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How to Rent an RV

RV rentals are booming. This is what you need to know to rent an RV.

With many vacation options shelved due to COVID-19, RV rentals and purchases have skyrocketed in summer 2020. So there’s a fair chance that you, too, are new to the RV market and want to learn about this type of camping and road-tripping.

We talked with Paige Bouma, the vice president of RV Trader and an avid RVer herself. She shared some tips and tricks for a successful RV rental that will get you on the road to a great summer vacation.

RV Rentals and COVID-19

“Everyone wants to be in an RV right now. It’s such a hot topic,” Bouma said. “Our site traffic is the highest it has ever been. We are hitting record numbers on people searching for RVs, and our dealer inquiries are higher than ever.”

For anyone considering a vacation right now, that should come as no surprise. With international travel shut down and even airline travel unattractive for many, an RV vacation looks pretty appealing.

RVs and camping lend themselves naturally to social distancing. And as Bouma put it, “It is the perfect vacation for right now.”

Those hopping into the world of RVs have many things to consider. Should you buy an RV (a big commitment) or rent? And what style of RV do you want to try?

Rent or Buy an RV? Class A, B, C, or 5th Wheel?

For many new entrants into the world of RVs, a rental makes a lot of sense. Not only will you get a nice, modern vehicle in excellent condition, but you won’t be tied to it for the life of a loan.

Here are some things to consider when looking into rentals.

  • Do you want something you can drive or a towable unit that you attach to your own vehicle? “When the driving is a big piece of the road trip, A, B, and C class drivers are great,” Bouma said. “But when you don’t go as far and you want to leave your basecamp and explore the area nearby, the detachable nature of a 5th wheel may make it more logical.”
  • Unless you have a full-size pickup, it’s usually easier to rent the whole package in a single unit.
  • How many people will be sleeping in the unit?
  • What kinds of toys do you want to haul with you? (jetskis, golf cart, ATV, bikes)
  • Where are you going? Will there be electricity and water? Or will you be remote camping, called “boondocking” by many RVers?

If you’re sure that buying is the way to go, check out our guide to choosing the best RV. Even for renters, that offers a good primer on the myriad options, from rooftop tents to full-size Winnebagos.

How Much Does an RV Rental Cost?

Bouma said that the price of renting an RV varies greatly, depending on the type of RV. But smart renters also consider ancillary prices that can add up quickly.

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She explained that the average cost for a rental starts at about $75 per night for a popup camper. A camper van week’s fee on RV Trader is $119 a night. Prices jump up with a Class A running about $307 a night and a Class C around $228.

Then, consider what is included and not included in the rental rate. “When you’re looking at renting, you have to consider insurance (not usually covered by your general auto insurance).

A few other unexpected fees to consider:

  • Roadside assistance
  • Security deposits
  • Charges for nondumped gray or black water
  • Propane
  • Nonrefundable booking deposit
  • Can you do early pickup or late dropoff, and is there a fee?
  • Cleaning fees
  • Pet fees
  • Generator fees
  • Miles included per day

Does a Rental RV Include Bedding and Kitchen Supplies?

Finally, make sure to research your booking. Does it include things like bedding, towels, and pots and pans?

“You need to think through those things when you are packing,” Bouma added. “And these may be additional charges if you want them.”

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Camper Vans: A Smaller Rental Option

If you don’t need all the size of a large camper, a van rental may be worth considering. Built-out vans or cab-over truck campers give you the ability to sleep in your vehicle. They are also easier to drive and get into smaller places like parking lots in cities.

If you plan to spend a lot of time outdoors, this kind of rental, like those of Escape Camper Vans, can provide a turnkey option. With outfitted minivans, full-size vans, and even jeeps with rooftop tents, you can get outdoors with pricing from about $115 a day.

Off-Road RVs, Rugged RVs

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For those who may want to get a little further off the beaten path, there is another alternative. There are many small rental companies currently offering fleets of outfitted “adventuremobiles” that offer four-wheel drive, aggressive tires, and camping setups.

Most of these are smaller outfits with just a few rigs for rent, so search regionally for “rugged RV rentals” or “off-road camper rentals” to find places like Rugged Van Rentals.

Sportsmobile also rents vans and outfitted trucks around several adventure destinations. For those looking for a little wilder adventure, an off-road-capable rental allows access to areas that larger RVs with less clearance can’t reach.

Check out nine rugged rental vehicle options here.

Peer-to-Peer RV Rental

A relatively new way to get an RV is to rent one that’s sitting idle in someone else’s driveway. Launched in 2015, Outdoorsy is among the world’s largest RV rental marketplaces. It has the mission to “mobilize the 20+ million idle RVs around the world to ensure everyone has the access, choice, and opportunity to safely enjoy outdoor experiences and empower RV owners to realize life-changing financial benefits.”

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Beyond offering many options for RV rentals, Outdoorsy’s new Vehicle Purchase Program allows individual RV buyers, as well as rental fleet managers, to have factory-direct purchase, financing, and insurance access. You now get this in addition to the ability to rent out the RV within the Outdoorsy marketplace.

Read more in our in-depth article on Outdoorsy RV rentals here.

Competing with Outdoorsy is peer-to-peer rental marketplace RVShare. The business surpassed 1 million days of RV rentals in 2019 and is still going strong. So it’s certainly worth shopping RVShare while scoping out rentals in your region. One of the cool things about RVShare is that it has a lot of options, ranging from small tow-behind teardrop trailers to Airstream campers, that you may not find in other rental platforms.

Route Planning

Once you’ve booked an RV, the fun part starts. Plan the route!

Planning the route for an RV entails a little more than your typical road trip, she noted. Remember, it’s a lot harder to navigate parking lots, small roads and bridges, and underpasses.

And if you went for a more aggressive rental, consider a subscription to onX Off-Road Maps. We’ve tested the service and love what it can do for off-grid adventure-planning.

But you also have the freedom of avoiding restaurants if you wish. If you stock up your fridge and pantry, you can eat in the RV at most any roadside stop.

And this can leave more time for adventures along the way. So, check the tire gauges and hit the road. Book some campsites in advance, though. You won’t be alone out there.

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Sean McCoy
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Editor-in-Chief Sean McCoy is a life-long outdoorsman who grew up hunting and fishing central Wisconsin forests and lakes. He joined GearJunkie after a 10-year stint as a newspaperman in the Caribbean, where he learned sailing and wooden-boat repair. Based in GearJunkie's Denver office, McCoy is an avid trail runner, camper, hunter, angler, mountain biker, skier, and beer tester.

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