We didn’t start the year planning to get into RVing with kids. But this year has been full of surprises, including this one.
Both my husband’s parents and my parents live on the east coast of the United States – across the country from where we are in California. While we usually see them a few times a year, COVID-19 has obviously complicated that. It’s been disappointing for everyone that we haven’t been able to spend time together. One set of grandparents hadn’t even met our newest baby at over 5 months old!
As all of our parents are in high-risk categories, we definitely didn’t feel comfortable flying or even driving a car and stopping at hotels/restaurants. So we started considering RVing with kids.
We had a few concerns before getting started (including putting car seats in RVs – more on how we resolved that coming soon), but one of the biggest factors was cost. While in my mind, RVing with kids was an economical option, it turns out it can add up quite quickly.
RVing with Kids: Cost to Rent
Since we’re a family of 7, we needed an RV that was not only big enough to sleep all of us, but that also had enough seats and seat belts for everyone. We needed to make sure it would be possible to RV with a baby. This limited the companies from which we could rent, as well as the number of vehicles that were available.
After doing some back-of-the-envelope calculations, we found that it would be somewhere in the range of $16,000-17,000 to rent an RV that was big enough for our family for about 5 weeks. Holy cow! We were shocked. Since RVing with kids and (or without kids) has become increasingly popular this summer, the rates also reflected that. We were not thrilled.
Why We Chose to Buy When RVing with Kids
As we were looking around at different rental options, we noticed a “Buy An RV” tap on the Cruise America website, so we clicked through out of curiosity. We’d peeked at some other used RVs before but there were a few issues:
- Inventory. It was almost impossible to find an RV in the size we needed in our area.
- Cost. Private sale RVs were quite pricey – about 150% of what we found with the Cruise America used RV.
- Age. The RVs being sold privately were almost all really old. While some people might not mind some work, we didn’t want to deal with a bunch of maintenance (our family only owns one car for a reason!).
We were surprised when we saw the Cruise America stats. The price was significantly more reasonable than private RVs that were much older. The one we found was a Class C 2016 Thor Majestic 28A with about 127k miles on it. It was listed for $34k. However, they did not have time to repaint and add in the manufacturer’s stickers, so they reduced the price by $3k. Eventually, we got a discount to $29k, which felt pretty reasonable compared to the rental cost. (Adding in the extended warranty cost a bit more.) This also compared well to the Kelley Blue Book value of $44k. Between that and the wait list/demand for the vehicles, we felt confident in purchasing it, as well as in our ability to resell it in the not-so-distant future.
Also, at the time, there was one available in Arizona. We considered having one of us fly there, check it out, drive it back home to the Bay Area in California, quarantine, then start driving out to grandparents. But that seemed like a giant hassle.
Considering a Used Cruise America RV
After seeing that, we decided to call our local Cruise America lot to see if they happened to have anything available. They didn’t, and also had a 2-month long waitlist. But we continued chatting, and connected with the salesman.
After a couple days of talking to him, he agreed to pull one of the current RVs off the lot to sell to us. It was one that they would’ve pulled in a few months, after a summer of rental time. But he agreed to pull it off a bit early. (This meant it also had slightly lower mileage than other used RV sales – they tended to be in a tight range of 130k-135k, but ours was about 127k.) So we went to check it out.
Concerns And Benefits When Buying a Rental RV with Kids
Honestly, I was VERY hesitant about purchasing a used RV that had been a rental. What if it was gross? What if there were other things wrong that we wouldn’t find out about until after driving it off the lot? I’d heard about terrible things customers had done to rental vehicles, so I was incredibly wary.
No one was more surprised than me that my fears were totally assuaged after researching, talking to the sales manager, and seeing it for ourselves.
- Care. Since Cruise America owns a whole fleet of vehicles that are all the same, they get regular and efficient maintenance.
- While people may take some rental vehicles out for a joy ride, that seemed pretty unlikely with a large RV.
- Cleanliness and upgrades. Cruise America takes great care of their rigs after each rental. They also put in a few upgrades (flooring, seat covers, etc.) that we didn’t see in private purchase RVs. This was in much better condition than many of the older used ones we saw. They also do a FULL clean and sanitize everything prior to sale.
- Reviews. We read dozens and dozens of reviews from people who had purchased used Cruise America RVs. They were overwhelmingly positive when discussing both the value and the condition/quality of the rigs.
- Extended warranty. This last one was the clincher. While there is a basic warranty that comes with the vehicle, you can purchase an extended warranty that’s good for an additional 100k miles or 5 years. This warranty covers most anything of concern, and really put my fears to rest. From what we’ve read, Cruise America is also super easy about honoring the warranty and taking care of any issues.
Safety Considerations When RVing with Kids
The final and most important consideration when RVing with kids was the safety aspect. We read a LOT of mixed reviews regarding safety when putting kids in a motorized RV. Some people did it and felt fine, some people used car seats, some people had older children, and some people would never ever consider putting kids in a motorized RV. It was difficult to sort out all the information to find laws and recommendations from experts, especially when putting an infant in an RV.
So I did a lot of digging into what features our RV needed to have in order to safely house kids and to put a car seat in an RV. Since I knew the specific model, I also researched what modifications were a possibility/necessity, and what restraints may or may not work. To do that, I did a LOT of Googling on RV car seat laws and also spoke to several Child Passenger Safety Technicians.
CPSTs are highly trained not only in vehicle and child restraint safety. They’re also very knowledgeable when it comes to seat configurations and requirements. Because I’m anal, I didn’t want to just talk to one, but instead talked to 3 different ones, in 3 different states. Stay tuned for the next post where I’ll go into detail about those safety considerations when RVing with kids!
IF YOU LIKED THIS POST ABOUT RVING WITH KIDS, YOU MIGHT LIKE THESE POSTS TOO:
- 4 Kids, 43 Countries, 20 Must Have Travel Essentials
- Best Educational Kid Activity Books
- Our Favorite Car Seats When Flying with Kids
NOT PLANNING TO RV WITH KIDS QUITE YET? PIN THIS POST FOR LATER!