RV Rental 101: Motorhome Rental Tips for Beginners
Last Updated on April 7, 2021 by Jody
A vacation in an RV rental seems like the perfect getaway. An epic road trip, no hotels to check in and out of, and the ability to enjoy nature without having to set up a tent or stock a cabin.
That was exactly the thought that led my husband and I to plan our first RV vacation.
And what led us, after that memory-making RV trip, to purchase our own motorhome a year later!
Tip: If you're considering the RV lifestyle rent a few different motorhomes before buying your own! It will help you learn what you like, what you don't like, and the features you really want in your own unit!
Note: this article is specifically about motorhomes, not travel trailers, though some information may transfer between the two types of recreational vehicles (RVs),
What’s So Great About RVing?
Often the journey is the most overlooked part of an adventure, merely seen as a way to get to and from your destination. With an RV the journey becomes part of the adventure. You can stop at that quirky roadside attraction with no worries of being late to hotel check in.
At the beginning of this year (2021) there are approximately 15 million RV owners in the US but a staggering 42 million people/ families are planning an RV vacation this year (according to a recent survey by Harvest Hosts).
If you travel with kids and they tend to bicker after being in a car for a few hours (or a few minutes!), you'll love the ability for them to spread out in the RV.
Safety note: Couches and bench seats are equipped with seat belts. I do not recommend letting kids roam freely about the RV while it is in motion.
And food! No need to stop and unpack everything to make lunch, then pack it again to get back on the road, as you would with car camping. And no more fast food or gas station meals!
You can think of your camper rental as a home on wheels. You really will have all the comforts of home- just smaller. Organization is key and planning a menu is helpful to avoid fast food stops along your route.
Are you sold on a motorhome rental for your vacation?
Tips for Your First RV Rental
Planning is the key to a great RV vacation.
When To Book RV Campsites
Camping and RVing is more popular than ever so I recommend booking your campsites as early as possible – especially if you plan to visit popular vacation spots or National Parks.
See our National Park camping tips
Last summer (2020) even campgrounds that were rarely full were booked months in advance and 2021 is shaping up to be busier.
Tips Sheet: When to Book Your RV Campsite
- Book National Park campsites 6 months in advance (to the day)
- Book campgrounds near National Parks up to 18 months in advance
- Popular destinations should be booked at least 6-9 months in advance (coastal areas, near major attractions, etc)
- Book state & county parks 3-6 months in advance
- Private grounds (Tentrr, Hipcamp, Harvest Hosts) at least 3 months in advance
Choosing the Best RV for Your Trip
When researching RV rentals you'll see 3 main types of motorhome: Class A, Class B, and Class C.
- Class A motorhomes range in length from 21-40 feet. Built on a custom chassis, these units resemble a bus.
- Class B motorhomes are customized from a panel truck or mini-bus shell. Smaller and very mobile, from 16-22 feet, these are terrific for couples.
- Class C motorhomes are constructed on a van frame and have an over-cab sleeping area and wider body section attached to the front cab. Length varies from 22 – 35 feet. (The RV pictured above is a Class C.)
As well as size of the motorhome, gas mileage is another factor to consider. Obviously, the larger the RV the more fuel it will take.
Class A and Class C RVs average 5-8 miles per gallon, while a Class B motorhome can average 18-23 miles per gallon.
Tip: Be sure to calculate mileage for your trip and figure it into your travel budget.
What does it cost to rent an RV for a week?
Rental prices will vary by size and type of the RV, as well as the location you are renting from.
Popular areas like Orlando, Phoenix, Nevada, and southern California will cost more due to demand.
You can expect to pay more for a Class A RV than a Class C RV, and a newer motorhome will always cost more than an older model.
- Class A: $150-$250/night (10+ years or older); $350-$450/night (newer)
- Class B: $100-$200/night (10+ years or older); $200-$350/night (newer)
- Class C: $100-$200/night (10+ years or older); $225-$400/night (newer)
Many RV companies and private owners will offer a discount for long term rentals of 7 days or more.
Will an RV Rental Cost Less Than a Hotel?
This questions is not as easily answered as one might think as many factors come into play.
As you compare an RV rental to hotel costs be sure to look at the big picture of your entire trip- not just accommodations.
Key factors to keep in mind as you decide between an RV rental and hotel.
- Fuel costs An RV costs more to fuel than a car or SUV but will often cost less than flights.
- Rental costs Compare the cost per night of an RV rental vs your nightly hotel stay.
- Food and Meals Because you can make your own meals easily in an RV food savings are one of the most substantial ways to save money on vacation.
- Location Campgrounds may not be in or near cities so you will have added transportation costs, possibly including a rental car, with an RV rental.
How Do I Find an RV Near Me?
You might be surprised where you can rent an RV in the United States!
National RV rental companies like Cruise America, El Monte, Road Bear, and USA RV Rentals are terrific options for one-way adventures as they have multiple locations across the US.
For rentals with a single pick-up and return destination take part in the ‘sharing economy' with RV rentals by owner in your area. RV Share and Outdoorsy are well regarded private rental options.
The one thing to keep in mind when renting from an individual owner is that most people have only a single RV. So if something happens and the RV is damaged by a previous renter there will not be a replacement unit available, thought the listing company you rent through will do their best to help you find a replacement unit.
You can also do a web search for ‘RV rentals in (your city/ state)'. This will return the suggestions listed above as well as RV dealers in your area that also rent RVs.
RV Rental Tips
When deciding on an RV you want to be comfortable, both driving and sleeping in the motorhome. A smaller RV equates to smaller rental costs, but also less space.
Be realistic about what length RV you are comfortable driving.
Not sure? Contact the RV rentals you are interested in and inquire about a test drive. Ask if you can see the unit prior to renting. If the RV isn't out on another rental or in cold weather storage most owners will arrange it.
Read the RV listing thoroughly. It should tell you the daily rate, minimum rental term, minimum rental age, if the RV is pet friendly, how many people can comfortably sleep in it, and the amenities. It should also list security deposit, additional fees, and cancellation policy.
If your question isn't answered, ask. RV owners want you to have a great vacation and they will do everything they can to help you toward that goal!
Be sure to read up on RV safety tips. This vehicle is called a motor home for a reason- it is like driving around with a house attached to your vehicle. Motorhome safety includes both driving safety and home safety.
10 Questions You Should Ask Before Renting an RV
You shouldn't be uneasy about renting an RV. Credible rental companies or private RV owners should be able to answer all these questions for you. If they can't you might want to look at a different rental unit.
- Was the RV recently serviced and will it be due for its next service during my rental? This is very important if you have a long rental or are driving a lot of miles.
- How old are the tires and were they checked before your rental? The last thing you want is a tire to blow out as you are driving!
- What pressure should the tires be kept at and where is the tire gauge? Check daily before driving!
- What fuel does the unit use? Know if the RV you are renting is diesel, or if it doesn't perform well with an ethanol blend gasoline.
- Is roadside assistance included in this rental? Most RV rentals by owner include this, or you can often purchase coverage as an add-on to the insurance.
- How big is this RV? You need the weight and height for some roads and bridges. Some RV campgrounds may have size limits. Use the CoPilot RV app to travel the safest route.
- Where can I find the registration in case of accident or traffic violation?
- Is there an owners manual? Handy for quick ‘how to' reminders or easy-to-solve problems.
- What emergency number do I contact? Large rental companies will have a service, but for private rentals you need the best contact number for any time of day.
- How do I get my security deposit back? Make sure waste tanks are dumped and the RV is clean. Ask about full requirements.
Before you roll out on your adventure you should receive a thorough lesson in how everything in the RV works. From how to dump the waste tanks to how to roll out the awning.
If you aren't clear about something ask to be shown before you drive away. Take pictures or record video for reference and peace of mind.
What You Need to Provide for RV Rental
- A current drivers licensefor all licensed drivers.
- Completed contracts, payments, and security deposit.
- In most cases the renter is responsible for providing their own liability insurance coverage.
RV Packing List
- Bedding, towels, and pillows; sleeping bags are perfect for RV bunk beds
- Cookware – if cooking over fire
- Aluminium foil
- Storage containers for leftovers
- Paper towels
- Trash bags
- Camp chairs
- Camping gear you should always pack
- 5 things you must have if rain is in the forecast
- Plan your RV vacation using these Bullet Journal tips!
Note: special toilet paper is required for the RV. It is often provided but if you run out please visit the camp store or camping supplier to purchase the correct TP for the septic system!
Downloadable ‘Before Driving' Checklist