rent an RV?

Post by ranger magnum » Thu Sep 26, 2013 7:29 pm

The captain pretty much nailed it. Id add that your gonna want a big block engine. I had a 22' class c with a 350, and it got worse mileage than our 31' class a. Smaller motors have to work harder, hence use more fuel.

40k for mileage aint bad. I have 86k on our 454 powered rv, and it runs perfect. Heat kills motors and transmissions. There are a number of things you can add to help keep vital parts cool.

A lot of rvs leak. But not airstreams, and certain models of the Bounder, made by Fleetwood. The Bounders have one piece aluminium roofs, and all you have to check are the things that protrude thru the roof like a/c, vents, etc. I re apply sealer the week i get home from playa; usually every other year.

Renting an rv is gonna cost you about half what it will to buy one. So if you plan on going to the playa more than a few times, buying one may be the way to go.

Mileage is pretty bad. Expect about 9. So figure that in to your yearly travel costs.
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atomicray
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Re: Buy or Rent an RV?

Post by atomicray » Thu Sep 26, 2013 7:57 pm

A side thought...the drive alone thing...with your preplanning I am sure you can make a travel connection and have one or two fellow burners from your area or in route to share the load, share the gas, and share the experience.

:)

PS
Buy...a pull behind...as a former RV tech, one of the most important features is the wheel/axle/support system. These are usually undersized for cost savings and age means potential sad panda time.

If getting an older unit, consider upgrading the under carriage supports...it is not that pricey and at home you can do all of it yourself, so not labor costs.

:D
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jcliff
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Re: Buy or Rent an RV?

Post by jcliff » Sun Oct 27, 2013 5:27 pm

I purchased an RV specifically for Burning Man in September of 2011....a '71 Sportscoach, Class A, with a Ford 350 engine. I bought her for $1900 and put maybe $2000 into repairs initially. My RV is stored in Reno (I'm a Midwesterner too - Illinois.) For me, owing an old RV is a love. For the last 2 Burns I was always worried about a major breakdown. This year we did have a blown tire on exodus and she wouldn't start after she got to Reno. The no-start was due to a bad battery terminal, so it was a $150 fix. The old RV's bring character to Burning Man, and these old rigs are deserving of someone to take care of them. Get Good Sam Roadside RV insurance, it costs $130? per year. Worth EVERY penny. I don't have any plumbing or a refrigerator. If you need these things then you would need to go up in price range.

Get an old RV and then make her your own! I painted my Brenda purple and green. My RV makes people happy. They like to see her out on the road, and my Burn neighbors are happy to be near her. I fully expect to have to pour money into her, but in the last 2 years that hasn't happened.

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louisacrystal
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Re: Buy or Rent an RV?

Post by louisacrystal » Mon Dec 09, 2013 3:36 pm

We are going to purchase a trailer. To bring with us because we ended up spending about $3,000 on RV rental last year each year the price goes up and gets more expensive so we decided that we would invest in our own that we can use throughout the year. But we decided that we were going to go with the travel trailer idea and not the RV because the RV if it breaks down you have a whole vehicle to fix. But if you have something breaks down on the travel trailer you can still detach it from your vehicle. I've been doing a lot of research to find out which one would be the best idea and I definitely am set on the travel trailer.
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cow dog
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Re: Buy or Rent an RV?

Post by cow dog » Mon Dec 09, 2013 4:06 pm

Lots of burner friendly cheap, rvs, trailers, go up for sale around mid July every year here in reno area

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Re: Buy or Rent an RV?

Post by Molotov » Fri Jan 10, 2014 2:00 pm

I bought a new 17 foot Casita trailer this month specifically with Burning Man in mind. They are a little pricey, but they are nigh on indestructible and hold their value. I'm a recent widower and I love rolling solo! My virgin trip to the playa will be the major road trip for my new egg this year. In 2015, it's Texas to the Arctic Circle of Alaska, to Burning Man, than home-10,000 miles!

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CapSmashy
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Re: Buy or Rent an RV?

Post by CapSmashy » Sun Jan 12, 2014 12:10 pm

A totally different approach, but one that makes a lot of sense for an event like Burning Man or any type of festival/excursion that requires hauling a lot of heavy gear, pick up a used school bus.

Advantages of a school bus vs an RV are many.

1. Safety: School buses are the most heavily regulated mode of transportation on the road. If a school bus rolls over at 55mph, it has to still look like a school bus when it stops rolling. A triple redundant steel cage mounted on a massive steel frame. The only part of an RV that is regulated by DOT regs is the frame and drive train. There are no regulations regarding how the "box" is built. Unless you are looking at a half million dollar Prevost or other highway bus platform style RV, you are getting little more than a thin stick frame wrapped in even thinner sheet metal or fiberglass. They will disintegrate in an accident and all those cabinets and walls will turn into missles flying around the inside of the coach.

2. Capacity: My Bluebird has a gross vehicle weight of just under 25k pounds. Empty weight of my rig once the seats were removed with a full tank of diesel was 9200 and change pounds. What does this mean? Provided the load is distributed between the front and rear axles and the suspension is in proper mechanical condition, I have an additional 15K pounds of weight I can load before maxing out my GVW. The typical older model Class A RV rolls out of the factory with bone dry tanks and no people or cargo within 1000 to 1200 pounds of maxing the GVW specs. The typical Class C RV is even worse. Most of those are within 500 to 800 pounds of maxing the GVW specs and these are usually the ones you find for cheap. Add slide outs and your margins are even smaller. 2 people and all their gear, food and water for the week will easily max out 90% of the RV's on the road today. Once they are maxed out, gas mileage falls to single digits, handling is greatly compromised, braking is compromised, etc. Age on the chassis and suspension only makes these factors worse.

My 25 year old bus averages 12 mpg for our Burning Man trip. My inlaws $400k top of the line coach with all the high tech bells and whistles and not overloaded averages 8 to 10 on a typical trip.

3. Maintenance: If you buy direct from either a school district auction or from a reseller that buys direct from auction, you are getting a vehicle that is not even close to 1/3 of it's useful lifespan. Maintenance schedules on school buses are insane. Why? Because they carry our children. Brakes, tires, etc are replaced on a schedule that is well ahead of any manufacturers scheduled intervals. Buy a 30 year old RV? Good luck. If it is one that has sitting for any length of time, pretty much plan on all of your plumbing and tank seals being bad. A lot of the systems in an RV require an RV service center. RV service centers are usually quite a bit more in terms of labor costs vs a heavy truck shop that your bus would go to.

4. Adaptability: Once you pull the seats out, you are left with a metal tube in a school bus. You can mount everything with self taping, sheet metal screws and in some cases, even weld your mounting brackets in place and hard mount your fixtures with nuts and bolts to make sure they are never going to come flying off the wall and hit you in a panic stop or accident situation. The other advantage with the bus is the steel roof and ribs. Wanna build a 30 foot long, 7 foot wide roof deck? No problem. Weld it up and enjoy the view. Wanna have a rear patio? No problem. All you need is an ability to cut a reasonably straight line with an angle grinder and some welding ability to move the back door/wall to it's new home a few windows up. If you have metal fabrication skills (or has a buddy that does) you are essentially only limited by your imagination and DOT height and width restrictions in your modifications. An RV? You are basically stuck with what it is and how it is laid out.


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CapSmashy
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Re: Buy or Rent an RV?

Post by CapSmashy » Sun Jan 12, 2014 12:13 pm

viewtopic.php?f=286&t=27783&hilit=school+bus

Almost anything you ever wanted to know about school buses.
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