All you Need to Know Before Renting Your 1st RV
RVing is an awesome way to add a different experience to your monotonous life.
But sometimes, you might not be ready to commit to the life of a full-time RVer, so buying your RV isn’t an option.
Fortunately, you can still experience RV living by renting an RV for the time being. And once you’re done enjoying your RV experience, you can return the vehicle.
But it’s not as easy as it sounds. I mean, grabbing an RV rental comes with a host of challenges, and depending on your needs, it can even feel overwhelming.
There’re several things to consider, starting from the cost, insurance, T &C, benefits vs. cons, etc.
The good news is I’ve prepared this comprehensive guide below, outlining everything you need to know about RV rentals.
5 Reasons You Should Rent an RV Before Buying One
We’ll start our RV rental guide by looking at the top 5 reasons you should consider renting an RV for a family vacation.
1) Test RV Lifestyle
If you’re a beginner in the RV lifestyle, renting an RV is a great way to sample the nomadic lifestyle and see whether your family likes it.
It’s a way to “test the waters” and see whether the RVing lifestyle is a thing you would want to do. When you rent an RV or trailer, it gives you a direction to head in, and you can spend a few days or weeks “sampling” what the RV lifestyle is all about.
2) Find the Right RV for your Needs
For experienced RVers, renting opens up new possibilities and allows you to decide whether a certain type or brand is something you’d like to buy.
For example, when we were looking to upgrade our pop-up camper, we had plenty of options in mind, and we were not decided on the exact model.
However, through RV rental services, we managed to sample and do a serious demo of the different units we were considering.
We planned to rent different RV units over shorter trips throughout the summer and commit to the best one.
3) Learn What you Want in an RV
If you’ve not spent much of your time traveling and living in an RV, you might not know what you want from one.
Renting ones allows you to discover what to prioritize when buying your next RV.
4) Rent as you learn
RVing isn’t so much different from tenting, and it’s important to have a little experience under the belt.
Now, assuming you’re coming from tenting, it’s easy to forget the learning curve you had to figure out camping in a tent.
RVing is not any different. It’s more than just getting behind the wheel and finding a nice spot to pull into.
Driving an RV is akin to driving your house down the road. So, there’s plenty of research and mechanics to learn.
RV rental gives you a chance to learn all of these and more. It allows you to learn things like hooking up a trailer, caring for grey and black tanks, how the RV water and electrical system works, and more.
5) Save Money
If you’re a seasonal camper and probably RVing only a couple of times a year, it makes much better financial sense to rent than buy an RV.
Remember, a five-night RV rental costs between $750-$1,000, but the rates may vary greatly depending on the season and RV rental. Even then, it’s only a fraction of the $50,000+ to purchase an RV.
So, renting is an awesome cost-saving alternative if your usage doesn’t justify the high price.
Cost of Renting an RV
We all must admit that RVing, whether renting or buying, is an expensive hobby. There’s no way around it. Trying to apply any financial reasoning makes it more obvious.
The other thing we can agree on is that renting is generally much cheaper than buying, but how “expensive” is it, and what are the hidden costs?
Generally, the biggest cost of renting an RV is the rental cost. Usually, many RV rentals have a per-night cost, but some have a mileage cap.
There’s usually a reason why renters make a limitation to the mileage, generator run time, etc. You’re essentially helping to “depreciate” their collateral.
So, first, figure out the exact rental cost from your provider.
The other huge cost of renting an RV is the fuel. At like 10 to 12 mpg, fuel will take a huge chunk of your budget.
You’ll also probably want to stay at a campground each night, so you’re looking at $50 to $70 a night on the low end. Overnighting at Walmart is a great emergency option, but you shouldn’t plan your trip this way.
Finally, you’ll also be responsible for all the running costs in your RV, such as propane costs. You may also experience issues that you may need to cater to out of pocket.
Honestly, I’ve rented RV a couple of times, in the US and abroad. It’s cheaper and more fun than owning one. However, it is still expensive on a per-night basis and more expensive than driving or staying in motels.
When you add rental fees, insurance, fuel, campsite fees, and everything, it’s about what it costs to check into a four-star hotel.
But here’s the thing; RVing is about the experience and creating memories. Nothing like parking at the end of the day, lighting the fire pit and cooking some burgers while taking some beers. Nothing compares to hitting the road in the morning without check-out or hauling luggage around.
Depending on your rental provider, you can always negotiate any “overage miles” and work out with your renter beforehand.
RV Rental vs. Buying: Cost of Depreciation
Now, as much as renting an RV is expensive, it’s worth it and can’t compare to buying one.
Price-wise, the biggest issue with buying an RV is the cost of depreciation.
See, depreciation on an RV is a lot. The price of an RV usually falls in thousands of dollars per year until a 6 or 7-year slowdown.
$300 or $400 make more financial sense than getting stuck with thousands of dollars of depreciated RVs you can’t dispose of.
You can rent from Cruise America or El Monte, and you’ll probably spend $1,000 a week. It pales compared to the $8,00 to $10,000 depreciation a year for the same RV.
One of the biggest challenges of renting an RV is the cost of insurance. It’s, in most cases, confusing, and depending on your provider, the insurance cost can double the total RV rental cost.
You need to know that most peer-to-peer RV rental platforms normally charge extra for insurance. It’s usually a profit center in most cases, but a necessary deductible.
The liability the private RV owners usually take when renting their RVs is usually high, and the cover mitigates that risk. Renters pay for it.
The good news is you can always notify your auto insurance provider when you rent. Get a rider on your car policy, and you’ll be issued a short-term binder for the RV, which usually costs a fraction (like 5%) of what the rental place charges.
When we rent, I notify my auto insurance provider, and they issue a short-term binder for the RV, which costs a fraction (literally like 5%) of what the rental places charge. I know for a fact that State Farm and Farmer usually allow this.
Remember that the profit derived from this type of insurance doesn’t go to the RV owner but to the peer-to-peer platform.
Where to Stay When RV Renting for the First Time?
With a rental RV, staying in a hotel defeats the purpose of having an RV in the first place.
But this now brings us to the question of where to stay when renting an RV. Finding a place to stay can be particularly challenging, especially if you’re RVing in high-traffic tourist areas with limited RV accommodations available in peak tourist travel months like summer.
Now, if you’ve rented a Class B RV, you won’t have much of a problem as these are just like full-size vans. However, if you’ve rented a Class A, you’ll have parking issues.
Generally, however, there’re plenty of RV campsites you can reserve. If you’re boondocking, there’s plenty of free land to camp on, but just be ready with a tank full of propane, gas, and water.
When RVing in some popular RV sites, don’t think you’ll hit the road; drive into a campground and find an empty campsite.
We’re in 2023; unlike a decade ago, you must plan. Get a reservation as far as possible, and if you’re planning to stay in a National park, you may have to book six months in advance.
Best RV Rental Companies
If you’re considering renting an RV, I imagine you are overwhelmed by the number of rental companies.
The first thing you should look out for when renting an RV is the company’s reputation, quality, and safety standards. Renters should only ensure they’re renting from companies that meet the industry standards and follow established standards.
Be sure to check the online reviews too. Of course, you’re likely to come across negative comments, but remember, more people go online to criticize than praise.
Based on experience, I’ve seen positive experiences from all the peer-to-peer RV rentals, such as Outdoorsy, RVShare, Cruise America, and RVEZy.
They are not the only ones, but these usually do a good job. Some are better than others, and some take more fees, but they generally all serve the purpose of providing a happy renting experience.
Outdoorsy is the leading RV rental and probably the go-to space for those looking to try different RV models.
They’ve a huge collection of rental options, including motorhomes, pop-up trailers, fifth wheels, and campervans.
Plus, they even allow you to book an RV and have them deliver and set it up at your desired campsite. It can’t get easier than this!
RVShare is the biggest marketplace for peer-to-peer RV rentals.
I’m a big fan of RVShare because it’s easy to browse. But the biggest benefit, at least to me, is renting someone’s baby, so you’re likely to have a clean unit.
I’ve rented from Cruise America in the past with success. Their prices are a bit higher, but their options are better.
Generally, their services are awesome, and I love that they offer roadside support.
El Monte RV and Road Bear are other awesome rental options too.
Most of these rental companies will give you a certain number of free miles per night and a few generator hours. However, you must watch out for the hidden costs.
Alternative RV Rentals
Along with the established RV rentals, there’re other avenues to look for an RV rental service.
Many RV owners usually run their rentals from Craigslist or FB Marketplaces. I’ve successfully rented an RV from Craigslist.
Some of the RV parks may also have rental units on the site. The good thing with the rental module is the cost is less than renting a motorhome.
What Beginners Should Know When Renting an RV
Here’s a quick rundown of what beginners should know when renting their first RV:
- Beginners should check on their insurance policy carefully. It probably doesn’t cover RV damage.
- You can’t always park anywhere.
- RVs are tall and ungainly, meaning you’ve lousy visibility
- If your wife is behind the wheel, ensure she’s explicitly named on the insurance
- Ensure your rental provider offers roadside assistance. Your RV is unlikely to break down, but there’re millions of things that can go wrong
- If your rental RV advertises that it can sleep 10 or twelve people, half that number. Seriously. You’ll get cramped
- Try to clean your RV as much as possible before returning it. Decency
Renting an RV is an awesome option, especially if you’re on a budget and aren’t ready to buy one.
It’s a smart financial choice but also comes with challenges, just like having your own RV.
However, this guide outlines everything to make your RV rental experience comfier and more enjoyable.