What You Need to Know About Renting an RV

Somehow you got the camping bug. Maybe you got bit by watching your neighbor down the street pack up and head off for a three-day weekend. Or perhaps you found yourself actually enjoying the videos of your sister and her family fishing at a distant lake and sitting around a cozy campfire. And amazingly, you look forward to the next RV show hitting the convention center.

However it happened, you're hooked. But before you go all out and invest in an expensive motorhome or trailer, why not try renting first? Buying is great, however, it's a costly toy to have sitting in your driveway if you don't use it frequently. Or even worse, if you discover that you're more in love with the idea of RV'ing than you are with actually driving or pulling a rig.

Renting an RV is the best way to find out several things:

  • What size RV best fits your needs and desires—Class A bus, Class B van, Class C Cab-over, or Trailer
  • How comfortable you're driving or pulling the rig of your dreams
  • How often, realistically, you'll make use of one
  • If the actual operating costs are within your budget

More: 10 Accessories for Your RV

Different Size Rigs for Different Size Groups

RVs (the catch-all title for any type of recreational vehicle) range from the massive and opulent Motorhomes to the modest, entry-level pop-up trailer at the other end of the scale.

Compact motorhomes and trailers usually measure about 19 feet long and sleep three (although some pop-up trailers can come as short as eight feet, with some models expanding up to 25 feet long and easily sleeping six.

Standard motorhomes and trailers average between 23 and 25 feet and sleep five comfortably. Intermediate motorhomes and trailers are about 28 feet long and can accommodate six campers. Large motorhomes and trailers are all about room. Typically, they measure between 28 and 30 feet long and can sleep up to seven individuals.

The size you select should be based upon need and comfort level with regards to driving or towing. The RV rental company you select should be happy to give you a driving lesson before you commit to make sure you can handle it safely.

Different Types of RV Rental Companies

Like most consumer rental services, RV rental companies range from local mom-and-pop operations to nationwide firms that may have over 100 locations coast to coast.

If your initial foray into the RV'ing lifestyle is nearby, and you're sure that "Bob's Pretty Good RV" is honest, has competitive rates and offers fairly new rigs that are clean, comfortable and well-maintained, then you can feel good supporting a neighborhood business.

On the other hand, if you're confident in your abilities and have plans for a lengthy sojourn covering many miles, a national chain may offer more peace of mind and support should something go wrong. "Bob's Pretty Good RV" likely won't have the resources to help if you're 1,500 miles away.

Whichever route you choose, be sure the RV rental contract includes full documentation on rental fees, mileage rates and other charges including reservations, prep, generators, housekeeping kits and cleaning.

And be sure to ask for a copy of the rental company's policy regarding reimbursement for mechanical breakdowns, including personal expenses. This way, you'll avoid extra costs or penalties for not following certain requirements.

You can also check with the Better Business Bureau to see if the rental company has had any complaints. Keep in mind that a business may not be in the BBB's database, but that's not necessarily a negative indication; just that the company chose not to join. Online rating sites like Yelp are also good resources to help you make a decision.

More: 5 Tips for Driving an RV

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About the Author

Jeff Adams

Jeff Adams is a California-based freelance writer, contributor to ReserveAmerica.com and an avid camping enthusiast. He's been dragging his trailer and willing family around the western U.S. for more than a decade.

Jeff Adams is a California-based freelance writer, contributor to ReserveAmerica.com and an avid camping enthusiast. He's been dragging his trailer and willing family around the western U.S. for more than a decade.

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