RV travel is a great way to get out in nature without having to rough it in a tent. You can get nearly a full hotel experience then step outside your door onto a hiking trail – no commute required.
If you’ve never been inside an RV before, it’s hard to envision the experience. How much does it cost? Where do you park it? Are there special rules to obey?
Luckily, renting an RV or conversion van is not nearly as complex as it sounds. In this post, we’re going to break down exactly how an RV rental works, what to expect, and how to make the most out of your travels.
Rent An RV Near You
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| ||Outdoorsy.com →|
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Benefits of Renting an RV
When you rent an RV, you get the luxury of having the whole house with you. Unlike booking a hotel or taxiing to the airport, you can pack nearly anything you want. That includes liquids, electronic devices, and you don’t have to endure long lines at security checkpoints.
With an RV, you’ll be on vacation as soon as you pull out of the driveway.
Meet the locals
An RV allows you to really take your time and soak in the destinations. Instead of zipping past the flyover states you can stop and shop the local markets. You’ll get a better feel for lesser-known areas. And there are more opportunities to make a pit stop at anything the piques your interest.
If you’re planning a long-haul trip, an RV is going to have an on-board bathroom and room to move around. That’s going to let you cover more ground at a quicker pace. Plus you’ll have a more comfortable journey compared to your average car.
Bring your pets!
This is a HUGE advantage to joining the RV travel club. Pets are difficult (and sometimes impossible) to bring on an airplane. Hotels charge you big extra fees, and car rides are not always comfortable for your animal.
With an RV, you can bring your pet with you anywhere! They’ll love wandering around the campground. Plus, if your RV is climate controlled, you’ll get the chance to leave them inside if you go for a non-pet friendly hike.
Park close to the action
When you spend the night at a hotel, you have to get up extra early for some adventure. Wake up, pack your backpacks, eat breakfast, get in the car, and make the commute to a National Park or attraction.
An RV eliminates nearly all of those chores. You can get a nice parking spot walking or biking distance from nearby trailheads. You can fry up breakfast right at the campground or inside your camper kitchen. More importantly, you can skip the morning rush to get into the parks.
At night, you can rest at a campfire beneath the stars. Roast some marshmallows and be just a few feet away from your bed.
RVs come equipped with refrigerators, stovetops, full-sized beds, toilets, showers, and even televisions! If nature is not your thing or the temperature isn’t great you can still spend a comfortable evening inside.
Save money on activities
When you spend the night at a hotel you often get charged for every extra thing; breakfast, snacks, or outdoor equipment rentals. Plus, you’ll likely end up eating dinner at a restaurant because there is little to no space for food in the room.
In an RV you can bring most of those things along. Pack a few board games entertainment. Fill up an entire fridge that will take care of three meals per day + snacks. You can even attach a mountain bike to the back for an all-day adventure ride.
With an RV rental, your big costs are going to be the RV itself and an appropriate campsite. The entertainment value in travel should take care of the rest.
Try before you buy
Maybe you’re ready to go all-in and buy an RV of your own. Maybe it’s even your dream retirement plan? We highly encourage you to rent an RV first before jumping in. Renting an RV will quickly help you find out if you’re really ready to buy. Save yourself thousands of dollars and learn the answer to this question by renting first.
Disadvantages of Renting An RV
It wouldn’t be fair to only list the advantages of RV travel, so we’ll try to point out a few things you may not have considered.
Gas prices: The more you move, the more you’re going to be spending on gas. The best way to save money here is to shoot for longer stays at each location.
Less mobility: If you don’t bring a commuter car along you’re going to have a harder time hitting up a grocery store or drive-through in an RV. We recommend that you stock up on food and entertainment items before you go. Once you hit the road, just enjoy the vacation! Unless you’re renting an off-roading travel trailer, RVs are really meant to get you to your destination then allow you to have fun there.
Cleaning up after yourself: RV rental companies do not come with their own maid service. That means it’s your responsibility to change the sheets in the morning and potentially pack your own towels. If you’re going to take the RV out for weeks at a time, you’ll be responsible for re-filling water and emptying your blackwater tank.
What Type of RV Can You Rent?
Deciding to take an RV travel vacation is just the first step. Next is figuring out what type to get. There are two main categories: motorized and towable.
Motorized RVs (Motorhomes)
Motorhomes have their own engine, and the living area can be accessed from the front cab. These are easier to drive and allow you to tow a commuter vehicle on the back. They tend to have the most storage space.
With a motorhome, you don’t have to worry about hitching and un-hitching at each destination. There is less set up overall. The main types of motorized RVs are:
- Class A: The largest and most spacious RVs. They have full amenities plus some. They are the most expensive and luxurious to rent.
- Class B: More compact camper van design. They come with all the essentials including a toilet, shower, and kitchen.
- Class C: These are larger than Class B campers. They have a sleeping area built over the cab area and essential amenities like a toilet, shower, and kitchen.
- Conversion van: Not all rental companies supply conversion vans. These can range from owners renting out their DIY Sprinter vans to budget rental companies that have converted full-sized vehicles. These tend to be the cheapest rentals, but they may not come with any amenities.
When renting a towable RV you’ll likely be required to have a vehicle capable of towing large amounts of weight. Some rental companies will allow you to rent a tow vehicle along with the RV for an extra charge.
Towable RVs are more work to set up at your campsite because you’ll have to unhitch and level it. They are also more difficult to drive.
That said, there are some big advantages to renting a towable vehicle. For one, you can set it up at a campsite to claim your spot then drive around comfortably in a smaller car. They tend to be much cheaper to rent. And you won’t run into any engine troubles because there are fewer mechanics involved.
There are a lot of different towable RVs to choose from. They can range from a luxurious hotel-style living area to a small step up from camping. These are the main types to look out for:
- Travel Trailers: These are similar to a Class A motorhome. You can expect space for a big family, full-sized refrigerators, stoves, and microwaves. They also come equipped with a full bathroom – toilet and shower included. They connect to your tow vehicle with a ball-hitch.
- 5th Wheels: Similar to a travel trailer, the biggest difference with a 5th wheel is that they attach to a truck bed with a jaw hitch rather than a ball and coupler. That means it’s easier to maneuver than a travel trailer and simpler to set up at the campsite. They also tend to be wider and have the most interior space.
- Destination Trailers: Another large, luxury travel home is the destination trailer. They are meant for long stays at an RV site and should be driven around infrequently. Destination trailers are built more like a typical home, with heavier construction and large patio doors. They are taller and have high ceilings. You may run into clearance issues when driving them around. They are not fuel efficient at all and are difficult to maneuver.
- Toy Haulers: A mix between living areas and storage space is the toy hauler. These have a wide base, full amenities. Most of the interior furniture is collapsible so you can fold it up and make room for storing ATVs and jet skis during the drive. They connect to your tow vehicle with a ball hitch and are meant to carry a lot of weight.
- Popup Campers: One of the cheapest RV rentals is the popup camper. They are low profile and lightweight making them easy to park. A popup camper collapses during the drive and must be set up at the campsite. It has softer sides and requires more time to put together. Popup campers typically come with a bed, seating area and kitchen. You may or may not find a restroom in these campers.
- Lightweight Trailers or Teardrop Trailers: Another cheap RV rental is the lightweight trailer. These are some of the easiest to drive around and the most fuel-efficient. They have the least amount of storage but tend to come with full kitchens and sleeping areas. They may or may not come with restroom facilities.
The Cheapest RV Rentals
The smaller you go, the less expensive your RV rental is going to be. Towable RV rentals are cheaper than motorhomes but do require you to have a tow vehicle.
Rentals like teardrop trailers, popup campers, and conversion vans are going to be the biggest bang for your buck but they also offer the least amount of space. These types also do not come with bathroom amenities for the most part so you’ll have to plan facilities into your campsite decision.
Do you need a special license?
In general, if your motorhome or RV is under 45 feet long and under 10,000 pounds you do not need a special license to drive it. The law varies a little state to state but whatever rental company you choose should be able to answer that for the specific RV you choose.
How To Rent an RV
Once you’ve decided which type of RV you want to rent it’s time to find a rental company! There are hundreds across the US so you’ll have plenty to choose from. The two main ways to rent: with an RV marketplace, and with a traditional vehicle rental company.
Largest RV Rental Marketplace: RVshare
RVshare is the largest rental marketplace for both driveable and towable RVs. It is a peer-to-peer rental service meaning you’ll be renting from the owners themselves. In fact, if you own an RV already, you can list it for some extra cash!
This business has been around since 2012 and has quickly become one of the most popular ways to rent for a road trip. They offer 24/7 roadside assistance and rental insurance for anything you can think of. They also have a great cancellation policy with six tiers ranging from forgiving and flexible to very strict depending on how much confidence you have in your trip.
One thing that RVshare offers that you won’t find often is that they have a program to deliver the RV to you for an extra fee. So if you don’t have the means to get yourself to the owner you still won’t have any problems renting.
Most Unique Rental Marketplace: Outdoorsy
Outdoorsy is the most unique rental share we’ve seen. They run similarly to an Airbnb style experience where you’re booking rentals from RV or conversion van owners themselves.
The platform gives you a lot of room for negotiation on extras and you get a discounted price compared to many other services. You also get to speak directly with seasoned travelers who can give you a lot of advice on how to set up their RV if you’re a first-timer. Chances are, they’ve got some great tips on places to stop.
We like that with Outdoorsy you can find unique conversion vans that wouldn’t be available with a standard RV rental company. We’ve seen everything from converted minivans, to toy haulers, and luxurious 5th wheels. The owners themselves get to deck out their RVs so you can filter out rentals with bike racks, satellite dishes, and even filter out festival-friendly vehicles included if that’s your thing.
When you rent an RV through Outdoorsy, you’re given a 1M insurance policy and 24hr roadside assistance baked right into the cost.
Standardized RV Rental Company: Cruise America
If a corporate company makes you feel more comfortable, Cruise America is one of the most well-known RV rentals in the US. You can find Cruise America RVs driving all through the National Parks as they have big distinctive images covering the majority of the vehicle.
You’ll quickly notice when renting through Cruise America the process is similar to a regular car rental company but on steroids. They will have very scheduled pick up and drop of times and locations. You’ll also be required to sit through a training video so you know what you’re getting into.
The workers at Cruise America are doing a regular day job and may not be RV owners themselves. That means the experience might not be quite as personable as you would get with a RVshare or Outdoorsy. Cruise America also has a much steeper price tag than a peer-to-peer marketplace.
All that said, when you go corporate you know you’ll be getting the same rental experience every time. The vehicles will be well-maintained (or at least looked over on a frequent basis). Cruise America might not have quite the unique level of vehicles, but there also shouldn’t be any surprises; and that’s a comforting way to travel for some.
Where To Park Your RV
Planning is key when it comes to an RV vacation, and you’ll want to book ahead unless you decide to do some boondocking. Spots at an RV park can fill up fast, especially if you’re traveling during the busy summer season.
Most National Parks and other popular destinations will have RV campgrounds nearby. You can find these on google maps. The local travel center should also be able to point you towards a few locations.
Joining Discount RV Clubs
If you decide to travel for more than a week at a time, the best money-saving advice we can give is to join an RV club. RV clubs cost a small yearly fee to join and can save 15-50% per night on campsites.
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Escapees RV Club
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Passport America is the biggest and most popular discount RV club. They have over 18,000 locations across the US and cost just $44 per year to join.
With your Passport America membership, you get 50% off all of those RV campsites and you can expect full hookups and amenities at each.
Harvest Hosts is a unique RV travel experience that costs $79/year to join. But the buck stops there. With this membership, you get FREE overnight camping at vineyards, breweries, farms and more.
This membership is run by small business owners who allow self-contained RVs and camper vans to check out their biz and spend the night on their property. The membership has a few caveats – like you can only book one night at a time – but the cost and entertainment value make it a great supplementary club if you do a lot of travel.
Harvest Hosts Discount Code:
Get 15% off when you sign up through this link: Harvest Hosts and enter the code at the top during checkout.
If you’re more of a long-term traveler, or someone looking for travel friends, Escapees is the club to join. This membership offers all kinds of discounts from campsites to mail forwarding, to travel healthcare assistance. The price is just $39.95 to join.
Boondocking is when you spend the night on free Bureau of Land Management (BLM land) or National forests. These are legal overnight parking areas open to RVs and campers. On BLM land there is a strict policy of ‘pack it in, pack it out’. There are no hookups, bathrooms, or amenities in these areas and you shouldn’t expect cell service either.
It takes a bit of finesse to get familiar with the locations that allow overnight camping. And the rules vary from state to state. If you’re interested in learning more about boondocking, read our post on how to find free campsites.
- Read our guide on everything you need to know to go boondocking
Last Minute Tips For RV Rentals
There’s a few logistical questions you’ll want to ask before signing the papers for your RV rental. These should help avoid any unwanted surprises when you start your camping trip. When looking at rentals, ask yourself:
- What is the average MPG of the unit? How much does it cost to fill the tank?
- What is the insurance, roadside assistance and cancellation policy like?
- Are generators or propane tanks included? How do you refill them?
- Are there backup and side view cameras to help with parking?
- Does the RV come with kitchen accessories, linens and dishes?
- Is there an air conditioner or heater?
- How does the blackwater tank work? Are you responsible for cleanup?
Make sure you do a walk-through of the RV and find all of the outlets and hookups. Test the lights so you know where the switches are. If the RV has a composting toilet or propane hookups be sure to ask how to use them.
An RV vacation is a great way to explore the country. Take full advantage of the amenities your motorhome has to offer. I hope these tips have helped you feel more comfortable about the process of renting an RV.