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Renting an RV: Everything You Need to Know

An RV vacation can be a real adventure.

There’s nothing quite like taking a road trip with everything you need packed into one, self-sufficient vehicle.

But, renting a recreational vehicle is a little different than reserving a hotel room.

If you’re thinking about renting a motorhome or travel trailer for your next vacation, we’ve compiled everything you’ll need to know to find the right vehicle for you and your family.

Plus, we’ll walk you through all of the costs, great places to stay, and how to make your RV trip the best it can be.

Why Rent An RV?

Few experiences compare with spending time in a camper in a beautiful location. It’s an experience you’ll never forget.

Staying in an RV is a great way to unplug from our always-on world and get outdoors without completely leaving the luxuries of modern society behind. If you (or your family) aren’t quite ready to rough it in the woods for a week, an RV is a fun way to get a little closer to nature without completely leaving your life behind.

One way to check out RVing without going all in is to rent one. Buying an RV is a big commitment with many associated costs beyond the price of the rig. Renting, on the other hand, is a relatively low cost, low commitment way to go RVing.

Depending on your destination, staying in an RV is usually cheaper than a hotel and airfare. Plus, you’ll really be able to get in touch with your surroundings.

Where to Rent?

If you’ve never looked into it, you’ll probably be surprised to learn how many options are out there.

Here are three of the most popular ways to rent an RV.

Peer to Peer RV Rental Companies

Peer to peer rentals are one of the best ways to find an RV that is well-suited to your needs.  Outdoorsy is our pick for the best RV rental company and our favorite way to find a motorhome or travel .

With Outdoorsy or similar services like RVShare, you can rent just about any type of recreational vehicle directly from RV owners. If you go with Outdoorsy, your rental will come with insurance coverage and other guarantees to help safeguard your trip.

More Traditional Companies

Companies like Cruise America are another way to rent an recreational vehicle. These companies own a stable of RVs — typically just Class C vehicles — that are loaned out like cars.

This is typically the most expensive way to rent an RV, and pick up and drop off locations are also limited to large metropolitan areas. Since the biggest player in this space, Cruise America, doesn’t exactly have a great reputation with customers, we don’t recommend this method.

Other Options

Some RV dealerships and campgrounds also offer rentals.

Since every RV dealership is different, experiences will vary. Just be sure to see if you can find out what others are saying about the dealer before making your choice.

Many campgrounds also rent out RVs, but you’ll typically need to stay at the campground where the RV is located. While this option doesn’t offer quite the same experience, it’s a super simple way to try out RVing.

How Much Does It Cost to Rent an RV?

The cost of a rental RV can vary widely. Much of it comes down to the size RV you’d like to rent and the company you choose.

Peer to peer rentals like Outdoorsy are almost always a better deal for renters than the more traditional companies.

Based on a comprehensive search of available Outdoorsy, here’s roughly what you can expect to pay for the different classes of RVs:

  • Travel trailer: $50 to $125 per night.
  • Fifth wheel: $60 to $150 per night.
  • Pop up: $50 to $100 per night.
  • Class A: $175 to $275 per night.
  • Class B: $100 to $200 per night.
  • Class C: $150 to $200 per night.

Pricing for traditional rental companies like Cruise America is a little more complex. While prices start at about $150, mileage and other items will cost you extra — often pushing the cost significantly higher.

Choosing the Right RV for Your Trip

RVs come in all shapes and sizes, from giant motorhomes to tiny trailers and truck campers. If you don’t have much experience with RVs, it pays to know the different classes so you can choose the right style and size for your family.

To make your decision a little easier, here’s an overview of some of the different types of RVs available and which one might be right for you.

Class C

Class C vehicles are one of the most common RV rentals. And with good reason: they’re easy to drive, have tons of space inside, and are great for road trips.

Class Cs typically have a van cab up front followed by a big boxy RV body. These rigs come in many different sizes and can usually sleep 4-8 people depending on the size of the unit.

Class B

Class B is another smaller recreational vehicle. Actually, Class Bs are smaller than Class C.

Class B RVs are really just vans that have been converted into small recreational vehicles.

If you’re looking for something smaller that’s relatively easy to drive, go with a Class B. You’ll get better gas mileage than just about any other RV class and won’t need to worry quite so much about tight spaces when driving.

But, most Class B models only sleep two to four people comfortably, so make sure your family will fit before making your final choice.

Class A

tips for Class A motorhomes

Class A’s are usually some of the biggest on the road. While they can be found in smaller sizes, most Class As are large bus-sized vehicles built on heavy-duty truck or bus frames.

These RVs are the most difficult to drive and typically require a specific driver’s license. But, Class A’s are often the most comfortable and luxurious models available.

Travel Trailer

example of a travel trailer

If you have the right tow vehicle, you might also think about renting a trailer. They come in many different shapes and sizes, from small pop-up campers to large multi-room trailers.

This option makes it easy to get to your destination, set up camp and go exploring. But, towing a trailer can be a challenging experience for many drivers.

Fifth Wheel Travel Trailer

Fifth wheels are another type of trailer that is typically larger and attaches to a special hitch in the bed of a truck.

Fifth wheels are usually the most luxurious travel trailers and provide lots of space inside. But, they’re also very heavy and usually require more towing experience to drive safely.

Prices for fifth wheels are typically low compared to other models.

Truck Campers

example of a truck camper

These are small campers that fit in the bed of a pickup truck. They’re usually most comfortable for one or two people.

They’re usually very maneuverable and make it easy to explore the backcountry and tight mountain roads.  Typically rental prices on this vehicle class are some of the lowest.

Where to Travel In An RV?

One of the great things about staying in an RV instead of a hotel or a resort is that you can stay just about anywhere.

From ultra-affordable state and national parks to luxurious RV resorts, there are plenty of places to park an RV for the night all across the US.

If you already have a vacation spot in mind, the odds are pretty good that there’s a few good RV parks or other campgrounds in the area. A quick google search should give you a pretty good idea of what’s in the area.

Good Sam also has a great RV park and campground search engine complete with reviews.

If you’re not sure where you’d like to go, here are a few great destinations for your next RV vacation.

1. Alaska

If you’re really looking to get out in nature and have a true camping experience, Alaska is tough to beat. From breathtaking mountain views to rugged backcountry adventures there’s a lot to do in this state.

While getting there could be a challenge — you may want to fly in and rent a local RV — you will be rewarded with the trip of a lifetime. Check out Denali National Park, beautiful Kenai Fjords, or the many other natural wonders this state has to offer.

2. Nova Scotia

For a trip that’s a little closer to home but still packed with natural beauty and rich in history, check out Nova Scotia.

Located north east of Maine, Nova Scotia is a peninsula and collection of islands on Canada’s Atlantic coast. Go whale watching, check out the famous Cabot Trail, or explore the hundreds of years of history this area is steeped in.

For more destinations in this area check out our post on the best RV destinations in the Northeast U.S.

3. Northern California and Oregon

Northern California, Oregon, and the Pacific Northwest are some of the most scenic areas in the US and are a prime spot for an RV adventure.

Not only are the ever popular Yosemite and Lake Tahoe areas great places to explore in California, Crater Lake and other natural wonders await RVers in Oregon. If you’re looking for an urban adventure, San Francisco and Portland have plenty of interesting things for visitors to do.

4. British Columbia

British Columbia is another beautiful area for an RV getaway. From the scenic Pacific coastline to rugged mountain ranges, this area of western Canada has many places for RVers to stay and lots to do.

Explore the coast in a sea kayak, drive part of the legendary Alaska Highway, or take an excursion into Vancouver.

5. Your Own Backyard

No matter where you live, you don’t have to go far to find great RVing locations.

If you don’t want to travel very far, try using Good Sam to find a park near you. You’ll be surprised at what’s available right around the corner.

What’s the Best Way to Rent an RV?

Once you have a pretty good idea of what RV you want to rent and know where you’d like to stay, it’s time to pick a rental.

If you’ve never rented an RV before, prepare to be shocked at how easy the rental process is — especially if you decide to rent from a peer to peer service. RVers are generally very friendly, helpful people who will be more than happy to show you around your rental and walk you through how everything works.

Step 1. Decide How You Want to Rent

First, you’re going to have to decide how you’re going to rent.

Peer to peer? Traditional rental?

We highly recommend peer to peer rentals (Outdoorsy in particular), but ultimately it’s up to you and your needs.

Once you’ve picked a service, head on over to their website.

Step 2. Choose Your RV

Now that you know where to rent your RV, it’s time to check out some listings!

You may have already done this while researching RV rentals, but if you haven’t, simply use the search filters to select the type of rental you’re looking for and locations near you.

Outdoorsy has listings from RV owners all over the country, so finding one near you is very easy to do.

Make sure you take your time in this stage and look closely at the pictures and read the description carefully.

You also MUST read each owners rules and requirements. Some owners and rental services charge for things like mileage and other amenities like kitchen supplies. Make sure you understand all of the rules and regulations just like you would when choosing a hotel or resort for your vacation.

Step 3. Rent It

After you’ve picked a rental you like and are comfortable with all of the charges and terms, complete your purchase. You’re now one step closer to hitting the road.

Step 4. Hit the Road!

You’ve finally made it to the most exciting part of your trip: picking up your RV and hitting the road.

Whether you’re renting from an individual through Outdoorsy or from a traditional rental service, you’ll need to set aside some time to get acquainted with the RV at the pick-up location. Be sure to have the owner show you how everything works and walk you through all of the rules for using the rig.

Don’t leave until you’re completely satisfied and sure that you can safely operate and drive or tow the RV.

15 Tips for Renting An RV

If you’re nervous about renting for the first time … it’s okay. Driving and using an RV sounds like an intimidating experience to most people who haven’t actually done it before.

Before you hit the road, here are a few tips to make your experience better.

1. Save Money by Booking Activities Online

In this day and age you can do everything online. Sightseeing and tours are no exception. One of our favorite ways to find things to do on family trips is to check out Tour Radar.

Here you’ll find everything from city tours to backwoods trekking packages. And the best part? Everything can be arranged before you even arrive.

2. Book Campsites Early

RV campsites in some of the more popular national parks are often booked weeks or months in advance. To make sure you get a spot make sure you book your spot as far out as you can.

Spots in Glacier National Park and Yellowstone are often booked a year in advance. Make sure to do your homework when planning your trip.

While some parks have walk-up spots available for that day, you’ll be surprised how many people are waiting in line to reserve these spots first thing in the morning.

3. Understand All the Costs

Renting your RV is only part of the expense. You’ll also have fuel, camping fees, road tolls, park entrance fees and more.

Gas mileage in most RVs is pretty abysmal. If you’re on a budget make sure to accurately estimate all your fuel costs. The last thing you need while trying to enjoy your vacation is the stress of hidden costs.

Our next tip can be a huge help with this part of your planning.

4. Plan Your Route Using this Secret Tool

One of the best ways to plan any road trip in an RV is with RVTripWizard.com.

RV Trip wizard allows you to plan your entire route

This tool has a TON of features to help you get the most out of your vacation. It includes over 17,000 campgrounds, gives recommendations for points of interest along your route, a cost-estimating tool (including campsites, fuel, and more), and of course a route planning tool.

You can literally plan every aspect of your trip before you even pick up your RV. To learn more check out our RV Trip Wizard review.

5. Use a Checklist

Considering all of the things you’ll need on your vacation can be daunting. To ensure you don’t forget anything it can be helpful to work from a checklist. The obvious items like food, clothing, toiletries are the same for any trip. But what about:

  • bug spray
  • sunscreen
  • towels
  • camping gear
  • flashlights
  • fire starters
  • s’mores supplies
  • games

Here is a great resource on RV checklists from Localadventurer.com.

6. Slow Down and Enjoy the Drive

Obviously RVs are bigger and heavier than cars or trucks. They take longer to accelerate and they take MUCH longer to stop. Practice safe driving when behind the wheel of your recreational vehicle.

Give the vehicle in front of you LOTS of extra room, slow down for curves and turns, and always maintain a speed that allows you to easily control your RV.

Not only will this make your trip safer, but you’ll enjoy it more as well because you won’t be as stressed while driving.

An unfortunate side-effect of the popularity of our National Parks is that at some point you WILL end up sitting in traffic. Allowing for some flexibility in your schedule can help. We often stop at a trailhead or other spot to just sit and enjoy rather than sitting in traffic and fuming.

7. Consider How You’ll Get Around

While motorhomes offer some specific advantages over trailers, there is one downside. Once you’ve parked and setup you’re pretty much stuck in that location unless you have other means of transportation.

Renting a car and towing it is one solution, though this can get expensive. In many places bikes are an ideal solution as they can be attached to the back of the RV or stored inside.

8. Ask the Owner Some Questions

Whether you rent through a peer to peer service or from a rental company, it’s really important to understand how the camper works and how to drive it.

And, more often than not, the best way to learn is to ask lots of questions.

Don’t worry about sounding stupid or like an amateur. Better to ask a silly question than to end up with a mess on your hands at a dump station or worse.

Here are a few key questions to ask the owner of the RV you’re renting before hitting the road:

  • Does the RV come with GPS navigation?
  • Are linens, plates, silverware, pillows, etc. included in the rental?
  • How much does it cost, on average, to fill the tanks (gas & propane)?
  • Getting a larger motorhome? Ask for tips on how/where to fill the tank.
  • Ask what sort of gas mileage you should expect to get.
  • Will the number of people in your group be comfortable in this RV?
  • Does the RV have air conditioning?

Plan, plan, plan

Wandering from place to place, never quite sure of your destination sounds like a lot of fun. Until you get stuck without a place to stay or going hundreds of miles out of the way in a vehicle that drinks gas like it’s going out of style.

Knowing exactly where you’ll be going also takes a lot of stress out of driving a big vehicle (or towing a trailer) you’re unfamiliar with.

9. Get to Know Your Rental RV

If you want to be more comfortable on the road and on the rest of your trip, it’s important to take some time to get to know the RV you’re renting.

After you’ve picked up your rental and have taken some time to walk through it with the owner or rental company, take a few minutes to familiarize yourself with all of its features on your own.

Make sure you’re comfortable in the driver’s seat and know how everything works. If you’re towing, make sure you’re very familiar with the hitch and how the trailer handles.

One way to acclimate yourself to driving a larger vehicle is to spend some time navigating an empty parking lot. Take practice turns, practice backing up, and using your mirrors. If you’re new to driving larger vehicles you’ll be VERY glad you did.

10. Understand Your Rental Agreement

Before you hit the road be sure you CLEARLY understand your rental agreement. This will include things like:

  • How does their insurance policy work?
  • Have a pet? Are they allowed in the RV?
  • Is roadside assistance included? If so, how do you contact them?
  • What, if any, are the mileage charges?
  • What are the terms of their cancellation policy?

11. Cleaning Up Waste

As fun as RVs can be, there is a fair amount of cleanup involved after a camping trip. Not only will you need to do some basic cleanup around the camper before dropping it off, you’ll also need to deal with the wastewater produced during your stay.

You’ll either need to hook up to a sewer connection at your campsite or drain your waste when your tanks are full.

Be sure you go over waste disposal with the owner before taking off. As unpleasant as this part of your stay might sound, it’s really not that bad — if done properly.

Here is a great website for dumpsites located all over the world.

12. RVing Essentials: Don’t Leave Home Without These

Your rental will probably come with essentials like silverware, cookware, RV toilet paper, and other basic items. But, you will usually need to bring bedding, food, and personal items.

13. Contact the Campground Before Arrival

The LAST thing you want is to show up at your designated campsite only to find they can’t accommodate your RV because it’s too big. Many campgrounds are only capable of handling RVs of up to 31 feet.

A quick phone call when you book your site will ensure that everything will be in order upon your arrival.

14. Understanding Your RVs Power Source

Many RVs are powered by generators. This should be included on the rental sites listing for each RV.

Make sure to spend a couple minutes getting a clear understanding of how to operate the generator, how to refuel it, and troubleshoot it should it have any minor issues.

Keep in mind that many campsites have quiet-time after either 8PM or 10PM. You’ll need to shut off your generator each night at this time or risk the ire of the camp attendant and other campers.

15. Some Helpful Apps

Here are a handful of apps that can be EXTREMELY helpful once you’re underway.

  • Yelp or Tripadvisor – restaurant and attraction reviews
  • GasBuddy – find the cheapest gas anywhere
  • KOA or Reserve America – find a backup campsite FAST

Common RV Questions

Driving an RV doesn’t have to be complicated. But, many first-time RVers have a lot of questions, which is entirely understandable.

Like we mentioned earlier, the RV community is super friendly, so don’t be afraid to ask the owner or campground neighbors any questions you might have. Fellow RVers have helped me get out of some pretty sticky situations, and all I had to do was ask for a little help.

Do I need a special driver’s license to rent an RV?

Most concerns come down to driving or towing the rig. After all, most of us are just not used to driving anything bigger than a car or an SUV. So it’s perfectly natural to assume that you might need a special license.

But, the answer, in general, is no.

The only class of RV that requires a special license in most states is a Class A. Class As are not rented out quite as commonly though and you’ll know if you’re looking at one since they are big.

Can I Even Drive One of These Things?

Even if you don’t need a special license, driving a big bus-like vehicle or towing a trailer is still very intimidating for many drivers.

The truth is … it’s really not as difficult as you might think. Just follow our advice from the tip above and take it easy. Take off a little slower, allow more stopping time, give yourself plenty of space when passing or changing lanes, and slow down more than usual when turning and going around corners.

You might not get there quite as fast, but you’ll get there safely.

Plus, RVing is all about enjoying the journey. So slow down and enjoy the drive!

Can My Family Ride in a Motorhome While I’m Driving?

The short answer is: yes. Nearly all RVs have other seating (besides the driver and passenger seats) with seatbelts.

You’ll usually find a couch or a few chairs with seat belts near the cab. Be sure to check with the owner or rental company and find out where all of the seatbelts are located.

Do I Need to Wear a Seatbelt in a Motorhome?

Since we’re on the topic of seatbelts … another common question is whether or not they need to be worn at all.

After all, most school buses don’t require them.

This is actually a really good question without a great answer. The laws vary from state to state, so be sure to do your research before hitting the road.

A good rule of thumb though is to just have everyone buckle up. Play it safe, especially if you’re taking family or friends along.

Can I Take My Car With Me?

You’ve probably seen more than a few recreational vehicles towing cars or trucks behind them.

While it is technically possible to do this with many vehicles, you’ll either need a vehicle that’s equipped to be towed with all four wheels on the ground or a trailer or tow dolly to do it. Unfortunately, none of these options are particularly easy to do with a rental RV.

If you’re renting an RV and want to take your car along, it’s probably much easier to simply have someone else drive the car.

How much does it cost to rent an RV for a week?

Prices vary greatly depending on the class and size of vehicle you choose.  Based on current results on Outdoorsy you should expect to pay $1500+ per week to rent an RV (class A).

How much is it to rent an RV for a month?

Some owners will give a discount for monthly rentals, but many do not.  Based on current results on Outdoorsy you should expect to pay $6,000+ per month to rent an RV.

Your Turn

Well, that’s everything you need to know to rent an RV and hit the road.

Hopefully, you now know how easy and fun it can be to rent the right RV for you and find the perfect spot for your family!