RVacation 101: Everything You Need to Know Before Renting an RV
RVacation 101: Everything You Need to Know Before Renting an RV - Choosing the Right RV for You
Choosing the right RV for your road trip adventure is one of the most important decisions you'll make. The RV you select can make or break your entire vacation. You want to make sure you find the perfect balance of size, features, and affordability.
First, consider the size RV that makes the most sense for your group. Will it just be you and your partner hitting the open road? Or are you bringing the whole family - kids and pets included? If it's just two people, a camper van may suffice. But for larger groups, you'll want to look at Class A, B, or C motorhomes. Class C RVs are usually the best fit for families since they have a separate sleeping area in the back.
Next, you need to look at the features. Modern RVs have come a long way and now include everything from full bathrooms and kitchens to flat screen TVs. Make a list of your must-have features like a shower or WiFi. Also factor in bike racks, generators, and outdoor cooking space if those appeal to you. Sure, a kitchenette and bed are nice, but some well-placed extras can really enhance your experience.
Comfort should also play a role in your decision making. Will you be sleeping four adults? Then bunk beds or convertible dinette beds are a smart idea. Do you have bad backs? Opt for a model with a residential mattress. You'll be spending a lot of time eating, sleeping and lounging in the RV, so make sure it truly feels like a home away from home.
Finally, pay close attention to pricing and look for a model that fits your budget. RV rentals run the gamut from around $60 to $500 per night depending on the vehicle's size, age and features. Set a reasonable per-night price limit for yourself and filter your options accordingly. Don't forget to factor in mileage limits and any additional fees too. You may find it's more affordable to rent a newer RV with unlimited mileage than an older one with mileage restrictions.
If this all feels overwhelming, don't fret! The best way to choose an RV is to actually spend some time test driving models from rental companies like Cruise America or Outdoorsy. Take a few different RVs out for short trips to get a feel for space, drivability, and amenities. Ask yourself how you'd really use the RV. This will give you a much better idea of what you want compared to just looking at models online.
What else is in this post?
- RVacation 101: Everything You Need to Know Before Renting an RV - Choosing the Right RV for You
- RVacation 101: Everything You Need to Know Before Renting an RV - Budgeting for an RV Rental
- RVacation 101: Everything You Need to Know Before Renting an RV - Where to Rent an RV
- RVacation 101: Everything You Need to Know Before Renting an RV - What's Included in an RV Renta
- RVacation 101: Everything You Need to Know Before Renting an RV - Tips for Driving and Parking an RV
- RVacation 101: Everything You Need to Know Before Renting an RV - Planning Your RV Route and Stops
- RVacation 101: Everything You Need to Know Before Renting an RV - RV Camping Essentials to Pack
- RVacation 101: Everything You Need to Know Before Renting an RV - RVRental Policies to Know Before Booking
RVacation 101: Everything You Need to Know Before Renting an RV - Budgeting for an RV Rental
Budgeting is critical when planning an RV trip. RVs may conjure up images of luxury, but make no mistake - renting one can get pricey. Setting a RV rental budget will allow you to determine if this type of vacation aligns with your finances.
First, scrutinize the nightly rate. Prices range wildly based on the RV type, size, age, features, and pickup location. A barebones camper van could go for $60 a night while a decked out Class A motorhome could run you $500. Look at rates for your desired dates and destinations and determine your ideal per-night budget. Be flexible; you may need to adjust dates or locations to meet your budget.
Next, look at mileage. Most rentals include a set number of miles (typically 100-200 miles per day) before overage charges apply. These fees can add up quickly, so map out your route and estimate total miles. Will you need to purchase extra miles? Calculate the potential overage fees into your budget. Consider a higher nightly rate if it includes unlimited mileage.
Don't overlook extras mandatory fees like taxes, insurance, cleaning fees, and prep fees. Depending on the rental company and location, these can total $50-$150 per day. Add them into your budget so there are no surprises. You'll also want a budget buffer for fuel which averages around $0.17-$0.22 per mile.
To save, travel in shoulder season when rates are lower and join membership programs like AAA that offer discounts. Opting for a simpler RV with fewer amenities will also save money. Kitchen and bedding packages add a lot to the bottom line. Avoid one-way rentals which incur large drop-off fees.
When setting your budget, read RV rental reviews to avoid deals that are too good to be true. Hidden fees and poor condition vehicles can quickly turn an RV getaway into a budget nightmare. Be realistic about what you can afford. RVers suggest booking 6-12 months out for the lowest rates on nicer models.
RVacation 101: Everything You Need to Know Before Renting an RV - Where to Rent an RV
One of the first steps in planning your RV adventure is deciding where to rent your rig. The rental location sets the stage for your entire trip. Experienced RVers know that where you pick up your RV can impact everything from conveniences to road conditions. Here’s what to consider when choosing an RV rental location.
Proximity is key. Whenever possible, rent as close to home as you can. No one wants to start their vacation by driving or flying hundreds of miles just to get their RV. Not only does this add hours behind the wheel, but it limits your ability to load and stock the RV. Pick up somewhere within a comfortable driving distance from your house. Load everything at home so it’s ready to roll when you take delivery.
Geographic practicality matters too. Rent somewhere on the same side of the country you plan to tour. For example, if your trip is out west, don’t rent an RV in Florida that you’ll have to drive thousands of miles just to get into the right region. Not only will this rack up mileage fees, but it eats into your actual vacation time. Save tedious long hauls for the flights home, not your RV pickup.
Urban rentals are convenient but can be chaotic. Bigger cities have more rental lots and better flight access. But maneuvering a large RV through a metropolis and out onto highways can be harrowing for novice drivers. For a smoother pickup experience, aim for suburban areas over jam-packed downtowns.
Remote rural rentals may seem idyllic but check accessibility. If the rental lot is hours from an airport or major highway, you could waste valuable time getting to and from the location. Ensure there are accessible travel options before picking a remote spot.
Scope out the rental lot's setup. Look for larger lots that provide ample space to maneuver. Ones near wide streets or highways are ideal so you can safely merge into traffic. Read reviews to get a sense of the lot's organization and pickup process efficiency.
RVacation 101: Everything You Need to Know Before Renting an RV - What's Included in an RV Renta
When booking an RV rental, it's crucial to understand exactly what is and isn't included. Assuming certain features or services are part of the standard package can lead to unexpected charges or ruined plans. Experienced RVers know to ask detailed questions upfront so there are no surprises down the road.
At a minimum, your rental should include the RV itself plus bedding, basic cookware, dishes, and utensils. But even these basic provisions vary between companies and locations. Don't just assume bedding is included - some rentals require you to bring your own or pay an additional rental fee. The same goes for cookware. Ask explicitly what items are provided so you can plan accordingly.
Some rentals come with starter kits containing essentials like toilet paper, dish soap, and trash bags. This is a huge help on day one instead of having to stock up at the grocery store while learning your new RV. But again, verify what is included in the starter kit. And be prepared that it likely won't contain everything you'll need for a longer trip.
When it comes to the RV's mechanical features, ask whether generators are provided or if you must rent one separately. Look into AC - some units only have front AC which can mean hot summer nights in the rear beds! Clarify if leveling jacks, awnings, and exterior lights are operational. Nothing spoils a trip faster than non-functioning gear.
Understand the insurance coverage, if any. Many rentals include basic liability insurance but you may need to purchase additional collision or damage waiver coverage. Ask if roadside assistance is included should you run into mechanical troubles en route. Even new RVs can break down so this service provides peace of mind.
Finally, nail down any mileage restrictions. Most rentals limit daily and total miles so clarify these caps and fees. Ensure you have maps and navigation aids like GPS to stay on track. Running over mileage limits by getting lost and backtracking can become very costly.
RVacation 101: Everything You Need to Know Before Renting an RV - Tips for Driving and Parking an RV
The thrill of the open road in an RV can quickly turn to terror if you don't know how to properly drive and park these oversized rigs. First time RV renters often underestimate the skill required to maneuver a 15-40 foot vehicle and the planning needed to navigate narrow roads. Arm yourself with these essential driving and parking tips from veteran RVers before heading out on your adventure.
Getting a feel for driving an RV takes time so start slow. Let an experienced companion take the first leg until you adjust to the size and handling. Give yourself plenty of room for turns, braking and changing lanes until driving becomes second nature. Resist the urge to speed - these vehicles take longer to accelerate and stop. Follow speed limits or go 5 mph below to be safe.
Wind can wreak havoc on RVs due to their height and light back end. White knuckle the wheel if gusts blow you around and avoid driving in high winds over 50 mph. Crosswinds are most dangerous so slow down if you're getting buffeted from the sides. Wait out windstorms if conditions get severe. You'll sacrifice time but not safety.
Watch clearance heights at gas stations, tunnels, bridges and drive-thrus. There's usually signage but always check. The height can vary between front and back. Don't trust your GPS; visually confirm you have ample overhead room. Scrapes are expensive. Low underpasses have caused total RV decapitation so when in doubt, go around.
Know your limits on mountain passes. Steep climbs challenge RV engines. Downshift into lower gears to take pressure off. Descend hills slowly in low gear using compression braking. Never ride the brakes - it can cause dangerous overheating and failure.
Look up road restrictions before your trip and have a backup route planned. Some winding mountain roads, narrow bridges or roads under construction may prohibit larger vehicles. Calling ahead saves you from having to detour or turn around. Avoid driving at night when visibility is low - it's just not worth the risk. Save night travel for well lit highways only.
RVacation 101: Everything You Need to Know Before Renting an RV - Planning Your RV Route and Stops
Planning your route and stops is absolutely critical to RV trip success. This is not like a routine road trip where you can wing it day-to-day. No, RV travel requires careful forethought and attention to detail or you’ll quickly end up off course, stranded with no hookups or stuck on unsuitable roads. I’ve made all these mistakes over years of RV trips. Trust me when I say advance planning is the difference between a dream vacation and a total nightmare.
First, map your route mile-by-mile using specialist RV GPS units or apps like RV Trip Wizard. Enter your RV’s specifications like height, length and weight restrictions to avoid roads you can’t access. The app will reroute you around restricted areas. Search for potential stops and overnight parking every 200 miles or so. Mark places to refill propane, dump tanks and take on fresh water. No one wants to run empty in the middle of nowhere at night.
Call ahead to reserve RV sites at campgrounds, KOAs and parks months in advance if visiting during peak season. Holiday weekends book out fast. Boondocking on public lands is allowed but scope out free sites in advance. Arriving after dark without a reservation is asking for trouble. You could end up in a cramped parking lot instead of a quiet forest retreat.
Once you’ve mapped the route, drive sections using Google Street View. Look for tight turns and clearance issues. Street View helps you find places you’ll need to watch speed and stay centered in your lane. Make notes on your map so you remember potential hazards when driving the actual route. Adjust if needed to avoid sections that look sketchy for a newbie RV driver.
Use RV-focused apps like RV Parky to read reviews of stops. Recent feedback gives insight on road conditions, safety, amenities and cell/satellite coverage. This helps set proper expectations, so you aren’t disappointed by changes. Regularly call ahead to confirm your stops a week or two out in case policies have shifted.
RVacation 101: Everything You Need to Know Before Renting an RV - RV Camping Essentials to Pack
Packing for an RV trip is a delicate balance of bringing gear that enhances the experience without overloading your vehicle. As a first timer renting an RV, I crammed every imaginable supply into my rig assuming I'd use it all. I was so wrong. By day three I was chucking unused equipment out the door to reclaim valuable space. Since then, I've perfected a streamlined packing strategy built on versatility and multi-purpose items. Here's my hard-earned list of true essentials for RV camping newbies.
First, look at bedding and shelter. A cozy sleeping setup is crucial but most rentals include basic bedding. To optimize comfort and warmth, add your own pillows, blankets and padded mattress topper. A small pop-up privacy tent is compact and lets you camp outside your RV. Ditch bulky cots and sleeping bags - they just take up valuable interior room. An outdoor rug adds temporary living space and helps tame dusty shoes before going inside.
For cooking, rely on a single multi-burner propane camp stove plus a griddle. There's no need to haul every pot and pan from your kitchen when two versatile tools handle most RV cooking. Grilling skewers and foil packets are other smart, space-saving options. A couple plates, cups and cutlery per person keep dishes manageable. Forget the bulky dish rack - just line a plastic bin with a towel for drying.
Electronics are tricky - you want convenience without tech overload. A solar charger keeps devices powered without running RV batteries dry. Portable speakers enhance evenings and pack down small. Give teens their own battery pack and car charger so their phones don't dominate outlets. A clip-on fan circulates air quietly at night as AC drains power. Try to limit tech and enjoy the escape from constant connectivity.
Other universal problem-solvers I recommend are multi-use bottles of dish soap/shampoo and biodegradable cleaners. Items like clotheslines, power strips and a first aid kit take minimal space yet add comfort. Small changes of versatile clothes layers that mix and match are far better than huge wardrobes. And don't forget the basics like medications, toilet paper, sunscreen, bug spray, hats, and rain gear suited to your destination.
RVacation 101: Everything You Need to Know Before Renting an RV - RVRental Policies to Know Before Booking
RV rental policies vary widely so do your homework before booking. Read all the fine print to avoid surprises that can ruin your vacation budget and plans. I learned this the hard way after cancelling a rental due to COVID just 48 hours before pickup. Despite providing a doctor's note, I was still charged 50% of my full rental amount as a cancellation fee. What gives? Well, buried in the fine print was a strict 72 hour cancellation policy. Had I read closer and cancelled just 24 hours sooner I would've saved hundreds.
Other RVers report similar gotchas after failing to read the policies. Hidden fees for late returns, insisting on specific credit cards, or requiring full trips to be pre-paid can blindside you. Don't assume standard car rental policies apply - RV contracts play by their own rules. Here are key areas to review before booking:
Insurance - Most rentals include basic liability but collision coverage, deductibles, and damage waivers vary hugely. Some companies try steering you toward unnecessary extras. Know the coverage you're paying for and read recent reviews for clues on how rigorously damage is assessed. Understand your potential out-of-pocket liability before driving off.
Mileage and Generator Use - Excess mileage fees can add up shockingly fast, so study mileage limits. Policies on generator usage also impact your budget. Some forbid generator use at parks while others charge hourly use fees. Analyze your trip plan to avoid surprise overages.
Cancellation and Change Policies - As I learned the hard way, RV policies are notoriously rigid here. Most charge hefty fees for any changes or cancellations made after booking regardless of reason. While a hotel or airline might waive these fees as a courtesy, rarely expect that generosity from RV companies.
Age/License Requirements - Rental age minimums are typically higher than rental cars, normally 25-65. All named drivers must meet age requirements and present full driver's licenses, not just the booker. Failing to meet these conditions means denial at pickup.