The Ultimate Guide to How to Rent an RV
Table of Contents
Renting an RV is an incredible way to travel and witness the country’s natural, historic, cultural, urban, and small-town attractions in their rawest, purest form. But here’s the kicker: the process of how to rent an RV for beginners is a little more involved than renting a car, hotel, and/or vacation home.
Certainly, finding the perfect camper rental is a big commitment, and the quality of your trip relies heavily on doing your homework. If you’re new to RVing, it’s important that you go into the process with some prior knowledge to ensure you get exactly what you are looking for to make your trip the best it can be.
And if you’re looking for a quick and accurate way to compare camper rates when shopping for RV rentals, Go RV Rentals facilitates an “apples-to-apples” comparison for renters by breaking down the cost components.
Here’s our complete guide on how to rent a camper, what to know before renting an RV, questions to ask, as well as the best RV rental tips to keep in mind.
First, How Much Does it Cost to Rent an RV?
Of course, how much to rent an RV is by far the number one question asked by newbies. We’ve already written an authoritative article on the cost to rent an RV in the USA—check it out here. But if you would want to know the current RV rental prices right away, here’s a quick breakdown.
Type/Class of RV
RV Rental Price Per Night
Class A Motorhome
Class B Motorhome or Campervan
Class C Motorhome
Pop-up Camper Trailer
Toy Hauler Trailer
Teardrop Camper Trailer
Average Base Cost to Rent an RV in the U.S.
Note that the above RV rental rates are just the base price per night. There are other hidden costs like setup fees, cleaning fees, gas, and mileage. These fees can add 50% or more to the base expense. We will highlight these extra rental costs later in the post.
Start by Comparing Real-time RV Rental Prices
The cost to rent an RV is never static. It fluctuates depending on the time of year, region, where you’re going, the number of nights you’re booking, and RV type. This variation can make budgeting a little tricky.
To learn today’s RV rental rates, use our platform Go RV Rentals. We not only help you compare the current RV rental prices but also enlighten you by breaking down the cost components and spotlighting hidden fees.
Use These Four Factors to Narrow Down Your RV Rental Options
The best way to rent an RV for beginners is to use the following formula. It will help you decide on the size and type of RV to rent.
Determine the Number of People Accompanying You
Note down how many people will travel and sleep in your rental RV. If you’re a big group, you’ll need a bigger rig with more amenities. Make sure the RV has enough seat belts for everyone.
Consider Your Budget
Take a look at your finances and calculate whether you can afford to rent a big motorhome. If not, you may have to get a spacious but inexpensive trailer, or sacrifice space and rent a smaller but cheaper drivable RV.
Figure Out Your Preferred Camping Style
Consider the type of RV camping you want to do. Do you want to boondock? You’ll need large holding tanks, solar panels, and a huge battery capacity. Want to explore a national park? Get an RV under 35 feet to maneuver the narrow roads.
For those who prefer camping in the winter, choose an RV with a climate package. Plan to venture off the beaten track? look for an off-road capable rig. Always choose a camper that can meet the demands of where you plan to camp. And if you have a love affair with van life, vintage campers, or iconic airstreams, rent the style of RV that your heart desires.
Decide Between Towable or Driveable RVs
Determine whether you want an RV you can drive or a camper you can tow behind your truck. If you choose a towable, you’ll need to have a capable tow truck. Otherwise, you’ll have to rent a truck or have the trailer delivered to your campsite.
RV Types: What are the Best Campers for First-Time Renters?
It’s important to know what types of RVs are available for rent. They are mainly categorized into driveable and towable campers. The kind of camper that you choose will be one of the biggest factors in what your daily rates are for a rental. Here’s a quick breakdown of all RV categories.
Also known as motorhomes or motorized RVs, these campers have their own engine and transmission. They include:
Class A Motorhome Rental
Class A motorhomes are typically higher-end RVs that you drive like a car and offer many luxury features. If you plan on traveling with a family, keeping everyone entertained, and having the feeling of being in a home, a Class A might be the best option.
To have these extra amenities and room, though, you are going to have to pay more for it. Indeed, Class A motorhomes are typically the most expensive type of RV rental. The main downside is they are challenging to drive for beginners and aren’t allowed in many national and state parks.
Class B Motorhome (a.k.a. Campervan or Camper Van Rental)
Class B is a drivable RV that looks like an oversized van. It’s smaller than Class A and Class C and doesn’t normally have slide-outs. However, it may be fully self-contained with a mini bedroom, bathroom, and kitchen.
Thanks to the nimble profile, a campervan is the best RV rental for beginners as they are the easiest to drive, can go almost anywhere, and offer the best fuel economy. But their size isn’t suitable for big families. The cost of a Class B rental varies greatly and may cost more than a Class A or less than a Class C.
Class C Motorhome Rental
Class C motorhomes are usually built on a van frame and are typically smaller than Class As. Furthermore, they have less of a luxury look and feel, but are very nice and ultimately a cheaper option. Novice RVers appreciate Class C RVs, as they are relatively easy to drive, and can access many national parks.
If you still want to have a traditional RV experience but want to keep costs lower, choosing a class C motorhome for your camper rental is a great choice.
Truck Camper Rental
A truck camper or pickup camper is basically a camping unit that rests inside the bed of a pickup truck. You can mount and remove it from the truck. Although the living space inside this camping shell is usually pretty compact, you’ll still find the basics you need to live comfortably.
First-time renters will love them because they are as easy to steer as driving a truck, offer good gas mileage, and most can go places that other RVs can’t access. On downsides, they are not ideal for big groups and are rare to find compared to other options. Additionally, they cost more to rent than towables.
Towables are the RVs you pull behind a vehicle. They include:
Travel Trailer Rental
Travel trailers are quite different from both Class A and C motorhomes because they are pulled by your vehicle instead of being driven. Admirably, they are generally less expensive than a motorhome to rent.
Moreover, you get the added benefit of having a separate vehicle to drive around at your destination. If you want to take a camping road trip and keep costs as low as possible, travel trailers might be the option for you. However, they can be difficult to back up and turn. For easy towing, a small trailer is a suitable RV rental for beginners.
Fifth Wheel Rental
5th wheels are the largest, most spacious, and among the heaviest type of pull-behind RVs. To haul it, you need to connect it to a truck via a hitch mounted in the center of the truck bed as opposed to the rear bumper.
Because of this hitch, they have a raised forward section. Of all towables, they are the most expensive to rent but are still cheaper than most driveables. Even so, first-timers might find it difficult to back up and park.
Toy Hauler Rental
A toy hauler is a type of large fifth-wheel or travel trailer with a spacious garage configured to haul auxiliary vehicles like ATVs, golf carts, and dirt bikes.
The main drawback is they offer less living space as the garage occupies a good part of the floorplan. Toy hauler rental price is almost the same as a fifth wheel, but luxurious options can be costlier than driveable RVs.
Pop-Up Camper Rental
Pop-up campers, also known as tent trailers, are trailers that collapse down into a smaller, portable package when in transit. Once you arrive at the campsite, you raise the roof and expand the slide outs to create more sleeping and living space.
Although they are some of the cheapest RVs to rent, their part-canvas construction makes them unsuitable for camping in cold or hot areas. Moreover, privacy can also be an issue if you’re heading to a crowded campground. However, you’ll be impressed by the great fuel economy.
Teardrop Trailer Rental
A teardrop camper is a compact, lightweight trailer with a curved, teardrop profile. These egg-shaped trailers come in different sizes, and some are large enough to stand in.
In addition, you’ll find basic amenities such as a galley, bed, dining area, and sometimes even a small bath. Although they are cheap to rent and tow, and easy to pull with almost any car, they are only ideal for couples or solo travelers.
Rental Companies: Where to Find the Best RV Rentals
Now, where can you rent an RV? Below, we will look at the best places for renting an RV online and offline.
Peer-to-Peer Online RV Rentals
The best place to rent your first RV is on a peer-to-peer(P2P) platform. These sites allow owners to list their campers. Renters then filter these listings by location, features, RV type, dates, specific amenities, price, and whether pets are allowed. Here are the most reputable companies to rent an RV from.
- Outdoorsy – Outdoorsy is widely regarded as the best rental marketplace for new and seasoned RVers. It was established in 2015, over 15,000+ RV owners use it to list their rigs, and it has a wider selection of rigs compared to other platforms. To build trust with renters, any person who wants to rent out their RV has to pass an application. Plus, you can read reviews and compare prices. Moreover, it has three levels of rental insurance that you can buy when hiring a camper.
- RVshare – Established in 2012, RVshare is considered the pioneer of peer-to-peer RV rentals. Their platform enables over 60,000 RV owners to rent out their rigs across the U.S. However, their inventory is not as diverse as Outdoorsy’s, and they offer less insurance protection.
Big National RV Rental Companies
Unlike peer-to-peer platforms that allow you to find RV rentals by owner, the following companies rent out their fleet of campers.
- Cruise America – With 122 locations in the U.S. and Canada, Cruise America is North America’s largest RV rental operator. They offer four Class C motorhomes to accommodate small, medium, larger, and big families, as well as one small and lightweight travel trailer. The main issue is that their campers are pretty standard, so you won’t find variety. Furthermore, their RV rental locations are also limited, and the rental process is a bit complex.
- El Monte RV – With a fleet of over 1800 motorhomes, El Monte RV is the second-largest RV rental agency in the United States. It rents in 27 states and offers round-trip rentals as well as flexible one-way rentals. They have six camper models, including Class As and Class Cs. However, their rental options and locations are pretty limited, compared to the other options above.
Renting from Local Dealerships
Another way to rent a camper is to call or visit your local RV dealership. Some dealerships have rental fleets, although the size of inventory, rental rules, and prices vary from one place to another. The main benefit of this option is the ability to see the RV in person before booking. One con of this method is that there won’t be unique rental options to pick from. Also, the rental process may be cumbersome, and the prices steeper.
Renting from Someone You Know
Of all the methods of renting an RV, hiring from someone you know, whether friend or family is the riskiest, no matter how good the deal is. If you rent an RV directly from an owner you know, you risk damaging your relationship if something breaks. Also, you won’t be protected by any insurance in case of an accident. Furthermore, you can’t count on free roadside assistance services or customer support when the rig breaks down.
Steps on How to Rent an RV on a P2P Platform
Use this RV rental process for beginners to find the best camper on a peer-to-peer platform. We will use the Outdoorsy process. Notably, other P2P platforms also use an almost similar approach.
- Go to the RV rental site. You don’t have to register.
- Head to the listings page and locate the search bar.
- Enter your preferred location, as well as the number of guests accompanying you and the dates you want to book.
- To narrow down your RV options, use filters to select your preferred RV type, must-have amenities, and comfortable price range.
- Comb through the different listings while reading descriptions, comparing rates, inspecting photos, and analyzing reviews. If you find something interesting, make sure you learn about the provided amenities and add-ons.
- When you’re ready to book, click request booking. You can now communicate directly with the RV owner to plan details and ask questions.
- After going through the fine print of the rental, i.e., policies and restrictions, finalize and pay the reservation deposit.
- On the day of pick up, the owner will give you a walkthrough of the RV systems and give you a user manual.
- After the trip, return the camper to the owner and make sure it’s in the condition you found it in.
Beginner Questions to Ask Before Renting an RV
When you find a suitable RV, you’ll want to ask the owner a few questions before completing the booking process. This will help you avoid rude surprises. Any credible owner should be able to answer the following questions. If they can’t give you straightforward answers, consider a different rental unit.
What Amenities Does the RV Have?
Some RV rentals are more equipped than others. More appliances and amenities will definitely make your journey easier, more enjoyable, and more comfortable. Create a list of features you need and then confirm with the listing details and owner whether those amenities are available.
- Must-Have RV Rental Amenities Checklist for Families – Bathroom, toilet, enough beds, fridge/freezer, stove, microwave, dinette, sofa, air conditioner, furnace, leveling equipment, towing equipment, water heater, safety belts, awning, and enough storage.
- RV Rental Convenient Amenities Checklist – TVs, slide-outs, outside cooking, entertainment system, GPS navigation, backup cameras, in-motion satellite TV, gaming console setup, laundry machine, dishwasher, and a picture window. Those working on the road may need more cable outlets and a WiFi booster.
How Much Is the RV Rental Deposit and When Is It Returned?
Find out how much the deposit is going to be as soon as possible. Sometimes, there is a reservation deposit and a security deposit. Make sure to inquire whether the deposit is part of the total charges, when it is due, and if it is given back as a refund when you return the vehicle without any damages. Furthermore, ask what needs to be done to get the security deposit returned.
What’s the RV Rental Cancellation Policy?
Travel is subject to last-minute changes. When shopping around for RV rental providers, you’ll need to find one that seems to have the best cancellation policy for your situation. Some policies are strict, and some are more forgiving. Look for the number of days in which you can cancel while still receiving your full deposit or credit back. And the best way to understand the cancellation policy is to ask the owner.
What Responsibilities and RV Rental Policies Should I be Aware of?
To ease your mind during the trip, make sure to ask the rental owner exactly what you are responsible for in regard to the RV and its maintenance. What happens if you have a tire blowout? Ask about the return policy (i.e., can you return the RV on Sunday afternoon or early?), renter insurance requirements, and cleaning responsibilities.
Find out if they offer roadside assistance and how it works. What is their pet policy, and is there a separate pet deposit? Who can drive the RV? In addition, ask if the camper is tailgate-friendly, festival-friendly, or if the owner allows smoking.
Is There a Limit on Miles I can Drive, and What’s the Cost?
In order to avoid going over or stressing about your mileage during the trip, ask the rental owner how many free miles are offered to you (if any) and what the cost is per mile over that limit. This typically applies to anyone renting a motorhome. Impressively, a few RV Rental dealers offer unlimited mileage on their camper rentals. Other RV rental providers offer a daily mileage allowance, and additional costs are only added if you exceed a specific cap.
For example, you may be given a daily mileage allowance of 150 miles. Anything over that would be charged at $0.38 per mile. If you rent your RV for 7 days and you drive a total of 1,500 miles, you would be 450 miles over your allowance. That would result in an extra $171 to your final bill. Depending on how far you are planning to drive, the miles policy could really help you choose which RV to go with.
How Many Miles per Gallon Should I Expect?
You will also need to budget for gasoline or diesel fuel expense. Most motorhomes get somewhere around eight to twelve miles per gallon (Check out our complete RV MPG guide and chart). You can expect to get a few miles per gallon less on your tow vehicle than normal when you pull a travel trailer/ camper. On top of RV MPG, ask how much it costs, on average, to fill up the motorhome. Additionally, find out if the recreational vehicle takes diesel instead of gas.
What Are the Fees for the Generator?
If you plan on staying in an area that does not have any type of hookups to use for electrical power and you want to use electronics, you are going to have to get a camper with a generator. Some RV rental providers include unlimited generator use or charge a flat daily rental fee, while others offer an allowance of so many hours per day. In this case, you will be charged an hourly rate for your generator usage over the allowance. So, confirm the details.
Are there Any Additional Charges I Should Know of?
Anyone learning how to rent an RV for the first time should be aware that many rentals have hidden fees. Before you commit, find out about additional charges, if any. It happens quite often that the daily rental rate does not include other fees, and you may be in for a surprise when you go to pay. So get a detailed breakdown of what exactly you are expected to pay for.
Common RV Rental Hidden Fees and Add-ons – Prep fees, insurance, taxes, kitchen equipment, bathroom linen kit, camping gear, cleaning fees, pet fees, propane usage, excess generator usage fees, tank dumping, roadside assistance, and delivery and setup fees.
On top of these expenses, remember to budget for fuel, campground rates, food, park fees, activities/entertainment, laundry, and campfire firewood.
What Free Items are Included in the Rental?
When you book RV rentals online, always confirm what free amenities the owner provides. In fact, a good number of rental providers offer most of the things you need for camping without charging extra. Make sure you ask whether the following items are provided, and if you’ll have to pay for each.
RV Rental Supplies Checklist – Linen, cookware, utensils, pillows, RV-safe toilet paper, cleaning supplies, rubber gloves, camp furniture, grill, bikes, bike racks, coffee maker, DVDs, maps, and a user manual.
Are there Towing Policies I Should Be Aware of?
If you plan on towing a pop-up camper rental or travel trailer rental, you will need to find out about the regulations and policies on this from the provider. What size hitch and light connector is required? Do you need a brake controller?
Ask about the weight of the RV and its carrying capacity. You will certainly need to know the towing capacity of your own tow vehicle. Is it within the safe weight limit? If renting a motorhome, ask if you can tow an automobile/trailer behind it and if there is any additional charge or insurance requirements.
Are there Any Restrictions on Places I Can Take the RV Camping?
Some RV owners prefer that you don’t drive the RV to certain places or beyond a certain distance from their location. For example, some rental owners in the U.S. ask that their renters avoid places like Death Valley National Park or other desert areas during the summer. Also, there may be restrictions on travel outside of the U.S. to Mexico and Canada and vice versa.
How Often Do You Service Your Camper?
Make sure to question the provider about the frequency of their RV maintenance. You will want to make sure that the tires are in good shape and everything is in proper working condition before trusting the rig to keep you and your family safe.
Will I Need a Special Driving License to Drive the Motorhome?
If you’re renting a campervan or a Class C RV, a regular driver’s license is usually just fine. But if you decide to book a giant Class A, you’ll need to ask whether you’ll need a special license. In some states, if a motorhome exceeds 26,000 pounds or 40 feet in length, you’ll need to take an RV safety course or get a CDL to operate it. Each state has its own rules, so you’ll need to research where you’re going.
How Old is the Rental RV?
If you plan to stay in a high-end RV resort, you’ll definitely want to know the age of the camper. That’s because some luxury RV parks don’t allow units that are older than 10 years. If the owner hasn’t specified in the description, make sure you ask this question before booking.
What Emergency Number Do I Contact?
Who do you contact in case you have problems with the RV while on the road? The rental provider should give you an emergency phone number and email to use if you want help or have questions.
Top Tips on How to Rent the Best RV
Here are some brilliant RV rental tips for first-time renters:
Get a Comfortable Size Camper Rental
While it may be tempting to go for the smaller-size camper, which is usually less expensive, you must be honest with yourself in regard to the size that is actually necessary. Consider how much clothing, gear, and equipment you are packing, how many people (and pets) will be living out of the RV, and how much space and interior height you need to be truly comfortable before choosing a size.
Indeed, it may cost a little extra for a size upgrade, but it may be well worth it when it comes to the comfort of your journey. On the other hand, if you are one of the growing legions of minimalists, then a small campervan rental will be a great fit for you and perhaps lighter on your wallet.
Make RV Rental Reservations Early
Sometimes, RV rentals book up months in advance, making it hard to find the ideal fit around the travel season. Therefore, make early reservations, especially on and around major holidays, during summer, spring break, and special events like concerts, festivals, and auto races. Early action increases your chances of getting the camper rental you really want and may also open up discount opportunities. Book it today!
Use this RV Rental Pick Up Checklist
Another useful tip on how to rent an RV for a vacation is to get acquainted with the camper inside and out. While you may be excited about getting your first taste of RV life, how you handle the pickup process can make or break your trip. So, be very thorough at pickup. Inspect and walk through the unit before hitting the road. Certainly, the rental provider should give you an orientation on operating the vehicle and its amenities.
Here is a breakdown of some important things to check when picking up an RV rental.
- Inspect the RV inside and outside and document any damage through photos and videos.
- Learn how to fill up the freshwater tank.
- How to dump gray and black tanks.
- How to flush the toilet.
- Hooking up and unhitching tow equipment.
- Leveling the camper.
- Extending and retracting slides and awning.
- Operating the heating and air conditioning.
- Converting beds/sofas/dinettes.
- Identifying and opening all storage compartments.
- Double-check all mirrors and vehicle driving lights.
- Write down the dimensions of the RV to help you plan your routes better and avoid roads, parks, or campgrounds with height, width, length, and weight restrictions.
- Learn to operate and test all appliances, gadgets, and technologies on board.
- Using electrical hookups—we will discuss more on this in the next tip.
- Since it’s hard to remember everything in the walkthrough, record it.
Inquire About the Electric Hook-Ups
If you plan on camping, you are eventually going to need to hook up to gain some power or use a generator. Find out about the wattage and the energy that will be needed to power your camper before you take it to a campground that has a certain amperage limit. Is the RV electrical system 20 amps, 30 amps, or 50 amps? Will you be dry camping (i.e. no hook-ups) and need a power generator or run off solar?
Note, with a power cord adapter, you can make it work. For example, a 50 amp RV with the proper adapter could use a 20 or 30 amp campsite power but may have limited usage of equipment (i.e., might not be able to run two A/C units but could run a heater, lights, and maybe the microwave). However, a 20 amp camper would not work on 30 amp or 50 amp campsite without an adapter.
Don’t Hesitate to Negotiate the Price and Terms
One money-saving tip on how to rent an RV for a road trip is to ask for discounts or a review of restrictive terms. The advantage of renting an RV from an owner on a P2P platform is that you can negotiate the price and conditions.
Asking for lower rates on items like miles per day, pet fees, cleaning fees, generator fees, and other add-ons can bring down your overall rental cost. If the owner agrees to lower their rates, make sure that the contract you sign at the time of booking contains the points agreed upon.
Consider Whether Fly and Drive RVing Makes More Sense
If you’re planning to vacation at a place that’s days away from your location and aren’t enthusiastic or confident about driving a long distance, consider flying and driving. Analyze whether it’s more economical to rent an RV where you’re vacationing, catch a flight to that destination, pick it up at the airport, and drive it to your preferred attraction spots.
This option makes financial sense when you take advantage of flight deals or when RV rental rates in your region are sky-high, and those of the state you are planning to travel to are cheaper. You’ll also save a lot of travel days and have more time to recreate.
Practice Driving the New Wheels
The size, space, and weight of an RV may be completely different from the vehicles you are used to driving. And, since you are going to need to drive or tow it in order to get anywhere, it’s important that you feel completely comfortable steering the camper.
So, before you hit the road, allot some time to get accustomed to how the RV drives or tows. Find an empty parking lot and practice turning, backing up, slowing down, stopping, and parking.
Drive Slow and Soak in the Sights
One more tip for renting an RV as a beginner is to drive on the slower side. Don’t try to go too far too fast—stop and smell the roses when you can because that is the beauty of RVing. Many first-timers cram-pack their itinerary and spend most of their RV vacation on the road, and miss out on some interesting things at stops and en route.
Realistically, you can average about 50 miles per hour with stops. Take an hour or two in the morning to get going and another hour to set up at your destination. But if you go 300 miles, you’ve spent most of the day traveling, which doesn’t leave much time for other activities. Clearly, it’s better to slow down and be spontaneous—less is more.
Other Factors that May Affect the Cost to Rent an RV?
While an RV rental saves you a lot of money compared to simply purchasing the vehicle outright, and it compares favorably to driving/flying and renting hotels/cabins, the actual breakdown of the cost to rent an RV may vary based on several other factors.
Here are a few elements that may drive up or lower the rates of hiring an RV rental.
How Long You Will Be Renting the RV
Most RV rental providers have a minimum rental period that can vary but is commonly three days. If you are only renting for a short amount of time, you can usually expect to pay a higher daily rate than what you would pay if you are taking a longer trip of one week or more when discounts may be offered.
Season You Want to Rent
Some RV rental providers keep the same daily rates year around. However, some may charge different rates during peak season, special events, and off-season. Rental rates vary this way due to simple supply and demand mechanics—during peak season, more people want an RV rental, so the prices may go up; during off-season, there are more unrented rigs to choose from, and prices may go down. Traditionally, peak season is during the spring and summer months because many families have extra time for vacation due to long school breaks.
To keep costs lower, consider taking your RV rental road trip during off-season months, in the late fall and winter, when some RV rental dealers offer lower rates. This is a lot easier to do if you do not have children that are in school. Just be careful to consider holidays, as some providers may increase rates during these times.
How to Rent an RV for Beginners: Wrapping Up
Regardless of what type of camper you want to rent for your trip, make sure that you communicate with your RV rental provider to understand the fees and policies they have for mileage and generator use, the cost of linens, other equipment, and miscellaneous fees.
Also, you should get a good understanding of what their policy is on deposits and refunds should you have to cancel your reservation. Finally, and most importantly, always get a written quote for your planned trip from your RV rental provider to avoid any misunderstandings and surprises. You will be a happy camper!