RV travel has become increasingly popular over the last year, as RVs offer a safer travel alternative to crowded planes and busy hotels. Buying an RV is a major financial commitment and may not be right for everyone, but luckily there are numerous ways to rent an RV so you can take a trip without the long-term commitment of buying and owning one. However, there are a few things you’ll want to know before renting an RV.
Things To Know Before Renting an RV
Types of RVs
There are many different types of RVs and it’s important to understand the differences before you start looking to rent one. All RVs fall into one of two main categories- Motorized or Towable. Let’s take a look!
Motorized RVs have an engine and are drive-able. The combine the vehicle with the living space in one unit, so you actually drive the RV itself. When you arrive at your campsite, you simply park your rig. There’s no unhooking unnecessary! Motoroized RVs include Class A, Class B, and Class C vehicles.
Towable RVs do not have an engine. They must be towed behind a vehicle. The size and towing capacity of the vehicle will determine how big of a towable RV you can pull. When arrive at your campsite, you’ll have to unhook your RV from the tow vehicle, though this then leaves you with a vehicle for exploring! Towable RVs include fifth wheels, travel trailers and pop-ups.
- The Class A RV is what most people typically think of when they think of a motorhome. It’s the largest type of RV, build on a commercial bus or truck chassis. Class A’s are often the largest and most spacious RV. However, they are also the biggest and often the most intimidating for new RVers to drive. They are also the most expensive- and that applies to buying, renting, filling with gas and repairing! Another downside to consider is that when you arrive at your destination- you have no regular vehicle to drive around. Some people tow a regular vehicle behind their Class A to solve this problem.
- The Class B RV is a camper van. These are smaller RVs built on a van chassis, often with a raised roof for extra space. The major upside of a camper van is that it’s the easiest type of RV to drive. If you’ve driven a full size van before- you’re good to go! If you haven’t driven a full size van before- it’s going to feel the most like driving a regular car versus a giant motorhome or towing a trailer. The biggest downsize to the camper van is space. Because of their smaller size, camper vans are popular with solo travelers or couples. However, if you’re a single mom traveling with just one or two young children- a camper van may be a great option! One more thing to consider is that many camper vans do not come equipped with a full bathroom. Most will have just a toilet, while some will come with a “wet bath” where the shower and toilet are together and the toilet portion is designed to get wet and be wiped off after showering.
- The Class C RV is often the most popular version to rent as it combines some of the best features of the A and B classes. If you think of type of RV you can drive but that has that funny lip sticking over the cab of the vehicle- that’s a Class C RV! They are generally smaller than Class A RVs, making them a bit easier for first timers to drive. They are also quite a bit less expensive than a Class A RV. They less space than a Class A, but far more space than a camper van! Most Class C RVs will have a full bathroom, and that funny looking lip over the driver is either extra sleeping space or extra storage space! One of the biggest downsides to the Class C is that you don’t have a smaller vehicle to drive around once you reach your destination- and driving a Class C all over town or through the National Parks can be a big pain!
- The fifth wheel is a towable vehicle. Of all the towable RVs, they are the largest, most luxurious, and also the most expensive! You need a truck to drive a fifth wheel, as the trailer extends over the bed of the truck and connects to the truck via a gooseneck extension. The pros of a fifth wheel are that they can be incredible spacious and luxurious. Plus when you arrive at your destination, they can be disconnected from the truck- freeing the truck up for driving around town. The biggest downside is that because of their size and weight- they require a very large towing vehicle. Your typical Ford F-150 simply isn’t going to cut it.
- A travel trailer is another towable type of RV and they’re by far the most varied. You can get tiny teardrop trailers that sleep two people, all the way up to giant 40 foot travel trailers that sleep 10! They can be simple and basic or expensive, spacious and luxurious. Towing a vehicle can be intimidating to learn at first if you’ve never towed anything behind your vehicle before. However, there are many smaller models that are much easier to learn to tow than the larger models. While the larger trailers do require a truck for towing (and sometimes a large truck), smaller models can sometimes be safely towed by an SVU which makes these more accessible to many people. Another upside to a travel trailer is that you’ll detach the trailer from your tow vehicle at your campsite and have that vehicle to drive around town!
- Pop Up- A pop up trailer is another great option for people who don’t have a large towing vehicle or don’t want to tow something large. The pop-up looks like a small box while you’re towing it, but when you arrive at camp it “pops up” into a trailer. The top lifts up to give you plenty of standing and walking space while the sides open up into sleeping space. The biggest upsides to the pop-up are that they are lightweight and easier to tow and can often be towed by an SUV or minivan. Many do have a bathroom too! The downside is that they are smaller than most other RVs- though they can be perfect for a smaller family of 4 of 5!
Are RVs Safe?
Safety is a hot topic when it comes to renting an RV. While there are many upsides to renting a Class A or C RV- especially for someone who has never driven an RV or towed a vehicle before- there are major safety concerns with these drive-able RVs. To begin with, RVs are not legally required to undergo crash testing. Some RVs are crash tested, but many are not. The bodies of a Class A and Class C RV are not designed to absorb the shock of a major collision and leave passengers in those areas largely unprotected. The exception here is the Class B RV. Because these are built on a van chassis, they are required by law to be crash tested. These are considered the safest of the drive-able RV types.
Another major safety issue with the motorized RVs is the fact that in the living space- nothing is bolted to the chassis. This means that in the event of crash, literally everything in the living space can become a projectile. Seats (even those with seat belts), cabinets, even appliances are not securely bolted down and able to withstand the force of a crash. They can easily become dislodged and tossed around the living space- creating a severe danger for passengers who could be hit by or even pinned down by large, heavy objects.
Because passengers cannot be inside a towable RV while it is being towed, these are a far safer option. All passengers ride in the tow vehicle. Learning to tow an RV may be intimidating, but if you’re concerned about the safety of your family- it is worth the little bit of extra time and effort it will take to get comfortable towing a travel trailer.
What Does it Cost to Rent an RV?
Renting an RV may seem like a cheaper option as opposed to expensive plane tickets and multiple hotel rooms for the whole family. And it CAN be cheaper! However, be aware that it can also quickly become more expensive- depending on what you want to rent and what kind of road trip you want to take. Class A and C RVs are the most expensive to rent, but renting isn’t your only cost. Gas prices and mileage fees can add up so fast they’ll make your head spin.
All costs are estimates based on various rental platforms and size of the RV
- Class A: $200 to $350 a night
- Class B: $100 to $200 a night
- Class C: $150 to $250 a night
- Fifth Wheel: $100 to $200 a night
- Travel Trailer: $50 to $150 a night
- Pop-Up: $50 to $125 a night
- Mileage Fees: Many rental companies give you a set number of miles you can drive per rental day, with extra fees for overages. If you’re planning to drive to a campground and park your rig for the week, this isn’t a big deal. But if you’re planning a massive cross-country road trip, keep the mileage fees in mind.
- Gas: Aside from the rental cost, this will be your biggest cost- and it can be mind boggling! Some Class A RVs have massive gas tanks than cost hundreds of dollars to fill up. Towable RVs absolutely kill your gas mileage, especially in hilly areas- so you’ll be filling up far more often than you’re used to. Again, if you’re planning to park your RV in a campground for the week, you can keep gas costs down. Long distance road trips will increase the cost of fuel!
- Campground Fees: Depending on how you want to camp, these fees can vary widely. Many private RV parks will full hook ups and amenities like pools and game rooms can cost upwards of $100 per night. State Parks are more affordable and often have at least partial hook ups (usually water and electricity, with a community dump station) and can range from $25-$50 a night. National Parks are also more affordable, but most do not have hook ups- so you won’t have water, electricity or sewer right at your site. Water and dump stations are available at most National Park campgrounds- you just have to drive to the dump station to access them. Boondocking is the cheapest way to camp- because it’s free! Parking on Bureau of Land Management land (BLM land for short) is totally free, but there is no hook ups at all so you must rely on the water in your tank and either a generator or solar power for electricity.
- Insurance: Some rental companies include insurance in their rental policies, some require it to be purchased separately. Be aware of this when looking at rentals!
- Taxes: Because rental fees will add up fast, so will the taxes! Keep this in mind when looking at rentals because this cost won’t pop up until you’re ready to book your RV and you don’t want a surprise at that point in the process!
Where to Rent From
- Outdoorsy– Outdoorsy is known as the AirBnB for RVs! It’s a peer to peer rental service, so you’ll be renting directly from the RV’s owner. The cost of owning an RV is quite high and most people only travel in their RV a few times a year, so it makes perfect sense to rent it out when the owner isn’t using it for themselves! You’ll find all types of RVs and all levels of price points to rent on Outdoorsy. Many owners also offer the option to have your RV delivered to your campsite and set up. This is a fantastic option for someone who is nervous about driving or towing an RV!
- RV Share– RV Share is another peer to peer rental, but they also allow dealerships to post their rental vehicles as well. They were the first RV share service on the market and with their dealership program, they have a larger base and more rental options. RV Share also has the option (for a fee) to have your RV delivered to your campsite!
- Cruise America– Don’t want to deal directly with an owner? Cruise America is a more traditional rental company- like a car rental company but for RVs! Cruise America only rents Class C RVs and they come in four sizes- Large (7 people), Standard (5 people), Compact (3 people) and Truck Camper (3 people). While their types of vehicles are limited, they do have a massive fleet nationwide. They also offer the option of one way travel, where you can pick up your RV in one city and return it another!
Thanks for reading our guide on important things to know before renting an RV! You can also check out our post 4 Tips for Traveling Safely in an RV During Covid!