Experience RVing Without Owning – Top 3 RV Rental Co
RVing is a fun and adventurous way to get away without flying or staying in hotels.
Unfortunately, if you’re like most Americans, chances are you don’t own an RV. Or rather, you’re not willing to spend thousands of dollars on a basic RV model.
Enter RV rentals.
RV rentals allow you to sample the RVing lifestyle without fully committing to it. It’s a much cheaper and better method of experiencing everything about RVing without the need to buy one.
However, choosing the ideal RV rental can be nerve-wracking, especially with such a huge RV rental market.
Fortunately, you don’t have to beat yourself about this because I’ve sampled some of the best RV rentals in the market.
And in today’s guide, I’ll go into detail and share everything you need to know about some of the popular RV rentals.
Dealership RV Rentals VS Peer-to-Peer (P2P) RV Rentals VS Fleet
The most popular RV rentals in the US fall under three main categories: P2P, dealerships, and fleets. Each category has its pros and cons and appeals to different users.
This section breaks down each rental category and highlights some of the few rental options.
P2P rental companies are a new trend. The P2P modus operandi is all about connecting RV owners with renters.
The rental company gives the RV owners and renters a platform to transact the RV rental business. It’s a sort of Airbnb of RVing.
P2P rentals are an easy way to experience the RV lifestyle while giving RV owners an extra source of income when their RVs aren’t in use.
One of the biggest benefits of P2P is the personalized service; you only deal with the owner and there’re no third parties.
There’s also the added benefit of RV variety. P2P makes it simple for renters to try different RV types, from campervans, fifth wheels, and motorhomes to tiny trailers.
The Coke and Pepsi of P2P RV rental companies are Outdoorsy and RVshare. They’re the two giants dominating the RV rental space, and many RV owners usually list their RVs on both, much like Airbnb does for staycation homes.
Dealership RV Rentals
Dealership rentals are usually corporately-owned. Many of these companies usually have fleets of RVs you can rent across the US, typically in large cities.
Some popular brands in the RV dealership space include Cruise America, Canada Dream, and El Monte RV.
Most dealership RV rentals are easy to recognize, thanks to their colorful ad decals on their RVs.
The biggest benefit of renting from an RV dealership is their RVs, mostly Class C motorhomes, are usually built with durability in mind, so it’s unlikely your rig will break apart any time.
On the flip side, most of these brands usually don’t have a variety of rigs to choose from. The renting system is also bureaucratic; sometimes, you might feel there’s no personalized experience.
Local dealers, also known as privately-owned dealerships, have a similar operation to the fleet dealership but only work in a smaller locality.
As their name suggests, these dealerships are local and don’t have locations across the country. They’re also not owned by a corporation.
Plus, they specialize in one or more brands of RVs, so they might severely limit your variety when looking for a specific RV brand.
Best RV Rentals in the US
Now that we know the different categories of RV rentals let’s jump straight into the three popular RV rental options.
1) Cruise America- Best RV Rental for Families
If I can list one consistency I’ve seen in every spot I’ve been RVing, it’s the presence of least one or several Cruise America RVs.
It’s not a surprise, considering Cruise America is a well-known, nationwide and established RV rental.
This recreational vehicle rental and sales company is based in Mesa, Arizona. It was founded in 1972, and over the years, it has expanded and is now at the pinnacle of the RV rental market.
It’s easy to spot a Cruise America rental RV, thanks to their distinct and elaborate decals. Essentially, a Cruise America RV is a moving billboard. It makes sense from a marketing perspective but can also scream clueless tourists in some areas.
For a one-way RV trip in a Class C motorhome, Cruise America is probably your best choice. i.e., pick up in Miami, drop off in DC. Their nationwide corporate fleet locations make securing a one-way RV trip easier and more affordable.
On top of that, there’re 123 Cruise America Rental centers in the US, Canada, and Alaska from which you can depart or drop off your rig.
Cruise America is also a great way to get started and probably the first experience many RVers usually have with RVs.
I can’t vouch about their comfort or fancy setting, but I can’t complain because it’s a rental, and the design focuses more on interior durability over plush-ness.
Their rigs, however, are generally well-equipped and well-maintained. Plus, I love that they usually turn over their inventory annually, so they tend to rent out newer units.
Regarding variety, Cruise America doesn’t have much to offer. Most of their models are Class C motorhomes. There’s also a Lance 650 pickup. Generally, their choice of inventory caters mostly to groups or medium-sized families.
Cruise America Price
The rental price of Cruise America is similar to U-Haul. The price isn’t bad, but everything works great. In my experience, Cruise America is the cheapest option in my locality.
And the good thing is they don’t include “hidden fees” either. Depending on the season, you might also enjoy some good deals and promotions to get cheaper miles, which is usually bulky of the cost.
You get the base cost of the rental, mileage, gas, generator use per minute, water refill, and dump waste. And when returning, you get to charge a fee if there’s water left.
But generally, they’re not too picky about the condition of the campers when returning them. They check the mileage, empty waste tank, and fuel tank level.
2) Outdoorsy – Best for Longer Rentals
Outdoorsy is among the biggest P2P RV rentals and is often described as a site for RVers, by RVers. It was founded in 2012 by Jeff and Jen, who were all former RVers.
Outdoorsy’s selling points are the ease of communication and technical support. While the platform has a 24/7 support system, most communication is done directly with the RV owner you’re renting from.
Communication is easy, and if you download their app, it feels like texting a message.
The other pro with Outdoorsy is the variety of rigs. Unlike the Cruise America rigs, which are part of a fleet, Outdoorsy has unique options, and you can find anything from motorhomes and trailers to unique rigs.
Booking on Outdoorsy is also quite easy. The process is streamlined and easy as abc. I love the “Instant Book” feature that speeds up the entire renting process.
Just enter your rental locals and date range to see the available options. From here, you’ll see all the RV rental options around. You also have the option to refine your search based on the type of RV, price, amenities, pet-friendliness rules, customer ratings, and so on.
From experience, I like to go with rentals with ratings of 5 and above. Ensure you do your research and read past customer reviews. Some Outdoorsy rentals are cleaner and more well-maintained than others. Some RV owners are also easier to deal with than others.
Regarding the pricing, Outdoorsy is generally decent. However, remember, every RV owner usually sets their price, so it’s easy to find a range of prices.
The only thing I’d recommend you pay attention to is the insurance. RV insurance is usually the real money makes for these companies, and all of them provide it.
Consult your insurance company before booking, and you might be surprised to have a substantial amount on your rental by adding a rider. State Farm and Farmer insurance usually offer this service.
3) RVShare– Best RV rental for solo travelers
RVshare is the biggest competitor to Outdoorsy in the P2P RV rental market. It’s a little older than Outdoorsy and was the pioneer of the P2P RV rental market.
The company was originally exclusive to the US but expanded its operation to Canada with time.
The RVshare rental process is in more than one way similar to Outdoorsy. Just log into their website, and search for an RV rental based on your pickup location, RV specifications, dates, and price.
My concern with RVshare is they barely emphasize the RV owner profile. It’s not a dealbreaker for me, but it would be nice to know the basics of the RV owner before booking your next RV rental.
The good news is they have a chat function similar to that of Outdoorsy, so it’s easy to contact the owner before committing to a specific rig. I usually recommend communicating with the RV owner unless they’ve glowing reviews.
Booking, pickup, and drop-off arrangements are usually made directly through the owner. However, in case of any issues, you can always contact RVshare.
Regarding the variety of rigs, RV share falls short of what Outdoorsy provides but is much better than Cruise America. This is particularly true in the smaller remote locations.
Even then, with over 60K active listings across the US and thousands of satisfied clients, you can never fail to get an RV that ticks all your boxes. It’s also a testimony of RVshare’s RV rental success.
Prices on the RVshare platform are, for the most part, affordable. However, remember that RVsahre is a P2P platform, and much like Outdoorsy, the RV owner usually determines the price.
Expect the RV rental prices to fluctuate depending on the RV type, amenities, make, date, time of year, etc.
Regarding RV rental insurance, RVShare is at the top of its game. They provide excellent roadside assistance and rental insurance. Couple this with top-rated customer service.
What’s the Best RV Rental?
In my opinion, every RV rental has a share of pros and cons. So, it’s all about weighing the options and choosing one that fits your RVing needs.
I’ve rented from all three rentals, and you can’t go wrong with them.
Depending on your locality, local dealerships may be handy, but their variety of rigs might severely limit you.
The fleet dealerships, like Cruise America, are also great options, especially if you have a family. Unfortunately, their selection is also, to an extent, limited to fleet options.
But the good thing with Cruise America is they usually have standardization in the rigs, and their motorhomes are generally well-maintained.
Cruise America also gets new inventory yearly, so their rigs are fairly new.
On the other hand, P2P RV rentals such as Outdoorsy and RVshare are the perfect option for those who need a unique trailer and don’t want to be limited to an existing RV fleet.
Now, from user reviews, the experience with P2P is mixed. Some renters have a nice experience, while others won’t recommend it.
I guess it all depends on the type of owner you do business with. But in most cases, horrible experiences are rarer than a normal occurrence.
Many RV owners are usually fair and will try to accommodate their clients as much as possible.
However, for peace of mind, I usually recommend my readers ask for a written addendum to the contract.
The contract should include check-in time, checkout times, extra fees, how long it takes to get the security back, payment schedule, and so on.