Renting your first RV can be a bit overwhelming, especially if you’ve never RV’d before. But we’ve got the best RV rental tips, plus a detailed checklist, to help make sure your maiden voyage goes as smooth as possible and that you have one heck of a fun RV vacation.
Let’s be honest here for a minute. If you search reviews for any RV rental company, you’re going to see some horror stories. The same goes for boat rentals, car rentals, Airbnb rentals and on and on. That’s just the name of the game when it comes to renting anything.
Were some of the problems unavoidable? Yes. Sometimes you have circumstances beyond anyone’s control that all come together and create the ultimate nightmare experience and story.
But, on the other hand, a lot of problems can be avoided if you do these four things:
- Do your research
- Ask questions
- Document everything
- Come prepared
Also, when it comes to renting an RV, this is a fairly new concept so there’s a learning curve for owners, renters and the go-between company.
For example, our first RV rental experience wasn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination. Why? Well, we were trying to do it on the cheap so we rented from a brand new listing, from a person who didn’t seem to know a lot about RVs or the rental process. But we’ll get into tips when you run into a situation like that later.
We just want you to know that we understand how intimidating, confusing and scary renting an RV can be. And because of that fact, we want to provide you with the best RV rental tips our little brains can come up with based on our own RVing and RV rental experiences.
Tip #1: Make Smart Rig Rental Choices
One question we’ve been asked by friends wanting to rent an RV is how they decide which type of RV to rent. The answer? It depends on what kind of camping experience you’re wanting, plus what kind of RV you’re comfortable handling.
Here are a few questions to ask yourself as you’re going through the process of choosing an RV to rent:
How Many People Are Camping with You?
Do you have a large family? If so, a campervan probably doesn’t make sense unless some of your party will be tent camping. (Also know that a lot of RV parks charge extra per tent.)
A travel trailer or motorhome with a lot of sleeping options might be the best choice. That way everyone is comfortable, which can make the camping experience go smoother.
Is it going to just be two of you? If it’s just two of you, you can go smaller with a campervan, Class B, teardrop camper or a small travel trailer.
We rented a small travel trailer with two bunk beds and a queen bed and it was plenty of space for the three of us. It was smaller than we were used to, but for two nights of camping, it was perfect.
What Kind of Camping Will You Be Doing?
Do you plan on staying at an RV resort with amenities galore and full hookups? If so, any rig will do.
Are you staying at a campground that only has water and electric hookups and no bathroom facilities? If so, you might want to look at an RV that has a good size black tank.
Are you roughing it and planning on boondocking? (If you’re not sure what boondocking is, Todd wrote up a post all about it here.) If you’re boondocking, you might want a rig that has a generator or solar power so you can get away from the crowds and out into the wild.
What Kind of Cooking Will You Be Doing?
If you’re planning on cooking meals on the grill or over the campfire, a full-size kitchen might not be necessary.
But if you’re bringing gadgets like your Instant Pot and are planning on doing meals that require a decent kitchen, a travel trailer or motorhome will make whipping up meals a bit easier.
How Often Are You Moving Camping Spots?
Are you staying in one place? If so, renting something that is delivered to you can help make the trip less stressful. Or if you’re towing it/driving it yourself, choosing a rig like a fifth wheel or travel trailer that requires a bit more set up might be the right choice for your situation.
**Hot tip: Be sure that you can safely tow the RV with whatever rig you have. Check out the Trailer Life® Towing Guide post that we put together to get the scoop and avoid a disaster.**
But, if you’re planning on moving spots frequently, choosing a rig that is easier to tear down and pack up, like a campervan or Class B, might be the better option.
What Kind of Weather Are You Camping In?
If you’re camping in cold weather, make sure you rent an RV that is designed for “four season” camping and has a decent heater. Frozen and ruptured water lines are not your friend!
If you’re camping in warm weather, ask the owner about the air conditioner and make sure it’s good to go. If it’s hot and you have no way to stay cool, then that can make for a pretty miserable camping experience.
What Kind of Rig Are You Comfortable Handling?
This is probably the most important question to ask yourself before renting an RV.
The thing we love the most about renting an RV is the experience it allows you to have – the ‘try before you buy’ experience if you will. There are so many RV rental options through Outdoorsy. There is seriously something for everyone:
- You can start as small as renting a minivan that’s been converted into a sweet little car camping set up
- You can rent a campervan and get the feel for Van Life
- You can rent a luxury Class B
- If you’re not comfortable towing something or you don’t have the vehicle for it, you can have the RV delivered to and picked up from your campsite like we did
- If you have some experience under your belt, you can rent a large motorhome and camp in style (if you’re prepared to pay for it, of course)
If you’ve never RV’d before and this is a brand new experience for you, it’s probably best to start small and work your way up. The last thing you want to do is get yourself in an uncomfortable renting situation or damage the rig because you weren’t quite sure what you were doing.
What Kind of Camping Experience Do You Want?
Lastly, ask yourself what kind of camping experience you want.
- Do you want to rough it and go as minimal as possible?
- Do you want something in between roughing it and luxury?
- Do you want all the amenities and more?
We hope putting these questions in front of you will help you end up renting the right RV for you.
Tip #2 Read the Listing Well
Now that you’ve narrowed down your search to the type of RV you want to rent, it’s time to start doing your research and dig through the listings.
We personally recommend and rent from Outdoorsy. You can read our Outdoorsy review + use the code “TREKKN” at checkout for $40 off your first rental.
Pay Attention to All of the Sections of the Listing
Overview: From all of the digging we’ve done on the RV rental platform, most owners seem to do a really good job in the overview, which is the first section you’ll see on the listing. This usually covers a few of the amenities that are included (like if they provide dishes, bedding, etc) and any other details they think might entice you to rent from them.
Amenities: This section lets you know everything the rig has or doesn’t have. For example, air conditioning, leveling jacks, inside shower, water tank and how much it holds, propane, toilet, etc.
Rules: This section lets you know if they allow animals, if they allow smoking and if you can bring it to a festival.
Trust & Safety: This section is all about the insurance coverage and is important. Todd covered RV rental insurance and what you should know in detail on our Outdoorsy Review. He goes through the insurance options available for RV renters, as well as walks you through the insurance decision.
*Security Deposit* – Another thing Todd mentions in that post is the security deposit that can sneak up on you. After you complete the booking process and provide payment details, you’re not done yet. We also had to pay a $250 security deposit, which is taken out of your account two days prior to the trip. After we were done with our rental and the owner verified there was no damage or problems, they refunded the $250 to our account.
Add-ons: Pay close attention to this section so you don’t have any surprises at checkout. This is where you’ll see how much they charge for delivery, cleaning fee, tank dumping fee and if they charge for any extras you might want like a BBQ grill, generator fee, etc.
I checked several different listings and the fees were definitely all different. Some charged a cleaning fee upon return no matter what. Some charged a prep and cleaning fee that was required upfront. Some people sold different packages you could buy if you wanted such as an outdoor package that had chairs, fire pit, etc.
So what I’m saying is, read this section well.
Rates: This lets you know what they charge for daily, weekly and monthly rentals. This section also shares the minimum amount of nights you have to rent and what their cancellation policy is.
Reviews: At the end of the listing are reviews by renters. We always read these. For the most part, we’ve seen very positive reviews which are fantastic. Most RV owners are passionate about RVing and their RV, so they want you to have the same experience and will go above and beyond.
Tip #3: Ask Questions & Communicate with the Owner Through the Platform
Todd covered the importance of this tip in our Outdoorsy review, but I just wanted to reiterate the importance of 1) asking the owner questions and 2) keeping all communication within the platform.
The listing we ended up renting from was a little vague, so we should have asked more questions about what was included instead of making assumptions. We had to buy a few things after we got there that we weren’t expecting to have to purchase and it made the start to our trip a little stressful.
As far as communication with the owner goes, just make sure it’s all done through the Outdoorsy platform instead of through a personal phone number. This just protects both you and the owner and allows Outdoorsy to see all communication.
*Don’t forget to use the code “TREKKN” at checkout for $40 off your first RV rental*
Tip #4: Come Prepared
This is where we come in to help with our RV Rental Checklist. We were trying to figure out what we could do to not only answer the questions we’ve been asked about renting an RV, but also provide something that would help anyone who rents have the best trip possible.
So we created a comprehensive checklist that includes everything we mentioned above, plus an RV camping supplies checklist.
There are a lot of things to remember when you’re leaving the comfort of your everyday home and going camping. I mean, who wants to show up at the campground and realize you forgot your pillow or special blanket at home. That would suck. 🙂
Just click on this link or the picture below to download your free RV Rental Checklist.
We hope this article helped you navigate the world of RV rentals a little bit better.
Once you get the hang of it, you’ll 1) find out that RV travel is the best travel (we might be biased) and 2) want to rent an RV again and again.
It’s the perfect way to try before you buy or enjoy the world of RV camping without having to worry about storage fees, maintenance, and other headaches of ownership.
Happy RV Camping!!
More RV Rental Articles You Might Be Interested In:
- Why You Should Rent an RV
- How Much Does It Cost to Rent an RV?
- Travel Trailer Rental: Answers to Your Questions!
- How to Rent an Airstream Near You
Julie Bonner is one-half of the TREKKN team. She specializes in helping you whip up delicious meals in your tiny RV kitchen, as well as RV organization tips and helping fellow RVers make their RV feel like home. Her favorite RVing spot is in Banff National Park in Canada where yes, the water really is that blue and the people really are that nice.
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