A man stands on top of his camper van RV with his arms stretched out to show the expansive size of the mountain view behind him.

What You Should Know Before Renting an RV

You’re spending quality time with your family one week over winter break. You have time off from work, the kids are out of school, and you want to go somewhere warmer. Hotel prices have risen, flights are expensive, and you’re trying to have this vacation without breaking the bank.

Maybe you’re considering renting an RV and taking a trip south. Campgrounds are cheaper than hotels, and gas prices are dropping. Let’s examine a few essential things about renting RVs that will help save you money and give you the best experience.

A man stands on top of his camper van RV with his arms stretched out to show the expansive size of the mountain view behind him.

Where Can You Rent RVs?

Three of the best rental companies are Outdoorsy, RVshare, and Cruise America. These companies offer options for rentals from individuals, long-term rentals, short-term rentals, and all rental classes.

You can narrow your selections to specific dates, classes, price ranges, and more. Browse the inventory, note the fine print, and make your rental selection.

What Should I Know Before Renting an RV?

Before you rent an RV, there are a few things you should know. You’ll need to decide what type of RV you want to rent and then determine your budget. From there, you can get results that match what you need.

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Determine What Type (Motorized or Towable) and Size of RV You Want

For someone who has never gone camping before, sometimes this can be the hardest decision. Do you want a motorized RV or a towable RV? Do you want a small RV that’s straightforward to maneuver or a larger RV that gives you ample room?

If you don’t have a vehicle that can safely tow an RV, you probably want to consider a motorized RV. Another driver can follow in a sedan or SUV to give you an additional car. However, motorized RVs will be more expensive.

A rental RV parked at Joshua Tree National Park in a campground.

If you need a rental for an extended period, consider whether the space will be comfortable for that length of time. Larger RVs will cost more, but if you’re a family of five and have a dog, you don’t want to rent a travel trailer that doesn’t provide enough space for everyone.

Plan Your Budget

Your budget may also help you decide which RV type you can afford. If you’re tight on money, you might not afford a Class A motorhome. You may want to look at older models, too. Once you know how much you have to spend on a rental, you can narrow your search.

This family talks about the cost for a three week rental RV trip with three kids!

Always pay attention to fees and additional costs. Most owners and companies charge per mile over a specific mileage. And, if you’re using a generator, you’ll probably have to pay for the hours you use it. So don’t only look at the rental fee.

Research Rental Options

Make several inquiries about RVs that may work for your vacation. This will give you more options and perhaps some leverage in negotiating a better price.

Also, browse websites like Cruise America, Outdoorsy, and RVshare. By comparing similar RV types and models, you’ll find the best deal.

Pay attention to hidden fees and additional costs when researching your rental options. Cruise America may charge an extra administrative fee. Outdoorsy or RVshare may charge a cleaning fee. So ensure you look at the whole picture.

Ask Which Accessories Come With the Rental

If you don’t have RV accessories, it’s crucial to know what accessories come with the rental. In a peer-to-peer rental like Outdoorsy or RVshare, owners will provide different accessories.

Most will provide hoses and power cords, essentials for camping. But will you also get leveling blocks and X-chocks?

A camper with their feet up next to a fire with a set of roasting sticks and pudgie pie makers near the fire.

Is the RV fully furnished with dishes and kitchen gadgets? Do you have towels and sheets? If not, ensure you know what size the bed is because RV mattresses aren’t the same as residential mattresses.

Whatever isn’t there, you’ll have to buy, so consider that cost when comparing rental options.

Read the Fine Print

The rental fee isn’t just the rental fee. It includes additional costs like insurance, cleaning fees, mileage fees, and perhaps hidden costs like administrative fees. Read the fine print, so you know what the RV rental will cost you. 

Learn How to Empty RV Tanks 

If you’ve never camped before, it’s essential to learn the basics before you pick up an RV. One of the most crucial things you need to know is how to empty the tanks.

It’s not a difficult task, but you must do it when RVing. If you want to take showers, wash dishes, and flush the toilet, your tanks can’t overflow.

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You can quickly learn how to do this by watching a few YouTube videos. Before you head out, locate the valves and know where the tanks are so you’re not trying to figure that out on your first night.

Book Campgrounds

Finally, learn how to search for and book campgrounds. If you’re taking a road trip, you’ll want to do this in advance.

Know the size of your rig so you can book campsites that can accommodate the RV. Do you need full hookups with water, sewer, and electricity, or will you boondock in remote locations?

If you’re only taking a weekend trip to the beach or a local campground, it might not be as necessary to book far in advance because you’re only making one reservation. However, if you’re camping during the summer, you’ll want to make your reservation as soon as possible. Campgrounds fill up quickly during the camping season.

So understand camping seasons, booking windows, and hookup options when you’re planning to rent an RV.

If your travel schedule is flexible, consider visiting high-traffic areas during the shoulder season.

Do You Need a Special License to Drive an RV?

You do not need a special license to drive an RV; however, you probably want to practice if you’ve never driven or towed anything larger than a minivan.

Book your RV for a few days before you need it if you can. Take it to an empty parking lot. Practice turning and learn how wide you have to swing the vehicle. Practice backing up and turning the steering wheel if towing. Have a partner join you and learn how to best communicate with each other.

Looking out of the windshield at a rental RV driving the road up ahead.

You also want to know the exact size of the RV. Measure the width, height, and length so you know which bridges are safe to travel under and which roads might be too narrow.

Also, use an RV-friendly GPS when traveling that will avoid tight turns, low clearances, tunnels, and other dangerous places where you might have to turn around.

How Many Miles Per Day Should You Drive an RV?

The number of miles per day you should drive will vary. However, RVers usually stick to 300 miles or less per day. They often don’t travel back-to-back days. Many RVers follow the 3/3/3 rule of traveling; arrive at the destination before 3 pm, stop every three hours to stretch and rest, and stay at the location for at least three days.

This isn’t always possible, but it’s a good rule of thumb. By following the 3/3/3 rule, travel days are more enjoyable for everyone. No one gets worn out riding for hours, and no one is exhausted once you arrive at the destination.

You also don’t arrive in the dark, which is essential when going to a new campground or traveling as a new RVer.

How Do I Prepare for My First RV Trip?

It’s always best to research before you head out on your first RV trip. Watch YouTube videos and read blog articles from seasoned RVers. They’ll have valuable checklists, must-have gear recommendations, and other tips and tricks for making your first trip a success.

However, it would help if you did what works for you and your family. Just because one RVer recommends a particular cell booster doesn’t mean you should buy it. If you’re not working remotely while traveling, you don’t need to purchase that gadget.

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Also, keep track of how much weight you’re putting into the RV. This is vital. You cannot travel overweight.

Locate the GVWR of the RV and pay attention to how much cargo you’re loading. Dishes, toys, books, clothes, electronics, and everything else add up. Every RV has a limit to how much cargo it can safely hold.

When loading the cargo into the RV, consider how you’ll store it on travel days. Know how to properly secure loose items like a coffee maker, a diffuser, an alarm clock, etc. Learn how to latch doors, drawers, refrigerators, shower doors, etc. Anything that isn’t in a drawer or cabinet will potentially fall over while traveling, so learn the ins and outs to prevent accidents.

Is Renting an RV Worth It?

If RVing isn’t going to be your new hobby or if you’re unsure that your family will enjoy camping, renting an RV is a great idea. You don’t want to spend tens of thousands of dollars on buying an RV to find out that your teenagers hate being outside. It may sound like a fun family adventure, but you don’t know until you take the trip.

You won’t get your money back for what you pay to rent an RV, but you’ll have memories to last a lifetime. You also won’t have to worry about maintenance, storage, repairs, and other costly things RV owners must consider.

So the next time you consider a family vacation, browse Cruise America, Outdoorsy, or RVshare. Will you rent an RV and have the adventure to remember?

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