It’s finally spring which is when I start doing preliminary research for our summer RV adventures. You too may have started thinking about your family summer vacation as well.  That’s what makes this the best time to finally tackle the topic of renting an RV. I approached this subject as if I was researching for my own needs. What did I find?

Renting an RV is not as simple as renting a car, in fact, I found RV rentals to be a bit overwhelming.  It makes sense to break-down the decision process into two posts: this post will cover how to make the decision if RV rental is right for your vacation needs and still to come,  a side-by-side comparison of the most popular RV rental companies including El Monte RV, CruiseAmerica, Road Bear and Jucy (wait until you see what they offer).  If you have another company you are curious about, please send comments!

To start on the topic, there are three very important  pieces of information that you should know up front.

* Most Rental RV’s COME WITH NOTHING!  You read that right.  You will have to provide your own bedding, towels, dishes, kitchen items, etc. (Check out the RV Adventures with Kids packing list for items that you will need).  RV rental companies offer convenience kits for an extra, per-person charge which include the more important items (think bedding and kitchen items),  These items will need to returned at drop-off.

* Most Rental RV’s contracts include miles. They sell miles in blocks of 100, with one company selling blocks of 500. Keep in mind that with an RV, it is not just driving to and from a destination, but also used to run errands and sightseeing adventures.  Every mile counts towards your total miles. If you don’t purchase your miles up front, most companies will charge you a per mile charge for overages starting at about $.32/mile or more based on company and RV size.

* Any time you want to do sightseeing or take a trip to the market,  you will have to unhook all your services (water, sewer and electric).

Next, it is important to understand the RV rental options that are available including pros and cons:

1. Round-trip Rental -Pick up at your local rental location and return to the same location.

Pro: Can pack the RV with items from your home

Con:  Driving from rental location to your home and back can cost you a days worth of miles depending how far you live away from the rental location.

2. One-Way Rental -Pick up at one location and return to a different location.

Pro: If renting local, it’s  possible to pack some items from home.

Pro: If the final destination is far away, mileage can be saved by only going one way.

Pro: Rental companies sometimes offer additional daily mileage with this option.

Con:  If you  pack with your own camping items, then you will have to figure out how to get everything back home.  (Renting a car may be a good option in this instance).

Con: Not available at all locations and usually more expensive.

3) Fly/Drive – Fly to your destination, rent an RV, and return to same rental location and fly home. (What we would do when we can get to my bucket list camping in Alaska).

Pro: Get right to camping without the long drive to get to your destination.

Pro: Experience camping in areas far from home

Con:  Would likely have to  purchase “Convenient Kits” from RV rental company and supplement with inexpensive, disposable purchases from a discount store.

Next , there are four steps to help determine if RV rental is right for your summer vacation and to book:

Step 1 – Determine when and where you would like to go. If you are planning to go to a popular destination (i.e. Yosemite, beach locations, etc.) do some cursory checks on campground availability.  Use Mapquest to help estimate your overall mileage for the trip, then think about what type of RV rental (see above) makes the most sense for your situation.

Step 2 – Consider how many adults and children are going. Check out the websites of the RV rental companies you are considering for RV models offered.  Remember, just because an RV says it sleeps 8, that doesn’t necessarily mean 8 adults.   Find an RV where everyone will be able to sleep comfortably.

Step 3 – Shop for best prices. It is definitely time to start this process.  As you know, summer months are busy so plan as far ahead of time as you can. Be flexible on dates and check for special deals or discounts. El Monte RV does advertise they offer a AAA discount.  This is also the right time to check online reviews of the company you are planning on using.

Step 4 – Make your reservation –  If you have determined that renting an RV is right for you, it’s time to make your reservation. Don’t be afraid to ask questions on anything that may be of importance to you.  As soon as your RV rental is booked, make those campground reservations!!

If you have used a RV  rental company, share your experience in the comment space below.  Your insight  could be invaluable to someone looking to move forward with this decision.

Coming up next: Comparing the big RV Rental players: CruiseAmerica, El Monte RV, Road Bear and Jucy.