Renting an RV is an easy, affordable way to test the waters of the RV lifestyle. RVing in general is a great way to travel, whether the RV trip itself is your vacation, or you just need a comfortable vehicle for a long drive. When it comes to the actual process of renting an RV, however, things can seem a bit daunting. With hundreds of rental companies out there are claiming they’re the best, where do you start? This post should help you understand how it all works and what to look out for when renting.
What to Expect When Renting an RV
Renting an RV is much like booking a flight or hotel room. You browse an online inventory, pick the one that’s best for you, then hand over a deposit to make a reservation. You’ll pay a daily base rate, which varies by season and amenities, plus any applicable fees. But that’s where the similarities end. Renting an RV is a little more involved, and requires some preliminary research. There are three ways to rent an RV, each with its pros and cons:
- Commercial rental companies, like Cruise America, have the most location-based deals. Since they have so many branches, they’re able to offer one-way specials and factory delivery specials. Whenever they buy new inventory, they give huge discounts to renters who will pick up the RVs and deliver them to one of the company branches. If you’re willing to travel to one of those locations, you can really get a good deal. However, rental chains also have their fair share of negatives. Because they’re so large, their customer service can be lacking. Getting a hold of a representative to get an overcharge fixed, for example, can be a frustrating game of phone tag.
- Privately-owned local companies are another RV rental option. It’s always nice to rent from a mom-and-pop shop and support local businesses. Plus, you’re pretty much guaranteed excellent customer service. Most small rental company owners are avid RVers themselves, so they love sharing the joy of RVing with their customers. You may find occasional specials, like discounts for booking far in advance or for a certain amount of time. The drawback, however, is that small businesses often have limited inventory. During peak season, it can be very difficult to find a rental.
- Peer-to-peer networks like RVshare and RV Rental Guide are the newest and easiest way to rent. Basically, it’s a massive online inventory of RVs throughout the United States. It’s peer-to-peer, meaning that the RVs are independently owned; the owners list and manage the RV rental themselves. There are several advantages to this model. Rates are often lower, the owners are mostly wonderful, personable people, and you don’t have to worry about hidden fees (all applicable fees are listed right in the rental ad). You also have access to an inventory that’s far larger than any other rental service. You can find dirt-cheap campers, vintage trailers, luxury motorhomes, and any other kind of RV you can imagine. Again though, if you don’t book fast enough during peak season, you’ll lose the opportunity. That can be a big problem if you live in a rural area with only a handful of rentals. Another benefit of using RVshare is you’ll be getting the most trusted RV rental insurance company in the world. You’ll be covered not only for basic comprehensive and collision, but also for Acts of God, such as a tree falling on your RV or hail storms. Plus, free 24/7 Emergency Roadside Assistance is there if you need it.
How to Make Sure You’re Getting the Best Rental
Now that you know where you can rent an RV, the next component is knowing what to look for to ensure you get the best deal. Keep the following in mind:
- Make sure you know which RV class is best for your needs and budget. The cost of the rental depends on which type of RV you rent, so choosing the right one is critical. Class A’s are usually the largest, most expensive, and the hardest to drive. Class C’s can be just as big as Class A’s, but they actually have more sleeping space (the over-cab bunk is great for kids!), and they drive more like a large van or truck. Class B vans and pop-up campers are compact and are an affordable option if you’re traveling solo or with one other person. Travel trailers and fifth wheel vary in size and sleeping accommodations, but you should have some towing experience before you rent one. When choosing an RV, try to strike a balance between your budget, RV size, and your traveling style.
- Read the company’s rental policies and look out for “hidden” fees. Some companies don’t allow you to have pets in the RV, or they limit how many people can fit in a rental. Most rental companies set limits on how many miles you can drive in a day and will charge you a fee if you go over. Additionally, you may incur fines if you return the RV late, on empty, or if you forget to dump the holding tanks. It’s important to know their individual policies ahead of time, so you don’t get stuck paying a bunch of surprise fees after your trip.
- Research customer reviews. All RV rental companies claim they’re the best. The only way to truly assess their service, aside from renting the RV yourself, is to read reviews from real people. That means not just reading the testimonials on the company website. Check Google reviews, Yelp, and TripAdvisor – they’ll tell you things you won’t find on the company website, like if the renter got smacked with hidden fees or if the RV was in bad condition. If you’re browsing around on RVshare, you can check out customer reviews right in the ad. The listings have a built-in rating and review system so customers can leave reviews on specific owners and RVs.
- Leave some wiggle room in your budget. Sure, you can budget how much you’ll spend on the rental, gas, food, entertainment and campground fees, but there are more costs than that. You’ll need flex money for things like mileage, generator fees, optional extras, and a small emergency fund. Unfortunately, those line items are mostly unpredictable. It’s best to make sure that you have a comfortable buffer, just in case.
Get Out There and Start Searching!
Now you can rent with peace of mind that you’re getting a good deal and you (hopefully) won’t run into any bumps in the road. Start planning well in advance, do your research, and don’t hesitate to ask questions. If you do your due diligence, you’ll be just fine. Do you have any RV rental stories or advice to share with us? Let us know in the comments!
Please Note: This article was submitted by a contributor. All views expressed in this article are of the contributor and do not necessarily express the views of RV Adventures with Kids.