As we head into a new camping season, we know there are lots of people who’ll be renting an RV for the first time. So we thought we’d share some first-time RV rental tips to save some time and trouble.
Although we’ve owned and lived in an RV full-time for over 20 years, we’ve also rented multiple RVs when traveling overseas, so we have lots of experience.
We also have several friends who’ve rented various types of RVs, both domestically and overseas.
So, with all of that in mind, we bring you our 7 best RV rental tips to make sure you’re able to enjoy your road trip!
- 1) Rent the Smallest RV You Can
- 2) Rent From a Reputable Company
- 3) Read User Reviews
- 4) Carefully Check What’s Included In the Rental
- 5) Practice In a Parking Lot
- 6) Take Photos Before and After Your Trip
- 7) Know the Height and Width of Your RV Rental
- 8) Bonus Tip!
- 9) Free RVing Tips, Tricks, Reviews, Giveaways & More
Rent the Smallest RV You Can
As we noted in our post on Class B RV rentals, renting an RV is a great way for travel enthusiasts who aren’t yet RV owners to try one out to see if they enjoy traveling and camping this way. And, of course, if you already own an RV, bringing it overseas isn’t likely practical for most people.
However, the type of RV could make a significant difference in your stress level as you travel, and how much you can enjoy your RV trip.
For example, if you’ve never driven an RV before, renting a Class A motorhome your first time out would probably not be the best way to go.
Similarly, if you’ve never towed a rig before, renting a travel trailer could prove to be very stressful.
Here’s the thing:
When you rent an RV for the first time, you’re already up against a bit of a learning curve. You may need to learn how to connect to electrical hookups, how to dump your tanks and other new things.
Your first RV rental is probably not the best time to add too many stressors to your list, like learning how to back up a large travel trailer, how to adjust RV mirrors and maintain lane control, or how to navigate off-tracking and rear overhang with a big rig. (That said, check out our RVgeeks Driving School videos, below.)
Depending on the size of your travel party, smaller rigs like Class B or C RVs or even a camper van tend to make the learning curve a lot less intimidating and stressful, which means you’re more likely to enjoy your trip, and more likely to want to take another RV road trip (or many!) in the future.
As a bonus, the smaller the rig, the better the gas mileage will likely be (or “fuel” mileage, since most foreign rigs are diesel-powered).
Rent From a Reputable Company
There are many reputable RV rental companies available, and we suggest using one with a good solid track record.
Companies like Cruise America, Outdoorsy, RVshare, and RVnGo have been around long enough to have established reputations.
When RVing abroad, we’ve used (and loved!) Anywhere Campers all over Europe, and Wilderness Motorhome Rentals in New Zealand.
We’re not suggesting these are the only reputable RV rental companies. We’re simply saying that one of our top RV rental tips is to rent from a company that has been around long enough to have developed a recognizable name after renting to thousands of customers before you!
And that brings us to tip #3.
Read User Reviews
No matter what company you’re considering renting an RV from, be sure to locate and read as many reviews from real users as possible.
Don’t limit yourself to reading testimonials on the websites of the rental companies. Companies will be hard-pressed to leave out all but the best reviews when they’re publishing customer testimonials.
Find reviews outside of the company website to see what kinds of experiences people who have rented RVs from them have had.
Carefully Check What’s Included In the Rental
This is a very important thing to do before you sign an agreement/contract. In fact, it’s something you should do before you even decide to rent from any rental company.
Before committing to a particular company, check the website to ensure you’ll get everything you want, and need.
A few of the most important considerations may be:
What is the company’s insurance coverage on the rig you’re renting? How well are you protected? Do you need to add additional coverage?
Is a roadside assistance plan included with the rental? Unless you have AAA on your own (and confirm that it covered an RV rental), you’ll want reassurance that you’ll be covered should you need assistance on the road.
And as we pointed out in our post on the best RV roadside assistance programs, they aren’t all created equal. Know what you’re getting in advance!
Will the company provide you with a full instructional visit or video that walks you through the entire RV, giving you all the information you need to be comfortable traveling and camping in a rig you rent from them? Even a seasoned RVer won’t be an expert on a rig that isn’t theirs.
You don’t want to show up at a dump station of an RV park having no idea how to attach the sewer hose or where to put the other end. Just in case, we’ve got you covered (with information!) in this video:
By the way, some rental companies can dump your tanks for you at the end of your trip, but you’ll have to pay extra for that service.
Of course, that won’t do you any good if the black tank fills up before your trip ends!
Our point is that you’ll want to ensure that someone will give you a decent tutorial in person, or provide you with a video, running through how everything works.
From the fridge to the plumbing, to the electrical system, to the hot water and furnace, there’s a lot you’ll need to know about the rig you’re renting and how it works.
Make sure you’re aware of how the rental company deals with the mileage you’ll be putting on the RV.
Is a certain number of miles included with your nightly rental fee? Some companies allow a certain number of miles per day. What’s the limit? Are they charging you per mile thereafter? How much?
Make sure it won’t cost you thousands in unexpected fees to drive to your favorite national park and back.
Practice In a Parking Lot
If you’re renting an RV, especially a larger motorhome or travel trailer, another RV rental tip is to take that after you pick up your rig, take it to a large empty part of a parking lot, and practice!
Practice turns, backing, parking, and even stopping the rig.
Practice until you feel secure at the wheel.
If you don’t rent a smaller rig as we suggested in RV rental tip #1 and instead you’ve got a fairly big motorhome on your hands, check out our tips on backing up a motorhome.
While you’re at it, you might want to check out how to stay safe driving an RV in high winds, (just in case), and our RV driving tips which offer you 21 ways to stay safe and calm on the road.
Our RVgeeks Driving School videos are great for any RVer, even those with a fair amount of experience.
Take Photos Before and After Your Trip
If you’ve ever rented a car, you may have carefully checked the car over before you started driving, and even asked the rental agent to document any scratches or other damage.
Do the same with an RV rental.
Complete an interior and exterior walk-through/walk-around, and inspect the RV thoroughly.
Document any damage at all. Take photos and bring it all to the attention of the rental agent before you leave in the RV. Ask the agent to document it as well.
Take a photo of the odometer (if you’re renting a motorhome) and the hours on the generator. (Some companies charge a fee per generator hour.)
Do the same when you return the RV.
Know the Height and Width of Your RV Rental
Knowing the dimensions of the rig you’re driving can be very important, especially if it’s a big rig.
If you see a sign saying “maximum height 14 feet”, it’s super important to know if your rig is taller than that!
You’ll need to know the height of the tallest part of your rig.
So, if a rooftop air conditioner is the tallest part of the rig, for example, you’ll need the height of the RV with that included.
Even though 96″ is an extremely common rig width, knowing the exact width of yours is a good idea as well. (102″ is the widest a vehicle can be without being considered a “wide load.”)
So our RV tip #7 involves finding out the height and width of your rig, and prominently displaying it somewhere right up front so that all you need to do is look at the note to make a quick determination. Some rentals already have this info posted in the driver’s area.
Note that some trip planning apps and RV GPS units give you the opportunity to enter the dimensions of your RV so that they can route you around something if necessary.
- Self locking mechanism allows blade to be extended smoothly
- Push button allows blade to be retracted smoothly
Those are our top 7 RV rental tips, but we’d like to add a bonus tip.
If you’ll be staying in campgrounds and RV parks on your trip, connected to electricity, water, and sewer, we suggest at least one night of boondocking (maybe in a nearby state or city park or even in your own driveway).
We’re big fans of boondocking, and it really opens up a whole new world of travel and adventure.
Boondocking means relying on the battery power in the rig (and the generator if your rig has one) for all of your amenities, so you might have to cut back on power use a bit. And, of course, you’ll need to know what equipment your rental has installed (solar panels, inverter, etc).
It also means relying on your fresh water tank for all of your water usage, and knowing and relying on the capacity of your grey and black water tanks.
But once you learn how to manage those things, we think you’ll really enjoy all the possibilities boondocking offers.
If boondocking makes you nervous, check out our post for boondocking newbies!
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Saturday 6th of May 2023
From past experience: if you don't heed point #7 then it might alter your attitude. On day one we now get the RV's measurements and tape them to the lower driver's window. In BOTH Feet (to keep us old folks in the comfort zone) and Meters (because that's what the signs are).
In just over 4 months we'll be on our next month+ European RV trip and really looking forward to it. Germany, Austria, Italy, and Greece are all in the plans. Whoo-hoo!